Showing 81 - 90 of 121 annotations tagged with the keyword "African-American Experience"

Robert Coles, Teacher

Goodman, Barak

Last Updated: Sep-07-2006
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Video

Summary:

This video depicts Robert Coles, noted author, psychiatrist, documentator and humanist, teaching his popular undergraduate course, "The Literature of Social Reflection," at Harvard University in 1990. The film begins with a bell tolling in a steeple and students entering the lecture hall. Excerpts from his lectures are presented in 4 parts: I: Ruby; II: Seeing--The Paintings of Edward Hopper and The Stories of Raymond Carver; III: Praying; and IV: Potato Chips and Tolstoy.

Some additional documentary clips are shown, such as footage of six-year-old Ruby Bridges being escorted into a previously all-white New Orleans school amidst a screaming mob during forced integration of schools. In between segments, brief interviews of Coles’ students let the viewer know that his message is getting through: it matters how you live your life--it matters a great deal.

Coles teaches with stories and these stories are riveting. In 1960, while in the Air Force and assigned to a psychiatric detail, he befriends young Ruby after he witnesses her courage in entering the school building. He comes to know her family and teacher.

Several months later, during the morning escort, Ruby stops in front of the school and says something which makes the mob even more frenzied. Coles is asked by the teacher to tell Ruby not to do that again. Upon gentle questioning, it turns out that Ruby was not talking to the mob, but to God: "Please God, try to forgive those people because they don’t know what they’re doing."

It was a prayer she said every morning, usually a couple of blocks away from the school, but that morning she had forgotten to do it earlier. Coles discusses the remarkable gift of forgiveness instilled in this brave child by her parents, who despite poverty and lack of opportunity to advance in life, were able to love and teach their children values and grace.

In Part II, Coles uses paintings by Edward Hopper, a poem by Raymond Carver ("What the Doctor Said" (annotated by Felice Aull and Irene Chen, also annotated by James Terry) and Carver short story (Cathedral) to illustrate how difficult it can be to truly communicate with and know another person. And how magical the moments are when we do.

In Part III, Coles shows some of the children’s drawings that he has collected during his documentary work. Coles delights in describing what the children said about their drawings at the time they created them. He clearly respects them and their ideas.

The last part ends with the story of the death of Coles’s mother at Massachusetts General Hospital. In her dying days she befriended an African-American woman, whose job was at the bottom of the hierarchy of the hospital: an orderly. After Coles’s mother died, it was this woman--not any doctor or nurse--who taught Coles how to take the time and be with his mother, rather than rush off as he was preparing to do. Coles asks, "Who was the doctor, the healer, the wise person?"

He notes that these twists are characteristic of many stories, such as those by Flannery O’Connor. He then concludes before a standing ovation: "Let us be good to one another, live on behalf of one another . . . . We are lucky to have these writers . . . and to have the lives that can include them."

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The Monster

Crane, Stephen

Last Updated: Sep-01-2006
Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A small-town doctor’s son is saved by a black man from a burning house. In gratitude, the doctor takes it upon himself to salvage the life of the badly burned and disfigured hero. Others warn him that he is doing no service to the patient, but the physician cannot let go of one whom he owes such a profound debt. The town begins to fear the newly created "monster." The burned man’s life becomes a nightmare of rejection; the physician and his family are progressively rejected by the community.

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Milk

Pollack, Eileen

Last Updated: Sep-01-2006
Annotated by:
Squier, Harriet

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

This is a story about Bea, a single woman professor who has just had a caeserian section for an 11 pound boy, and her hospital roommate, Corinne. Bea describes her own discomfort with Corinne’s race, while admiring Corinne’s pride and nurturance toward her newborn son. As the story progresses, Corinne is betrayed by the medical world in a multitude of ways: misdiagnosis, racist treatment, denial of medical treatment, and incompetent care, resulting in Corinne’s sepsis and her son’s eventual death.

At the end of the story, after Corinne and Bea are discharged from the hospital, Bea tries to visit Corinne and deliver the pictures of her child that Corinne hadn’t been able to afford. But at the last minute, Bea turns away. Although she wants to help, she feels wholly inadequate, and believes she will only cause Corinne pain. Ironically, Bea remembers her last night in the hospital, how she covered her ears as Corinne’s baby whimpered, and as her own breasts surged with milk for the crying child. Even though her instincts and body tell her what to do for Corinne, she is not able to listen.

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Literature

Genre: Anthology (Mixed Genres)

Summary:

Life on the Line relates the experience of 228 writers who express in their work the deep connection between healing and words. Walker and Roffman have organized their anthology into eight topical chapters: Abuse, Death and Dying, Illness, Relationships, Memory, Rituals and Remedies, White Flags From Silent Camps, and a chapter of poems about the nuclear accident at Chernobyl. This hefty volume contains a very broad selection of contemporary poems, stories, and essays by both well-known and relatively unknown writers on the experience of illness and healing.

