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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America Paperback – April 23, 2013

4.6 out of 5 stars 96 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"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)

"After I read Melissa Harris-Perry's new effort, Sister Citizen, two words sprang to my mind: Thank you...[She] convincingly argues that tired images of Black women as castrating shrews, neck-rolling round-the-way girls and long-suffering, asexual mammies undermine Black women's progress and power. . . She wisely uses the powerful chorus of real women to echo her battle cry that all sisters must be seen as true citizens before this country can move forward."—Patrik Henry Bass, Essence
(Patrik Henry Bass Essence)

"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)

"In this compelling book, dazzling in its breadth and depth, Melissa Harris-Perry deploys the quantitative tools of the political scientist as expertly as she displays the qualitative methods of the literary and cultural critic. Sister Citizen challenges readers to rethink the meaning of politics when it comes to the complex lives of African American women."—Beverly Guy-Sheftall, founding director, Spelman College Women's Research and Resource Center
(Beverly Guy-Sheftall 2011-03-21)

 “This is a broad, ambitious and important book that centers black women at the heart of American politics. Harris-Perry commands multiple methods, sources, and theories to provide a nuanced, caring, and provocative reading of black women as archetypal citizens, barometers of the health of our democracy. Supporting her arguments throughout the book are the words, ideas and actions of black women. From her opening discussion of Their Eyes Were Watching God and Hurricane Katrina to her final chapter on Michelle Obama, Harris-Perry offers a new reading of black women’s emotional and psychological lives as inherently political, reflecting the work of marginal communities to gain political recognition.  In this work, 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, University of Chicago

(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)

"[Melissa Harris-Perry's] academic research is inspired by a desire to investigate the challenges facing contemporary black Americans and the creative ways that African Americans respond to these challenges."—Great Neck Record
(Great Neck Record)

"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.' She never traffics in easy generalizations or fuzzy thinking. The argument she puts forward—that the lives of black women in the U.S. are inherently political, that their daily experiences consist of the hard political work of self-definition and social navigation to a degree unique among Americans—is grounded in incisive critical analysis and surefooted social scientific methodology. 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.)

"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)

"With clarity and passion, Harris-Perry reveals the ways . . . myths rob Black women of political power."—Bobbi Booker, Sunday Tribune
(Bobbi Booker Sunday 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)

Sister Citizen is on Facebook.
(http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sister-Citizen/125897500821135)

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)

Read an interview with Melissa Harris-Perry on the Yale Press Log
(http://yalepress.wordpress.com/2011/09/12/melissa-harris-perry-talks-with-yale-p)

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.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; Reprint edition (April 23, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300188188
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300188189
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.1 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #40,054 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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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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