Unbought and Unbossed critically examines the ways black women writers in the 1970s and early 1980s deploy black female characters that transgress racial, gender, and especially sexual boundaries. Trimiko Melancon analyzes literary and cultural texts, including Toni Morrison's Sula and Gloria Naylor's The Women of Brewster Place, in the socio-cultural and historical moments of their production. She shows how representations of black women in the American literary and cultural imagination diverge from stereotypes and constructions of "whiteness," as well as constructions of female identity imposed by black nationalism.
Drawing from black feminist and critical race theories, historical discourses on gender and sexuality, and literary criticism, Melancon explores the variety and complexity of black female identity. She illuminates how authors including Ann Allen Shockley, Alice Walker, and Gayl Jones engage issues of desire, intimacy, and independence to shed light on a more complex black identity, one ungoverned by rigid politics over-determined by race, gender and sexuality.