Response from Lawson

Response from Lawson


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



 What makes Mary Lewis singular is that she understands the shame

that her sons experience and the various kinds of guilt that white men bring to her bed



A Response to

Black Mama, White Son

By Lewis



Dear Rudy,

I just finished reading your “Mary Lewis” piece. It’s remarkable. You get inside that woman’s head and do a fine job of showing how her relationship with each of her sons depends on that son’s strength or weakness.

I know you’ve read  Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying , but I doubt that you were using it as a model, for I think you were driven not by a literary text but by your memories.

Anyway, Mary Lewis reminds me so much of Addie Bundren, who also was driven by her own passion to experience her life to the fullest, then had to experience the consequences of her passion in her children (only five of then, though).

Rudy, you’ve got a great novel in you, and the seed of it is in the story of Mary Lewis.

At the risk of generalizing and vastly simplifying the unconquered–and perhaps never to be conquered–American tragedy. I think that collectively the American whites (particularly the Southern tribe) have a core personality of guilt, experience a sick soul for something they did. maybe that’s why so many seek a fundamentalist religion that stresses forgiveness. maybe that’s why so many others, despairing of forgiveness, decide, like Flannery O’Connor’s Misfit, to seek even greater guilt in violence.

On the other hand. collectively, Blacks must have a core personality of shame, for which there is no forgiveness, too often only some kind of defense (denial, grandiosity, rage [against whites, which is understandable, but also against Blacks, which is not understandable, unless they’re seeing their own image when they look at another Black and instinctively want to shatter that mirror].

What makes Mary Lewis singular is that she understands the shame that her sons experience and the various kinds of guilt that white men bring to her bed. For we usually only think of temptation after we experience guilt, then look for something that will excuse our guilty behavior. So her white lovers, born with guilt, are programmed to go looking for temptation or provocation, be it ordinary sexuality embodied in the Black woman or some kind of perverse sexuality of pain of death embodied in the Black man.

Through it all, Mary Lewis is trying to assert her freedom, which most of us think can be asserted by seeking total freedom of our body–few people ever take on the challenge of having a free mind.

When you do the novel, you’ll have to show that Mary Lewis intuitively understands the various motives that bring white men to her bed and you’ll have to personalize each of them. It’ll be complicated, but so is the white man’s fascination with the Black woman. Otherwise, you’ll just wind up with a collective stereotype, a stick figure (pun intended).

You won’t have to make Mary Lewis much more articulate about herself, for she’s already reached the point that Ellison’s Invisible Man reaches when he says, “I am what I am.” The Popeye declaration “I yam what I yam.”

For all of this generous, guaranteed-successful direction, advice, and counsel, I ask no fee. When your book becomes a best-seller, I simply request that a small royalty to be paid annually ad infinitum to my heirs and assigns, say 5% of sales on the first hundred thousand copies. We will negotiate a royalty for the book sale tot he movies at the appropriate time.

Congratulations, Lewis


*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books

For July 1st through August 31st 2011  


#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 – Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 – Don’t Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 – Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 – Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King

#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

*   *   *   *   *

Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as “the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field ‘cut their teeth’.”

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

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*   *   *   *   *

The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

*   *   *   *   *

The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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update 16 June  2008



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