Pleasure refers to the freedom to pursue a desire, deliberately sought in order to satisfy the self. Putting pleasure first is liberating. During their extraordinary lives, Lena Horne, Moms Mabley, Yolande DuBois, and Memphis Minnie enjoyed pleasure as they gave pleasure to both those in their lives and to the public at large. They were Black women who, despite their public profiles, whether through Black society or through the world of entertainment, discovered ways to enjoy pleasure.They left home, undertook careers they loved, and did what they wanted, despite perhaps not meeting the standards for respectability in the interwar era.
See Me Naked looks at these women as representative of other Black women of the time, who were watched, criticized, and judged by their families, peers, and, in some cases, the government, yet still managed to enjoy themselves. Among the voyeurs of Black women was Langston Hughes, whose novel Not Without Laughter was clearly a work of fiction inspired by women he observed in public and knew personally, including Black clubwomen, blues performers, and his mother. How did these complicated women wrest loose from the voyeurs to define their own sense of themselves? At very young ages, they found and celebrated aspects of themselves. Using examples from these women's lives, Green explores their challenges and achievements.