I never liked Henry James, or really understood him until I read this fictionalized version of who he really was. A fabulous way to teach or discuss s...moreI never liked Henry James, or really understood him until I read this fictionalized version of who he really was. A fabulous way to teach or discuss sexuality. (less)
Delicious, easy, fun. Again, an interesting critique on consumer culture (I swear, this wasn't a chosen theme), not to mention on race, class and gend...moreDelicious, easy, fun. Again, an interesting critique on consumer culture (I swear, this wasn't a chosen theme), not to mention on race, class and gender. My three faves.(less)
Amazing snap-shot of the turn of the century Wild West. I would teach this book in a heartbeat. Smart, compelling and well-crafted. When I told people...moreAmazing snap-shot of the turn of the century Wild West. I would teach this book in a heartbeat. Smart, compelling and well-crafted. When I told people I was reading this book, everyone suggested another Solnit, which I will completely take them up on.(less)
An American family from the 40s to the 70s. This is my favorite kind of book. Goodreads is making me realize that I love American family drama. Intere...moreAn American family from the 40s to the 70s. This is my favorite kind of book. Goodreads is making me realize that I love American family drama. Interesting, no? Anyway, how does a family get over a tragedy? Do we ever? The prose in this is so concise, it's like Polaroids taken by different family members. (less)
I read this book when it came out, and I thought, eh. Then a professor of mine mentioned the fact that it would historically be impossible for Goodwin...moreI read this book when it came out, and I thought, eh. Then a professor of mine mentioned the fact that it would historically be impossible for Goodwin to have remembered half the stuff she says she does. That stuck with me. Then all that plagarism stuff came out about her other work. So, what's the definition of a memoir? I think of that every time I see her on TV.(less)
Taught it. Does it stand up to a 21st century critique? No. Is it a fabulous classroom tool? Yes. Do I wish this earnest writing still existed SOMEWHE...moreTaught it. Does it stand up to a 21st century critique? No. Is it a fabulous classroom tool? Yes. Do I wish this earnest writing still existed SOMEWHERE? Yes.(less)
I liked it, but I don't think it was his best. The creation of a fictional universe from a simple "what if" is a great concept, but Chabon has trouble...moreI liked it, but I don't think it was his best. The creation of a fictional universe from a simple "what if" is a great concept, but Chabon has trouble with his third acts. Always.(less)
This book has different narrators. Normally, I'm not into that, but Smith has a way of writing that seems so honest to each of her characters. Her pro...moreThis book has different narrators. Normally, I'm not into that, but Smith has a way of writing that seems so honest to each of her characters. Her prose about grief, guilt and what happens after we die are not only insightful, but they're ideas that have stayed with me. A good read.(less)
I had wanted to read this book since it came out in the late 1990s, because I had often wondered about this very question. I grew up in a Boston subur...moreI had wanted to read this book since it came out in the late 1990s, because I had often wondered about this very question. I grew up in a Boston suburb that was part of the METCO program, a well-meaning but poorly executed way of integrating schools by bussing in African American students from Boston. I had some friends of color in high school, but thought of them as exceptions to the rule of the METCO kids, who I saw as an angry bunch who mainly kept to themselves AND always sat together in the cafeteria.
When I applied to college, I decided on Oberlin, a school I had chosen because of its tremendous left-leaning sensibilities and its need blind admissions policy (now defunct - shame on you, Oberlin) and also because of its history at the forefront of civil rights: admitting people of color since its founding in 1833. But I found an extremely segregated campus on arrival. I hardly saw any people of color throughout my day-to-day existence at Oberlin. Going to college in the mid-1990s, at the height of political correctness, I thought that the best course of action was simply not to ask why. That my question might label me a racist or worse yet, an uninformed racist. I was told by my peers that I shouldn't enroll in African American studies classes, because there was always a long waiting list, and that if I wanted to learn about Black culture, I needed to educate myself and let the students of color have first crack at those classes. And, again, in my deep-seeded political correctness, tinged with guilt and fear, I knew only not to ask why.
When I went to Northwestern University to study American History on the graduate level, I was again surrounded by good meaning white folks like myself - and no people of color, save for my first year advisor (who soon left to go to NYU). I was also the only woman studying American history in my cohort. The rest of my peers, for the most part, were straight white men interested in studying race related issues of the 19th and 20th century. THAT I found totally bizarre.
At Northwestern, I did learn a great deal about the systematic inequities of our race-based society. I learned where and when different practices of institutionalized racism were founded in this country. I learned about "The Wages of Whiteness," how corporations and the government pit poor people against each other by devaluing African American culture and work ethic as a way to keep poor Whites and Blacks from working together against economic and political oppression. (I think my review of Warmth of Other Suns is a pretty good example of what I've learned...)
