Black Woman Redefined: Dispelling Myths and Discovering Fulfillment in the Age of Michelle Obama

Black Woman Redefined: Dispelling Myths and Discovering Fulfillment in the Age of Michelle Obama

by Sophia Nelson


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781936661732
Publisher: BenBella Books, Inc.
Publication date: 11/20/2012
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 561,204
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Sophia A. Nelson is the chairman and founder of iask, Inc. (aka “I Am My Sister’s Keeper”) an international organization dedicated to the service, self, and success of professional black women. She is a popular blogger and much sought-after national columnist, speaker, and political/social commentator for media outlets such as CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, NPR, The Huffington Post, BET, and BBC. Her opinion pieces have appeared in The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Chicago Sun Times, USA TODAY, Essence, and National Law Journal/LegalTimes.

Table of Contents

Prologue: The Age of Michelle Obama: An Open Letter to the First Lady of the United States with Special Words of Wisdom from the First Lady 1

Introduction: What Is Your Season: Are you Defining or Redefining Your Life? 11

Part I Dispelling the Myths and Discovering the Truth About Who we are 17

1 Who We Are and What We've Accomplished 19

2 Our Context from Slavery to the White House: Why It Still Matters 35

Part II How we Work and Love 51

3 Changing the Game: Redefining Ourselves in the Twenty-First-Century Workplace 53

4 Why Can't a Successful Black Woman Find a Man? Actually, She Can 87

5 Real Talk about Twenty-First-Century Relationship Expectations and Trends 111

Part III Moving Beyond the Pain to Purpose 129

6 Jesus Is Your Savior, Not Your Man: Candid Talk about the Church, Sexuality, and the Role They Play in Our Quest to Be Loved and Fulfilled 131

7 Sexual Abuse: The Hidden Wound That We Have to Talk About 161

8 Dwelling in the Valley of Our Past: Learning to Forgive, Release, and Heal from Our Hurts 175

Part IV Redefining Ourselves-What Really Matters

9 Empty Womb, Broken Heart: Redefining Motherhood in Today's World 199

10 It's the Climb: Facing Life's Storms and Remaining Resilient 219

11 Sisters, It's Time to Heal: Learning to Love, Uplift, & Support Each Other 243

Bonus Feature: Celebrity and Distinguished African American Essays and Sage Wisdoms 267

Author's Note 270

A Tribute to the Late Dr. Dorothy Irene Height by the Honorable Alexis M. Herman 273

Feature Essays 277

Short Essays: Wisdoms and Straight Talk You Can Stand On 296

Study Guide 319

Research Appendices: From the Researchers Methodology and Summary of Key Findings 331

About the Author 353

Endnotes 355

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

More than anything else, Nelson's work is a how-to book, a feel-good tome that offers black women prescriptions for personal and professional success that empower them without tearing down someone else."
DeWayne Wickham, USA Today columnist

"Ardent, inspirational, insightful, and redemptive."
Kam Williams

“On the page as she does on television, Sophia A. Nelson uses bold insights and no-nonsense observations to cut through the myths and misperceptions about what it means to be a black woman today. But this isn’t just a book for black women. It speaks to everyone who cares about equality and opportunity, and especially to women, of every color, who are looking for a fresh perspective on everything from careers to dating to faith. Whether you agree or disagree with her, you’ll find it hard to put this book down.”
Chris Jansing, Emmy-Award winning anchor and host of MSNBC’s Jansing & Co

“The enduring legacy of any great work is that it touches our souls and causes us to reflect inward. It calls us to open our eyes, step out of the shadows of our pain, and to live life forward. Black Woman Redefined does that for us all. This brilliant, powerful book is not just about and for black women—it invites the entire American family to see black women more fully as people. Sophia A. Nelson is one of the most gifted analysts and writers of our time. She effectively rejects the centuries-old myth that black women’s lives aren’t worth discussing. The often painful stories shared in this book are still being told because they’re still being lived. In the end, this book is a much-needed generational battle cry for recognition, release, and healing.”
Michael Eric Dyson, Professor at Georgetown University, radio host of the Michael Eric Dyson Show, and best-selling author of Why I Love Black Women

