Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro dedicates her book "Negras" to the historians who have selectively excluded them, and rightly so. The book serves as a resistance against invisibility, both in history and the narratives derived from it. It narrates the journey of black women as they strive to reclaim autonomy over their bodies, selves, those they hold dear, and the course of their futures.
In the prologue of this work, Odette Casamayor asks, "Who are the black women of Americas'?... Where may we find our mothers?"
The book is a collection of four stories and a selection of her poems. The first story, "Wanwe," focuses on the decolonisation of colonised memories. It begins with Wanwe's earliest memory, that of the slave ship, and unfolds as her endeavor to reclaim memories predating her captivity.
In "Midwives," Ndizi's defiance targets the perpetuation of slavery, presenting her with an impossible choice.
Arrowhead portrays the disturbing dynamic between Don Georgino, the "master", and Tshanwe, the enslaved woman, detailing the pervasive sexual exploitation she endures at his whim. The story chronicles how she finds her freedom, albeit in the afterlife.
The Nurslings explores how Petra, an enslaved wet-nurse, is dehumanised by her young master
Jonás. Once a nurse to Jonas, Petra soon is hypersexualised by him. Growing up in a society that enables racism, Jonás internalises and perpetuates the same, leading to a disturbing manifestation of power.
Yolanda, manages to capture our imagination, and asks us to listen keenly as she resurrects a "forgotten" memory, lost amidst the harrowing journey from Africa through the middle passage to the Americas.
This book was a welcome addition to the ever-expanding canon of literature engaging critically and lyrically with the legacies of racist colonial violence in the Global South. Steeped in legacies of erasure, colonial subjugation and destruction, this book is unmissable.
I was not at all a fan of this book. It was not my style.I didn't like the story, I didn't like the way it was written. I couldn't even finish it. And I finish pretty much every book I start and it was so bad I could not bare to finish reading. It felt torturous to read. And I tried to keep doing so because I wanted to believe that at some point the story would get better and yet I kept getting increasingly disappointed as the pages went on.
Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro’s writing blends research and fiction to summon voices silenced in archival records. The protagonists actively dissent from their condition as slaves and, more importantly, from their condition as negras—an identity constructed by and under Eurocentric epistemology. It doesn’t matter whether the slave owners’ initials inscribed on their flesh with blazing iron ever disappear; there won’t be a way to identify them if they don’t have a say. No wonder it’s “the historians, for leaving us out,” to whom Arroyo Pizarro dedicates Negras, aware that the stories of Wanwe, Ndizi, Tshanwe, and Petra burst into and fill historical lacunae that have been deliberately ignored. This bilingual edition also includes an anthology of Arroyo Pizarro’s poetry.
Written in both English and Spanish, this book feels sacred. The texts "ancestras" offer their humanity through poems and stories-something that is often denied in older texts. I will read again and savor it.
In her groundbreaking work "Negras," Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro meticulously unravels the veiled history of Black women who defied the shackles of slavery on Puerto Rico's soil. With profound insight, Arroyo Pizarro brings to light the stories of these resilient women, shedding light on their role in individual and collective acts of resistance that reverberate through history. Arroyo Pizarro lays bare the courageous escapades of Black women who transcended the boundaries of enslavement and societal norms.
Importantly, "Negras" casts a much-needed spotlight on the often-overlooked contributions of Black women to Puerto Rico's historical tapestry. Arroyo Pizarro's work challenges prevailing narratives and rectifies historical omissions, offering a fresh perspective that enriches our understanding of Puerto Rico's complex past. By giving voice to these unsung heroines, the author not only acknowledges their invaluable role but also acknowledges the intersectionality of their struggles.
Arroyo Pizarro delves deep into the heart of Puerto Rico's history, demonstrating how the legacy of enslaved Black women is interwoven with the island's very foundation. Her meticulous research and empathetic storytelling unveil the trauma, strength, and resilience that these women embodied. By doing so, she honors their memory and underscores the imperative of recognizing their agency within a history that has often marginalized their experiences.
"Negras" is a testament to Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro's dedication to historical preservation and social justice. This book not only serves as a tribute to those who fought for their freedom but also as a call to continue the work of acknowledging, valuing, and amplifying the voices of marginalized communities. "Negras" is an essential literary work that transcends the boundaries of conventional historical discourse on the island. Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro's dedication to unearthing the stories of enslaved Black women in Puerto Rico elevates this book to a status of utmost importance. Thank you to the author and publisher for the e-arc copy!