Summer Reads

My first Harry Potter book!It’s summertime! Time for backyard barbeques, vacations, family reunions, block parties, swimming, festivals, fireworks, fireflies, and relaxing. I look forward to summer because I can sit on my balcony and read a good book. It’s my favorite way to relax.

Every now and then, I like to take a break and read something that has absolutely nothing to do with my research or teaching. This summer I have started reading the Harry Potter books. I quickly finished the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and I am already reading book two, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. As usual, the books are so much better than the movies. I can see why the younger set fell in love with these books; they are wonderfully written. I especially like the friendship between Harry, Hermione, and Ron. I am fascinated by this whole “wizarding” world that J. K. Rowling created. She has an amazing imagination.

To be honest, I have read other young adult/teen novels including Twilight and The Hunger Games trilogy. So, far Harry Potter is definitely my favorite.

Well, the cat is out of the bag: I like Harry Potter. So, what are you reading this summer?

Foto Friday: Little Free Library

Have you heard about the “Little Free Library” Project? I first saw the libraries on Pinterest and thought, What a great idea! It’s a neighborhood book exchange that started in Wisconsin in 2009. Now there are more than 15,000 around the world, including the one that I recently found in my neighborhood.

Little Free Library, Coralville, Iowa

Little Free Library, Coralville, Iowa. Sharing books, encouraging literacy. I LOVE IT!

The books are free. The idea is to share your favorite books–“take a book, return a book.” I didn’t take a book, but I brought a contribution.

My Little Free Library contribution.

My Little Free Library contribution.

Don’t Know Much About African American History? A 2 Dope Reading List

Released in 1960, Sam Cooke sang and co-wrote the single “Wonderful World,” the first line of which is:

Don’t know much about history. . .

As Da Hype 1 and I planned our posts for Black History Month, we decided that we wanted to include a list of must-read books for the 2 Dope Sistahs blog. Of course, there are many such lists on other blogs and websites, but we still wanted to provide our recommendations as well. Between a literary scholar and a historian, this proved to be an overwhelming task. I had 48 books on my preliminary list, and I wasn’t sure how to narrow it. There were just too many books, and, of course, I thought people should read all of them.

After much agonizing, I decided to focus on books I would recommend to those who “Don’t know much about African American history.” I thought of my friend who was always wanted me to teach him because he hadn’t taken any history classes in college. I also considered books that I have chosen for my African-American history survey courses over the years. And I wanted to select books that have moved me. Finally, I thought it was best not to overwhelm readers with a long list or declare this as the definitive “must-read” list. The final product, I hope, is a list of six titles that will be helpful for those who are new to African American history and that it will encourage them to read more.

NarrativeDouglass

Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave, Written by Himself, 1845.

HistoryMaryPrince

Mary Prince, History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave, Related by Herself, 1831.

White_ArntIWoman

Deborah Gray White, Ar’n’t I a Woman? Female Slaves in the Plantation South, Revised Edition, 1999.

WoodsonMiseducation

Carter G. Woodson, The Miseducation of the Negro, 1933.

DuBois_Souls

W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk, 1903.

Diop_AfricanOrigin

Cheikh Anta Diop, The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality, 1974.

The great thing about this list is that many of these titles available on the web free or charge or for a nominal fee for e-readers. Enjoy!

*Thanks to my colleagues and friends, Drs. Tiwanna Simpson and Cherisse Jones-Branch, whom I consulted as I was compiling this list.

Book Review: Tools to Cultivate the Promised Land

PromisedLandThe theme of “The Promised Land” runs throughout African-American history and culture. Enslaved people who accepted Christianity had faith that they, like the “Children of Israel,” would be liberated from bondage and live in the Promised Land. Searching for freedom and increased opportunities to carve out their own “American Dreams,” black migrants from the South fled their homeland for the industrial North during the Great Migration of the 20th century. In addition, on April 3, 1968, the night before his assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. invoked the Promised Land three times in his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech. King implied that he, like the prophet Moses, “may not get there with you,” but “we, as a people, will get to the promised land.”