“Sophia Nelson, with her keen intellect, detailed research, and never before written insights, encourages all women, especially our strong and diverse black sisters to achieve new and unprecedented heights.”
Armstrong Williams, Washington Times columnist, author, and nationally syndicated TV and radio host

“In her first book, Sophia A. Nelson gives us all great insight and information on some of the serious issues facing today’s African American women. This book is bound to generate discussion across the social and political spectrum for years to come.”
Sean Hannity, best-selling author, radio show host, and host of FOX News’ top-rated political program Hannity

“Each generation has a voice that is lifted at just the right time to grab hold of us and shake us from our slumber. Sophia A. Nelson calls on black women to rethink the way things are and change them. She has tapped into the pain and silence of her generation of ‘sisters,’ and approaches this important subject matter in a way that is compassionate and profound. Sophia carefully dissects the continuing, yet often invisible, struggle of modern day black women when it comes to our image, the perceptions that others have of us, and that we have of ourselves.”
Terrie M. Williams, author, Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting

“Nelson uncovers the issues that are often hidden beneath the surface of black women’s pain, and demonstrates to all how to live well and emerge victorious on the other side.”
Dr. Melody T. McCloud, OB/GYN- columnist Psychology Today and author of Living Well, Despite Catchin’ Hell: The Black Woman’s Guide to Health, Sex, and Happiness

“Think ‘redefinition.’ Sophia A. Nelson’s new book Black Woman Redefined cuts through a mountain of myths, stereotypes, and negative thinking. The result is a treasure chest of new information, valuable insights, and inspiring advice for African American women—and for us, the men who love them!”
Clarence Page, Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist for the Chicago Tribune

“At a moment of profound economic and cultural change for America, Black Woman Redefined comes along at the perfect time. While Sophia A. Nelson knows her target audience, she’s also aware of the broader, diverse world. With solid research and a smooth inclusive voice, Nelson has produced a book that that holds lessons for many.”
Robert A. George, New York Post

Black Woman Redefined is a book that has been greatly anticipated because it was penned by a woman who for years has displayed refreshing analytical and political savvy first as an attorney on Capitol Hill, then as a lobbyist, and finally as a national TV commentator and columnist. This book encourages black women to do what Sophia A. Nelson has exhibited to us all for years: how to be a successful sister, wrapped with old-fashioned charm, endless grace, an unflinching determination, and a passion for serving others seldom seen in our modern times.”
Hamil Harris, Washington Post, Emmy-Award winning videographer

“The research and insight in this book lend to a much-needed discussion of just how far African American women have come and how far they have to go.”
Mika Brzezinski, co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe and author of Knowing Your Value

Black Woman Redefined offers an urgent message that readers need to hear now: Put yourself first. The stories Sophia A. Nelson offers, coupled with thorough research and data, will make this read a game changer. Many conversations will begin about this book over many, many years and that’s a good thing.”
Essence magazine


Black Woman Redefined

A Funny Thing Happened to Me on My Way to Writing My Book
Sophia A. Nelson, Esq.

You ever hear of an author starting to write her first book with a BANG?

Well that is how my author journey began … literally. Oh, you might see me on MSNBC or CNN looking so well put together and knowledgeable about the important political and cultural issues of the day, but let me tell you—that is not the Sophia who spent the last two years writing her first book. I was, for lack of a better term, a "train wreck."

Intrigued, aren't you?

Well, it's true. My journey to writing Black Woman Redefined was a comedy of accidents, errors, and traumas. My story begins in June of 2009. I had just signed a book deal with a major publishing house in New York, and all was well in my world. I was thrilled. Later that week, I went for a bicycle ride (as I often do) in my suburban community in Loudoun County Virginia. It was a gorgeous day, and I was looking fierce, with my hair done, wearing cute pink and black biking gear and sunglasses. Did I forget to mention I had on my iPod and my cell phone, too?

