Category Archives: Book Review

#MisogynoirTransformed: A Live Tweet Readalong

Yesterday, I got my copy of Dr. Moya Bailey’s new book, Misogynoir Transformed: Black Women’s Digital Resistance, and I was so excited that I immediately sat down to read it, and began live tweeting my reactions. My fangirl thread caught the attention of Dr. Bailey, who then asked if I was going to do the whole book. I was absolutely going to live tweet the whole book. What follows is the thread (original link here) of my reactions to reading Misogynoir Transformed for the first time:


So just a few days after I had a melt down about my mental health as a BW, I read this question: “Can a person achieve the WHO definition of health if they encounter racism, sexism, ableism, and other oppressions as a part of their daily life in the world?” (12) @moyazb

It continues: “The stress and material co sequences of system oppression make it nearly impossible to have physical, mental, and social well-being in a white supremacist patriarchal country.” (12) Misogynoir Transformed

I needed to read this because I felt insane. Just the other day, I said to a friend, if I die, it will be because of the impacts of stress and anxiety and depression on my life that no one believed when I tried to explain it to them. I don’t think my bipolar/anxiety can manifest as it does in the DSM bc I’m a Black woman 

Therefore, you simply just have to believe when I say I need help. Because if a Black woman says she needs help, you have to know immediately that it’s bad because we are socialized via media messaging and upbringing to swallow EVERYTHING. 

More things that I love about Misogynoir Transformed:

Digital alchemy in multiple formations. It can be defensive, Bailey argues, which actively fights back against instance of misogynoir online; and it can be generative, which pushes past and desires new forms of representation 

I also appreciate the break down of how this book centers Black women AND Black queer folks, trans folks and GNC folks, which are voices often pushed to the margins of Black gender studies work on Black women/girls. It’s a great model for how to do that with care. 

Relatedly, the “Not all Black women are Black feminists, and not all Black feminists are women,” is gonna blow some folks’ minds 😂 

This intro is giving, “Get in losers, we’re troubling the assumed heteronormativity of Black women,” (29) and I love it, let me be gathered 

love the chapter 1 title bc it deliberately calls in layers meaning making: “Misogynoir Is a Drag.” Its clever bc it mirrors: Misogynoir shows how layers of meaning are inextricable and drag’s multiple meanings are all necessary to understanding harm against BW. 

Speaking of meaning making, let’s get into how Bailey sets up reading and dragging as direct linguistic descendants to signifying!!! (36)

One thing about Black folks, we love good words. 

Another read you probably didn’t want today BUT: “It should be no surprise that toxic masculinity does not need a man to do it’s bidding.” (46)

some of the greatest perpetrators of harm to BW are us…Toni Morrison begged us not to participate in the oppression of our sisters 😬 

The thing that is very clear to me about Bailey’s work is that everybody is on notice. 😂 masculinity and patriarchy is gone do what it and do and so sometimes, you will need to be gathered regardless of who you are and/or your identity. Everyone needs to be called in sometime 🤷🏾‍♀️ discussion time!

There’s an incident of police violence against a 15 yo Black girl captured and disseminated by a white boy; Bailey writes that this white boy engaged in defensive digital alchemy.

Who can perform digital alchemy? Is it digital alchemy if it was unintentional? Moved onto Ch 2 on trans advocacy and am on p. 70 thinking about Janet Mock, realness, trauma and the Black women’s autobiographies.

One thing my students spoke about often this semester was BW trauma; I countered by offering that we should seize control of our stories + My thought, which is sort of reflected here, is that we absolutely don’t want other people to tell our stories for us bc of how we’re often rendered thru others’ eyes…doesn’t mean we’re limited to trauma narratives; it just means BW should dictate how/if/when we share our pain I’m in p. 72-75 thinking about pageants + what does or does not make a digital alchemic act feminist.

Everything Bailey says is true; but I know a Black girl who found pageants a way to learn to love herself. It was transformative for her. (Start 49:33)

Bailey prefacing #MisogynoirTransformed with a bit on how her intellectual pursuits shifted is important to me—originally she wanted to be an MD. It also makes me link the section on trans women’s health to @alondra’s Body & Soul. I read it with Prof Harold + think about it often 

Reading the section on CeCe McDonald and am trying to figure out what the hell is up with Minneapolis?! 

Every time someone asks if anyone still blogs or if blogging is dead, an Angel loses their wings. Ima read them: “Blogs are part of the digital woman of color feminist story as they serve as a space for building connection and understanding through the digital world.” (93)

 On to Ch 3 on web series!

