Sistah Vegan: A bunch of inarticulate black women vegans?

I found this new review of Sistah Vegan quite interesting: URL: http://astripedarmchair.wordpress.com/

Apparently, the reviewer didn’t like the “unprofessional” writing style of the contributors and feels that it makes sense that the writers aren’t writing professionally because they are only “vegans” and not “professional writers.” And what an interesting conclusion, given that this reviewer has no idea that many of these contributors consider themselves “professional” writers (and well, some don’t) The reviewer writes:

That being said, I found the collection to incredibly uneven. I think to a certain extent all anthologies suffer from this, but it’s heightened here by the fact that none of the contributors are professional writers. They’re vegans in all kinds of work, which is great from a well-rounded background perspective, but not so great from a reading one. While some of the essays inspired me, and even brought me to tears, with their lyrical writing, some of the other ones made me want to break out my red pen and edit like there was no tomorrow. Most fell in the middle of the continuum, but the very middle of the book felt especially weak, and after a couple back-to-back essays I briefly considered giving up. I’m glad I stuck with it, though, since the final few essays were some of the best! Anyway, my point is that this is a book you read for the ideas, not for the writing. Source: http://astripedarmchair.wordpress.com/

It’s amazing how such a comment is not objective, but actually reflects the “writing education” of a white middle class American who doesn’t realize the there are a plethora of different styles of writing and that just because it doesn’t parallel hers, shouldn’t be dismissed. And notice how she tells her audience that they SHOULD read Food Matters instead of Sistah Vegan if they want to learn more about food issues and conscious eating. Sistah Vegan project is about how race-conscious approach affects eating and relationships to eating (in this case, vegan eating).

I also have explained the Sistah Vegan Project thousands of times now these past 5 years: it’s not about if one SHOULD be a vegan or not. I have explained numerous times that the project is an example of how racialized-gender experience in the USA affects how one understands and comes to their food practice. In the case of Sistah Vegan, I’m looking at how vegan philosophy is affected by the racial-gender experience of Black women in the USA who are ‘race-conscious’ in a way that is absent from popular vegan books such as Kind Diet, Quantum Wellness, and Skinny Bitch, as well as omnivorous books such as Omnivore’s Dilemma and movies like Food Inc.


However, the reviewer’s  reading of Sistah Vegan is reduced to (and this is my interpretation of the covert message of her analysis): a bunch of inarticulate black women who don’t know how to write and need a good editor and that you’re better off reading a “professional” [post-racial and class-neutral] approach to food such as Food Matters. And she is completely dismissive of the spiritual and religious roots that many of these contributors have had for transitioning into veganism; much of these women speak of spiritual roots in a more Afrikan spiritual understanding. But, it’s dismissed as “New Age”– this tells me the reviewer has no understanding of how significant spirituality has been for Black women as a way to find strength in this most difficult situations (including living in an ongoing racist America).

For people who are already contemplating cutting out animal products, especially for African American women who might worry about appearing ‘white,’ I think this is a great book. But it’s a bit too confrontational and extreme to convert the masses. Also, there are a couple essays that are very New Age, which might confirm the stereotypes that non-vegan readers have about ‘those crazy vegan people.’Source: http://astripedarmchair.wordpress.com/

Sistah Vegan is not perfect and I welcome constructive criticism, but I feel like this reviewer completely missed how her own racial, class, and gender experience informed her perception of who should write about veganism, who is considered “professional”, and what is worth reading for YOU to know about “conscious eating.”

Usually I have sat on the sidelines for the past 5 years, listening to a significant number of mostly white middle class post-racial or race-unconscious vegans misinterpret my work. But today, I do not feel like sitting on the sidelines. This review completely dismisses the intellectual contributions that these 27 black vegan women have made to a very race-neutral and class-neutral white middle class dominated movement in the USA.