As I was leaving my driveway, a small voice next door admonished me to put on my helmet. Grimacing that I had been "busted" by a five year old for poor bicycle safety and poor example setting for minors in the neighborhood—I turned to him and said "okay sweetie, go get it for me." He did. I put it on and off I went. About 15 minutes into my ride, my mobile phone ran. I picked it up (yes, I know, stupid), and started talking to my friend. Next thing I know, everything moved in slow motion.

I was coming upon a shift in the road, and the old pavement had given way to the new. I, not being properly focused on the road in front of me, missed the shift. I tried to squeeze the brakes, but it was too late—I went head first and sustained serious head and body injuries. Thank God for little Ethan next door who told me to put on the helmet. The doctor said the fall would have been fatal without a helmet. Although it took me well over a year to heal (I still have complications to this day), I kept my heart focused on my goal of writing my book, and on the importance I felt such a book would hold in our modern culture.

The whole experience was an incredible life-changing experience that makes me a deeper, richer human being. In the end, I know that every author has a book journey horror story or two, but I think we would all agree that the day you receive your finished books in the mail from the publisher, and you hold in your hands the culmination of all your labors and sacrifice, you experience a wave of emotion that is hard to explain.

I hope you will give Black Woman Redefined a look even if you are not a black woman, because as the short story above illustrates, at the end of the day we are all human, we all breathe the same air, and we all can learn something from one another if we are brave enough to open ourselves to the lessons.

