I adored just about every second of this book, relishing the ways in which Oyeyemi carefully uses aspects of the Snow White story as a foundation forI adored just about every second of this book, relishing the ways in which Oyeyemi carefully uses aspects of the Snow White story as a foundation for her story of race, beauty, and identity. Thankfully the references are fairly subtle and never heavy-handed. The characters were so interestingly drawn and her depiction of Massachusetts life so realistic.
Of course, then I got to the last thirty pages where the story took a confounding and unexpected turn. I honestly had very little idea what was going on and the ending was incredibly unsatisfying. Still, I enjoyed most of the other 300ish pages, so I'm still billing it as a five-star read....more
Jesmyn Ward has had a rough life, and as this memoir attests, it's all too common for people who grow up black and poor in the South. This book made mJesmyn Ward has had a rough life, and as this memoir attests, it's all too common for people who grow up black and poor in the South. This book made me like Salvage the Bones even more because it brought Ward's perspective into sharper focus and satisfied that voyeuristic fiction reader's need to know what is true in an author's work. Here, she details the deaths of five young black men in her life, all in quick succession, each tragic and senseless. The final portion is devoted to her younger brother, who dies chronologically first, but whose death is devastating to read about after coming to know and understand the history and perseverance of Ward's family. This is an important read in the story of how one person can break the cycle of oppression and still be trapped by its dangers....more
While on the surface much of this book sounds like it should be trite and contrived, it simply works. The titular Burgess boys are Jim and Bob, escapeWhile on the surface much of this book sounds like it should be trite and contrived, it simply works. The titular Burgess boys are Jim and Bob, escapees from Maine living the high life as lawyers in New York; the former in insanely wealth, helping the rich stay rich, and the latter is a Legal Aid attorney, helping the poor and downtrodden. Initially, they seem to have left behind Bob's twin sister Susan and the shadows of guilt over their father's death when they were all children, but when Susan's son Zach makes an incredibly stupid decision, one that disrupts the delicate balance between hearty Mainers and the newly relocated Somali refugees, the boys are pulled back home and the reality of their ties to their hometown and each other are revealed to be both strong and strained.
Strout explores various narrative perspectives, seemingly inconsistently, yet each contributes to the central themes of her novel. Her characters are flawed and imperfect, and she simultaneously makes them endearing and horrifying. The book read incredibly quickly, and I admit loving every minute of it....more
I’m fast becoming a huge fan of Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche. Her adult fiction is intelligent and important, and Americanah is no exception. Here she detaI’m fast becoming a huge fan of Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche. Her adult fiction is intelligent and important, and Americanah is no exception. Here she details the seemingly doomed relationship between two Nigerians: Ifemelu and Obinze. Their affair begins in Africa and seems destined to fail once Ifemelu moves to America, but through a fragmented storyline that opens in the present and fills in the holes via flashbacks and shifting narrative perspective, Adiche provides a refreshing and unique point of view on how race truly is a social construct that mutates between cultures and continents.
Early on, Ifemelu quips “How easy It was to lie to strangers, to create with strangers the versions of our lives that we have imagined” (17). Upon her move to America, she suffers that traditional immigrant experience of feeling a part of two worlds and failing to feel at home in either. However, as an African immigrant in a country where blackness defines social standing, she provides a new frame of reference. Ifemelu finds a type of fame in the United States as an anonymous blogger on race, but her authority on the matter is rather suspect according to American standards. She is hired to give speeches on race only to be told that her ideology is flawed and anonymous posters regularly start flame wars on her website. The sister of her African American activist Ivy League professor boyfriend summarizes the issue when she somewhat spitefully suggests that the reason “Ifemelu can write that blog [is] because she’s African. She’s writing from the outside. She doesn’t really feel all the stuff she’s writing about. It’s all quaint and curious to her. So she can write it and get all these accolades and get invited to give talks. If she were African American, she’d just be labeled angry and shunned” (336). In reality, she has to learn the hard way that there is immense truth in what her aunt tells her upon her arrival to America: “You are in a country that is not your own. You do what you have to do if you want to succeed” (119). Ifemelu suffers considerably in a number of ways, and she fails to come to terms with the reality of her success until late in the novel, particularly her reliance on a white family that find her friendship an important collectible tchotchke for their mantle of liberalism.
