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Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday by Angela Y. Davis

This book jacket’s inner flap tells the story: “Through a close and riveting analysis of these artists’ performances, words, and lives, Davis [a professor of History of Consciousness at UC, Santa Cruz] uncovers the unmistakable assertion and uncomprimising celebration of non-middle-class, non-heterosexual social, moral and sexual values.” In her introduction Davis writes: “[The book] is an inquiry into the ways their recorded performances divulge unacknowledged traditions of feminist consciousness in working-class black communities.” Many of the following 200-plus pages are full of similar academic mumbo jumbo and such phrases as “quotidian expressions of feminist consciousness” (that word again), “‘Afrocentric feminist espitemology'” and “fissures of patriarchal discourses” will either inform or stupify.

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