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Womanism

Dinah Birch

21 December 1989
The Temple of my Familiar 
by Alice Walker.
Women’s Press, 405 pp., £12.95, September 1989, 0 7043 5041 6
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The Fog Line 
by Carol Birch.
Bloomsbury, 248 pp., £13.95, September 1989, 0 7475 0453 9
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Home Life Four 
by Alice​ Thomas Ellis.
Duckworth, 169 pp., £9.95, November 1989, 0 7156 2297 8
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TheFly in the Ointment 
by Alice​ Thomas Ellis.
Duckworth, 132 pp., £10.95, October 1989, 9780715622964
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Words of Love 
by Philip Norman.
Hamish Hamilton, 218 pp., £11.95, October 1989, 0 241 12586 3
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... American black people describe their wildest girls as ‘womanish’. AliceWalker recalls that traditional usage in defining her own work: she is interested in ‘womanist’ rather than ‘feminist’ writing. ‘Womanist’ texts proclaim a double rebellion, fusing the long ...
23 April 1992
Holograms of Fear 
by Slavenka Drakulic, translated by Ellen Elias-Barsaic and Slavenka Drakulic.
Hutchinson, 184 pp., £13.99, January 1992, 0 09 174994 8
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Revolution From Within 
by Gloria Steinem.
Bloomsbury, 377 pp., £14.99, January 1992, 0 7475 1006 7
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How we survived Communism and even laughed 
by Slavenka Drakulic.
Hutchinson, 193 pp., £15.99, January 1992, 0 09 174925 5
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... are meant not only to love this sort of stuff, but to find it personally and politically useful. And this presumably is why North American feminist figureheads of the stature of Barbara Ehrenreich, AliceWalker, Gloria Steinem and Robin Morgan have given it their impeccably feminist imprimatur. As North American feminist figureheads of great stature, Barbara Ehrenreich, AliceWalker, Gloria Steinem ...
2 June 1983
Porky 
by Deborah Moggach.
Cape, 236 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 0 224 02948 7
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The Banquet 
by Carolyn Slaughter.
Allen Lane, 191 pp., £6.95, May 1983, 0 7139 1574 9
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Binstead’s Safari 
by Rachel Ingalls.
Faber, 221 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 9780571130160
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In Good Faith 
by Edith Reveley.
Hodder, 267 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 0 340 32012 5
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Cousins 
by Monica Furlong.
Weidenfeld, 172 pp., £7.95, April 1983, 0 297 78231 2
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The Moons of Jupiter 
by Alice​ Munro.
Allen Lane, 233 pp., £7.95, April 1983, 0 7139 1549 8
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On the Stroll 
by Alix Kates Shulman.
Virago, 301 pp., £8.95, May 1983, 0 86068 364 8
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The Color Purple 
by Alice Walker.
Women’s Press, 244 pp., £3.95, March 1983, 0 7043 3905 6
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Mistral’s Daughter 
by Judith Krantz.
Sidgwick, 531 pp., £8.95, May 1983, 0 283 98987 4
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... shining example of how well a woman can write without being fantastic, archaic, obtrusive or sentimental, without, in fact, displaying the rather tired characteristics of womanliness, is provided by Alice Munro in The Moons of Jupiter. In this excellent collection of stories, Alice Munro is treading on the heels of her compatriot, Margaret Atwood. Events are less powerful in Munro’s stories; most ...

Two Poems

Douglas Oliver

24 August 1995
... the limit of poetry: Western people’s ignorance of how their own cultures are viewed by integrationist Islam is too profound. The following poem could never be read in illiterate deserts. Like AliceWalker and Pratibha Parmar working in West Africa, you could make a courageous film on the subject of infibulation. Failing that, a poem might yet become a sort of film shot from a distance, an ...

