The preservation of Black Beauty

A review of Sisters of the Yam by Bell Hooks.

“Sisters of the Yam” explores issues that have existed amongst black woman for many generations, stemming from the roots of slavery: having self-esteem and loving yourself, understanding the black woman’s attractive side, and exploring the possibilities of having healthy, committed relationships with others. The author, Bell Hooks, is an American activist who has addressed various issues including race, gender, class and sexuality.

She describes the way black parents and families protect their children from racism – through creating stories. They also had to live in black only neighbourhoods fearing the white as they told them they are ugly, they had to protect each other from the hatred. Television made a negative contribution to racism as in its beginning it belittled the black race. Parents constantly had to find ways to explain the cinematic experiences to their kids.

In the author’s opinion, racism encourages self-hatred and low self-esteem in black children and grown-ups. They are constantly told that the black is bad so they must remind themselves of its beauty and to do so they create representation of their world in the form of quilts and dolls. The quilts commonly illustrated little houses and black folks taking care of nature and they usually depicted a black woman’s ideal world.

The 20th century black psyche is to dislike their own hair and prefer westernised hair. This feeling is worsened by magazine depictions of straight hairstyles and family and men’s affirmation of a black woman’s hair. Bell Hooks demands that black women assert their right for natural hair and people experience the sensual pleasures of its texture.

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Because for centuries black women have been told that they’re servants, this led to neglecting of their bodies. Louise Hay relates basic care to the well-being of the body. Women need to take time for themselves and their needs. When Harriet Lerner tries cutting some of her other activities so she could take time for herself it led to many people being angered and disappointed and based on this she wrote her book “The Dance of Anger”. Black females, the author asserts, also think of food as solace. They are too concerned with their skin tone to self-actualise themselves. This leads to many black women being obese and bigger sizes in clothing usually cost more which leads to shopping in specialty stores.

Famous black celebrities who have the ability through media to empower black women sometimes do the opposite. Bell Hooks gives example with Naomi Campbell as she often has straight blonde hair which is unnatural for black women. She then gives a positive example with Tracy Chapman who proudly presents her natural beauty. Women should affirm each other’s beauty and not put each other down.

Bell Hooks gives many reasons that led to internalised racism in black females. I am particularly interested in the way media in the form of Television or editorials tells us what we should look like or what we should have. We are being marketed by brands and companies who try to sell us an image through their products rather than the product itself. They call this “Lifestyle Branding” which is branding that embodies the interests of a group or a culture. The Kardashians popularity is the result of the success of such “lifestyle branding”.

Critical Review about the article “Ottomania” by Elif Batuman - The New Yorker

Tuesday 11th october 2016


Written by Yaiza Schmid

Elif Batuma is an american writer born in 1977 in New York. After graduating in Harvard College and receiving her doctorate in comparative literature from Stanford University, she published her first book, „The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the people Who Read Them“. The american writer with turkish parents received wide recognition for her stories in the National Book Critics Award and in the 2014 „Best American travel writing“ among others. Since 2010 she has been a staff writer at „The New Yorker“.
In her publication “Ottomania” (2014) Batuma relates about own experiences and historic facts, giving us too some information about president Erdogan and the situation in Turkey at that time and in the past.  

In the article „Ottomania, Letter from Istanbul“ written in 2014, Elif Batuma introduces the theme with an extract from an episode from a very popular turkish soap opera called „Magnificent Century“ since 2011, based on the reign of Suleyman from 1520  to 1566. The life of the harem is part of the enormous trend called Ottomania in the hole Turkey. The writer shows us how history and the past of the Ottoman reign in 1453 is influencing the modern turkish culture, design and life style. After that the author sneaks the „Erdogan’s situation“ and the protests that are happening because of his desire of convert a central park in a Ottoman-style shopping mall. „Magnificent Century“ is the perfect way to obtain the type of society and image that Erdogan is persuiting; Prosperous middle class family watching once a week their own values reflected in a historical imperial setting. The achievement from Suleiman and the essence of the Ottoman reign represents the main goals from the politician. But the way the soap opera shows how the harem was and the image of Suleyman, as well as their directors and broadcasters behaviour out of the set, wasn’t his cup of tea; so he declared that the show would be discontinued.

The writer switches back to the history of the Ottoman Empire explaining when and how it was founded, telling how it developed and its decline in the seventeenth century. It continued until 1920 with the Treaty of Versailles and the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire and after that with the triumph of the Turkish Republic over Western imperialism. The author carries on writing in detail about the relevant facts that happened in Turkey all over the years, mentioning the little information that we get about the Ottomans in the schoolbooks summarizing it in „A family of profligates“.

Batuman E. explains that from 1924 on, the Turkish tried to find their own identity and language. As seen in her way of writing, the author swap suddenly to another topic; she relates about the directors of „Magnificient Century“ and the controversy that the show had. The turkish are looking for answers, for the confirmation of their beliefs, the debate about the well known soap opera „clears“ who they are and where they come from. Buy a Ottoman Hurrem’s style ring in the Bazar and then you will understand.

My questions about Batuman’s text are:

- Is the author trying to tell us that the Turks are looking for their real identity and their essence? Have they lost it after all whathas been happening in the past and in the present?

President Erdongan eating chicken drumstick, bite after bite


Some impresions that show how far the Ottomania is going

burguer king spot

Ottomania game, for Android

Get as much power as you can and defend the Ottoman Empire, download it for free in your tablet.