"STRAIGHT, NO CHASER: How I Became a Grown-Up Black Woman" by Jill Nelson

"STRAIGHT, NO CHASER: How I Became a Grown-Up Black Woman"

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Nelson's memoir of growing up as a black female in a racist, sexist America is a poor entry in a desperately needed genre. ""I write because I'm angry,"" Nelson declares in her introduction, setting the tone for the rest of this ranting and scattered book. She shifts awkwardly between personal anecdotes (including her 1950s and '60s girlhood in Harlem and and on Manhattan's Upper West Side) and essays on the problems she sees manifested in them, never really revealing her own inner complexities. The birth of Nelson's child becomes an opportunity to discuss racism, her relationships with men become excuses for essays on sexism, and the book's closing chapter is devoted to her ideas on violence and negative role models. As an African-American woman, Nelson says she is forced to stand on the bottom rung of the social ladder, and she devotes much of her book to allocating blame--to white men, white women (including feminists), and black men. The African-American world as seen through Nelson's eyes is filled only with negatives: Supermodel Naomi Campbell is just ""white beauty in black face""; African-American male sexuality is really ""poontang proximity""; black leaders are ""by and large useless opportunists""; and African-American women are all too often prone to having a ""Niggerbitchfit."" Even Coretta Scott King and Betty Shabazz are belittled as mere ""professional widows."" By the end, the reader has gained little insight into either Nelson or black America; this is especially disappointing since her experiences as a journalist for the Washington Post--chronicled in Volunteer Slavery (1993)--provide the author with a unique perspective. Underdeveloped and unoriginal, this tirade fails to become the tool of empowerment for African-American women it claims to be.

Pub Date: Sept. 2nd, 1997
ISBN: 0140277242
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Putnam