Dumped

Zoë Heller: Girl Talk

19 February 1998
Animal Husbandry 
by Laura Zigman.
Hutchinson, 304 pp., £10, January 1998, 0 09 180219 9
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Bridget Jones’ Diary 
by Helen Fielding.
Picador, 310 pp., £5.99, June 1997, 0 330 33277 5
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Does My Bum Look Big in This? 
by Arabella Weir.
Hodder, 246 pp., £5.99, March 1998, 9780340689486
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... the FFPN. If a certain, highly stylised, woman-as-fearless-guerrilla rhetoric felt fresh, unexpected – even dangerous – in the Seventies, it eventually became hackneyed and over-familiar. Enough AliceWalker, already! The success of the FFPN, with its candid admissions of female silliness and vanity, lay partly in its subversion of the expectations created by all those Virago paperbacks. The FFPN ...

My Friend Sam

Jane Miller

16 August 1990
The rock cried out 
by Ellen Douglas.
Virago, 303 pp., £5.99, June 1990, 1 85381 140 8
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Can’t quit you, baby 
by Ellen Douglas.
Virago, 256 pp., £12.95, June 1990, 1 85381 149 1
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... by the spirituality, genuine as well as meretricious, embodied in the fundamentalist forms of Christianity celebrated in Southern churches. There must be ways in which writers like Ralph Ellison and AliceWalker are bound to acknowledge their indebtedness to white Southern writing, as to its European sources. If The Color Purple may be read as a novel about the acquiring of literacy, becoming a reader ...

In the Box

Dale Peck

6 February 1997
How Stella Got Her Groove Back 
by Terry McMillan.
Viking, 368 pp., £16, September 1996, 0 670 86990 2
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Push 
by Sapphire.
Secker, 142 pp., £7.99, September 1996, 0 436 20291 3
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The Autobiography of My Mother 
by Jamaica Kincaid.
Vintage, 228 pp., £8.99, September 1996, 0 09 973841 4
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... Sonia Sanchez and Paule Marshall helped redefine and expand the parameters of the mainstream in American publishing. This ‘middle period’ was, I think, capped in 1982 by the publication of AliceWalker’s Pulitzer Prizewinning The Color Purple. In that novel, Celie, the protagonist teaches herself to read and write, and what she writes down is her own story; in doing so, she symbolically ...
4 October 1984
In Love and Trouble: Stories of Black Women 
by Alice Walker.
Women’s Press, 138 pp., £7.50, September 1984, 0 7043 2852 6
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Nights at the Circus 
by Angela Carter.
Chatto, 295 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 7011 3932 3
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Democracy 
by Joan Didion.
Chatto, 234 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 7011 2890 9
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... Institutions is simply a means by which a once hopeful Presidential candidate in the novel seeks to keep his political flag flying. The question of language doesn’t surface immediately in AliceWalker’s collection of stories, published in America in 1973, now appearing in England for the first time. But it does lie in wait for such writing, ready to pounce like maturity or disenchantment. The ...

Super-Striking

Jenny Turner

24 September 1992
High Cotton 
by Darryl Pinckney.
Faber, 295 pp., £14.99, August 1992, 0 571 16491 9
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... continue the socially-engaged and Afrocentric thrust that the old arch-darkies started. In an interview published in New York’s Newsday, Pinckney has been scathing about ‘blackwomanist’ heroine AliceWalker, calling her much-loved depictions of black folks discovering themselves through social engagement ‘terrible ... mindless reformulations of clichés’. Provocative of him. However, it is ...

Static

Lorna Scott Fox

22 September 1994
The Still Moment 
by Paul Binding.
Virago, 290 pp., £20, May 1994, 1 85381 441 5
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... less she says the more she cares. At any rate she once worked for Adlai Stevenson, who ‘would undoubtedly have been a far more active enthusiast for black rights’ than Eisenhower. Later, asked by AliceWalker whether she had ‘really known’ any black women, honest Eudora came up with two, a schoolteacher and a maid. Binding’s gloss: ‘She does not indulge in generalised rhetoric, and by ...