And notice how she says that the audience of the book isn’t her (a white woman vegetarian), but for Black women. Well, to clarify, my book is for everyone and not for only Black Americans. She’s implying that her non-black blog readership would not enjoy reading a book about Black female vegan experiences because it’s not their experience? So, just read “Food Matters” because it’s your [race-neutral and class-neutral] experience with food reading and it’s professionally written (without all that Black vernacular).:

So! I’m delighted to have this on my shelves, but it won’t replace Food Matters as my go-to recommend book for non-vegans curious about ethical eating. If you’re already a vegan, or already interested in social justice, you’ll find much to think about in these pages. But otherwise, I’d highly recommend reading Mark Bittman’s book instead. (If I could magically make everyone in the world read one book, Food Matters would be the one.) Source: http://astripedarmchair.wordpress.com/

And exactly who has the privilege to read about food books like Food Matters if they aren’t really interested in the links social justice has to food? How is it that ethical eating is not connected to social justice anyway? (That’s how I read her take when she suggests reading Food Matters).  The reviewer does not deeply engage with the implications of how racialized consciousness inform these women’s vegan experiences, writing styles, or belief systems around food choices… and neither does she engage with the implications of how her own white racialized experience is the filter through which she analyzes Sistah Vegan.

P.S. No one is calling Eva a racist. I am trying to point out ‘raced-classed’ consciousness. If you say “I am white,” I believe (as a critical race theorist) that you are saying a lot. To become a ‘race’ (white, black, etc) in the USA atleast, means that you have gone through socialization and processes of racial formation that affect your CONSCIOUSNESS. When I say I am a black female, I know that it means I have gone through socialization, racial formation, certain embodied experiences that have brought me to where I am now with my consciousness. I have no issue with admitting up front that my discursive analysis of Eva’s review of Sistah Vegan is directly affected by my black-female working-class consciousness; race is not simply a ‘color’. Race is a psychological process; it is a socio-spatial-epistemic process. When one says they are a white woman, or a Black man and “this is my take on this or that”, that SAYS A LOT. Once again, this critique is not saying anyone is RACIST, but saying how racial formation, socialization in a country (at least the USA) built on racialized hierarchies of power, racialized spaces, etc., will literally create raced-classed-regional relationships with how one views the writing style of a book and what is considered “professional.” That lack of acknowledgment around the concept of “professional”, as well as the socio-historical context of black women being called inarticulate, unprofessional, illiterate, etc is what is under critique. The reviewer seems to be unaware of the social and historical connotation of calling a particular black writing style as unprofessional. My dialogue about this is trying to bring this to light.

0 thoughts on “Sistah Vegan: A bunch of inarticulate black women vegans?

  1. There is no engagement, period. I’m having a hard time believing that she actually read the anthology to begin with. How do you write a review that doesn’t pull quotes or focus on a section you found compelling? She presented a sweeping, generalized opinion that suggests she lacks the critical thinking skills to work through what is being presented in the anthology. Or, she is just damn lazy.

    Go and read Food Matters because it won’t make you bristle at the thought of your unconscious participation in the bullshit that is post-racial America as you bask in the privilege of your whiteness. Instead, go on and allow yourself that warm, fuzzy feeling that at the end of the day, everything is right in your world because you spent $5 on an organic heirloom tomato.

    1. And you know, usually I don’t respond to these types of reviews, but this one really got to me. I think it was her review with the combination of commenters who also didn’t seem well-versed or interested in African American rhetorical writing traditions, testimonies, and writing styles; nor do these commenters seem interested in engaging in a race and class analysis of what is means to create epistemologies of what is “good” food, and who is “professional” enough to write about it. Once again, I’m curious why a book that would need a person experienced in critical race gender studie and raced consciousness, would be assigned to a reviewer who isn’t experienced with this.

      @Michelle, this is my interpretation of how she reviewed Sistah Vegan and I am not the only one who viewed it this way. This isn’t about painting someone “in a light they don’t deserve” , but having a dialogue about issues deep issues around race that are ALWAYS silenced as soon as the status quo feels “uncomfortable” when people of color point out their “white middle class epistemic grid.”

      1. But you see, knowing Eva, she would have loved to have a good discussion on “a race and class analysis of what is means to create epistemologies of what is “good” food, and who is “professional” enough to write about it.”. And I also know that quite a number of her readership (including myself) would have been. However, a discussion is about a rational exchanging of views and not so much a “I did not like her reaction so I’m going to get defensive now”. It could have been a great discussion, but at the moment the lines seem to be drawn and there’s no getting to a discussion, there only seems to be a lot of hurt feelings on all sides.

        I am wondering about this: “Once again, I’m curious why a book that would need a person experienced in critical race gender studie and raced consciousness, would be assigned to a reviewer who isn’t experienced with this.” Do you mean that she shouldn’t have received the book for review? Because frankly, that fault lies with the publisher and whoever distributes your book and decided to make it available for review for the Green Books campaign. It seems unfair to question Eva’s abilities to understand the book, especially since she is one of the most well-read book bloggers on issues of race and inequality. And even if she were not, once you write a book you release it to the world and yes, readers will end up interpreting it on their own terms. That might make you angry, and I can understand how frustrating it must be sometimes, but there are no rules on how to read or interpret a book. Certainly, a person using words like episteme should know that..

