Specters of racial trauma in Beloved, "Strange Fruit" and "Paris is Burning"
Marlene Z Anderson
May 3, 2019
Department or Program
Race and Ethnic Studies
In my thesis, I analyze the 1987 novel by Toni Morrison, Beloved, Jennie Livingston’s 1990 film “Paris is Burning” and the song by Billie Holiday, “Strange Fruit,” first recorded in 1939, for the spectral nature of racial trauma. I argue that the ghosts in these texts elucidate the liminal quality of racial trauma. I utilize three key paradoxes; life and death, past and present and visible and invisible. In using these categories, I am able to analyze the function of ghosts in the texts. I conclude that ghosts start a conversation that exposes racial trauma's marginalized nature. This spectral communication opens up a process of working through that includes mourning, storytelling and connect with community. Each text makes gestures towards working through and its components. However, none of the pieces offer a neat conclusion to working through. Rather, the ghosts continue to do their work in communicating racial trauma, telling stories of trauma, mourning traumatic violence and connecting with community. My project offers three case studies of spectral racial trauma that ask for critical attention on ghosts and their communicative ability so that processes of working through can occur.