Showing 91 - 100 of 121 annotations tagged with the keyword "African-American Experience"

The Body Beautiful

Onwurah, Ngozi

Last Updated: May-12-2006
Annotated by:
Holmes, Martha Stoddard

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

This documentary, narrated alternately by the daughter-filmmaker and mother whose stories it tells, focuses on how two women move apart and together while experiencing, respectively, adolescence and mid-life. The mother has cancer, a mastectomy, and then rheumatoid arthritis, and these experiences intertwine thematically and structurally with the narrative of the mother-daughter relationship.

Another provocative juxtaposition cross-cuts scenes from the daughter's modeling career (and the social and erotic body that context constructs for her) with scenes of the mother's illness, stigmatization, and erotic daydreams. Both women come to a new awareness of the social meaning of mastectomy within heterosexual and same-sex contexts by the documentary's end; they also come to a place of recognition of the mother's personal and social value and the nature of their relationship.

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Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This is the story of Shed, a boy growing up in Idaho at the turn of the century. Shed, who believes he has a Native-American mother, is berdache, the Native-American third sex. Though physically male, he has feminine attributes and is bisexual. For the first half of the novel, Shed is trying to figure out who he is. He lives in a whore house run by Ida Richilieu, a bossy but deeply caring woman who acts as his mother. His own mother disappeared, hunting down a man who raped Shed. Shed later finds her body in the mountains.

One day he leaves Ida's place to visit his mother's people. On the way, he meets Dellwood Barker, a white man, who talks to the moon. Shed discovers a photograph of his mother in Dellwood's things and assumes that Dellwood is his father. Nevertheless, they fall in love and begin a sexual relationship. Dellwood believes in Moves Moves, the substance in sperm that gives life. The two separate so that Shed can go to the Indian reservation. He gets shot while there, but an old Indian man saves his life by breathing his soul into him.

Shed returns to Ida's where Ida, Shed, Dellwood (who stumbles back into Shed's life), and a whore named Alma Hatch, form a new family. Together they fight the racism and bigotry of the Mormons who take over the town. Ida and Alma get lost in a snow storm. Alma dies and Shed and Dellwood have to amputate Ida's legs which are badly frostbitten. They help her to heal by giving her the energy of their Moves Moves. By the end of the novel, Shed is content with his identity.

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Change

Massad, Stewart

Last Updated: May-08-2006

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The narrator is an aging, male gynecologist who works in a small North Carolina town. The National Health Service sends a young doctor, Rachel, to work in the clinic. From Boston, she is unused to the town's racial politics. She learns slowly to understand the motivations and concerns of her patients. As she campaigns for condom distribution, she ends up insulting the white men who run the town by calling them racists.

The narrator protests that they have power in the town only because no blacks ever run for office and that their policies are meant to distribute wealth evenly. He encourages Rachel to be more gentle and womanly. She will get her way more easily if she smiles. But Rachel eventually turns her back on the narrator, too, when in order to get a violent black man out of the clinic's lobby he calls the man "boy" and threatens to call the police. Rachel moves in with a black man. The town has revenge when a hit and run driver kills her lover and Rachel is hounded out of town.

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Four lonely individuals, marginalized misfits in their families/communities, each obsessed with a vision of his or her place in the world, collect about a single deaf-mute with whom they share their deepest secrets. An adolescent who desires to write symphonies, an itinerant drunk who believes he must organize poor laborers, a black physician whose desire is to motivate his people to demand their rightful place in American society, and a cafe owner whose secret wish is sexually ambiguous, believes that the deaf Mr. Singer understands and validates his or her obsession. Singer, ironically obsessed with a friendship of questionable reciprocity, commits suicide when the friend dies.

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Clock Without Hands

McCullers, Carson

Last Updated: May-02-2006
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In the early 1950's, Milan, Georgia is a racially divided town where secrets are plentiful and the meaning of justice is muddled. J. T. Malone, a 40-year-old pharmacist who failed his second year of medical school, is diagnosed with leukemia and told he has only 12-15 months to live. In some ways, Malone's last year of life parallels the declining fortunes of the town's leading citizen, Judge Fox Clane, an overweight and elderly former Congressman who suffers from diabetes and a previous stroke. Judge Clane's wife died of breast cancer, his only son committed suicide, and his daughter-in-law died during childbirth. He raises his grandson, John Jester Clane, and aspires to restore the grandeur of the South in conjunction with redeeming his personal hoard of Confederate currency.

Judge Clane hires Sherman Pew, a "colored boy" and orphan, as his personal assistant, but Sherman eventually resigns from the position when he can no longer tolerate the Judge or his prejudice. Sherman moves into a house located in a white neighborhood. A group of townspeople including the Judge plots to get rid of him. A local man bombs the building and Sherman dies. Shortly after his death, the United States Supreme Court announces its decision supporting school integration.

The Judge is infuriated and goes on the radio station to express his opinion, but he has not prepared a speech. Instead, he begins babbling Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. The radio station cuts him off. Malone has been listening to the Judge on the radio, but his wife turns it off. Integration no longer matters to Malone. Near the end of his life, Malone finds solace in the renewed love for his wife, Martha. He finally appreciates the order and simplicity of life. The pharmacist dies peacefully in his own bed.

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Late

White, Kelley Jean

Last Updated: Jan-31-2005
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

The front cover of this collection shows the outline of Africa completely filled with the names of patients ("Tyra Lynette Deja Nya Rovert Marqui Fatima Terry Alexia Michon Ty . . . ") On the last page, poem #120 consists of an outline of the United States of America, also completely filled with the names of patients, also African. The poems in this collection constitute a journey through these Dark Continents, both of which lie within.

