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A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing: The Incarceration of African American Women from Harriet Tubman to Sandra Bland

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A revelatory work in the tradition of Claudia Rankine's Citizen, DaMaris Hill's searing and powerful narrative-in-verse bears witness to American women of color burdened by incarceration. "It is costly to stay free and appear / sane." From Harriet Tubman to Assata Shakur, Ida B. Wells to Sandra Bland and Black Lives Matter, black women freedom fighters have braved violence, A revelatory work in the tradition of Claudia Rankine's Citizen, DaMaris Hill's searing and powerful narrative-in-verse bears witness to American women of color burdened by incarceration. "It is costly to stay free and appear / sane." From Harriet Tubman to Assata Shakur, Ida B. Wells to Sandra Bland and Black Lives Matter, black women freedom fighters have braved violence, scorn, despair, and isolation in order to lodge their protests. In A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing, DaMaris Hill honors their experiences with at times harrowing, at times hopeful responses to her heroes, illustrated with black-and-white photographs throughout. For black American women, the experience of being bound has taken many forms: from the bondage of slavery to the Reconstruction-era criminalization of women; from the brutal constraints of Jim Crow to our own era’s prison industrial complex, where between 1980 and 2014, the number of incarcerated women increased by 700%.* For those women who lived and died resisting the dehumanization of confinement--physical, social, intellectual--the threat of being bound was real, constant, and lethal. In A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing, Hill presents bitter, unflinching history that artfully captures the personas of these captivating, bound yet unbridled African-American women. Hill's passionate odes to Zora Neale Hurston, Lucille Clifton, Fannie Lou Hamer, Grace Jones, Eartha Kitt, and others also celebrate the modern-day inheritors of their load and light, binding history, author, and reader in an essential legacy of struggle. *(The Sentencing Project)


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A revelatory work in the tradition of Claudia Rankine's Citizen, DaMaris Hill's searing and powerful narrative-in-verse bears witness to American women of color burdened by incarceration. "It is costly to stay free and appear / sane." From Harriet Tubman to Assata Shakur, Ida B. Wells to Sandra Bland and Black Lives Matter, black women freedom fighters have braved violence, A revelatory work in the tradition of Claudia Rankine's Citizen, DaMaris Hill's searing and powerful narrative-in-verse bears witness to American women of color burdened by incarceration. "It is costly to stay free and appear / sane." From Harriet Tubman to Assata Shakur, Ida B. Wells to Sandra Bland and Black Lives Matter, black women freedom fighters have braved violence, scorn, despair, and isolation in order to lodge their protests. In A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing, DaMaris Hill honors their experiences with at times harrowing, at times hopeful responses to her heroes, illustrated with black-and-white photographs throughout. For black American women, the experience of being bound has taken many forms: from the bondage of slavery to the Reconstruction-era criminalization of women; from the brutal constraints of Jim Crow to our own era’s prison industrial complex, where between 1980 and 2014, the number of incarcerated women increased by 700%.* For those women who lived and died resisting the dehumanization of confinement--physical, social, intellectual--the threat of being bound was real, constant, and lethal. In A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing, Hill presents bitter, unflinching history that artfully captures the personas of these captivating, bound yet unbridled African-American women. Hill's passionate odes to Zora Neale Hurston, Lucille Clifton, Fannie Lou Hamer, Grace Jones, Eartha Kitt, and others also celebrate the modern-day inheritors of their load and light, binding history, author, and reader in an essential legacy of struggle. *(The Sentencing Project)

30 review for A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing: The Incarceration of African American Women from Harriet Tubman to Sandra Bland

  1. 5 out of 5

    Roxane

    Damaris B. Hill writes the poetry of the bound black woman across the ages in this haunting, powerful collection. What you will read here is not just poetry, though. This book offers an education. This book bears witness. This book is a reckoning.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    "The speed of light is almost equivalent to love come in a hurry. There are thieves in the temples. In the 1862nd year of our Lord, there were 241 lynched torn from wives arms and wedding Chambers. Multiply that by the rope. Count the trees they strung from The torches. All of this done under the armor of white supremacy mob violence. This is just one of the poems written for Ida B. Wells. An extremely powerful book. I have never read anything like this. Written in five different sections, explain "The speed of light is almost equivalent to love come in a hurry. There are thieves in the temples. In the 1862nd year of our Lord, there were 241 lynched torn from wives arms and wedding Chambers. Multiply that by the rope. Count the trees they strung from The torches. All of this done under the armor of white supremacy mob violence. This is just one of the poems written for Ida B. Wells. An extremely powerful book. I have never read anything like this. Written in five different sections, explained in the preface. As the author states, "These poems honor black women who had experiences with incarceration. They were inspred bu current events and historical framing of Black women freedom fighter ........." A short description of the person, an accompanying black and white photograph, and poems, someone's more than one. They will make you uncomfortable, they are in your face injustices. Some of these women I had to look up on WIKIPEDIA because I wanted to know more, see what was there. A book that leaves a powerful and unforgettable impression.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Never Without a Book

