Black women writers

Simultaneous voices in conversation:

Putnam, Amanda. “Talking in Circles: Multiple Narrators, Multiple Truths.” Eds. Jennifer A. Rich and Patricia J. Smith. Under review 2012.

This article offers an argument regarding why so many stories by black women authors offer linguistic “interruptions” in the text—why they stop, change direction, are re-told, and then are re-framed by others in the same story—and how this disconnection/re-connection affects readers and audiences. By creating new narratives and contradicting old ones, these authors help re-create history in ways that are powerful to their characters.

Resistant women discovering their own power:

Putnam, Amanda. “Mothering Violence: Ferocious Female Resistance in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, Sula, Beloved, and A Mercy.” Black Women, Gender & Families Guest ed. Venetria Patton. 5.2 (2011): 25-43.

Another new article of mine discusses various female characters in Toni Morrison’s novels who choose violence as an escape and solution to situations and problems.

Transnational “literacies” taught to black granddaughters by black grandmothers:

Putnam, Amanda. “This Was Your Testament to the Way that These Women Lived and Died and Lived Again.” Short Story Criticism, Volume 100. University of Michigan: Gale Group, August, 2007.

Putnam, Amanda. “Mothering the Motherless: Portrayals of Alternative Mothering Practices within the Caribbean Diaspora.” Canadian Woman Studies: Women and the Black Diaspora 23.2 (2004): 118-123.

Putnam, Amanda. “Braiding Memories: Resistant Storytelling within Mother-Daughter Communities in Edwidge Danticat’s Krik? Krik!” Journal of Haitian Studies 9.1 (2003): 52-65.

Much of my research focuses on the portrayals of black grandmothers and the multiple “literacies” they teach their granddaughters. Specifically, I am interested in the ways in which multiple forms of literacy, such as re-writing experience, empowering ancestors, and creating new cultural images, are used by the authors (and their characters) to empower black women. Linking ideas from women originating from diverse areas of the world, including Haiti, the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean, the theories I employ tend to be transnational, suggesting that geographical boundaries do not constrain authors or thematic concerns. Some of primary texts I’m interested in are Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (United States), Maya Angelou’sI Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (United States), Merle Hodge’s Crick Crack, Monkey(Trinidad, Caribbean), Edwidge Danticat’s Kirk? Krak! (Haiti), and Jamaica Kincaid’s The Autobiography of My Mother (Antigua, Caribbean). Within this critical analysis, I use several secondary texts within black feminist criticism and postcolonial and cultural studies, such as texts by scholars like Carole Boyce DaviesMarlene Nourbese PhilipHenry Louis Gates, Jr. and bell hooks.

African American popular fiction:

Putnam, Amanda. “Hot Combs, Curling Irons, and Contradictions: Portrayals of African American Women in Mid-1990’s Pop Fiction.”  Alizes, Revue Angliciste de La Reunion: Urban America in Black Women’s Fiction Ed. Corinne Duboin. 22 (2002): 35-54.

In 1992, Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale was published and almost overnight, it burst onto the best seller lists. McMillan presented contemporary African American women as highly educated, professional characters, focusing on modern problems African American women had in the 1990’s. Noticing the technique, other contemporary African American authors followed McMillan’s lead, continuing and furthering this new popular movement.

My essay explains several ways in which this new genre of popular fiction both strengthened and undermined stereotypes of contemporary African American women. Depicting the majority of female characters as highly professional and successful women, the authors explode negative stereotypes of race and gender, which have classified African American women as primarily domestic workers and in other low-paying, low-status positions. Unfortunately, these works also, at times, uphold demeaning stereotypes regarding American (white) beauty standards. In most cases, although successful within professional arenas, these female characters (and their authors) retain significant cultural issues concerning African American appearance and success.