Showing 31 - 40 of 77 annotations tagged with the keyword "Urban Violence"

Losing Absalom

Pate, Alexs

Last Updated: Dec-11-2006
Annotated by:
Secundy, Marian Gray

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This beautifully written novel describes the death of Absalom Goodman of brain cancer and takes us into the lives and hearts of his family. The novel is written largely from the perspective of this dying husband of Gwen and father of Sonny and Rainey. In a semi-conscious state, Absalom alternates between memories of the past, psychic connections with his family members, sometimes delirious ruminations and what at times appear to be out of body experiences.

Throughout, one is immersed in a gripping drama of this working class black family and their efforts to overcome terminal illness, racism, poverty, inner city turmoil and the effects of the drug culture. One is caught up in anticipatory grief, identifying with the pain and unresolved questions of Gwen, Sonny and Rainey. The reader is moved by the love, the spirituality, the ultimate defeat of the streets and the continued hopes for the future.

View full annotation

Texaco

Chamoiseau, Patrick

Last Updated: Dec-11-2006
Annotated by:
Marta, Jan

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Chamoiseau, a graduate student, arrives in Texaco, the illegal settlement above Fort-de-France, and is knocked unconscious by a rock. One volatile inhabitant has responded viscerally to the city official come to order the razing of his home. Others notice the coincidence between Chamoiseau's arrival and more positive events. Thus, in hope, and fear of police reprisal, they revive this "Christ," and bring him to Marie-Sophie Laborieux. In "the battle of her life" Texaco's founder begins to persuade the "Bird of Cham" to preserve her story and that of her people, to spare her town.

View full annotation

Living up the Street

Soto, Gary

Last Updated: Dec-07-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Collection (Essays)

Summary:

In these "narrative recollections" poet Gary Soto reflects on his Mexican American childhood in the ethnically mixed laboring-class neighborhoods of Fresno, California. His was a life lived at the margins--economic margins and cultural margins. In these recollections of family relationships, youthful mischief-making, farm and factory jobs, adolescent rebellion, and the transition to professional writing Soto subtly and humorously draws our attention to the discontinuities between the lived lives of Chicanos and Anglos.

"The Beauty Contest" describes how young Gary entered his younger half-brother in a playground beauty contest. "Strong build, a chipped tooth, half Mexican and half white--he might win, I thought." (43) Gary knows that only a lighter complexioned child could meet the Anglo standards of beauty that prevail. In fact, he has internalized those standards himself: " . . . we were awed by the blond and fair skinned kids in good clothes. They looked beautiful, I thought." We are led to infer that the Anglo contestants come from a world of comfort and parental attentiveness whereas Gary has been left on his own to tend to his brother while his parents are away at their work of manual labor.

In "Looking for Work" Gary wanted to imitate the Anglo families of the television programs that he continually watched. He tried to convince his siblings to wear shoes to dinner and improve their appearance so that "[w]hite people would like us more." (26) In "1,2,3," Soto reconstructs the shocking vindictiveness of an Anglo father after his young daughter falls off of a swing that is being pushed by Gary's Chicana friend, Rosie. Soto ends this piece, "I wanted to . . . explain that it was a mistake; that we also fell from the swings and the bars and got hurt . . . ." (15)

Soto foregrounds violence as an integral part of his childhood. The lead-off sketch, "Being Mean," recounts childhood pranks involving the setting of fires and abuse of pets. But this violence also included and was a response to verbal violence from others, such as being called "dirty Mexicans." (3) "Bloodworth" chronicles the evolution from fisticuffs--"all through elementary and junior high school, it was bob and weave, jab and stick" (95)--to the more controlled violence of the high school wrestling team.

Soto tells of his back-breaking farm laboring and factory jobs in "One Last Time" and "Black Hair." There is no romance in these episodes, "no grace" (124) in the miserable conditions, and no comfort. Rather, there is always the fear that he will forever have to "work Mexican hours, and in the end die a Mexican death, broke and in despair." (123)

View full annotation

TV in Black and White

Soto, Gary

Last Updated: Dec-07-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The speaker remembers his childhood in which "[w]e were sentenced to watch / The rich on TV --." While the sitcom characters (the Donna Reed Show, Ozzie and Harriet) played golf, ate steak, and dressed fashionably, the speaker and his friends tried to relate the television lives to their own. The disparity between what they saw on television and what they saw every day at home was enormous, required a different dictionary: "While he swung, we hoed / Fields flagged with cotton . . . . "

The poet returns to the present. For many life is relatively luxurious--" Piano lessons for this child, / Braces for that one . . . . " But watch out--when there's a power failure and the lights go off " . . . in this town, / a storefront might / Be smashed, . . . And if someone steps out / With a black and white TV, / its because we love you Donna, / we miss you Ozzie."

View full annotation

Not All of Us Are Saints

Hilfiker, David

Last Updated: Dec-06-2006
Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

Having previously described his seven years as a family practitioner in rural Minnesota (Healing the Wounds, Pantheon Books, New York, 1985) Hilfiker now has turned his attention to a decade in inner-city Washington, D.C., where he practiced what he calls "poverty medicine." These introspective essays are written in a style similar to that of his first book and detail the profound struggles of the overwhelmingly African-American community he serves and lives with.