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A Girl's Story

Bambara, Toni Cade

Last Updated: Aug-22-2006
Annotated by:
Wear, Delese

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction — Secondary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

This short story is an examination of a young African- American girl’s first encounter with her own menstruation. She is totally ignorant about this natural biological event, thus is very frightened and believes that she is sick, even dying. She has no one to turn to, having been raised by her grandmother who has kept her ignorant. When she is discovered in the bathroom, bloody and afraid, her grandmother accuses her of having an abortion, which we learn was the cause of her own mother’s death. The story is a wonderful exemplar of how many women come to believe that female biology is something secretive yet powerful, natural yet mysterious, exalted yet slightly shameful.

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Dialogues with Madwomen

Light, Allie

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006
Annotated by:
Dittrich, Lisa

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

This documentary presents a pastiche of illness narratives, the stories of seven women (including the filmmaker and the associate producer) who have struggled with mental illness, including depression, bipolar disorder, and multiple personality disorder. Intercut with the interviews are reenactments of key events in the women? lives; vivid depictions of sometimes frightening, sometimes exhilarating mental states experienced by the women; films and still photographs from the womens' childhoods, and archival film footage. In the process of exploring their illnesses and recoveries, the women discuss experiences that hurt them (rape, misdiagnoses, racism) as well as those that helped them heal (creativity, caring, therapists, and spirituality).

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Dancing with Elvis

Stephenson, Lynda

Last Updated: Aug-15-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Fifteen-year-old Frankilee's sense of justice leads her to conspire with her mother to kidnap Angelica Musseldorf from a home where there is every evidence she has been consistently beaten and abused. With reluctant cooperation from her father, they take the girl in, confront the parents, and install her in Frankilee's room for an indefinite stay. Angelica, who asks to be called Angel, is not only scarred, but needy--indeed, over time, demanding. As her parents shower her new roommate with attention, clothing, lessons, Frankilee struggles with her deepening resentments. She confides them to Wanita, the family cook, an African American whose long service to the family has given her a place of special affection.

When Wanita's son is killed in an accidental shooting, Wanita abandons the family for a time; she returns, sorrowful, but steady, to see Frankilee through her own trauma. Suspicions aroused, Frankilee decides to do some detective work with the help of a reluctant boyfriend, and discovers that Angel's "parents" are an aunt and uncle with a criminal record in fraud; they have staged abuse in order to situate their orphaned niece with unsuspecting families of means who will take on the expense of her upbringing and education. In her efforts to expose the fraud, Frankilee is attacked by the aunt who is, in fact, violent, but she survives with some stitches and a sobering sense of what it might mean to be both kind and discerning in offering help.

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The Salt Eaters

Bambara, Toni Cade

Last Updated: May-15-2006
Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The novel is set in a small, Southern town. Velma Henry, a long-time civil rights activist and feminist, sits in a hospital gown on a stool listening to the musical voice of Minnie Ransom. Old Minnie is a healer; she heals people by contacting the points of physical or psychical pain in her patients and relieving them. She is helped by her spirit guide, Old Wife. Scars heal and wounds close in minutes under her touch.

Velma needs her help because she has just tried to kill herself, sick of the painful fight for change that never comes. Her healing takes a long time, for Minnie must first convince her that she wants to be cured. The two are surrounded by tourists, doctors, and passers-by. They are in a clinic that focuses on traditional medicines of all kinds. The novel describes the inner-healing process of Velma, the efforts of Minnie and the thoughts of people looking on or associated with the scene.

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Meridian

Walker, Alice

Last Updated: May-15-2006

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Meridian is set in the American South during the 1960s and early '70s. The heroine, Meridian, is a black woman from a southern town. She marries, has a child, gets a divorce, sends her child away, and ends up working in a voters' registration campaign, encouraging African-Americans to register. Meridian is different from her co-workers in that she interacts with people as individuals, rather than by stereotyping them. For example, while others lecture black families about the importance of voting, Meridian sits and talks with them, trying to address their basic needs of food, heat, and affection.

As years pass, her co-workers quit and move into comfortable houses. She moves deeper south, living in whatever housing the community can afford to give in exchange for her constant work on their behalf. Frequently, after staging a rally or other event, Meridian develops partial paralysis. She grows more and more ill. A halo-like light surrounds her head as she thinks of the history of her people and of her role in that history. She ultimately heals herself and moves to the next small town.

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A Festering Sweetness

Coles, Robert

Last Updated: May-12-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

These poems stem from Coles's studies of the lives of poor black children in the South, and Native-American children in the Southwest and Alaska. In his Introduction to the first section of the book, Coles writes, "The words in this section tend to be soldiers." These tough, sad, hopeful, and militant poems give voice to children and adults on the firing-line during the civil rights movement of the 1960's. The poems in the second section, which arise from Coles's work among Native-Americans, are quieter in tone, more radiant, lyrical, and even transcendent.

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