With her autobiography, Assata works through a variety of sentiments that can be deemed as collective to the African American community, the main one being rage. In relation to the scene with the black nurse, Mary Phillips claims that the literature provided to Assata fed her revolutionary spirit while impassioning “her strong sense of agency despite hospitalization and containment” (42). Writing this autobiography, then, is a way of continuing to feed the revolutionary spirit while also serving two main purposes: healing and denouncing. In examining Alice Miller’s struggle to recover from childhood wounds in her book Prisoners of Childhood, bell hooks suggests: “[Alice] had to imagine herself in the space of childhood, to look again from that perspective, to remember ‘crucial information’, answers to questions which had gone unanswered throughout” (Theory 61). This is similar to what the autobiography does for Assata: it allows the writer to position herself in the shoes of her earlier selves and try to make sense of what has happened, and how these events informed later decisions. Part of the healing lies in answering those questions that have gone unanswered. The denouncing and the rage present in the book come through as an instance of what bell hooks refers to as “talking back”. In recounting her own childhood experiences, hooks admits that for women in her household talking back was the antithesis of ‘the right speech of womanhood’ (Talking Back 6) and “to speak … when one was not spoken to was ...
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...ifies the outbursts of rage that daily encounters with racism can lead to. Her incapacity to articulate the reasons for the anger show her inability to assimilate the condition of racism as an objective reality she inhabits. As a young black girl, she cannot fully grasp (yet) why she is deemed as stupid, or not good enough. Another significant outburst of rage occurs when an adult, incarcerated Assata attacks both female and male guards that have been continuously harassing her. She says: “I was hitting, kicking, scratching, punching, biting, and i don’t know what all else” (62). Of the aftermath, she admits: “I had a few nicks and scratches, but otherwise i was fine. And i felt fine. Some of that anger pent up inside me had been released” (62). In this way, such outbreaks of anger are deemed as necessary both to defend oneself, and to maintain one’s mental sanity.
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