Posts Tagged ‘Gwendolyn Pough’

2003–04 AAUW American Fellow Gwendolyn Pough was drawn to black feminist thought when one of her professors gave her a copy of bell hooks’ Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism. While working toward her master’s and doctoral degrees in English from Northeastern University and Miami University in Ohio respectively, she sought out texts by women of color that often weren’t included on class syllabuses. She became interested in how black women use language and rhetoric, how they shape cultural spaces, and how they express a feminist consciousness.

These are the major themes of Pough’s 2004 book Check It While I Wreck It: Black Womanhood, Hip-Hop Culture, and the Public Sphere. She investigated how black women claim the space of hip-hop as a public sphere and use it to promote change in their lives, creating their own brand of hip-hop feminism. She continues her exploration of the ways black women participate in popular culture in her upcoming book Reading, Writing, and Resisting: Black Women’s Book Clubs and the New Black Fiction.

Pough says the AAUW fellowship gave her an invaluable year to do the initial research for Reading, Writing, and Resisting, which is now nearing completion. “Having that time and space to think and read and interview book clubs was definitely significant. Without that year, I would be much further from realizing the book.” She surveyed the members of black women’s book clubs, attended their discussions, and examined not only how they talked about books but also how they undertook literacy outreach. According to Pough, “They don’t just read the books. They see themselves as activists in the way they promote literacy and dispel the myth that black people don’t read.”

Pough’s research did more than add another successful publication to her résumé; it also reminded her of her longtime dream of writing a novel. Inspired by her interactions with other authors at book club events, she started her first romance novel under the pseudonym Gwyneth Bolton and will be publishing her 12th in November. She said that writing fiction and talking with readers revealed new dimensions of her research. “It made me see that my project was about black women and literacy, but it was also kind of an autoethnography.”

In addition to being a prolific writer and theorist, Pough is the chair of the women’s and gender studies program at Syracuse University and an elected officer of the Conference on College Composition and Communication. She looks forward to creating a master’s degree program in women’s and gender studies at Syracuse and contributing new knowledge to the growing body of work on black women’s lives. As a young scholar, I find her advice refreshing. “Sometimes in academia, it can seem as if you can’t chart your own path. Do what you have to do, but make sure you do the things you want to do the way you want to do them.”

This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Melissa Rogers, who bids a fond farewell to AAUW as she returns to the women’s studies program at the University of Maryland to continue her doctoral research on women’s autobiographical writing and print culture.

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