By the end of this section, you will be able to:
- Read for inquiry, learning, critical thinking, and communicating in varying rhetorical and cultural contexts.
- Determine how genre conventions are shaped by purpose, culture, and expectation.
- Comment on the interplay among author, subject, and audience.
In the expanded paperback edition of Resist: 40 Profiles of Ordinary People Who Rose Up against Tyranny and Injustice, published in 2020, Chambers delves into the profile genre, covering a variety of well-known and influential subjects dating from as early as 1429 to the present day. While many of her subjects are Black American women, such as civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer (1917–1977) and Georgia politician Stacey Abrams (b. 1973), the collection includes people from around the world and from different cultures, among them Indian leader Mohandas Gandhi (1869–1948), German industrialist Oskar Schindler (1908–1974), and South African singer Miriam Makeba (1932–2008). In every chapter, Chambers uses the profile genre to highlight one key aspect of each of her subjects’ lives.
Paying Attention to the Subject’s Voice
Profiles aim to help readers better understand their subject by focusing on one major idea. When the subject is a person, readers can better understand that person by reading their spoken or written words. Chambers uses this technique throughout her book. In the first chapter, Chambers tells the story of French heroine Joan of Arc (c. 1412–1431), centering on the idea that individuals are born for a purpose. Readers can better understand Joan of Arc’s singlemindedness because of the chapter’s epigraph (quotation provided at the beginning of a written piece that indicates how readers should approach the text), attributed to the subject: “I am not afraid.… I was born to do this” (Chambers, Resist 9). The profile itself offers an additional direct quote: “All battles are first won or lost in the mind”(10). Other chapters, such as those profiling Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) and former South African president Nelson Mandela (1918–2013), also begin with the subject’s words in an epigraph or employ both strategies—epigraph plus direct quotes within the profile. (You may choose to use either or both of these strategies in your profile as well.)
Recognizing the Author’s Voice
Profile writers may choose to include themselves in the piece, referring to their own experiences and interactions with the subject. In this collection, Chambers instead speaks in her own voice in the “resist lesson” at the end of each chapter. These “resist lessons” distill each profile’s focus into a short phrase, such as “We must speak for the voiceless” (the lesson for the profile of Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata, 1879–1919) and “Honor the hands that harvest your crops” (the lesson for the combined profile of American labor leaders Dolores Huerta (b. 1930) and Cesar Chavez, 1927–1993).
Negotiating among Author’s Voice, Subject’s Voice, and Genre Expectations
The profile genre enjoys considerable variety. While Chambers does not include her own experiences in this collection, other writers do insert themselves into the profiles they write. Yet even without first-person commentary, Chambers clearly communicates her opinions of the subjects with her word choices and “resist lessons.” Either choice—including the author directly in the text or not—can be appropriate, depending on the rhetorical situation.