CONFIRMATION: An Anthology of African American Women by Amiri & Amina Baraka--Eds. Baraka

CONFIRMATION: An Anthology of African American Women

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Our fight is part of a series of democratic struggles that provide the fuel for the majority of people in society to come to fully revolutionary positions and eventually rise up and smash monopoly capitalism forever!"" So writes Baraka (a.k.a. LeRoi Jones) in his introduction to this anthology of poetry (mostly) and prose (a little) by Afro-American women--and, unsurprisingly, the 49 writers who follow often tend toward the didactic. Some, like co-editor Amina Baraka, echo Baraka's Marxist rhetoric: ""I want to assault the United States of American/ & Super-power contention/ so I can stand with the rest of the Third World/ against Imperialism."" Many do variations on the by-now-clichÉd I-Am-A-Black-Woman motif: ""I/ am a black woman/ tall as a cypress/ strong/ beyond all definition still/ defying place/ and time/ and circumstance. . . ."" Others emphasize feminist anger--with Rashidah Isamili, for instance, reprising the familiar penis/ gun equivalence: ""Cold and shiny/ long and hard/ metallic phallus."" There are meditations on black history (Margaret Walker), South African atrocities, and black matriarchs. But none of the many poems here captures contemporary black women's lives with the specificity and humor (on short supply throughout the anthology) of Ntozake Shange, who--like Nikki Giovanni--declined to contribute; the few, modest standouts include lesser pieces by Gwendolyn Brooks and Lucille Clifton, Safiya Henderson's prosy but powerful ""Portrait of a woman artist,"" a couple of vivid Alice Walker stanzas (along with many flat ones), and a welcome flash of irony from June Jordan. (""A Last Dialog on the Left."") And, as for the prose, there are reminiscence-like fragments from Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, and less assured others; a disappointingly skimpy bit of fiction from Gayl Jones; a gushy, footnoted tribute to Toni Morrison by Eleanor W. Traylor; and several embarrassing, allegorical playlets. In all: valuable, perhaps, as suggestion of some black-female-writer preoccupations in the 1980s (or as a crude consciousness-raiser), but woefully short on artistic distinction.

Pub Date: March 8th, 1983
Publisher: Morrow