In her book, Tools to Cultivate the Promised Land: Working Wisdom from My Grandparents’ Garden, Deborah L. Parker uses these biblical, historical and metaphorical references to discuss the contemporary search for the Promised Land. For African-Americans, the phrase has historically referred to “freedom” or a land of freedom, but Parker suggests no set definition, indicating varied and contested meanings. It can be a physical destination to which one escapes, but it can also be a mental and spiritual space. In fact, each person must mark his or her own “sacred space.”

Once that sacred space is claimed, it must be nurtured. Parker imparts the wisdom of the elders–lessons she learned growing up in a multi-generational family–to instruct readers on cultivating their Promised Land. Her narrative weaves in the practical advice of her maternal grandparents, Joseph Everett and Pearl Cargill Parker, and illustrates the usefulness of words and actions.

Tools to Cultivate the Promised Land is a motivational book interspersed with inspirational stories and family history. Parker is a great storyteller, and the the book is most compelling when she incorporates her own narrative into the discussion. For example, I found her chapter on racism (Weed-Whackers for Racism and Other Growth Stoppers) particularly interesting. She compares racism to weeds in a garden, which can prevent you from achieving your purpose, if you allow it. Although racism has reared its ugly head in her life, she found ways to overcome the obstacles placed in her path. She succeeded in spite of racism because she had the right “tools.”

Parker cherishes the memories of her grandparents and the lessons to be learned from both family and collective history. This book should cause readers to think about applying the lessons they’ve learned from their grandparents as well.

 

 

2 Dope Bookshelf: Women in Academia

Last weekend, at the Faculty Women of Color in the Academy Conference, I was fortunate enough to attend a workshop facilitated by Carmen G. González, professor of law at Seattle University School of Law and co-editor of Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia. Prof. González outlined some of the challenges confronting women of color as faculty members and then discussed “practical strategies” to address those challenges.

It was a powerful session, with many of Prof.González’s examples resonating with those in attendance. She stressed the importance of telling one’s story as the contributors to Presumed Incompetent did. Later I talked with her at her book signing, and she wrote in my copy: “Please share this book with others.” Now, I know she probably wrote something similar in all the books she signed that day, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea. This 2 Dope Bookshelf includes Presumed Incompetent and some additional titles that may be useful for women in academia.

 Women in Academia

womenask

Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide, 2009.

 AcademicMotherhood

Maria Castaneda and Kirsten Isgro, eds., Mothers in Academia, 2013.

PresumedIncompetent

Gabriella Gutiérrez y Muhs, Yolanda Flores Niemann, Carmen G. González, and Angela P. Harris, eds., Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia, 2012.

WomensRetreat

Atsuko Seko and Mary Alice Bruce, eds., Women’s Retreat: Voices of Female Faculty in Higher Education, 2013.

TellingHistories

Deborah Gray White, ed., Telling Histories: Black Women Historians in the Ivory Tower, 2008.

2 Dope Bookshelf: Women’s Studies

My writing partner and I have many things in common, including our teaching interests. Although we come from different disciplines in the humanities (literature and history), we have both taught courses in Women’s Studies. So, on this last Thursday in Women’s History Month, we are featuring texts we use for our Women’s Studies classes.

Readings in Women’s Studies

BlackFemThought

Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment, Routledge, 2nd Ed, 2008.

Femtheory

Josephine Donovan, Feminist Theory: The Intellectual Traditions, Bloomsbury Academic, 4th Ed., 2012.

accountsex

Cynthia Ellen Harrison, On Account of Sex: The Politics of Women’s Issues, 1945-1968, University of California Press, 1987.

SisOutside

Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, Crossing Press, 2007.

VAWoolf

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own, Penguin, 2004.

 

2 Dope Bookshelf: Women’s Autobiography

Here are more selections from the eclectic grab bag that is the 2 Dope Bookshelf. Continuing with our Women’s History Month focus, this week we have women’s autobiographies/memoirs.

Women’s Autobiography

ElaineBrown

Elaine Brown, A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story, Anchor Books, 1993

AngelaDavis

Angela Davis, Angela Davis: An Autobiography, International Publishers, 1988.

