Review: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

“Slavery corrupts the owners. The master’s sons are corrupted by their father’s immoral behavior. The master’s daughters hear their parents fighting about slave women and may overhear talk of their father having seduced or raped slaves.” page 30

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: Written by Herself by Harriet Jacobs, edited by Lisa Barsky.
The Townsend Library, Townsend Press, New Jersey, 2004 (first pub. 1861).
Slave narrative, 152 pages including editor’s afterword.
Lexile:  740L  .
AR Level:  7.1 (worth 14.0 points)  .
NOTE:  I read a printed book which had been edited and contained additional back matter.  Project Gutenberg has a free ebook version of the original text available.

The autobiography of a young woman born into slavery in 1813.

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl cover

This book is remarkable, and I’m only surprised I didn’t read it sooner!  But let me write a review anyway in case you need more convincing and haven’t clicked the link above to read it already.  So many aspects of Jacob’s life are typical of her time, place, and station in life, but she herself is not very typical.

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Review: Understood Betsy

“He sent his marble straight to the mark, pocketed his opponent’s, and stood up, scowling at the little mothers. ‘I guess if you had to live the way he does you’d be dirty! Half the time he don’t get anything to eat before he comes to school, and if my mother didn’t put up some extra for him in my box he wouldn’t get any lunch either. And then you go and jump on him!’ ” chapter 8

Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield, illustrated by Ada C. Williamson.
Henry Holt and Company, New York, 1917 (orig. pub 1916)
Children’s literature, 271 pages.
Lexile:  1000L  .
AR Level:  5.9 (worth 8.0 points)  .
NOTE:  The references above are to the print edition, however I read the free ebook edition available at http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/5347? .

Nine-year-old Elizabeth Ann’s parents died when she was a baby, so she’s lived all her life with her great-aunt Harriet and has been raised by her cousin (whom she calls aunt) Frances.  However, since Harriet’s taken ill, she has to go live with another branch of the family while Frances nurses her mother.

Understood Betsy cover

At my new job I’ve been getting to know some homeschooling parents.  Many are more concerned about other aspects than diversity, but one asked my opinion about a few booklists.  Most of the books I was able to find reviews of on other sites, but a few I wasn’t able to find good critiques of, so I found copies to read them myself.

Friends, it was dismal.

After reading so many books that were at best unconsciously perpetuating stereotypes and untruths, and knowing they’re on modern day reading lists and staunchly defended by certain parents, I was feeling rather depressed about America.  So I decided to try to find some better books.  Most don’t fit on this blog, but since this book deals with kinship fostering/adoption, I’ve chosen to review it.

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Review: First in the Family 2

“You definitely feel conflicted when you stand out in a group, and you’re
going through different experiences. You feel a little bit discouraged. But
if you already stand out, you might as well shine. ” Maly, p. 74

First in the Family: Advice about College from First-Generation Students – Your College Years by Kathleen Cushman.
Next Generation Press, Providence, Rhode Island, 2006.
Available online at http://www.firstinthefamily.org/pdfs/First%20in%20Family_manuscript.pdf
Accessed in February and March of 2018.
Nonfiction, 124 pages (68 PDF pages).
NOTE: Sequel to First in the Family – Your High School Years, which I reviewed back in January.

This book gives encouragement and advice to students who may be the first in their families to attend college.  It includes many personal stories and quotations from students who have similar journeys.

First in the Family 2

This short book is aimed at encouraging teens from minority groups (or who are economically disadvantaged) to persevere in college.  When no family members or friends have attended college, students can find themselves at yet another disadvantage as they have no guide to help them navigate college classes or culture.  This book is here to help, with stories and tips from real students who have made it through part or all of college although they were the first in their families.

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Review: First in the Family

“If you want to go to college, right from the start you have to raise your voice, ask for what you need, and keep your eyes open about what classes and opportunities your high school offers you.” page 32

First in the Family: Advice about College from First-Generation Students – Your High School Years by Kathleen Cushman.
Next Generation Press, Providence, Rhode Island, 2005.
Nonfiction, 80 pages.
Not leveled.

This book gives encouragement and advice to high school students who may be the first in their families to attend college.  It includes many personal stories and quotations from students who have similar journeys.

