Everyday Use By Alice Walker
The short story Everyday Use is central in Alice Walker's writing, particularly as it represents her response to the concept of heritage as expressed by the Black political movements of the 60s. Despite its importance, no adequate explanation of the African and Arab names used in the text has to my knowledge appeared. Yet Walker was very careful in her choice of names, which signify an important part of her characterization.
This was in the heyday of the Black Power ideologies when Black was beautiful, the Afro hairstyle was in fashion and Blacks were seeking their cultural roots in Africa, without knowing too much about the continent or the routes of the Atlatic Slave Trade.
Dee has joined the movement of the Cultural Nationalism, whose major spokesman was the black writer LeRoi Jones (Imamu Baraka) The Cultural Nationalists emphasized the development of black art and culture to further black liberation, but were not militantly political, like, for example, the Black Panthers.
The ideas of the Cultural Nationalists often resulted in the vulgarization of black culture, examplfied in the wearing of robes, sandals, hairspray natural style, etc.
Dee bases her new-found identity on resemble Kikuyu names. Alice Walker may have wanted Dee "who knew what style was" to assume a royal touch as an African princess. The names are therefore a mixture of names from more than one ethnic group and maybe that is the point. Dee has names representing the whole East African region. Or more likely, she is confused and has only superficial knowledge of Africa and all it stands for.
This idea is strengthened when you look at the other African phrase Dee Wangero uses in the short story. She greets her mother: Wa-su-zo-Tean-o. This is a Luganda phrase showing how the...