Melissa Harris-Perry~~4 1/2 and 5 Star Reviews

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Sister Citizen:  Shame, Stereotypes and Black Women in America

Melissa Harris-Perry

Yale University Press

Hardcover

*****

 

            When this reviewer saw that Melissa Harris-Perry severely condemned the movie The Help, I was surprised.  As an African-American woman whose mother was ‘the help,’ I did not view the movie in the same way.  I had objections to the movie and book, but not the way she did.  I looked at the movie as entertainment where Black women were awarded some credit, albeit little.  Now, having read Harris-Perry’s book, Sister Citizen, I can understand where she was coming from.

            Ms. Harris-Perry has done exhaustive research in the stereotyping of Black women and how they were perceived throughout a century and one-half in the U.S.  Stereotypes hurt Black women in so many ways, Harris-Perry asserts, ultimately limiting their participation as citizens of this country.  To emphasize her point, she casts the readers’ eyes to Katrina and the treatment of Blacks and in particular Black women in that catastrophe.  She analyzes stereotypes like Mammy and Sapphire, explaining why these stereotypes are offensive.  To this reviewer, this was extremely important because there are many who see Mammy’s positive attributes and hold Black women to them. Harris-Perry also boldly took on the hot-button issue of R. Kelly and the La Cross team from Duke University.

            Sister Citizen will immediately become one of the required texts for most college sociology classes, but to put it solely in that niche would be unjust.  Nor surprisingly, there is a political component to this book and a historical context that makes it a must read its own.

Mildred Burkett

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