Weeks of 11/21-28: (Night Class) Assata Shakur’s autobiography



  • Remember that the paper based on Do the Right Thing (posted on the assignments page) is due next week, even though class does not meet!  As a reminder, you can stream the film from the video page.
  • Tuesday 11/21 is a Friday schedule (PDF!) in the wacky world of CUNY, so we don’t meet again until the 28th.

After the break we move on to the our last book of the semester, the autobiography of Assata Shakur

For Tuesday 11/28, read the first 98 pages (chapters 1-5) 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?

We are not primarily concerned with figuring out guilt innocence here (and in any case don’t have all the court documents to review): the goal is to read her story as we would any other autobiography and focus on how the story develops and how she develops into the person she is today. Look for clues of these things in the story.

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

Thursday, November 30th, read pages 99-147 (Chapters 6 to 9) in Assata. 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.

Presentation by Jarissa, Michael, and Steve.