“Digital media makers are less concerned with creating content that reaches privileged out-group members than creating content for their own networks.” (104) Gotta call in my fav webseries @blackenough__ & my fav advocate of indie media @tayleighlamb

Same page Bailey calls in worldbuilding, which is impt in my work which also centers fantasy. She argues that the liberatory worlds built in Black queer webseries are not utopias; this is also something I dealt with teaching. Fantasy =/= utopia. I don’t think liberation is utopia 

But it’s hard right, bc I think what my students were grappling with was so much media that dehumanizes and is violent to their self, that they perhaps that their ideal reality was fantasy. Not quite the function of fantasy, which really, is to, momentarily, suspend disbelief. 

Okay so now I’m thinking about “Queerness becomes Taylor’s way to name her multifaceted desire.” (110) Bailey demonstrates how the openness of the webseries as a form offers more opportunity to showcase heterogeneity of Black queer life.

But I’m also thinking about naming. I’m drawn back to this moment when Bailey positions Janet Mock in a tradition of Black women autobiographers and what it means to be able to define the self, for the self, which again returns us to trauma—claiming our agency means claiming our stories to do with what we see fit 

BUT ALSO, to return to this idea of openness of the webseries, she argues that they “both reinforce and challenge dominant ideas about sexuality.”

I love this thing: “both/and.”

I love that I have internalized multiple things can be true at once; it frees you up (An aside: I need to watch the episode of Skye’s the Limit where Mutha Indigo tells Skye she’s “feasting on scraps; little bits and pieces of ambiguous romance.” [113-114] because that was a read I absolutely was not prepared for.) 

On p 127 when Bailey talks abt the group of friends in Between Women attempting harm reduction by not calling the police for their friend experiencing IPV, I immediately thought of abolition + what I learned from Mariame Kaba’s new book then the next sentence was about abolition! 

I’ve been trying my best to read and engage with abolitionist words and sometimes my mind explodes at how deeply interconnected all the things I care about are and how their are no single issue struggles because we do not lead single issue lives. (Lorde) 

I’m just thinking about the seamless way Bailey lays bare IPV, abolition, queer relationships, toxic masculinity while also making claims about form as well as content…and bruh, I need to just hang it up now, aint no way I can ever write something like this 😭 

Chapter 3 is my favorite so far! Ugh. The talent.

Time for another break then I’ll resume. I think I’m just gonna read the whole rest 🤷🏾‍♀️ 

Shit, chapter 4 is about Tumblr, guess I can’t stop now 🤷🏾‍♀️ 

Black women, queer folks, GNC folks and trans folks use of social media sites will never not fascinate me mostly bc I am very much a Digital Black Girl™️ and I feel seen when we talk about our online lives. Again, I quote “Alter Egos and Infinite Literacies,” by JMJ…every day 

On p 150 reading the analysis of the interview w Tumblr user Danielle Cole + thinking so much about how I write for me, but also to be heard. Ofc I often cite, “I went online to try speak myself into existence by speaking to myself.” From Alter Egos & Infinite Literacies @jmjafrx

The reason Tumblr can be a space of generative digital alchemy is part due to design; the site is structured around shared interests, rather than offline connections, Bailey argues. Finding this space that explodes preconceived notions of Blackness + queerness blew my mind at 16 

Tbh the difference between defensive digital alchemy and generative feels like the point I tried to make to my students all semester: identifying issues and raising awareness is a thing, AND if we know that it what we do not want, what *do* we want? How do we make it? 

YUP, so now Bailey argues that sites like Tumblr (and Twitter) are effective in being places to begin community conversations about issues like Misogynoir but it does not necessarily transform or combat the Misogynoir itself (154) 

I’m thinking so much about transformative justice in design now bc of this chapter and about all the conversations @tayleighlamb and I have about it…

But then it was followed by a section on personas, which is something that really fascinated me with BW in digital and IRL I’m obsessed with this article by Taylor Crumpton about Black women in rap’s alter egos!

