Showing 91 - 100 of 310 annotations tagged with the keyword "Poverty"

The Glass Castle

Walls, Jeannette

Last Updated: Apr-14-2008
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

The Glass Castle, a gripping memoir about growing up devastatingly poor in America, opens with this first line: "I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a Dumpster." (p. 3) Jeanette Walls slinks down in the taxi's back seat and returns to her Park Avenue apartment. A few days later, she manages to contact her homeless mother and take her out for dinner, offering her help, yet again. But her mother refuses, and when asked what Jeannette is supposed to say about her parents, her mother replies "Just tell the truth...[t]hat's simple enough." (p.5) And with these words, Walls launches into the history of her upbringing, with all the deprivations, suffering, joys, shame, exasperations, tribulations and sorrows - the story of the Rex and Rose Mary Walls' family.

Rex Walls is an alcoholic and dreamer, his wife an artist and egoist; both are psychotically blind to the basic needs of their four children. Yet the parents do feed the children with love and intellectual stimulation, managing to keep the family unit intact while the children figure out how to survive. The reader first meets the child Jeannette at age three when she is on fire, cooking hot dogs on the stove in a trailer park, completely unsupervised. She requires multiple skin grafts but enjoys the regularity of hospital food, until six weeks later her father abducts her from the hospital in the first of a series of "skedaddles" that the reader learns is the way Rex Walls stays ahead of bill collectors and other authorities.

At each miserable turn, the reader wonders if things can get any worse. They do. The family winds up living in a rotting hut without plumbing in the coal mining town of Welch, West Virginia. Rex steals money from his children, Rose Mary buys herself art books instead of food for the family. The kids eat garbage they secretly remove from trash bins at school.

But finally, one by one, the kids do escape, although, like everyone, they carry the past within them. To varying degrees, each is scarred. Nonetheless, Jeannette works her way through Barnard in New York City and becomes a contributor to MSNBC. Ultimately the book is a tribute to the gutsy resilience of some remarkable individuals.

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Summary:

This book chronicles four meals, tracked from the production of the food through to the preparation and consumption of the meals themselves. The first is a fast food meal eaten in the car, the quintessential American meal consisting entirely of industrially farmed produce. Pollan then goes on to have an industrial-organic meal, an organic pasture-grown meal, and finally a meal containing only products that he foraged, hunted, and cultivated himself. Throughout, he looks closely at how economic and commercial values have supplanted ecological ones in the cultivation and production of the food we ingest. In addition to attending to the social and political dimensions of the American diet, Pollan also notes the effects of this diet on public health, from rising levels of obesity through to the antibiotic resistances developing in herds of cattle living in pens in their own manure.

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The Crazy Man

Porter, Pamela

Last Updated: Mar-15-2008
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Twelve year -old Emaline is riding with her father as he discs their fields, when she sees her beloved dog Prince running dangerously close to the blades. In trying to stop him, she falls off the tractor and her leg is sliced almost completely through. In anger, her father shoots Prince and leaves home. She is rushed to hospital where a series of operations and treatments save her limb, although it is permanently shortened and she walks with a limp.

The fields need seeding. In desperation Emmy’s mother appeals to the local “mental hospital,” and Angus, the crazy man, arrives to help. Emmy is warned to stay clear of him, and neighbours gawk, but she begins to notice his special qualities. He quietly sows the fields with blue flax and yellow mustard rather than the unsellable wheat. He helps fit her with a built up shoe, and he is steadfast though frightened when falsely accused of theft. Yet some neighbours, like Harry Record, cannot adapt to Angus and believe that the family is taking risks. Just as Angus is the object of ridicule, Emmy is mercilessly teased for her deformity by Record’s son, Joey.

One night in a snowstorm both Joey and Angus disappear. Angus has been driven out of town and dumped by Harry Record, but he finds Joey lost in the storm and brings him home. Record refuses to accept his guilt and pleads not guilty. As the book ends Angus is more accepted, but a trial is looming, in which Emmy and Joey will have to give evidence against his father.

