Showing 11 - 20 of 118 annotations tagged with the keyword "African-American Experience"

Quicksand

Larsen, Nella

Last Updated: Jan-04-2012
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Helga Crane is a beautiful young teacher in Naxos, a southern American boarding school for black students. She is half Danish on her mother’s side, half African-American on her father’s side. Her only family is an aunt and uncle in Denmark.

Dr. Anderson, a distinguished black teacher professes love for her, but she feels stifled by him and the vision of their life ahead. She quits her job and flees to New York and the exciting cultural life of Harlem.

She thrives in that environment and men flock to her. There she meets James Vayle whom she likes and the Reverend Pleasant Green whom she does not—but once again, when Vayle proposes permanence, she flees to Copenhagen.

There, she spends an extended visit with her Aunt Katrina and Uncle Poul. At first the Danish couple are startled by her blackness, but they quickly adapt and enjoy the elevated status conveyed by having this intelligent, beautiful black woman in their world. Upon receiving another offer of marriage, Helga grows suspicious of her family’s use of her and flees once again.

She returns to America where she marries the Reverend Pleasant Green, although she doesn’t love him.  As babies come in succession, Helga develops severe post-partum depression. 

 

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The Book of Negroes

Hill, Lawrence

Last Updated: Jan-04-2012
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Aminata Diallo, called Meena, is born in mid-eighteenth-century Africa and leads a happy life with her Muslim parents. Her mother is a midwife and is teaching Meena her skills. But ruthless white men appear, killing her parents and imprisoning her. The eleven year-old girl is forced to march miles and miles to the sea. During the journey she makes friends with Chekura, a slightly older boy who seems to be employed by the white captors, but like Meena, has also been captured. They are kept at a fort, then herded on to ships and taken on an agonizing journey across the ocean.

Meena and Chekura are sold as slaves. They lose sight of each other and live on plantations in privation and squalor never knowing if they will be treated with kindness or cruelty. Meena is raped by an owner. She learns how to read and write English quickly (although her skill must be kept secret), and she is fascinated by maps, constantly plotting to return to Africa.

Meena and Chekura find each other and marry secretly - but soon they are separated. She has a baby girl. Her literary and midwifery skills are her salvation, and eventually she is sold to a Jewish duty inspector. He and his wife treat her well, and she and her child live in comfort, but the revolutionary war disrupts their world. Meena returns home one day to find that the Jewish couple have fled on ship to England, taking her daughter with them..."for her own good."

Meena moves to New York City, taking a room in a hotel and still intent on finding a way back to Africa. She writes the names and ages of the people clamoring to go to Nova Scotia as a reward for serving the British in the Revolutionary War: the original "book of negroes." The settlers arrive with hope and optimism, but they encounter more oppressions. Later she is lured by the attractive plan to build "Freetown" in Sierra Leone; again however, the promised resources never materialize and the fledgling community degenerates into crime and misery. Even Meena's attempt to find her original home is thwarted.

In 1802 London, as a frail elderly woman, the abolitionists treat Meena with reverence and curiosity. They encourage her to write her story, and there she finds her daughter again.

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The Trapper's Last Shot

Yount, John

Last Updated: Dec-16-2011
Annotated by:
Ratzan, Richard M.

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The Trapper’s Last Shot opens in 1960 when Beau Jim Early is returning home to Cocke County, Georgia, after 6 years in the U.S. Army. Beau Jim moves in with Dan, his brother, who is 15 years older and now a farmer, both of them survivors of a fire that killed their parents and drove them from North Carolina. Living with Dan in very straitened circumstances are his mean-spirited and child-abusing wife, Charlene, and Sheila, their thumb-sucking 7 year old who is about to repeat first grade, perhaps in part due to the literal pillow-smothering attacks at the hands of Charlene when she was still an infant, and assuredly in part due to the intellectually barren home life described.