Meanwhile, Obinze is shut out of her life after her move, and he must find his own path to success. He struggles with immigration abroad in his own way, only to find a path to economic success and a traditional family back home. The only problem is that “he was no longer sure, he had in fact never been sure, whether he liked his life because he really did or whether liked it because he was supposed to” (21). Upon Ifemelu’s return to Lagos late in the chronology of the story—a plotline that is revealed rather early in the novel however—he questions whether or not he can stay in the life he has created now that his past has returned to him. When he contemplates leaving his life behind in order to create a new future with Ifemelu, he is told by a friend “many of us didn’t marry the woman we truly loved. We married the woman that was around when we were ready to marry. So forget this thing. You can keep seeing her, but no need for this kind of white-people behavior. You can keep seeing her, but no need for this kind of white-people behavior. If your wife has a child for somebody else or if you beat her, that is a reason for divorce. But to get up and say you have no problem with your wife but you are leaving her for another woman? Haba. We don’t behave like that, please” (472).
This “white-people behavior” is the soul of the Americanah—the native Nigerian who returns after having lived abroad in a Western culture that unintentionally marginalizes traditional African life. Ifemelu joins an Americanah Club upon her return and realizes that “It’s as if we are looking at an adult Nigeria that we didn’t know about” (429); her new outlook on her homeland is mature, but the conflict of embracing Western culture and her native way of life is a difficult one to overcome. Such is the crux of this post-colonial tale: how does a country with such promise move beyond the devastating effects of colonialism without embracing the power that exists in the Western world? When Ifemelu tells her American ex-boyfriend that “race doesn’t really work here. I feel like I got off the plane in Lagos and stopped being black” (476), there is both truth and falsehood wrapped up in that statement. Blackness is a construct in America born of a oppressive legacy that many refuse to face, and having lived so long within that culture, how can Ifemelu possibly shed the trappings of that identity even upon her return to a country without the same social constraints? ...more
One of my favorite things about reading contemporary literature is exploring the link between classic canonical texts and our present tradition. In ClOne of my favorite things about reading contemporary literature is exploring the link between classic canonical texts and our present tradition. In Clybourne Park, Bruce Norris begins a dialogue with A Raisin in the Sun's Lorraine Hansberry, imagining the circumstances for a white family in the neighborhood of Clybourne Park that allow the Younger family to take advantage of moving out of urban Chicago. The first act is brilliantly imagined, focusing in on an older couple who have lost their son as a result of the war and want to sell the house quickly and move further out to the suburbs far away from the memories of their fallen only child. Hansberry's evil Mr. Lindner features a prominent role, entering this stage directly after exiting the scene in A Raisin in the Sun. Here he is still an ignorant racist, but he's given a def and pregnant wife, a choice that humanizes him tremendously.
In the imaginative second act, the next generation of Youngers are now selling the house to a yuppie white couple who are planning to raze the home in order to build a pseudo-McMansion in the newly gentrified neighborhood. Tempers flare and truths are uncovered as these new characters explore the meaninglessness of believing in the existence of a post-racial society.
Inspiring, hilarious, and devastating, Clybourne Park deserves a place in our contemporary literary tradition and beyond!...more
I really need to give Chabon's work more attention than I have in his recent years. The last two books I've read of his, this one and The Yiddish PoliI really need to give Chabon's work more attention than I have in his recent years. The last two books I've read of his, this one and The Yiddish Policemen's Union, have been mildly pleasant experiences, but reads I had to push myself to finish. While I don't think either of these books reaches the complex and rewarding elevations of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay or the humorous soul-searching of Wonder Boys, they shouldn't have felt like a chore. Based on friend's feedback for The Yiddish Policemen's Union, I can only image my reading was too cursory, and I think Telegraph Avenue suffered from the same plight.
The book is long and the plot line complex: two record store owners on the Oakland-Berkley line in California struggle with impending entrepreneurial doom and a wildly erratic family life that delves into the blaxploitation films of the 70s, midwifery, illegitimate children, air travel by zeppelin, and even a chance encounter with then Senator Obama as a campaigns for his ascendancy to the Oval Office. With so much going on and the perspective constantly shifting, the book deserves a careful reading; unfortunately I realized this too late in the novel to make effective use of that knowledge!
