Wilhelmina Jenkins Wilhelmina's Comments (member since Jul 04, 2008)

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Jan 22, 2012 06:51PM

376 Welcome, Cade!
376 Teju Cole is a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction for his novel, Open City. Other nominees can be seen at this link:

Jan 21, 2012 08:39PM

376 For me, the fight was undoubtedly brutal, but the heart of it, and appropriately the title of the chapter, was Skeetah's chant to China - "Make them know make them know make them know". When China fights, she is fighting for all of them - Skeetah, Esch, the whole family. She and Skeetah are so united that she obeys Skeetah's commands instantly, even after she is injured. And how in tune with the book is the way that she is hurt - Kilo tears her breast, her femaleness. But as Esch says, "She is fire." This is the only chance that the Batistes have to triumph in this community and China stands for all of them, to make them know that the family is deserving of respect. She is fearless because of Skeetah's love for her.

Rashida wrote: "In as much as Skeet feels and treats Esch and China similarly, it makes sense to me that he doesn't step in at an earlier point and jump to Esch's rescue with the other guys. His love for her makes him believe that she has the power to win her fights, even when the odds are stacked against her...."

Yes! When Randall tries to stop Skeetah from fighting China, Skeetah says, in almost a throwaway line, "We all fight. Everybody." No one gets protected in this world, male or female. Like the fight, their lives are brutal but sustained by love.
376 Two recent LFPC discussion books have been nominated for this year's NAACP Image Awards! Our August, 2011 discussion book, Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones, was nominated for Outstanding Literary Work - Fiction, and our December, 2011 selection, We the Animals by Justin Torres, was nominated in the Outstanding Literary Work - Debut Author category. Congratulations to both of these authors and all of the other nominees! You can see the whole list as this link:

Jan 18, 2012 03:19PM

376 Let's start talking about the hurricane and moving toward the end of the book over the weekend. I hope that we can talk about the fight and the interactions between the young men and their dogs a bit more.
Jan 17, 2012 08:40PM

376 Karen wrote: "The fact that Manny and everyone else felt that they could exploit Esch sexually said more about the Batiste family's standing in the community than about Esch's apparent promiscuity..."

Absolutely, Karen. Everything that Manny does shows that he sees himself as superior to the Batistes. Ethnically, economically ans socially. Randall believes him to be much more of a friend than he is. Look at the incident with the worming medicine. He is amused by endangering the one thing that Skeetah has, other than his siblings.Does anyone doubt that the so-called friends talked about Esch like dirt behind her back? The Batistes are barely surviving and no one but Big Henry treats them with any respect.
Jan 17, 2012 02:57PM

376 And, of course, the next huge scene is the dog fight. What did you think of the way that Ward presented the fight? Was your reaction any different from what you had anticipated?
Jan 16, 2012 06:23PM

376 The basketball game scene was really pivotal, in my opinion. This is where we really see the family outside of the Pit and outside of Esch's thoughts. We see Manny's cruelty, Big Henry's kindness, and most of all how marginalized and vulnerable the Batiste family is. But we also see how fiercely they defend each other. The intensity of the confrontation between Skeetah and his group with Manny and Rico is brilliantly done and is a precursor to the coming dog fight and the hurricane. And we see Randall, who has lost his one hope for getting out - basketball, the hope of so many young black men - negotiating between his supposed friend and his brother over the dogs - Skeetah's only hope and pride.

Bill, you mentioned Esch not noticing Big Henry's love for her, but in this scene, we see that she does. When Big Henry gives Junior money for snacks, Esch says,

He glances over at me, and it is as if he passed the money to me, as if he dropped it in my hand like chalky pecan candy, like mealy pecans, sun-blackened blackberries.

-the gifts her father had given her mother when they first became interested in each other. She knows, but she is too dazzled by Manny for it to matter.
Jan 16, 2012 05:55PM

376 George wrote: ". the emphasis on color is rather interesting as well. I'd only point out that they prefer black fighting dogs as the blood from the fighting doesn't show. ..."

But not China, the dog who rises above the rest.

I agree about the females of the Pit. Skeetah tells it:

We savages up here on the Pit. Even the gnats. Mosquitos so big they look like bats..... You better watch out. Junior look puny but he'll sucker-punch you you in the neck and leave you choking. And Esch.... You see how boss China is. You think the other girl on the Pit going to be weak?"

And then, when Manny says that motherhood makes you weak, Skeetah laughs:

"You serious? That's when they come into they strength. They got something to protect.... To give life....is to know what's worth fighting for. And what's love."

I love Skeetah.
Jan 15, 2012 04:32PM

376 I quoted Esch describing herself as invisible, but it hasn't been discussed.
Jan 15, 2012 11:55AM

376 George wrote: "I can't personally imagine such a place either, but it looked quite nice, so if anyone finds it, let me know. wouldn't mind living there someday...."

