Showing 181 - 190 of 525 annotations tagged with the keyword "Mourning"

Ghost Letters

McCann, Richard

Last Updated: May-09-2007
Annotated by:
Garden, Rebecca

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This collection of poems combines mournful reveries of the individual and collective losses of the U.S. AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and '90s with haunting recollections of the losses of childhood. Ghost Letters begins and concludes with poems in which the memories of love and rich relationships interweave with incantations of loss and keen descriptions of caring for the dying. In between is a section of poems that recreate the sweetness and pain of the speaker's childhood and the transformation that his father's death effects on the entire family.

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What Becomes You

Raz, Hilda; Link, Aaron

Last Updated: May-09-2007
Annotated by:
Davis, Cortney

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

Aaron Raz Link was born a girl, named Sarah, and loved as a daughter. Twenty-nine years later, after inner turmoil, deep thought and relentless examination of how society views gender, Sarah became Aaron, a gay man. This starkly open and moving book describes, in Aaron's words and then in his mother's words, both the costs and the rewards of this journey.

The book is divided into two sections: the longer, beginning section is Aaron's, an intense rendering of what might be called an inner dialogue: Aaron talking to himself about his place in a gendered world; Aaron talking to society about the role of men and women; and Aaron talking to us, the readers, as if we were his close friends, gathered around him as he revealed his life.

The second section belongs to his mother, Hilda Raz. In musing, episodic scenes, she writes about herself as Sarah and then Aaron's mother, about her own work as a poet and editor, and most poignantly about losing her breast to cancer.

On page 86 Aaron says, "A stereotype is a kind of camouflage; the eye finds what it expects to find, and passes over details." Throughout this book we are asked to look at, directly but never sensationally, our bodies' organs, our gender "details," not only as functional anatomy but as symbols of identification.

In both sections, I felt pulled along on this journey, both as someone invited and as someone looking on, an emotional voyeur, and in both sections I observed the unflinching honesty of the authors' revelations. But it in was this final section, the mother's story, that I felt most keenly the love between the two authors. It is this love that becomes the strength of the narrative, the ground on which this incredible story unfolds.

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Mother of Sorrows

McCann, Richard

Last Updated: May-09-2007
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

This partly autobiographical collection of linked stories could, as the author notes at his web site, be considered a novel as much as a collection. There is a single first-person (unnamed) narrator throughout, a circumscribed cast of characters, a timeline of almost 30 years, and "individual stories [that speak] to each other and [gather] force as they go forward" (see interview at the author's web site). At the center of these reflections and of the narrator's life is his enigmatic, beautiful mother, "Our Mother of the Sighs and Heartaches . . . Our Mother of the Mixed Messages," "Our Mother whom I adored and whom, in adoring, I ran from, knowing it 'wrong' for a son to wish to be like his mother" (17). The book also delves significantly into the relationship between the narrator and his older brother, and to a lesser extent concerns the narrator's relationship with his father, who dies when the narrator is 11 years old. Interwoven throughout is the narrator's growing awareness and suppression of his own homosexuality.

All the stories are refracted through memory, back to when the narrator was nine years old, living with his brother, mother, and father in post-World War II Silver Spring, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, DC. The stories progress through a roaming young adulthood of lies and random sexual encounters; and move into adulthood, committed relationships, and accumulating personal losses. In addition to the mother, of almost equal importance is the narrator's ambivalent relationship to his brother, Davis, who is sometimes an ally and sometimes a competitor or antagonist. Initially contemptuous of the narrator's identification with his mother, Davis later leads a defiant, drug dependent, and openly homosexual life while the narrator himself remains closeted to his parents and to many others. The narrator depicts himself and his brother as Cain and Abel, only "I was Cain and Abel both, as was my brother" (158).

Particularly striking are "My Mother's Clothes: The School of Beauty and Shame," "The Diarist," and "My Brother in the Basement." In "My Mother's Clothes" McCann develops themes of the narrator's infatuation with his mother, his guilt about that, his uncomfortable relationship with his father, and renunciation -- of his friendship with another boy. "The Diarist" focuses on the narrator's difficult interaction with his father, who expects masculine behavior from him, and with brother Davis, who seems to have no trouble fitting into the role expected of him. "My Brother in the Basement" moves forward into young adulthood and the shocking outcome of Davis's life, and the narrator's retrospective and revisionist analysis of that time.