Still, there was much to enjoy in this book, particularly Chabon's witty figurative language. As a child of the Bay Area, my favorite is probably his line about a character who "never liked the Bay Area...the way it had arranged its hills and vistas like a diva setting up chairs around her to ensure the admiration of visitors" (287). I found myself marking these one-sentence metaphors and similes that they almost eclipsed the storyline. (This admittedly probably contributed to my difficulty engaging with the characters and plot.)
With the ever-growing mountain of books I intend to read, I don't see myself going back to this one to give it the attentive reading it deserves, but I'll certainly keep this in mind with my next Chabon experience....more
My only other experience with Zadie Smith was her hilarious and critically biting novel White Teeth. NW couldn't be more different in tone and style,My only other experience with Zadie Smith was her hilarious and critically biting novel White Teeth. NW couldn't be more different in tone and style, yet the resulting experience provides some equally thoughtful commentary on our world and the ways in which we interact with one another.
NW is narrated in a postmodern and fractured style, each of four sections focusing on one adult who grew up in the Caldwell housing projects of northwest London. Given the setting, Smith plays with the tensions surrounding the need for financial stability, but she tinges them with racial elements that provide for content that is simultaneously uncomfortable and meaningful.
The four focal points for the novel are intertwined by more than the setting of their childhood. Leah and Natalie, who make up the first two portions (and largest) sections of the novel, are driven by the "thought [that] life was a problem that could be solved by means of professionalization" (238). Leah is a white woman lost amidst a dead-end job and a problematic marriage. Natalie is a successful lawyer who has changed her name as a means of personal gentrification and to move away from her Afro-Caribbean roots. The latter provides the more interesting material for the novel, as her quest for normalization takes her to the darkest places in the text. The other two (much shorter) sections provide two male perspectives, each of which reveal the loose trappings of the central conflict and resolution, which entail the murder of a man during Carnival celebrations.
The universal struggles of these characters is comprised of the ways in which they attempt to shed the emotional baggage of their adolescence--something we honestly are all dealing with throughout adulthood. At one point, Smith explains that "Caldwell people felt everything would be fine as long as you didn't actually throw the child down the stairs. Non-Caldwell people felt nothing would be fine unless everything was done perfectly and even there was no guarantee" (324). (Natalie is certainly grappling with the ways in which she was raised and the implicit instructions she receives from the world about how she should now raise her children in the middle class world.)
NW is a much more challenging read than White Teeth, and at times I struggled to maintain my focus, but it's also a more ambitious piece in many ways, and well worth the read....more
Toni Morrison's most recent and much abbreviated novel is definitely worth a read (as all of her books are), but this one certainly let me wanting morToni Morrison's most recent and much abbreviated novel is definitely worth a read (as all of her books are), but this one certainly let me wanting more. The story follows an Odyssey of sorts as Korean War veteran Frank Money rushes home to save his ailing sister Cee in rural Georgia. Both are dealing with their own demons growing up in the mid-twentieth century American south, and Morrison's telescopic narrative style--something that reminded me of The Bluest Eye--provided some great insight into these complicated characters. Even still, at only 147 pages, the story and characterization merely whetted my appetite. I wanted more and was disappointed when she didn't give it to me....more
The first half of the book strikes a more realistic tone as Chris reels from his recent firing from a small liberal arts college because he wouldn't play the role of the token African American professor. The college president tells him, "We have a large literature faculty, they can handle the majority of literature. You were retained to purvey the minority perspective" (13), and this tone of social expectations for acceptable assimilationist behavior reinforces Chris's position that the roots of racism are found in the "whitest of pages" in the American cannon--the works of such men as Poe, Melville, and Hemingway (27). After his departure from his position at the college, he discovers an important artifact that suggests Poe's novel may in fact be a work of nonfiction--and one that might explain the significance of racial strife in the modern era. He then uses his sizable severance package to pursue his theories.
Once his crew of seven black Americans arrives in Antarctica though and the white behemoths make their presence known, the book departs for the realm of magical realism. Through the struggles with these white slave masters for the new millennium, Chris articulates the ways in which skin color--and this is treated as something entirely different than race--is the real source of societal strife. Even when the book heads off in the direction of an even more preposterous plot device than the white Sasquatches of the arctic, the books is entirely readable and enjoyable--at times even humorously macabre. The racial subject matter is thinly veiled within these ludicrous plot points (again, one that mirrors the absurdity of Poe's own novel), yet this is what makes the tense subject matter so palatable.
