NOBODY KNOWS THE TROUBLE I’VE SEEN

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Burnett-Zeigler sets out to “examine the parts of the strong Black woman prototype that continue to serve us—such as compassion, loving care for others, community orientation, determination, resilience, self-assuredness, faith in God, joyfulness—while leaving behind the parts that no longer serve us—suppressing emotion, denying our needs, [and] being reluctant to set boundaries.” Religion is central to the author’s view of Black women and her worldview in general. She describes her own experience of becoming a Christian in detail, and across the 256-page text, the word “God” appears more than 60 times. She notes that 83% of Black adults say that they believe in God, and 73% say that they pray daily. Her narrative is rife with platitudes (“we have to wipe our tears aside and keep it moving”) and generalizations that exclude many nonreligious Black women: “Above all, [Black women] never forget to give praise and honor to God for all that He has done for them.” In one shocking passage, the author presents Halle Berry’s suicidal thoughts as a cautionary tale, with suicide and loss of faith in God deemed “one of the deadliest sins in the Black community.” To write that “Scripture also promises punishment if one harms oneself” reads as harsh and—especially coming from a mental health professional—irresponsible. Conspicuously absent is any mention of sex other than sexual trauma, violence, and dysfunction, and Burnett-Zeigler also ignores Black LGBQT+ women: “Today’s strong Black women are climbing professional ladders, while also taking care of their husbands, children, and extended family members.” Some Black Christian heterosexual women may find encouragement and validation in these pages, but this “guidebook for healing” offers more proselytizing than comfort.

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