Black Women Writers @ Southwestern University

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



All of the books we have read so far, sans Americana because I don’t want to pass judgment on that just yet, have been primarily about family.

Beloved is about a family that has been through hell and back. Sethe has been through slavery, loses her love, has her child taken away from her, murders a different child of hers, and remains haunted by these events for years and years after the fact. The book is about the relationship between Sethe and her dead daughter, Beloved, and her alive daughter, Denver, and how/if they can be a family.

The Color Purple is about Celie and the terrible (and not so terrible) people in her life. It’s about sexism, racism, sexuality, and the ability to face the world even after horrible events. But most of all, it’s about Celie, her sister Nettie, and their relationship. The sisters’ bond transcends time and distance and lies, bringing them back together again by the end.

Silver Sparrow is about two families tied together by the same man. The book is about the relationship between the two sisters, between the two wives, between the husband and his wives, and between the father and his daughters. This book looks at this family from every possible angle, showing that family doesn’t always have one set definition and that familial love doesn’t always have to be unconditional.

Daughters of the Dust isn’t a novel. But it is about family. The people on the island are all bound by a familial bond, purely because they are inhabitants of the island together. There are feuds, disputes, rejections, and false claims of ownership. The movie is about how far family will really go for one another.

As I said before, I don’t want to pass a judgment on Americana just yet. However, if one of its major themes turns out to be ‘family’, I won’t be too surprised.


3 thoughts on “Family

  1. I feel like this may be the case because the family dynamic is a very important facet of black American existence. In the times preceding and up to when The Color Purple was set, family was all black folks had; maybe not family in the traditional, related by blood sense, but it was certainly them against the world for a very long time, and maybe such strong familial interactions are due to this sense of camaraderie necessary just to get by. Nowadays, absenteeism in lower class black fathers seems to be point of discussion, but once again, this is dealing with the family dynamic. I’m curious as well as to where exactly Americanah will take us, and I look forward to discussing it with you and the rest of the class in the near future!

  2. I think family, along with other types of love, is a theme found in a huge amount of existing stories. It’s such a transcendent topic, across race, across sexuality, across gender, even across species – animal family dynamics have long been a topic of research. Family – and lack thereof – can be an incredibly defining force for our personalities and life patterns, so it makes a lot of sense that all the stories we’ve read have dealt with this topic deeply.

  3. I, too, think that the theme of Family is no accident. Communities are intrinsic to stories and the experience of story. I think even of our own class; we sit around a circle and discuss thoughts, ideas, and opinions, and in our own way, have become a family.
    As I sit here now, I struggle to think of a narrative that does not take into account either absence or presence of a family….
    Is such a thing possible ?

    I’m curious, too, to see how Americanah portrays thetheme of Family.

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