Black Women Writers @ Southwestern University

An English / Feminist Studies / Race & Ethnicity Studies Course Blog

Importance of Image.

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Alongside the Patricia Hill Collins reading done this past week, I wanted to take a deeper look at the emphasis that is placed on image throughout The Silver Sparrow.  In class, we discussed heavily the controlling images that are used to rope Black Women into a position that they do not necessarily deserve.

I remember being struck by the following words from the Smith article,

“Sometimes the pain most deeply felt is the pain that Black women inflict on one another… a Black beauty salon depicts the internalized oppression that some African – American women feel about African features” (Collins 91).

Something I find intriguing about this statement is the direct tie that it holds to Chaurisse’s mother’s profession – and Chaurisse’s identity. How has the constant soaking in the culture of a beauty salon infiltrated Chaurisse’s identity for the worst? What has it taught her about herself and about her own identity? When Chaurisse is finally allowed to access the features of her mother’s work, particularly the synthetic hair, she expects it to give her power and life. She describes the hair below:

“You never use the word fake. False, though kinder, was on the forbidden list, too” (Jones 197)

and as Dana runs her hands through the synthetic strands, Chaurisse admits how painful it is for her,

“It was excruciating, really, imagining the feel of my synthetic hair to her real hands. It’s the way you feel when you go too far with a boy you don’t know so well. It stops feeling good” (Jones 204).

This hair and beauty that were supposed to giver her life, end up limiting her emotionally. I think of the way Chaurisse characterizes her grandmother,

“begging to keep her legs, still hoping to be pretty to someone” (Jones 196).

I wonder how much of this pressure and desire to hold a beautiful image is passed down to Laverne, and in turn to Chaurisse –  a longing to be beautiful and worthy and enough as they are.

Collins, Patricia Hill. “Mammies, Matriarchs, and Other Controlling Images.” Black Feminist Thoughts. 2nd ed. 69-95. Print.

Jones, Tayari. Silver Sparrow: A Novel. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin of Chapel Hill, 2011. Print.

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One thought on “Importance of Image.

  1. I think Laverne has passed a lot of her poor self image down to Chaurisse. But I never thought that Laverne’s shame could have come from Bunny. That makes a lot of sense though, especially considering Bunny’s sadness about her leg. Maybe the fact that Chaurisse is actually named after Bunny, but doesn’t go by that name is symbolic for how she’ll push away from her mother’s image of beauty? Probably not, since Chaurisse has believed herself to be plain since kindergarten.

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