Broken Silences: Interviews with Black and White Women Writers

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The history of the relationship between black and white women is a tangle of suspicion, mistrust, resentment, anger, curiosity, and fear that remains submerged in silence, superficial courtesy, and shallow tolerance. Despite these barriers, some women develop rewarding, long-lasting friendships rooted in honesty, mutual respect, genuine acceptance -- all necessary ingredients for building the trust that is the foundation for friendship.

By selecting articulate, amusing, impassioned, and introspective authors who have portrayed characters across race lines, Jordan focuses on commonalities, as well as important differences, in this creative process. A rare opportunity to read the private thoughts about race and creativity of Joyce Carol Oates, Belva Plain, Grace Paley, Sherley Anne Williams, and others. Illustrated.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In these 20 interviews with women writers of fiction, Jordan, who teaches at Hampton University in Virginia, attempts to plumb the relations between black and white women in fiction and in life, and to explore the creative process. Although the book suffers from lengthy discussions of somewhat obscure work, the interviewees, most of whom have portrayed female characters of a race other than their own, offer intriguing, often conflicting observations about the primacy of race, gender or class. Kaye Gibbons ( Ellen Foster ) suggests that rural locations offer commonality to black and white Southern women; Marita Golden ( Long Distance Life ) observes that white writers emphasize female beauty while black writers focus on character. This book may be a useful supplement to literature courses. Photos. (May)
Library Journal
The message derived from the candid and articulate women interviewed here is, as Belva Plain states, ``you learn as you live together.'' Editor Jordan (Hampton Univ., Virginia) has opened a dialog on writing and race relations by publishing these interviews with 20 significant contemporary black and white women writers, from Alice Childress and Joyce Carol Oates to Mildred Pitts Walker. The substance of these writers' thoughts is that the commonality of women's experience informs the genuine portrayal of a character as much as does the writer's understanding of her blackness or whiteness. This special book, so different from others that examine the writing process, is likely to stimulate dialog among women and to provoke serious study of many excellent women writers working today. Recommended for all collections supporting the study of literature, women's studies, and race relations.-- Susan E. Parker, Harvard Law Sch. Lib.
Lindsay Throm
In the preface, editor Jordan says she intends "Broken Silences" to be "a forum for black and white women to enter a dialogue concerning their perceptions of each other as individuals and as artists." Although the writers interviewed agree that blacks know whites far better than whites know blacks because of the need for minorities to "study" the majority in order to survive, more white women portray black women in their fiction than black women portray white women in theirs. Jordan asked the writers to comment on this phenomenon, and the diversity of their answers speaks to the complexity of the issue. All the interviews pose some similar questions, allowing the reader to compare responses; these are followed by specific inquiries into the individual writer's handling of race in her work. The collection as a whole asks why women perpetuate the silence between them. By asking this and attempting an answer, it breaks that silence and invites understanding and respect between women and between races in our society.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813519326
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/1993
  • Pages: 254
  • Lexile: 1010L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 1.04 (d)

Table of Contents

Tina McElroy Ansa 1
Alice Childress 28
Lucille Clifton 38
Ellen Douglas 50
Kaye Gibbons 65
Marita Golden 83
Shirley Ann Grau 102
Josephine Humphreys 111
Jill McCorkle 129
Joyce Carol Oates 150
Grace Paley 159
Elaine Perry 174
Belva Plain 195
Eugenia Price 206
Dori Sanders 216
Ouida Sebestyen 233
Cynthia Voigt 253
Mildred Pitts Walter 271
Sherley Anne Williams 285
Rita Williams-Garcia 302
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