Sheri Parks’ book “Fierce Angels” Released to Accolades

Associate Professor of American Studies Sheri L. Parks’ new book, “Fierce Angels: The Strong Black Woman in American Life and Culture,” was released in late March by Random House and has received strong reviews from news organizations across the country.

American Studies Professor Sheri Parks can tell you what a flight of love, commitment, and editing her book has been; but, as of a few weeks ago, the Fierce Angels have landed. Fierce Angels: The Strong Black Woman in American Life and Culture began as her latest research project, exploring the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, identity, popular culture, and the collective unconscious through the mythology of the eponymous Strong Black Woman. Perhaps you attended a reading of the original manuscript by Professor Parks last year when the research and writing process were drawing to a close. However, as Professor Parks explains, “the book just didn‘t want to be an academic book.”

A book on cultural mythology comes with a mythology of its own. At the 2009 American Studies Association national meeting, Professor Parks was chatting with a former student of the graduate program about the book. She shared the internal struggle that she was having: she read her book to a public audience who so deeply identified with the intellectual work that she was doing – but in an academic language for which they were not the audience. In grappling with what seemed like an incommensurable tension, her former student gave the book new direction: if the book doesn‘t want to be an academic book, then why force it to be one?

From November until March, Professor Parks abandoned the strong interest of an academic press and instead set out on the task of transforming her research project into a pleasurable but poignant read. Though a section here and there ended up on the cutting room floor, the book itself already appears to be making an impact. In her review of the book, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Essence Magazine and the Founder and CEO of the National CARES Mentoring Movement Susan L. Taylor said “Fierce Angels opens wide a window on black female power: both the reverence for it and what it has wrought. I want every black woman—and those who care about black women and want to understand us more deeply—to be as nourished as I was by the reading of this book and its revelations. Professor Parks has also been interviewed by NPR about the work, and was featured in a March 21 book review in The Washington Post. The book is published by One World/Ballantine, a division of Random House. If you ask kindly, maybe Professor Parks will sign your copy!