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Incomplete Knowledge

Harrison, Jeffrey

Last Updated: Apr-26-2007
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

The author dedicates this collection to "my brother Andy, in memory." Indeed, the second half of the book (Part II) contains 22 poems that concern the brother's suicide at age 47. Although two poems in Part I are in memory of recently deceased poet-friends, most of Part I handles a variety of experiences, memories, and reflections, all written with self-deprecating humor. There is "My Worst Job Interview"; a poem about a writing class in which the instructor repeatedly announced to the class that Harrison was "hopeless" ("Fork"); a riff on being one of those "who know something about the world / but not a whole lot" ("Incomplete Knowledge"); a poem about a disastrous breakfast with a friend who is said to have Asperger's syndrome ("Breakfast with Dan"); and in a more serious vein, "My Personal Tornado," in which Harrison presciently speculates about "the maelstrom" that is bound to hit him, just as all lives undergo "this beast of wind that sucks you into / the updraft of its hungry funnel."

Part II begins with a museum visit in which the poet speaks to a 15th century statue of a saint: "Now I want to tell you everything / that has happened to me since I last saw you" ("Saint"). There follows the 12 part poem, "An Undertaking," which begins with "The Call" from Harrison's father in the middle of the night, and moves through the family entering the dead brother's apartment, packing his belongings, telling the poet's children, and above all, trying to understand: "I weighed possibilities, made lists, wrote memos / to myself: was it spontaneous or planned -- / and for how long? I couldn't let it go" ("The Investigation"). Attempts to understand continue in "Confession" in which Harrison retrospectively acknowledges "your small odd habits // that were probably symptoms / but which I chose to see as harmless quirks." This long poem sequence ends with a "Plea" to be forgiven for preoccupation with self, for not recognizing a brother in need of help, yet: "No one can forgive me but myself . . . but I can forgive you for killing yourself."

The remainder of Part II includes a poem about the poet's senile grandmother who nevertheless notices at Thanksgiving that "Someone's missing" ("Happiness"); poems about joy and renewed loss when his brother appears in dreams ("The Return," "Not Waking Up," "Visitation Rights"); anniversaries of the death ("Anniversary," "Fall Truce"); memories.

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The Mailbox

Shafer, Audrey

Last Updated: Apr-07-2007
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

After living with various foster families, nine-year-old Gabe is taken to live with his aging Uncle Vernon in West Virginia. The relationship with his mother's gruff and distant older brother, a Vietnam vet, is distant at first, but warms up over time. But after his first day in 6th grade, Gabe comes home to find his uncle dead on the floor.

Uncertain what to do, he does nothing for a day or two, pretending at school that everything is normal. Then the body disappears and cards with cryptic messages appear in the mailbox that indicate that someone is looking out for him. After a time, a dog appears, too, sent by the mysterious correspondent. Gabe continues to attend school, and to visit his close friend, Webber, whose mother extends healing hospitality and discreet concern to him. His English teacher takes a particular interest in Gabe, noticing both his honesty as a writer and the signs that he is carrying an unarticulated burden.

Finally the police apprehend Gabe and question him about the disappearance of his uncle's body. The mysterious correspondent turns out to be Smitty, a wartime companion of his uncle's, who has lived alone, unwilling to disclose his disfiguring facial injury in public, and isolated by the lasting effects of post-traumatic stress. Mr. Boehm, the English teacher, takes Gabe under his wing, arranges for a proper military burial for Uncle Vernon, and helps Gabe make direct contact with Smitty, then offers Gabe a home with him.


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The Forbidden Woman

Mokeddem, Malika

Last Updated: Feb-15-2007
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Sultana, a doctor who escaped her illiterate nomadic background to study and work in France, returns to her native Algeria when she hears of the death of her former lover and fellow physician, Yacine. She is treated with hostility, but defiantly stays in Yacine’s place at the clinic. Vincent, a Frenchman who is the baffled recipient of a perfectly matched kidney from a young Algerian woman, travels to the desert to explore the culture of this unknown person whose death has brought him back to life.

Sultana and Vincent meet through their common friendship with the furtive, questioning children, Dalila and Alilou. Vincent and Salah, Yasmine’s best friend, both fall in love with Sultana, but she seems indifferent to them. The violence and suspicion of the town leaders causes her to regress into anorexia and mutism, during which she is tormented by the horrible memory of the loss of her parents. Her three male friends and the village women help her to recover a sense of self worth, but she must flee when the leaders set fire to their dwellings. A glimmer of optimism can be found in the aspirations of the children and the solidarity of the women.

