By Samantha Pinto
Winner of the 2013 smooth Language Association's William Sanders Scarborough Prize for striking Scholarly learn of Black American Literature
Read Online or Download Difficult Diasporas: The Transnational Feminist Aesthetic of the Black Atlantic PDF
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Additional resources for Difficult Diasporas: The Transnational Feminist Aesthetic of the Black Atlantic
It was like kissing myself. (86) Here, it is the musical performance rather than the visual that conjures up a sexual encounter (Bessie returns when she hears Ruby sing her song after Bessie pulls her hair). Hooked by the song, Kay’s Bessie recognizes Ruby within a “lost time,” a reordering, in which queer desire between black women becomes out of time, much as Kay’s own forced reimagining of an exchange between the two women has to occur out of “real” or documentable time. This is akin to the future-time of the found trunk, when Smith’s recording of a “lesbian” blues song “will outsell anyone else’s, including kd lang” (58).
She is full of longing, full of trouble, restless, wandering up and down the long arms of the clock. When she sings on stage, part of her is travelling, reaching back into every hurt that’s ever happened. (1997, 43) Like the jar of Harlem night air, Smith’s voice and her subjectivity (“She is full”), as signs, are “full of” the stuff of the blues—equal parts “longing” and “trouble,” desire and conflict. Smith is now located not just on the space of the “stage” but inside the “clock,” pacing time itself.
What draws the speaker to the blues is the ability to imaginatively travel, and what draws Kay to Bessie as an adult is to imaginatively re-create a queer history of black international practice and identification. In talking about Bessie’s performance, Kay’s “I” says, “When she sings on stage, part of her is travelling, reaching back into every hurt that’s ever happened” (43). Again, Kay has Smith reordering time in her performance—the time of herself and the time of her audience—linking the reader/listener not just to the ineffable pain of slavery and colonialism but to nonchronological queer and feminist desires and losses.