Customer Reviews

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Black Woman Redefined 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have followed Ms. Nelson for a number of years. She is an inspiration and great role model. The insight into her personal story was refreshing. Former congressional candidate. Impressive. Former high power attorney. Impressive. Survivor of a alcoholic parent. Impressive. Beyond that, I am very disappointed by this book. First, the book uses unscientific and unclear data. The premise is that all Black women are dysfunctional living disfunctional lives. The book does not addrress that fact that Blacks, includes African Americans, West Indians and Africans. Had she taken the time to dig further, she would see that more West Indian Women (the LG in Florida) and Africans are happily married and live functional lives. These women are too busy living life and pursuing the American dream to worry about soda commercials, Basketball wives or Nene Leekes(like their AA sisters). Second, the topic has been discussed and discussed since the dawn of television. Over fifty years ago the critics (rightfully) were up in arms that AA females were portrayed as maids in Gone with the Wind. In the 70s, AA females were overly sexualized drug addicts. Fast forward 2011, AA are seen as loudmouth reality stars. The book does not offer a new take on the topic. Instead, it is a rehashing of the same old, same old. Third, the book offers no real solutions. Instead, it latches on the catch phrase. "ReDefine" yourself. Reality Check: ULTIMATELY, WE CAN NOT CHANGE WHAT OTHERS THINK ABOUT US! We can work to "get our act together," but we still are not going to alter another human's psyche. FOURTH, the book wrongly supposes that Michelle Obama (unlike any other African American before her) is the ideal role model. On the one hand, the author rallies the battle flag for female independence and empowerment. On the other hand, Ms. Nelson's standard bearer's only distinction to Condi Rice, Oprah, Ursula Burns and other is that she is first lady. In other words, Michelle Obama is the ultimate role model because she happened to marry the most powerful African American male in American history. Sound counterintuitive to me. Overall, the book was a great casual read but not a gamechanger.
CaraKing1967 More than 1 year ago
I am a white woman, from the south (deep south) who read this book because I saw Ms. Nelson on CNN with Don Lemon a few weeks ago discussing the insulting Psychology Today article saying that black women are "unattractive". I find such statements offensive, appalling and proof positive of exactly what Ms. Nelson is trying to say in this book must be "Redefined". I read with some concern the post by someone named "anonymous" above--wow how off the mark this person is?? First, this reviewer is likely not a black American woman and wants to compare apples and oranges in terms of experiences of caribbean women or African women. You can't as Ms. Nelson so eloquently writes in chapter two of her book on why slavery still impacts black women and men. More important, the research is scientific, and on point and the researchers she hired are two of the best (just GOOGLE them). This reviewer sounds like they had a hidden agenda to attack the book and the power and importance of its message. Mrs. Obama is a perfect role-model for black women of a new generation for all the reasons Nelson opens the book with--to suggest that the author only admires Mrs. Obama because she married a successful man is just ridiculous and should be dismissed out of hand. I may not be a black woman, but as a white woman I learned A LOT about the often invisible struggles black women still have in our nation. As for a positive path forward--Ms. Nelson offers that not just to black women in all aspects of their lives--but gives real nuggets of wisdom and inspiration to us all! This is a book that will be taught in universities as well as around long after the author who is young and beautiful is long gone from this earth. God bless her and thank you Ms. Nelson for writing such a book!
SammieW77 More than 1 year ago
I first read the Essence Magazine June issue which had a cover feature on this book "black women redefined" great article written by Cora Daniels. I pre-ordered the book via B&N and read it this past week. I am a professional black woman in my early 30s. I am not married and have no kids although I want them. Chapter 9 is a tear-jerker as Ms. Nelson hits us where we live--she breaks it down--she speaks for those of us who had no words to express our feelings on maybe never marrying or having kids. This book has changed my thought process, and my notions of what is important in life. I really appreciate Ms. Nelson for commissioning the research, for including black men, white men, white women and others. She did the thing! This book will be around for years to come and it will change lives for women in my generation and younger. Kudos Ms. Nelson we are with you. Keep your head up and I hope I look like you when I am 44! (I simply do not believe you are in your 40s--wow! go head girl)!
IdaB More than 1 year ago
I picked up a copy of this book after reading the June 2011 Essence Magazine cover feature titled, "Black Women Redefined". The story was wonderful and made me feel like I had to read this book. I ordered my copy and read it in 3 days and it is a 350+ page book with the data appendices and essays. I was touched, warmed, uplifted and moved to become a part of what Ms. Nelson calls a "redefinition revolution". There are some great surprises in this book and some real heart tugging chapters like 2, 7, 8, 9 and 11 is the best of all. You'll have to read it to see what I mean. I give this two BIG thumbs UP!!
NIHPDH More than 1 year ago
