Sisterlocking Discoarse

Race, Gender, and the Twenty-First-Century Academy

By Valerie Lee

Subjects: Women's Studies, African American Studies, Higher Education, Gender Studies, Educational Administration
Series: SUNY series in Feminist Criticism and Theory, SUNY series, Critical Race Studies in Education
Paperback : 9781438485843, 180 pages, November 2021
Hardcover : 9781438485850, 180 pages, November 2021

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Table of contents



1. Sisterlocking Discoarse: Or How Is Leadership Supposed to Look?

2. When We Can't Breathe: Generational Spirit-Murder

3. Smarts: A Cautionary Tale

4. On Learning That I Was Teaching "N----r Literature": or Why It Is Hard to Do Diversity in Academe

5. "Pearl Was Shittin' Worms and I Was Supposed to Play Rang-around-the-Rosie?": An African American Woman's Response to the Politics of Labor

6. Underground Railroads on Postracial Tracks?

7. "Forty Devils Can't Make Me Obey You"

8. Cartoons That Saved My Administrative Life

9. From Soweto to Harlem, from the Antilles to Accra: One Long Blues Song

10. Retirement: There Are No More Monday Mornings

Selected Bibliography

Follows a Black woman's forty-year career in academia, sharing how race and gender can disrupt and enhance the professional and the personal, from leadership and policies to family life.


Finalist for the 2021 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award in the Education Category

In Sisterlocking Discoarse, hair is a medium for reflecting on how academic leadership looks, performs, and changes when embodied by a Black woman. In these ten essays, Valerie Lee traverses disciplines and genres, weaving together memoir, literary analysis, legal cases, folklore, letters, travelogues, family photographs, and cartoons to share her story of navigating academia. Lee's path is not singular or linear, but rather communal and circular as she revisits her earliest years in her grandmother's home, advances through the professoriate and senior administration, and addresses her hopes and fears for her own children. Drawing inspiration from the African American storytelling traditions she has spent decades studying and teaching, Lee approaches issues of race, gender, social justice, academic labor, and leadership with a voice that is clear, intimate, and humorous. As she writes in the introduction, "Sisterlocking Discoarse is about braiding and breathing and believing that a Black woman's journey through the academy is important." Lee's journey will appeal to students, faculty, and administrators across fields and institutions who are committed to making higher education more inclusive, while speaking to the experiences of professional women of color more broadly.

Valerie Lee is Professor Emerita of English at The Ohio State University. She is the author of Granny Midwives and Black Women Writers: Double-Dutched Readings and the editor of The Prentice Hall Anthology of African American Women's Literature.


"Not only is a book like this needed in the academy—this is the book that is needed. " — Raechele L. Pope, coauthor of Creating Multicultural Change on Campus