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 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 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.)
"You'll come away from each chapter with a new appreciation of what Beyoncé has meant to women, particularly black women, across the country."
"[Translates] the visual and audio to another plane entirely, and will undoubtedly inspire much rewatching and relistening."
"Tinsley's…critical analysis of black women's sexuality, gender, and identity through the gaze of Beyoncé and the Lemonade album is especially important as her queer black perspective dissects Queen Bey in a way that only a black women-loving black woman could."
"[Tinsley's] approach…keeps the text accessible to music fans while underlining the book's central thesis: that Lemonade is one of the great black feminist works of this century and it deserves an exalted place in the canon of women's studies."
"Part memoir, part pop-culture scholarship, this slim, engaging book uses Beyoncé as a springboard for wide-ranging ruminations on sexuality, motherhood, and activism, among other big ideas."
"Beyoncé in Formation is a remarkably pleasing book. It takes the reader by the hand and, skipping delightedly, leads her into a universe of happy, sexy, loving fandom, where Beyoncé is queen and all are welcome at worship."
"With all the headlines it generated upon its release, it's hard to believe there's anything left to say about Beyoncé's Lemonade. Yet, Omise'eke Natasha Tinsley…manages to find new meaning in this cultural analysis of the already iconic record."
"An insightful cultural reading of the performer combined with memoir."
"...expands on [Tinsley's] popular course in a vibrant blend of memoir and cultural analysis. "
"Tinsley's tone and use of first-person perspective throughout Beyoncé in Formation invites readers to likewise contemplate their relationship to Lemonade's themes. She writes with familiarity and authority all at once. I thought I 'got' Lemonade before, but Beyoncé in Formation inspired me to dig deeper."
"A call for solidarity among Black feminists, this painfully beautiful read reminds us that none of us are free until we are all free."
"Lemonade is proving to be a modern Mona Lisa, a work of art ripe for both academic analysis and inner reflection—modes Tinsley mixes and remixes in this lively, erudite memoir-cum-cultural critique that uses Queen Bey’s seminal album to examine her own life as a black Southern femme."
"A smart, eye-opening examination."
"This 'mixtape' memoir is an empowering presentation that encourages readers to think outside the box...when it comes to defining feminism."
"Part scholarly treatise and part family history, part lavish scrapbook and part justice-oriented advocacy—you've never read a book quite like this."
A unique take on Beyoncé's 2016 album and video "Lemonade" and its implications for 21st-century black feminism.
Part academic study, part personal reflection on being black and queer, and part unabashed homage to Beyoncé, this essay collection is what Tinsley (African and African Diaspora Studies, Women's and Gender Studies/Univ. of Texas; Ezili's Mirrors: Imagining Black Queer Genders, 2018, etc.) calls a "Femme-onade mixtape." The opening piece, "Queen Bee Blues," looks at Beyoncé's musical relationship to female blues and country musicians such as Memphis Minnie and Loretta Lynn. Like the love-scorned woman Beyoncé portrays in her album and video, which critics saw as her response to husband Jay-Z's infidelity—Minnie knew how to turn "lemons into lemonade…and sex into power" while Lynn knew how to fight back against her husband's excesses and abuse. In "Love the Grind," Tinsley explores the many incarnations of powerful black womanhood that Beyoncé portrays—most notably, the African sorceress Oshun and the divine Afro-Brazilian whore, Pomba Gira. Not only do both represent the sex-positive black feminism "unafraid to say fuck me," but also black Southern "ratchet feminism," which is "unafraid to say fuck you to patriarchy's rules." The author also discusses the increasingly political nature of Beyoncé's work. In "Freedom, Too," Tinsley points to Beyoncé's inclusion of the "Mothers of the [Black Lives Matter] Movement" in videos and public appearances. Not only does their presence "[denounce] police brutality"; it also suggests the singer's commitment to creating a world where black people can find the peace and security that Tinsley (who is married to a black transgender man) has struggled to find for herself and her family. Sure to appeal to scholars and pop-culture enthusiasts alike, this provocative book works to blur the lines between straight and gay black feminism by arguing that "any ideal of black womanhood…doesn't have to carry the label ‘queer' to be…related to black femme self-expression."
Lively and intelligent reading.