Thursday April 30: Soledad, part 2


For Thursday 4/30 finish Soledad (end–page 230) in the new paperback edition. 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?
  • In addition to the general themes listed above, consider the following specific points:

  • 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?
  • Presentation by Salisa, Aina, Yamilka, and Genesis.


    Thursday April 23: Soledad, part 1

    On Thursday, 4/23, we turn to Angie Cruz’s novel of Dominican immigrants in Washington Heights, Soledad.

    Angie Cruz, author of "Soledad"
    Angie Cruz, author of “Soledad”
    Read the first 5 chapters: up to page 111 in the new paperback edition. Note: it starts slow and Cruz’s narrative is non-linear and slightly more challenging than what we’ve read so far, but the effort is worth it. It is also the first from a female POV and female author. Here are a few things to think about as you read:

  • What do the different urban spaces in the book (the East Village) and (Washington Heights) represent to Soledad?
  • What are Soledad’s feelings toward her family and the neighborhood and how do they change? (Spoiler: they do)
  • The narrative is “non linear” (i.e. it doesn’t proceed in chronological order, time-wise) and the narrator (person telling the story) changes. Try to track the characters and who is speaking.
  • What tensions are there between old school Dominican culture and the different strands of US culture?
  • Presentation by Jas, Dia’Monique, Kryzanni, and Marlon.

    Reminder: the next paper is due soon. Details on the assignments page.

    Thursday April 16: Do The Right Thing

    05_Flatbed_1 - JUNE
    For Thursday April 16: we spend the entire class on an in-class screening of Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, which won the class poll last week. DTRT is now a classic film, but was extremely controversial at the time, commenting on race relations, gentrification, and much more.
    Announcement: I gave out the assignment sheet for the second formal paper, due 4/26 in the last class. Download the PDF file from the Assignments Page if you missed class or lost it.

    For this week’s class, we’ll focus on the aspects of race relations, police brutality, gentrification, and urban space as seen in the film.

    Read this excerpt from from Murray Forman’s The ‘Hood Comes First: Race, Space, and Place in Rap and Hip Hop on reading urban space in DTRT. PDF: Forman_Hood_DTRT001

    Also Read this article from New York magazine on the intersection of race and Brooklyn gentrification.

    Finally, watch this short summary of Spike Lee’s “rant” about gentrification that caused a lot of controversy and discussion in 2014.

    Optional Bonus: Watch the “Making of” documentary by Spike Lee and legendary, now deceased filmmaker St. Clair Bourne, via YouTube.