THE ROOTS OF SOUL: The Psychology of Black Expressiveness by Alfred & Ivory Oldson Pasteur

THE ROOTS OF SOUL: The Psychology of Black Expressiveness

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Soul is good for your mental health. That's the message counselling psychologists Pasteur and Oldson would put across in this indulgent and dubious jumble of literature and pop psychology. The good news for white folks is that they too can have soul. ""Because black expressiveness is woven into the fabric of much of popular Western culture, it has become socially useful to all people. . . ."" The bad news for whites is they can't have as much. Generalizing wildly from scientific findings that correlate higher melanin content in black skin with faster responses, the authors believe it ""fair then to reason that the remarkable adaptation of blacks to the tropical harshness of Africa, and the horrors of slavery and oppression in the New World [stressful situations], is due to the sheer abundance of melanin in their bodies""(!). Occasionally pretentious (""Bodily scents that we in the Western world cover with sweet, artificial odors. . . are accepted as natural consequences of being human by ordinary blacks""), occasionally condescending (""Ordinary black people are action-oriented""), and occasionally more than simply misleading (""Style is an expressive feature that sets [the black-folk] community apart from Western culture""), the authors go on to detail the forms soul takes: rhythm at its heart, depth of feeling, naturalistic attitudes, expressive movement, an emphasis on stylistic renderings, and a distinctive vernacular. The best is saved for last, however. Under the heading ""Express Your Way to Good Health and Happiness"" we are treated to a list of therapeutic suggestions. ""Cultivate relationships with some few elements of the natural world. . . Heavenly bodies, waters, airy and earthy elements. . . all can be objects of your affection."" ""Construct some hopeful declarative statements about your life situation and convert them into chants."" It's a long route from Sixties culture as politics to Eighties culture as therapy: soul as black narcissism.

Pub Date: Aug. 28th, 1981
Publisher: Anchor/Doubleday