MaryCrowDog

Mary Crow Dog with Richard Erdoes, Lakota Woman, HarperPerennial, 1991.

BarefootHeart

Elva Trevino, Barefoot Heart: Stories of a Migrant Child, Bilingual Press, 1999.

CondoleezzaRice

Condoleezza Rice, Extraordinary, Ordinary People: a Memoir of Family, Three Rivers Press, 2011.

2 Dope Bookshelf: Women and Work

As you can tell by our header and our numerous posts about books, the 2 Dope Sistahs are pretty serious readers. I don’t know about you, but whenever I go into people’s homes or offices, I’m drawn to their bookshelves. I want to see what they read. We thought our readers might interested to find out what books are on our bookshelves (or in boxes when we run out of shelves) as well. Because of Women’s History Month, we’re featuring books on women’s history for the rest of March.

This week’s theme is: Women and Work.

LivingINOut

Elizabeth Clark-Lewis, Living In, Living Out: African American Domestics and the Great Migration, 1994.

RosieRivet

Penny Colman, Rosie the Riveter: Working Women on the Home Front in World War II, 1995.

NeitherLadySlave

Susanna Delfino and Michele Gillespie, eds., Neither Lady nor Slave: Working Women of the Old South, 2002.

LaborLove

Jacqueline Jones,  Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work and the Family, From Slavery to the Present, 1986.

DomesticityDirt

Phyllis Palmer, Domesticity and Dirt: Housewives and Domestic Servants in the United States, 1920-1945, 1989.

(Some the books above have newer editions available)

Still talking about Slavery in 2013: Why 12 Years a Slave Now?

If you watched the Academy Awards last night, you may be luxuriating in the afterglow of 12 Years a Slave’s Best Writing, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Motion Picture wins. Therefore, I thought it was a good time to revisit Da Hype 1‘s post on slave narratives. To her credit, she realized the importance of 12 Years a Slave some time ago.

Why We Write/Talk about Slavery

Harriet Jacobs, author of The Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Harriet Jacobs, author of The Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

I have been teaching African American literature for more than a decade now. During this time, I have taught a number of narratives that address the subject matter of slavery. In fact, during Fall semesters, I teach a course called The Slave Experience. When teaching these courses, my students and I often discuss, “Why it is important to continue to write/talk about slavery?” This question has arisen in the mainstream media and in social media lately, with the movie release of Solomon Northrup’s narrative, 12 Years a Slave.

I teach about the subject matter of America’s institution of slavery for a number of reasons, but the one that seems to be the most pronounced for me and for my students is the fact that we (others who study slavery and other human atrocities) want to be connected to, give voice to, and honor the humanity of those who have been robbed of the status of “human.” My classes are filled with students who elect to take a course on slavery that is not required because they genuinely believe that by better understanding the experience of American slavery, they will be better citizens and better humans. For me, this is what education in the humanities is all about.

Writing/Righting the Accounts of Slavery

Below, you will find a list of some accounts of slavery. I decided to list both fictional and non-fictional accounts because there is so much to learn from them both.

Traditional/Conventional Slave Narratives

Frederick Douglass, author of A Narrative in the Life of Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass, author of A Narrative in the Life of Frederick Douglass

This list consists of narratives written by or dictated by slaves themselves, once they escaped bondage. Those who were incapable of writing themselves, often received help from others to chronicle their experiences. These narratives were primarily written as a way of validating (or give witness to) the horrors of slavery, in hopes that the escaped slave’s story could support the abolitionists in emancipating all of those still enslaved.

The conventions of the writing reveals that those who escaped were gracious enough to not only tell their personal stories, but they also wanted to give voice to all who were still silenced and victimized by slavery. They had to tell the stories of how they escaped carefully, without revealing too many details of those who aided them to “freedom”. Assisting a slave in escaping slavery was a federal crime and it could result in prison time or worse for all of those caught participating.