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The Birth House

McKay, Ami

Last Updated: Mar-15-2008
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Dora Rare, the only girl child born in multiple generations of her family is encouraged by her mother to establish a bond with Miss Babineau, an odd isolated midwife, whose wisdom on health matters is much sought after by the local women in their small Nova Scotia community. Gripping and intimate encounters with her neighbours as birthing mothers and as women seeking control over their fertility lead Dora to accept a role as Marie’s successor. When arrogant, young Dr Gilbert Thomas comes to town with his strong ideas about science and birth, he is appalled at the practices of the local women; he also resents the competition. Dora embarks on a difficult marriage herself and seeks temporary refuge in the United States where she witnesses a new kind of independence.

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Black Mesa Poems

Baca, Jimmy Santiago

Last Updated: Mar-05-2008
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

In the title poem, Jimmy Santiago Baca says: "To write the story of my soul / I trace the silence and stone / of Black Mesa." This collection of poems carries the reader into the mountains and valleys of northern New Mexico, and to the barrio where the poet and his family live. They are poems full of incident and experience, of the "twenty-eight shotgun pellets" that remain in "my thighs, belly, and groin" from an incident with Felipe in 1988 ("From Violence to Peace"), and the slaughter of a sheep to the tattoo of wild drums ("Matanza to Welcome Spring"), and the tragic story of "El Sapo," the Frog King.

Baca’s characters live close to the land, close to the mountains, and sometimes outside the law ("Tomas Lucero"). These poems witness to the violence and despair of barrio life, but also to its energy and joy. Baca’s hope continues "to evolve with the universe / side by side with its creative catastrophe."

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Breath, Eyes, Memory

Danticat, Edwidge

Last Updated: Oct-07-2007
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Sophie, who has lived with her aunt in Haiti for the 12 years since her birth is being sent to live with her mother in New York. She leaves her aunt and grandmother amid a riot at the airport, and arrives in New York to meet her mother and her mother's long-term lover. Her mother has frequent nightmares, related, as it turns out, to the rape that eventuated in the birth of Sophie. Sophie's mother insists that the only road out of poverty is to study hard; she wants Sophie to become a doctor, and jealously oversees her work and protects her virginity, frequently testing her to make sure she has not been sexually active.

Eventually Sophie elopes with a kind musician, Joseph, but finds herself unable to enjoy sex. She returns to Haiti with their baby while he is on tour, and finds refuge among the women who raised her, though they themselves suffer various effects of poverty, alcohol, and violence. Sophie's mother flies to Haiti to be reconciled with her and takes her back to New York where the two women and their partners briefly share peace and kindness. But when Sophie's mother finds she is pregnant, she begins to have the nightmares about rape again, and kills herself. Sophie and the mother's lover fly to Haiti for the burial. Sophie runs away from the gravesite into the fields where her mother was raped, and attacks the cane stalks in fury, frustration, and a final cathartic gesture of self-liberation from a painful past.

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Second Language

Wineberg, Ronna

Last Updated: Sep-25-2007
Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

Summary: All thirteen short stories in this collection draw readers into the quietly compelling lives of disparate and very ordinary characters who function and suffer in unsettling ways. We are like them and not like them, but their circumstances, while sometimes disturbing, are familiar--and strangely magnetic. The opening lines of "The Lapse" illustrate this power of attraction:

I married Joanne during a lapse. A religious lapse. I don't display my beliefs like a gold medallion, though, as many whom I know do. I prefer to observe in private. After all, any intimate relationship belongs only to the entities or people involved. (p. 35)

Who can bypass an invitation to enter into announced intimacies, however private, that must be revealed in a matter of pages. What lapse and who is Joanne?!

"Bad News," centers around Sheila Powers, a psychologist, whose disruptive marital break-up is compounded by her mother's recent diagnosis of cancer and a subsequent flow of memories about her mother, her father, and herself. She is "between worlds...between life zones." (p. 113) Aspects of the future, at least her mother's, may be somewhat predictable, but the complex depths of the past mix with the present to generate sticky threads that belong to the story and to the readers as well who will recognize bits and pieces of their own family lives.

In a fourteen page story with a decidedly off-putting title, "The Encyclopedia," Wineberg zeroes in on Doris who, after a dissolved relationship, decides to sell the thirty volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica-"the macro-edition, the micro-edition and the year books" purchased by the former couple. Not about remote bits of history or dinosaurs, we discover, but a story about separation, a series of lovers, benign conversation with a fellow worker who claims to be similarly tired of men, a possible buyer for the unwanted encyclopedia, a relationship with the married buyer, an end to the relationship, and a decision to keep the books after all. Her life, we might decide, is encyclopedic, a litany of minutiae that does, indeed, provide information about conditions of existence.

