The assignment sheet for our final paper of the semester due 12/15 is on the assignments page. Go download it if you don’t have a copy.
Save the date: Lehman College professor Robyn Spencer will have a talk from her book The Revolution Has Come about the Black Panther Party from 5-6 PM on Tuesday 11/29 in Room 307 of Lehman’s Library. See event details here. Extra credit’s available for attending the event and writing a response. Ask me for details on the extra credit option.
Ava Duvernay’s documentary film 13th about the US prison boom is streaming on Netflix. That’s an alternate extra credit option if you want to watch and write something about it. Again, ask me for details.
This week we continue with our last book of the semester, the autobiography of Assata Shakur. For Tuesday 11/29, 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.
We will have a presentation by author, education activist, and former Black Panther Sam Anderson on the 29th. See Sam’s full bio at his website. He’ll talk about Assata, Cuba, the context of the Black Panther Party, and answer some of your questions. Bring in questions you want to ask him!
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.
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.
Finally, go back through your notes and start making a list of all the themes that we’ve seen this semester. It will be a good start to preparing for the final.
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.
For Tuesday 11/22, 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?
What physical spaces and places does Assata describe in the story? What is the significance of them?
Note: be sure to check the assignments page for the next formal written assignment and keep working on it. You can re-watch Do the Right Thingon the Video page (note: uses the same password as readings) or view a copy in Lehman’s Library. You’ll have to watch the library’s copy there: they don’t loan it out. Of course, most online sources (iTunes, Amazon, Google, etc) have it available to stream, too.
On Tuesday November 15th, 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 by Amber, Lorayne, Chris, and Geovanni.
For Thursday November 17th 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.
Announcement: See the assignments page for the assignment I gave out on Tuesday 11/1, due 11/22 on Dp the Right Thing
On Tuesday November 8th, we turn to Angie Cruz’s novel of Dominican immigrants in Washington Heights, Soledad.
Presentation by Lisa, Kaylynn, Alondra, and Jossie.
Read up to chapter 5: 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?
For Thursday November 10th, 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?