Hilton Als The Women

ISBN 13: 9780374292058

The Women

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9780374292058: The Women

Daring and brilliant, this memoir, psychological study, sociopolitical manifesto, and incisive adventure in literary criticism offers a series of portraits analyzing the role that sexual and racial identity has played in the lives and work of the writer's subjects.

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Review:

This memoir is a meditation on what it means to be black, gay, and female in U.S. culture. Als, a gay man, writes about his mother; his sisters; Malcolm X's mother; and Dorothy Dean, an African-American woman who was at the center of New York's gay male circles. But his real subject is--as he puts it--what it means to be a "Negress" in white culture. Examining how race and gender shape all of our attitudes toward what it means to be a "woman," "man" or "homosexual," Als gets at the root of self-definition in a world that constructs very limited options. The Women is elegantly written and moves us through a variety of ideas and emotions with a fluidity that is both graceful and startling; it is unique in contemporary writings about race, sexuality, and gender.

From the Back Cover:

Daring, fiercely original, and brilliant, The Women is at once a memoir, a psychological study, a sociopolitical manifesto, and an incisive adventure in literary criticism. It is conceived as a series of portraits analyzing the role that sexual and racial identity played in the lives and work of the writer's subjects. Als begins with his mother, a self-described "Negress", who would not be defined by the limitations of race and gender. He goes on to ask who the mother of Malcolm X was, and shows how her mixed-race background and eventual descent into madness contributed to her son's misogyny and racism. He describes how the brilliant, Harvard-educated Dorothy Dean rarely identified with other blacks or women, but deeply empathized with white gay men. Finally, he portrays the late Owen Dodson, a poet and dramatist who was female-identified and who played an important role in the author's own social and intellectual formation. Als submits both racial and sexual stereotypes to his inimitable scrutiny with relentless humor and sympathy. The results are exhilarating. The Women is that rarest of books: a memorable work of self-investigation that creates a form all its own.

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Hilton Als
Published by Farrar Straus & Giroux (1996)
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Als, Hilton
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