Johnson, E. Patrick. Honeypot: Black Southern Women Who Love Women. Durham; London: Duke University, 2019. 250p bibl index, eISBN 978-1-4780-0724-1, $15.31)
E. Patrick Johnson masterfully crafts a riveting autobiographical and narrative account of southern black women and their sexuality in one of his latest book’s Honeypot: Black Southern Women Who Love Women. As the Dean of the School of Communication and Annenberg University, Professor of Performance Studies and African American Studies at Northwestern University, and an extensive scholar in queer studies, Johnson’s book sports a unique approach to southern black women’s narrative and their experiences outside of one singular identity.
As with many cultural and heritage studies projects, audiences and scholars must learn to accept varying perspectives and narratives that encompass the individual and human story. Doing so allows the historical events and references to gain validity while also providing personal reflections aside from the facts or data.
Within Honeypot’s pages, the reader is allowed to follow along with the brave women’s journey and expression that allowed their stories to be shared for both critique and learning. In the first few pages of the book, Johnson introduces the book’s symbolic reference to honey and bees, which he eloquently alliterates throughout the book. Quickly, the central thesis forms within the context of Honeypot. Johnson carefully constructs the notion that despite the experiences these women have either witnessed or experienced, it does not always equate to their sexuality outcomes and views.
Most of the women, which Johnson also masterfully displays, are featured in an array of life cycles from young and inexperienced to mature, cultured, and world taught. Nevertheless, his literary contribution magical is the reverence and respect he adds to the project from how he narrates the stories of the women who voluntarily confided in him to his care toward their experiences and their unique non-gender-conforming attributes.
Despite the book’s short chapter count with the project comprising only six chapters, excluding the preface, introduction, and epilogue, the content that fills the spaces between are profoundly rich and golden like honey. Even as Johnson presents some of the most haunting tales of abuse, both familial and society, he creates a literary shield that allows these women’s stories to be expressed in consumable doses that do not detract from their experiences.
Aside from the central thesis of showcasing that experiences may or may not shape personality outcomes, Johnson provides a platform for tough conversations on religion and familial problems in the black community.
Most of the women who expressed their stories shared that religion took either hold or was rejected based on the experiences gained from those around them that influenced religious affiliations. It was also intertwined with the strong belief system that is often projected throughout black families, which continues to be passed down regardless of if everyone subscribes to its principles. In this web, we see Johnson provide context from the women’s stories where, despite their efforts, sides are customarily taken and projected regardless of reality in black families.
However, Honeypot: Black Southern Women Who Love Women could be considered a required text for families as they navigate life’s ideologies and practicalities. Overall, Johnson showcases that these women’s stories and other women that share similar stories are consequential and unique to the scope of cultural and heritage studies. Without judgment, preconceived notions, and prejudiced assumptions, Johnson provides an outlet for expression and celebration of uniqueness among these queen “bees” and their collected “hive.” Honeypot: Black Southern Women Who Love Women adopts the banner of strength and beauty despite a flawed and arduous past, much like the production of pure, golden honey. It is not just the outcome that makes it beautiful, but it is the story and process behind it that completes the picture.