elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,

Ann Allen Shockley (born June 21, 1927)

Popular short story writer and novelist, as well as librarian, critic, and editor, Ann Allen Shockley treats both interracial and lesbian experiences.

Shockley was born June 21, 1927, in Louisville, Kentucky, the daughter of social workers Bessie Lucas and Henry Allen. She received her B.A. in 1948 from Fisk University, where she worked for many years as archivist, librarian, and professor, and her M.S.L.S. in 1959 from Western Reserve, now Case Western Reserve. In 1949, she married teacher William Shockley, whom she later divorced.

She is best known for her ground-breaking lesbian fiction: Loving Her (1974) is arguably the first novel to offer a black lesbian as its primary character.

Loving Her centers on an interracial relationship between Renay, who is black, and Terry, who is white, and equates that relationship with a journey into self-discovery. A novel of development, Loving Her moves inward. It opens with the breakup of Renay's marriage and subsequently focuses on her inner awakening: the recovery of her dream of becoming an accomplished pianist and the discovery of her lesbianism.

Reflecting a sensibility that predates the black, lesbian, and women's liberation movements, Renay's empowering bond with Terry frames racial difference as a secondary issue: a skin-deep phenomenon within the relationship, a vehicle for homophobia without. In a reworking of The Well of Loneliness, with which it invites comparison, Loving Her casts lesbianism as the nourisher, and heterosexuality as the violator of female, familial, and racial integrity.

Shockley, who has named herself a "social[ly] conscious writer," extends her fictional treatment of interracial and lesbian experiences with her collection of short stories, The Black and White of It (1980), which celebrates the gains women have made in the wake of racial and sexual oppression.

In "A Birthday Remembered," Tobie, the biological daughter of the protagonist's deceased lover, embodies those gains. She is a confident, well-adjusted adolescent who considers "Aunt El" family, recognizes the importance of personal independence and economic self-reliance, and identifies her deceased mother's relationship as having been loving, legitimate, and a model to emulate.

Shockley's stories are scenarios of survival much more than of living. In "One More Saturday Night Around," principal character Marcia endures stolen moments in motel rooms with her former college lover, now married. Far from ideal, these trysts represent a determination and resourcefulness complicated by tangible obstacles.

Shockley consistently explores possibilities for social transformation across sexual and racial divides. Challenging the homophobia that, according to her 1979 essay "The Black Lesbian in American Literature: An Overview," pervades the black community, her second novel, Say Jesus and Come to Me (1982), situates its lesbian love story amid feminist meetings and religious revivals. The juxtaposition of evangelicalism and lesbianism is surprising and subversive.

Shockley's works offer complex, wide-ranging portrayals of lesbian experience. Though at times character and plot development are inconsistent, and though awkward phrasings tend to reduce descriptions of lovemaking to hilarious detail, her fiction constitutes a brave contribution to lesbian literature.

Citation Information
Author: Breen, Margaret Soenser ; Bruguier, Elsa A.
Entry Title: Shockley, Ann Allen
General Editor: Claude J. Summers
Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture
Publication Date: 2002
Date Last Updated November 18, 2002
Web Address www.glbtq.com/literature/shockley_aa.html
Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL 60607
Today's Date June 21, 2012
Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.
Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates

Further Readings:

Loving Her (Northeastern Library of Black Literature) by Ann Allen Shockley
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Northeastern (October 30, 1997)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1555533299
ISBN-13: 978-1555533298
Amazon: Loving Her

The groundbreaking story centers on Renay, a talented black musician who is forced by pregnancy to marry the abusive, alcoholic Jerome Lee. When Jerome sells Renay's piano to finance his drinking, she leaves her destructive marriage, and flees with her young daughter to Terry, a wealthy white writer whom she met at a supper club. Terry awakens in Renay a love and sexual desire beyond her erotic imaginings. Despite the sexist, racist, and homophobic prejudices they must confront, the mutually supportive couple finds physical and emotional joy.

When Jerome discovers the nature of Renay and Terry's friendship, he beats Renay nearly to death and, in a drunken rage, kidnaps his daughter, who subsequently dies in a car accident. Grief stricken and guilty about her love for Terry, Renay feels that God has punished her and breaks off their relationship to atone for her "sins." In the end, she returns to Terry and a renewed life.

Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America by Lillian Faderman
Paperback: 373 pages
Publisher: Columbia University Press; Reprint edition (February 14, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0231074891
ISBN-13: 978-0231074896
Amazon: Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America

As Lillian Faderman writes, there are "no constants with regard to lesbianism," except that lesbians prefer women. In this groundbreaking book, she reclaims the history of lesbian life in twentieth-century America, tracing the evolution of lesbian identity and subcultures from early networks to more recent diverse lifestyles. She draws from journals, unpublished manuscripts, songs, media accounts, novels, medical literature, pop culture artifacts, and oral histories by lesbians of all ages and backgrounds, uncovering a narrative of uncommon depth and originality.

Black Queer Studies: A Critical Anthology by E. Patrick Johnson & Mae G. Henderson
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Duke University Press Books (November 1, 2005)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0822336189
ISBN-13: 978-0822336181
Amazon: Black Queer Studies: A Critical Anthology

While over the past decade a number of scholars have done significant work on questions of black lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered identities, this volume is the first to collect this groundbreaking work and make black queer studies visible as a developing field of study in the United States. Bringing together essays by established and emergent scholars, this collection assesses the strengths and weaknesses of prior work on race and sexuality and highlights the theoretical and political issues at stake in the nascent field of black queer studies. Including work by scholars based in English, film studies, black studies, sociology, history, political science, legal studies, cultural studies, and performance studies, the volume showcases the broadly interdisciplinary nature of the black queer studies project.

The contributors consider representations of the black queer body, black queer literature, the pedagogical implications of black queer studies, and the ways that gender and sexuality have been glossed over in black studies and race and class marginalized in queer studies. Whether exploring the closet as a racially loaded metaphor, arguing for the inclusion of diaspora studies in black queer studies, considering how the black lesbian voice that was so expressive in the 1970s and 1980s is all but inaudible today, or investigating how the social sciences have solidified racial and sexual exclusionary practices, these insightful essays signal an important and necessary expansion of queer studies.

Contributors. Bryant K. Alexander, Devon Carbado, Faedra Chatard Carpenter, Keith Clark, Cathy Cohen, Roderick A. Ferguson, Jewelle Gomez, Phillip Brian Harper, Mae G. Henderson, Sharon P. Holland, E. Patrick Johnson, Kara Keeling, Dwight A. McBride, Charles I. Nero, Marlon B. Ross, Rinaldo Walcott, Maurice O. Wallace.

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Tags: author: ann allen shockley, gay classics, literary heritage

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