Showing 131 - 140 of 298 annotations contributed by Aull, Felice

Love Medicine

Erdrich, Louise

Last Updated: Dec-01-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The author tells the story of two Native-American (Chippewa) families whose lives interweave through several generations during the years 1934-1984. The primary setting is a reservation in North Dakota. The main characters, Marie and Nector Kashpaw and Lulu Lamartine, are colorful, sympathetic people caught in a love triangle that endures for most of their adult lives. "Love medicine" represents an attempt by a Kashpaw grandson to assure once and for all that his aging grandfather will love and be true to his wife and cease "hankering after the Lamartine." The plan ends in disaster when corners are cut and the authentic old Indian customs for preparing the "love medicine" are circumvented.

There is a strong sense of the blending of cultures--religion, medicine, commerce, education all take on the distinctive qualities of an evolving mixed culture. Displacement and disenfranchisement are a fact of life, taken almost for granted, with humor, but not without a response. "They gave you worthless land to start with and then they chopped it out from under your feet. They took your kids away and stuffed the English language in their mouth . . . They sold you booze for furs and then told you not to drink. It was time, high past time, the Indians smartened up and started using the only leverage they had-federal law." (p. 326) So begins an initiative to establish a gambling casino; "gambling fit into the old traditions . . . . "

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His Story

Cisneros, Sandra

Last Updated: Dec-01-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

In this autobiographical poem, the poet describes with tongue-in-cheek her status in a Mexican-American family as seen from her father’s point of view. It is clear from the outset that the father is unhappy with his only daughter’s behavior. Unmarried, she has left home to make her own way while her six brothers remain at home. The father accounts for her behavior, and at the same time predicts its consequences, by recalling all the female relatives who ended badly: widowed, in jail, cursed by voodoo, alone. The most "audacious crime[s]" of all, however, is that of "disobeying fathers."

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in the inner city

Clifton, Lucille

Last Updated: Dec-01-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This short poem contrasts perspectives of the places where two different societal groups live. What the larger (white) society considers the inner city is what the poet and her people call "home." At the same time the inner city view of "uptown" is of a lifeless place that has no particular appeal. The poet would rather stay where she is, in this "no place" and "be alive."

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turning

Clifton, Lucille

Last Updated: Dec-01-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

A short poem about becoming comfortable with one's identity as a liberated black woman.

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Angela's Ashes

McCourt, Frank

Last Updated: Dec-01-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This absorbing, sad, humorous evocation of an impoverished Irish Catholic childhood describes the first nineteen years of Frank McCourt’s life--from his birth in Brooklyn, New York; through the family’s emigration four years later to his mother’s roots in the slums of Limerick, Ireland--and ends with McCourt’s return migration to America, a young man on his own. McCourt sets the scene in his first lines: "When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. . . the poverty; the shiftless loquacious alcoholic father; the pious defeated mother moaning by the fire; pompous priests; bullying schoolmasters . . . . "

Born during the Great Depression, the author leads us in lilting present-tense narrative through the struggle and occasional small joys of daily life with siblings, school friends, and the adults who circumscribe his life. He is an alien in his parental homeland, the oldest child of a father whose background in "the North" engenders continual suspicion, and a mother (Angela of the book’s title) who had never known her father and whose own mother is as miserly with her affections as with offers of economic assistance.

The hardships in Limerick are so profound that starvation is a way of life. "Consumption," pneumonia, and typhoid are rampant; children go to school barefoot or in pieces of flopping rubber; stealing is a necessity. Frank’s tiny sister and twin brothers die. Above all, there is "the drink"--the endemic disease of Irish fathers who spend their weeks’ wages in the pub on Friday night.

Frank leaves school to earn money for the family (his father had joined the war-time wave of work in England, but continued to drink his earnings away), and to save for a return to America. Blessed with verbal skills and stamina, through stealth, charm and struggle he manages to save what is needed to book ship’s passage to America. As the Hudson River flows by en route to Albany, the ship’s Wireless Officer says to Frank, "My God, . . . isn’t this a great country altogether?" Answers Frank in the single phrase comprising the last chapter, " ’T. is."

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Power

Dunn, Stephen

Last Updated: Dec-01-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This 15-line poem considers how, through the ages, dwarves have been ridiculed. Something about their appearance makes us, in our "big, proper bodies" laugh at them. We "snicker" at the immensely obese as well, even as we are aware of the danger to their health. Then the narrator takes us one step further: "And imagine the small political base / of a fat dwarf."

In the final stanza, the "we" becomes restricted to the narrator and his friends, who are socializing over dinner and can "hardly contain" themselves. But does that let the rest of us--the complicitous larger audience--off the hook?

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Her Final Show

Campo, Rafael

Last Updated: Dec-01-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This poem by physician, Rafael Campo, is No. 5 in the sequence, "CanciĆ³n de las Mujeres" ("Song of the Women"). A drag queen is dying of AIDS, as she and the physician try to maintain her dignity and her identity. "Her shade of eye shadow was emerald green; / She clutched her favorite stones."

The patient is resigned, "almost at peace" while she remembers the strength that she drew from the community of drag queens who were her friends, now dead. The physician turns up the morphine drip, and straightens her wig, "[b]efore pronouncing her to no applause."

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Original Sin

Cisneros, Sandra

Last Updated: Dec-01-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The speaker is en route by plane from San Antonio to Mexico City to visit Mexican relatives on her father's side of the family. At the airport she had remembered that "in Mexico they don't like hair / under your arms . . . " and is struggling, before landing, to deal with this in the tiny bathroom, with a disposable razor hastily purchased at the airport.

Also before landing she has to negotiate a mix up over declaration forms--"the stewardess . . . has given me the wrong / one assuming I'm Mexican but I am! / and I have to run up the aisle and ask / for a U.S. citizen form instead because / I'm well how do I explain?" When she arrives in Mexico City she is ready for her relatives, "armpits clean as a newborn's soul" and presents herself "like the good girl my father would have them believe I am."

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Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Criticism

Summary:

Couser, long interested in autobiography, explores the ethics of representation in biographical writing, and in particular, the ethics of representing vulnerable subjects--for example, the aged or very young, the sick or impaired, or those who are "socially or culturally disadvantaged." He is concerned with representation of people who are intimately connected to the biographer, either as family members, or in some other "trust-based relationship." Couser argues that the relationship between vulnerable subjects and their biographers is analogous to that between patients and their physicians and that therefore principles of bioethics should be applied to such life writing, especially the principles of autonomy, nonmaleficence, and beneficence.

Couser explores life writing and betrayal (Chapter 1), outlines how he will apply the principles of biomedical ethics and ethnographical ethics to life writing (Chapter 2), and applies these principles to examples of collaborative autobiography (Chapter 3). He then critiques in detail Michael Dorris’s memoir about his adopted son, The Broken Cord (Chapter 4); the work of Oliver Sacks (Chapter 6); memoirs of euthanasia (Couser calls these "euthanographies"), Saying Goodbye to Daniel: When Death Is the Best Choice, by Julia Cassutto Rothman; Rescuing Jeffrey, by Richard Galli, and But What If She Wants to Die, by George DeLury (Chapter 7). Finally, in the last chapter, Couser considers how investigation of the human genome might influence the "scripts" of our lives and hence life writing, and also how life writing might be a counter discursive force against genomic essentialism.

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What Would I Do White?

Jordan, June

Last Updated: Nov-30-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The speaker conjectures on what it would be like to be white. Her question is a challenge and her examples are not flattering to whites. "I would forget my furs on any chair. / I would ignore the doormen at the knob . . . " and, finally, "I would do nothing. / That would be enough."

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