        Or did you mean that she was in no way the “wrong” audience for this book? As you said, you believe that this book is for everyone. The thing is, I think it might be, and I think Eva’s, what you label negative, review, might have made quite a few of her readers at least curious to read more. This post however, will probably keep all of her readers from reading the book, because it shows a lot of immaturity on your part. The fact that you wrote a stellar master thesis (which I believe without a doubt) does not change the fact that it is best to ignore, or at least respond respectfully, to a “negative” review.

        1. Iris,

          I am responding to her review on my own blog and not hers. I’m wondering how that makes me immature or disrespectful? I never said the review was negative; I am simply pointing out the use of the word professional and how it needs to be unpacked, along with what she considered ‘grammatical errors’. Is the reviewer familiar with the grammar and syntax of Black English? Is the reviewer familiar with the huge difference between Afrikan spiritual practices as ways to deal with racism and find empowerment (among other things) versus “New Age” (in which she implies is ‘crazy sounding’?) It is my interpretation that her review of the book isn’t ‘negative’ but rather inaccurate because of lack of knowledge around these two issues I just pointed out.

          This is not a bashing dialogue. I am also wondering what a “respectful” response means to you? Does it mean I must use the language of the status quo so I don’t hurt the status quo’s feelings? Does it mean I must always be hyper aware of making the status quo uncomfortable and not become an “immature” or angry black woman? I am curious because I am trying to understand how responding to a book review on my own blog, trying to have what I interpret as an ‘intellectual dialogue about race’, and using critical race feminism to discursively analyze a book review of Sistah Vegan is disrespectful or immature? I have received a plethora of reviews about Sistah Vegan. This one struck me as interesting to deconstruct because of the analysis of the ‘writing style’. I am not looking for someone to say that book is perfect.

          After reading the purpose of reviewing Green books, I was under the assumption that the reviewers were assigned books to read. However, I guess I am incorrect that the books under review would be given to people who have more expertise in the subject of the book than other.

  2. I’ve been reading “the reviewer’s” blog for a long time and I have to say that she is one of the most race-conscious reviewers out there. I’m sorry you didn’t like her review, but this post paints her in a light she doesn’t deserve.

    1. Yes, she did say she liked it and I am working on a response today. It’s not about “liking” the book. It’s about being completely unaware of African American writing traditions and the socio-historical context of telling black women they sound unprofessional (which is synonymous with “inarticulate” , “ignorant”, “poorly educated,” etc). The reviewer simply doesn’t know this and why her critique on that aspect is incredibly offensive to many people of color. I am not ‘nit-picking’ but pointing out how “small” things for the status quo are “big things” for non-white racialized minorities. Hope this makes sense.

      I ended up writing my Harvard Master’s thesis about the responses white vegans had to the original call for papers for the Sistah Vegan project and their negative responses to my use of “Black English” to convey my message, back in 2005. So, I know for sure that I am not ‘looking too much into things’ :-). I received the Dean’s Award for this master’s thesis. I wanted to point this out in case people are interested in why this particular review is problematic to me. IT is called “Cyberterritories of Whiteness and Sistah Vegan Consciousness.” http://www.lulu.com/product/file-download/cyber-territories-of-whiteness-sistah-vegan-consciousness/5593429?productTrackingContext=search_results/search_shelf/center/5
      http://www.lulu.com/product/file-download/cyber-territories-of-whiteness-sistah-vegan-consciousness/5593429?productTrackingContext=search_results/search_shelf/center/5

  3. When white people say stuff like, “It does sound like it has a rather niche audience. The grammatical errors would probably get on my nerves too,” about content created by black people, it can come off as, “this [content] isn’t relevant and therefore inferior.”

    Add that to, “yeah, I wouldn’t read it because it might make be bristle”? Really? So, every experience you engage in has to cater to your ego, to what makes you comfortable? Where is the growth and development in that?

    This is the problem of whiteness as “the norm”, where, for example, in a mainstream movie, if the male lead is white, he is “relatable” to all audiences, but, if the male lead is black, then, it’s a movie for black people and white people are less likely to see it.