This is a great read and a weighty one in spite of its readability!...more
I want to enjoy reading Chang-rae Lee more than I do. His prose has a lyrical quality that is gorgeous at times, but his narratives leave me feeling aI want to enjoy reading Chang-rae Lee more than I do. His prose has a lyrical quality that is gorgeous at times, but his narratives leave me feeling a bit cold and aloof. Native Speaker is a worthy read for a variety of reasons. It is an interesting character study of the Korean American man struggling with societal racial tensions and familial responsibilities. This is all overlaid with some late-developing political intrigue when the narrator and protagonist Henry Park begins working as a spy for up and coming New York politician John Kwang, an older Korean immigrant possibly making a bid to replace the white mayor of New York City. The interplay between Park and Kwang providing a great structure for the final hundred pages of the book, and I wish Kwang had been introduced as a counterpart for Park earlier. The many flashbacks to Park's past, including his struggles with his immigrant parents and a Boston-born white wife, could only have been strengthened with the scaffolding that the Kwang storyline provides in the late part of the novel. This would be a great book to read in a graduate seminar, or as a friend suggested to teach as a companion to Invisible Man, but I think I suffered a bit simply reading it for recreation....more
A few months ago I was complaining to a friend that all the really "epic" contemporary books out there, the ones that leave your head spinning becauseA few months ago I was complaining to a friend that all the really "epic" contemporary books out there, the ones that leave your head spinning because you can't fathom how the author so elegantly keeps so many plates spinning at once, are all written by white men, novels from authors like John Irving and Richard Russo. This friend then told me I simply had to read White Teeth, which she felt fit the bill and is written by a black woman.
The opening of the novel left me totally satisfied. After the first few chapters though, my delight waned with a slight feeling of confusion due to Smith's tunneling technique of connecting present to past, minor character to major. Once I had acclimated myself to her style though, I quickly regained my earlier excitement. As I dove deeper into the text, I found hints of John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces and Joseph Heller's Catch-22 in Smith's biting critique of everything that makes up Western society and a mixture of nods to other classic and popular samples of British literature. The literary equation she lays out is an interesting blend of risque imagery, offensive humor, and heart-breaking realities.
Many friends warned me that the ending "jumped the shark" a bit, and I have to agree that I was right there with Smith up until the final page, where I found myself wondering, "Where's the rest of the ending?" The journey there though was really fantastic, and I am anxious to read more of Smith's work!...more
I was introduced to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie during a workshop a few months ago where we watched her TED speech, "The Danger of a Single Story." The tI was introduced to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie during a workshop a few months ago where we watched her TED speech, "The Danger of a Single Story." The talk brilliantly highlights the need to read outside one's reality in order to rid ourselves of stereotypes and myths, as well as the false belief that we understand an entire people based on a single story. I knew that the moment my reading shelf had an opening, I'd choose one of her novels.
I really wanted to love this novel, and I did. Centered on the 1960s secession of Biafra from Nigeria and the ensuing war that joined the country back together, Adichie creates a moving story of a handful of characters whose lives are drastically altered by the war. Her characters are intricately drawn and vividly realized, and her fragmented story construction and shifting points of view create a swift read. (I did not give it five stars, however, because I did feel it was a tad bit long.)
