The Search for Womanhood in the Americas
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Examines the ways in which the inclusion of African diasporic religious practices serves as a transgressive tool in narrative discourses in the Americas.
Finalist for the 2015 Albert J. Raboteau Prize for the Best Book in Africana Religions presented by the Journal of Africana Religions
Oshun's Daughters examines representations of African diasporic religions from novels and poems written by women in the United States, the Spanish Caribbean, and Brazil. In spite of differences in age, language, and nationality, these women writers all turn to variations of traditional Yoruba religion (Santería/Regla de Ocha and Candomblé) as a source of inspiration for creating portraits of womanhood. Within these religious systems, binaries that dominate European thought—man/woman, mind/body, light/dark, good/evil—do not function in the same way, as the emphasis is not on extremes but on balancing or reconciling these radical differences. Involvement with these African diasporic religions thus provides alternative models of womanhood that differ substantially from those found in dominant Western patriarchal culture, namely, that of virgin, asexual wife/mother, and whore. Instead we find images of the sexual woman, who enjoys her body without any sense of shame; the mother, who nurtures her children without sacrificing herself; and the warrior woman, who actively resists demands that she conform to one-dimensional stereotypes of womanhood.
Vanessa K. Valdés is Assistant Professor of Spanish and Portuguese at City College, the City University of New York. She is the editor of Let Spirit Speak! Cultural Journeys through the African Diaspora, also published by SUNY Press, and The Future Is Now: A New Look at African Diaspora Studies.
"Valdés's study fulfills its original goal of representing the transgressive power of African-based spirituality … Valdés's main contribution to the study of female identity in its relation to spirituality is her underscoring of how Oshun's prototype of femininity has given birth not only to an alternate mode of womanhood that can be traced throughout the Americas, but also how, in doing so, she inspires the embrace of such discourse. " — CLA Journal
"This book is a good study of the representation of African diasporic religions in the creative works of several women writers. It will make a significant contribution to the study of writing by women of different racial backgrounds whose works are linked by the religious systems about which they write in different space in the Caribbean, Brazil, and the USA. " — Caribbean Journal of Education
"This ground-breaking work is a necessary addition to Latin American and women's studies libraries. " — PALARA
"…[a] significant contribution to the literature of the Americas. " — American Studies