    And please, if you are a white person responding specifically to this example, save us all from the agony of having to explain to you why using Will Smith or a Tyler Perry movie as your “see, I like black people” example is incredibly offensive by not responding.

    1. Do you KNOW how many times I’ve seen book reviewers comment about the writing or the grammatical errors of WHITE people?? It’s not just because they are black…pisspoor writing is pisspoor writing. I don’t care who you are.

      1. Yes, that may be true, but when comments about grammar and writing style are made when the author is a person of color, there are racist and classist historical contexts and weight to those statements, no matter what the author’s intention. White authors may have their grammar commented on by white reviewers, but they don’t also have to deal with underlying racist and/or classist assumptions about intelligence or the need for a “niche” audience, etc. Color-blindness only works if you refuse to acknowledge the history that has informed the racist stereotypes and tropes that still persist today.

        1. I have found that white folk in the USA collectively are not as racial-relations/racial conscious/racialized history literate as the collectivity of black people in the USA. This is not my opinion; it is a fact backed up by numerous peer reviewed chapters, books, and journal articles dedicated to studies about race. Hence, there is a lack of nuanced understanding of how certain words and phrases have racialized histories, connotations, etc., that DO NOT MIRROR THE WHITE MIDDLE CLASSED experience/consciousness. It’s quite disappointing but not shocking.

    2. Its the same with female leads. If its a movie with a male lead, its promoted a family ok movie, while if theres a female lead, its a ‘womans movie’.White heterosexual men arent stimulated to have empathy for the issues of women, black other races, or not-heterosexuals, while everyone else do is stimulated to have empathy with *their* white, male, heterosexual issues.. It is how the elite keeps control by subconsciously brainwashing people into thinking that “white, male, heterosexual” is the norm..

  4. Putting the words ‘inarticulate black woman vegans’ into the reviewer’s mouth is unjust. As a book reviewer, Eva looks for quality of both content and writing. She enjoyed the content of this book but felt that the quality of style was lacking. It is her right to hold that opinion, and one would hope that she could hold all books to the same standard of quality without being labeled a racist.

    Eva is one of the most race-conscious book reviewers on the Internet. I can see how this review would have upset you, given the amount of effort both you and the contributors have put into the book, but a better response would have been to contact Eva directly to point out how the things she said were offensive to you. Instead, you are reviewing her review with the same lack of insight that you accuse her of having.

    1. Umm, WHAT?

      Did Eva contact the editor, the publisher, any ONE of us contributors? Um, NO. So, why is it her or any of our responsibility to contact Eva directly?

      In one sentence Eva has the right to her opinion and in the next Breeze loses the right to hers because, why, she didn’t agree with what was being written?

      That makes sense to you?

      Is it possible for you to understand that the same way you are reading into Breeze’s response is the same way Breeze, myself, or any other reader might find the review insensitive and offensive?

      No one is calling Eva racist. AT ALL.

      But it was easy for you to put that word in Breeze’s mouth while at the same time calling out “inarticulate black woman” as “unjust”.

      So tell me, then, what, exactly, is the opposite of “not professional writers”. Because, I could take that to mean, inarticulate.

      1. Difference: The post was QUOTING things that she supposedly said. I’m not a professional by any means but I know that when you quote something in this manner you are generally signifying that these are the words coming from the source. You can say whatever you damn well please but nobody is quoting the things that they are taking from what you are saying and making them look like that is in fact what you said.

      2. I’m talking about this:

        However, the reviewer’s reading of Sistah Vegan is reduced to a “bunch of inarticulate black women who don’t know how to write and need a good editor” and that you’re better off reading a “professional” [post-racial and class-neutral] approach to food such as Food Matters.

        It makes it seem like it was her final thought. No need for quotes there.

      3. The opposite of ‘not professional writers’ is ‘professional writers.’ I’m not sure what that question has to do with anything.

        Breeze can say whatever she wants, because this is her blog and the Internet is a free sandbox. But as I understand it, the point of this post was to say ‘This review is offensive and this is why.’ I feel like that subject could better be addressed between Breeze and Eva. The point of a book review is to let your readers know your personal, subjective opinion of a book. Objectivity with regards to works of art is impossible.

        It’s true that Eva could have contacted contributors to see if what she regarded as flaws were stylistic choices. Different forms of media have different stylistic rules – no one faults poetry for having nonstandard punctuation, for example – and it may be that Eva was unaware of the intention of certain pieces.