Leave off saying I want you to be savages

Sandra Gilbert: D.H. Lawrence

19 March 1998
D.H. Lawrence: Dying Game 1922-30 
by David Ellis.
Cambridge, 814 pp., £25, January 1998, 0 521 25421 3
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... as well as graduate reading lists still include Sons and Lovers, the book strikes many young readers as a chestnut, maybe even an obstacle on the road to Virginia Woolf, Thomas Pynchon and AliceWalker, while the later novels just look ‘weird’. On the one hand, the author of Women in Love is too damn serious, too damn end-of-the-world to be any fun in a world of MTV; on the other hand, the ...

Pen Men

Elaine Showalter

20 March 1986
Men and Feminism in Modern Literature 
by Declan Kiberd.
Macmillan, 250 pp., £13.95, September 1985, 0 333 38353 2
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Women Writing about Men 
by Jane Miller.
Virago, 256 pp., £10.95, January 1986, 0 86068 473 3
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Phallic Critiques: Masculinity and 20th-century Literature 
by Peter Schwenger.
Routledge, 172 pp., £29.50, September 1985, 0 7102 0164 8
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... novel to confront the often hostile representation of men in the works of such writers as Richardson, Rebecca West, Alexandra Kollontai, Christina Stead, Jean Rhys, Doris Lessing, Toni Morrison and AliceWalker, Miller’s deliberately unsystematic readings have an impressive cumulative power. By the end of the book, as she discusses the work of black and working-class writers, women who have been so ...

Purple Days

Mark Ford

12 May 1994
The Pugilist at Rest 
by Thom Jones.
Faber, 230 pp., £14.99, March 1994, 0 571 17134 6
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The Sorrow of War 
by Bao Ninh, translated by Frank Palmos.
Secker, 217 pp., £8.99, January 1994, 0 436 31042 2
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A Good Scent from Strange Mountain 
by Robert Olen Butler.
Minerva, 249 pp., £5.99, November 1993, 0 7493 9767 5
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Out of the Sixties: Storytelling and the Vietnam Generation 
by David Wyatt.
Cambridge, 230 pp., £35, February 1994, 9780521441513
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... history that cruises through our dreams’. Oddly though, he in the end makes very few connections between the work of his eclectically chosen band of artists – who range from Bruce Springsteen to AliceWalker, George Lucas to Louise Glück – and the specific linguistic, narrative, or political problems posed by Vietnam. For such as Bruce Springsteen the most immediate issue was the draft. In the ...

Women’s Fiction

Margaret Walters

13 October 1988
The Beginning of Spring 
by Penelope Fitzgerald.
Collins, 187 pp., £10.95, September 1988, 0 00 223261 8
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A Wedding of Cousins 
by Emma Tennant.
Viking, 167 pp., £11.95, September 1988, 0 670 81502 0
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TheSkeleton in the Cupboard 
by Alice​ Thomas Ellis.
Duckworth, 138 pp., £9.95, September 1988, 0 7156 2269 2
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... a word of explanation: she had apparently intended to take her three children with her, but left them behind at the Alexandrovna station. We never know much about Nellie, always ‘a jumper up and walker about’, though there’s a wonderfully telling glimpse of the girl Frank met and married when he was back in England learning the trade: a 26-year-old schoolteacher desperate to escape a spinster ...

Mother

Wendy Steiner

19 October 1995
Gertrude Stein in Words and Pictures 
by Renate Stendhal.
Thames and Hudson, 286 pp., £14.95, March 1995, 0 500 27832 6
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‘Favoured Strangers’: Gertrude Stein and Her Family 
by Linda Wagner-Martin.
Rutgers, 346 pp., $34.95, August 1995, 0 8135 2169 6
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... dismay, in nude bathing parties. ‘She had none of the funny embarrassment Anglo-Saxons have about flesh’, wrote Mabel Dodge Luhan. ‘She gloried in hers’. In her thirties, Stein ‘married’ Alice Toklas, who was an avid and accomplished cook, but Stein’s love of food was just a part of her intense physicality. Throughout her life, she took prodigious walks, window-shopping her way across ...

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