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Summer 2002
CUNY Biologists Cultivate New Medicines
Remarkable June Grads Break the Mold
Major CUNY Response to Nursing Shortage
Harlem Hospital Leader a Role Model for Salk Scholars
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CUNY ANNOUNCES 9/11 Memorial Competition
CCNY Engineer Honored by the Nation

Seminar-in-a-Book Ponders 9/11

From "Ground Zero" Rapper to City Council Candidate
Turning Anger into Literature
Model City Council Planned in the Fall
Highlights of 2002-2003 State Adopted Budget
Two New CUNY Trustees Appointed
Biomedical Engineer Wins Guggenheim
City University Leading Producer of Hispanic Graduates
The Challenge of AIDS in Africa
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Queens College Artist Adds New Passion to His Palette

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Intel Chief Plunges into Memory

Dual Citizen of the Pen

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Turning Anger into Literature

linda M. Grasso
Linda Grasso
With good reason, York College professor of English Linda Grasso chose the following passage from Toni Morrison’s 1970 novel The Bluest Eye as the epigraph for the conclusion to her recent book: “Anger stirs and wakes in her; it opens its mouth, and like a hot-mouthed puppy, laps up the dredges of her shame. Anger is better. There is a sense of being in anger. A reality and presence. An awareness of worth. It is a lovely surging…”

For Grasso, in The Artistry of Anger: Black and White Women’s Literature in America, 1820-1860 (University of North Carolina Press), takes as “central… the idea that anger can be a life-affirming, self-protecting emotional response to unjust violation of self and community.” This study challenges the notion that 19th-century women’s writing was confined to domestic themes by focusing on several women who channeled their anger into work that addressed such complex political issues as slavery, race relations, and relations between the genders.

One chapter examines Lydia Maria Child’s first published novel, Hobomok (1824), which imagines a historical community in which white women’s rightful privileges are restored. Another looks at the work of Maria W. Stewart, a “free” black born in 1803, who was so embittered by the broken promises of American republicanism that she was led, as Grasso writes, to imagine “a spiritual community in which direct communication with God transcends men’s laws.”

Grasso also looks at the best-selling novel Ruth Hall by the exuberant feminist rabble-rouser Fanny Fern, who wrote in an essay titled “Independence”in 1859: “Fourth of July. Well—I don’t feel patriotic…I’m glad we are all free; but as a woman—I shouldn’t know it….Can I have the nomination for Governor of Vermont…? Can I be a Senator…? Can I even be President? Bah—you know I can’t. Free! Humph!”

Another chapter is devoted to an 1859 autobiographical novel by Harriet Wilson with the very informative title Our Nig; or, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black, in Two-Story White House, North. Showing that Slavery’s Shadows Fall Even There. Wilson describes a young black woman’s struggle to achieve economic and emotional independence in the “free” North.

Having focused on the anger of antebellum women at their exclusion from the promises of American democracy—and at the cultural prohibition against expressing this anger, Grasso concludes, “When we write this history [of women’s anger], we recover painful memories as well as inspiring inscriptions of struggle. We also ensure that the story of how women have transformed their anger into artistry becomes a permanent part of American history.”