I just finished this book on my nook and I bought several copies for my sisters and sister friends. I do not know Ms. Nelson but I heard her speak at a Women's Conference back in 2006 in Washington, DC and I knew then that she was special. She was talking about writing this book back then and doing commissioned research to make it more authentic. I applaud her because as a PHD who works at NIH in Bethesda, MD I am in the research field and it is very tough to write a book like this, research it, and present it in such a timely, classy, and meaningful way. I concur with the professor who was ashamed of the so-called "sisters" who wrote the 3 star review here on B&N and one on Amazon--my jaw simply dropped. If you don't like the books on its merits that is fine, but to attack the author for not writing a book about urban sisters, blue collar sisters, imprisoned sisters, etc. is just silly. For those of us who have so much to say about what this sister is trying to do to help us, heal us, dispel the myths about us-my question is what are you doing to make this world a better place? It is easy to be a critic--but have the courage to be a woman like Ms. Nelson and stand in the arena. Then you can attack her. The book on its merits is outstanding. It opens like a personal letter that you would write to a close friend or sister. She is honest, she is caring, she is a damned good journalist-she brought in experts, she included black men, white women, white men, Hispanics in a broad national survey that had to set her back at least $20K. I doubt she has made a dime on the book even with 10,000 copies sold to date. The book is hard at times to digest because it is so real, so on point and so well done. Kudos Ms. Nelson. I cannot wait for book #2. Rumors are that it will be even better than this one--we will see. Thank you for a book like this that I will give to my daughters, and nieces who are young girls right now. I plan to be at your Union Station book signing end of this month. Congrats sister!
Anna Horn More than 1 year ago
Though I didn't agree with all of her points, I found myself nodding my head in agreement more often than I found myself disagreeing. From being "publicly burned" on Facebook by "Sorors" to dealing with past hurts, it was nice to read this as I get closer to my 30th birthday in a few months, this read was reaffirming. It's not over yet, it's just beginning if I make the choice for it to be that way. I appreciate Sophia's old school respect for eldders too, which is getting to be a huge issue in our community. Brava for pulling back the drape of sister friend issues in our community, Sophia!
profjbesq More than 1 year ago
This is the opening line from Ms. Nelson in this much heralded book. First, I am a 55 year old retired corporate executive (Fortune 25 firm) and I now teach at a major university in New England. I am a black woman who is divorced and I never had any children of my own. Let me say to Ms. Nelson I am so proud of you for what you have done young sister. This book is a treasure. I apologize to you on behalf of us all for the horrid and off point 1 or 2 reviews that I see both on this site and 1 or 2 on Amazon. These women, I believe are plants from some envious-self hating peers of yours who resent your beauty, smile, warmth, love, and passion to help us change for the better. I am so sorry that they saw fit to come on here and make up such ridiculous reviews that attack you for supposedly not writing a book for "all" black women. NONSENSE. I read this book cover to cover and intend to use it in my course material this fall and spring. This book is what we have been waiting for as educated, accomplished black women for decades. To falsely accuse you of being "divisive" for sharing our unique journey and pain saddens me as a black woman who lived everything you spoke of in chapters 3, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 11. Chapter 9 was very healing for me-as it was for many of my peers who never had the children we wanted. Your research was costly, your researchers are top notch and yet the mainstream media virtually blacked out coverage of this important book. Shame on you "sisters' that are filled with so much bitterness-hate and self loathing that you want to tear down one of the few voices we have out there fighting for us as black women. This is a book ALL black women can and should be proud of. Period. Every sister I know from coast to coast is talking about this fantastic book. Ms. Nelson take a bow many more of us are with you than against you. I follow you on Twitter and you are hilarious too! Congrats on selling 10,000 copies in just 6 weeks--you must be writing something pretty worthwhile. Do not let the haters get to you. Keep pushing. We need you and thank you for taking up our fight! Prof. JB, Esq.
Charlene14 More than 1 year ago
This book in my view should be in the arsenal of black women of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. Sophia speaks to us from the heart and shines a bright light on myths an negative perceptions that have plagued Accomplished Black Women for a very long time. The topic is one that needs our immediate attention. The author not only shares her own personal experiences, she backs up a treasure chest of advice with surveys, statistical analysis and substantial research that may help dispel the negative perceptions and stereotypes. This book is on Time! and on Target! I urge you to share it's powerful message with all of the women you know and love. Thank you Ms. Nelson for bringing this important issue to the forefront and thank you First Lady, Michelle Obama for being a part of the inspiration.
Maya13MH More than 1 year ago
This is the same tired story of black women looking for a black man. I had hoped that Ms Nelson would open the dialogue of self-sufficient, complete women. She didn't. If black women truly redefine themselves, then marriage isn't the goal. Happiness is the goal, be that single or with a person of a different race.
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Highly Recommend for all women...
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SonjaDJ More than 1 year ago
Cheers to you Sophia for highlighting our current societies misdefinition of the modern Woman and redefining our presence in history, our roles in the future. Thank you for giving us a guide for who we are and what we could be.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book is narrowly focused and not inclusive enough of professional black women, which can be divisive. Did not see myself at all, despite being a professional, holding several degrees and having what's considered a high salary. Regarding the data and polling, yes the book does define professional black women however, found it difficult to reconcile with some of the other terms used such as ABW=accomplished black women and high-achieving black women. The book/strength of he data could also have benefited from a definition of and between "African American" and "black". I wonder how many of "us" professional AA/black women that have read and or picked up the book see ourselves as written in these pages; and are asking the question, is Ms. Nelson speaking to "me"???
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Sharon Bratcher More than 1 year ago
Love the introduction
Anonymous More than 1 year ago