Kelley Jean White stakes out her territory very clearly: "I suppose I embarrassed you / at all those mainline / plastic surgery parties / talking Quaker and poor and idealism" (3). There are no elegant parties, nor plastic surgeons, after page 3. Instead, persons like Shawanda live here: "At seventeen, Shawanda has never spoken. / Her brother easily carries her frail body / into the exam room--37 pounds" (36). And the nine year old girl who delivers her baby by C-section: "The nurses said it was the worst thing / they’d ever seen . . . She took her to her grandmother’s home / to raise. / The man did time / for assault." ("Freedom," 55)

But the poet hasn’t lost hope at all. She is filled with love and humor and imagination: "I dream I’m marrying this guy I used to work with who spent a lot of money on his hair" (73). "I musta been looking pretty down / when I left you today . . . " because the legless man pulling his wheelchair to his favorite begging spot said, "love, you gotta be always looking up . . . I just smiled and looked at / my too big shoe feet" (118).

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The Anatomy Lesson

Goldberg, Marshall

Last Updated: Jul-22-2004
Annotated by:
Ratzan, Richard M.

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The time is 1954 and the place Boston. Dan Lassiter is a first year medical student back from Inchon and the Korean War, taking--and in danger of failing--anatomy when he becomes obsessed with his cadaver, a young and very well proportioned man he thinks must have been a boxer. As he tries to pass anatomy under the withering and authoritarian attention of Dr. Nathan Snider, a stern anatomist who worships at the altar of Vesalius, Dan discovers that his cadaver is a very physically fit young man, whose death fascinates him and about whom his professor will not yield any information. Using his newspaper connections with one of several women he's dating, Dan discovers that the cadaver Dr. Snider refused to identify was Rick Ferrar, a fearless boxer who was fast friends with Lemuel Harper, an African-American and also, like Dan, a veteran of the Korean War.

The remainder of the book resolves the familial baggage Dan is carrying from his parents' death and then his brother's; his quest for the character and mode of death of Rick Ferrar; the intertwining of his and Rick's personalities, girlfriend, and destinies; and his medical school career, which at times seems more a hobby than a serious pursuit. By novel's end all the subplots are resolved and Dan, attending a funeral for the class's cadavers, volunteers to work with Dr. Snider in the anatomy lab to improve his mediocre knowledge of anatomy.

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Cane

Toomer, Jean

Last Updated: Jan-19-2004
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

This is a collection of related stories, sketches, poems, and a one-act play by Jean Toomer, a little-known writer of the Harlem Renaissance. The book is divided into three sections. The first part of the book is a series of stories that portray the lives of poor black women in rural Georgia. They deal with such subjects as infanticide ("Karintha"), miscegenation ("Becky"), hysteria ("Carma"), lynching ("Blood-Burning Moon"), and religious mysticism ("Fern" and "Esther"). Taken together, these stories portray an intuitive, violent, spontaneous, and pre-rational culture.

The second part of Cane takes place in Washington, DC, where Toomer depicts the life of urban black Americans in the early 1920's. Here we encounter the conflict between rationalism, as represented by the well-educated "intellectuals," and traditional lifestyle and morality. The best stories in this section include, "Avey," "Theater," and "Box Seat."

The last section is a one-act play ("Kabnis") about two urban black writers attempting to establish a contemporary "Negro identity" in light of the repression and suffering of their people. One is overwhelmed by negativity and a sense of victimization, while the other man believes that the past can be transcended, especially through the power of art.

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Annotated by:
Willms, Janice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Biography

Summary:

This biography, written by a second party in conjunction with the person whose story is portrayed, is the tale of a black lay-midwife working in the southern United States during the mid to latter part of the 20th century. Gladys Milton, mother of seven children herself, is called to midwifery training by the Health Department in a rural county in Florida.

After an introductory chapter that sets the stage for the ultimate challenge to Gladys, the following few chapters follow her through some of the high points of her childhood and early years of motherhood. The remainder of the work describes broadly the career--with its ups and downs--of Gladys as midwife, doing home deliveries and working in the birthing center she has established in her own home. The final chapters deal with the legal efforts and ultimately the hearing in which the Health Department attempts to revoke Gladys's license to deliver babies.

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Fever 1793

Anderson, Laurie Halse

Last Updated: May-12-2003
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

This historical novel for young adults details the horrors of the Philadelphia Yellow Fever epidemic in 1793 from the point of view of a fourteen-year-old, Mattie, who runs a coffeehouse with her widowed mother and grandfather. In the course of the story, her mother is taken ill, she herself falls ill on the way to the safety of the countryside, and her grandfather dies of heart failure after nursing her. Separated from her mother who is also removed from the city, Mattie finds herself scrabbling for survival in a mostly deserted town after the death of her grandfather, but relocates the free black woman, Eliza, who had worked for her family and who essentially becomes part of her family.

Eventually the mother returns, an invalid but alive, and Eliza and Mattie undertake to run the reopened coffeehouse together and care for Eliza's nephews and an orphaned child Mattie has rescued. Hope reappears with the first frost in the forms of a reopened farmers' market, the return of George Washington to the town, and the reappearance from enforced isolation of Nathaniel Benson, a young painter who gives Mattie a vision of a future life with friendship and love.

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