In Recalling Religions, Peter Kerry Powers demonstrates the pervasive influence of religion in the literature produced by ethnic women writers in late-twentieth-century America. Through close readings of works by Alice Walker, Maxine Hong Kingston, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Cynthia Ozick, the author shows how particular religious traditions have served as a resource for ethnic women, enabling them to sustain their communities in the face of oppression.
Powers’s analysis serves as an important corrective to earlier investigations of literature and religion. Too often, he argues, such studies have functioned with an abstract or individualistic notion of religion, thus downplaying the significance of ethnic traditions and practices. Other studies have emphasized the religious traditions of discrete groups but have failed to see the points of contact and common purpose between different ethnic experiences.
By examining writers with disparate religious heritages, Powers introduces important new insights. He finds that even as traditions and cultural memories have nurtured ethnic wormen writers, their works have frequently rewritten or recreated such traditions for the present day—seeking, for instance, to overcome or transcend the sexism that may have characterized earlier periods.
In its explorations of Walker, Kingston, Silko, and Ozick, Recalling Religions identifies broader trends that further our understanding of both American literatureand religious culture.
The Author: Peter Kerry Powers is associate professor of English at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania. His articles and reviews have appeared in South Atlantic Review, African American Review, American Literature, MELUS, and other publications.