Care free black girls A celebration of black women in popular culture

Zeba Blay

Book - 2021

"An Empowering and Celebratory Portrait of Black Women--from Josephine Baker to Aunt Viv to Cardi B. In 2013, film and culture critic Zeba Blay was one of the first people to coin the viral term #carefreeblackgirls on Twitter. As she says, it was "a way to carve out a space of celebration and freedom for Black women online." In this collection of essays, Blay expands on this initial idea by delving into the work and lasting achievements of influential Black women in American culture--writers, artists, actresses, dancers, hip-hop stars--whose contributions often come in the face of bigotry, misogyny, and stereotypes. Blay celebrates the strength and fortitude of these Black women, while also examining the many stereotypes and ...rigid identities that have clung to them. In writing that is both luminous and sharp, expansive and intimate, Blay seeks a path forward to a culture and society in which Black women and their art are appreciated and celebrated"--

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New York : St. Martin's Griffin 2021.
Main Author
Zeba Blay (author)
First edition
Physical Description
260 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages [243]-260).
  • Introduction
  • Bodies
  • She's a Freak
  • Man, This Shit Is Draining
  • Extra Black
  • #CardiBIsSoProblematic
  • Girlhood
  • Strong Black Lead
  • Free of Cares
  • Acknowledgments
  • References
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Culture critic Blay debuts with an exuberant exploration of the ways Black women have defined pop culture. The creator of the viral #CareFreeBlackGirl cultural movement, Blay ventures beyond the "pithy, abstracted, tweet-able" declarations about Black women being "indeed essential to the... global zeitgeist" to offer a kaleidoscopic analysis of how American culture both needs and "belittles" Black female artists and storytellers such as herself. She begins with an incisive look at how pop star Lizzo's body has been politicized and publicized, and closes with an intimate meditation on what it means to live in a body that's become "a reflection of what folks really feel about themselves." Elsewhere, Blay considers the paradox of Cardi B's influence as an "aspirational model" and controversial figure who "represents the fallacies and frailties of celebrity." Throughout, she juxtaposes the cultural figures' stories against her own experience situating herself in a societal hierarchy based on skin color. While these essays are connected by their collective pain, Blay never exploits her own or others' trauma; rather, she offers a way to understand grief while "reaching out for a world where we value not just the representation of Black women but Black women themselves." This fervent work will feel like a balm for many. (Oct.)

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Review by Library Journal Review

Drawing from pop culture and personal experience, this first book by journalist Blay (creator of the #carefreeblackgirl movement) is a powerful look at how Black women are treated and mistreated--in particular, the way mass culture emulates Black women but also excludes and ignores them. Blay's knack for film and cultural criticism is on full display as she unpacks the desexualization and fetishization of Black women artists like Lizzo and Cardi B and the difficulty (as a Black consumer of culture) of both rooting for and being disappointed by Black celebrities. Blay also shines when reflecting on her experiences as a Black woman and an immigrant; she heartrendingly recalls navigating life in the wake of sexual assault, living with depression and anxiety, and turning to other Black women to help inform and understand herself. The entire book offers critical insight, but the final chapter is particularly necessary reading, on the commodification of Breonna Taylor's death. Blay also closely considers the movement she created and whether Black women can truly be free in a society where their existence is precarious. VERDICT Calling for Black women (in and out of the public eye) to be treated with empathy, Blay's pivotal work will engage all readers, especially fans of Mikki Kendall's Hood Feminism.--Stephanie Sendaula, Library Journal

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

Essays exploring the lives of Black women through the lens of contemporary pop culture. "Black girls are everything," writes Blay, adding that "the culture that Black women pour their talents and their creativity into, the culture that emulates Black women, steals from Black women, needs Black women, is the same culture that belittles Black women, excludes Black women, ignores Black women." A former senior culture writer for HuffPost, Blay was the first person to tweet #carefreeblackgirl, which became a popular shorthand for celebrating Black women. These well-crafted essays, which the author wrote during a period of deep depression and anxiety, helped her get "reacquainted with the concept of joy and freedom." She discusses a number of issues including fatphobia; sexual exploitation and trauma; righteous anger and the Angry Black Woman trope; mental wellness and the Strong Black Woman trope; and the pain and insidiousness of colorism. Blay also deftly unpacks the public push back from some Black women against the term "carefree Black girl." Throughout the collection, she brings compelling and astute cultural criticism together with reflections on her personal evolution as a Black woman. Blay's thoughtful analysis of everything from viral Instagram moments and popular TV shows to headline news about Michelle Obama and Breonna Taylor makes for an infectious read. A chapter devoted to rapper Cardi B considers how she and other Black women rappers "tell us so much about the culture and about ourselves." But Blay isn't writing as a fangirl. With Cardi and other public figures, films, and other media, she navigates both adulation and earned critique as well as those important spaces where the personal is definitely political. She also raises timely questions about homophobia, transphobia, cancel culture, representation, and appropriation. An insightful, provocative, heartfelt blend of memoir and social commentary that is as revelatory as it is celebratory. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.