This book is precisely why I love fiction; it educates through an empathy that only a deep fictional narration can achieve, a penetration of multiple characters' psychologies combined with carefully structured plot devices--something that nonfiction, even memoirs, just can't match. Having read this so closely after the similarly Nigerian-themed novel Little Bee I am reminded of the importance of reading authentic voices who can write with authority. Whereas Little Bee is written by a white British male journalist, Half of a Yellow Sun is written by native Nigerian and trained fiction writer Adichie. Where Little Bee felt like the story construction and character development were second to the author's political message, Half of a Yellow Sun is precisely the opposite, a book in which the craft of storytelling quietly leads you down a path to political and moral understanding almost by surprise....more
Based on my experiences reading student essays and just listening to the general literary grapevine, I was already pretty familiar with the plot of ThBased on my experiences reading student essays and just listening to the general literary grapevine, I was already pretty familiar with the plot of Things Fall Apart before I started reading the actual text. I knew the narrative to be a compelling representation of the collision between British colonialism and Nigerian nativism. Upon engaging with the text however, I was struck by the level at which Achebe succeeds in allowing both the civility and the barbarism to coexist within both societies so eloquently. Okonkwo's characterization and arc are difficult portrayals of the effects of Western greed disguised in salvation coupled with the harsh realities of a shifting native culture that cannot catch up with its destructive deliverance from primitivism. This is a book I'd like to read again in the future, especially if given the opportunity to teach it. My four-star rating is due primarily to the disconnected style in which Achebe relates the story; perhaps this is culturally stylistic or even representative of an allegorical technique, but I found it difficult to truly connect with Okonkwo in the way I expect to when reading fiction. In hindsight though, this might be due to his character's truly difficult position of being a father caught in changing times within his chosen homeland. Some of the difficult actions he takes(view spoiler)[--beating his wives, murdering his adopted child, disowning his son-- (hide spoiler)]which might be unpalatable if the reader feels too close to him....more
Gaines's premise--chapters narrated by many different characters, each unfolding the mystery of the white man's corpse surrounded by dozens of old blaGaines's premise--chapters narrated by many different characters, each unfolding the mystery of the white man's corpse surrounded by dozens of old black men claiming they each individually killed him--is certainly a great study in perspective; however, the many different characters and the jolting shifts in voice from chapter to chapter make this a rather discombobulating read. In the early portions of the book, the reader's confusion mirrors that of the characters, learning of the white man's murder secondhand amidst a confusing flurry of action as the old men gather at the scene of the crime, yet as the book progresses, that uncertainty about who is who and what is happening dissipates for the characters yet remains for the reader.
There is too my sense that Gaines's narrative is a bit dated. I am a huge fan of racial identity theories being integrated within a piece of literature, yet this story, set on in the late 1970s, feels too heavy handed in promoting the theme that times are changing. That said, there are still important social elements of this book, primarily the past injustices that force men and women to make brash, bold decisions.
I didn't feel truly involved in the plot until about a third of the way into the book, and the only time I felt compelled to continue reading was during the final staccato chapters that bring the story to a conclusion. ...more
Every white person needs to read this book. Although I'm not white, I picked it up for a variety of reasons. The immediate impetus was a discussion IEvery white person needs to read this book. Although I'm not white, I picked it up for a variety of reasons. The immediate impetus was a discussion I had with my senior students a few weeks ago focused on race. It was one of those moments where the teacher totally scraps the day's lesson because we began an impromptu important conversation that was both necessary and difficult. I teach in a mostly white suburban school, and as a non-white teacher, my perspective and logic doesn't always speak to the majority of my students in the way that I want it to. I had been meaning to read Wise's book for a while, and after that discussion with my students, I decided it was time to do so in the hopes that it would give me some insight on the white perspective, as well as some specific responses that might be heard more readily by a white audience of teenagers.
Over the past few years since adopting an African American daughter, I've done a fair amount of reading about race and privilege in this country. My family is marginalized in a lot of ways--gay parents; my husband is white, but I am Dutch Indonesian; two adopted kids, one black and one Hispanic--so I've been trying to educate myself recently on ways in which I can help my kids navigate the difficult waters of twenty-first century America. Because of this though, I did find the book's beginning a bit slow, since I had already been a convert for several years to the existence of white privilege; these early chapters are important for Wise's later discussions, but I do wish he had included additional statistics and research, something he does a lot of later on in the book. He does initially though make his position very clear while at the same time addressing inevitable criticisms and counter-arguments. He makes it a point to note that he is "not claiming...that all white are wealthy and powerful. We live not only in a racialized society, but also in a class system, a patriarchal system, and one of straight supremacy/heterosexism, able-bodied supremacy, and Christian hegemony. These other forms of privilege, and the oppression experienced by those who can't manage to access them, mediate, but never fully eradicate, something like white privilege." The specific focus of the book though is on whiteness and how being "white is to rarely find oneself feeling 'out of place' the way a person of color would likely" feel being lost on the back roads of Idaho in the middle of a storm, and he is quick to point out that "being white in an urban, mostly black and brown community is hardly equivalent" because whites rarely "find [themselves] in such places [except] by choice" while "people of color can't really avoid white spaces, and if they do it's probably because they live in the poorest areas and are the most destitute persons of color around."