Beau Jim realizes his immediate post-service dream of enrolling in college, nearby Senneca College, while learning to hustle pool with Claire, his high school classmate now mentor. Claire is a worldly wise alcoholic homosexual who has learned how to survive in the deep South as such while remaining just below the radar of his homophobic, racist white contemporaries. Somewhere amidst all this hubbub Beau Jim meets up with an old high school classmate, Yancey, and, a trifle improbably, becomes her beau as well as her Beau.

Although enjoying college and doing well, Beau Jim begins to doubt his intellectual fit as a college man, given his background and temperament. Shortly after, he and Claire suffer a beating at the hands of the stereotypically vicious local Deputy Sheriff Earl Wagner, a beating initiated by Claire’s homosexuality, which Jim had not suspected. This beating is the penultimate climactic event in the book: Jim quits college; Claire effectually disappears from view; and the focus now shifts to Dan and his struggling farm and family life.

Charlene, in a fit of pique over Dan’s decision to have her milk the cow to save money, sets the barn on fire (a fact never discovered by Dan), kills the cow and, in so doing, detonates the apocalyptic sequence of events that close this dark novel in an even more noir fashion. Dan snaps mentally, shooting to death an entire family of innocent blacks whom he knew and respected, as well as a stranger, a college student at Senneca.

The final pages, like the opening ones, provide a bookend (literally) of bleakness: we find Beau Jim working as a mason in  a new town with despicably mean white masons in a dead end job as he tries to establish a family life with Yancey and Sheila, whom Charlene is more than happy to be offloading on them. Unlike the initial pages, the ending offers a glimmer of the hope for an intact family life for Beau and Yancey and Sheila.

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Annotated by:
Donley, Carol

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Investigative Journalism

Summary:

In 1951 when Henrietta Lacks was dying of cancer in the colored ward of Johns Hopkins, cancer cells taken from her without her knowledge "became the first immortal human cells grown in a laboratory"(4).  Known as HeLa cells, they are still reproducing today and are used world wide in research for cancer, cloning, genetics, Parkinsons, and many technologies. Henrietta's family did not know she was the source of these immortal cells until scientists began testing the family members too.  Poor and black, they were very angry to find the white establishment had made fortunes using HeLa cells while the family got nothing for it and couldn't even get good health care. In her thorough and careful investigation, Rebecca Skloot interviewed the Lacks family; scientists, doctors, and others who worked with HeLa cells; historians; journalists; ethicists. This book traces the complex stages of her search for the truth about what happened to Henrietta Lacks, her HeLa cells, and her family.

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Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Criticism

Summary:

Garland-Thomson, an important figure in disability studies scholarship and activism, analyzes the social phenomenon of staring, particularly staring at people with distinctive bodies. After exploring why we stare and what staring is, i.e., "a physical response...a cultural history...a social relationship...[and] knowledge-gathering," the book analyzes the dynamics of staring, including the learned prohibition against staring and the dynamic power relationship between starers and the objects of their stares, whom Garland-Thomson terms "starees."

She illustrates and analyzes four key "scenes of staring": staring at faces, hands, breasts, and bodies.  The book proposes a new "ethics of looking" in which starees offer starers a collaborative relationship that produces "[s]taring as beholding...a way to bring visual presence to another person, to see them as they need to be seen" (194). Garland-Thomson positions her argument in relation to key works of cultural criticism and sociology including Susan Sontag's Regarding the Pain of Others (see annotation), Erving Goffman's Stigma, Elaine Scarry's On Beauty and Being Just, and the ideas of historian Michel Foucault. Her evidence includes  auto/biographical narratives of scenes of staring, summaries of key historical contexts, examples from visual art (photography, painting, film, and cartoon), and literature, and auto/biographical narratives.

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Push

Sapphire

Last Updated: Mar-22-2010
Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Narrated by Precious Jones, a 16-year-old African-American girl pregnant for the second time with her father's child, Push is a novel tracing her movement from anger, illiteracy, resignation, and self-contempt to some version of hope. The voice of Precious, raw and almost unintelligible at the beginning of the story, is changed when a courageous African-American teacher relentlessly inspires Precious, along with several other seemingly doomed teenagers, to learn to read, to discover what and how they feel, and to put it all down in a diary. The novel ends with everything uncertain and unfinished, but with a young woman changed by the appearance of self-respect.

