Showing 41 - 50 of 118 annotations tagged with the keyword "African-American Experience"

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.

View full annotation

Sister Outsider

Lorde, Audre

Last Updated: Jan-08-2007
Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Collection (Essays)

Summary:

Sister Outsider is a collection of essays focusing on race/racism, gender/sexism, sexual identity, and social class as these are enacted in a white-supremist, heterosexist, capitalist patriarchy (i.e. the United States). As a Black woman, lesbian, feminist, mother, poet, essayist, and political activist, Lorde's essays in this collection include her often quoted "The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House," an essay that radically challenges how white people "learn about" racism, or how men "learn about" women: "Women of today are still being called upon to stretch across the gap of male ignorance and to educate men as to our existence and our needs. This is an old and primary tool of all oppressors to keep the oppressed occupied with the master's concerns . . . ."

Her essay "Poetry is Not a Luxury" suggests that poetry is "illumination," and is a way to wed ideas and feeling, a way "we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives." Other titles include "Sexism: An American Disease in Blackface," "Man Child: A Black Lesbian Feminist's Response" (on being the lesbian mother of a son), and "The Uses of Anger: Women Respond to Racism."

View full annotation

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).

View full annotation

Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

For months, Junior Brown, an obese adolescent, has been meeting secretly with his friend Buddy, a street-wise homeless boy who lives in an abandoned building, and a former teacher, now janitor, Mr. Pool. In the basement of the school building, Mr. Pool has rigged up a model of the solar system that rotates, illuminated in the dark. He and the boys discuss astronomy, math, and a vision of worlds to come while the boys skip classes and take refuge in their basement hideaway.

Junior is mentally disturbed; both Buddy and Mr. Pool know this and take care of him as they can. Junior's fiercely controlling mother exacerbates his obesity by serving him excessive helpings of food and feeding his fantasy that his father will return. She herself has asthma, which ties Junior to her as intermittent caretaker.

Junior has a musical gift, but his mother has removed the strings from the piano, so he practices on keys that produce no sound. Fridays he finds his way to the home of a demented old piano teacher who won't allow him to play her piano because of her delusion that a dangerous relative is hiding in her apartment. Ultimately the boys and Mr. Pool are caught in their marginal existence below the school.

They retreat to Buddy's urban hideaway where he cares for two other boys, teaching them how to survive. Buddy is convinced he can help Junior survive as well, with Mr. Pool's help. He knows that if he allows Junior to be retrieved by his mother or school officials, he'll be locked up in an institution where no one will recognize his gifts or his worth.

View full annotation

Babylon Boyz

Mowry, Jess

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Pook, Dante, and Wyatt inhabit the social margins of an inner-city school in Oakland. Pook's family has disintegrated from drug trade, Dante needs a heart operation he can't afford as a result of his now-dead mother's addiction to crack cocaine, Wyatt, slowed and ostracized by obesity, provides a frequent refuge for the other two at his mother's rundown dockside café. The three of them are no strangers to the violence of drug-infested neighborhoods, Wyatt manages to smuggle a gun into the schoolyard despite metal detectors, but none of the boys is eager to use weapons. They are "homies," committed to each other's survival, and intensely loyal.

Radgi, a younger, smaller homeless kid, follows them for occasional handouts and eventually is taken into Dante's apartment where his father, a dock worker, is frequently absent. All are threatened repeatedly by "Air Touch," a leader in the local drug trade who deals with smugglers and rich white patrons. Another occasional friend is Kelly, a Korean boy whose father runs a convenience store in the "hood."

The plot follows the fortunes of the boys after they witness the police beating Air Torch, see him toss his gun and briefcase away before being apprehended, and pick up both as they run for home. In the briefcase is a load of cocaine ready for sale. They have to decide whether to sell it to get the money for Dante's operation or pour it down the toilet. They sell the gun with the help of Kelly who, discovered by Air Torch, is killed, along with his father.

Eventually, after some hair-raising close calls, the boys get rid of the drugs, assemble in Dante's apartment, and discover that the petite Radgi, who they thought was bloated from starvation, is a girl, about to have a baby as a result of rape. Pook, who longs to be a doctor and has read a medical book sequestered among his few possessions, helps deliver the child, a "little brutha."

View full annotation

Love in the Driest Season

Tucker, Neely

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

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Neely Tucker, a white journalist from Mississippi on assignment to Zimbabwe, and his wife, Vita, an African American from Detroit, volunteer to spend time with orphaned and abandoned children, many victims of the desperation caused by AIDS. In the orphanage, where a distressing number of children die due to lack of medicines or basic materials, or lack of adequate staff training, they come upon and find themselves deeply drawn to a particularly tiny, sick, vulnerable baby, abandoned in the desert. The director of the orphanage picks a name for her as she does for the other orphans: Chipo.