After establishing a strong foundation for the existence of white privilege, he moves on to discuss specific ways in which it and the pernicious effects of systemic and institutionalized racism can be countered. As I have often heard people say that homophobia is really the problem of heterosexuals, Wise claims that "only when whites start challenging other whites, and begin to break the wall of silence that so often enables racist behavior, is anything likely to change"; however he offers such advice with a keen sense of pragmatism. He notes that confronting those who tell racist jokes for example is better than nothing, but just telling them that the joke offends you simply forces the racism underground--it doesn't really do anything to change the racist thinking that prompted it. He talks about ways in which we can engage people ignorant of white privilege and institutionalized racism in rhetorical discussions, something to which I paid great attention as a teacher. After all, as Wise consistently says, there is much more to eliminating racism than simply being an individually good person and that racism exists even where we would like to ignore it: "white folks all around the nation sometimes mistake being civil and kind and 'nice' with actually doing something to end injustice. But just because you're nice to people, just because you chat around the water cooler, or whatever, doesn't mean that racism and inequity aren't present in the place where you work or go to school."
While much of the text is depressing in its accounting of the realities of our country, there are moments of optimism and hope. Wise suggests that "it is always harder to stand up for what's right if you think you're the only one doing it. But if we understood that there is a movement in history of which we might be a part, as allies to people of color, how much easier might it be to begin and sustain that process of resistance?" He advocates for reshaping the way we educate and socially condition our children (there is a fantastic section about the media we expose our kids too, especially Disney films), and proposes that we must be more than explicit with them about our words and actions in relation to race, quoting James Baldwin saying, "Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them."
The entire book is incredibly convincing, although I'm sure I'm overly impressionable in this regard; he extends his thought process to many aspects of our culture, from the myth of the American Dream to fallacy of liberalism in the media. He theorizes on school shootings and Welfare reform, and this edition of the text even includes his open letter to whites following Hurricane Katrina. Persuasively expansive, this is an important book that should be required for the dominant members of our society....more
I read this as a personal assignment for a class called Empowering Multicultural Initiatives, aimed at teaching educators about identity development bI read this as a personal assignment for a class called Empowering Multicultural Initiatives, aimed at teaching educators about identity development both in students and how addressing the unique needs of non-white students can help the whole student population. We were supposed to read something based on our own individual cultural and racial identity development, but there aren't a whole lot of books focusing solely on kids growing up with absentee white American father and Dutch-Indonesian immigrant mother. The instructor suggested Half and Half, which is a collection of essays by established authors focusing on their multicultural upbringing.
There are eighteen essays in this collection, and after about ten of them, they start to get pretty repetitive even though each one focuses on a different combination of multi-ethnic composition. The elements of identity development in these varied writers essentially centers on the same idea: feeling out of place in the cultures of both individual parent and finding a way to navigate between the two worlds. A few were particularly good, including "The Mulatto Millennium" in which Danny Senna takes a satirical look at the issue of growing up with biracial parents, "A White Woman of Color" where Julia Alvarez discusses the colorism within Dominican cultural, "A Middle Passage" by Philippe Wamba focusing on the expatriate dilemma, and "Technicolor" where Rueben Martinez analyzes the effects of Hollywood imagery on his Hispanic development....more
For very personal reasons, I was completely moved by this story of a young girl named Rachel coming to terms with her own biracial identity. This accuFor very personal reasons, I was completely moved by this story of a young girl named Rachel coming to terms with her own biracial identity. This accurate portrayal of the effects of identity development is pitted amidst the backdrop of an unfolding mystery surrounding the deaths of Rachel's mother and two siblings. By combining an intriguing plot with the often devastating effects of growing up a person of color in a society that values white beauty above all else, Heidi Durrow's first novel is a swift and wonderful read....more
I read most of this book as part of a class called Empowering Multicultural Initiatives, a course devoted to issues of race in education. The essays iI read most of this book as part of a class called Empowering Multicultural Initiatives, a course devoted to issues of race in education. The essays in this book are super short and most of them have some good, clear guidance to offer teachers for various scenarios that occur every day in American classrooms. I recommend it any teacher who has already done work in racial identity development and its affects on education....more
This is a truly revelatory book for me. While I was totally aware of most of the issues that Tatum discusses in this book (as most teachers who have rThis is a truly revelatory book for me. While I was totally aware of most of the issues that Tatum discusses in this book (as most teachers who have received a degree in education in the past ten years are), Tatum plainly lays out her research in a clear and persuasive manner. I'd say this is a really important read for all parents, not merely teachers, and especially parents and teachers of white children. Change for the better will really only occur when those in the racial majority take responsibility and ownership for their privilege. (That's my own theory not really Tatum's.)...more
Wow. This book is a fantastic read. A good friend recommended it following our discussions about the difficulties of teaching To Kill a Mockingbird beWow. This book is a fantastic read. A good friend recommended it following our discussions about the difficulties of teaching To Kill a Mockingbird because I feel that text so often reinforces ideas of white supremacy and alleviates the guilt surrounding white privilege. My friend thought this would be a great companion to Mockingbird since that's required reading in her district.
