Check back for lastest news

Back to previous page

Light and Legacies

Stories of Black Girlhood and Liberation

Janaka Bowman Lewis

Published: Apr 20 2023


Published: Apr 20 2023


Published: Apr 20 2023

OA Ebook
Published: Apr 20 2023


The inclusion of this book in the Open Carolina collection is made possible by the generous funding of

An engaging examination of Black Girl Magic and its significance in American literature

In Light and Legacies, author Janaka Bowman Lewis examines Black girlhood in American literature from the mid-twentieth century to the present. The representation of Black girlhood in contemporary literature has long remained underexplored. Through this literary history of "Black Girl Magic," Lewis offers one of the first studies in this rapidly growing field of study. Light and Legacies poignantly showcases the activist dimensions of creative literature through work by women writers such as Toni Morrison and Toni Cade. As vectors of protest, these stories reflect historical events while also creating an enduring space of liberation and expression. The book provides didactic and reflective portrayals of the Black experience—an experience that has long been misunderstood. In a work both enlightening and personal, Lewis brilliantly weaves accounts of her own journey together with the liberating stories that shaped her and so many others.

Available in audiobook from Recorded Books

Janaka Bowman Lewis is associate professor of English and director of the Center for the Study of the New South at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She is author of Freedom Narratives of African American Women and three children's books [Brown All Over, Bold Nia Marie Passes the Test, and coauthor of Dr. King Is Tired, Too!! (A Family's Walk)]. She is founder of the Vanilla Bowman Foundation for Educational Impact based in Georgia and the Carolinas to provide collaborative educational support for families with a focus on women and youth.

"Arresting and characteristically brilliant, Light and Legacies is a gem. With an impressive wide-ranging scope and exquisite approach—weaving personal storytelling and poetics with rigorous analysis of texts, cultural production, aesthetics, and movements, this is a supremely breathtaking contribution to Black Girlhood Studies and tribute to Black girls and women."—Trimiko Melancon, professor of African American and African studies, Michigan State University, and author of Unbought and Unbiased: Transgressive Black Women, Sexuality, and Representation

"Light and Legacies exemplifies what it means to hold Black girls and Black girlhood warmly and with incisive intentionality. Janaka Bowman Lewis masterfully explores contours of Black girls' lives, resistance, and possibilities and brilliantly excavates Black girl mattering. With beautiful prose and impeccable attention to the archive of representation, Lewis gifts us one of the most engaging and rigorous texts in the growing field of Black girlhood studies."—Treva B. Lindsey, professor of Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies, The Ohio State Univeristy, and author of America Goddam: Violence, Black Women, and the Struggle for Justice and Colored No More: Reinventing Black Womanhood in Washington, DC

"Dr. Janaka Bowman Lewis's thoughtful consideration of narratives of Black girlhood is as thoroughly researched as it is elegantly crafted. With a deep and wide-ranging archive of material—from early African American writing through the 21st century and examining fiction, poetry, and visual texts—this study offers clarifying insights to the ways that representations of Black girlhood operate not only as freedom narratives but also as depictions of self-recognition, self-construction, and cultural and political development. Framed through an intimate writing style that blends personal narrative with critical analysis, Dr. Bowman Lewis's study is a must-read for scholars and students of Black literature, Black history, and anyone seeking a deeper understanding of not only the answers but also the deep abiding questions that are revealed when we attend to the ways that Black girls 'Live, Shine, and Play.'"—McKinley Melton, associate professor of English, Gettysburg College

Books, News & Resources!

Sign up to receive updates on new books, promotions, and USC Press news.