First in the Family

One of the main focuses of this slim volume is encouraging teens from minority groups to attend college and pursue careers rather than jobs.  This book is specifically aimed at diverse high school students who have no family members that have attended college.

I bought this book because it was on clearance for a dollar at Barnes & Noble. I’m not the first member of my family to attend college, and neither was Husband.  I don’t work with high school students, but wanted to review it here.  After reading it and starting to write this review, I discovered there is a free interactive online version of the text.  The second book The College Years, is also available online for free in a PDF format.  I look forward to exploring those resources more at a later time.

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E-book Review: Negro Explorer at the North Pole

“Another world’s accomplishment was done and finished, and as in the past, from the beginning of history, wherever the world’s work was done by a white man, he had been accompanied by a colored man.” page 136

A Negro Explorer at the North Pole by Matthew Henson, forward by Matthew E. Peary and introduction by Booker T. Washington.
Frederick A. Stokes Company, New York, 1912.
Available online at www.gutenberg.org/files/20923/20923-h/20923-h.htm
Accessed in September 2017.
Nonfiction, 200 pages.

Matthew Henson was the black man who accompanied Peary on most of his expeditions, including to the North Pole.  He received scant notice from the white people of the time, but his life story was very much in demand among African-Americans.  Eventually he used his journals from the trip to write this book.

Henson In His North Pole Furs After His Return
“Matthew A. Henson in his North Pole furs, taken after his return to civilization.” Facing page 139, A Negro Explorer at the North Pole.

The book is a curious mix of direct entries from Henson’s journals, summations of journal entries, and his direct writing covering periods of time when he couldn’t write or adding information he felt was helpful.

Racism is very present in this book.  For the most part, this is overt, although it does come out more blatantly.  There are two main forms of racism present – against African-Americans, and against Native Americans.

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Web: Whiteness

Some black authors of the 1800s available free online, and exploration of whiteness and color in modern art.

After reading Nell Irvin Painter’s The History of White People (which I highly recommend), I have a long reading list.

David Walker’s Appeal: in four articles, together with a preamble, to the coloured citizens of the world, but in particular, and very expressly, to those of the United States of America, a 1829 tract by a free black man who also wrote for Freedom’s Journal and delivered addresses on Haitian independence and other topics.

Hosea Easton was another activist, who wrote A Treatise on the Intellectual Character and Civil and Political Condition of the Colored People of the U. States; and the Prejudice Exercised towards Them: with a Sermon on the Duty of the Church to Them.  (Also found here.)  Interestingly, his father was descended from Wampanoag and Narragansett peoples, but he disavowed any Native blood to ensure his citizenship.

William Wells Brown is an author with prolific and varied output.  He’s written a novel, collection of hymns, memoir, travelogue, and the 1874 book Painter cites, titled The Rising Son; or, the Antecedents and Achievements of the Colored Race.  I have yet to find that one online but am sure it must exist.

Aside from those new-to-me reads, this book also got me thinking about the concept of whiteness.  Not just racially, but also in art (since race and art can intersect beyond literature).

Vox has an interesting take on all white art found in museums (warning for swears):

The Art Assignment has a conversation with Odili Donald Odita about whitescapes and the use and meaning of color, ending with an assignment to try:

 

E-book Review: Lynching in America

“In all of the subject states, we observed that there is an astonishing absence of any effort to acknowledge, discuss, or address lynching.” Introduction, key point 5.

Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror, a report of the Equal Justice Initiative.
Published online at lynchinginamerica.eji.org/report/, Montgomery, Alabama.
Accessed in July 2017.

This report walks the reader through the events surrounding racial terror lynchings in America, including case studies of individual lynchings and photographs, illustrations, legal reactions, and original source quotations.

Lynching in America image resized
Lynching in America Report Introduction. Freely available at lynchinginamerica.eji.org/report/ .

I don’t recall how this crossed my path.  Normally I prefer to read books in person, whether I purchase, checkout from the library, or borrow from a friend.  However, some popular books are easier to get from the library as ebooks and older books that are out of print can often be found online for free.

This book doesn’t fit either of those categories.  Instead, this is a report from a team led by Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy.  His book’s been on my TBR for a while now (I even had it checked out, but had to return it as there was a hold).  After reading this report, Just Mercy got bumped up on my must-reads.

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