This outstanding anthology of poems, stories, excerpts and essays by African-American writers is prefaced by a poem ("Aunt Sue’s Stories" by Langston Hughes), a foreword, two essays and an introduction. The book is then divided into three sections: Section I, Illness and Health-Seeking Behavior; Section II, Aging; and Section III, Loss and Grief.

Each section begins with an introduction which clarifies the choice of the section’s theme and briefly describes each piece. At the conclusion of each section is a list of ten to fifteen questions which "are intended for personal reflection and group discussion." Brief autobiographical information for each of the thirty-one authors is presented in Appendix 1.

As Secundy notes in the introduction, a divide exists between the health care worker and patient, which is particularly prominent when color and economic status are different between them. Secundy, as an educator in the medical humanities, selected pieces that reveal "the significance of color and social distinctions" when African-Americans face illness or enter the health care system.

The selections chronicle struggle and survival, illness and loss, humiliation and pride, triumph and sorrow. These pieces speak to all of us, as Edmund Pellegrino states in his essay, "Ethnicity and Healing": "[p]aradoxically, as we learn more about the uniqueness of African-American culture, we are drawn closer to the common humanity we share with the subjects of these stories and poems."


This is an excellent anthology to use in the medical humanities pedagogical setting. Many of the works contained in this volume are annotated in this database (e.g., Maya Angelou’s The Last Decision; Toni Bambara’s A Girl¡'s Story (annotated by  Delese Wear and also by Lois Nixon); Arna Bontemps’s A Summer Tragedy; Gwendolyn Brooks’s The Bean Eaters, the mother, We Real Cool; Sterling Brown’s Parish Doctor; Lucille Clifton’s Miss Rosie (annotaed by Lois Nixon and also by Felice Aull}; Toi Derricotte’s Delivery; Zora Neale Hurston’s My Most Humiliating Jim Crow Experience; Audre Lorde’s The Cancer Journals [excerpts]; Paule Marshall’s Praisesong for the Widow; Claude McKay’s The Lynching; Gloria Naylor’s The Women of Brewster Place: A Novel in Seven Stories [excerpt]; Alice Walker’s The Abortion, and To Hell with Dying). This is a book to be read cover to cover, then picked up time and again to reread selections for their wisdom and honesty.



Place Published

Yarmouth, Maine




Marian Gray Secundy, with the literary collaboration of Lois LaCivita Nixon

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