The Sisters Are Alright

Changing the Broken Narrative of Black Women in America

Tamara Winfrey Harris (Author)

Publication date: 05/22/2015

The Sisters Are Alright
GOLD MEDALIST OF FOREWORD REVIEWS' 2015 INDIEFAB AWARDS IN WOMEN'S STUDIES

What's wrong with black women? Not a damned thing!

The Sisters Are Alright exposes anti–black-woman propaganda and shows how real black women are pushing back against distorted cartoon versions of themselves.

When African women arrived on American shores, the three-headed hydra—servile Mammy, angry Sapphire, and lascivious Jezebel—followed close behind. In the '60s, the Matriarch, the willfully unmarried baby machine leeching off the state, joined them. These stereotypes persist to this day through newspaper headlines, Sunday sermons, social media memes, cable punditry, government policies, and hit song lyrics. Emancipation may have happened more than 150 years ago, but America still won't let a sister be free from this coven of caricatures.

Tamara Winfrey Harris delves into marriage, motherhood, health, sexuality, beauty, and more, taking sharp aim at pervasive stereotypes about black women. She counters warped prejudices with the straight-up truth about being a black woman in America. “We have facets like diamonds,” she writes. “The trouble is the people who refuse to see us sparkling.”

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Overview

GOLD MEDALIST OF FOREWORD REVIEWS' 2015 INDIEFAB AWARDS IN WOMEN'S STUDIES

What's wrong with black women? Not a damned thing!

The Sisters Are Alright exposes anti–black-woman propaganda and shows how real black women are pushing back against distorted cartoon versions of themselves.

When African women arrived on American shores, the three-headed hydra—servile Mammy, angry Sapphire, and lascivious Jezebel—followed close behind. In the '60s, the Matriarch, the willfully unmarried baby machine leeching off the state, joined them. These stereotypes persist to this day through newspaper headlines, Sunday sermons, social media memes, cable punditry, government policies, and hit song lyrics. Emancipation may have happened more than 150 years ago, but America still won't let a sister be free from this coven of caricatures.

Tamara Winfrey Harris delves into marriage, motherhood, health, sexuality, beauty, and more, taking sharp aim at pervasive stereotypes about black women. She counters warped prejudices with the straight-up truth about being a black woman in America. “We have facets like diamonds,” she writes. “The trouble is the people who refuse to see us sparkling.”

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Meet the Author


Visit Author Page - Tamara Winfrey Harris

Tamara Winfrey Harris is a writer, specializing in the intersection of current events, politics, and pop culture with race and gender. The Sisters Are Alright: Changing the Broken Narrative of Black Women in America is her first book.

Tamara’s work has appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, In These Times, Ms., and Bitch magazines and online at The American Prospect, Salon, The Guardian, Newsweek/Daily Beast, Jane Pratt’s XO Jane, The Huffington Post, Psychology Today, and Clutch magazineHer writing career began with the personal blog What Tami Said. Her writing there has been referenced by New York magazine and a host of sites dedicated to feminism and race. Tamara has appeared as an expert in media, including on NPR’s Weekend Edition. And she was also a senior editor at Racialicious, a blog devoted to conversations about race. 

Tamara graduated with a BA degree from the Greenlee School of Journalism at Iowa State University. She is also a graduate of the Maynard Institute’s Editing Program for Minority Journalists. She has more than twenty years of experience in journalism, public relations, and marketing, and she teaches public speaking to college students. She is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

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Table of Contents

Preface

Introduction: The Trouble with Black Women
1 Beauty: Pretty for a Black Girl
2 Sex: Bump and Grind
3 Marriage: Witches, Thornbacks, and Sapphires
4 Motherhood: Between Mammy and a Hard Place
5 Anger: Twist and Shout
6 Strength: Precious Mettle
7 Health: Fat, Sick, and Crazy
Epilogue: The Sisters Are Alright

Notes
Index
About the Author




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Excerpt

The Sisters Are Alright

Preface

I love black women.

I love the Baptist church mothers in white.

I love the YouTube twerkers.

I love the sisters with Ivy League degrees and the ones with GEDs.

