“This is a rich, multifaceted volume that leaves few if any stones unturned in exploring the themes of
sex, sexuality, and feminism in relation to Black women.”
—Noliwe Rooks, Cornell University
“Unbought and Unbossed is an interesting exploration of black female sexual politics and literary
representations of black womanhood at the intersection of three political and aesthetic
movements: black nationalism, (black) feminism, and postmodernism. I was especially impressed
with Melancon’s close readings of the primary texts and her analysis of the symbolic sexual play
and coming of age of the characters. This book is a welcome addition to the very few literary
studies that deal explicitly with black womanhood and transgressive sexuality.”
—Eve Dunbar, Associate Professor of English at Vassar College and author of Black Regions of the Imagination:
African American Writers between the Nation and the World (Temple)
“Trimiko Melancon offers beautiful and complex readings of novels by Toni Morrison, Ann Allen
Shockley, Alice Walker, Gayl Jones, and Gloria Naylor while effortlessly synthesizing a generation
of scholarship on black sexuality. Unbought and Unbossed is a refreshingly innovative new work
destined to become a classic.”
—Robert F. Reid-Pharr, author of Once You Go Black: Choice, Desire, and the Black American Intellectual
UNBOUGHT AND UNBOSSED:
TRANSGRESSIVE BLACK WOMEN, SEXUALITY, AND REPRESENTATION
Unbought and Unbossed examines black women’s literary and cultural production of the
1970s and early 1980s. Considering texts in the socio-cultural and historical moments of
their production, Trimiko Melancon analyzes representations of black women that not only
transgress racial, gender, and sexual boundaries, but also diverge from both discourses of
“whiteness” and constructions of female identity imposed by black nationalism. Drawing
from black feminist and critical race theories, discourses on gender and sexuality, and
literary criticism, Melancon illuminates the complexity of black female identity, desire, and
intimacy. She sheds light on a more complex black identity, one ungoverned by rigid politics
over-determined by race, gender, and sexuality, while also enabling us to better understand
the black sexual revolution, contemporary cultural moments, and representations in the
age of Michelle Obama.
“This volume provides an illuminating discourse about the meaning, metaphors, and magnitude of
black female sexuality as an agent of both oppression and transformation."
—Paula J. Giddings, author of IDA: A Sword Among Lions
BLACK FEMALE SEXUALITIES
Edited by Trimiko Melancon & Joanne M. Braxton
Foreword by Melissa Harris-Perry
Western culture has long regarded black female sexuality with a strange mix of fascination
and condemnation, associating it with everything from desirability, hypersexuality, and
liberation to vulgarity, recklessness, and disease. Yet even as their bodies and sexualities
have been the subject of countless public discourses, black women’s voices have been largely
marginalized in these discussions. In this groundbreaking collection, feminist scholars from
across the academy come together to correct this omission—illuminating black female sexual
desires marked by agency and empowerment, as well as pleasure and pain, to reveal the ways
black women regulate their sexual lives.
The twelve original essays in Black Female Sexualities reveal the diverse ways black women
perceive, experience, and represent sexuality. The contributors highlight the range of tactics
that black women use to express their sexual desires and identities. Yet they do not shy away
from exploring the complex ways in which black women negotiate the more traumatic aspects
of sexuality and grapple with the legacy of negative stereotypes.
Black Female Sexualities takes not only an interdisciplinary approach—drawing from critical
race theory, sociology, and performance studies—but also an intergenerational one, in
conversation with the foremothers of black feminist studies. In addition, it explores a diverse
archive of representations, covering everything from blues to hip-hop, from Crash to Precious,
from Sister Souljah to Edwidge Danticat. Revealing that black female sexuality is anything but a
black-and-white issue, this collection demonstrates how to appreciate a whole spectrum of
subjectivities, experiences, and desires.
“Unbought and Unbossed is an eloquently written and well-organized book about an important
era in black women's literary tradition.”
—LaMonda Horton Stallings, Associate Professor of Gender Studies at Indiana University Bloomington and
author of Mutha’ Is Half a Word: Intersections of Folklore, Vernacular, Myth, and Queerness in Black Female
What the critics are saying ...
Scholar. Writer. Intellectual Activist .
“[A] critical analysis of five 'post-1960s black women's texts.' ... Perhaps most provocatively,
Melancon concentrates on the transgressive sexuality present in all of these books... and
asserts its importance to the authors' larger project.... [S]erious readers of African-American
literature will value the innovative observations offered on the intersection of 'race, gender,
and sexuality' in American life and letters."