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Grounds of EngagementApartheid-Era African American and South African Writing$
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Stéphane Robolin

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780252039478

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252039478.001.0001

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Cultivating Correspondences; or, Other Gestures of Belonging

Cultivating Correspondences; or, Other Gestures of Belonging

(p.103) Chapter 4 Cultivating Correspondences; or, Other Gestures of Belonging
Grounds of Engagement

Stéphane Robolin

University of Illinois Press

Transnationalism is not the exclusive province of globe-trotting authors, but also includes the practices of those who could not access the means of transatlantic mobility. This chapter begins by considering Bessie Head's exilic life and her quest for belonging that motivated the grounded transnationalism she expressed. It then investigates one of its most exemplary practices: her letter writing, with particular attention to the set of letters between Head and her four African American correspondents: Nikki Giovanni, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Michelle Cliff. Some of their epistolary exchanges and writing published around the same period feature repeated references to gardens, whose political and imaginative implications are considered at length. The chapter concludes by framing the practice of letter writing as a form of cultivation that re-centers our attention on the labor that transnational engagement requires, even as it yields a whole spectrum of outcomes.

Keywords:   transnationalism, Bessie Head, letter writing, Nikki Giovanni, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Michelle Cliff, gardens, transnational engagement

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