New assignment posted


A quick post-holiday note that the next (and final written) assignment is now up on the assignments page. It’s due the last Friday of classes: on December 12th. We’ll discuss details in class, but please head over there right now if you want to get a jump on it over the weekend.


Week of December 2: Assata, continued

220px-AssatabioThis week we continue with our last book of the semester, the autobiography of Assata Shakur. For Tuesday 12/2, read chapters 4-8 (70-140). Again, make sure to pay attention to the various poems she includes in the story on pages 130 (“Love”), 140 (“Stranger”). Think also about the themes that you should now be able to identify that we’ve been working on all semester. Note specific places in the book where they appear and mark them in your text.
Update 11/18: the new assignment has been posted. See the Assignments page for details.

Class presentation by Illya, Renee, and Stephanie.

For Thursday 12/4 read chapters 9-13, (pages 141-208) in Assata.

Pay close attention to the following:

  • Poems “Leftovers” (147), “Culture” (159), and “To My Mama” (193). Again, what do they add to the narrative? What insight do they give you about Assata’s inner thoughts?
  • Also think about her Fourth of July address on pages 167-170.
  • What spaces/ neighborhoods does she move through? Note them and how each of them either shapes the story and what it means to Assata.
  • Finally, keep track of major themes that emerge in the story as you read. It’s a good idea to mark examples of them in the text and make a small note in your notebook.
  • Doing a good job of reading/notetaking here will pay off when it comes to the final exam. This will be one thing you know well and won’t have to study for.


  • Second (and last) formal paper of the semester is due on Friday, December 12th via e-mail. Check the assignments page for it.
  • There’s one more opportunity for extra credit if you scored below a B on the midterm. ClassAction Student group’s Hip Hop summit will be all day tomorrow, Wed. 11/26 at Lehman. Details are at their Facebook event page.
  • Week of 11/25: Assata Shakur’s autobiograpy

    220px-AssatabioThis week we move on to the our last book of the semester, the autobiography of Assata Shakur

    Announcement: Remember that papers are due Tuesday, 11/25 by email. Again, the assignment sheet lives on the Assignments page. I’ll also be adding another option for extra credit. Extra credit assignment options are now posted on the assignments page..

    For Tuesday 11/25, read the first 70 pages (chapters 1-3) of Assata: An Autobiography. Be sure to read the foreward by Angela Davis and Lennox Hinds. Also make sure to pay attention to the various poems she includes in the story on pages 1,17,44, and 62.

    Questions to think about:

  • How effective is her style of storytelling? Does the non-linear narrative with flashbacks make the book more engaging?
  • How does Assata go about re-telling history?
  • What role do poems play in an autobiography? What do they tell you about Assata or the other people that the regular story does not?

    Extra: Listen to “A Song for Assata” by Common, from his 2000 Like Water for Chocolate release, featuring CeeLo Green.

    Thursday, November 27th we do not meet because of the holiday. Enjoy your break.

  • Week of November 18: Soledad conclusion and Def Poetry Jam


  • Remember that papers are due on 11/25. Keep working on it and contact me if you have questions or want me to respond to drafts.
  • The Mosaic Literary Conference will be this Saturday 11/15 at the Bronx Museum of the Arts and focusing on the life and work of Nuyorican writer Piri Thomas. Details are at their Eventbrite page.
  • cvr9780743212021_9780743212021_lgOn Tuesday November 18th, we finish Angie Cruz’s novel Soledad. Read chapters 8-11 (end–page 230) in the new paperback edition. In addition to the points and themes we’ve been tracking all along, consider the following:

  • What changes do we see in Soledad’s attitudes toward her mother, Richie, and Flaca?
  • How do her feelings towards the Dominican Republic and Washington Heights evolve?
  • What is the role of the supernatural or spirituality in the book’s conclusion?
  • How do memory and trauma affect the characters?
  • What do you think of the conclusion? Is it realistic? What happens to Soledad at the end?
  • On Tuesday, we’ll start with a presentation from Anel and Imani

    For Thursday November 20th the assignment is to watch the Youtube videos of various poets from Russell Simmons’s Def Poetry Jam, which ran for several seasons on HBO. Also read Ben Brantley’s New York Times review of Def Poetry on Broadway. Assignment: Write 1 page (typed, double spaced) on one poem from the list below. How does it reflect the urban experience? Does It? Why is it appealing to you? Print it out and bring it with you to class on Thursday.

    Questions to think about:

  • How does being in front of a live audience change the perception of the poetry?
  • In the Pedro Pietri interview I posted, Pietri was critical of slam poetry and thought it relied too much on people’s personalities and being performers–do you agree?
  • What do their stories say about the urban experience?
  • Lastly, choose 2 poems you like, watch them a few times and be prepared to discuss in class.

    Here are the poems. There are several, but they’re mostly short. It’s less than a half hour, total.

  • Week of November 11: Angie Cruz’s Soledad, continued

    Photo: “Washington Heights Piece” by Flickr user Aoife. Creative Commons licensed.


    Note: The next writing assignment, due Tuesday 11/25, is on the Assignments page. Please download it and start working on it if you missed class on Thursday 11/6.

    On Tuesday November 11th, we continue with Soledad. Read chapters 4-5: up to page 111 in the new paperback edition.

    Presentation by Domingo, Elva, and Noemi.

    For Thursday November 13th, read pages 112-174, chapters 6-7 (halfway through chapter 8 in the paperback) of Soledad. Continue tracking the themes we’ve identified and how characters develop in the book.

  • We’ve discussed the settings in class: the split between the East Village and Washington Heights and what each represents. Watch for locations as you read, how Cruz presents them, and what different urban spaces mean to key characters.
  • Point of view. Soledad comes from a female author and the P.O.V. the reader gets is primarily from women. What differences (if any) do you notice?
  • Following on the last point, one key subtext of the book are the various forms of violence against women. Think about this as you read and what it feels like for the various characters to move through urban spaces.
  • Culture. Another point of tension in the plot is the difference between the younger and older generations of characters and between more traditional Dominican culture and the different outlook that the younger, Americanized characters have. What are the differences between how characters see the world and their place in it?