I love the big mamas, ma’dears, and aunties.

I love the loc-wearing sisters who smell like shea butter.

I love the ladies of the “Divine Nine.”

I love the “bad bitches” in designer pumps and premium lacefronts.

I love the girls who jumped double Dutch and played hopscotch.

I love the Nam-myoho-renge-kyo chanters, the seekers, and the atheists.

I love the awkward black girls and the quirky black girls and the black girls who listen to punk.

I love the “standing at the bus stop, sucking on a lollipop” ’round the way girls.

Black womanhood—with its unique histories and experiences—marks its possessors as something special.

I love black women, and I want the world to love black women, too.

It doesn’t, though. I know this in my bones, from forty-five years of black-woman being. The world does not love us—at least not in the way black women deserve to be loved—because it doesn’t truly see us. Our authentic collective and individual selves are usually hidden by racist and sexist stereotypes that we can’t seem to shake—or rather, images that other folks won’t let us shake. This is confirmed for me every time I read another article about a little black girl sent home from school, not for bad behavior or bad grades, but for having kinky black hair; every time some well-meaning pundit or preacher offers advice to “fix” black women to be more marriageable; every time some hack comedian tells a specious joke about tyrannical black wives and girlfriends; every time some black female performer is called a “ho” for baring her bodacious booty, while her male counterparts stay slapping asses in their videos to cheers and applause; every time a black woman gets murdered by the police or her partner or some scared homeowner with a gun in a Detroit suburb.

I am not an organizer. I am not much of a fighter. But I have faith in my way with words. I can write. And so, about eight years ago, I began writing about race and gender and the way they intersect with current events, pop culture, and politics—first on my own blog, What Tami Said, and then in other places.

My idea for a book was born out of the demeaning and tiresome nattering about the “black marriage crisis”—a panic that seemed to reach a peak a few years ago with endless magazine articles, TV specials, and books devoted to what black women might be doing wrong to so often remain unchosen. In researching that issue, I realized that the shaming directed at single black women is part of something much, much bigger—a broader belief in our inherent wrongness that we don’t deserve.

I wrote The Sisters Are Alright out of anger. (Yes, I am an angry black woman. And justifiably so.) I wrote it because my sisters deserve better. I wrote it because I want black women to be seen. I wrote it because I want to be seen. And I wrote this book because even if the world won’t love us, I want black women to love themselves and to love each other. The most frustrating sentence I’ve heard uttered by a black woman—and I’ve heard it many times—is “You know how we are.” It is rarely said in reference to anything positive. That damnable sentence is a sad illustration of the many ways black women can’t help but absorb the biases against us and the ways that we can be complicit in our own oppression. And it shows how hard it is to love yourself when everyone insists you are unlovable. I have two young nieces. I want the world to see their black-girl awesome and I want to make sure that they see it, too—always and no matter what. If they say, “You know how we are,” I want it to be in reference to their cleverness, their confidence, and their beauty—not some stereotypical quality that is a reduction of who they are. I wrote this book for them.

Black women are a million different kinds of amazing. It is not our race or gender that makes this true; it is, as I will say later in this book, our humanity. This book is about that humanity—the textured, difficult, and beautiful humanity that lies in the hearts of all the black women I love.

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Endorsements

“This energetic, passionate, and progressive mission statement illuminates old stereotypes that continue to dog black women today. Winfrey-Harris amplifies the voices of African-American women speaking for themselves, and the results are powerful, relevant, and affirming.”
-Publisher's Weekly

“Harris challenges age-old constructions of black womanhood with real-life accounts from black mothers, daughters, aunties, and girlfriends who reject the popular narrative of brokenness.”
-Jason Parham, Gawker

“Using a combination of anecdotal evidence, historical research, and well-documented facts and studies, Harris has compiled an engaging and informative treatise on black womanhood in America.”
-Lori L. Tharps, The Washington Post

The Sisters Are Alright enters a space where we're publicly contemplating race — and blackness in particular — quite a bit lately. That public contemplation has been fraught with a mixture of frustration, grief and anger at the way black people are treated and the way black bodies are viewed in the United States.”
-Soraya Nadia McDonald, The Washington Post

