Ezili′s Mirrors

Imagining Black Queer Genders

Book Pages: 264 Illustrations: 8 photographs Published: February 2018

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Religious Studies

From the dagger mistress Ezili Je Wouj and the gender-bending mermaid Lasiren to the beautiful femme queen Ezili Freda, the Ezili pantheon of Vodoun spirits represents the divine forces of love, sexuality, prosperity, pleasure, maternity, creativity, and fertility. And just as Ezili appears in different guises and characters, so too does Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley in her voice- and genre-shifting, exploratory book Ezili's Mirrors. Drawing on her background as a literary critic as well as her quest to learn the lessons of her spiritual ancestors, Tinsley theorizes black Atlantic sexuality by tracing how contemporary queer Caribbean and African American writers and performers evoke Ezili. Tinsley shows how Ezili is manifest in the work and personal lives of singers Whitney Houston and Azealia Banks, novelists Nalo Hopkinson and Ana Lara, performers MilDred Gerestant and Sharon Bridgforth, and filmmakers Anne Lescot and Laurence Magloire—none of whom identify as Vodou practitioners. In so doing, Tinsley offers a model of queer black feminist theory that creates new possibilities for decolonizing queer studies.


"Ezili’s Mirrors thoroughly and carefully mines the utility and uniqueness of multiple spiritual and thought traditions, aesthetics, and sources of knowledge. . .. Ezili’s Mirrors is important because through it Tinsley shows us ways that black femme life and black queer life exists and asserts itself as other than the abject, the undesirable, the inappropriate, and the excessive." — Alexandria Smith, The New Inquiry

"I have longed for a book as daring as Ezili's Mirrors." — Meredith Coleman-Tobias, Reading Religion

"Tinsley’s black queer, post-colonial work of Vodou theology refuses to be easily categorized. A combination of social theory, black history, and highly poetic prose, her analysis deconstructs and reconstructs black queerness through 'theoretical polyamory' (author’s term), which she uses to trace relationships with several Vodoun spirits of Ezili. . . . An unapologetically difficult and deeply rewarding read for those interested in any intersection of the above topics, and especially in decolonizing reality." — WATER

"Tinsley weaves feeling and sensation through her words. . . . By showing gender not through the matrix of heteronormativity but through performances of attachment to things not seen, especially the spiritual and the ancestral, Tinsley makes gender an extension of black diasporic practices of survival. Explicitly ignoring shame and focusing on multiple forms of pleasure and connection, Tinsley shows how creative gender-making can be a site of healing and black feminist theorizing." — Amber Jamilla Musser, TDR: The Drama Review

"This pathbreaking work prompts Black feminist and queer diaspora scholars to use their academic training not as an endpoint, but as a point of departure, emboldening scholars to turn to whatever sources that are necessary to write books that will sustain alternative forms of knowing under increasing conditions of precarity in Black queer diasporic lives, loves, and labor." — Darius Bost, The Black Scholar

"Once in a great while, a gem of a book comes along. It is not only elegantly written and astutely composed, compellingly and courageously argued, but it also opens up new and generative ways of looking at the African diaspora and the disciplines devoted to its study. I am talking about Tinsley’s Ezili’s Mirrors. I read the book with intense joy, on many levels: its theoretical polyamory, its dazzling methodology, its engrossing narrations, and the different senses it calls on." — Gloria Wekker, TSQ

“Ambitious and iconoclastic, Ezili’s Mirrors is truly a work ‘for the children.’ . . . Those who come after her—mutivariegated, sparkling black women and femmes, striving to create an academy that more closely resembles them—will benefit from the opening Tinsley has rent in the fabric of academic writing convention.”

— Marina Magloire, New West Indian Guide

“Tinsley’s commitment to [Vodou/Vodoo epistemology] as method makes Ezili’s Mirrors a valuable model for thinking black [trans] gender, because it insists that everyday black diasporic ways of knowing—‘not queer theory, not gender politics’ (4)—make black gender creativity possible and, as a result, are how black gender should be known.”

— Cameron Awkward-Rich, American Quarterly

“Ambitious and iconoclastic, Ezili’s Mirrors is truly a work ‘for the children’ (p. 187). Those who come after her—mutivariegated, sparkling black women and femmes, striving to create an academy that more closely resembles them—will benefit from the opening Tinsley has rent in the fabric of academic writing conventions.” — Marina Magloire, Asian Journal of Social Science

"Ezili's Mirrors makes an original contribution to the development of the field of queer black religion and to the ways in which this scholarship has a wider, public impact in the representation and self-understanding of queer-of-color spiritual communities whose members experience lives of constant fragmentation and recomposition daily, globally." — Roberto Strongman, GLQ

“Challenging traditional reading practices so as to generate original and convincing comparative analyses, Ezili’s Mirrors is at once an extraordinary piece of scholarship and a true work of art.” — Kaiama L. Glover, author of Haiti Unbound: A Spiralist Challenge to the Postcolonial Canon

“In this utterly original and necessary work Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley reorients the study of Ezili’s spiritual, philosophical, and material corpus in ways that offer new understandings of blackness and black feminism. This magisterial achievement looks to the future—toward Tinsley’s daughter, and the students who will no doubt take this work as a new holy text.” — Jafari Allen, author of ¡Venceremos? The Erotics of Black Self-making in Cuba


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley is Associate Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas and author of Thiefing Sugar: Eroticism between Women in Caribbean Literature, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Bridge. Read This Book Like a Song  1
Introduction. For the Love of Laveau  3
Bridge. A Black Cisfemme Is a Beautiful Thing  29
1. To Transcender Transgender  31
Bridge. Sissy Werk  65
2. Mache Ansanm  67
Bridge. My Femdom, My Love  99
3. Riding the Red  101
Bridge. For the Party Girls  133
4. Its a Party  135
Bridge. Baía and Marigo  169
Conclusion. Arties's Song  171
Notes  195
Glossary  223
Bibliography  225
Index  241
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-7038-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-7030-7
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