The Sisterhood: How a Network of Black Women Writers Changed American Culture

Columbia Univ Nov. 2023. 296p. ISBN 9780231204729. $28.95. LIT
Thorsson (English, Univ. of Oregon; Women’s Work) here reveals the intentions and impact of the Sisterhood, a group of Black women writers, scholars, journalists, and editors who gathered on the third Sunday of every month from 1977 until 1979. Founded by Alice Walker and June Jordan, the group of roughly 30 members—Toni Morrison, Audre Lorde, Ntozake Shange, and more—strategized to get Black women’s writings published, reviewed, and taught. Thorsson believes she must use her white privilege to increase the reading of works by Black women writers as well. Sisterhood members took turns hosting potluck gatherings in their New York homes, and they kept minutes and collected dues but purposefully had no hierarchy. Thorsson meticulously scours copious amounts of archival documents, interviews, close readings of members’ work, and black-and-white photographs, including an iconic one taken after the first meeting. Some details are often repeated, which may be off-putting to readers. Nonetheless, the book excels at capturing white women’s vs. Black women’s approaches to feminism at the time, blatant discrimination, the reasons the Sisterhood disbanded, and its legacy.
VERDICT A fascinating, empowering look at how Black women writers collaborated to move their own needle in the publishing industry and academia.
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