Yours in Struggle: Three Feminist Perspectives on Anti-Semitism and Racism

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9780932379535: Yours in Struggle: Three Feminist Perspectives on Anti-Semitism and Racism
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Politics. Cultural Writing. New to SPD. The award-winning feminist and lesbian press Firebrand Books closed its doors last year after sixteen years in the business. The authors of YOURS IN STRUGGLE -- Elly Bulkin, Minnie Bruce Pratt, and Barbara Smith -- have now made the 1988 Firebrand edition of their collaborative work available through SPD. They write, YOURS IN STRUGGLE happened because we were able to talk to each other in the fist place, despite our very different identities and backgrounds -- white Christian-raised Southerner, Afro-American, Ashkenazi Jew. Each of us speaks only for herself, and we do not necessarily agree with each other. Yet we believe our cooperation on this book indicates concrete possibilities for coalition work.

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Review:

Firebrand Books has reprinted this important feminist title, originally published in 1984 by Long Haul Press. It is not a speck less relevant in 1989. If anything, intervening events have made it an even more essential piece of required reading. At home, statistics on hate crimes have gone through the roof. Renewed discussion of the relationship between Jewish-Americans and African-Americans has been sparked by each of Jesse Jackson's presidential campaigns and the development of a rainbow coalition, which has offered an umbrella full of pain and promise to all Americans. In the Middle East, cracks have begun to appear in the deadlock of race and nationality, blood and religion. If the new initiatives of the Israeli peace movement, the PLO, and even our own government give us much-needed reasons for optimism, we must also remember that the Palestinian Intifada is eighteen months old. And chances are very good that more people will die. Yours in Struggle is a book for anyone interested in the highly personal policies of racism and anti-semitism in the United States. It consists of three essays, written respectively by each of the book's three authors. Elly Bulkin, a well-known activist, essayist, and novelist, is white and an Ashkenazi Jew. Minnie Bruce Pratt, a gifted poet who recently was given the Lamont Award for Poetry by the Academy of American Poets, is white, Christian-raised, and southern. Barbara Smith, one of the founders of Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press and a widely published critic, is African-American. These three women write self-consciously about their differences of color and culture, yet their insights are rooted equally in their common languages: commitment to feminism; shared pride in lesbian experience; and their belief-in the face of denial, rage, and ignorance-in basic human dignity and desire for change. Each one of these authors took steps toward untying the knots of racism and anti-semitism by, to paraphrase Minnie Bruce Pratt, stepping outside her circles of protection. In their unique ways, Bulkin, Pratt, and Smith all explore the idea that these circles of protection are illusory. Their illusions of safety are the same ones we all cling to. Yours in Struggle traces these emotional and political bonds to complicated relationships among nationality, religion, sexuality, money, gender, and a host of other "identities" that history has weighted with fear and meaning. Together, the three essays span a gamut of writing from polemic to personal odyssey to suggestions for activism. The emotional range is at least as wide. Readers of any and all backgrounds will surely be able to locate themselves at some point, and probably at many points, along a spectrum that moves from despair though anger to hope. Certainly, there is much more to say about the complex political and institutional histories of American racism and antisemitism than can fit between the cover of this or any book. But Yours in Struggle is a good place to start. Its focus on the personal consequences of bigotry is what makes it uniquely moving, brutally honest, and keenly challenging. Its feminist vision is always right there, translating the politics of race and religion into a familiar, discomforting, and illun-dnating vocabulary of daily life and gritty experience that, I am convinced, is the key to transcending paralysis and moving toward action. -- From Independent Publisher

These thought-provoking personal essays examine the political reality of racism and anti-semitism from the perspectives of three lesbian activists from widely-differing backgrounds and identities who share mutual respect for each other's work. White, Christian-raised Southerner Minnie Bruce Pratt, asks: "Where does the need come from, the inner push to walk into change, if by skin color, ethnicity, birth culture, we are women who are in a position of material advantage, where we gain at the expense of others, other women?" Barbara Smith, an African-American, examines the difficulty of talking about anti-semitism to Black women and about racism to Jewish women because, in a white-supremist patriarchy, "white skin, and if you have it, class privilege, definitely count for something, even if you belong at the very same time to a group or to groups that the society despises." Elly Bulkin, an Ashkenazi Jew, traces the roots and growth of racism and anti-semitism and ends with an appendix of questions "intended to challenge, to reveal changes in attitudes... to underscore how much each of us still has to learn" about our own culturally-ingrained racist and anti-semitic thinking and feeling. As these authors offer righteous rage without anger and detailed analysis without tedium, their experienced concern with everyday justice charges this work with life-affirming energy. -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. -- From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Jesse Larsen

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