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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America Hardcover – September 20, 2011

ISBN-13: 978-0300165418 ISBN-10: 0300165412 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1 edition (September 20, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300165412
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300165418
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #203,710 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Astonishing...Sister Citizen is written for the benefit of all Americans—sister citizens, brother citizens, and anyone else who cares about the way this country works."—Tayari Jones, San Francisco Chronicle
(Tayari Jones San Francisco Chronicle)

"This is the beauty of the book....The insight and grace with which Harris-Perry tackles the thorny issue of African American women’s identity politics makes it a must-read."— Jordan Kisner, Slate
(Jordan Kisner Slate)

"Harris-Perry offers fascinating observations of how black women are, at times, constricted by their mythology and asserts that their 'experiences act as a democratic litmus test for the nation.'"—Vanessa Bush, Booklist
(Vanessa Bush Booklist)

"Sister Citizen carefully documents the complex challenges and hurdles Black women face in the 21st century. Harris-Perry's book is both insightful and provocative. A must read for those interested in learning more about American politics."—Donna Brazile, Political Commentator for CNN and ABC News and former Interim Chair of the Democratic National Committee
(Donna Brazile 2011-05-12)

"Melissa Harris-Perry is one of our most trenchant readers of modern black life. In Sister Citizen, she gives new life to the idea that 'the personal is political.' This book will change the conversation about the rights, responsibilities, and burdens of citizenship."—Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University

(Henry Louis Gates, Jr. 2011-03-14)

"This is a broad, ambitious and important book that centers black women at the heart of American politics. Harris-Perry broadens our ideas of what counts as political, disrupts our ideas about what the study of American politics should look like, and restores our belief that resistance and struggle can change lives, communities and nations.”—Cathy J. Cohen, author of Boundaries of Blackness and Democracy Remixed

(Cathy J. Cohen 2011-03-17)

"Sister Citizen lends empirical heft to the adage the "personal is political". Melissa Harris-Perry does an excellent job of weaving literature, social science, and personal accounts to produce a powerful work on black women's politics. Brilliant."—Lester K. Spence, author of Stare in the Darkness: The Limits of Hip-hop and Black Politics
(Lester K. Spence 2011-05-26)

"After I read Sister Citizen, two words sprang to my mind: Thank you."—Patrik Henry Bass, Essence
(Patrik Henry Bass Essence)

"In Sister Citizen, Harris-Perry combines her skills as a social scientist, political observer, writer and griot to deftly illustrate how the social, economic, and political conditions of black women, particularly those on the margins, are the index for America at large."—Byron Williams, Oakland Tribune
(Byron Williams Oakland Tribune)

"A feminist manifesto endeavoring to free sisters forever from the cruel and very limiting ways in which they continue to be pigeonholed."—Kam Williams, Insight
(Kam Williams Insight)

Finalist for the 43rd NAACP Image Awards in the Non-Fiction Literature Category
(NAACP Image Awards Finalist National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) 2012-02-20)

Book Description

This groundbreaking book brings to light derogatory stereotypes that shape the experiences of African American women, then assesses the emotional and political costs of the struggle to counteract such negative assumptions.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

Thank you Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry.
Patricia Gould-Champ
This book carefully yet accessibly unpacks black women's place in U.S. society at the intersection of race and gender.
Melissa Harris-Perry proves again that she is one of America's most incredible political minds.
Patricia A. Smith

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

119 of 122 people found the following review helpful By Shuh on August 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
You will be changed if you read this book. If you cannot see yourself changing from an open discussion of color, race and sexism then please do not read this book, it will only make you angry. However if you have questions, an open mind to these topics, you will feel challenged as you read, being carefully guided through a difficult and at times emotional topic by a skilled professor.

I did not know what to expect when I purchaed the book, only a general interest, and respect for the author having seen her on MSNBC. She writes like she talks, articulate and careful to achieve mutual understanding. You will not be preached to and allowed to come to your own conclusions.