        I don’t see how it makes Breeze’s original post fair to say that I’m doing to her what she did to Eva. If you are angry because I am misreading Breeze’s post, why are you not angry that Breeze misread Eva’s?

  5. You freely admit that, in order to understand the anthology, you need to have a grasp on socio-historical, cultural, gendered, post-colonial ideas, but when the reviewer admits that she’s reading the book purely as a part-time vegan and that she doesn’t have the kind of background that would give her (in your opinion) a more thorough viewpoint, you still manage to bash her for not getting it.

    Would you limit the readership of your book to only those people that “get it” so you don’t have the task of trying to educate someone that went to the trouble of actually reading your book, but isn’t fully educated about all the pertinant aspects of its background? That seems awfully narrow-minded.

    She read and reviewed the book fairly, and her assestment is based on her own interpretation. Which, yes, is based on socialized norms. But we all have those working against us and her criticisms are based on the writing, not her idea of what black women should sound like.

    I’ve been reading her for a long time, and I’ve never ever known her to make judgements in such a way. You are being incredibly unfair to a reviewer that read and judged your book in the very best way she knew how.

    1. I disagree that Breeze’s post and comments are bashing the reviewer. She has also said many times here and in other places that this book is for everyone, not just for people who “get it.”

      In my opinion, one thing the original post gets at is the set of unspoken assumptions behind the standard of “professional” writing. The standard on which the reviewer is apparently judging the writing, in my opinion, favors a voice which happens to reflect a privileged white background. It seems to me that one purpose of this post is to bring that into the light.

      Another purpose of the post, as I see it, is to point out that the the book’s most important messages have been lost in the review. Some have been dismissed altogether as “New Age”. It seems in the end as if Eva read it mostly as a book about vegan advocacy, which it’s not. To me, it’s really telling that she says it’s “way too confrontational to convert the masses” (to veganism). That’s not at all the intent of the writing, as I see it. Furthermore this strikes me as a deflection to bring the discussion back to more familiar, safer territory and away from less comfortable issues surrounding race and privilege. It’s not that Eva doesn’t have positive things to say, and I don’t get the impression that this post expresses anger towards the reviewer. To me it’s pointing out ways voices that don’t “sound white” or tell the stories folks are comfortable hearing are dismissed even in “fair” reviews.

      1. I acknowledge, too, that my own privileges have shaped my consciousness as well: white, male, middle class, among other privileges. Questioning the “hidden” assumptions and challenging privilege is not being unfair to anyone, as I see it.

  6. You are using a lot of quotation marks here and most of the quotations I can’t find in the original article. Book reviewers that are bloggers are not Kirkus. It is about recommending books to others that have found you and you have the same reading styles. The reviewer didn’t say half of the things you quoted and this whole article makes me see the book as unprofessional now. For someone who edited an anthology that is supposed to celebrate you have undermined that celebration with your inaccurate quotes and negativity in this post.

  7. I read the review in question and I have to say that I think you all are completely off-based with your take on this review. I read the blog in question on occasion and I clearly didn’t glean the same attitude as you. I think that if the book were written by a bunch of white women that she would have said the same thing regarding the fact that the writers seemed to be unprofessional. You should probably read other reviews she’s written about books from all races and genders and you’d see that she isn’t what you are painting her out to be. That’s where I think you are being incredibly petty. Sorry, she didn’t think your book was perfect. She certainly didn’t bash it.

    The funny thing? I read her review and was intrigued, knowing none of this was happening on your blog, and decided to Google this project and this is what I find….this speaks volumes more to being unprofessional than your writing does to me. Stop being petty. It’s one reviewer’s opinion and if your book is quality than this one review isn’t going to matter. You honestly are reading into that review way more than you should be. She’s not out to get you. I also love the generalizations you make of her as well—clearly a middle class educated woman. Oh well, it’s too bad you won’t be getting a sale from me or the recommendation to my vegan friends. I was genuinely interested until I saw how you bashed this person.

    1. This is the trouble with not recognizing the way that race, class, privilege, and geography inform our perceptions.

      No one is bashing Eva. We’re not even all that interested in whether or not anyone buys the book.

      What we are interested in is why, the moment that we call out “normative whiteness” that white people get offended and uncomfortable and assume that black people are calling them racist.

      It’s OK for you to have a different opinion of the review from me or anyone else.

      But it’s interesting that you miss the entire point of Breeze’s response.

      We engage in critical thought and analysis around rood, race, society, culture, and all its intersections on this blog.

      It is not pretty – in fact, it gets down right ugly.

