SPEAKING FOR OURSELVES by Maxine--Ed. Alexander


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An uneven collection of poems, brief essays, and reminiscences by and about poor and/or minority women--from the magazine Southern Exposure--stressing the Southern woman's legacy of folktales, wisdom, and work experiences. Few have the telling quality of Shirley Abbott's Womenfolks or Mary Mebane's Mary (although a brief excerpt of the latter is included). Among those that come closest is Rayna Green's ""Magnolias Grow in Dirt: The Bawdy Lore of Southern Women."" Bawdy is right: in sharp contrast to the ""Mammy/Miss Melly image""--and equally disrespectful of men young and old, nuns, the ""Manassas manure crowd,"" and just plain crackers. This brand of female humor, says Green, ""requires no pick-up, no men's club, no coffee can for spitting. . . just a kitchen, a porch, a parlor, and a private, willing audience of ladies."" Similarly frank and revealing, though of other female secrets, is Mab Segrest's ""I Lead Two lives: Confessions of a Closet Baptist."" Her lesbian identity and activities are, to say the least, at odds with her job teaching English in a Southern Baptist college. ""My employers do not know about my other life. When they find out I assume I will be fired, maybe prayed to death."" Other essays interest because they inform--about herbal remedies (Constance Garcia-Barrio's ""Pipsissewa, Calamus, and Pennyroyal""), fiddling contests (Ellesa Clay High's oral history with Lilly May Ledford), and women cotton mill and coal mine workers (oral histories gathered by Victoria Morris Byerly and Marat Moore). Remaining contributions range from reminiscences, some both touching and amateurish, to bad political rhetoric (. . . when you come with your branding irons to burn MY PROPERTY on our buttocks, we will vomit the guilt, self-denial, and race-hatred you have force-fed us right back into your mouth""). A few small gems, many plain stones, some gravel.

Pub Date: Sept. 4th, 1984
Publisher: Pantheon