    I honestly don’t know if I have the proper words to describe this book. I have never read a book of poetry like this. It truly is powerful and I walked away with more than I expected. Hill definitely schooled me on women & history that I knew nothing about. The read is quick for 163 pages and is one I would recommend whether you are into poetry or not. There is so much more in this book than you think. I honestly don’t know if I have the proper words to describe this book. I have never read a book of poetry like this. It truly is powerful and I walked away with more than I expected. Hill definitely schooled me on women & history that I knew nothing about. The read is quick for 163 pages and is one I would recommend whether you are into poetry or not. There is so much more in this book than you think.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Donna Davis

    This compact but potent collection of poetry is so good that it hurts. DeMaris B. Hill spills America’s historical shame across the printed page with the articulate rage and power of the generations she writes about. My thanks go to Bloomsbury and Net Galley for the review copy. This collection becomes available to the public January 15, 2019. The keys to reading Hill’s poetry are in the introduction, and in additional brief introductions at the beginning of each poem. These are broken down into This compact but potent collection of poetry is so good that it hurts. DeMaris B. Hill spills America’s historical shame across the printed page with the articulate rage and power of the generations she writes about. My thanks go to Bloomsbury and Net Galley for the review copy. This collection becomes available to the public January 15, 2019. The keys to reading Hill’s poetry are in the introduction, and in additional brief introductions at the beginning of each poem. These are broken down into five sections that depict the different ways in which women of color have been bound over the centuries, and Hill points out that Black resistance didn’t start with Black Lives Matter, and it didn’t start with Dr. King and Rosa Parks either. American Black folk have been fighting for their rights for centuries, but some periods have been better publicized and more widely recognized than others. The introduction is not long by most standards, but I found myself impatient to read poetry, so halfway through it I skipped to the poetry; read the collection; and then I went back to reread the introduction from the beginning. After that I went back over the poems a second time, lingering over my favorites. The review copy was a rough one, and it’s hard to read poetry if the spacing is whack. Your copy is almost guaranteed to be cleaner, but you may choose to read these more than once anyway. Strong poetry will do that to you. Each poem is devoted to an African-American woman that has fought in one way or another, and the conclusion is written for Hill’s son. The book is billed as a collection that takes us from Harriet Tubman to Sandra Bland, which it does, and both of these poems are resonant and in the case of Bland, achingly sorrowful. My own favorites were those written about Eartha Kitt, who was familiar to me, and Ruby McCollum, who wasn’t. The poem about Alice Clifton made me wish I could unread it, because it is harsh and horrible, but in case it wasn’t clear from the get go: Hill isn’t writing to spare our tender feelings. She’s pissed, and she’s right to be. These poems contain some of the finest figurative language I have read anywhere. Highly recommended for those that seek social justice and that love excellent poetry.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    3.5 stars

  6. 4 out of 5

    Traci at The Stacks

    Poetry is tricky for me. Still working on how to talk about it. Loved the historical context and prose but couldn’t always connect with the poems (more a me thing than the poems). Black women are powerful beyond any measure ever credited to them and that is loud and clear in this collection. Hill is expert at depicting that.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    A very powerful unique book that is more than poetry, more than history. It’s a fast read and I don’t think I’ve ever read anything like it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Feminista

    amazing ive never read anything like this. Dr. Hill is brilliant and magnificent. I learned so many things about women I have never heard of. Powerful.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jamal

    One of the best books I've Read this year for sure. Damaris Hill delivered so many GOLDEN poems here introduced me to so many amazing black women and their personal histories . I Am Excited to see what she does next.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca McPhedran

    A beautifully written book about historical, (and current) women who have been incarcerated or killed for the color of their skin. A searing book that speaks to the importance of speaking out against police brutality and wrongful incarceration. The author tells of these important women through poetry, which makes this work even more powerful. A masterful work, that weaves together the beautiful medium of poetry, and the importance of our country's institutionalized racism. DaMaris Hill hits such A beautifully written book about historical, (and current) women who have been incarcerated or killed for the color of their skin. A searing book that speaks to the importance of speaking out against police brutality and wrongful incarceration. The author tells of these important women through poetry, which makes this work even more powerful. A masterful work, that weaves together the beautiful medium of poetry, and the importance of our country's institutionalized racism. DaMaris Hill hits such important and poignant points. This book is difficult to read, but so, so important. Put it on your shelf near James Baldwin and Angela Davis, because Hill's work belongs right next to those important voices.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Emmkay