      But that’s the only way to truly have a dialogue about race and class in this country, to get uncomfortable, to get angry, to cry, to get ugly.

      If you don’t understand how your privilege – be it white, middle class, education, all of it – shapes your perception of something like this review, then, you’ll never get it, and you will have wasted your money if you purchased the book anyway.

      1. I’m not sure you know my background as I didn’t state it…

        I don’t disagree with you that those things shape the way that we might read something or perceive it. I don’t take issue with that. However, I don’t think that these remarks that she made were because she was white and you all were black. I’ve reviewed a book where I thought it seemed like the person wasn’t a professional writer by trade, as they weren’t, and I have no clue what race they were to be honest with you. It was just an observation..it has nothing to do with what race I am or my background. If your book was just about veganism and didn’t identify with any race or anything but was experiences written by a variety of vegans..I’m sure she would have probably perceived it in the same way.

        1. Hi Jamie,

          It’s not about making a remark because she is white and the writers are black. It’s about not understanding how whiteness as the norm makes it impossible for someone with a white racialized consciousness to be objective when speaking on or about POCs.

          It’s about not clarifying why she believed the writers to be “unprofessional”, and about how that lack of clarification can imply a lack of contextual awareness with regard to a white person reviewing a nonwhite person’s work. If the reviewer and the writer were of the same ethnicity, then, we might not be having this conversation.

          But, as a POC living in a world that continues to determine what is professional and what is a standard based on “normative whiteness”, her remarks are problematic.

          This book is SPECIFICALLY about a black female vegan experience.

          All of the responses to this book will inform Breeze’s critical race theory and food research work.

          Sistah Vegan was created for that purpose.

          And again, it is not our intention to attack anyone.

          And, we have not called Eva racist.

          I’m not even sure people understand what racism is and what it means to be racist.

  8. I’m writing to voice my support for Sistah Vegan and stand by this work.

    I am not familiar with Eva’s other writing, but based on this example I am surprised by other commenters’ claim that she is “one of the most race-conscious book reviewers”. What does this mean? In my opinion the privileged white, middle class assumptions that inform her review glaringly highlight how *unconscious* she is in this particular case. Her dismissal of the style of Sistah Vegan, her assumption that none of the contributors are professional writers, and her conclusion that this “fact” is the reason behind the “incredibly uneven” quality of the collection, all indicate to me at the very least that she is judging by a “standard” based on privileged white values and consistent with privileged white voices– and if only the contributors or editors had adopted a “cultured, civilized, educated, polished” = white voice, the book would have been received more favorably. Finally, in my opinion, her dismissive assessment that it is “way too confrontational to convert the masses” only demonstrates yet again the ways in which whiteness functions to assert control over the dialogue and re-assert the race, class and other privileges of the dominant group.

    As others have said, this is not to bash the reviewer. I merely wish to point out that the reviewer’s reference point in this instance is, in my opinion, strongly anchored to privileged, white, “mainstream” values.

    I thank the writers for all their hard work, for collaborating on a truly important book of many voices each with their own wonderful style and story, and for their advocacy. Sistah Vegan is a blessing to us all!

    1. I want to follow this up by saying that my take on the post, and the comments from Breeze and Melissa, is not that these are judgments or accusations aimed at the reviewer. In my opinion these are frank assessments of how voices perceived as “non-white” are swept aside in the context of what seems like a “fair review”.

      In addition it strikes me that they are getting at how the real message of the book has been filtered out here. This in itself is an extremely significant point. It isn’t a book *about* vegan advocacy. Perhaps the reviewer is very concerned about issues of race, class and privilege. But in this case, it seems like she fails to acknowledge that (from the website itself) Sistah Vegan “explores food politics, identity, sexuality, health, womanism, feminism, decolonization, anti-racism, eco-sustainability, and animal rights through the lens of the black female vegan experience in the USA.” Comparing it to a book like Food Matters misses the point entirely, in my opinion.

    2. Knoing theres such a thing as ‘white privilege’ it would have been a helpful thing if there actually was an explanation of this phenomenon in the book, so white people who read it could become aware of it. Most white people arent aware of ‘white privilege’, just like most men arent aware of ‘male privilege’ and most heterosexuals arent aware of ‘heterosexual privilege’ (but it does exist). Personally I found this website very useful to understand ‘white privilege’ much better, and to be more aware of it in the future.

