Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and Eleventh Stack are celebrating Black History Month by highlighting books, music and movies by African American Artists. We also have a ton of great events and programs for children, teens and adults. You can view all of our Black History Month posts here.
The Sisters are Alright is not only the title of this book; it’s an affirmation. I think that this book should be for everyone to read, not just black women. This book paints a portrait of how society views the black woman versus how we actually are. It also gives an inside look into the struggles that black women face every day. Also, the book gives varying viewpoints throughout, so it’s not one sided.
I love how the book is divided into separate subjects like beauty, marriage, sex, health, etc. One quote that stuck out to me was from Jamyla, a woman the author interviewed for this book. Jamyla said, “My political feeling is that it very serious work to love yourself as a black person in America.” I agree wholeheartedly with this statement. This reminds me of the Black Lives Matter movement and the backlash that it received not long after it was formed. It left some people asking, “What about all lives?” Even when we love and accept ourselves it’s a problem.
In the beauty section, Harris discusses the natural hair movement and how black women had to create their own websites and products because mainstream media and big businesses weren’t marketing to women of color. Another part that stuck out to me was in the sex section of the book, where Harris mentions a time when FOX News anchor Bill O’Reilly blasted Beyoncé for her video & song “Partition” because of its sexual content and because she’s supposed to be a role model to young girls. O’Reilly said, “Teenage girls look up to Beyoncé, particularly girls of color. Why would she do it when she knows the devastation that unwanted pregnancies…fractured families…why would Beyoncé do that?”
This quote angered me on multiple levels, because when a black woman embraces her sexuality she gets slammed, ridiculed, even chastised for her behavior, but when stars like Amy Schumer or Madona (who is mentioned in the book) do the exact same thing they are praised and applauded for being so bold and unapologetic. It’s not fair. Why applaud one and criticize another for doing the exact same thing? Another thing, on the song in question Beyoncé is singing about having consensual sex with her husband not a random hookup. Even if she was singing about a random hookup, so what? Like she said herself, she’s a grown woman.
There were a lot of relatable parts of this book for me. One was a quote from the marriage section. Harris said, “And if you trust the what’s-wrong-with-black-women-and-why-won’t-anyone-marry-them industrial complex, black women may not be pretty or chaste enough to merit wifedom.” I can relate to this because I’ve never been in a relationship before, and I sometimes feel like in society’s eyes that something is wrong with me. Looking on the Internet sometimes is so upsetting because I constantly see black women as the butt of jokes or being downed just to praise non-black women. So, sometimes in the back of my mind when I see a cute guy I think, “I wonder if he even likes black women?”
Another part that I related to was in the anger section where Harris said, “Black women do get angry. Everyone does, but the angry black woman stereotype denies them their warranted rage.” I can definitely relate to this because in just about every facet of my life I feel like I have to control my emotions for fear of being perceived as an angry black woman. Even in situations where my anger would be justified. It’s hard to deal with.
This brings me to another point about black women always having to wear a face of control and not only that but strength. One quote in the strength section said, “Ultimately, the ‘strong black woman’ stereotype is an albatross at odds with African American women’s very survival.” This quote is very true because once again I always feel like I have to put on a face and be strong even when I want to break down. It’s like black women aren’t allowed to show any emotion. We’re multi-faceted people and deserve to be seen as such.
The ending of the book reminds black women that we aren’t perfect and that we aren’t supposed to be. “We have facets like diamonds. The trouble is the people who refuse to see us sparkling.”