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Paperback Building Houses out of Chicken Legs: Black Women, Food, and Power Book

ISBN: 080785686X

ISBN13: 9780807856864

Building Houses out of Chicken Legs: Black Women, Food, and Power

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Format: Paperback

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Book Overview

Chicken--both the bird and the food--has played multiple roles in the lives of African American women from the slavery era to the present. It has provided food and a source of income for their families, shaped a distinctive culture, and helped women define and exert themselves in racist and hostile environments. Psyche A. Williams-Forson examines the complexity of black women's legacies using food as a form of cultural work. While acknowledging the...

Customer Reviews

2 ratings

Brilliantly written book!

I highly suggest this read to ANYONE interested in understanding how gender, race, and food are integral to understanding and debunking the stereotype about black people and "their 'natural' propensity to want chicken." It is very rare that food studies books even look at how racism impacts one's relationship to and with food. I am glad that Dr. Williams-Forson wrote this book! I could not put this book down. This woman is brilliant. She was able to turn a dissertation into a book that is easy and fun to read (which can be a challenge for most dissertations in which the authors want to turn into a book). Her analysis of the movie Soul Food was something I have thought about all the time, but wondered why no one ever brought it up. Basically, she is asking why the health problems of Big Mama are NEVER linked to the type of Soul Food that she eats all the time. If you are a fan of MacArthur Genius, Kara Walker, you will enjoy Williams-Forson's critique of how chicken is depicted in Walker's art work. I await for her to come out with more books!

An original and groundbreaking study

I am truly surprised that nobody else has submitted a review of this book! It certainly deserves to be widely read as an original contribution to African-American studies, to food studies in general, to cultural studies, and most importantly, by anyone who wants to understand how sterotyping works as part of the process of oppression. I also learned a great deal about what 'signifying' means, and how it can be used as an analytical tool. This is not a perfect book. Sometimes I found it moved to quickly from the general to the specific and vice versa. But Williams-Forson has taken a really tough topic - the way Chicken has been attached to African American women, and she treats it with sensitivity, creativity, wit and an eclectic set of tools from literature, social science and history. In the process she gets to the heart of how stereotypes cut in a lot of different directions; they reveal weaknesses and strengths, solidarities and divisions. She is not interested in passive victimology, nor does she ignore the violence and pain of slavery and prejudice. The result is a book which really does teach you something new about the Black experience. It is the opening, I hope, of a new generation of black history which shakes off some of the old narratives which have served their purposes, and gets into really complex terrain. I look forward to more complex counterpoint with the work being done in the Caribbean and on the Black experience elsewhere in the Americas. I will certainly be using this book in the classroom, and I hope it gets the broader readership it deserves!
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