The proud tradition of alter egos in female rapBoth Megan Thee Stallion and Nicki Minaj have announced new personas, continuing a culture of female rappers channelling unfiltered anger through fictional characters.https://theface.com/music/female-rap-alter-egos-beyonce-sasha-fierce-nicki-minaj-megan-thee-stallion-rico-nasty

“generative digital alchemy becomes a praxis that transforms Misogynoir through what it facilitates.” (161)

If y’all thought I was obsessed with the idea of digital alchemy before… On p. 166-167 and thinking about what would happen if we reckon with social media as the tool that is. It was something I struggled with early in my grad school career bc the people I met here were my life preservers; but the platform is the not the relationship, it facilitates. P 169, first full paragraph translation: “I miss when we read on the internet.” 🌚 

In citing her interview with Myers, Myers says, “…There are ways where Black women are ‘appreciated’ but it still feels…I wouldn’t say appreciated. ‘Recognized,’ ‘celebrated,’ I guess, in the sense of visibility, but it can so quickly turn on its head.” + WHAT HAVE I BEEN TELLING YALL ABOUT ME FEELING USEFUL AND NOT LOVED?! I have been screaming it for the last few weeks and it’s RIGHT HERE IN THIS BOOK that we need BW women to be celebrated and appreciated AUTHENTICALLY. (170)

WHEW, COME ON THEN

Wrapped chapter 4, so I’m just gonna go to the conclusion.

I am already snapping because I still remember the first time I got dragged by a Black woman Professor publicly. Lisa Woolfork got me together on the *first* day of her class my second semester third year at UVA. A few quotes to leave you with from the conclusion:

“we need to continue to stretch our imaginations, because another world is not only possible, it is required for more than mere survival.” (178) “I love these imperfect & messy means for making something out of the scraps you have been given. But this practice of making a way out of no way is not sustainable. I envision a Black queer feminist future where we have what we need and Misogynoir is truly transformed…” (181) “Even as I work toward the end of Misogynoir, I know that it requires the transmutation of people.” (181) And fin.

Thank y’all for joining me in this day long live tweet of @moyazb’s #MisogynoirTransformed, available from @NYUpress (link below)

I hope this thread gives you something to think about and inspires you to pick up Bailey’s book ❤️

nyupress.org/9781479865109/…

Misogynoir TransformedWhere racism and sexism meet—an understanding of anti-Black misogynyWhen Moya Bailey first coined the term misogynoir, she defined it as the ways anti-Blac…https://nyupress.org/9781479865109/misogynoir-transformed/

The Teachability of Legendborn

I’d already rearranged the syllabus for my spring 2021 Magical Black Girls class once– back in June when Bethany C. Morrow released A Song Below Water. It was too good not to teach, especially when it specifically spoke to themes of the violence and silencing Black girls too often endure, the matrilineal nature of our power, and the strength of sisterfriends.

I told myself that I would not be readjusting again, no matter what new thing I discovered.

And then I was able to get my hands on an ARC of Legendborn.

Tracy Deonn pens a modern take on Arthurian legend reimagined as a secret society at a Southern Predominately White Institution (PWI). The protagonist, Bree Matthews, falls head first into this world, and it’s made abundantly clear to her by the others in the reimagined “Order” that Bree does not fit.

Any Black person at a PWI, particularly a Southern one, knows the experiences Bree endures intimately. We know the malevolent administrator who sneers at our presence. We have met the parents who are quick to label us as “Affirmative Action” and believe that us occupying a space on those campuses has somehow stolen something from their children. We have befriended the seemingly innocuous white person, who says something racist and when you call them on it they’re quick to dismiss your retort, saying, “You know what I mean.”

All of that would be enough to make anyone’s blood boil just below the surface, but add to it the depths of Bree’s grief and being thrown into an unknown magical world, where the same essence may have a different name to different people. Where the intersections of experience and history collide in unexpected ways. Deonn seamlessly weaves a tale based in uncomfortable truths about the relationship between Black and white people in the South that span centuries. Though born from those uncomfortable truths, it takes up the strength and power generated by Black individuals and families and shows how we have risen and continue to rise.

For all of that, Legendborn is the rare kind of book that satisfies the appetite of all the various portions of my personality and interests. Most times, it’s a pick and choose type of situation: perhaps you get high fantasy but lack depictions of Black girlhood, or you get Black girlhood but not as the heroine of the story.

With Tracy Deonn’s Legendborn, I didn’t have to choose. I got to bring all the sides of my magic-loving, history-seeking, smart-mouthed Black girl self to the table when I settled down to read a chapter or two. As a Black girl who has spent a significant amount of time at two Southern Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs) with big reputations for both my bachelors and masters/Ph.D. programs, the difficult, conflictual feelings Bree has about Carolina didn’t need to be explained. I understood the instinctual pull Bree felt to a campus that was not built with her in mind, and yet needing to know it intimately because it would bring her closer to a parent.

Reading Legendborn pulled to the surface all the things I didn’t know about my undergraduate institution, but that I learned in great detail at my graduate institution. I spent two years as a graduate assistant for The Lemon Project: A Journey of Reconciliation, my campus’ attempt at making the history of Black people readily available, to bring forth that which the institution would rather hide. In that time, I learned not only about the enslaved people who built my university, but met the Black folks who would much later integrate our Southern PWI, and build with the Black students who still work to make it a better place.

