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Prof. Tamara Beauboeuf-Lafontant Authors Behind the Mask of the Strong Black Woman

August 6, 2009

Tamara Beauboeuf-Lafontant Behind Mask.gifAugust 6, 2009, Greencastle, Ind. — Tamara Beauboeuf-Lafontant, associate professor of education studies and sociology at DePauw and chair of the University's education studies department, has authored Behind the Mask of the Strong Black Woman: Voice and the Embodiment of a Costly Performance. Published by Temple University Press, the new book "foregrounds the intersection of race and gender with fresh and thought-provoking insight," according to Publishers Weekly.

A synopsis states, "The defining quality of black womanhood is strength, states Tamara Beauboeuf-Lafontant in Behind the Mask of the Strong Black Woman. But, she argues, the idea of strength undermines its real function: to defend and maintain a stratified social order by obscuring black women's experiences of suffering, acts of desperation, and anger. Interviews with 58 black women explore the restrictive myth of the 'Strong Black Woman.' In particular, Beauboeuf-Lafontant highlights the physical and emotional toll of this performance of invulnerability, which leaves many black women suffering from eating disorders and depression. Drawing on black feminist scholarship, cultural studies, and voice-centered research, Behind the Mask of the Strong Black Woman traces the historical and social influences on normative black femininity. This provocative book lays bare the common perception that strength is an exemplary quality of 'authentic' black womanhood, maintaining that the expectation of strength creates a distraction from broader forces of discrimination and imbalances of power."

"Behind the Mask of the Strong Black Woman makes an important tamara beauboeuf 2005.jpgcontribution to the literature," declares Maxine Craig, author of Ain't I a Beauty Queen?: Black Women, Beauty, and the Politics of Race. "No other work systematically studies the ways black women internalize and resist strong black woman discourse. Beauboeuf-Lafontant convincingly argues that investment in the strong black woman myth injures black women and strengthens the racist divisions between women."

Learn more at the publisher's Web site.

In 2004, Tamara Beauboeuf received the Exemplary Teaching Award -- given jointly by DePauw University and the General Board of Higher Education of the United Methodist Church. Details can be found in this previous story.

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