African Spirituality in Black Women's Fiction: Threaded Visions of Memory, Community, Nature and Being is the nexus to scholarship on manifestations of Africanisms in black art and culture, particularly the scant critical works focusing on African metaphysical retentions. This study examines New World African spirituality as a syncretic dynamic of spiritual retentions and transformations that have played prominently in the literary imagination of black women writers. Beginning with the poetry of Phillis Wheatley, African Spirituality in Black Women's Fiction traces applications and transformations of African spirituality in black women's writings that culminate in the conscious and deliberate celebration of Africanity in Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God. The journey from Wheatley's veiled remembrances to Hurston's explicit gaze of continental Africa represents the literary journey of black women writers to represent Africa as not only a very real creative resource but also a liberating one. Hurston's icon of black female autonomy and self realization is woven from the thread work of African spiritual principles that date back to early black women's writings.
Elizabeth J West —
Elizabeth J. West is an associate professor of English at Georgia State University. She received her Ph.D. in English with a certificate in Women's Studies from Emory University. Her research and teaching focuses on representations of gender, race, class, and spirituality in early American and African American literary works. She has published articles in anthologies and in CLA, MELUS, JCCH, Womanist, Black Magnolias, and South Central Review. She was an invited speaker and discussant for the 2009 Summer Transnational American Studies Seminar (sponsored by the German Academic Exchange Service) at the University of Mainz (Germany). She was a 2002 AAUW Research Fellow and a ROOTS 2003 NEH Summer Seminar Participant (6/2-7/11 Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and University of Virginia). She has served as a Special Delegate for the Modern Language Association, and she is currently Assistant Treasurer for the College Language Association.
West, Elizabeth J. African spirituality in black women's fiction: threaded visions of memory, community, nature, and being. Lexington Books, 2012 (c2011). 181p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780739168851; ISBN 9780739168868 e-book, contact publisher for price. Reviewed in 2012jun CHOICE.
West's fine study adds to a growing body of literature demonstrating the impact of African heritage on African American culture--such works as Judylyn Ryan's Spirituality as Ideology in Black Women's Film and Literature (2005), Joycelyn Moody's Sentimental Confessions (CH, Sep'01, 39-0164), and Africa and Transatlantic Memories, ed. by Naana Opoku-Agyemang, Paul Lovejoy, and David Trotman (2008). West (Georgia State Univ.) makes an important advance on this tradition, exploring ways in which African spirituality is woven into the more obvious Christian elements of the works. This clearly written, well-researched study treats the canon of African women's literature from Phillis Wheatley through the Harlem Renaissance. The author discusses well-known works--Frances Harper's Iola Leroy, Harriet Jacobs's Incidents of the Life of a Slave Girl, Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, and Nella Larsen's Quicksand--but is at her best in her exploration of less-familiar texts, e.g., Hannah Crafts's The Bondswoman's Narrative; Gifts of Power, a collection of Rebecca Jackson's writings (CH, Dec'81); and Jarena Lee's Religious Experience and Journal of Mrs. Jarena Lee. This reviewer would have liked a chapter on contemporary authors--Toni Morrison, Alice Walker. The specificity of the topic makes the book most appropriate for large collections.
Summing Up: Recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates. -- L. J. Parascandola, Long Island University