Sunday, April 20, 2014

Briana Whiteside's Mailbag #2

On April 16 and 17, we coordinated a presentation of Briana Whiteside's mixed media exhibit “Uncanny Black Women: Octavia Butler’s Mary and Shonda Rhimes’s Olivia Pope,” which was based on her research. Attendees completed note cards with questions for Briana about her project. What follows are select questions and her responses. 

What made you choose Octavia Butler?
I was preparing for a speculative fiction class before I entered graduate school and I saw that Butler was on the list of authors we would read. I read Butler’s Kindred (1979) and I was captivated by her ability to tell a story. After Kindred, I had to read the rest of Butler’s books, then I discovered she was the first black woman writer to be well-known in sci-fi.
[Related: Briana Whiteside's mailbag #1]

What are the origins of black women being portrayed as hypersexual?
The belief that black women are hypersexual can be traced back to slavery. Black women slaves were raped by their masters and often impregnated by them. Those actions exploited black women’s sexuality and denied them agency over their bodies
Do only black women write about uncanny black women? If so, why?
Black women do not only write about uncanny black women in their books. They write on various issues and topics. However, when black women writers do write black women characters in their narratives they do not deem them as uncanny, they leave the interpretation to their readers.
Do you think African American women encourage this stereotype, or were the roles just given to us?
I do not believe black women encourage the roles “given” to us. I do believe based on some actions of black women, they are usually pushed into categories given to black women. However, black women are usually too complex to fit into such narrow stereotypes comfortably.
Uncanny Black Women: Octavia Butler’s Mary and Shonda Rhimes’s Olivia Pope

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