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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Horror Blackademics: Black Women in Vampire Fiction

Issue 2 (2011): Sexing the Colorlines: Black Sexualities, Popular Culture, and Cultural Production

"Science fiction is not about the problems of the world, but also about solving the problems of the world.
-Octavia Butler

Key term(s):

Speculative fiction - operates as a catchall term for science fiction and fantasy fiction that includes such themes as horror, supernatural, apocalyptic, and dystopian/utopian fiction

Overview:

Brooks looks at the vampiric themes in the fictional works of two authors:





She argues:

- The black female body in these books demonstrates a power that allows for personal explorations of pleasure and pain and the possibilities for socio-political change within the black community.

- Tananarive Due and L.A. Banks rewrite and revamp history by focusing on black women's bodies as sites of reality-changing power, and that their characters occupy multiple positions as complexly constructed lovers, and as both protector and protected. Speculative fiction allows Banks and Due to explore the complexities of their female protagonists in a lengthy format, a series of written novels.

- Both writers use the realm of horror fiction to reimagine and complicate previous caricatures of the black woman and her body.

Fictional texts used as examples:

Tananarive Due: My Soul To Keep, The Living Blood
                           
                           Character- Jessica Jacobs-Wolde


L.A. Banks: Vampire Huntress Legend series

                    Character: Damali Richards


Character Focus:

- Wrestling with the balance of personal and community growth:

Banks and Due illustrate how the growth of the personal self aids the political, for it is only when their characters come into their own as women/sisters/daughters/wives/mothers/lovers that make up their multi-faceted identities that they truly begin to aid the community at large.

Black Female Sexuality:

Historical context - "Black female sexuality has rarely been treated with nuance; there has been a history of either extreme exaggeration as an excuse for the hegemonic horror perpetuated since slavery or a punishing silence supported by the black middle class."

Banks and Due in prose perform a "reimagining of black female sexuality."

Due's Jessica  Jacobs-Wolde: "notable but understated facet" of her identity
Bank's Damali Richards: "present, visceral, sensual, and incredibly descriptive" as well as unrestrained

Both: "embrace their sensuality as they explore their sexual agency as lovers in complicated, heterosexual relationships."

"Each writer also places a specific focus on the importance of their lead female characters' body, revisiting a historic lack of agency possessed by black women as their bodies were continuously defined as non-entities."

Discussion Questions:
  • How can vampire mythology be used as a tool for complex exploration of sexual identity?
  • Can historic policies about Black women's bodies and sexual identity be completely transgressed in speculative fiction? In what ways?
  • What are, if any, the differences in sexual exploration between Jessica Jacobs-Wolde and Damali Richards that could be argued to have problematic features within the structure of their characterization?
Additional Resources:

Evelynn Hammonds. "Black (W)Holes and the Geometry of Black Female Sexuality." Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 9.3 (1994): 31-45. Print.

bell hooks. "The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators." Feminist Film Theory: A Reader. Ed. Thornham, Sue. New York: New York University Press, 1999. Print.

Gwendolyn D. Pough and Yolanda Hood. "Speculative Black Women: Magic, Fantasy, and the Supernatural." Femspec 6.1 (2005): ix. Print.
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