The Tuckers arrange to take her home, first for weekend care visits, hoping thereafter to do a more permanent foster care arrangement and then adopt her. A long story of struggle with Zimbabwean bureaucracy ensues, through which one learns much about suspicion of white Americans who want children, the ways in which child care becomes one more issue in partisan politics, and how abandoned children are caught in adults’ power struggles. Interspersed with this moving story are brief accounts of sometimes harrowing trips to other parts of Africa, including sites of major warfare in Rwanda and Uganda.

Tucker also intersperses memories of encounters with families in Bosnia during his work there. Ultimately, and only after much persistence, empathetic individuals in the system, and some newly learned under-the-table skills, the adoption papers come through and the family makes its way back to American where Tucker begins his ongoing assignment at the Washington Post.

View full annotation

Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Summary:

The editor solicited this collection of thirteen stories on the theme of entrapment from experienced young adult fiction writers. They represent a variety of kinds of entrapment: in a relationship too serious too early; in an abusive relationship; in a body distorted through the psychological lens of anorexia; in a dream world; in a canyon fire; in a web of secrets woven in an abused childhood; in a maze with a minotaur; in a habit of perfectionism; in the sites of urban violence; in dementia induced by post-traumatic stress (long remembered by a Viet Nam vet); in an unsought relationship with a lost and disturbed brother; in poverty. In each of the stories an adolescent protagonist encounters some challenge either to find his or her way out of a trap, or to understand others’ entrapments. The stories vary widely in setting and style, but held together by this theme, they serve to enlarge understanding of the ways in which any of us may find ourselves entrapped, and how “liberation” may require both imagination and compassion.

View full annotation

Praisesong for the Widow

Marshall, Paule

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

A middle class African-American widow, Avey Marshall, has set off on a cruise with two of her friends from work on the "Bianca Pride," and becomes ill shortly after they have set sail. Avey disembarks in Grenada after experiencing disequilibrium, nausea, disturbing nightmares, and a feeling of being "clogged and swollen." Thus begins a journey of reclamation and healing of a past that has been largely forgotten or erased in her efforts to escape the poverty of her younger years and obtain the American dream of financial security and a white-defined respectability.

The novel is divided into four parts: Avey's growing distress on board the cruise ship, the intensification of nightmares and "visits" from her long-dead and very Afro-centric Great Aunt Cuney, and her decision to leave the cruise ship. The second section takes place in her hotel room where Avey confronts her rage and grief, not only over the death of her husband, but the utter waste in his drive for material success and the ensuing loss of their joy in each other and their heritage.

In the third section, Avey, getting lost on a walk, meets Lebert Joseph who convinces her to accompany him on the "Carriacou Excursion," an annual island festival honoring the long-time ancestors. Avey travels by small boat to Carriacou, becoming violently ill, and is cared for by a group of women on the boat, encouraging her in this "cleansing." This journey and her illness prompt Avey to think about the middle passage of slaves and the horrors they endured in countless journeys much worse than hers.

Once on the island, in the fourth section of the book, Avey is bathed and nursed back to health by Lebert Joseph's daughter, Rosalie Parvay. Finally, Avey joins the celebration (the "Big Drum"), witnessing and finally joining the important "Beg Pardon" and nation dances. This section brings the novel full circle as Avey experiences reconciliation with her past, her heritage, and herself.

View full annotation

The Bluest Eye

Morrison, Toni

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The Breedlove family has moved from the rural south to urban Lorain, Ohio, and the displacement, in addition to grinding work conditions and poverty, contributes to the family's dysfunction. Told from the perspectives of the adolescent sisters, Claudia and Frieda MacTeer, Morrison's narrative weaves its way through the four seasons and traces the daughter's (Pecola Breedlove) descent into madness. Through flashback and temporal shifts, Morrison provides readers with the context and history behind the Breedloves' misery and Pecola's obsessive desire to have "the bluest eyes."

View full annotation

Invisible Man

Ellison, Ralph

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Ellison uses the trope of invisibility in this novel that traces the Invisible Man’s journey from idealism to a grim realism about the racism that confronts him every step of his way. Every episode ends with the Invisible Man’s escape from near disaster, brought about by his naiveté and the virulent racism in which he must function. By novel’s end, the hero is living clandestinely in the basement of a large building, burning hundreds of lights at the expense of the electric company, and planning for an eventual re-emergence.

View full annotation