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

220px-Assatabio

Announcements:

  • 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.

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

220px-Assatabio

Announcements:

  • 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 Terrell and Giselle

 

Week of 11/14: (Night class) Soledad conclusion and Def Poetry Jam

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Announcements:

  • Continue working on the paper based on Do the Right Thing (posted on the assignments page) and remember that you can stream the film from the video page. Remember that it is due before the break, even though class doesn’t meet on Tuesday 11/21.
  • We start Assata over the upcoming break, so make plans to get your copy now if you haven’t already.

On Tuesday 11/14, [UPDATE: we’ll do this on Thursday because of the cancelled class.] 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?

Presentation by Veronica and Angela

 

def-poetry-jam

For Thursday 11/16 [UPDATE: Follow Tuesday’s assignment instead. No Def Poetry Jam! You can still watch the videos on your own though.] 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.

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 11/14: (Day class) Soledad conclusion and Def Poetry Jam

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Announcements:

  • Continue working on the paper based on Do the Right Thing (posted on the assignments page) and remember that you can stream the film from the video page. Remember that it is due before the break, even though class doesn’t meet on Tuesday 11/21.
  • We start Assata over the upcoming break, so make plans to get your copy now if you haven’t already.

On Tuesday 11/14, [UPDATE: we’ll do this Thursday instead.] 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?

 

def-poetry-jam

For Thursday 11/16 [UPDATE: Follow Tuesday’s assignment instead. No Def Poetry Jam! You can still watch the videos on your own though.] 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.

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 7: (Night Class) Angie Cruz’s Soledad, continued

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

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Note: The next writing assignment, due Monday 11/20, is on the Assignments page. Please download it and start working on it if you missed class on Thursday 11/2. You can stream the film from the Video page on the course website. Usual password.

Reminder: Tuesday is election day. CUNY classes meet as usual, so be sure to vote early. See a voter guide with info on your local races (courtesy of public radio station WNYC) here.

On Tuesday November 7th, we continue with Soledad. Read chapters 4-5: up to page 111 in the new paperback edition.

For Thursday November 9th, read pages 112-180, chapters 6-8 of Soledad. Continue tracking the themes we’ve identified and how characters develop in the book.

Presentation by Manny, Kliomarggy, and Yolanda

 

  • 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?

Week of November 7: (Day Class) Angie Cruz’s Soledad, continued

4532037658_c96e8fa3fa_o
Photo: “Washington Heights Piece” by Flickr user Aoife. Creative Commons licensed.

cvr9780743212021_9780743212021_lg

Note: The next writing assignment, due Monday 11/20, is on the Assignments page. Please download it and start working on it if you missed class on Thursday 11/2. You can stream the film from the Video page on the course website. Usual password.

Reminder: Tuesday is election day. CUNY classes meet as usual, so be sure to vote early. See a voter guide with info on your local races (courtesy of public radio station WNYC) here.

On Tuesday November 7th, we continue with Soledad. Read chapters 4-5: up to page 111 in the new paperback edition.

For Thursday November 9th, read pages 112-180, chapters 6-8 of Soledad. Continue tracking the themes we’ve identified and how characters develop in the book.

Presentation by Joel, Sonia, Marie, and Marfre.

  • 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?

Week of October 31 (Night class): Do the Right Thing and Soledad

On Tuesday 10/31, we’ll wrap up Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing with a discussion of the film and the readings assigned for it. To prepare, catch up on the readings if you missed any.

  • Pay particular attention to the excerpt from from Murray Forman’s The ‘Hood Comes First: Race, Space, and Place in Rap and Hip Hop on reading urban space, which is a PDF on the Readings page.
  • Then (re)read this article from New York magazine (“The Tipping of Jefferson Avenue” ) on the intersection of race and Brooklyn gentrification.
  • Make a list of themes you see covered in the film

On Thursday, 11/2, 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 47 pages (chapters 1-3). 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?

Student presentation by Angela and Veronica.