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The Syringa Tree

Gien, Pamela; Moss, Larry

Last Updated: Aug-22-2007
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Video

Summary:

This video is the film of the staged one-woman play written and acted by white South African Pamela Gien. The play begins in 1963, in a white suburb of Johannesburg, in the fenced yard of the Grace family and their black servants. Gien starts as six-year-old Lizzie Grace. Gien then fluidly shifts roles to enact twenty-eight different characters from newborn to age eighty-two, black and white, male and female--who talk, gesture, sing and dance in this tour-de-force performance.

The set contains only a large, plain swing; even the berry-bearing syringa tree to which the swing is attached is left to the imagination. Gien’s costume is similarly muted--she is barefoot and wears a beige jumper over a simple tee shirt. A sound system provides music of ethnically diverse origins at appropriate moments.

The play opens with Gien swinging and talking in a girlish voice and using exaggerated childlike gestures. Lizzie exclaims that she is "a very lucky fish": she proceeds to explain to the audience the meaning of her favorable white nailbed spots. Lizzie is, by self-definition, a "hyperactive," outspoken child with great imagination and energy. She is cared for by Salamina, a loving nanny and servant.

Lizzie’s father is Dr. Isaac Grace, who delivers Salamina’s baby in the home. The child, Moliseng, "has no papers" and is harbored illegally by the Grace family--a constant source of worry for all, including Lizzie. Isaac is a Jewish atheist, and Lizzie’s mother, Eugenie, is Catholic and of English descent. Their neighbors, however, are bigoted Afrikaners and create great tension for the Grace household. "Don’t ever make this place your home," advises Dr. Gien to his daughter after dealing with racist clients who do not want to be in the same examining room after a black patient.

Lizzie’s liberal, generous grandfather is brutally murdered by a Rhodesian freedom fighter shortly after the resolution of another crisis: Moliseng, suffering from malnutrition, is missing from the overcrowded hospital. The play then fast forwards through Lizzie’s college years, when Moliseng, at age fourteen, is murdered in youth riots. Lizzie leaves for America, land of the (she pounds her chest) "free and brave." She returns years later, with her infant son named for her grandfather, to visit her father, her demented mother, and, above all, her beloved Salamina.

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Becoming Chloe

Hyde, Catherine

Last Updated: Aug-10-2007
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Jordy, 17, gay, abused by his parents, has taken refuge in a New York basement from where, one night, he witnesses the brutal gang rape of a young 18-year-old. After his shouted threats scare off the attackers, the girl slips through the window into what turn out to be shared quarters. The two begin to take care of each other; she insists on his getting treatment for head wounds at a public clinic (where care is distiinctly substandard) and he becomes guardian to this young woman whose history of abuse has left her in a curious state of social alienation and innocence about what is normal. The story becomes a kind of vision quest when, faced with "Chloe's" (a name she gives herself by way of starting over) inclination to put herself in harm's way, and to flirt with suicide, Jordy decides to prove to her that the world is more beautiful than it is threatening and ugly.

They acquire an old truck and embark on a cross-country journey that becomes a picaresque series of encounters, most of them with helpful, kind people, one notably disastrous, with three young men who threaten Chloe and land Jordy in the hospital after a fight. The trip terminates in Big Sur on the California coast where Chloe's dream of riding horses on the beach is fulfilled with most of Jordy's remaining cash. The pilgrimage leaves them with a sense of hope which each of them communicates to the New York therapist who briefly helped them, in letters that end the book.

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Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

Draped in blue rags, an emaciated old guitarist sits cross-legged, strumming his guitar in a desolate setting. He is WRAPPED in his music and grief. Like the blind prophet, Tiresias in the Greek tragedies, he has seen all and knows the tragic destination of our strivings--all result in loneliness and death. Painted in Barcelona, the distorted style is reminiscent of the drama found in Spanish religious painting, particularly that of El Greco. The melancholy and pathos of Picasso's works from his Blue period reflect his sadness at the suicide of his young friend, Casagemas.

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