Good luck on that, George. A time machine might help, but don't set it for any time soon.
Jan 15, 2012 11:04AM

376 jo wrote: "it can be realistic, but it is shocking. and, fortunately, it happens rarely enough to retain its shock value even as an event (and not just as a moral atrocity)..."

I'm not going to belabor the point, but especially for anyone in my age group who is African American, these events were not at all rare. In The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration, Isabel Wilkerson does a wonderful job of showing how these events happened in nearly every family in the Jim Crow south. I think that the capacity for shock for people my age ended with the 4 little girls in Birmingham. Horrible, yes. Painful, yes. Shocking, no. In this scene in the book, I would have found it unrealistic if they had not been shot at by the white neighbor. I was just holding my breath, hoping that no one died.
Jan 15, 2012 12:36AM

376 I wasn't startled at all either, jo. I was, however, startled that you were startled. This is America.
Jan 14, 2012 09:01PM

376 Looking at the color issue, Esch constantly describes Manny as "golden". China, after Skeetah washes her, is described as "whiter than white" and "shining". Esch and her family are dark-skinned - Esch describes Skeetah as "black as an oyster." She describes her mother as "dark as the reaching oak trees" - a lovely image, but she is also dark-skinned. Esch considers her one good trait to be her curly, not kinky, hair. Otherwise, she considers herself unremarkable - wide nose, dark skin. She refers to herself as "small, dark; invisible". Manny's real girlfriend, Shaliyah, is described as light-skinned. One wonderful line about China is when Esch describes her as "white and beautiful and gorgeous as a magnolia on the trash-strewn, hardscrabble Pit, where everything else is starving, fighting, struggling."

Names indicate a bit of an ethnic difference also, even though they are all African American. Rico, Manny's cousin, has a Latino name, and Manny probably is short for Manuel, although I don't remember his whole name in the book anywhere. But the cousins' names and physical appearance, especially in this location, would indicate some Latino or Creole ethnicity.

I do not think that Esch sees being dark as negative - simply unremarkable. Both Manny and China, in Esch's eyes, seem to transcend the ordinary. And an ethnic difference, however small, plays into the Medea and Jason connection.
Jan 14, 2012 03:04PM

376 I agree about Big Henry, and we will see more about that in later chapters. Esch doesn't know how to discern the difference between genuine love and sexual desire. Interestingly, Big Henry is also the only guy who doesn't fit the male physical description we've discussed.

I have no doubt that the father loved the kids and they loved him. As Adrienna said, he was a lost mam after losing his wife.

Since more people seem to be jumping into the conversation, let's move ahead. What did you think of the confrontation at the basketball game?
Jan 13, 2012 11:53PM

376 Apparently there was some glitch with Amazon. I hope that the offer is repeated in the near future.
Jan 13, 2012 11:50PM

376 William wrote: "I did a search of "penis" in response to a comment by Wilhemina and it does not appear in the book! ..."

OK, Bill, she didn't say "penis", she said "He grabs my hand and pulls it toward him, wraps my fingers around his dick." Now I'm thoroughly embarrassed.

George, she has said that she was influenced by Faulkner in writing this book. You get bonus points for spotting that. But I think that she was mainly showing how damaged these young men were by the harshness of their lives.
Jan 12, 2012 08:29PM

376 Welcome, Alfred! We had a good discussion here about Who Fears Death back in September, 2010. We keep all of our discussions open, so if you want to add any of your thoughts about this book, we will welcome them.

Jan 12, 2012 02:33PM

376 jo wrote: "i agree with you columbus about the heavy metaphorical burden. me, at some point i decided to embrace it instead of being bothered by it. and then i found myself sort of liking it. what i came to f..."

I enjoyed it also. From listening to the author, in person this summer as well as in her interviews, I believe that she is using language to convey the sense of a particular community at a particular time. This is her own community and the maleness in the novel is representative of the young men in her community, especially her own brother who is now dead. She is now working on a memoir in which she interweaves the stories of several young black men in her community - her friends - who died as young men, with her own story. She emphasizes the hardness and brutality of their lives, and I believe that that is the overriding impression she wants to convey. That being said, the book stands beautifully on its own for me. I loved the language and, as jo said, it conveyed the sense of the coming hurricane very well. I also loved the contrast between Esch's internal life and the harshness of her external life. She's not just telling a story; she's a bit of a poet.
Jan 11, 2012 08:59PM

376 I just say this announcement on group member and author Carleen Brice's blog. I don't know the author or the book, but the price is certainly right. The offer is for available for one day only: Friday, January 13.

"Agate Bolden is giving away ebook version of CREATURES HERE BELOW, a great literary novel about a family and their borders. In the vein of ALL AUNT HAGAR'S CHILDREN. Here are the deets: http://blog.agatepublishing.com/blog/... "

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