    Hill outlines a powerful project in her introduction to this volume of poetry about African-American women’s experiences. I liked how she drew on a wide variety of historical figures, from women like Ida B. Wells, Zara Neale Hurston and Assata Shakur, to 19th century women tried for violent crimes, as well as her own family. Thought-provoking, even if the poems themselves were often not as powerful for me as the overall project.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Melanie H

    Coronavirus (update: Coronavirus + Rebellion 2020) book review #29 – 4.5 stars I’m still processing this epic piece of literature. I wasn’t expecting to need a poetry collection about the incarceration of African-American women as much as I did. The highs and lows, the historic photos, the simmering rage of injustice. While it is short enough to read in one setting, I had to keep putting it down, to let it sink in. As a Northwestern alum who lived in Frances Willard, how had I missed the Ida B. We Coronavirus (update: Coronavirus + Rebellion 2020) book review #29 – 4.5 stars I’m still processing this epic piece of literature. I wasn’t expecting to need a poetry collection about the incarceration of African-American women as much as I did. The highs and lows, the historic photos, the simmering rage of injustice. While it is short enough to read in one setting, I had to keep putting it down, to let it sink in. As a Northwestern alum who lived in Frances Willard, how had I missed the Ida B. Wells connection (researching now)? And while I was intrigued by the stories of the women I already knew about, it was the nameless women lost to history, simply fighting for their own dignity, that truly touched my heart. Let us bear witness. PS The Sonia Sanchez bio with [September 9, 1934 – Continuous Fire] made my heart sing in every possible way. I toast to you, Sonia Sanchez, a homie with a hand grenade, the gangster granny.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Katy

    In this poetry tribute, Hill celebrates the legacies of black women who resisted oppression and refused to be silenced throughout US history. Each woman has a black and white photo, a short biographical page about her and then a poem to celebrate her life. Hill’s subjects range from well-known activists like Assata Shakur to women I had never heard of like Ruby McCollum. I’m grateful to Hill for highlighting the strength of these women in all their rage and passion and will certainly be learning In this poetry tribute, Hill celebrates the legacies of black women who resisted oppression and refused to be silenced throughout US history. Each woman has a black and white photo, a short biographical page about her and then a poem to celebrate her life. Hill’s subjects range from well-known activists like Assata Shakur to women I had never heard of like Ruby McCollum. I’m grateful to Hill for highlighting the strength of these women in all their rage and passion and will certainly be learning more about the ones I didn’t know about.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Aaryn Flott

    I really should’ve read the description better before purchasing because I was not aware that this was a poetry book! 🤦🏾‍♀️ Anyway, despite my unawareness, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The poems were powerful, beautiful, and often heart breaking, as they are odes to incarcerated black women over the ages. I definitely want to do more research on the women who were portrayed at the prelude of each chapter. Their short biographies were interesting and I would like to learn more about their stori I really should’ve read the description better before purchasing because I was not aware that this was a poetry book! 🤦🏾‍♀️ Anyway, despite my unawareness, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The poems were powerful, beautiful, and often heart breaking, as they are odes to incarcerated black women over the ages. I definitely want to do more research on the women who were portrayed at the prelude of each chapter. Their short biographies were interesting and I would like to learn more about their stories.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Southall

