Analyses of the lives of black women in the United States often focus on narratives of struggle and sorrow, as black women must contend daily with the intersecting oppressions of sexism and racism. However, in her new book The Pursuit of Happiness: Black Women, Diasporic Dreams, and the Politics of Emotional Transnationalism
(Duke University Press, 2018), Bianca Williams
offers her readers a different starting point by asking: What about Black women’s experiences of happiness, pleasure, leisure, desire, travel? This book follows the journeys of middle-aged Black women who travel from the US to Jamaica, often many times over, on trips organized by Girlfriend Tours International. These women are seeking to fulfill diasporic dreams of finding connections with other people of African descent even as they hope to experience respite from the everyday realities of racism in the US and a fuller sense of freedom to express and care for themselves. Williams traces the complicated threads of these women’s emotional lives and relationships through a multi-sited ethnography that includes various places within Jamaica and the US as well as online sites where travelers share their stories of journeys to Jamaica. This book will be of interest to readers in a variety of fields, including Black feminist studies, diaspora and transnational studies, affect studies, and the anthropology of tourism and mobility.
Dannah Dennis is an anthropologist currently working as a Teaching Fellow at New York University Shanghai. You can find her on Twitter @dannahdennis.