Beyoncé in Formation: Remixing Black Feminism

Omise’eke Tinsley. Univ. of Texas, $17.95 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-4773-1839-3
Tinsley (Ezili’s Mirrors), an African studies professor at the University of Texas at Austin, brings tremendous gusto to her critique of Beyoncé’s 2016 album Lemonade. As “the most widely distributed black feminist [work] of the current moment,” Tinsley argues, Lemonade “offers a spectacular entry point into black feminist conversations.” The album and its accompanying music videos lead to discussions of marriage, motherhood, reproductive justice, and queer and trans politics. In a chapter titled “Queen Bee Blues,” Tinsley connects the song “Don’t Hurt Yourself” with its sampling of Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks” and depictions of “self-loving fierceness” to the careers of blues vocalists Memphis Minnie and Bessie Smith, who “also sang about [marital] betrayal decked in furs, feathers, and pearls,” and the long tradition of Southern black women’s blues. Later she explicates the song “Sorry” and its “boy bye” chant, revealing an ode to “black femmes.” The book’s final chapter focuses on how New Orleans bounce artist Big Freedia’s role in “Formation” marked a turning point that allowed “trans* sisters to publicize their brilliant choreographies of gender and survival.” Not solely a love letter to Beyoncé or a defense of her feminism, this is an incisive, spiraling celebration of Southern black women. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 07/02/2018
Release date: 11/01/2018
Hardcover - 208 pages - 978-1-4773-1770-9
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