  9. Melissa and Tim–thank you!
    As I was reading this post and the comments that followed my heart began to sink into my stomach. I am glad that both of you were able to clearly articulate what Breeze is actually trying to say and what people seem to be disregarding or overlooking. This string of comments is a perfect of example of what has been and continues to be so problematic in our society today. No one is attacking anyone here, but for some reason most people cannot seem to maintain a calm mind and articulate intelligent and well thought out ideas/arguments or try to understand the true meaning/implications of the words being used. In fact, some of the ignorance and hostility on this page…frankly, it disturbs me. But, it’s typical and it’s expected.
    And I think these comments are important to highlight for that very reason–this is going to allow for meaningful and progressive discussions to take place among people who are truly committed to critical race theory etc.

    I am so happy that a book like Sistah Vegan exists– I just presented it to my colleagues in my Food Justice workshop at my university.

    Thank you, Breeze!!

  10. Wow, to hear people getting so upset at the slightest implication that Eva could be–gasp–racist, and leaping to her defense against the “uppity,” “angry” black women! And weird misunderstandings of the use of quotation marks, like they can only ever be used for a direct quote and not when you are characterizing someone else’s idea that you don’t agree with (which is why you put it in quotes or hold up your hands and curl your first 2 fingers on each hand); see my examples of both uses in the previous sentence.

    I am white and nerdy like Eva, and I even have fibromyalgia, but I’m not from Texas and I do label myself vegan. I don’t have anything too articulate to add to this discussion (sorry, fellow white people), except I want to share an excerpt of a review of “Food Matters” that complains about its BAD EDITING and NOT BEING PROFESSIONAL. Hahahah! The irony!

    A polemic screed with a fad diet, September 10, 2009
    By Dave Barnes (Denver, CO United States) – See all my reviews
    (REAL NAME)
    This review is from: Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating with More Than 75 Recipes (Hardcover)
    The first 110 pages of this book are a polemic screed against BIG FOOD and an acquiescent government. It is very repetitive and a good editor could have condensed down to 10 pages. There is a complete lack of supporting data and zero footnotes.
    Then the diet starts to make an appearance. Again and again.

    The 180+ pages of recipes are useless as there is not one image. If you are trying to convince people to embark on a new diet, then photos of attractive food would seem to be a requirement in my opinion.

    What we have here is cost cutting carried to an extreme. No editing and no photos.

    Don’t waste your money on this book.

  11. Breeze, more strength to you and thank you for speaking out! The review IS written from a privileged standpoint and indeed smacks racism-plain and simple. No need for apologetics.

  12. for starters, i just wanted to say i love coming to this blog, and it’s nice in this particular post, to read the reactions of various people. i always learn something new.

    it’s interesting, i’ve been reading books about black language (Black English Vernacular, Ebonics, etc.) and how, many a times, people set up hierarchies of….intelligence and sophistication based on one’s language. the meandering of language is something that is universal, and to regard “black talk” as “unprofessional” says volumes about the individual making that statement. no, it isn’t “professional”, when our definition of “professional” is and has been for centuries held up to a Eurocentric barometer. i think it says something about Eva’s capacity to understand and critique concepts, ideas, and arguments. if anything is “petty”, it’s the criticism on grammar as opposed to the concepts and arguments. if you watch or read The Color Purple, and your main criticism is about Celie and Shug’s southern black vernacular, then you have already missed the point.
    i read the review in its entirety, and i think it missed the point of the book completely. using the term “social issues” to refer to the plethora of issues discussed in the book sounds to me like someone who knows that there are issues, but doesn’t in the slightest understand them, much less the desire to understand them. and i think that is why this “review” from Eva should never have been published. it’s an uninformed opinion at best. as opposed to writing reviews on books with concepts she has yet to fully grasp, Eva could benefit from reading more books on the subject of feminism, racism, classism and the like. also, i did not get the impression that this was bashing Eva. confrontational? yes. it should be. it’s the only way to discuss these types of societal problems.

  13. Whether or not the writings are grammatically correct holds no weight to the fact that our stories, experiences, walks, journies, and just being needs to be told. I’m sure that she would probaly rip me about for that sentence. Our words through expression must be told. I don’t care if it’s writen in paint, crayon, or magic marker with run-on sentences and comma splices; we still have a voice. Thank you so much for the experience. Now tell her she can come here and spell check me!

