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Volume 34, Number 2 (2009)

Rough Play: Reading Black Masculinity in Austin Clarke’s “Sometimes, a Motherless Child”and Dionne Brand’s What We All Long For

February 23, 2010


Austin Clarke’s short story “Sometimes, a Motherless Child” and Dionne Brand’s novel What We All Long For are narratives about blackness and masculinity; they offer literary-historical documents that comment on a cultural moment in a cultural system that frames black men within hateful cultural projections. The main characters in each story refuse to be pigeonholed into conventionally racialized black macho identities; Oku and BJ embrace radical discontinuities within performances of black masculinity and change masculine codes in order to survive. Such performances rupture the overdeveloped images of black men as aggressive, hyper-sexualized “thugs” or “hoodlums” by exposing the faulty assumptions within those images. Rather than abiding by the monadic conceptions of black patriarchy or of black solidarity, Brand and Clarke retexture depictions of black men to offer multi-textual black subjects who enact varieties of black masculinity.