This novel follows a young white woman nicknamed Skeeter in Jackson, Mississippi, at the dawn of the civil rights era (early 1960s). Skeeter begins writing a book based on interviews with the African American maids that work in the upper class white women's homes, raising their children, cooking for their families, and cleaning their houses. What is unique about this book from other texts that focus on this overpopulated genre is that focuses almost solely on the female perspective. The focus is on the subtle ways in which white women's racism can be so much more incendiary that the physical brutality of white men's racism (although the latter certainly makes its appearance in the story at various points).
This type of racism is so much more representative of the type that exists today. Skeeter's narration (with the exception of one chapter, the book is narrated in chapters by Skeeter and two black maids) and the dynamic nature of her character arc show the truly difficult struggles that come with truly analyzing one's unearned privilege. She is far more ambiguous in her convictions of equality that Atticus Finch, a character with whom many today too easily (and probably unrealistically) identify.
The book is not without its flaws. The ending seems a bit too fortuitous for the main characters (as well as the deserved fate of the central antagonist), but Stockett's plot and character development made it difficult to put this book down....more
A really terrific collection of short stories, this book totally redeemed Edward P. Jones for me after reading The Known World and totally hating it.A really terrific collection of short stories, this book totally redeemed Edward P. Jones for me after reading The Known World and totally hating it. A lot of what was hard about The Known World was that Jones zooms in on these characters and provides all this insight about them, but then never refers to them ever again; now it seems he just had the short story bug and it seeped its way into his novel! This collection is a great read, and I'm anxious to read his second collection, which includes some sequels to the stories in this book....more
This was a totally incredible book (until the second to last chapter, but more on that later). This is the only novel of the three that I've read by MThis was a totally incredible book (until the second to last chapter, but more on that later). This is the only novel of the three that I've read by Morrison that I totally understand why people consider a truly gifted writer. The craft of her writing here is fantastic; everything is so carefully constructed for the first thirteen chapters. I found myself just pausing several times while reading to bask in her words. And beyond the poetry of her prose, the storyline is totally riveting too. I'm finishing up teaching it right now, and while most of my sophomores are struggling through the weight of the text, the majority of them have said it's the best thing they've read this year in class! I recently read A Mercy and virtually hated it, and I've read The Bluest Eye, which I loved but didn't realize how good her writing could be until reading Song of Solomon!
Now even though I'm going on and on about how great this book is, the second to last chapter was a bit of a let down. As my friend Ingrid says, Morrison just gets too "didactic" in that section. The storyline is centered on the protagonist finding his identity, and in chapter 14 (of 15), he runs encounters a woman who answers every last question he could possibly ask about who his family is. I literally felt like Morrison's editor read chapter 13 and said, "Honey, we need to wrap this thing up." (She returns to the beauty of the first portion of the book for the final chapter luckily!)...more
So I just finished rereading this and am teaching it to my sophomores. I hadn't read it since college. It's still a great piece, even twenty-five yearSo I just finished rereading this and am teaching it to my sophomores. I hadn't read it since college. It's still a great piece, even twenty-five years after its premiere. My classes have had some great discussions about the realities of the American Dream as well as the reality that some people step up to bat "with two strikes" as Troy says in the play. I have to admit to not being quite as impressed with the dramatic structure as when first I read the play and some of the literary elements are a tad heavy handed, but it's still worth the time to read!...more