I know the high fantasy is the draw of Legendborn, but it is the richness with which Deonn weaves so much of what is important to me as the backdrop of this narrative. It’s the vibrancy with which Deonn allows Bree to be a Black girl and revel in all the complexity of what that means. Yes, I love the way she has reimagined Arthuriana, I love the strong characters, the elements of the magic that underlies this whole world, but it is the way Bree is simply in this world, whether she fits or not, that makes it near and dear to my heart and what makes it perfectly teachable.

Bree is the result of centuries of racial conflict and the deep love Black women have for each other. She is both softness and hard edges; strength and fragility. She is deliciously human and wondrously exceptional.

That she is all of these things and stunningly magical is a revolution.

It’s legendary.

Sirens and Superwomen: Finding My Way Back to the Power in My Words

I finished reading A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow last night. I put off reading it for a little while because I knew whatever was inside, was going to change my life– or at least the layout of my syllabus.

In the midst of a pandemic and a national uprising sparked by the recent murders of Black folks (in particular, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and Nina Pop), I learned I was finally going to be teaching my own self-designed course. It was hard to be joyful; how, I wondered, was I supposed to teach a class on Black girls, new media and magic, when it feels like our worlds are nothing but fear and rage right now. How can I ask them to suspend disbelief– to meet me in imagined worlds– when our world exists the way it does?

Perhaps A Song Below Water didn’t give me answers, but it certainly cleared my head.

Morrow’s debut YA novel takes place in Portland, Oregon. Contemporary Portland, Oregon– not some faraway land you have to dream up the details of. The only difference is that the myths and folktales are true: Sirens walk among us (Seriously. They walk. They aren’t mermaids here.) Except one itty, bitty detail: only Black women are Sirens.

A Song Below Water follows the intertwined stories of two sister-friends, Effie and Tavia, as Tavia learns to embrace the power of her voice as a Siren and Effie comes into herself. (Vague, I know, but any more than that would be major spoilers.)

What readers think is a delightful tale of mermaids and underwater adventures and escapades is actually an insightful social commentary and poignant look at what it’s like to be a Black girl in America. Morrow’s book argues that the threat folks ascertain in Black girls and women can be found in our voices; it argues that our magic is real and it is matrilineal; and it argues that your Black girlfriends? They can always see you, and love you, for who you are. Readers are dropped into the lives of Black girls– microaggressions, love, protests, joy, and all. Morrow smartly weaves this narrative of our realities: being stopped by cops, snide remarks about our hair, the discomfort of being the Only Black Girl in Class with the joy of falling in love for the first time, falling asleep next to your best friend, reveling in the fact that you love yourself. Family love and difficulties hold space with fear of the unknown and connections with the ancestors.

Effie and Tavia’s world is absolutely lush and you want to dive headlong into it.

I picked it up to read a few days after it arrived. I had just woken up from a dream about my late grandmother. Not two pages in, and Tavia’s talking about the connection she has with her late grandmother. Weird, I thought, but not totally bizarre. A few more pages in and Tavia is describing the murder of a Black woman by the police that is sparking a lot of conversation around the nation. It was definitely bordering on prescient. But what truly sealed the deal for me was Tavia’s continued internal battle against her own nature based on external pressures– which is to say, the desire and need to use her voice.

For the first time since starting Black Girl Does Grad School in August 2016, I went an entire month without posting. It wasn’t intentional. Things just went from bad to worse with every passing day, and I felt paralyzed. There was not a thing I could say that would make it any better. So I took comfort in making art– where words failed me, I had images. I read the words of those who have come before me, thinking about the racist institutions they have named and rejected and which we still continue to use despite knowing they are built to work against us.

I thought about how I felt I had nothing to add to the conversation that hasn’t already been said.

I thought about how this was not the right time to write.

I thought about how my body physically resisted any attempt to write.

Even if I wanted to, my body was saying “No.”

And probably for the first time in my 26 year old life (the same age, I remember, Breonna Taylor was when she was murdered in her sleep), I listened to my body and I took time to grieve. Mourn. Reflect.

The expectation is that you come out of these moments of deep introspection with answers. I have none. I only know I am indebted to those who have given me the strength to go on. Those folks range from my parents to Bethany C. Morrow.

A Song Below Water gave me hope not only for a future of freedom; but a present informed by our ability to embrace our own power. Morrow showed me the way back to my voice– my words. My power. My freedom.

It was a lesson I was glad to learn; and one I can’t wait to share.