This was the over-the-summer book for my teenager entering high school last year. I read it too of course. It was excellent.
At first I was reluctant,...moreThis was the over-the-summer book for my teenager entering high school last year. I read it too of course. It was excellent.
At first I was reluctant, as the subject matter (a man who has been sentenced to die, and what effect on him is possible from another man who has been given the assignment - against his will - to help him prepare for his imminent execution) is so heavy.
But I was excited also, that this piece of African-American literature had been assigned to the kids, that it deals overtly with race.
So launched in, and at first it was slow going, but soon the detail drew me forward. And then other elements, in particular the exact workings of the racist behavior of some primary characters, and the behavior and thinking of the protagonist (the teacher). I really liked that part, it informs me so hugely. And the love story, of course.
It's been a while ago now, so to write a better review I'll probably need to refresh my memory.
But I just wanted to say, it's awesome. It shows how the human spirit can come forward when called upon, despite reluctance and a lack of particular knowledge and feelings of inadequacy.
And the resolution involves self-definition vs. definition-by-others, which is a favorite concept of mine.
**spoiler alert** There are three different languages in this book. One, the black dialect speech, for which it is famous. Excerpt:
'"You was twice nob...more**spoiler alert** There are three different languages in this book. One, the black dialect speech, for which it is famous. Excerpt:
'"You was twice noble tuh save me from dat dawg. Tea Cake, Ah don't speck you seen his eyes lak Ah did. He didn't aim to jus bite me, Tea Cake. He aimed tuh kill me stone dead. Ah'm never tuh fuhgit dem eyes. He wuzn't nothin' all over but pure hate. Wonder where he come from? "Yeah, Ah did see 'im too. It wuz frightenin'. Ah didn't mean tuh take his hate neither. He had tuh die uh me one. Mah switch blade said it wuz him. "Po' me, he'd tore me tuh pieces, if it wuzn't fuh you, honey. "You don't have tuh say, if it wuzn't fuh me, baby, cause Ah'm _heah_, and then Ah want yuh tuh know it's uh man heah.
Two, the narrator's story-telling voice. Excerpt:
'To Janie's strange eyes, everything in the Everglades was big and new. Big Lake Okechobee, big beans, big cane, big weeds, big everything. Weeds that did well to grow waist high up the state were right nad often ten feet tall down there. Ground so rich that everything went wild. .. Dirt roads so rich and black that a half mile of it would have fertilized a Kansas wheat field.'
And three, the lyrical, magical poetic voice used to describe nature and emotions (often intermingled) and such of that sort. (Excerpt at the end, is a spoiler).
And, not being a literature student, I don't really have the proper means to talk about this, but it's interesting to me that there is such a big gap between the narrator's voice and the character's voices. Because the characters talk in the manner that they think, one supposes.. so the narrator thinks in a different way than her characters. The narrator speaks in the way that Hurston's critics believed black people should speak, all proper and so on. But that didn't satisfy them. That's something I'd like to learn more about in reading more of her work, when there's time.
Anyway, love this book; such a great story about a woman who does what she is told is the right thing to do, and notices though that the results are not what she expected. Which is surprising. So she tries to figure out, like, what then? And settles for what seems to be the best course of action in such a muddled world. Then, years later, she is given the opportunity to throw away that bad rule book, and live a whole different way. Of course wish that part was a longer part, but I guess the message of the excerpt below (the final paragraph) is that (spoiler) even though Tea Cake is dead, he is still with her and that time continues for her. But it's not the same of course.
This book, in short, is a luscious treasure!
final excerpt: 'Then Tea Cake came prancing around her where she was and the song of the sigh flew out of the window and lit in the top of the pine trees. Tea Cake, with the sun for a shawl. Of course he wasn't dead. He could never be dead until she herself had finished feeling and thinking. The kiss of his memory made pictures of love and light against the wall. Here was peace. She pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net. Pulled it from around the waist of the world and draped it over her shoulder. So much of life in its meshes! She called in her soul to come and see.'(less)
Read this in keeping with my teenager's english class. Fascinating to read, about the lifestyle before intrusion; and then how life changed for these...moreRead this in keeping with my teenager's english class. Fascinating to read, about the lifestyle before intrusion; and then how life changed for these specific people. Interesting specific instance about how missionaries did what they did exactly. Really found it depressing as the missionaries took over, although of course the twins thing was horrible. Every culture has its weaknesses though, the take over of one by another is a negative for me throughout.
Want to re-read now, Chinua Achebe is among those writers mentioned early on by President Obama in his book, 'Dreams From my Father.'(less)
I have just been having my daughter and I watch the tv mini-series based on this book; both because of Obama's historic inauguration coming up, and be...moreI have just been having my daughter and I watch the tv mini-series based on this book; both because of Obama's historic inauguration coming up, and because she is studying American History this year.
And it's been just as jolting and uncomfortable for me as I thought it would be, but for additional reasons than what I expected.
Of course all the humiliation and degradation and viciousness of the white population is horrifying.
But there were significant things that had escaped my attention when I watched it decades ago.
One, I missed the fact that Kunta Kinte was raised in a Muslim family, a Muslim community. Given the statements of the characters that atleast they were bringing God to a God-less people, that is huge.
The other is the rank insanity and surrealness of the paradigm of slavery created by the slave-owning community. For instance, in the scene just after it was discovered that Kizzy wrote the fake traveling pass for her lover, the slave owner's comments range from 'we're all a family, how could you betray me' to 'as a slave, you must obey'.. and those two paradigms are completely contradictory!
