WOMANISH

A Grown Black Woman Speaks on Love and Life

Foreword Reviews - - Foresight Women’s Issues -

Kim Mclarin, Ig Pub­lish­ing (JAN­UARY) Soft­cover $16.95 (252pp), 978-1-63246-079-0, MEM­OIR

The first step of de­pro­gram­ming is ed­u­ca­tion, in­form­ing the per­son you are try­ing to free just how in­doc­tri­na­tion works to ham­string a mind. But in­for­ma­tion alone will not free a be­liever from her be­liefs, no mat­ter how de­struc­tive, be­cause be­lief is not in­tel­lec­tual.

From this pow­er­ful open­ing gam­bit, Kim Mclarin’s Womanish: A Grown Black Woman Speaks on Love and Life con­fronts some of the most opaque and stub­born ide­olo­gies un­der­gird­ing US cul­ture in es­says full of in­sights as pre­cise as tac­ti­cal strikes.

De­rived from the black folk ex­pres­sion “womanish,” a wom­an­ist is a black fem­i­nist or fem­i­nist of color—the op­po­site of the friv­o­lous and ir­re­spon­si­ble con­no­ta­tions of “girl­ish.” A wom­an­ist is grown, and Mclarin is a wom­an­ist at the height of her pow­ers. Her pen­e­trat­ing nar­ra­tive voice is com­pletely at home in it­self, whether it’s tak­ing on the cul­tur­ally re­lated mono­liths of beauty, black­ness, white fem­i­nism, moth­er­hood, men­tal ill­ness, health, or class.

In­te­grat­ing the work of for­mi­da­ble black in­tel­lec­tu­als, re­search data, in­ter­view ex­cerpts, and mem­oir, Mclarin casts sys­temic is­sues in ex­pe­ri­en­tial terms, an­chor­ing them in a nar­ra­tive of friends, fam­ily, and self. Like James Bald­win, Mclarin is equally con­cerned with the “lies we tell our­selves as Amer­i­cans” and “the dis­tor­tions and sto­ries and jus­ti­fi­ca­tions we tell our­selves as hu­man be­ings.”

Also like Bald­win, Mclarin is smart as hell; this fact em­anates off the page, from her in­vo­ca­tion of Alice Walker and Au­dre Lorde to ex­plain on­line dat­ing, to the “misog­y­nynoir” she uses to delve into the in­ter­sec­tions of misog­yny and col­orism, to her recla­ma­tion of per­sonal vul­ner­a­bil­ity as a nec­es­sary in­sis­tence of hu­man­ity and self-worth.

Womanish is the ed­u­ca­tion the United States needs but doesn’t deserve. Not only has Mclarin done the home­work, she’s cre­ated an el­e­gant cheat sheet in the form of thir­teen per­fect es­says.

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