Showing 361 - 370 of 740 Nonfiction annotations

A Place to Stand

Baca, Jimmy Santiago

Last Updated: Dec-12-2006
Annotated by:
Stanford, Ann Folwell

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Born in New Mexico, poet Jimmy Santiago Baca recounts his long saga of imprisonment, beginning in childhood and stretching into adulthood. Throughout this beautifully written memoir, Baca describes his experiences in and outside of prison, and how he moved from being a victim of the system to a survivor through the written word.

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Annotated by:
Secundy, Marian Gray

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

A brief, but to the point description of Zora Neale Hurston's visit to the office of a white physician in the mid 1900's. In a very few words, she provides a description of blatant racism. Although referred by a white friend, Hurston is badly received by a white nurse and physician. Separated from the other patients, she is placed in a closet-like waiting area with soiled towels and uniforms. The physician shows significant lack of interest in this patient, examining her in a rushed and desultory manner.

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Annotated by:
Poirier, Suzanne

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

Rosita Arvigo is a Chicago-trained doctor of naprapathy (an alternative therapy that involves soft tissue manipulation, diet, and other non-drug modalities) who moved with her husband (also a naprapath) to Belize to open a medical clinic. Shortly after her arrival she met Elijio Panti, given a variety of names by his patients: el viejito, the old man, numero uno, or el mero, the authentic one.

One of the last traditional healers of Mayan medicine, Panti uses observation, experience, and divination with his sastun to diagnose his patients' illnesses; and herbs, manipulation, and prayers to treat them. Arvigo studied with Panti for five years, learning to identify and use countless plants in the rainforest that surrounds her home and, eventually, discovering the object that becomes her own sastun.

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Annotated by:
Poirier, Suzanne

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

The title of Scannell’s book refers to an episode in her work with AIDS patients when she realizes that the "good doctor" she’d been taught to be--scientifically precise, medically focused and aggressive--was not what many of her patients wanted or needed. From that point on, she strove to understand the nature of her patients’ suffering and how they might be cherished and morally supported during the last weeks and days of their lives. In a series of essays she offers haunting portraits of the men and women she served--and of herself, as she learns to recognize and grapple with her own anger, grief, comfort, and joy.

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Sound Shadows of the New World

Mehta, Ved

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

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

This account by the well known Indian/American blind writer describes experiences when he came to the United States at age 15 from New Delhi to attend the Arkansas School for the Blind. The title derives from an unusual ability (which Mehta possesses) to navigate one’s way by perceiving the physical surroundings "as sound-shadows by means of echoing sound and changes of air pressure around the ears." As a precocious teenager, Mehta had high ambitions for his future; this important period of his life represented both an opportunity and an impediment, requiring tremendous cultural, emotional, and physical adjustments.

Very well conveyed are the driving desire to be like sighted people, the need for independence and control, and to be accepted in the foreign culture while remaining in some ways superior to it. There are fascinating descriptions of how Mehta learned to travel with minimal assistance, high-dive, package ice-cream in a factory; of how he used money intended for other purposes to build an electronic retreat in a broom closet which allowed him to tape record, type, and to listen to Edward R. Murrow’s broadcasts, and of how he then paid back the money by taking correspondence courses in order to finish school one year early.

The normal adolescent awakening of sexuality, and the ambivalent dependence on parental guidance are also important aspects of the book. Writes Mehta in retrospect,"The three years of my life spent in Little Rock became sealed in a compartment of my mind which I dreaded to open . . . because . . . the near-total submersion in a residential school for the blind seemed to accentuate my blindness, when all along my aspiration had been to be a well-adjusted member of the seeing society outside."

 

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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)

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Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Subtitled "My Journey through Autism," Prince-Hughes's memoir leads the reader through a poetic, at times mystical, journey from "being a wild thing out of context" (1) to finding a way to understand the world and live "in context" (11). The author, an anthropologist, has Asperger's syndrome. Prince-Hughes explains that Asperger's is a form of autism in which the individual develops "age-appropriate" language and cognitive skills as well as "self-help skills" and curiosity about the environment but has marked difficulties with social interaction and shows the obsessive, ritualistic behavior similar to other autistic individuals.

As the author relates, her poor social skills, discomfort with physical closeness, sensory sensitivities (to touch and odors for example) and other odd behaviors annoyed her instructors and triggered taunts and even physical abuse from classmates and acquaintances. She describes her misery one such day when she was confronted by an impatient teacher: "I often couldn't take in people as whole entities, even when I was relatively relaxed . . . I was caught in a whirlwind of horrible sensory information and unrelenting criticism" (43).

