Viola Davis’ recent comments on still, after decades of hard work in the film industry, not receiving roles where she is “the show” aren’t very shocking…to me at least. The plight of dynamic female characters of color in television and film has always been an obvious, yet largely ignored, fact. Black actresses are often stifled in stereotypical roles that allow no room for personality, growth, or life. While this plight still largely plagues film and television, Viola Davis is the star of ABC’s new drama, How to Get Away With Murder, where she reveals she no longer has to play “mama” or “maid”, but a woman who is “alternately commanding, personally messy and sexual.” As we anticipate the launch of Davis’ new television venture (premiering September 25 10:00PM EST/9:00PM CT), I wanted to share three of my favorite novels featuring complex, dynamic, and inspiring female characters of color.
Quicksand – Nella Larsen
The main character, Helga Crane, is a dynamic woman walking the tightrope of two distinctively different worlds trying to figure out her place in both or whether or not she fits at all. Quicksand explores themes of love, marriage, race, and black femininity during the time of the Harlem Renaissance.
Dance on the Volcano – Marie Chauvet
This visceral and complex tale explores the tenacious spirit of a young, beautiful Haitian afranchie singer, Minette, determined to provide a better life for herself and her loved ones. She uses her talent to secure independence and a weapon against tyranny and oppression. This metaphorical text is set against the backdrop of the tumultuous years leading up to the Haitian Revolution, and examines the challenges of love, hate, independence, and equality.
I Am a Martinican Woman Mayotte Capécia
Capécia provides an autobiographical coming-of-age tale about her experience as a woman living in Martinique, and the constant dynamic battles of racism, sexism, and colorism all fighting to confine a human spirit much too resilient to submit.
The list of books featuring dynamic female characters of color goes on; what are some of your favorite novels?