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Archive for September 2012

Pro-Black: A Positive or Another Adopted Label??

I find it unsettling that I can't locate information on the origin of the term, pro-black.  A Google search turns up Web sites providing pro-black within its own definition and information on Black Power.  The term may have been born out of the latter, but there's nothing that specifically makes the connection.  In a world where there's a study about everything and a field dedicated to word history, this is, as I previously mentioned, unsettling.

So many in the black community have accepted that our history, our culture, ourselves are not to be valued, that this has become the norm.  So, when members of the black community emerge demonstrating self-love, they're labeled pro-black.  What type of society are we living in that we put the destruction of a culture on a pedestal and slap a label on what should be the norm?? Nobody else does this. 

In fact, most cultures are pro-themselves, but nobody ever fills in the blank with their ethnicity or any other ethnicity except black.  This may be because with labels comes the propensity to group and with that, comes stereotypes.  For example, anybody wearing their hair in its natural state or locked becomes associated with being "pro-black."  So, now you have individuals with a distorted mindset grouped with those who are just trying to live and love.  And as with most things, society tends to focus on the negative, so it focuses on the group members who have room to grow and casts the entire group in a bad light. 

Looking at grouping from another angle, to be considered pro-black, do you have to love anything and anyone having to do with being black?  Just the positive?  Because what's good for one person isn't necessarily good for another just because they share a culture. 

I don't know, adopting the term seems like an unecessary stressor, a distraction even.  I understand the desire and need to unify, but don't think we need a label to do so.  I think we'd make more progress if we stop focusing on symantics and start focusing on truly learning and loving ourselves.
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Paying for the Sins of Their Father

I've been fortunate to have come across and/or been recommended amazing novels over the past couple of months.  I found my most recent read, Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones, while browsing my Twitter timeline.  Unfortunately, I can't remember who was discussing the novel so I can't thank them for the recommendation, but I'm following suit and recommending it to my readers.

I always hate going into too much detail when reviewing a novel because I don't want to give too much of the plot away, but in brief, this is a story told by two, teenage daughters of a polygamist, James Witherspoon.  The first half of the novel is in the voice of Dana Lynn Yarboro, Witherspoon's oldest daughter.  Dana's mother, Gwen, is Witherspoon's second wife, but she and Dana have been kept secret from his first wife, Laverne and their daughter, Chaurisse.  Hers in an interesting perspective because she is pretty familiar with the comings and goings of Laverne and Chaurisse, while they have no concept of her connection to them.  The second half of the novel is told by Chaurisse.  This provided a dynamic shift in the story because the reader had the opportunity to see Dana and the polygamist situation through her eyes for 160 pages, so it was a different perspective hearing about her, the effects of the polygamy and Chaurisse through Chaurisse's voice.

That's all I'm going to reveal as far as plot, but I do want to share a stylistic element and language that I fell in love with from my favorite chapter titled Uncle Raleigh.  The chapter is a flashback from when Dana was 9 years old and begins with:

"I am  neither religious nor superstitious, but there is something otherworldly about the space where two roads come together.  The devil is said to set up shop there if you want to swap your soul for something more useful.  If you believe that God can be bribed, it's also the hallowed ground to make sacrifices.  In the literal sense, it's also a place to change direction, but once you've changed it, you're stuck until you come to another crossroads, and who knows how long that will be."

And without giving anything away about the plot and what transpired in this chapter, it ends with:

"When we passed the sign to get on the interstate highway, he didn't put on his turn signal and instead kept driving along the two-lane road.  He slowed a bit at every intersection, giving my mother the chance to ask him to change course."

Loved how Jones used the 13 pages that made up this chapter to bring this story within the story full circle.  

Also, am a big fan of this paragraph because it feels like a childhood memory:

"August was canning season, so the women were busy washing tomatoes, peaches, and beets.  Willie Mae was saving her money to  buy two window air conditioners; in the meantime we kept cool with window-box and funeral-home fans...Across the street, a lady sold Styrofoam cups of frozen Kool-Aid for a dime, but my mother had told me not to eat from strange people's houses.  I spent most of the time in the kitchen, up under Willie Mae, who would stumble over me from time to time.  The atmosphere was thick with the sugary smell of boiling fruit.  I would lick my forearm and taste salt."

I'd give this novel five out of five stars; highly recommended.


Connections and Understanding: Review of 'A Thousand Splendid Suns'

As I closed the back cover to A Thousand Splendid Suns, I had to say "That was a good book" even though nobody but my cat, Giselle, was around and she generally pays me no attention. 

This novel relays the history of Afghanistan from the 1980s until shortly after Taliban rule.  The most interesting part is, it's told from the women's perspective.  But the author is a man.  I'm usually leery of authors writing in a voice vastly different from their own, but Hosseini did well with this.  I feel he captured the desire for women to make something out of whatever circumstances they're given, thereby making the reader feel connected to his characters and their plights. 

I don't want to reveal too much because I highly recommend this book and want everybody reading this post to read the novel, but as a brief summary, Hosseini talks about how occupation and the struggle to regain a national identity affects a country.  Spefically, the war to rid Afghanistan of its Soviet occupiers and the subsequent civil conflict that resulted while trying to establish a government. 

It was heartbreaking to read the characters' stories and really get a sense of how all of this fighting affected everyday life and eventually the course of entire lives.  To get into the mindset of people who's every decision is determined by the will to survive.  To see what extremes they'll go to in order to access small luxuries such as watching a movie or traveling freely or having a choice of who you'll build a life with. 

In short, this novel balanced entertainment with history well.  Definitely would give it five out of five stars. 

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