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A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing

The Incarceration of African American Women from Harriet Tubman to Sandra Bland

DaMaris Hill

Bloomsbury Publishing

A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing Download image

ISBN10: 1635574617
ISBN13: 9781635574616


192 Pages



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Nominated for an NAACP Image Award

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.


Praise for A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing

“While many explorations of the prison system focus on the male experience, DaMaris B. Hill shines a light on the plight of incarcerated black American women . . . It's a difficult, powerful subject, and a history far too few Americans are familiar with; Hill tells these stories with passion and strength, illuminating the ongoing struggle to be free.”—Nylon

“In piercing thought and extraordinary verse [DaMaris B. Hill] explores what it means to be bound for black women across history and into the present moment. She does not write to argue innocence and guilt but to illuminate experience, to honor struggle and expression, and to affirm love.”Asheville Citizen Times

“At exactly the right time, University of Kentucky professor DaMaris B. Hill has written a powerful collection of poems examining the incarceration of Black women . . . I will be processing this book for a long time.”Ms.

“Hill creates an intimate atmosphere that allows for a rich exploration of fully formed heroines . . . they are soothsayers, truth-tellers, mavericks and revolutionaries.”BookPage

“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.”—Roxane Gay

“Stunning. It feels as if I have been waiting for this book my whole life. It's a call and response, a poetic dialogue, a deep honoring of all that black women have endured and created and inspired. The voices Hill has found embody the women in her book with heart and allow us to know them in their essence. This is a brave, brilliant, beautiful account of love. Unforgettable.”—Eve Ensler

“Honest, intelligent, brutal, the poems in A Bound Woman is a Dangerous Thing will not soothe or temper the weight of a violent misogynistic history. Instead, they serve as a much-needed resurrection. DaMaris B. Hill is a brilliant poet historian who has created an important lyrical excavation that's never been more necessary.”—National Book Award Finalist Ada Limón, author of The Carrying

“This book challenged me to reconsider what I knew of American history. Hill has crafted an indelible affirmation of the power of women, black women in particular, in rich verse that is at once a history, a reckoning, a balm, and call to empathy and action.”—Mitchell S. Jackson, Whiting Award-winning author of The Residue Years and the forthcoming memoir Survival Math

“With a lyricism that sings, swings, and stings, poet and writer Hill reflects on black women who resisted violent racism and misogyny, ranging from the notable and notorious (Fannie Lou Hamer, Eartha Kitt, Ida B. Wells, Joanne Little) to lesser-known, no-less-heroic women.”Booklist (starred review)

“Hill's first full-length collection gives voice to the history of black women in the United States who have undergone incarceration and oppression. To be bound suggests to be trapped; however, Hill's poems illustrate how oppression can summon inner-strength, resistance, and revolution.”Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

DaMaris Hill

DaMaris B. Hill is assistant professor of creative writing and African American and Africana studies at the University of Kentucky. Her previous works are The Fluid Boundaries of Suffrage and Jim Crow: Staking Claims in the American Heartland, and a collection of poetry, \Vi-ze-bel\\Teks-chers\. She has two PhDs, one in English and one in women and gender studies. A former service member of the United States Air Force, she lives in Lexington, Kentucky.