DeFacto Feminism: Essays Straight Outta Oakland

Judy Juanita (Author) Peggy Mocine (Cover Design by)
& 1 more


Judy Juanita views activism and feminism as it plays out in her political, artistic and spiritual life. A distinguished semifinalist for OSU's 2016 Non/Fiction Collection Prize, De Facto... blends essays, poems, graphics by the late Rini Templeton and literary criticism. An act of self-definition with the feel of memoir, these essays follow a long line of thinkers, including Anna Julia Cooper, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Audre Lorde, Alice Walker, Michelle Wallace, Angela Davis, bell hooks, Paula Giddings, Michelle Alexander, Roxane Gay, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche. In her semi-autobiographical novel, Virgin Soul, the central character joins the Black Panther Party and calls herself a female foot soldier in the black revolution of the sixties. The feminist foot soldier in De Facto... processes major shifts in American society through her own development. The essays are set chronologically, beginning with a picture of the author's Tuskegee Airman father, and an account of a not altogether idyllic childhood in Oakland. The concept of freedom here is a freedom from complication, from an awaiting black consciousness.

A narrative emerges: Growing up in Oakland in the fifties and sixties. Comparing her burgeoning sexuality to young white females in droves in 1964 having orgiastic responses to the Beatles. Formulating an erstwhile concept of womanhood based on Black Nationalism. Deconstructing the infamous N-word controversy. Looking back acerbically at her romance with The Gun and the black power movement's similar fascination. Paying homage to poet Carolyn M. Rodgers. Celebrating 21st century feminism in unexpected places. Examining race and micro-aggression in liberal Berkeley. Living with a ghost/mentor for a year.

The book's format moves from essay to poem to epistle in the final essay, "Acknowledge Me," a true ghost story in which a dead playwright, once her teacher, pushes her to succeed in spite of her misgivings.

"Whatever Happened to Carolyn M. Rodgers?" pays homage to a poet who became a phantom of the Black Arts Movement (BAM). Rodgers utilized the unbridled militancy of the era, mixing slang, nostalgia, curse words, sociology, raw revelation of sexual intimacy to address the abyss between black men and women; she became a near pariah after reviving her Christian faith.

"All The Women in My Family Read Terry McMillan" asks what to do about black literature, at the release of her novel which doesn't fit with the books her friends and family are reading.

"Putting the Funny in the Novel" was the author's response to her agent saying her novel about the Panthers wasn't funny enough.

"Report from the Front" indicates how America's most liberal city, Berkeley, still channels racism.

The title essay "De Facto Feminism" tallies the myriad ways feminism pops up in a country that counts black women out, from fighting/finding contingency, building bridges, breaking bread, and doing bizness the old fashioned way.

"Cleaning Other People's Houses" considers the value of physical labor as the author works as a domestic for a living; she leaves that job remembering that Zora Neale Hurston worked as a domestic in the last impoverished decade of her life.

In the wake of Trayvon Martin, "The Gun as Ultimate Performance Poem" looks at the gun's dark power and role in the African American community from the Panthers to the present.

"Five Comrades in The Black Panther Party, 1967-1970" recalls the author's youthful joining the Black Panthers.

"The N-Word," in an age of trigger warnings and multiple N-Word explosions, blasts its premature burial...with qualifications, and calling it on white cops.

Product Details

$19.95  $18.35
Equidistance Press
Publish Date
October 06, 2016
6.0 X 0.53 X 9.0 inches | 0.76 pounds
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About the Author

Judy Juanita's debut novel, Virgin Soul, chronicled a black female coming of age in the 60s who joins the Black Panther Party [Viking, 2013]. Novelist Jean Thompson said of Virgin Soul: "Hard to believe it's been almost fifty years since the formation of the Black Panthers. The novel captures that time's particular combination of violence and possibility, and the urgency of young people who invested everything in the possibility of change, even as grand rhetoric was undercut by very human failings." Her collection of essays, DeFacto Feminism: Essays Straight Outta Oakland [EquiDistance Press, 2016], examines the intersectionality of race, gender, politics, economics and spirituality as experienced by a black activist and self-described "feminist foot soldier." She was a contributing editor for The Weekling, an online journal, where many of the essays appeared. The collection was a distinguished finalist in OSU's 2016 Non/Fiction Collection Prize. Her work is archived at Duke University's John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African-American Literature alongside other student activists from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Crab Orchard Review's Allison Joseph said Juanita's fiction "should be required reading for anyone studying the vicissitudes of recent American history." Juanita's short stories and essays appear widely, and her poetry has appeared in Obsidian II, 13th Moon, Painted Bride Quarterly, Croton Review, The Passaic Review, Lips, New Verse News, Poetry Monthly and Drumrevue 2000. In drama, Juanita's themes are social issues overlaid with absurdity, humor and pathos (in one play, a distraught nurse whose teenage son has overdosed falls head over heels in love with a duck). Her seventeenth play, "Theodicy," about two black men who accidentally fall into the river of death, won first runner-up of 186 plays in the Eileen Heckart 2008 Senior Drama Competition at Ohio State University. She was awarded New Jersey Arts Council Fellowships for her poetry and earned an MFA in creative writing from San Francisco State University. She has taught writing at Laney College in Oakland, California, since 1993.


from Karen Kevorkian, poet, Lizard Dreams: Judy Juanita's essay collection surveys the heady time when the Black Panther Party, "30 black men, armed to the teeth and dressed in the signature berets and leather jackets," spoke more loudly than any verbal description of the BPP ever could. The canonical phrase "off the pigs" was similarly efficient, adding to Juanita's early lessons in the effective economies of image and language, and no doubt having more than a little to do with her longstanding dedication to writing poetry. Instructed that poetry had absolutely no commodity value, she set herself to acquiring fluency in playwriting and literary fiction, to which her performed plays and published novel testify. This portrait of the artist as a young black woman sees her exposed to the coded bullshit of writing workshops and the merciless hierarchizing that occurs in any group of writers. Admirably, she asks herself what is to be learned, how her work might benefit. She refuses, with stunning clearheadedness, to personalize casual dismissals and indifference, and notes that women artists "were hard working, self-sacrificing, generous, often defiantly unhappy and did their own shitwork." She writes, "I concluded early on that being an artist was damaging to one's own life and to loved ones." The question became for her, as for so many artists, how to live a balanced life AND pursue writing. And did I mention that along the way she worked at stand-up comedy? And has considered opinions about the sexuality of black men and her lack of interest in the chick lit and gangsta lit that characterize a segment of writing by black authors? What a woman. What a life.