    "The afflicted pray for healing– just as hungry people pray for bread, but when has God ever sent bread? In my recollection of the scriptures, God has always sent a woman." I found an advanced reading copy of A Bound Woman is a Dangerous Thing from the book bins where I work and have found many of my favorites. I read it overnight. Dr. Damaris B. Hill has given us an ode to women whose experience being black in America denied them its fundamental promises– life, freedom and agency, to start– with "The afflicted pray for healing– just as hungry people pray for bread, but when has God ever sent bread? In my recollection of the scriptures, God has always sent a woman." I found an advanced reading copy of A Bound Woman is a Dangerous Thing from the book bins where I work and have found many of my favorites. I read it overnight. Dr. Damaris B. Hill has given us an ode to women whose experience being black in America denied them its fundamental promises– life, freedom and agency, to start– with the sanction of society, if not the state, and sometimes both. Her characters are real women and girls, famous and nearly anonymous, who are brilliant, clever, industrious, and even ordinary. They are abused, incarcerated, raped and killed in experiences that pierce the narrative of America the way that Juneteenth reveals a truth about the 4th of July: some of us are still waiting to be free.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    This poetry collection is a history, a tribute, and a love letter to black women. And it’s pretty amazing. I know poetry can seem daunting. But this collection kind of defies the traditional form. It’s history spoken in poetry. It’s a narrative written in verse. While I loved the poems dedicated to the women (a few favorites were “Black Bird Medley”, “#SandySpeaks is a Choral Refrain”, and really all the poems devoted to Assata Shakur), I was surprised by how moved I was when Hill shifted to her This poetry collection is a history, a tribute, and a love letter to black women. And it’s pretty amazing. I know poetry can seem daunting. But this collection kind of defies the traditional form. It’s history spoken in poetry. It’s a narrative written in verse. While I loved the poems dedicated to the women (a few favorites were “Black Bird Medley”, “#SandySpeaks is a Choral Refrain”, and really all the poems devoted to Assata Shakur), I was surprised by how moved I was when Hill shifted to her own personal life. The poems written to and about her son gave this collection a focused, personal touch compared to the wider scope of the odes to the women. I didn’t realize that the collection needed them until I read them.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    A Bound Woman is a Dangerous Thing was absolutely heartbreaking. Hill presents us with a topic that has been swept under the rug so many times in history. Women who were persecuted heavily because of their beliefs is one thing, but women who are persecuted because of the color of their skin and their intellect, power, and determination is another. I learned so much reading this book. The poems would spark me to do research after each one. It really opened my eyes. Everyone needs to read this.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Margaret Lukas

    I loved this book. It's courageous, important, and thought-provoking. Half way through I quit reading and started over because I couldn't bear to be getting close to the ending. And when I did finish, I began again.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Crystal

    These poems and the introduction to each poem are more little packets of history than anything. Introduced me to many historical figures and some modern ones, all black women (per the title). Definitely worth reading though less for the poetry than the history imparted.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tamara Madison

    I blessed the blog with a review on DaMaris Hill's latest poetry collection. Don't let Women's History Month pass without spending time with this book! Find out why here: http://www.tamarajmadison.com/blog/bl... I blessed the blog with a review on DaMaris Hill's latest poetry collection. Don't let Women's History Month pass without spending time with this book! Find out why here: http://www.tamarajmadison.com/blog/bl...

  21. 4 out of 5

    Katherine G Foster

    Beautifully written. Hill weaves poetry and history seamlessly.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sherri

    This book is a love letter to women who have been denied their humanity. Most of these women have been forgotten, shunned, and/or erased. Let these women dance among your days and with your nights. Dream better lives. This novel has clipped biographies before the dynamic poems, followed with amazing photographs that not only gives visuals of the passing of time (1980's to 2016/present) but gives a very real look at what these women went through. In the preface, author DaMaris B. Hill lets the r This book is a love letter to women who have been denied their humanity. Most of these women have been forgotten, shunned, and/or erased. Let these women dance among your days and with your nights. Dream better lives. This novel has clipped biographies before the dynamic poems, followed with amazing photographs that not only gives visuals of the passing of time (1980's to 2016/present) but gives a very real look at what these women went through. In the preface, author DaMaris B. Hill lets the reader know what to expect going into her work. A Bound Woman is a Dangerous Thing is intense and disturbing as are the facts which these poems are written about. The author gives three breakdowns in her preface to explain her sections to help the reader get into the right head-space. I had to re-read some of the poetry and bio's to dislodged the "I didn't just read what I think I just read," knowing full well that I did read it correctly the first time. There are some women in this collection that I will be doing more research to know and to remember their stories.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Robyn

    Informative and thought provoking. I instantly wanted to talk about it. First Line: Reading about the Black women in A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing will not comfort, p.xi. Hill gives readers more than twenty Black women who were bound in some way. For many that meant being incarcerated, others it meant being denied their voice, their body, their mind. The similarity is not lost on Hill as her poems give a glimpse into their psyche. What Dazzled: I really enjoyed the black and wh Informative and thought provoking. I instantly wanted to talk about it. First Line: Reading about the Black women in A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing will not comfort, p.xi. Hill gives readers more than twenty Black women who were bound in some way. For many that meant being incarcerated, others it meant being denied their voice, their body, their mind. The similarity is not lost on Hill as her poems give a glimpse into their psyche. What Dazzled: I really enjoyed the black and white photographs and summaries at the beginning of each chapter. This set the tone for the poem to come. What Fizzled: A couple of editing issues mainly the switch in names in the summary about Ella Jackson. Jots and Thoughts: Pair this with At the Dark End of the Street by Danielle L. McGuire. This book is a love letter to women who have been denied their humanity. Most of these women have been forgotten, shunned, and/or erased. Every time I call a name in this book, presume that the person who bears the name is loved, p. xviii. Read Harder Challenge: a collection of poetry published since 2014

