Some people talk about Precious as a student who has "fallen through the cracks." What this book demonstrates is that underprivileged students DO NOT,...moreSome people talk about Precious as a student who has "fallen through the cracks." What this book demonstrates is that underprivileged students DO NOT, in fact, fall through the cracks--they're PUSHED through the cracks by our failing education system, by structural violence, and by the racism, sexism, classism, and abuse they are surrounded by.
Precious makes an incredibly powerful heroine in that she is, in fact, the antithesis of a heroine: an illiterate, self-loathing, overweight girl suffering from sexual and emotional abuse at the hands of both her parents, a victim of rape and incest, and a 16-year-old mother of two living in poverty. We witness her struggle to find her own voice--both as someone gaining the strength to see herself as a survivor and vocalize her experiences as well as through writing, which she thought herself incapable of doing. It's difficult to even find the words to describe this book because they all seem inadequate, but more than anything, it's real, it's powerful, and it's extremely well-executed. (less)
Ahistorical, psychologically reductivist piece of crap. I knew as soon as she claimed that Cleopatra was black that I wasn't going to like this book -...moreAhistorical, psychologically reductivist piece of crap. I knew as soon as she claimed that Cleopatra was black that I wasn't going to like this book - she continuously fails to recognize race and other identities in the proper context, has a weak understanding of race as a social construct, and uses silly anecdotes to get across every point without citing relevant theory (or citing it properly, anyway - I cringed at her use of bell hooks). She tops it off by inserting a section called "beyond black and white" that lumps a bunch of "other" racial categories together and quickly breezes through a few important historical points for each group she discusses. When we get to the section on mixed race children, she comes out with this:
"Though theorists have attempted to develop stage-models to describe biracial identity development, there is no clear consensus about which model best accounts for the variation in experience among this population."
AS IF THAT'S NOT TRUE OF EVERY CATEGORY OF PEOPLE SHE HAS ALREADY USED PROBLEMATIC STAGE-MODELS TO DISCUSS. She relies far too heavily on psychology to explain everything else in the book--including the title question, “why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria?” She focuses on the tendency of students to stick to their own because they wish to be understood, but provides the reader with no understanding of WHY race is a category of difference. No discussion of structural violence. Very little discussion of institutional racism. No understanding of identities outside race--made obvious when she conflates sex and gender in one chapter, making transphobic assumptions about boys who wish to grow up and become “Mommy.” The only thing she explains decently enough is the simple fact that RACISM AND WHITE PRIVILEGE STILL EXIST--an obvious point that’s been written about over and over again, in much more helpful ways.
My advice: stick to books about race and privilege that are written from anthropological and sociological perspectives. Psychological stage-models give absolutely no insight to the culture of racism and white privilege we live in.(less)
I really hope I have the chance to see this performed one day. Shange's writing is so lyrical and emotionally honest on its own that I can only imagin...moreI really hope I have the chance to see this performed one day. Shange's writing is so lyrical and emotionally honest on its own that I can only imagine the impact of the full dance, the stage, the color, etc. The writing style was compelling enough for me to give the play 5 stars, though. The actual reworking of the English language so as to communicate in words created for and by women of color -- as opposed to speaking in the language born out of a racist and sexist culture -- very much enhanced the meaning of the play for me. I was equally compelled by the power of each woman's story -- each poem was both moving and beautifully written. I'll definitely be recommending this to a lot of people.(less)
There's something about books written from multiple perspectives that makes them impossible to put down. I found myself racing through this book in or...moreThere's something about books written from multiple perspectives that makes them impossible to put down. I found myself racing through this book in order to piece together each character's storyline, staying up until all hours of the night to finally finish it. Every time I would finish one character's segment of narration, I just had to know how the other characters would relay the same situation. The writing was also very witty, and I couldn't help but laugh out loud at different points in the novel. I think this is what turns a lot of readers off -- the fact that a book premised on the idea of suicide comes across as so light-hearted and funny -- but the book isn't necessarily about relaying some profound message of hope to its (potentially) suicidal readers; it's about an unlikely group of friends who affect each other's lives in ways they never thought possible. Yes, a big part of the story is that they help one another take "the long way down," but I think it's a mistake to get caught up in the seriousness of suicide while reading this book (and I say this as a person who lost a good friend to suicide only months ago, so I don't mean to offend).
That said, Hornby does deal with some very real emotions through each of his characters. He does so in the midst of narration full of witty passages littered with swear words, but rather than undermining the seriousness of the topic at hand, he grasps at the diversity of personalities affected by these emotional impulses -- everyone from Jess, a crazy, drugged out teenage girl, to Maureen, a religious and guilt-ridden mother who, on paper, should not "believe" in suicide. The characters, to some extent, are overly stereotypical, but they're also carefully constructed as such, so as to exaggerate the unlikeliness of their "gang." All that they have in common is that they are four rather depressed individuals about to end their lives at the beginning of the novel -- some with seemingly good reasons, while others are less sympathetic -- and I think Hornby takes this in some interesting directions. I can understand some of the criticism of Hornby's choices, but personally, I find the way he crafted these characters to be clever and effective. (less)
It's always a joy to read Ms. Corrigan's books - having attended the same high school she attended and now works at, it's fun for me to be able to pic...moreIt's always a joy to read Ms. Corrigan's books - having attended the same high school she attended and now works at, it's fun for me to be able to pick up on some of her more personal references (I always get a kick out of seeing a former teacher's name or recognizing the layout of our library in a chapter). Regardless, I don't know how anyone can manage to start one of Corrigan's books and not finish it within one night. This book, like her other works, was definitely a page-turner: fast-paced with a compelling (and rather twisted) storyline that had me completely attached to the characters' lives (I found myself so drawn into the relationship between Chloe and Finn - and not just because I was waiting for one of them to make a move). I don't read much YA fiction as a college student, but I'm glad I picked this up and had the time to finish it. I definitely recommend it!(less)
This was a required text for my Critical Sexualities class. Though it was an excellent class, I don't think this book was the greatest way to approach...moreThis was a required text for my Critical Sexualities class. Though it was an excellent class, I don't think this book was the greatest way to approach intersections of race, ethnicity, and sexuality -- which is why my professor supplemented almost every chapter with reading from outside sources. There are times when Nagel will spend a whole chapter talking about race in relation to sex and use African-Americans for every single example, using the black race to define our entire understanding of race and sex. The sections of the book concerning sex work were also problematic, victimizing all sex workers in a way that I found very troubling. Overall, the book was helpful in understanding some basic terms and concepts needed to discuss the racialized sexuality, sexual transgressions, etc., but there were some obvious limitations in the way these issues were approached. Many of the students in my class study Gender and/or Critical Sexualities as majors/minors, so despite the helpful definitions of concepts early on in the book (and a couple of really good chapters), most of us were quite critical of this book. I think this book might be more effective for a 101 course, though.(less)