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Grasp That Reaches beyond the Grave, The

The Ancestral Call in Black Women's Texts

Venetria K. Patton

Publication Year: 2013

Explores Black women writers’ treatment of the ancestor figure.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

This book has been a long time in coming, so I must recognize all of those who assisted me and cheered me along the way. First and foremost, is my partner, Ronald J. Stephens, who was with me before I even knew this was a book. Thank you for always believing in me, encouraging me, and for reading my work and talking things through. ...

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Introduction: Revising The Legacy of Kinlessness Through Elders and Ancestors

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pp. 1-26

Elders have traditionally played an important role within African and African American communities. Elders preserve cultural memory and help younger generations navigate the world. However, sometimes the younger generation becomes distant from traditional beliefs and elders must remind them of the importance of tradition and cultural roots. ...

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Part I: Preface: The Elder as Culture Bearer

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pp. 27-30

Culture bearers transmit the culture of a people and may be male or female; however, women often are associated with this role because of the overlap between the roles of culture bearing and mothering. In Afrikan Mothers: Bearers of Culture, Makers of Social Change, Nah Dove asserts, “The woman is revered in her role as the mother who is the bringer of life, ...

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Chapter 1 Othermothers as Elders and Culture Bearers in Daughters of the Dust and The Salt Eaters

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pp. 31-54

An elder’s role is to guide his or her community and thus to lead others on the path to become elders and eventually ancestors. However, as Bunseki Fu-Kiau informs us, everyone does not achieve elder status, as this is not a natural progression like ageing, but an accomplishment dependent on drawing on the wisdom of the ancestors. ...

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Part II: Preface: The Dead Are Not Dead: The Ancestral Presence

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pp. 55-58

In this study, I contend that ancestral bonds extend beyond the grave in order to maintain a sense of health and well-being in the face of a legacy of slavery and racial discrimination. Using a woman-centered network of mothers, daughters, and othermothers in the form of elders and ancestors, ...

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Chapter 2 Ancestral Prodding in Praisesong for the Widow

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pp. 59-88

In “Mechanisms of Disease: African-American Women Writers, Social Pathologies, and the Limits of Medicine,” Ann Folwell Stanford approaches Paule Marshall’s Praisesong for the Widow by studying the body as an indication of social ills. According to Stanford: ...

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Chapter 3 Ancestral Disturbances in Stigmata

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pp. 89-118

Alesia Perry’s Stigmata opens in Atlanta in 1994 with Lizzie having been in her latest mental institution for the previous two years. She finds it funny that the doctor thinks he has cured her madness because she knows there is no cure for her condition. After fourteen years “and some well-acted moments of sanity,” ...

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Chapter 4 Beloved: A Ghost Story with an Ogbanje Twist

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pp. 119-150

One might describe Toni Morrison’s Beloved as a ghost story. Literary critic, Trudier Harris observes, “Certainly in the black folk tradition, a ghost might occasionally appear among the living—to indicate all is well, to teach a lesson, or to guide the living to some good fortune, including buried treasure” (Fiction 156). ...

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Part III: Preface: The Child and Ancestor Bond

In the introduction, I noted the close association between the child and the ancestor, as reflected in beliefs regarding reincarnation; however, children also play an important role in remembering deceased parents. According to John Mbiti, “parents are remembered by their children when they die. ...

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Chapter 5 The Child Figure as a Means to Ancestral Knowledge in Daughters of the Dust and A Sunday in June

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pp. 153-174

Although references are made to the elder and the ancestor, the focus of this chapter is the child figure. In the case of Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust, the child figure is called forth as a means of bringing ancestral cultural healing to her parents and extended family. ...

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Conclusion: Looking Backward and Forward: The Ancestral Presence in Speculative Fiction

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pp. 175-190

After reading novel after novel by black women writers in which ghosts narrated the stories or characters interacted with ghosts, I thought I might embark on a study of ghosts, but this has become so much more. Although I agree with Kathleen Brogan regarding the attraction of ghost stories for the types of narratives these artists wish to tell, ...


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pp. 191-196


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pp. 197-210


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pp. 211-216

Back Cover

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pp. 228-228

E-ISBN-13: 9781438447384
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438447377

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 867739541
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Grasp That Reaches beyond the Grave, The

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Subject Headings

  • American literature -- African American authors -- History and criticism.
  • American literature -- African influences.
  • African American women -- Intellectual life.
  • African Americans in literature.
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