Nationwide — Not Your Mother’s Mammy by Tracey L. Walters examines how black artists of the African diaspora, many of them former domestics, reconstruct the black female subjectivities of domestics in fiction, film, and visual and performance art. In doing so, they undermine one-dimensional images of black domestics as victims lacking voice and agency and prove domestic workers are more than the aprons they wear.
An analysis of selected media by Alice Childress, Nandi Keyi, Victoria Brown, Kara Walker, Mikalene Thomas, Rene Cox, Lynn Nottage, and others provides examples of generations of domestics who challenged their performative roles of subservience by engaging in subversive actions contradicting the image of the deferential black maid. The artists illustrate that through verbal confrontation, mobilization, passive resistance, and performance, black domestics find their voices, exercise their power, and maintain their dignity in the face of humiliation.
Not Your Mother’s Mammy brings to life stories of domestics often neglected in academic studies, such as the complexity of interracial homoerotic relationships between workers and employers, or the mental health challenges of domestics that lead to depression and suicide. In line with international movements like #MeToo and #timesup, the women in these stories demand to be heard.
“What Walters achieves is an aesthetic of the black female domestic, a study of the representational dynamics of the figure in film, visual art, and literature. This book is a fascinating showcase of black women’s nuanced reimaginings of servitude’s long afterlife.” — Kevin Quashie, author of The Sovereignty of Quiet: Beyond Resistance in Black Culture
“Tracey Walters weaves together a fascinating story about power and representation of Black domestic workers across the globe. Her attention to Black women artists and writers offers a compelling and empowering portrait of workers who were anything but silent and deferential. These ‘quiet radicals,’ as Walters describes them, are inspirational models for our time. This is a book about claiming space, giving voice, and, fundamentally, about remaking Black womanhood.” — Premilla Nadasen, author of Household Workers Unite: The Untold Story of African American Women Who Built a Movement
About the book
Not Your Mother’s Mammy
By Tracey L. Walters
ISBN: 9781978808577 paperback
ISBN: 9781978808584 cloth
Available for purchase at RutgersUniversityPress.org
About the author
Tracey L. Walters is an associate professor of literature in the Department of Africana Studies at Stony Brook University in New York, where she also holds an affiliate appointment with the Department of English and the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies.
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