  14. As soon as the reviewer recognizes that she is not the “target audience” is when I started to get edgy reading this review. There are many books where an individual reader is about the target audience. She also doesn’t specify which selections made her feel that it was an uneven collection. I’m wondering what is “a professional writer” anyway? For me, reading “Sistah Vegan” delved into the ethical, cultural, and political reasons that could persuade black people to give up the diet that leads to unhealthy communities and creating different food attainment models in “food deserts.” Some of the pieces are written in the vernacular, and not the terms that I’ve seen many other books and films walk their audiences through like pre-schoolers who need repetition. Although there are some good points in Mark Bittman’s book “Food Matters,” it’s not as comprehensive as Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” or Tracye Lynn McQuirter’s “By Any Greens Necessary.”

  15. I agree with Brown V – really I do. But I also think there are some situations where you need to clean up the grammatical errors and the crayon in order for people to take you seriously. To publish your writing, to walk into a job interview, to give a speech, etc – there is a level of professionalism you need to perform at in order for people to listen to you, to hear your voice. Is the level of professionalism defined by white people? I don’t know – you can say that if you like – maybe it is. You can say that I consider it “common sense” because I’m white – that you shouldn’t show up to a job interview with facial piercings and you shouldn’t publish a book with grammatical errors – that it’s not “common sense” to other people – it’s infringing on their culture to set those standards. (And if that’s the case, how do you set any standards at all? How do you make any laws or rules at all?) But maybe you just need to realize how you’re going to be perceived – unfair as it might be!! – and get help fixing the grammar so that people HEAR the message behind the grammar. Put the suit on for the job interview – even if that’s not “you” at all – put up the facade so people will at least give you a chance to speak — THEN floor them with what you have to say. But don’t go in looking like a fool and expect everyone to overlook the foolishness. If you want to make a change and be heard, you’ve got to look and act your best FIRST. After you EARN people’s respect, they will be more willing to overlook your eccentricities, differences, or shortcomings.

  16. Is this level of professionalism defined by white people? absolutely! The fact that you don’t know this clearly shapes your perspective.

    1. This is in my pre-order amazon queue:

      http://www.remote-sensing.routledge.com/books/details/9780415888653/

      It is called Reading, Writing, and the Rhetorics of Whiteness. It doesn’t come out until August, but this is the type of book I’d refer folk to who really don’t understand how normative whiteness shapes the accepted logic of what is ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ writing, communication, etc.

      Here is the description of the book:

      Ryden and Marshall bring together the critical lenses of whiteness studies and the field of composition and rhetoric in this timely co-authored study about recent developments in whiteness studies and what these developments mean for literacy practices, critical education, and the academic profession.

      Looking back at the recent decades’ interdisciplinary work in this area, the authors apply the foundational insights of critical whiteness studies (the constructed nature of race and the invisible normativity of whiteness, for example) to rhetoric, the teaching of writing, and critical pedagogy to reveal the imbeddedness of whiteness in American cultural practices and attitudes. Similarly, Ryden and Marshall use rhetoric to analyze the disciplinary study of whiteness itself. Specifically, they examine the antiracist agenda that critical whiteness theory has foregrounded and consider its application to writing studies and critical pedagogy. From the standpoint of cultural rhetoric, the two review how whiteness scholarship both advances and limits the project of antiracism.

      Source: http://www.remote-sensing.routledge.com/books/details/9780415888653/

  17. Whatever one thinks about a particular review, I think it makes one sound like a “sore loser” to respond to a review of one’s own work. One’s work should stand on it’s own terms. If one can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.*

    *Does this cliche have sexist connotations?

  18. Breeze, I’m a grad student in Australia doing my PhD on whiteness and its relationship with hip hop culture. I’m also a vegan and stumbled upon your book last year – and I’m so glad I did. The stories, journeys, and philosophies presented in idiosyncratic voices are amongst the best testimonials of veganism that I have ever encountered. Shame on this reviewer for being so short sighted in her assessment of what “proper” or “professional” writing should be. As an Australian I come up against U.S. academic rhetoric “norms” on a regular basis and am often frustrated that my natural (and educated!) manner of expression is deemed unsuitable simply because it does not conform to the establishment. My whole interest in whiteness studies is its investigation of this baffling, prevailing presumption of universality that still defines much of our world, whether African American communities or coastal Australia. I’d like to note that I am white and, contrary to this reviewer’s assumptions, benefitted enormously from the insights offered in Sistah Vegan. So thank you to everyone who contributed, and I hope that dialogues such as those presented in the collection continue and flourish despite opposition.

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