Elizabeth West’s African Spirituality in Black Women’s Fiction: Threaded Visions of Memory, Community, Nature and Being offers a much-needed and breathtaking analysis of the selected literary texts. While these texts have received much critical attention and analysis, the author’s analysis is quite original and provocative. I especially like the way West connects the heavily Christian texts to an African past that is subtly manifested in the texts yet is, unfortunately, missed in literary scholars/critics’ readings of these texts. She does a thorough job in situating the authors and literary texts in the social and cultural times of their publication. Further, she provides a logical explanation for the texts’ strong Euro-Christian emphasis, despite the authors’ African diasporic background. More significantly, her reading of these texts unearths the presence of an African spiritual tradition that has not been explored or examined before with regards to these texts, a somewhat challenging task given the texts’ strong Christian background and deliberate disconnect from all things African. Therefore, this study makes a significant contribution to literary criticism. Without this study, these literary texts are destined to be read exactly as they have been read for decades. (Georgene Montgomery)
Drawing on existing scholarship on traditional African religions in the contemporary world, West’s consideration of African spirituality as articulated in African American literature written by women fills a gap in African American literary studies. West identifies the ways African thought informs African American’s interpretations of Anglo-Christianity, and she charts the metaphysical sensibilities that reveal the evolution of an African spiritual cosmology as represented by African American women writers from Harriet Wilson to Zora Neale Hurston. African Spirituality in Black Women’s Fiction takes an important first step in advancing new frameworks through which to read African American literature. Its commitment to exploring the ways African American women writers reveal both the African American's struggle to integrate traditional African world views into a Western one as a means of survival and the ways these world views influenced a developing American spiritual ethos is to be applauded. (Dana A. Williams, Chair, Department of English, Howard University)
...a comprehensive work that takes into historical and cultural consideration the employ of African cosmological aesthetics in creative work by women writers of African ancestry in North America…. African Spirituality in Black Women’s Fiction: Threaded Visions of Memory, Community and Being by author Elizabeth J. West offers a rich chronological analysis of more than the employ of religiosities as a marker for Black cultural expression in Black women’s writing from the nineteenth century forward. The text demonstrates a parallel read of the rising importance of class as an articulation of Black assimilation, or attempt to assimilate, into the developing aesthetic that would culturally define what it meant to be “American” during the epoch…. The work emerges as a literary historiographic piece that provides for the readership early examples of the inseparability of African-American fiction from African-American reality.
(South Atlantic Review)
With the publication of African Spirituality in Black Women’s Fiction, Elizabeth J. West has added rich new thread to the tapestry of criticism of the fictional works by African American women. While scholars in other fields of inquiry have hinted at the presence of Africanity in such fictional works, West is among the first to really carve out a space for an extended literary critique of an African presence in the tradition of black women writers….She painstakingly lays the groundwork of her critique by simplifying a rather complex African cosmology….West’s contribution to the already rich scholarship on black women’s writing is provocative, necessary, and much welcomed, for it provides casual readers, scholars, and teachers alike much fertile ground in which to grow new ideas. (CLA Journal)