An evocative and eventful memoir of a remarkable black woman who made the arts her life and her life an artwork.
Born Estella Conwill in 1949, Majozo (African-American Literature/Hunter Coll.) grew up in Louisville, Ky., when it was still segregated; her first strong memory is of fighting between her brothers and neighboring whites. Her father fell to his death while helping a neighbor when the author was a child, and her mother had to work, but Estella tried hard at school, where she was the token colored student, required to be a credit to her race. When a youthful marriage went bad and her husband turned abusive, the devout Catholic spent years trying unsuccessfully to get the marriage annulled. The thoughtlessness of one sexist white priest finally provoked her to explode (though only after she—d left his presence): “I am sorry, Father, that the church is so stupidly insensitive to my situation! That it has never cared about my poor little Black female ass and still has the nerve to call itself the body of Christ, you jerk!” This is one of several occasions when the reader wants to get up and cheer, but most of Májozo’s victories are quiet ones: earning one of the first doctorates in African-American literature; founding and running Blackaleidoscope, an arts center in her hometown. Several passages in the book deal with the author’s oscillation between New York City, the historic mecca of African-American artists, and her dream of helping black culture thrive in Louisville. She drew sustenance from both places, moving back to New York in 1988 to teach at Hunter. Throughout, Májozo’s language is richly seasoned with allusions to both black literature and the Bible. Though her memoir chronicles some hard times, including a wrenching miscarriage, it also shows her moving on to new love and challenges.
Both personally and professionally, Májozo exemplifies the trials and triumphs of the African-American woman.