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Gendered Masks of Liminality and Race

Black Female Trickster’s Subversion of Hegemonic Discourse in African American Women Literature

Yomna Saber

Shape shifters, purveyors of chaos, rules’ breakers, crude creatures and absurd figures, tricksters can be traced as recurrently transgressive figures that do not wither away with time. Tricksters rove and ramble in the pages of literature; the canon is replete with tricksters who throw dust in the eyes of their dupes and end up victoriously. But what if the trickster is African American? And a female? And an African American female? This book limits the focus to this figure as delineated in the writings of: Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, Audre Lorde and Toni Morrison. The black female trickster’s battles provoke unique strategies of tricksterism. Her liminal positionality is distinguished for she occupies myriad peripheries in terms of class, race and gender; in addition to her social oppressions, and carrying within a legacy of African spirituality and an excruciating history of slavery. The black female trickster subverts hegemonic discourse individualistically; through tricks, she emerges as a victim who refuses victimization, disturbs the status quo and challenges many conventions.

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Chapter Three. Reconceptualizing the Archetypal Trickster in Audre Lorde’s Mythobiography Zami: "A New Spelling of My Name"


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Chapter Three

Reconceptualizing the Archetypal Trickster in Audre Lorde’s Mythobiography Zami: A New Spelling of My Name

“Trickster shows us a way to see the world opening our minds to the spontaneous transformations of reality that is always open and creative.” Anne Doueihi.

The first two chapters examined two black female tricksters with different tricks and different tools. Whereas Delia in Hurston’s story is trying to save her life, Tante Rosie is a professional trickster who relies on trickery to earn her living. This chapter looks into another black female trickster who digs deep roots in Africa and who plays her tricks to save, not to dupe, a black woman. By reading Audre Lorde’s biomythography Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (1982), this chapter examines a black, female and queer trickster, and argues that the mantra of race, gender and sexual orientation can yield additional peculiarities to the figure in the African American female discourse. Zami has been read from multiple spectra.1 Although very few readings focused on the trickster Afrekete, they did not interpret her from a psychological angel.2 By limiting the focus to Jung’s archetypal trickster, the article ← 79 | 80 → argues that Lorde’s Afrekete plays a significant psychological role in Audre’s life as she craves to forge her identity amid aporias of racist, sexist and homophobic prejudices.

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