Black Professional Women in Recent American Fiction


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About the Book

The last three decades of the 20th century have marked the triumph of many black professional women against great odds in the workplace. Despite their success, few novels celebrate their accomplishments. Black middle-class professional women want to see themselves realistically portrayed by protagonists who work to achieve significant productivity and visibility in their careers, desire stability in their personal lives, aspire to accrue wealth, and live elegantly though not consumptively.
The author contends that most recent American realistic fiction fails to represent black professional women protagonists performing their work effectively in the workplace. Identifying the extent to which contemporary novels satisfy the “readerly desires” of black middle-class women readers, this book investigates why the readership wants the texts, as well as what they prefer in the books they buy. It also examines the technical and cultural factors that contribute to the lack of books with self-empowered black professional female protagonists, and considers The Salt Eaters by Toni Cade Bambara and Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillan, two novels that function as significant markers in the development of contemporary black women writers’ texts.

About the Author(s)

Carmen Rose Marshall is a professor of English at John Tyler Community College in Richmond, Virginia. She lives in Richmond.

Bibliographic Details

Carmen Rose Marshall
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 227
Bibliographic Info: tables, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2004
pISBN: 978-0-7864-1712-4
eISBN: 978-0-7864-8122-4
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vi
Preface      1
Introduction: The Dearth of Self-Actualized Black Professional Women Protagonists      5

1. Consumer Desire for Self-Empowered Black Professional Women Protagonists      33
2. Craft and Culture: Challenges to Black Professional Women’s Representation      51
3. Production and Market: Social Challenges      77
4. Feminism and Nationalism: Conflicts in The Salt Eaters      92
5. Re-thinking Agency in Waiting to Exhale      126
6. Reader Response: Findings and Applications      158

Appendix A: Occupational Distributions of Black and White Women: 1940, 1960, and 1980      183
Appendix B: Family Assets of Black and White Women by Employment Status      184
Appendix C: Respondent Information and Questionnaire Results      186
Notes      191
Bibliography      205
Index      215