By Lakenzie Walls and Howard Rambsy II
Nafissa Thompson-Spires's “Belles Lettres,” from her collection of stories Heads of the Colored People (2018) focuses on a pair of Black mothers of two girls at a predominantly white private school. The mothers exchange distasteful letters about each other’s daughters. The story, presented in the form of letters from the mothers, reveals the lengths they will go to uplift their own black daughter, even if it means belittling a rival’s child.
In one example of the subtle insults that they toss at each other, one mother writers, “Perhaps the kids at Fatima’s old school were bad influences on her? Why did she change schools after first grade anyway? That’s generally a bad sign” (39). In her response, the other mother writes that “Not everyone is suited for literary work. I’m sure you know that from your own writing struggles” (40). Comments like those persist throughout the story.
This story shows many instances of competitiveness between two apparently well-to-do Black women parents. Which instance of their competition stood out to you most? Briefly explain why that moment caught your attention. Please provide the page number(s) for the scene or quotation you provide.