Review by Choice Review
Foster's study of early African American women writers brings together a fine collection of research and new ideas on works published up to 1892. Thus her book complements the critical treatment in Hazel Carby's Reconstructing Womanhood (CH, Jul'88), which focused on black women's writing in the latter part of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Starting with the poets Lucy Terry Prince and Phillis Wheatley, Foster then considers the writings of Jarena Lee, Harriet Jacobs, Elizabeth Keckley, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Octavia Victoria Rogers Albert, and Anna Julia Cooper. These and other authors are seen as coming out of a tradition of black women's oral and written works, most of which have been lost or forgotten. Many of the writers used existing literary modes, such as the slave narrative and women's fiction, but adapted them for their special purposes in order to convey startling ideas to distrustful audiences. Foster's incisive probes of the historical ramifications and literary contributions of black women in early America are forceful and exhaustive. She helps us to understand and appreciate the difficult and courageous work performed by the foremothers of 20th-century black women's literature. Well written and thoroughly researched. Highly recommended for all readers and students of American literature and African American, ethnic, and women's studies. A. Costanzo Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
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