By Odile Ferly (auth.)
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Extra info for A Poetics of Relation: Caribbean Women Writing at the Millennium
Uneasy in the dominant, masculine discourse,” the Guadeloupean writer Ernest Pépin notes, the Antillean woman “speaks with her body”; gaining and losing weight, “she distorts herself ” (“La femme antillaise et son corps” 192 [translation mine]). Thus Sophie hates her body: “I am ashamed to show it to anybody, including my husband” (Breath, Eyes, Memory 123). The tale of the young bride failing to bleed on her wedding night despite her virginity and whose groom bleeds to death in order to produce the evidence saving his honor emphasizes that the repression of female sexuality can be fatal.
A notable exception, however, is Puerto Rico, where contemporaneous women’s writing evidences an increasing tendency to transcend gender, as illustrated in the fiction of Mayra Santos Febres. “The Mules of the World” 21 Pineau’s style and thematics in L’espérance-macadam (1995) are clearly indebted to Schwarz-Bart’s Pluie et vent sur Télumée Miracle (1972). Both novels span various decades of Guadeloupean history through the tribulations of several generations of women from the lower social strata.
In actuality, such a racial categorization aimed to palliate the acute shortage of white women in the early colonial period, the slaveholders’ sexual claims on their female slaves being conveniently validated by this alleged promiscuity. 1 The depictions of black men as threatening studs or servile simpletons were gradually revised. Even revolutionary writers of the stature of Nicolás Guillén or Aimé Césaire, however, not only largely failed to address stereotypes of Caribbean women but produced new ones, those of black matriarchs and women as incarnations of the nation, that remained unchallenged until the irruption of a female discourse in the 1970s and 1980s.