And through and through, if you look at it clearly, it was completely insane. As I've thought about it, it seems to me to an extent the insanity has never ceased.
I mean, first the slaves were freed and promised land - and not given it. So for many the relations remained similar to how it had been. Voting was not allowed. Texas didn't even tell the slaves they were free till forced to by Federal troops two and a half years later!
Physical intimidation has been constant, psychological brutality has been the norm. White expectations about what black people were supposed to be and to do continued to be maelstroms of ignorance and hatred. The civil rights movement came into being to redress wrongs, and was fought by many. Still today, many define themselves by their loyalty to the confederate cause. And racism still exists today in many forms. I'm not explaining that very well, will re-write after viewing again and/or reading this. I just have a kind of horrified sense that not nearly enough has changed.
So, long story short (or is it too late for that?) I'm really interested in reading the book now, to gather more such data and continue my own personal development toward being a white person who's *not* part of the problem, accordingly.(less)
An excellent story, love that quiet intensity. Atticus taking on this chore of defending a black man on charges of raping a white women, in the South,...moreAn excellent story, love that quiet intensity. Atticus taking on this chore of defending a black man on charges of raping a white women, in the South, in the mid 1930's. He knows what the outcome will be, but feels that if he were to turn it down, or do it less well than he possibly could, he would no longer have any standing with regard to his value system. And he makes sure his kids understand his perspective on the case, and why they're being punished at school by the other kids for his actions, being called 'n_-lover' and all. He understands that this will put the town and the community through a strenuous process, but he has a basic belief in the humanity of his community that sustains him and gives him courage. That belief is shaken by the end of the book, but also validated. I get why this book is so high on everyone's list now, after finally reading it. But, for me, there wasn't the enjoyment I was expecting. I think partly perhaps because it's set in the South, and of all the possible settings for literature, that's among my least comfortable. Especially when it's portrayed positively which, for the most part, was that case with this. But also I didn't like the point of view. I'm just sort of more into grown-ups now that kids, I think because of where I am in my parenthood arc.. after a while, I'll be interested in kids again; but right now with my own leaping into adulthood, that's where my focus is. And the POV is very flavorful in this, you know? Sometimes it's not so big of a deal, can be quite subtle. But in this case I totally felt enmeshed in her life. I've grown more comfortable with non-fiction (in which the pov fits within a certain minimalist range), and also with fiction in which the pov changes throughout the work. In fact, it's to the point where fiction in just one voice is almost always less preferable to me. And I'm wondering, is that ok? Have I become enamored of a gimmick to the point where I'm ruined for 'real' literature? Should I be more self-disciplined? I couldn't help but long to read a chapter here and there from Atticus' point of view, from Jem, from Cal, from Dill, from Boo! Also from the neighbor across the street, or from the purported rape victim herself. Have I crossed beyond some fourth wall of literature, and I should cross back and let go and be satisfied with what the author thinks is best? Or, is it the case that multiple points-of-view in one work are an aspect of literature that marks this period now in a positive way, and a technique that will likely be more in use going forward? Interested in any opinions, discussion.. (less)
Capturing of the thriving black community which once existed and remains a celebrated memory today. Every June or so there is a 'Remember Rondo' party...moreCapturing of the thriving black community which once existed and remains a celebrated memory today. Every June or so there is a 'Remember Rondo' party in a park that is well-attended and serves to carry that thread forward.
Rondo was destroyed by one of our main freeways, 94W, in the early 60's. It is commonly known that the route for the freeway was shaped by the relative power held by the various neighborhoods, Rondo was destroyed because its residents didn't matter enough. (to put it bluntly).
Since then, the area became a classic instance of urban blight, host to a crime and drug culture complete with murders and a constant police presence. Only in the last 5+ years has the area started to turn around through the efforts of residents, community activists, non-profits (one of our main food co-ops, Mississippi Market, has been key), the well-known black theatre Penumbra (home of August Wilson) and others. (less)
A Minnesotan of the highest calibre, here long before my parents moved in during the late 50's-early 60's. From Publishers Weekly Nellie Stone Johnson i...moreA Minnesotan of the highest calibre, here long before my parents moved in during the late 50's-early 60's. From Publishers Weekly Nellie Stone Johnson is a major force in Minnesota and national politics. In this lucid oral history from Brauer, the Minnesota correspondent for Newsweek and the Chicago Tribune, she modestly reflects on her campaign during most of the 20th-century to improve educational and job opportunities and health care. Johnson recounts her prosperous farm beginnings with a father who organized other farmers in the face of corporate greed, racism and regionalism. One of eight children, she explains the credo of her clan, which refused to be rigidly defined simply by being African-American, as evidenced by her father's involvement in progressive and New Deal politics (largely defined by white, Southern Democrats) at a time when most African-Americans still voted for the party of Lincoln. Influenced by her father's activism, Johnson later became a union organizer, enduring two failed marriages that fell victim to her single-minded devotion to her work. She commends FDR's administration for the commitment to end federal discrimination, but openly admits that racism played a major role in her own decision not to run for Congress. After her union pals ousted her from office because of her left-wing leanings, she became a seamstress while retaining an abiding interest in politics. Age did little to slow her down as she swapped ideas with Thurgood Marshall, served a long stint with the Democratic National Committee from 1979 to 1988, toured Africa and battled with white feminists over the inclusion of women of color in the ERA fight. Brauer skillfully conveys the story of an inspiring and noble woman, still active in her 90s, who has made every minute of her life count. Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. (less)