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Journeys and Journals

Women's Mystery Writing and Migration in the African Diaspora

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Carol Allen

Using literary criticism, theory, and sociohistoric data, this book brings into conversation black migrations with mystery novels by African American women, novels which explore fully the psychic, economic, and spiritual impact of mass migratory movements. Diaspora travel has been forced and selected and has extended from the Slave Trade through the contemporary moment, causing the black subject to wrestle with motion, the self in motion, the community in motion, the spirit in motion, culture in motion, and especially the past in motion. Reviewing these major migratory patterns of Africans to and within the United States from slavery to the present and defining the primary tropes and traditions in African American female mystery writing, each subsequent chapter looks intensely at specific figurative locations that could become a repository for reconstituted dense space in the new world. Detectives as penned by African American women writers sound out and deliberate over the viability of integrated institutions, the family, Bohemianism, religion, cities, class consciousness, and finally culture. Courses on African American literature, African American history and culture, detective fiction, urban studies, and women’s studies would find the book instructive.
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6: Ubiquitous, Invisible Class

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This chapter examines how class is represented in mysteries written by African-American female writers. I wish to clarify from the onset that neither class consciousness nor unification around economic-based concerns is held up as a potential avenue to healing and psychic well-being. Instead, these artists describe the massive damage inflicted by class lines and class warfare. References to class differences are also extremely common. So, we have a genre that is highly aware of and sensitive to social striations formed by economic disparities, yet these texts offer no viable solution to heal these riffs. I suspect that this schism has much to do with the detective’s role as a lone scout (even when she drags her assistants along for a shift). As sentinel, as witness, minefield sounder and guide, her duties are clear: hit the trail and secure fallow ground for the brethren. However, when it comes to community consciousness raising, establishing networks and unions, developing talks across class boundaries, and arbitrating demands from various groups, the sleuth is far outside her comfort zone and range of responsibilities. She encounters but does not build community organizations (disorganizations in some cases) and observes class disparities during her circumnavigation of her investigative grounds. Class is part of life’s terrain that she must learn to read if she is to become a worthy vanguard figure and crime buster. ← 113 | 114 →

The first challenge in terms of unpacking how class functions in this tradition is demarcating the lines in...

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