For the week of 2/25: Bodega Dreams

ElBarrioBoxSet_HiResFor Monday 2/25: Read pages 1-54 in Ernesto Quiñonez’s Bodega Dreams and watch the first 30 minutes of The Salsa Revolution, which is streaming online on PBS. We’ll talk a little about the role of music as an urban cultural form and how Quiñonez uses it to help shape the narrative of the book. Also think about what the PBS documentary says about how Salsa music is a unique product of New York City.

For Wednesday 2/27: Read pages 55-96 in Bodega Dreams.

A few things to pay attention to in the book are 1) the role of culture and what it means, 2) Quiñonez’s relationship as a writer to Pietri and Piñero (there are numerous references to both and their poetry throughout the book), 3) the “American Dream” and what it means to the characters in the book, 4) how different generations of immigrants/migrants relate to the city and city life, 5) race and gender relations. This isn’t a complete list, but these are a few key things that jump out at me. Begin to look for connections/ similarities / differences in things we’ve read (and other things you’ve read/ watched /studied in other classes, etc).


For Wednesday 2/20: Dutchman and urban theater

Poster for the 1967 film version of Dutchman starring Shirley Knight as Lula and the late Al Freeman, Jr. as Clay.

Reminder: class does not meet Monday because of the President’s Day holiday. On Wednesday, we’ll finish discussion on Dutchman and watch a very rare film version from 1967 starring the recently deceased Al Freeman, Jr. (who also appeared in the stage version of The Slave) and Shirley Knight, who plays the character of Lula with incredible intensity.

Please read Baraka’s essay “The Revolutionary Theatre”, which is online here.

Also read The New Yorker magazine’s review of a 2007 revival of the play. Online here.

Lastly, watch this short clip from a 2010 revival of Dutchman.

Questions to think about:

  • How do you imagine the characters in the play looking and acting?
  • How might you direct their characters to act?
  • Does the play do the things that Baraka describes in his “Revolutionary Theatre” essay?
  • How well do you think the play translates to the current day?
  • Week of February 11: Urban Theater


    This week, we turn from poetry to theater and will read two classic plays that shed light on the urban experience.

    Miguel Pinero: stylin', profilin', and being cool.
    Miguel Pinero: stylin’, profilin’, and being cool.
    For Monday the 11th, we will read a play by Miguel Pinero that takes us into the lowest levels of city life, as does much of his poetry. Read The Sun Always Shines for the Cool, which you can download as a PDF from the Readings page. It is also on reserve in Lehman’s Library if you want to read the paper copy or see other plays in the collection.

    For Wednesday the 13th, we take a sharp turn and read the classic play Dutchman from Amiri Baraka (then named LeRoi Jones). We will also have a special guest speaker to facilitate the discussion and present the play.

    Donavan Ramon
    Donavan Ramon

    Donavan L. Ramon earned his B.A. in English and the Special Honors Curriculum at Hunter College (CUNY), where he was a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow. A specialist in African American Literature, he earned his M.A. in English at Rutgers University in 2012 and is now writing a dissertation that traces a genealogy of twentieth-century narratives of racial passing. Donavan coordinates the African American Graduate Interest Group at Rutgers and serves as the Member-at-Large for Diversity with the Northeast Modern Languages Association (NeMLA). This semester, he’s teaching a course on Race and Ethnicity in literature at Rutgers-New Brunswick.