“The Sisters are Alright: Changing the Broken Narrative for Black Women in America
challenges stereotypical portrayals of black women and highlights the need for nuanced, complex characters.
- Ariel Cheung, USA Today

With its insightful blend of personal narrative, cultural critique and reflective interview, your book follows in the critical and literary footsteps of such feminist/womanist writers as Michele Wallace, Patricia Hill Collins and bell hooks.  Similar to these authors, you unpack the often damaging effect the myth of the self-sacrificing black superwoman has on black women's mental health and wellness.”
-Sikivu Hutchinson, The Feminist Wire

“One of the things I loved about [this] book was how it emphasized how self-love could help radically shift some of these perspectives. [This] book really tackles specific stereotypes that shape the way American culture perceives black women.”
-Arielle Bernstein, Rumpus

“Through explorations of marriage, motherhood, health, sexuality, beauty and more, Tamara Winfrey Harris counters warped prejudices by going far beyond the trope of Black women portrayed in American media.
The Sisters Are Alright exposes anti–Black-woman propaganda and shows the truth of what it's like to be a Black woman in America, a counter-narrative to the distorted depictions of themselves Black women are so often subject to.”
-Amani Ariel, Blavity

“The book pairs Harris' impeccable writing with stories of Black women and how they have been shaped by the stereotypes that are dictating how we view those around us.”
-Emily Taylor, NUVO


The Sisters are Alright: Changing the Broken Narrative of Black Women in America, Winfrey Harris' first book, tackles long-standing stereotypes and misconceptions steeped in racism and misogyny surrounding Black women's sexuality, beauty, health and more. Included are interviews she conducted with hundreds of Black women of different ages and backgrounds.”
-Ebony Chappel, Indianapolis Recorder

“[Winfrey Harris] speaks to real Black women, relaying the fact we are not as broken as society paints us to be. After all, we
are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in America, we have to be doing something right.”
-Chelcee Johns, Madame Noir

The Sisters Are Alright invites Black women, and those who love and care about Black women to reject this age-old stereotype in favor of a more expansive and progressive notion of women's sexuality.”
-Susana Morris, About News

“Winfrey Harris' book comes with us, both the celebrities and the sistahgurl down the street, letting us speak our own lives to power in this moment on our own terms.”
-Andrea Plaid, Feminist Wire

“Winfrey-Harris uses her distinctive voice to explore how Black women are thriving despite the odds stacked against us. She explores everything from marriage to sexuality in a way that will definitely cause affirmative head nods as reading.”
-Evette Dionne, Clutch Mag

“It's a book that reminds me that I'm not alone, and that I'm not crazy. All those moments I felt insecure or inadequate as a young adult — a young adult without many Black girlfriends until I became a young adult — weren't simply psychosomatic. By utilizing the anecdotes of other Black women, Winfrey Harris inspired me to wonder how my story might resonate with others, just as theirs resonate with me.”
-Akirah Robinson, 1839 Mag

“Tami Winfrey Harris provides some answers from both a historical and contemporary perspective. She argues that because of a pervasive public opinion about black women, assaults against them are often not perceived as newsworthy.
Winfrey Harris's book shows us that public representations of black women can be beneficial when the women involved are in control.”
-Laina Dawes, Hazlitt

“This book is a gift. With just the right mix of sister wit, statistical information, and a few well-timed rhetorical side-eyes, The Sisters Are Alright rushes in to save black women from the stereotypes that threaten to dull our shine.”  
—Brittney Cooper, PhD, Assistant Professor of Women's and Gender Studies and Africana Studies, Rutgers University

“Winfrey Harris [digs] into the project of remaking representations of black women as they truly are—joyfully diverse, indelibly complex, and powerful architects of their own narratives."
—Andi Zeisler, cofounder and Editorial/Creative Director, Bitch Media

“Winfrey Harris sets the record straight. This is a love letter to all the sisters—beautifully human and gorgeously flawed. Reading this book I felt seen, heard, and deeply understood. This is self-care between two covers.”
—Tayari Jones, author of Silver Sparrow




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