by Latoya Peterson
The reality of popular culture was nothing new. The truth of the world landing on me daily, or hourly, was nothing I did not expect. But this book was a real slap in the face. It was like strolling through an antique mall, feeling good, liking the sunny day and then turning the corner to find a display of watermelon-eating, banjo-playing darkie carvings and a pyramid of Mammy cookie jars.
—Thelonious Monk Ellison (Percival Everett), Erasure
I knew that before I wrote a word on what I felt about Push and Precious, I was going to have a problem. One, my personal experience colors a lot of my perception of the novel and the movie. While Precious’ narrative is not close to mine (I’m way closer to Lola, from Oscar Wao) there were lots of notes of familiarity.
A few too many for comfort.
In discussions with the Racialicious crew, Thea and I actually got really close to parsing out why I feel so strongly about the work.
On the topic of African American lit…I am reading Don’t Erase Me right now by Carolyn Ferrell.
I guess it is supposed to be stories of black girls in the ghetto. The stories I’ve read so far are all about incest. So this trend is starting to bother me. Though I guess it could just be what I’m reading…
I wrote back:
It’s not really a trend if it happens a lot.
My sister and I were *not* molested by anyone growing up. That made us a rarity.
Carmen pointed out that works that do feature incest and black people (like The Color Purple, The Bluest Eye) do tend to get critical acclaim and recognition, and wondered why that was. I thought that the issue may be that white reviews, book publishers, etc, only know how to respond to black dysfunction, but that doesn’t erase the fact that so many of us go through this type of abuse.
Then Thea got all MFA on us, writing:
Just to clarify I didn’t mean that I thought sexual abuse was a trend. That would be a pretty awful thing to say. It’s more that I’m reading a deluge of books for an AfAm lit class that are about incest, or about black dysfunction in the inner city.
It’s distressing because while I don’t doubt for a second that this happens and that this is something that needs to be talked about and talked about until it stops happening, I am also quite sure that there is a lot more to being poor and black in the city than incest and family dysfunction. Continue reading