Also examined are his and his family's battle to live with their white middle-class privileges in the midst of this impoverished community. This book very effectively alternates between the numerous stories of his personal encounters with patients and deeply reflective commentary about those encounters. Prescriptions are not offered other than that a new art of caring for the poor is needed.

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This short novel is based on the student-led Mexican uprising of 1968. The reader discovers that the protagonist, Nestor, is in a hospital bed one year after the government's brutal suppression of the rebellion, recovering from a stabbing at the hands of a "prostitute-assassin" he had confronted in his post-rebellion duties as a "yellow journalist." With plenty of time to think about the failures of the previous year, Nestor decides to finish off the revolution from his sick bed, and elicits the help of his heroes, both actual and fictional, to carry out his plan.

The various heroes Nestor calls upon include "the hound" from Hound of the Baskervilles and Sherlock Holmes; the Earp brothers and their companion, Doc Holliday; the four Musketeers; the Light Brigade; and various other anti-colonialists and anti-imperialists, including Norman Bethune (see film annotation, Bethune: The Making of a Hero), the Tigers of Malaysia, and the Mau-Mau. These characters are summoned by Nestor (and Taibo) as a means to revivify the "Movement of '68" that ended in the massacre of 49 students, the wounding of 500 others, and the detention of 1500 persons on October 2nd of that year.

Jorge Castaneda notes in the preface to this novel, "only fairy tales or adventure stories could heal the wounds and keep the promises of the streets . . . "(p.vii). It is the imagined hero's power to reconfigure events to which the desperate Nestor turned in his attempt to heal the past.

View full annotation

Cracking India

Sidhwa, Bapsi

Last Updated: Dec-04-2006
Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Lenny's development from childhood to adolescence concurs with India's independence from Britain and the partitioning of India into India and Pakistan. The interwoven plots give each other substantial meaning. Partly because Lenny's family are Parsees, a religious and ethnic minority that remained relatively neutral in post-Partition religious conflicts, she has access to people of all ethnicities and religions, both within Lahore and in other locales. More significantly, she has access to a wide variety of viewpoints both pre-and post-Partition through her Ayah, a beautiful woman whose suitors are ethnically and religiously diverse.

Lenny's passionate love of Ayah and the loss of innocence that accompanies their changing relationship through the Partition is an energetic center to the plot. Lenny's relationships with her mother, her powerful godmother, and her sexually invasive cousin are also important to the novel. Lenny's polio forms a significant early narrative thread. Other minor but compelling subplots include Lenny's parents' changing relationship, the murder of a British official, and the child marriage of the much-abused daughter of one of Lenny's family's servants.

View full annotation

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.

View full annotation

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."

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This haunting memoir by a South African surgeon who has witnessed tremendous suffering across the globe is best read as his story, and not a war chronicle as the subtitle would suggest, since large chunks of the book are not about war in the dressing station sense of the term. That said, however, the war that rages inside the author continues throughout the book and gives the reader glimpses of wisdom gained during Kaplan's remarkable journey of life amidst death. The book is culled from journals of writing and sketches that he kept throughout his travels.

Kaplan's first crisis occurs when he joins fellow medical students in an anti-apartheid demonstration in Cape Town and, following the lead of a more senior student, Stefan, tends to the wounded and frightened after riot police attacked the demonstrators. Kaplan then gets the call of not only medicine as service, but surgery as service, when, as a neophyte doctor, he saves the life of a youth shot in the liver by the police.

This feat should not be underestimated, though the author writes with humility. Indeed, in recounting later incidents in which patients die, the odds tremendously stacked against the patients surviving anyway (a woman with disseminated intravascular coagulopathy and multiple organ failure, or the Kurdish boy in a refugee camp with a great hemorrhaging, septic wound), the author's self-chastisement is a painful reminder of how the physician suffers with each loss.

After a beautifully written prologue which begins, "I am a surgeon, some of the time" (p. 1), the book proceeds chronologically, each chapter named for the location of the action. Kaplan leaves South Africa to avoid military service and the fate that befell Stefan, who becomes an opioid addict after euthanizing a torture victim in a horrible scene of police brutality and violence. Kaplan's post-graduate training in England and BTA (Been to America) research stint heighten his sense of cynicism about hierarchy in English society and capitalistic forces in American medical research.

Ever the outsider, Kaplan first returns to Africa (treating victims of poverty, deprivation and violence), then sets off to war zones in Kurdistan, Mozambique, Burma (Myanmar), and Eritrea. In between, he works not only as a surgeon, but also a documentary filmmaker and a cruise ship and flight doctor. He avoids the more established medical humanitarian relief efforts, such as Médecins Sans Frontières, and instead prefers to work where no other ex-pat physician will go--enemy territory, front lines, and poorly equipped dressing stations.

Along the way he decides the number of people he has helped as a surgeon, particularly in Kurdistan, has been small compared to the potential to intervene in broader public health measures (he meets a Swiss water treatment engineer) and occupational health exposés to help abused victims (e.g., of mercury poisoning in South Africa and Brazil). The book ends with Kaplan studying to become an expert in occupational medicine, though, incongruously, in the heart of London's financial district where he treats stress-related illness.

View full annotation