Showing 51 - 60 of 121 annotations tagged with the keyword "African-American Experience"

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.

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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."

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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.

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Annotated by:
Stanford, Ann Folwell

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This novel, a winner of the American Book Award in 1983, focuses on the stories of several women who have come to live on the dead-end street, Brewster Place ("the bastard child of several clandestine meetings between the alderman of the sixth district and the managing director of Unico Realty Company" (p. 1), and the interweaving of their lives.

Mattie Michael has lost her home to her much loved, but errant son, but becomes the backbone of this community of women; Etta Mae Johnson has loved one man too many and comes to Brewster Place defeated, but finds "light and love and comfort" in the friendship of Mattie; Kiswana Browne moves to Brewster Place in an attempt to develop her Afro-centric identity, divorced from her middle class family; Lucielia Louise Turner loses one pregnancy to an abortion to keep her husband, and loses her remaining daughter to a tragic accident, also losing the will to live until Mattie’s intervention; Cora Lee’s profound loneliness motivates her to conceive child after child ("Her new baby doll" [p. 107]); "The Two" (Lorraine and Theresa) attempt to work out their life together closeted from the homophobic world. Despite the pain and suffering represented in the novel, the story culminates with a dream vision of the community healed and rebuilding itself.

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Mama Day

Naylor, Gloria

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

A story with roots in Shakespeare's The Tempest, Mama Day recounts the lives of Miranda, "Mama" Day, her sister Abigail, Abigail's grown granddaughter, Ophelia (Cocoa), and her love affair and marriage to George. Told in the voice of George (from the grave), Cocoa's voice, and an omniscient narrator's voice, the novel explores the tragic past of Mama Day's forebears as well as the present in which Mama Day functions as healer and wise woman of the small community just off the coast of Georgia.

Among other things, Mama Day helps Bernice heal from misuse of fertility drugs and helps her conceive a baby through a combination of natural medicine and "helping nature out." Cocoa and George court in New York, marry, and eventually visit Willow Springs during which time the obsessively jealous Ruby poisons Cocoa with nightshade and works a spell on her that causes her to come quite near death.

A powerful storm strands George and Cocoa in Willow Springs when the bridge goes out. George cannot believe the cause of Cocoa's illness and the means of her cure and dies in the process of trying to help her. His sacrifice and Mama Day's healing powers combine to effect Cocoa's healing. The novel is constructed as a conversation between George's spirit and Cocoa (and a narrator), looking back years after the event actually took place.

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The Healing

Jones, Gayl

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Harlan Jane Eagleton, a faith healer, tells the story of her evolution from being a rock star's manager and beautician into healing. She travels from tank town to tank town ("on account of them water tanks") performing faith healings. The novel begins at the end of the story and loops forward to where her story begins, Harlan Jane's first faith healing.

In the process, readers are given accounts of her life as manager of the rock star, her love affair with a paranoid German lover, and her former husband, a medical anthropologist who travels and studies in Africa. We hear about Harlan Jane also from Nicholas, her assistant, who sometimes narrates what happens at the healings.

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The Conjure Man Dies

Fisher, Rudolph

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The well-known and mysterious "psychist" and former African king, N. Frimbo, is found dead one night in his chair at the conjure table. What appears to be a murder is investigated by Detective Perry Dart of the Harlem police force and Dr. John Archer, his friend. Archer had been the physician summoned by Frimbo’s clients when one of them found he was speaking to a dead man.

The plot becomes more complex when Frimbo’s corpse disappears and returns as Frimbo, living. Declaring that he has control over his mind to such an extent that he can return from the dead, Frimbo nevertheless was attacked by someone for some reason and the detective and doctor proceed to find out who and why.

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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.

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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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Rocking the Babies

Raymond, Linda

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

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Rocking The Babies is a rich novel which gives us significant insights into the lives of two aging black women who decide to volunteer as foster grandmothers in the neonatal unit of an urban hospital. Each of them is attempting to work out her own problems. Despite the commonality of race, (African-American), their class differences and life experiences become areas of contention as they come together in the hospital. The dynamics of their developing relationship, the descriptions of the day to day experiences in the neo-natal unit, the professional lives of nurses and doctors are depicted with skill, pathos, and humour.

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