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The first half of the book is devoted to influential works of fiction, as Henderson offers a series of spirited, attentive readings of works by Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, Sherley Anne Williams, Toni Morrison, Gayl Jones, and Nella Larsen. The second half shifts gears to consider the world of female African American performance, most notably in the figures of Josephine Baker and the video dancer. Drawing on the trope of "dancing diaspora," Henderson proposes a model of theorizing based on "performing testimony" and "critical witnessing." Throughout the book, Henderson draws on a history of black women not only in the Pentecostal Holiness Church, but also within the traditions of classical, Christian, African, and black diasporic spirituality and performance. Ultimately, Speaking in Tongues and Dancing Diaspora provides a deeply felt reflection on race and gender and their effects within the discourses of speaker/listener and audience/performer.
Mae G. Henderson is Professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is editor of Black Queer Studies: A Critical Anthology (2005), Borders, Boundaries and Frames (1995), and co-editor (with John Blassingame) of the five-volume Antislavery Newspapers and Periodicals: An Annotated Index of Letters, 1817-1871 (1980).