Showing 151 - 160 of 298 annotations tagged with the keyword "Poverty"

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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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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Annotated by:
Donley, Carol

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The poem presents a Native-American woman hanging by her fingers from a window ledge 13 floors above the street. As she tries to decide whether or not she'll let go, she thinks of all the reasons that have led her to consider suicide: she feels broken in "several pieces between the two husbands she has had"; here in a crowded Chicago tenement, she is out of her natural native place in the north; she is poor; she suffers from racial discrimination; she hears voices; she cries "for lost beauty." She considers her three young children and remembers her own childhood. The poem ends with the either/or choice still not made--either she will fall to her death or she will climb back in the window and reclaim her life.

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Far and Beyon'

Dow, Unity

Last Updated: Dec-01-2006
Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

As much about the abusive treatment of women, and the clash of traditional and contemporary mores as it is about the HIV/AIDS pandemic, this beautifully crafted novel tells the story of a nineteen-year-old Mosa (for mosadi--woman) who has already lost two brothers to AIDS. The reader is caught up in the mega-deaths and non-mention of the dreaded acronym, AIDS, as the story unfolds. At their brother’s gravesite Mosa’s one remaining living brother is halted as he shovels in the final loads of earth: "All around him were fresh graves . . . He looked at the not fresh, fresh graves, and noted the dates of birth. Young people who had died prematurely . . . He had known about their long illnesses, their deaths and their funerals." (p. 20)

The author is the first (and only) female judge of the High Court of Botswana and a human rights activist. She is internationally renowned for bringing about the Dow Case, which challenged Botswana nationality laws; she argued successfully for revisions allowing women to pass their nationality on to their children.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The year is 1954, the place a construction camp in the interior of Tasmania. One evening Maria Buloh, a young immigrant from Slovenia, walks out of her home and into the snowy forest, disappearing forever. She leaves behind her husband, Bojan, and Sonja, their three-year-old daughter. Sonja's childhood evolves into a harsh series of foster homes, followed by adolescence taking care of her drunken, abusive father. She escapes at the age of 16. Flash forward to 1989, when Sonja Buloh pays her first visit to Tasmania and to her father in more than 20 years.

What is Sonja looking for? What does she expect to find? She and her father are both damaged people. Their spirits are scarred and deeply hidden--his in alcohol and an obstinate lack of ambition, hers in wariness and distance. We soon learn that Sonja is pregnant and plans to have an abortion as soon as she returns to Sydney. While staying with some old friends, she has an epiphany--she decides to remain in Tasmania and carry the pregnancy to term.

During the months of her pregnancy, Sonja and her father gradually grow closer. Sonja finally learns the truth about what happened to her mother. Father and daughter are transformed. To quote the book's blurb, "the shadows of the past begin to intrude ever more forcefully into the present-- changing forever his living death and her ordered life."

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The story takes place in Jakarta during the last year of Sukarno's presidency. Despite the near collapse of the Indonesian economy, President Sukarno continues to spend money on massive projects and mobilize the nation against foreign imperialists, especially the United States and Britain. The Great Leader has pronounced this "the Year of Living Dangerously."

The main protagonists of the novel are several foreign newsmen, in particular, Hamilton, a newly arrived representative of the Australian Broadcasting Service, and Billy Kwan, a free-lance cameraman, also from Australia. Billy is an achondroplastic dwarf, an intense man whose secret fantasy life includes a belief that dwarfs form a separate race.

Billy's onetime hero, Sukarno, has now led Indonesia to the brink of revolution. Billy befriends Hamilton, to whom he also attributes heroic qualities, and the two become inseparable for a while. However, both Hamilton and Sukarno prove that they have clay feet. Hamilton does this by co-opting Billy's fantasy girlfriend. In the climactic last weeks before the Indonesian coup d'etat, Billy is radicalized and decides to take direct action. Realizing that his course of action may be fatal, Billy tries to publicize Sukarno's misuse of power by unfurling an anti-Sukarno banner from a government building in Jakarta. He is killed in the attempt.

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The Patient Presents

White, Kelley Jean

Last Updated: Nov-30-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

The title of this collection of poems recalls the formulaic statement by which a physician introduces a patient's medical problem or chief complaint. For example, "The patient presents with a history of fever, abdominal cramps and diarrhea for the last 24 hours." Or, "The patient presents with a long history of hypertension and diabetes." In this case, though, Dr. White's patients' presentations are poems, rather than chunks of sanitized medical jargon; and, while the patient remains a key character in most of these works, they also present the doctor's story.

Domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual abuse figure prominently in these poems. In "365" (p. 1) a five year old girl presents with "a foul smelling vaginal discharge"; she was a victim of rape. Baby "John Brown" (p. 9) has 47 fractured bones and was "dipped in boiling water" for soiling himself. In "Ironing" (p. 18) a first grade girl has the impression of an iron burned into her thigh. And the two-year-old girl in "Peek" (p. 49) is admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) with cigarette burns and a liver fracture.

Dr. White also writes of babies left behind by their mothers ("Autumn Angels," p. 3), homeless mothers and children ("Numbers," p. 42), and complex multigenerational family pathology ("Riddle," p. 50). All in all, these stories carry the reader very close to "Looking at the Gates of Hell" (p. 32).

Yet, a still, small voice of calm, maybe even of salvation, can appear in the most unlikely places. In "Belly" (p. 4) the physician lays her face against a baby's belly and "the warm brown skin calms my forehead. / All stiffness melts." In "Maplewood & Greene" (p. 36) she revels in seeing "three little girls on roller skates." And in the Whitmanesque poem called "Oh" (p. 45), she gloriously affirms, "Oh to laughter, oh to sorrow / Oh to a better day, oh tomorrow."

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The Private Life of Islam

Young, Ian

Last Updated: Nov-30-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Ian Young spent the summer of 1970 as a medical student working at a hospital in the province of Kabylia in Algeria. He was assigned to the Maternity department, where he worked primarily with two Bulgarian doctors. Most foreign medical personnel in Algeria at the time came from Eastern bloc countries, as "Islamic Socialism" was the official political system in the newly independent (1962) North African country. According to Young, obstetrical care for the mostly Berber women of the area was brutal, disorganized, antiquated, and dangerous.

Dr. Vasilev, the head of the department, is a passive and indecisive man, who spends most of his day reading the newspaper. Once roused from his lethargy, which doesn't happen very often, he demonstrates competence and concern for his patients. His colleague, Dr. Kostov, is an aggressively brutal man who introduces himself to pregnant patients by shoving his fist into their vaginas.

Both doctors excuse their behavior by saying, "We just can't do it here they way we do it in Bulgaria." For the most part, they do not use sterile technique, and although anesthetics are available, neither Kostov nor Vasilev typically use them. The Algerian nursing staff provides at least a modicum of organization and care in this dreadful environment.

At first Young approaches the situation with disbelief and anger. He then attempts to improve the quality of care, first by introducing a flow sheet for obstetrical care, and later by submitting a report on the poor conditions to the hospital director.

Mild-mannered Dr. Vasilev supports him, but no one uses the new flow sheets, and the Director considers the report a personal (and political) affront. Meanwhile, Ian Young presents the reader with a seemingly endless series of fascinating patient cases and interesting stories about hospital personnel, as well as about his excursions to various parts of Kabylia.

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The Cartographer's Tongue

Rich, Susan

Last Updated: Nov-30-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This is a collection of poems that ranges widely through both the geographical and spiritual worlds. Susan Rich began her career as a human rights activist and Peace Corps volunteer in Niger. She has also worked in South Africa, Bosnia, Gaza, and as a program coordinator for Amnesty, International. Her poems are lyrics of empathy, discontent, and hope, unified by her "Cartographer's Tongue."

From an international medical and health perspective, some of the best of these poems are "Haiti," "The Woman with a Hole in the Middle of Her Face," "In the Language of Maps," "The Toughest Job," "The Beggars," "Sarajevo," "La Verbena Cemetery," "Whatever Happened to the Bodies," and "The Scent of Gasoline."

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What if your mother

Arcana, Judith

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

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

In this collection, Judith Arcana brings together her long-standing feminist activism, especially for reproductive health and abortion rights, and her gifts as a poet. Although Arcana's activism dates back to the early seventies, most of the poems in the book were written between 1998 and 2004. They draw from "the lives of women and girls I know or have simply encountered" (xi).

The collection is divided into four sections: "Separating argument from fact," "Information rarely offered," "Don't tell me you didn't know this," and "Here, in the heart of the country." Spoken in first, second, or third person, these poems evoke the myriad individual situations in which women of childbearing age become pregnant, and the trajectories their lives may take as a result.

The title of the collection derives from one of its poems ("What if your mother") and the related, immediately preceding poem, "My father tells me something, 1973" (6-7). Arguing back to those who confront her with, "What if your mother had an abortion? . . . they mean me," the speaker/poet answers, "then I say she did . . . . "What if, what if. / What's the point of asking this phony question?"

From the preceding poem, the reader has learned, along with the speaker listening to her father in 1973, that the poet's mother had an abortion in the Depression era, early in marriage. With this juxtaposition of poems we are introduced early in the book to the complexity of the issues surrounding pregnancy, parenthood, and abortion and to the timeline of a continuing national and personal debate. This complexity is the subject of the collection.

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