• Brown Girl, Brownstones was without a doubt a familiar story to me. The West Indian family that leaves their lives behind in hopes of finding the American Dream. Unfortunately, as it is for Silla Boyce, and many […]

    • Hi, Arelle, I like your question “who really wins in these situations?” and that might well be the tag line to Brown Girl, Brownstones if it were a movie. Marshall gives us a range of portraits of immigrants in America, a variety of ways to assimilate or fight assimilation, strive or refuse to be part of the striving. The ending so brilliantly allows Selina open choices, including to decline any of the options offered to her (by parents, by other immigrants, by her boyfriend). Will she make it? Won’t she? We don’t know. But we know she is a very strong character who has the will to try to find a new way. That’s remarkable, and a really brilliant ending and beginning, isn’t it?

    • Hi Arelle,
      It’s interesting how you also saw the disillusionment that can happen to those who come to America, and the ease with which anyone can lose their way morally when wrestling with the temptations of this land of material opportunity. Silla does lose a lot in the sacrifice, like you stated, and yet it’s heartbreaking that she does not see in advance that she won’t get what she most dreamed of.

  • “The real prison was the prison in his mind.” This one sentence set the tone for this entire novel for me. It defined the misconceptions of prison being a dead place where no one grows and futures are dim. It als […]

    • Luis replied 3 weeks ago

      Hi Arelle,

      I’m just reading some of our classmates’ responses about Himes’ YWMYC.

      I love your line, “Jimmy Monroe, scared of allowing himself to be himself…”! And you make an interesting point about how so many of the episodes in prison can be interpreted to be about the need for avoiding white male emasculation…


    • Hi Arelle,

      I like your post too–and the insight that there is a tension between the “prison” and the “prison of the mind” and, I would add, how to save your mind, your heart, while being incarcerated, confined, thinking you may serve twenty years when you are barely twenty. Himes does that brilliantly. Thanks for your sensitive response. Best, Cathy

    • “The real prison was the prison in his mind” is a powerful sentence that depicts many aspects of Jimmy’s imprisonment. From his sexuality to his insecurities, he constantly undervalues himself, so much so that it causes him to make painful decisions that cause his unhappiness. He is too insecure to be honest with his friends, his family, but most importantly, himself.

  • William J. Maxwell’s “Total Literary Awareness:  How the FBI Pre-Read African American Writing” interests me on several levels. The first is that I was not aware of how bad a surveillance problem we have. Second […]

    • Thanks for such an evocative blog post, Arelle. You write: “It makes me wonder, what exactly the government feared by a liberated person of color? I want to know – is there is more than fear of communism or an uprising that fuels these investigations?” I think this will be an issue we think about and talk about all semester. Why does our government so fear people of color? Is it politics, is it fear of “retaliation” for racism, is it a definition that makes a person of color automatically “suspect”? These are stated and implied questions that the writers we will be reading all grapple with.

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