Things I Told Another Person About this Dissertation or So Glad You See the Love

So I’ve decided to share what I share about what I’m doing to keep me accountable to myself and to archive the thoughts I have about this yet-formless project. I shared this with a beautiful spirit I met on a dating website, so the person speaking is what Chris Rock would call my representative. She sounds so deep!

I don’t feel settled in Louisville. It feels like a place I’m from and I still feel some shock that I’m here again, especially that I’m living in my childhood home without my father. It’s a lot and I still have Atlanta in my heart, but I would have to do some real soul searching before I uprooted my daughter again. I’m in awe of her, that so much resilience is packed in that tiny body. But she’s also probably blissfully unaware. Lol. I’m in the English department at Emory University. I am coming up on year eight and it will be my last year… I’m writing about girlhood in black literature, looking specifically at black women’s novels, stories and memoirs of the early 70’s/ late 60’s. I just love that they used girl narrators to express their frustration with the project of America and the temporary salve of Black Nationalism, neither of which recognized their full humanity. In literature, the first person narrative is the best way to humanize a character and give [her] voice and interiority. So I’m just impressed with and in awe of the way these women waged war on the American imagination without even recognizing white Americans. They talked and wrote as if they would not ever get in trouble, as if they were speaking to a room of their very best girlfriends. The girls authored by those women (toni Morrison, toni case Bambara, nikki Giovanni, ntozake Shange, Maya Angelou) are teaching us a way to survive. That was a lot!

And then, to her question “why the 70s?”

Thank you so much! [My dissertation doula] will be a reader, but also an accountability partner. And I’m hoping she will hold my hand through hurdles and ask really good questions like the one you just asked. I’m interested in the  literary moment, as it was the first time that so many black women were in print at the same time and the first time so many stories were told by little girls. Morrison says she wrote the Bluest Eye because she wanted to talk about the least heard, most ignored. I want to get in the archives and see the story it tells aboutt this moment. I’m especially interested in the story of Morrison publishing the works of her friends and living room community, people who laughed in her house and traded babysitting favors. Something about black interiority in times of great turmoil. My hypothesis is that the women gathered in mourning after the string of brutal FBI murders of high-profile movement folks, even if those gatherings weren’t physical but were spiritual, and that they turned to the children (narrators) for their hope and witness. I’m still in research phase, so I’m open to the hypothesis being proved false to make way for another kind of story about that moment. I’m also open to the project being more thematic than tied to a time period. Then I’d get to integrate some of the contemporary girlhood stories. Thanks for reading all of that and I’m so glad you see the love! That’s the most important piece for me.

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