Be warned your soul will weep, be you white, black, or in between. You will come away at the end with a better understanding of yourself, and the community around you. You will come to understand the hidden truths to the behaviors on the surface. You cannot help but change for the better.
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60 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Patricia A. Smith on September 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Sister Citizen" is the most comprehensive look at the stereotypes plaguing black women that I've ever read. Melissa Harris-Perry proves again that she is one of America's most incredible political minds. It is remarkably academic and instructive; it uses a strong mixture of history and the present to tie together the themes it introduces. You understand within a few pages that this is not just another author's look at the long-suffering of black women in this country, it's a textbook, written by an educator who brilliantly connects the concepts in each chapter to the ones covered before it. Most importantly for me, as a black woman, I found myself reacting out loud again and again as Ms. Harris-Perry illustrated the many ways 'mis-recognition' has taken hold over the history of African Americans in this country, and the specific political impacts that have resulted. This book is an amazingly well-written, important work that should be required reading in history classes across America, and that most certainly should be gifted to as many African American women young and old, as possible.
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Monique S. Wright on October 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have been a Melissa Harris-Perry fan for the past few years. What I love most about her analysis is it's accessibility. Regardless of educational status, black women can pick up this book and have many " ah ha" moments because she provide irrefutable language and ideals that makes sense of an experience that is both nuanced and insidious. Working with black women on the ground, having face to face time with women on the outskirts of society, her position is a " tie that binds." I am so pleased , proud, intrigued, angered, by this stunning contemporary account of black-womanhood and it's many complexities. Thanks for giving us voice.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Insight on November 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I like this book very much; this and Living Well, Despite Catching Hell: The Black Woman's Guide to Health, Sex and Happiness which I just finished, which talks about the Effect the negative stereotypes, low marriage statistics and other stuff (i.e., that's part of the "hell") has on our Mental and Physical Health. These two books address the resilience of modern-day black women, stereotypes be damned. We are more than just one woman; we are not defined by any one woman, we are not monolithic and we existed and excelled in stylish grace before Mrs O, Bey, O, and others came along (as some other books imply). I enjoy Ms. Perry's appearances on MSNBC, she's easy to listen to. I agree with Pat and Shuh (other reviewers). I'm happy to see many sisters authoring books.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Krista on January 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover
As someone who believes women face a great deal of shaming and misrepresentation in (at least) American society, I was intrigued by this book's premise of looking through the lens of shame and stereotypes from an African American woman's perspective. A vantage point to which I am generally not privy.

This thorough and well researched examination of black women in America incorporates historical experiences (slavery, care-taking, etc.) with well known literature (Their Eyes Were Watching God, The Color Purple, The Bridge Poem) current events (Hurricane Katrina, Duke University & Crystal Mangum, The Obama Administration, etc.), and personal stories gleaned through the author's focus groups in multiple states.

While I found the "research" and statistical pieces of the work similar to textbook reading, the personal stories and literature tie ins were very easy to follow and drilled home the message reflected in the research. As someone who has never been a big fan of history, I was very drawn in with the historical references Harris-Perry used and appreciated how she made them further relevant with present-day events. There were also many explanations of how the African American woman's experience leads to her political involvement, choices, and activism. As someone just joining the ranks of the informed and choosing to exercise my right to vote, I appreciated this correlating information.

Overall, this read has opened my eyes even further to the messages we send/receive and how it impacts our lifestyle, choices, and interactions with others.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By The Fountain Pen Diva VINE VOICE on March 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Melissa Harris-Perry pulls no punches with her insightful and scathing indictment of the institutions and the damaging myths about black womanhood that keep them from fully realizing their citizenship and their identity. She explores the genesis of such stereotypes as the promiscuous Jezebel, the self-sacrificing Mammy (once again made popular with the inexplicable success of The Help) and the emasculating Sapphire. The book is filled with anecdotes, but it's also backed with meticulous research and she also uses powerful novels like 'The Color Purple', 'The Bluest Eye', 'Their Eyes Were Watching God' and 'for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf' to link black women's varied experiences to the struggle for recognition and personhood. She uses the metaphor of the "crooked room" to describe how black women do their best to live within the perimeters of a world that often defines them through the lens of hatred and fear.

Parts of this book were hard for me to read because many of her observations are true in my own life and while I identify myself as a feminist, I find the movement's lack of diverse voices and understanding of the dual burdens of race and gender (and in many cases sexual orientation) that black women face highly troublesome. One of the chapters I was delighted to read had to do with how black women view god, and I have the feeling a lot of black pastors are going to hear Perry's criticism of them and she may end up shunned because she exposed a lot of truths about how the church fails to bring black women's issues and needs to the front.
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