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Summary:

This edited anthology, which includes poems, essays, short stories, and other creative forms (e.g., a radio diary, a letter to a social service agency), is organized into sections that include Body and Self, Diagnosis and Treatment, Womanhood, Family Life and Caregiving, Professional Life and Illness, and Advocacy. Most works found their way into this collection through a call for submissions, although a few selections are well known, such as Lynne Sharon Schwartz's "So You're Going to Have a New Body !," or an excerpt from Rachel Naomi Remen's Kitchen Table Wisdom (see annotations). In addition, the anthology also includes essays by scholars such as Arthur W. Frank and Rita Charon, who theorize gendered illness narratives.

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Echoes of War

Brown, S., H., ed.

Last Updated: Feb-23-2010

Primary Category: Literature / Literature

Genre: Anthology (Mixed Genres)

Summary:

This is an anthology of 32 pieces, many directly relating to war and its aftermath, or, in general, kinds of violence humans inflict upon each other and the ensuing suffering: hence the title, "echoes of war." The pieces include short fiction, essay, a dozen poems, and a photo collection. Since none are lengthy, this is a good reader to supplement other longer texts or to serve as an anthology for a reading group. A short essay, "Suggested Longer Readers," mentions some three dozen pivotal topics, including "homecoming" and "sense of identity." 

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Miss Evers' Boys

Feldshuh, David

Last Updated: Dec-10-2009
Annotated by:
Sirridge, Marjorie

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

This play was suggested by the book, Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, by James H. Jones, and by a number of primary sources. It brings to the stage in a fictional way the story of the interaction between an African-American public health nurse assigned to the Tuskegee Syphilis Study and four of the African-American participants in the study. Two physicians, one who is head of the Tuskegee Memorial Hospital, and one from the U.S. Public Health Service, are less important characters, but provide the evidence of the government's complicity in the study.

The physical setting of the play is the Possom Hollow Schoolhouse, and there are changing "testimony areas" where a 1972 Senate subcommittee investigation of the Tuskegee study is taking place. The theatrical setting is, however, the conscience and memory of Eunice Evers, the nurse, as she is pulled into and out of the action to give testimony to the audience.

Act One takes place in 1932, and allows the audience to become acquainted with the four African-American men who, along with several hundred others, become part of the study after their blood has been found to test positive for syphilis. The treatment of the infected men with mercury and arsenic comes to an end after six months because of a lack of funds, and a decision is made by the Public Health Service to continue a study of untreated syphilis in these men. A fifty-dollar life insurance policy is given to each man as an inducement to remain in the study.

Act Two carries the lives of the characters through the introduction of Penicillin as treatment for syphilis in 1946--a treatment from which the Tuskegee study patients were excluded--and on to 1972, when the Senate committee hearings were held. The Epilogue is about the big guilts of the government and the little guilts experienced by Miss Evers as she questions her nursing ideals.

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Summary:

The aged, black nurse, Eunice Evers (Alfre Woodward), testifies before the 1973 Senate hearings into the Tuskegee study. Through a series of lengthy flashbacks, her testimony evokes the 1932 origin and four-decade course of a research experiment to study but not treat syphilis in the black men of Macon County, Alabama. The federally funded project began with the intent to treat the men, but when funds dried up, the project coordinators decided simply to document the course of the disease to discover if blacks responded to syphilis as did whites.

The nurse was deeply attached to the patients and they, to her; a Dixie band named itself "Miss Evers' Boys." Evers and her doctor supervisor (Joe Morton) hoped that treatment would be restored after a few months, but ten years pass. With the advent of penicillin in 1942, her intelligent lover Caleb (Laurence Fishburne) rebelled, took penicillin, and enlisted in the army; the project, however, continues.

Evers is disbelieving when she realizes that the men will not be treated, but she cannot abandon them. Against the advice of her father, she refuses to leave Alabama with Caleb and continues to participate in the lie that encourages the Tuskegee men to remain untreated into the late 1960s. One by one Miss Evers' Boys die or are disabled by the disease.

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