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After a less-than-positive experience giving birth as a Black woman in the 1970s, Linda Janet Holmes launched a lifetime of work as an activist dedicated to learning about and honoring alternative birth traditions and the Black women behind them. Safe in a Midwife's Hands brings together what Holmes has gleaned from the countless midwives who have shared with her their experiences, at a time when their knowledge and holistic approaches are essential counterbalances to a medical system that routinely fails Black mothers and babies. Building on work she began in the 1980s, when she interviewed traditional Black midwives in Alabama and Virginia, Holmes traveled to Ghana, Ethiopia, and Kenya to visit midwives there. In detailing their work, from massage to the uses of medicinal plants to naming ceremonies, she links their voices to those of midwives and doulas in the US. She thus illuminates parallels between birthing traditions that have survived hundreds of years of colonialism, enslavement, Jim Crow, and ongoing medical racism to persist as vital cultural practices that promote healthy outcomes for mothers and babies during pregnancy, birth, and beyond.
Margaret Charles Smith, a ninety-one-year-old Alabama midwife, has thousands of birthing stories to tell. Sifting through nearly five decades of providing care for women in rural Greene County, she relates the tales that capture the life-and-death struggle of the birthing experience and the traditions, pharmacopeia, and spiritual attitudes that influenced her practice. She debunks images of the complacent southern "granny" midwife and honors the determination, talent, and complexity of midwifery.
Fascinating to read, this book is part of the new genre of writing that recognizes the credibility of midwives who have emerged from their own communities and were educated through apprenticeship and personal experience. Past descriptions of southern black midwives have tended to denigrate their work in comparison with professional established medicine. Believed to be the oldest living (though retired) traditional African American midwife in Alabama, Smith is one of the few who can recount old-time birthing ways. Despite claims that midwives contributed to high infant mortality rates, Smith's story emphasizes midwives' successes in facing medical challenges and emergencies.
The extraordinary spirit of Toni Cade Bambara lives on in Savoring the Salt, a vibrant and appreciative recollection of the work and legacy of the multi-talented, African American writer, teacher, filmmaker, and activist. Among the contributors who remember Bambara, reflect on her work, and examine its meaning today are Toni Morrison, Amiri Baraka, Pearl Cleage, Ruby Dee, Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Nikki Giovanni, Avery Gordon Audre Lorde, and Sonia Sanchez.
Admiring readers have kept Bambara's fiction in print since her first collection of stories, Gorilla, My Love, was published in 1972. She continued to write-and her audience and reputation continued to grow-until her untimely death in 1995. Savoring the Salt includes excerpts from her published and unpublished writings, along with interviews and photos of Bambara. The mix of poets and scholars, novelists and critics, political activists, and filmmakers represented here testifies to the ongoing importance and enduring appeal of her work.
At long last—a book-length biography celebrates Toni Cade Bambara, a seminal literary, cultural, and political figure who was among the most widely read and frequently reviewed of the well-regarded black women writers to emerge in the 1970s.
A Joyous Revolt: Toni Cade Bambara, Writer and Activist is the first-ever, full-length biography of a trailblazing artist who championed black women in her fiction as well as in her life. This incisive study provides a comprehensive treatment of Bambara's published and unpublished works, and it also documents her emerging vision of her role as an agent of change.
The biography allows readers into the personal life of Bambara, offering personal insights into a woman with a strong public persona and friendships with other celebrated artists of her era. Perhaps most important for those seeking to understand and appreciate Bambara's legacy, it connects her oeuvre to the context of her experience and places all of her wide-ranging creative work in the context of her singular vision.