The Truth That Never Hurts: Writings on Race, Gender and Freedom


The Truth That Never Hurts brings together for the first time more than two decades of literary criticism and political thought about gender, race, sexuality, power, and social change. As one of the first writers in the United States to claim Black feminism for Black women in the early seventies, Barbara Smith has done groundbreaking work in defining a Black women's literary tradition; in examining the sexual politics of the lives of Black and other women of color; in representing the lives of Black lesbians and ...
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The Truth That Never Hurts brings together for the first time more than two decades of literary criticism and political thought about gender, race, sexuality, power, and social change. As one of the first writers in the United States to claim Black feminism for Black women in the early seventies, Barbara Smith has done groundbreaking work in defining a Black women's literary tradition; in examining the sexual politics of the lives of Black and other women of color; in representing the lives of Black lesbians and gay men; and in making connections between race, class, sexuality, and gender.
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Editorial Reviews

Bloomsbury Review
Smith's book is an excellent example of powerful, introspective writing that challenges readers to reexamine their stance on complex issues concerning race and gender.
As a black lesbian feminist activist and scholar, Smith is a highly respected voice of conscience who speaks discomforting but necessary truths about the interlocking nature of oppressions within American culture and institutions. These landmark essays . . . show Smith challenging academic, political, and community organizations to expand their missions in order to include persons who have been perennially at the margins of our society. . . . Recommended.
Venus Magazine
Smith has done grounbreaking work in defining a black women's literary tradition; in examining the sexual politics of the lives of black and other women of color; and in representing the lives of black lesbians and gay men.
Washington Blade
Barbara Smith's new book, The Truth That Never Hurts: Writings on Race, Gender, and Freedom (Rutgers University Press) provides a universal message about struggle, resistance, and freedom, grounded within a black Lesbian feminist critique of America's culture and politics. The cogently written essays represent a cross-section of Smith's work over the past 20 years and the first book dedicated exclusively to her own writing. Focusing on race, feminism, and the politics of sexuality, Smith provides an alternative lens to view the world by making connections between systems of oppression and offering suggestions for social change.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A feminist writer and theorist of some repute, Smith founded Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press with the late "black lesbian mother warrior feminist poet" Audre Lorde, and was the first woman of color appointed to the Modern Language Association's Commission on the Status of Women in the Profession. Her seminal 1977 essay "Toward a Black Feminist Criticism," which puts forth the notion that a "Black women's literary tradition" not only exists, but thrives, fittingly opens this collection of newer and older, still vibrant works, most previously published in often hard-to-find journals or anthologies. Noting that "it is unnerving to imagine" what kind of writing she might have produced had she not come out, Smith registers obstacles to her current work on a wide-ranging history of black lesbians and gays in America, citing a recent two-volume encyclopedia (Darlene Clark Hine's Black Women in America) in which there are only six entries under "Lesbian." In the final essay of the collection, "A Rose," Smith recalls her friend, the late Lucretia "Lu" Medina Diggs, and mourns the loss of her and Lorde, stressing that she will not be deterred from her fight for political awareness and compassion. Smith's writing frequently reaches strident polemicist peaks, but, just as frequently, stretches of sublime prose translate her crystalline intellect to the page, exciting both mind and senses. (Nov.)
Library Journal
In these essays, Smith, an independent scholar and editor, explores several explosive issues, among them sexual politics, racism and women's studies, and homophobia.
Assembles 21 essays of literary criticism and politics that Afro- American feminist Smith has produced over the past two decades. Among them is the seminal Toward a Black Feminist Criticism. Others address such topics as the 1968 Chicago convention demonstrations, attacks on the National Endowment of the Arts, the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings, and police brutality against Rodney King and Abner Louima. No index. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Women's Review of Books
Smith and her colleagues...are the very people the straighter whiter Left should be embracing.
Kirkus Reviews
A provocative collection of impassioned essays written from a radical, gay, African-American, feminist perspective. Smith, co-founder and publisher of Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, has been publishing literary and social criticism for over 20 years. As a literary critic, she chastises the academic establishment for often misinterpreting and largely disregarding the voices of black women—-gay black women in particular. In one of her most influential essays, "Toward a Black Feminist Criticism," written in 1977, Smith, contending that "black women writers constitute an identifiable literary tradition," pleads for a black feminist approach toward examining literature. Only the black feminist critic, she argues, is fully able to comprehend the nuances of work by black women, such as the depth of Sula and Nell's relationship in Toni Morrison's novel Sula. Smith is also critical of nonlesbians addressing the black lesbian experience. In The Truth that Never Hurts, published in the late '80s, she argues that positive depictions of black lesbians are sorely lacking and that "far too many non-lesbian black women who are actively involved in defining the African-American women's literary renaissance completely ignore black lesbian existence or are actively hostile to it." Smith's equally fervent social and political writings are informed by a Marxist viewpoint. She argues, sometimes unpersuasively, that heterosexism and sexism can wither only when capitalism is destroyed. She's especially concerned about the lack of role models for gay black youth; and she takes to task her gay brothers and sisters who have chosen to stay closeted because they are "more concerned with theirindividual security and careers than they are with building community and working for radical political change."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813528977
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2000
  • Pages: 217
  • Product dimensions: 6.07 (w) x 9.06 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Meet the Author

Barbara Smith
Barbara Smith

Barbara Smith is the host of a syndicated television series and appears regularly on NBC's Today show. She owns three B. Smith's restaurants in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Sag Harbor, New York, and is the editor in chief of the newly launched magazine B. Smith Style. She lives in New York City and Sag Harbor.

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Table of Contents

A Note on Citations
I Toward a Black Feminist Criticism
Toward a Black Feminist Criticism 3
The Souls of Black Women 22
Sexual Politics and the Fiction of Zora Neale Hurston 27
Naming the Unnameable: The Poetry of Pat Parker 39
The Truth That Never Hurts: Black Lesbians in Fiction in the 1980s 44
We Must Always Bury Our Dead Twice: A Tribute to James Baldwin 75
African American Lesbian and Gay History: An Exploration 81
II Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Racism and Women's Studies 95
The Tip of the Iceberg 99
The Rodney King Verdict 102
Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around: Reflections on the Hill-Thomas Hearings 106
Homophobia: Why Bring It Up? 111
The NEA Is the Least of It 116
Blacks and Gays: Healing the Great Divide 124
Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Relationships between Black and Jewish Women 132
III Working for Liberation and Having a Damn Good Time
Chicago Firsthand: A Distortion of Reality 157
Working for Liberation and Having a Damn Good Time 161
Doing It from Scratch: The Challenge of Black Lesbian Organizing 167
Where's the Revolution? 178
Where's the Revolution? Part II 185
IV A Rose
A Rose 191
Organizations to Contact 211
Selected Bibliography 215
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