"I'm Her and I'm Me" Race, Power, and Sexual Violence in Walter Mosley’s Devil in a Blue Dress

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Questions related to race and power often dominate the scholarship on Walter Mosley’s 1990 hardboiled mystery novel, Devil in a Blue Dress, as Easy must navigate racism, violence, and corruption in his newfound line of detective work. These questions of race and power are certainly of importance and have generated productive discussions of the many power dynamics at play in the novel; however, there is a significant lack of scholarly criticism on another major power dynamic that appears throughout Devil—sexual abuse.

In this essay, I will provide a literature review of the scholarship that discusses topics related to power and race, highlighting the ways in which they either linger on or avoid completely the topic of sexual abuse in Devil. I will then analyze three separate situations of sexual abuse in Mosley’s novel, focusing especially on how each incident is a result of the racialized power dynamics at play. While the topic of the recurring sexual abuse in the novel is often circumnavigated in scholarly discourse, opening up discussions of race and power to include the ways that sexual abuse is another racialized form of power in Devil provides a comprehensive look at Mosley’s complex characters.

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