Abstract

Michelle Cliff's novels Abeng and No Telephone to Heaven have received significant critical attention for their attempts to establish a lineage of female resistance to oppression and to restore matrilineal histories that have been effaced by colonial and neocolonial discourses. While most critics read Cliff's reclamation of matrilineal history and resistance as unabashedly celebratory, I argue that the novels, especially No Telephone to Heaven, offer a more ambivalent perspective through the construction of the female body as a site of death. The imbrications of menstruation, miscarriages, hemorrhages, and womb images alongside death suggest that relying on a relationship among blood, land, and identity is always already limiting, even as the novel maintains that such relationships remain the best hope for resisting oppression. The lack of a future in the text indicates that the body as the sole means of connection to the past cannot survive and it cannot suffice.

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