Document Type


Publication Date




Publication Title

The Alan Review








The black women's literary tradition began in a conscious effort to create a space for black women's writing and to illustrate a distinction between black women's reality and the realities of others (Christian 348–359). The literature within the tradition is influenced by how black women perceive themselves and the world around them. As a result, identity is an important part of African-American women's literature (Hooper 74–81). Race, class, gender, and sexuality are all components of one's identity and are critical in the formation of one's lived experiences (Crenshaw 357–383). Family, from its structure to the function of specific members within the unit, also has a significant influence on one's identity development. Relationships with family members help young people develop a sense of selfawareness, pride, and individuality. One of the most significant familial relationships in black women's literature is the one that exists between mothers and daughters.

Collins argues for the importance of including the lived experiences of black women when thinking critically about motherhood (45–65). Black feminist theory offers a useful framework for thinking deeply about the black mother-daughter relationship. The theory calls for a careful look at how race, class, and gender, as interlocking oppressions, inextricably impact the mother-daughter relationship. Here, I use black feminist theory as a tool to look at the motherdaughter relationships in Angela Johnson's Toning the Sweep and Heaven, Rita Williams-Garcia's Blue Tights and Like Sisters on the Homefront, and Jacqueline Woodson's The Dear One and I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This (See Sidebar for Summary). Each of these novels offers rich, poignant depictions of black mother-daughter bonds. Three themes that merit discussion shape the mother-daughter connections in these six award-winning novels: socialization, distance, and conflict.

Original Publication Citation

Hinton-Johnson, K. (2004). African American mothers & daughters: Socialization, distance, & conflict. The Alan Review, 31(3), 45-49. doi:10.21061/alan.v31i3.a.6