Getting through each day was filled with emotional pain and suffering, and required a tremendous expenditure of energy in usually unsuccessful attempts to "fit in." Complicating her social isolation was the gradual recognition that her adolescent sexuality was somewhat blunted or, if anything, inclined toward lesbianism. She began drinking (alcohol) in the seventh grade. At 16 she left school and home, embarking on a long period of alcoholism, drug dependence, a "hippie" lifestyle and outright homelessness.

Prince-Hughes had always found refuge in nature, but later she also took pleasure in the physical activity of dancing, becoming a club performer in Seattle. During time off one day, she packed lunch and ate it at the zoo. She spent three hours watching the gorillas. "It was so subtle and steady that I felt like I was watching people for the first time in my whole life . . . Free from acting, free from the oppression that comes with brash and bold sound, blinding stares and uncomfortable closeness that mark the talk of human people. In contrast, these people spoke softly, their bodies poetic, their faces and dance poetic, spinning conversations out of the moisture and perfume, out of the ground and out of the past. They were like me" (93).

Thus began the author's profound relationship and identification with gorillas, an interaction that changed her life, resulting eventually in scholarly work and a Ph.D. in interdisciplinary anthropology, a faculty appointment, and gradual understanding of her own neuroatypical condition, not diagnosed as Asperger's until she was 36 years old.

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Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

Yoshino has written a book that is both treatise and memoir. Taking his cue from Erving Goffman's introduction of the term "covering" (in Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity), Yoshino writes from his own experience as a young gay Japanese American who is also a lawyer and scholar at Yale University. Covering, Yoshino proposes, is "to tone down a disfavored identity to fit into the mainstream" (ix). He identifies three historical and individual stages of dealing with disfavored identity: conversion, in which the individual and/or society try to transform an identity to render it more acceptable (for example, attempts to convert homosexuals into heterosexuals); passing, in which the individual hides the undesirable identity to a greater or lesser extent depending on circumstances; and covering, in which the individual openly acknowledges the undesirable identity but suppresses behavioral aspects of the identity that could draw unwelcome attention (for example, a gay male publicly holding hands with or kissing another gay male).

The author discusses these concepts specifically with relevance to his gay identity in part one of the book, detailing how he went through these three phases himself. Part two elaborates on racial and sex-based covering, and part three discusses Civil Rights and legal issues that surround covering. Yoshino argues that contemporary American society imposes covering on certain groups--gays, blacks, women, disabled people, Jews, Asian Americans--and ultimately in some manner on everyone. The bases for this imposition are pressures to conform and to assimilate. He identifies "covering axes: appearance ( . . . 'I own brown suede bucks'); affiliation ('I listen to National Public Radio . . . '); activism ('I do not mind how white television casts are . . . '); and association (' . . . I married a white woman')" (125).

Beyond that, according to the author, our laws and their interpretation by the Supreme Court "instruct the mainstream to ignore [difference] and the outsider group to mute it" (182). This is an inevitable result of the great pluralism of contemporary society--the courts cannot protect all separate groups that exist.

In the final chapter Yoshino proposes a new paradigm for Civil Rights: universal liberty (rather than equality among groups) based on "our common humanity." This paradigm would allow individuals to live "authentically" and in good psychological health. Yoshino invokes the concept of health proposed by theorist, D. W. Winnicott: living according to one's "True Self" while the "False Self" "is reduced to a 'polite and mannered social attitude,' a tool available to the fully realized True Self" (185).

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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.

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Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir

Monette, Paul

Last Updated: Dec-06-2006
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Writer Paul Monette's first-person account of living through his lover Roger's last nineteen months with AIDS, from diagnosis to death (1986), told in language that is poetic and highly articulate. The couple faces not only progressive physical degeneration (Monette calls time with AIDS a "minefield") but also the agonizing issues of truthtelling with their families, friends gay and straight, and the world, in "the double closet of the war."

Fact-finding is a constant obsession in this story, not only about who is positive and who knows, but also in the rapidly-changing medical arena, where through Monette's extraordinary efforts Roger becomes the first person west of the Mississippi to be put on the drug, AZT. Monette is so devoted a caregiver that he often loses himself--a problem he solves in part by turning to the subject of AIDS as a writer.

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