Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health, and Society
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Many of the women were influenced by civil rights activist Dick Gregory, holistic health practitioner Queen Afua and the book The Dreaded Comparison: Human and Animal Slavery by Marjorie Spiegel.
A number of the women mentioned the challenge of going against soul food culture and the desire to fully enjoy and participate in the U.S. consumer society (as their slave ancestors could not).
Notable: "Milton Mills coined the phrase “dietary racism” for the institutionalized racism implicit in USDA dietary guidelines that recommend daily dairy consumption, despite the fact that the majority of African-Americans are lactose intolerant." — Pattrice Jones, Afterword, "Liberation as Connection and the Decolonization of Desire"
Pairs well with: The Dreaded Comparison: Human and Animal Slavery by Marjorie Spiegel; The Sistah Vegan Project; Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy by Kevin Bales; Sacred Woman by Queen Afua; Vine Sanctuary's page on racism; Sister Species: Women, Animals and Social Justice by Lisa Kemmerer
"I think it's so important that Black women be included in the vegan dialogue, not only because we are so frequently left out of it, and not only because falling victim to blind consumerism can be considered another form of allowing ourselves to remain oppressed and suppressed, but also because the vegan cause will not be wholly effective until it addresses the diverse spectrum of circumstances and psychologies that contribute to the practices it is trying to overcome. As lack of diversity compromises any species, so does it impoverish and compromise any progressive movement." —Tara Sophia Bahna-James, "Journey Toward Compassionate Choice"
"If we are what we eat, we can choose to be fear and terror or bright green sprigs of broccoli. We can choose to be orphans and prisoners or strong, leafy collards. We can choose to be pain and death or vibrant mangoes. Each time we sit down at the table, we can choose to consume violence and dine on terror or choose a vegan lifestyle that nourishes our bodies, gives us peace of mind and provides sustenance for our souls." — Tashee Meadows, "Because They Matter"
Sistah Vegan compiles a range of thoughts, essays, and poems from black female vegans. It is not censored or crafted; instead it reads as raw and genuine, from the perspectives of different women with diverse and even conflicting opinions. It is a worthwhile read for anyone who is interested in different perspectives on African-American culture, veganism, cultural identity, decolonialism, or diet.
While there were highpoints throughout, I found Tara Sophia Bahna-James’ writing particularly interesting and thoughtful.
I look forward to the continued thought-provoking work of Dr. Harper.
Reading "Sistah Vegan" made me feel like I was reading a collective of diary entries. To read such personal, heartfelt, and honest experiences from women who have been a part of this lifestyle for many years allowed me to feel comfortable and confident in my transition. I am only 19 years old so reading stories from these older woman allowed me to feel as though I had mentors who had been in the game for so long and was embarking words of wisdom.
When beginning this journey I was not aware of the impact of the intersection of being a personal of color, a woman and a vegan. In addition, I was oblivious to the affect it has on your relationships with men, body image, taste in clothing, overall spiritual connection with yourself and much more.
All of these dynamics were brought to my attention by the stories and honest words of these women. They in no way were judgmental or narcissistic but rather informative. They have given me the courage to begin my vegan lifestyle and while it has only been a few weeks, knowing that I have the support from the words of these women will help me in the years to come.
I completely encourage people to not only read this book but to purchase it because it is definitely a tool you'll need in your arsenal if you are a transitioning vegan, thinking about veganism or even if you've been vegan for some time.
Top international reviews
However, I was a bit disappointed by the other essays. I have for a long time been disconcerted by how so many vegans fall under pseudo-science and new age nonsense. There's a lot of mentions of crystals, spiritual healing, alternative medicine, anti-vaccination sentiments and the like, as well as a religious feel undertone every now and then. I understand the authors are speaking from a personal perspective, but I got the impression that these ideas actually perpetuate preconceived ideas about black women. I would have very much enjoyed a strong logical, scientific and skeptical (atheist) approach from at least one author. Perhaps for another book.
I was especially interested in the ideas about decolonising the body by rejecting the food that originated in slavery, and I enjoyed the poetry section.