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Common Threads

Epstein, Robert; Friedman, Jeffrey

Last Updated: Feb-14-2007
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

This documentary film is narrated by Dustin Hoffman; all other characters play themselves. Five stories (pathographies) introduced as panels from the 14-acre AIDS quilt are interwoven with each other, together with personal photos, newsreels and radio reports to recount the history of the first decade of AIDS in the United States.

Tom was a highly educated and athletic, gay man whose story is told by his lesbian friend and co-parent of his adored little daughter. Rob was a married Afro-American, I.V.-drug-user whose loving wife recounts his battle with drugs as well as his disease and who views her own HIV seropositivity as "God’s will." Jeff’s story is told by his grieving male lover over images of his once golden health.

The parents of twelve-year-old hemophiliac, David, tell the story of his entire life as a rush to consume, from his babyhood forward until the sadness of his last Christmas. The shy, handsome architect, David, is mourned by his bisexual lover, a naval officer at the Pentagon, who now lies dying with the lesions of Kaposi’s sarcoma quite visible on his face.

The narrators describe solace they derived from quilting memorial panels for their loved ones. In the final scene, the AIDS quilt lies on the Mall in Washington as names of hundreds of loved ones are read by grieving families and friends.

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This strong, powerful poem of grief for the death of an infant son in an intensive care unit is written by a poet who lost two of his five children. The rhythm of the poem is jazz, pulsing and pulsating, with well-controlled rests. Some words are run together: " . . . mamaborn, sweetsonchild / gonedowntown into researchtestingwarehousebatteryacid" which evokes (among other things) the frenzied atmosphere of a neonatal intensive care unit and the seemingly inevitable rush towards death.

Much of the poem deals with the distrust of the medical community, which is emphasized by the divide of race: the white doctors and nurses in white uniforms versus the African-American patient and family. The frustration of dependence on others is painful for the father during the nightmare of his baby’s dying. However, the poet reaches a higher level of understanding about his pain and grief; he acknowledges that the baby did receive all that medicine had to offer and he recognizes the complicated responsibilities one acquires by experiencing a loss.

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Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Criticism

Summary:

Subtitled Women Novelists of Color and the Politics of Medicine, this book draws on novels by eleven women to illustrate how physical and emotional states of health and illness are linked directly to social justice. The book is divided into two parts. The first five chapters deal with individual characters, their illnesses, and sometimes their healing: Toni Cade Bambara's The Salt Eaters, Paule Marshall's Praisesong for the Widow, Gloria Naylor's The Women of Brewster Place: A Novel in Seven Stories, Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony, Toni Morrison's Beloved and The Bluest Eye, Louise Erdrich's Tracks, and Sapphire's Push are among the works Stanford uses to examine women who have become ill because of broken ties to their histories and communities, because of racial hatred, or because of domestic and sexual violence (see this database for annotations).

The second part of the book finds novels examining medicine itself. Stanford uses Ana Castillo's So Far from God, Gloria Naylor's Mama Day (annotated in this database), Leslie Marmon Silko's Almanac of the Dead: A Novel (annotated in this database), and Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents again to raise connections between patients and social conditions but also to ask questions about bioethics and uncertainty, medicine and epistemology, and how medicine might resist dehumanizing trends through the "myriad possibilities of communitas" (218).

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Heroes and Saints

Moraga, CherrĂ­e

Last Updated: Dec-14-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Plays

Genre: Play

Summary:

This searing play takes place in California's central valley where Mexican immigrants are employed at survival wages to work in fields poisoned by pesticides. Their ramshackle government homes are built over dumps where toxic waste poisons the water. The community has suffered a high incidence of cancer--especially in children--, birth defects, and other illnesses related to long-term intake of toxic substances.

One of the main characters, Cerezita, has only half a body, and often occupies center stage encased in an altar-like contraption where only her head shows. She turns pages, points, and performs other basic functions with tongue and teeth. She is a prophetic figure, willing to see and speak, because seeing and speaking are all she can do, and to name the evils that others prefer to call the will of God.

She seeks and finds intellectual companionship in the local priest who is struggling to find an appropriate way to minister to a parish divided among disillusioned cynics turned alcoholic, pious women who want nothing to do with politics, and the angry young, including one young homosexual who feels driven to leave a loving but uncomprehending family, and reveals to the priest that he has AIDS.

The community has been involved in recent protests that consist of hanging the bodies of recently deceased children on crosses in the fields. This dramatic protest has caused public outrage and attracted media attention. The play culminates in a protest in which Cerezita and the priest are shot down and the young man with AIDS cries out for the community to burn the fields. The curtain falls on burning vineyards.

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