So, going in to Why are All the Black Kids..., I had the context for racism in this country and I had my own experiences to draw on. SO, why do all the Black kids sit together? I think Tatum provides a really good answer: Because racism is pervasive in America, and it's really hard to deal with, no matter who you are. All kids find groups of support, and it's easier to hang out with people who know where you're coming from.
One of the most recent forms that racism has taken in our culture is diabolical in its simplicity: liberals and conservatives alike celebrate the incredibly misguided notion that we are "beyond racism." That Martin Luther King Jr., Sesame Street and Affirmative Action have cauterized all the old wounds of slavery and inequality. That Barack Obama has ushered us in to a "post-racial" society. In other words, because people are allowed to sit anywhere on the bus and they're not rioting in the street, we're all color blind now. And so tales of overt racist behavior tend to shock White people, and tales of subtle racism are laughed off as people of color being overly sensitive or simple misunderstandings.
It's understandable to want to hang out with people who know the daily grind of racism rather than sit with people who don't. Tatum also does a fantastic job of discussing this same "phenomenon" in the corporate world - from the subtle yet measurable racist practices of hiring, to the every day effort it takes workers of color to change perceptions of fellow employees who may feel they were hired simply because they possess minority status.
Tatum talks about how racial identity is formed over a life time and how parents and teachers play a major role in creating a healthy and proud kid - one who understands that racism is a systematic form of inequality, but does not see himself as a victim or a perpetrator. She talks about how to be a change maker, about standing up and pointing out racist behavior when it occurs: stopping the silence. Although she wouldn't put it this way, Tatum like Paul Farmer does believe guilt is good WHEN it pushes you to do something about it.
So, the thinking and arguments behind the book are sound and interesting, and will make you think about times when you have seen racist behavior, when you have contributed to it, when you have been a victim of it. One of the most powerful stories she told had to do with asking people about their first memories of understanding racial differences:
The participants use such words as ANGER, CONFUSION, SURPRISE, SADNESS, EMBARASSMENT. Notice that this list does not include such words as JOY, EXCITEMENT, DELIGHT. (p.32)
Working on turning racism around by realizing differences are a joy and not a sadness is indeed a life long process, but I believe a tangible goal. That being said, I think you could read the first 3 chapters and the last and skip the rest, as it gets pretty repetitive. (less)
I don't know why I picked up Gatsby again, but I did. I had forgotten it almost completely, and I can't believe that they teach this book in high scho...moreI don't know why I picked up Gatsby again, but I did. I had forgotten it almost completely, and I can't believe that they teach this book in high schools. I can't imagine I could understand half of this book when I was 16.
After finishing, I couldn't help but think about how much of what we learn in high school is not actually the content, but the American myth-making of content. Much like we learn that Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves, we learn that the Great Gatsby is all about the roaring twenties - bootleggers and bathtub gin.
Reading it again, I was struck by the fact that all of the characters (with maybe the exception of Jordan Baker) are actually incredibly fearful of modernity. Tom sees every modern sentiment as a threat not only to his masculinity but to his race. Gatsby has fallen in love with the idea of old money to the point that he lives for almost a decade chasing after it. Daisy, when confronted with her own desires runs as far away from them as she can. And of course, Nick, who is so bewildered by this new world that he becomes merely a witness to it, without agency or ambition.
It seems ironic, that this book about the beginnings of nostalgia, is in itself nostalgically remembered by those who read it in high school...Unlike I remember, it is not about West Egg (or the Hamptons for that matter) but the space BETWEEN, yes, the limnal space between New York City and the fabulous mansions on the beach. It's at the Wilson's gas station that the real story begins and where the real story ends. Again, this in-between space, where all the characters try to reconcile their lives before and after war which Fitzgerald constantly describes as an ash heap.
It actually changes the way I think about America in the 1920s - not so much as a youth revolution of morals and manners, a clash of city and town, wets and drys, but as an entire nation that is trying to hang on to the way of life they thought they understood before the Great War. Perhaps the 1920s is really the beginning of nostalgia in America, not a new way of life as much as longing for a way of life that never really existed. (Henry Ford is perhaps the leader of this movement, trying to stem the tide of progress he himself played a central role in.) And it wasn't until the 1930s, when Americans had to deal not only with their post-trauma of World War I, but also with the threat to small town capitalism when we were able to start embracing the new of the 20th century, the American century.
snoresville. It had some interesting descriptions of Chicago at the turn of the century, but it was long, boring, overly flowery prose. It's not a won...moresnoresville. It had some interesting descriptions of Chicago at the turn of the century, but it was long, boring, overly flowery prose. It's not a wonder that Edna Ferber has not prevailed over time. (less)