Showing 71 - 80 of 192 annotations tagged with the keyword "Alcoholism"

Northern Lights

Harjo, Joy

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

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

A Native American who has been destroyed by his participation in the Vietnam war and alcoholism tells the speaker of the poem about his healing. "Whirling Soldier" had seen the apparition of his cousin Ralph in "the gook rattling the bush" nearby and had believed that "each shot [he fired] rigged his spine to hell." The difficulty of reconciling willful killing with the Native American belief in the connectedness of all life drives Whirling Soldier to alcohol and heroin.

The poem tells of his descent into hell and his final drunken episode, after which "a spirit who had never been a stranger but a relative he’d never met" speaks and blesses him. At the end of the poem, the Northern Lights appear, "shimmering relatives returned from the war, dancing in the skies all around us."

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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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Summary:

The narrator of these short stories is a social worker who works for an agency for the blind, many of whose clients are diabetic, alcoholic, or mentally disabled as well. Over the course of the stories, the narrator leaves this work to go back to school in the arts, a personal ambivalence that may play some role in her continual, often dry critique of her clients, her work, and herself. Mostly, though, she casts a gruffly compassionate eye on the hard yet often rich and triumphant lives her clients lead, faced with financial and physical hardship as well as social ostracism.

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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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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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The Shrine at Altimara

L'Heureux, John

Last Updated: Dec-05-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Written in a style resembling religious litany, this is the tale of a disastrous teen-age marriage and its criminal consequences. The setting is California. Maria is a poor Mexican-American who meets and attracts Russell, a working class Anglo. Although ambivalent, Maria sees marriage to Russell as the path to American, white respectability. Her earlier hopes of achieving this status through her own efforts have been frustrated by the reality of poor academic performance. She is eager to get away from the household of her deeply religious mother. Russell is brooding, taciturn, and carries the physical and psychic wounds of an abused childhood--his father is a partially reformed alcoholic who deliberately burned Russell's hand.

The pair are ill-equipped for marriage or parenthood and Maria soon feels trapped. Their son, John, avoids provoking them by being a "good boy," hoping to prevent their frequent arguments. Russell's deprived childhood accounts, perhaps, for his obsessively jealous fixation on Maria. He is jealous even of the attention she gives their son.

The catastrophe that seems always close at hand finally occurs: Russell sets fire to his own child. The second part of the novel is told primarily from John's perspective as he undergoes a prolonged, painful rehabilitation and tries to find meaning in these events. It is also the story of the plastic surgeon who attempts to restore John's horribly scarred body and who has come to doubt the purpose of his profession (there is nothing he can do about destructive family relationships and psychic scars). Russell, who has been brutalized in jail, is released, seeking redemption. Fire, significant throughout the story, plays a final shocking (redemptive?) role.

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The Shadow Man

Gordon, Mary

Last Updated: Dec-05-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Subtitled "A Daughter's Search for Her Father," this memoir chronicles author Mary Gordon's quest to recapture the essence that was her father, a man she idolized and adored while he was alive--and long after his death when she was only seven years old. This death she saw as the single most defining event of her life. Identification with her father was essential to the conception of self, both as a creative writer, and as a worthwhile person. So she "entered the cave of memory" but found that memory was discordant with the facts.

Gordon's father was a writer, and a convert from Judaism to Catholicism. His persona was that of an intellectual, a graduate of Harvard, a frequenter of literary circles in Oxford and Paris. He claimed to be an only child, born in Ohio. As Gordon explores her memory and the historical record, forcing herself to confront her father's political opinions--opinions which are repugnant to her, and which she had earlier chosen to ignore--she uncovers a charade.

Her father, it turns out, was an immigrant from Vilna (in Eastern Europe) and had never finished high school. He had two sisters whom he never acknowledged to his family--one spent years in a mental institution where she ultimately died. Among his published writings are pornography and political diatribe (he was an anti-Semite and a facist); his writing was stylistically flawed.

This memoir is Mary Gordon's attempt to come to terms with what she learned about her father. It is the narrative deconstruction and reconstruction of the author's self; it is both biography and autobiography; a reflection on loss and recovery.

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Summary:

Six childless women from the United States are in an unnamed Latin American country (filmed in Acapulco, Mexico), fulfilling a residence requirement while they wait to adopt babies. The owner of the hotel they stay in (Rita Moreno) and her brother, a lawyer, both make a profit from this delay. The film explores the experiences of the six women and of the people of the place from which their children will come, a place of which they see only a small part of the surface.

The Americans' stories are juxtaposed with that of a young woman who cleans the hotel rooms, who gave up her own baby for adoption "up north," and a pregnant fifteen-year-old middle class girl whose mother takes her to Miami, presumably for an abortion. The film also looks at the implications of political activism which is, for the men in the film, necessary but, for the women, appears to come at the cost of security and domestic stability.

The hotel owner's son criticizes the adoptions as a form of "Yankee cultural imperialism," yet even as we are persuaded by his view, we are swayed by the film's telling contrast between the futures offered by the American women and the lives of the city's glue-sniffing street children. The film ends with two of the women about to receive their adoptive children.

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Annotated by:
Chen, Irene
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A night on the town with two friends turns into "an attack of nerves" for Vasilyev, a law student. The three students spend the night drinking and visiting houses of prostitution; Vasilyev is horrified and repulsed by the women, who he thinks are "more like animals than human beings." The social problem of prostitution becomes an obsession; he is so fixated on finding a solution that he is in moral agony. His friends, among whom is a medical student, are concerned only with his health; they take him to a psychiatrist who "cures" Vasilyev with bromide and morphine.

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Love Medicine

Erdrich, Louise

Last Updated: Dec-01-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The author tells the story of two Native-American (Chippewa) families whose lives interweave through several generations during the years 1934-1984. The primary setting is a reservation in North Dakota. The main characters, Marie and Nector Kashpaw and Lulu Lamartine, are colorful, sympathetic people caught in a love triangle that endures for most of their adult lives. "Love medicine" represents an attempt by a Kashpaw grandson to assure once and for all that his aging grandfather will love and be true to his wife and cease "hankering after the Lamartine." The plan ends in disaster when corners are cut and the authentic old Indian customs for preparing the "love medicine" are circumvented.

There is a strong sense of the blending of cultures--religion, medicine, commerce, education all take on the distinctive qualities of an evolving mixed culture. Displacement and disenfranchisement are a fact of life, taken almost for granted, with humor, but not without a response. "They gave you worthless land to start with and then they chopped it out from under your feet. They took your kids away and stuffed the English language in their mouth . . . They sold you booze for furs and then told you not to drink. It was time, high past time, the Indians smartened up and started using the only leverage they had-federal law." (p. 326) So begins an initiative to establish a gambling casino; "gambling fit into the old traditions . . . . "

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