The Bluelight Corner:
Black Women Writing on Passion, Sex and Romantic Love

edited by Rosemarie Robothan
(Three Rivers Press, $14.00, PG-13) ISBN 0-609-80354-9
"...a good dance
a good slow dance in a sacred place
where the lights stay dim all night
and the record is a longplay
and the bluelight corner
we have spidered ourselves into
is all night reserved..."

The Turtle Ball by Nikki Finney

At the risk of dating myself, I am what the Generation Xers in my family call "Old School." Basically, it means I like Motown music, my recollections generally begin "Back in the day..." and my secret smiles are often about guilty pleasures. Of house parties with blue lights in the basement, where, during the waning minutes people coupled off to slow dance to The Miracles' (It wasn't Smokey Robinson and the Miracles until much later) "Ooh, Baby, Baby" or the Dell's "Stay in My Corner." Love was fresh and new and innocent...for a while.

Rosemarie Robothan's anthology, with its smoky blue cover, literally called to me from across a crowded bookstore. I picked it up in anticipation of what the cover promised. I was not disappointed.

The Bluelight Corner is a collection of fiction, essays and poetry by 32 Black women. The material is drawn together by its theme of love, sex, passion and romance. The authors span literary genres and time frames within the African-American experience.

The existence of this collection {and also African-American romance novels), to some may be a subversive activity. So many myths and stereotypes exist about the Black woman's sexuality. It was not until recently that the public dialogue included passion, romance and love in conjunction with sex. As Robothan, an Essence Magazine editor admits in her introduction:

The seeds sown by the pioneering [Audre] Lorde, and so many others have borne extravagant fruit. The Bluelight Corner bears witness to the ripening, for it recognizes Black women's erotic sensibility as something richer, far more inconvenient, and infinitely more tender than has been historically portrayed. Some might suggest that an anthology of this nature lends dangerous credence to the mythology of Black women as overtly sexual archetypes. Such concerns among Black folks are understandable, born of a centuries-old need to protect against stereotypes that made Black women the object of tawdry fantasies, bring rape and worse. In the face of this particular social danger, Black women learned to suppress their sexual natures, learned to silence expressions of love and longing that would reveal, and put at risk, the multiple dimensions of our lives."

The Bluelight Corner includes something for everyone. There are works by poets Nikki Giovanni, former U.S. poet laureate Rita Dove, Sonia Sanchez and June Jordan. New guard authors Shay Youngblood, Edwina Danticat and Diane Mc Kinney-Whetstone. Alice Walker, bell hooks, Jamaica Kincaid and Gloria Naylor are also represented in this volume. There is work by Valerie Wilson Wesley, author of the Tamara Hayle detective series and Ntozake Shange, whose choreopoem for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf won an Obie award and was nominated for Tony, Emmy and Grammy awards. There is an except from Tina McElroy Ansa's erotic The Hand I Fan With and Pearl Cleage's much quoted "Good Brother Blues."

The Bluelight Corner has a coveted spot on my reference shelf with other collections by African-American women: Mari Evans' anthology, Black Women Writers, 1950-1980; Marita Golden's Wild Women Don't Wear No Blues; and two by Mary Helen Washington, Black-Eyed Susans and Midnight Birds.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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