The Sisters Are Alright: Changing the Broken Narrative of Black Women in America
What is wrong with black women?
Not a damned thing but the biased lens most people use to view them, says Tamara Winfrey Harris. When African American women arrived on American shores the three-headed hydra of asexual and servile Mammy, angry and bestial Sapphire and oversexed and lascivious Jezebel followed close behind. In the 60s they were joined by the Matriarch, the willfully unmarried baby machine, leeching off the state. These caricatures persist—even in the “enlightened” 21st century—through newspaper headlines, Sunday sermons, social media memes, cable punditry, government policies and Top 40 lyrics.
The Sisters Are Alright delves into areas like marriage, motherhood, health, sexuality, beauty, and more. And, using progressive author analysis brought to life by the stories of real women, reveals the effects of anti-black woman propaganda and how real black women are living their lives and pushing back against distorted cartoon versions of themselves.
The book takes sharp aim at pervasive stereotypes about black women, replacing warped prejudices with the straight up truth—the complicated, but far-from-hopeless reality of being a black woman in America.
“We have facets like diamonds,” Winfrey Harris writes. “The trouble is the people who refuse to see us sparkling.”
Praise for The Sisters Are Alright
This book is a gift. With just the right mix of sister wit, statistical information, and a few well-timed rhetorical side-eyes, The Sisters Are Alright rushes in to save black women from the stereotypes
that threaten to dull our shine. —Brittney Cooper, PhD, Assistant Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Africana Studies,Rutgers University
Winfrey Harris [digs] into the project of remaking representations of black women as they trulyare—joyfully diverse, indelibly complex, and powerful architects of their own narratives. —Andi Zeisler, cofounder and Editorial/Creative Director, Bitch Media
Winfrey Harris sets the record straight. This is a love letter to all the sisters—beautifully human and gorgeously flawed. Reading this book I felt seen, heard, and deeply understood. This is self-care between two covers.
—Tayari Jones, author of Silver Sparrow
The Sisters Are Alright is a love letter to black women. Winfrey Harris’s unapologetic celebration of our intelligence, mettle, and beauty counters the proliferation of negative stereotypes we endure daily. She sees us, she knows us, and she also understands that we’re not monolithic. Winfrey Harris surfaces stories about black women’s realities that are often glossed over or tossed aside, urgently insisting with beautiful prose that contrary to our cultural narrative, black women’s lives matter. —Jamia Wilson, Executive Director, Women, Action, and the Media
Tamara Winfrey Harris picks up where Ntozake Shange left off, adding an eighth color to the rainbow of For Colored Girls. This academic work reads like a choreopoem that challenges the notion that black women are too tough to love or be loved. The author does more than deconstruct the stereotype of Sapphire; she asserts that black women are diamonds, and she insists that her reader consider their sparkle. —Duchess Harris, PhD, Professor of American Studies, Macalester College, and author of Black Feminist Politics from Kennedy to Obama
Tamara Winfrey Harris’s book The Sisters Are Alright is a fi tting answer to the question W. E. B. Du Bois said all black Americans are forced to consider: ‘How does it feel to be a problem?’ In a society that treats black people as problems and women as problems, it is nothing short of revolutionary to answer, as this book does, "No, really, the sisters are alright." —Jarvis DeBerry, journalist, The Times-Picayune, NOLA.com
The Sisters Are Alright is written with the same honest, compassionate tone Tamar a Winfrey Harris is known for. This book feels like a hug for the overlooked brown girl. It’s a combination of experience, honest refl ection, history and popular culture, and a good read no matter your race or experience. She brings it home with a strong call to action, reminding us that while resilience is necessary, so is basic human respect—and we would do well to follow her lead. —Samhita Mukhopadhyay, author of Outdated: Why Dating Is Ruining Your Love Life
If corporate media and pop culture are active volcanoes, Tamara Winfrey Harris is a clear-eyed excavator who can help us make sense of their constant, painful eruptions. Writing from a place of love, Winfrey Harris pulls at the strings that unravel the racism, sexism, and abject irrationality of newspapers attempting to reduce one of TV’s most powerful producers to an ‘Angry Black Woman’; of hip-hop stars, pundits, and preachers blaming black girls for the violence and discrimination they are forced to endure; and of reality TV replacing black women’s humanity with slavery-era tropes. After laying those biases bare, The Sisters Are Alright elevates the too-often-unheard voices of black women themselves, offering nuanced insights about the nature of love, sex, beauty, marriage, violence, economics, politics, culture, and more. Anyone who cares about black women will enjoy—and learn a lot from—this excellent new book. —Jennifer Pozner, Executive Director, Women in Media & News, and author of Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth about Guilty Pleasure TV
Other Publications Where My Work Can Be Found
How Writing Works: First Edition with Readings
This writing textbook includes the essay, Nappy Love: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace the Kinks, which first appeared on Tamara's blog, What Tami Said.
The Arlington Reader: Themes for Writers (4th ed)
Lynn Z. Bloom and Louise Z. Smith
This thematic composition reader showcases classic essays and the "best new writing," including Tamara's No Disrespect: Black Women and the Burden of Respectability, which first appeared in Bitch magazine.
The Sisters Are Alright Question Guide