  24. 4 out of 5

    Viral

    DaMaris Hill gives us a collection of poetry here honoring black women over the years who have been bound in different ways, from women like Harriet Tubman who lived in slavery, to women like Ida B. Wells who fought Jim Crow, to women like Fannie Lou Hamer and Claudia Jones who were arrested resisting segregation, to Assata Shakur being framed by the feds, to Sandra Bland being killed by the state. It's a sweeping and powerful set of poems. Highly reccomend.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Kempkes

    Would be a very good addition to YA collections, especially in Middle and High Schools.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jesse Mechler

    Education through poetry, this was an excellent yet challenging read. From the Claudia Jones chapter: "A nation is built brick by brittle brick, blood in the mortar. A legacy, page by sacred page. How many ways did you write women? How many ways did you right women"

  27. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea

    A very important book of poetry to read, sit in, process, and feel through. My heart aches and longs for heavenly justice- READ THIS!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Leo Rain

    Wonderful in a devastating way.

  29. 5 out of 5

    LeeTravelGoddess

    I loved this book... so much so, I will come back to it in 2020!!! 💚💚💚 I Love that she’s a veteran 💅🏽 now a professor!!! IT’S A TOPS Y’ALL!

  30. 5 out of 5

    mad mags

    "How many ways did you write women? How many ways did you right women?" (Full disclosure: I received a free e-ARC for review through NetGalley. Trigger warning for violence against women, including rape.) The afflicted pray for healing—just as hungry people pray for bread, but when has God ever sent bread? In my recollection of the scriptures, God has always sent a woman. bound verb simple past tense and past participle of bind. adjective tied; in bonds: a bound prisoner. made fast as if by a band or bo "How many ways did you write women? How many ways did you right women?" (Full disclosure: I received a free e-ARC for review through NetGalley. Trigger warning for violence against women, including rape.) The afflicted pray for healing—just as hungry people pray for bread, but when has God ever sent bread? In my recollection of the scriptures, God has always sent a woman. bound verb simple past tense and past participle of bind. adjective tied; in bonds: a bound prisoner. made fast as if by a band or bond: She is bound to her family. secured within a cover, as a book. under a legal or moral obligation: He is bound by the terms of the contract. destined; sure; certain: It is bound to happen. determined or resolved: He is bound to go. Pathology . constipated. Mathematics . (of a vector) having a specified initial point as well as magnitude and direction. held with another element, substance, or material in chemical or physical union. (of a linguistic form) occurring only in combination with other forms, as most affixes. From Harriet Tubman to Sandra Bland, Ida B. Wells to Eartha Kitt, Grace Jones to Assata Shakur, A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing is DaMaris B. Hill's "love letter to women who have been denied their humanity." In its most obvious sense, these women are bound in a very real, tangible way: those shackled by the chains of slavery, or imprisoned in jail (often, as we'll see, for defending themselves against physical abuse and sexual assault). But to be bound can also be a positive thing, an expression of love: to be bound to one's ancestors, connected to one's friends and family, accountable to one's community. Here, Hill celebrates women who have been bound in both respects, sometimes simultaneously. Poetry is a deeply personal and intimate form of communion, and it's pretty hit-or-miss for me. I know what I like, even if I have no idea why I like it. And, sadly, as much as I was looking forward to A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing (I mean, THAT COVER!), most of the poems just didn't do it for me. First, the pros: Hill introduced me to a number of badass women I'd never heard of before, and whom I'd love to learn more about. I love the concept of the collection, and the way it's laid out, with photos, biographies, and poems inspired by the subjects. But the cons: I just had a ton of trouble getting into the poems themselves. Likewise, the short biographies of the women featured often seem incomplete, and are sometimes downright confusing. The most obvious example to come to mind is Joan Little, who is listed as born in 1953 with an "unknown" date of death. Wikipedia lists her as still alive, so...that's weird. At the very least, it requires further explanation, right? Poetry is hardly in my wheelhouse, though, and judging from the other reviews, I'm in the minority here, so don't let my experiences dissuade you. Roxane Gay blurbed it, so. http://www.easyvegan.info/2019/02/12/...

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