Monday, May 18, 2009

When Chickenheads Come.... by Joan Morgan

Full Title: When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip-Hop Feminist Breaks It Down
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Pages: 239
Genre: Non-Fiction
Series: No
Publication Date: 1999

Synopsis (From Back Cover):
In this fresh, funky, and ferociously honest book, award-winning journalist Joan Morgan bravely probes the complex issues facing today's African-American women in a world where feminists often have not-so-clandestine affairs with the most sexist of men; "independent" women insist that men pick up the tab; and the ever-present baby mama drama reminds black women who long for marriage that traditional nuclear families are a reality for less than 40 percent of the African-American population.

I have had this book on my TBR list for a very longtime. I remember first coming across an article mention this book when doing a research paper for an African-American studies course. I have long since forgotten what the paper was about but I remember this book title. Maybe because it is such a catching title and used a term that I remember from growing up. That being said I had high hopes for this book. While I think the author deliver I did have some issues with it. There were many topics brought up in this book but I am only going to go into a few.

My first expectation was that this would a more academic type book. It wasn't, but it was not remedial in anyway. While I was reading I just kept picking up on how the author would switch back and forth between slang and academic language. At first I was annoyed. Then I realized that something about the authors writing was familiar. What was so familiar. Morgan wrote like I (and most of my friends) talk. It was interesting and sort of comforting. To see the play of words that are engraved in my speech patterns on paper. I have a college degree and consider my self educated. But I also grow up in an "urban" area. Have lived in the projects and went to public school, where the population was most people of color. So my speech pattern is influenced both by my college education and my upbringing. I, have fallen into the habit of mixing educated talk with street slang (and all my friends do it). It made the book, seem like I was "talking" to one of my girlfriends and it drew me in.

When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost, is not so much about the chickenhead in all of us. But it is about black women (particularly educated, independent black women) who have grown up with hip-hop defining "feminism" for themselves. I personally would never call myself a feminist because it brings up an image of bra burning, hard line, mostly white women. It's a little to "aggressive for me. But I like what Morgan terms "hip-hop feminist". Here is an excerpt for a chapter that appealed to me.

Am I no longer down for the cause if I admit that while total gender equality is an interesting intellectual concept, it doesn't do a thing for me erotically? That, truth be told, men wit too many "feminist" sensibilities have never made my panties wet, at lest not like the reformed thug nigga who can make even the most chauvinistic of "wassup, baby" feel like a sweet, wet tongue darting in and out of your ear.
I agree with what she said in most of this chapter (titled Hip-Hop Feminist).

Morgan also brought up a topic that always confused me, Male Reproductive Rights, and she thinks like I think. Which is shocking because I don't think that either of us follow the mainstream ideology on this. Basically, what she states is that if a man makes it clear to a woman that he doesn't want to be a father (even if she is already pregnant) than he has the right to give up all responsibility for that child (emotional, financial, etc). Now there are some limits, for example within the first six months of the child's life or something like that. Now this is not a popular idea but if a woman can decided to have a baby on her own terms. Why can a man decided not to participate (within a reasonable amount of time)? If a woman says "I am pregnant" and he says "I don't want kids (now, never, or with you)" and the woman decides that adoption and abortion is not an option? Why should he be penalized for her decision. Yes, yes I know that they had sex and that's how babies are made. But is it really fair for to leave someones future in the hands of one persons?

Now what I did not like is that Morgan sort of put a lot of the blame for the state of black men on black women. She tries not to do that but it is what she does. In particularly she blames mothers for there sons actions. Now, to some degree I agree. But where is the personal responsibility? She gets into the whole "mother's raise their daughters but love their sons" argument. Which is true sometimes. But it negates personal responsibility and puts adult decision on the why a child is raised. If you get to twenty five years old and don't know how to open a door or act like an man than it is not entirely your mother's fault.

All together, it was a fast, entertaining, funny, insightful read. I am sorry that I waited so long.

Pros: Language, View Point, Issues Raised
Cons: Blame Game

Overall Recommendation:

I would highly recommend this book. I think that it gives plenty of insight in what some young black women are experiencing today (even though the book is almost 10 years old).


TBR Challenge (8 out of 12 Books)


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