cover image GENDER TALK: The Struggle for Women's Equality in African American Communities

GENDER TALK: The Struggle for Women's Equality in African American Communities

Johnnetta Betsch Cole, . . Ballantine/One World, $24.95 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-345-45412-6

Cole, former Spelman College president, and Guy-Sheftall, Spelman professor of women's studies, here offer an impassioned and arguably necessarily harsh critique of gender relations between black men and women. Longtime activists, they are well-credentialed to detail and declaim what they see as the continued oppression of black women in America. No mean-spirited hyperbolic spew, the book is thorough, historically centered and respectful. It concisely renders its polemic, raising essential questions: why do hip-hop lyrics reduce black women to "bitches"? Why do blacks overwhelmingly support black men convicted of crimes against women? Why are the achievements of black women diminished (not a single woman was allowed to speak at the 1963 March on Washington)? Most pertinently, why has the black community virtually ignored violence against black women, while black-on-black crime between men is discussed in depth? Asserting that much intraracial conflict has been laid at the feet of slavery, the authors mostly concur that slavery may have precipitated conflicts between black men and women, but the need for black men to align themselves with (white) patriarchal dominance superseded their loyalty to black women. Thoughtful, provocative, concerned and urgent, this work ignites a much-needed debate over the state of true black community and the role of women within that community. (On sale Feb. 4)

Forecast:Ballantine plans an author tour, radio and online interviews and ads in African-American newspapers in major markets. Interviews with and references to prominent African-Americans, including Cornel West, Toni Morrison and Pearl Cleage, plus the controversial nature of the topic, should propel sales to popular, feminist, queer and academic markets.