Fran Ross's only novel, Oreo, explores the nature of multiethnic American identities through an empowered female character that embarks on a Theseus-like journey. Ross devotes significant portions of the novel to the introduction of Oreo's family and individual character, in order to carefully outline her interracial and multiethnic upbringing as an African-Jewish American girl. In order to understand Oreo's political and aesthetic sensibilities, this thesis explores the cinematic representations of interracial relationships during the time that Oreo was written, and argues that Fran Ross's main character is in direct conversation with the predominant 70s black movie and political culture of blaxploitation and Black nationalism. Blaxploitation cinema's rise during the early 70s was facilitated by a burgeoning literary genre depicting an urban black experience aligned with Black nationalist ideologies, to which Fran Ross responds with her interracial protagonist. While not all Black nationalist leaders and supporters felt that blaxploitation movies furthered the revolution, the politics of the movement were still present in the movies, especially in regard to interracial relationships. Black nationalist ideologies regarding interracial relationships positioned sexual relationships between black people and white people as counter-revolutionary, because they did not result in the propagation of the black race, and were reminiscent of the rapes that occurred during the slave period and beyond. In contrast with these cinematic depictions, Oreo is a desexualized, witty, and athletic mixed raced female, who challenges the stereotypes of black cinematic culture and the politics of Black nationalism. As Oreo was written at the end of the blaxploitation genre's height (1974), its politics appear to be in direct dialogue with the representation of blackness in the movie genre. Ross even goes as far as rewriting scenes and stereotypes from blaxploitation movies, positioning Oreo as a critique of the Blaxploitation genre, and the genre's Black nationalist political agenda surrounding interracial relationships.



College and Department

Humanities; English



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Fran Ross, Oreo, Blaxploitation, Shaft, Superfly, Foxy Brown, Coffy, Interracial, Hybridity, Racial Identity