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Fierce Angels: The Strong Black Woman in American Life and Culture Hardcover – March 23, 2010
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Parks argues that the image of the strong black woman has been as much a burden as a tribute because it has come to be expected that black women will endure all means of hardship in tending to the needs of others. She offers historical context and challenges the stereotypes of the indomitable black woman, drawing on interviews and recollections of her own sometimes painful experiences. She examines images of the black female in popular culture, in movies and books, and in mythology across nations and religions, from the Black Madonna to discovery of the DNA of mitochondrial Eve in all humans. The black women in popular American culture—from Hattie McDaniel to Cicely Tyson to Oprah Winfrey—are portrayed as compassionate and ferocious, always coming to the aid of others, making them possibly “the only women on earth who are fighting for the freedom to be more traditionally feminine.” Parks offers a compelling analysis of the toll of the strong image on women who have had enormous responsibilities but—until recently—little power and control. --Vanessa Bush
"Fierce Angels opens wide a window on black female power: both the reverence for it and what it has wrought.
I want every black woman—and those who care about black women and want to understand us more deeply—
to be as nourished as I was by the reading of this book and its revelations. —Susan L. Taylor, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus, Essence Magazine and Founder and CEO, National CARES Mentoring Movement
Top customer reviews
My favorite chapter in the book was entitled, "You say `Angry Black Woman' Like It Is A Bad Thing." Dr. Parks made clear that women like First Lady Michelle Obama are by no means angry, just honest and normal. However, she breaks down how the sister who drags her `baby-daddy' to court and who robs `Peter to pay Paul' is angry and justifiably so. I read that chapter twice.
I recommend Fierce Angels: The Strong Black Woman in American Life and Culture to all African-American women over the age of 16 and the people who love and want to know them better.
This book was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
We never get a feel for the author's own voice.At the start of the narrative she states how she was inspired by the death of her mother and birth of her daughter but by the end of the book there's no real conclusion about what SHE'S learned through her personal journey of exploring the Sacred Dark Feminine. The only thing she clearly feels the most strongly about is not wanting to be seen by society as a "mammy". The mammy theme is continuously re-visited even where it needn't be and feels like a personal gripe the author is projecting.
On the one hand she seems to be suggesting that society projects the role of the Sacred Dark Feminine/Mammy/Saviour on to black women and this is a burden to us e.g depiction of black women during the slave era and the portrayal of women in Hollywood like Whoopi Goldberg and Hattie McDaniels. But on the other hand she seems to suggest that women like Oprah, Sheila Johnson (BET founder), Winifred Hervey (Producer of Fresh Prince of Belair)and First Lady Michelle Obama are worthy of this projection due to their strength and experience of overcoming- and this is something we apparently naturally "have in our DNA". She leaves us to decide which one holds true for us- backing out of her own arguments.
Additionally, she talks about how some of these women "do everything but remain silent". Well why do they remain silent? I don't think she should underplay the role co-dependency plays in the lives of a lot of black women. A lot these women suffer from the martyrdom complex which tries to save and fix other people, including men as a way of avoiding your own insecurities and fear of abandonment. I know- my mother was one. And the ironic thing is that the women who grew up in the 60s and 70s who knew long before it was fashionable to rebel against the burden of expectation were probably labelled as being loose and irresponsible by these same women "smiling" through the burden of being martyrs.
The message at the end of the day about taking better care of yourselves is one I could read in any self-help book. I would have appreciated a more specific message to do with the myth of the sacred dark feminine she opens the book with. Notably, that the Sacred Dark Feminine is the mother of all earth and represents the chaos of darkness (lack of boundaries) before creation. Therefore, the message might be: "Get to know yourself"; get to know the Goddess within. Read self-improvement books, test your DNA to see what it reveals, trace your ancestors, get to know what activities make your heart sing. Spend time only with people who inspire you, be an individual, find your tribe....this is the direction society on the whole is heading.
For better reads on the subject I would recommend Navigate Your Existence- the key to African Resurrection by Omiyale Jube, Single, Spiritual and Sexual by Cezanne Poetess and The Conspiracy to Destroy Black Women by Michael Porter. Or any other book on amazon about the Black Madonnas...