This is only a short list of slave narratives:

  1. Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano (1789)
  2. Mary Prince, The History of Mary Prince (1831)
  3. Frederick Douglass, A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845)
  4. Henry Bibb, Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb, an American Slave, Written by Himself (1849)
  5. Henry Box Brown, Narrative of Henry Box Brown, Who Escaped from Slavery Enclosed in a Box 3 Feet Long and 2 Wide (1849)
  6. Josiah Henson, The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself (1849)
  7. Solomon Northrup,12 Years a Slave (1853)
  8. Harriet Wilson, Our Nig (1859)
  9. William Craft, Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom; or, The Escape of William and Ellen Craft from Slavery (1860)
  10. Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861)

Neo-slave Narratives

Gayl Jones's Corregidora

Gayl Jones’s Corregidora

Not to be confused with conventional or traditional slave narratives, the genre of literature often called the “neo-slave” narrative, consists of works of fiction that address the institution of slavery. Generally speaking, there are two types of neo-slave narratives: a.) works that have the institution of slavery as its setting, and b.) works that revisit slavery within a contemporary context.

Oftentimes, the narratives were based on actual documented accounts of slavery, as in the case of Beloved, which is loosely based on the experiences of Margaret Garner. These contemporary writers took the opportunity to address, without the rules and conventions of the 19th century, the realities of slavery that perhaps the traditional slave narratives could not. For example, 19th century works of fiction could not explicitly address the sexual violence black women experienced in slavery because the writers did not want to jeopardize the Abolitionist Movement by offending supporters of the movement with their stories of being raped by white slave masters. After all, no one wanted to address the rape culture that existed in American Slavery.

Octavia Butler's Kindred

Octavia Butler’s Kindred

Below, you will find a list of some neo-slave narratives. This list is, by no way, exhaustive:

  1. William Wells Brown, Clotel (1853)
  2. Margaret Walker, Jubilee (1960)
  3. Gayl Jones, Corregidora (1975)
  4. Alex Haley, Roots (1976)
  5. Ishmael Reed, Flight to Canada (1976)
  6. Octavia Butler, Kindred (1979)
  7. Sherley Anne Williams, Dessa Rose (1986)
  8. Toni Morrison, Beloved (1987)
  9. J. California Cooper, Family (1991)
  10. Toni Morrison, A Mercy (2008)

Please share with us your experiences reading these narratives.

Don’t Know Much About African American History? A Reading List

Released in 1960, Sam Cooke sang and co-wrote the single “Wonderful World,” the first line of which is:

Don’t know much about history. . .

As Da Hype 1 and I planned our posts for Black History Month, we decided that we wanted to include a list of must-read books for the 2 Dope Sistahs blog. Of course, there are many such lists on other blogs and websites, but we still wanted to provide our recommendations as well. Between a literary scholar and a historian, this proved to be an overwhelming task. I had 48 books on my preliminary list, and I wasn’t sure how to narrow it. There were just too many books, and, of course, I thought people should read all of them.

After much agonizing, I decided to focus on books I would recommend to those who “Don’t know much about African American history.” I thought of my friend who was always wanted me to teach him because he hadn’t taken any history classes in college. I also considered books that I have chosen for my African-American history survey courses over the years. And I wanted to select books that have moved me. Finally, I thought it was best not to overwhelm readers with a long list or declare this as the definitive “must-read” list. The final product, I hope, is a list of six titles that will be helpful for those who are new to African American history and that it will encourage them to read more.

NarrativeDouglass

Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave, Written by Himself, 1845.

HistoryMaryPrince

Mary Prince, History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave, Related by Herself, 1831.

White_ArntIWoman

Deborah Gray White, Ar’n’t I a Woman? Female Slaves in the Plantation South, Revised Edition, 1999.

WoodsonMiseducation

Carter G. Woodson, The Miseducation of the Negro, 1933.

DuBois_Souls

W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk, 1903.

Diop_AfricanOrigin

Cheikh Anta Diop, The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality, 1974.

The great thing about this list is that many of these titles available on the web free or charge or for a nominal fee for e-readers. Enjoy!

*Thanks to my colleagues and friends, Drs. Tiwanna Simpson and Cherisse Jones-Branch, whom I consulted as I was compiling this list.