Black Women Writers @ Southwestern University

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

A shift from revisionism to realism?

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Push spoilers follow.

I was thinking about happy endings (or lack thereof) upon finishing Silver Sparrow.

On the ending, also, here first is a statement describing my feelings before I continue:

This sucks I’m ugly-crying in the bathtub don’t touch me don’t breathe on me don’t talk to me my poor roommate probably thinks i’m single now or something dear god my heart this is awful why

I got to thinking about the ending in particular and how much it contrasted with the idealistic ending to The Color Purple, which was in my view unrealistic, though cathartic and therapeutic. Silver Sparrow does not end in such a way, it ends realistically and heart-shattering-ly (I don’t care if that is not a descriptive word it is now). It ends with what the reader was afraid of all along, wrapping up the story in a blanket of suffocating inevitability with little to no hope for closure (though Dana has had a daughter she fears she will be a desperate mother as Gwen was, and the last lines literally explain that oftentimes what doesn’t kill you doesn’t kill you, but that that’s it). Silver Sparrow was incredibly sad, but frank. The aforementioned ending brings to mind a lot of the negative aspects of Push by Sapphire (a book I have not read but looked into after hearing about in class), in which the protagonist ends up being HIV positive as well as having been the mother to two incestuously-conceived children the entire book. Precious’s future, though much improved by her improved literacy and new friendships and connections, still looks pretty bleak, a fact which the book doesn’t deny. In this way I connected Push and Silver Sparrow; both depict shitty realities without trying to dress them up to achieve the same cathartic affect that The Color Purple ends with.

Is this a trend? Being limited in the genre of black literature in general, and necessarily by that token more work by black women writers, I don’t know if it is. But it was interesting to me that it was mentioned in class Alice Walker (writer of TCP) was invested in revising history in so much as telling stories that should have been told to right wrongs, and her ending may have been a direct result of that investment. If that is the case, Push and Silver Sparrow contrast sharply with this in that they are realistic versus revised. They end as grittily as they began, and TCP ends on a far higher note. Is this a larger trend in books written by black women writers (or black writers more generally)? Are these anomalous parallels? If it is a trend, is it inspired by the growing static nature of discussions of race in this country (which seem to be backsliding more and more under the guise of ‘colorblindness’ in my view)?

Thoughts?

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