THE UPTOWN KIDS

STRUGGLE AND HOPE IN THE PROJECTS

This compilation of observations, journal entries, and conversations sets out to prove that New York's City's housing projects do not deserve their reputation as ``drug-infested war zones.'' Sociologists Williams (New School; Crack House, 1992, etc.) and Kornblum (CUNY; co-author, Growing Up Poor, 1985) set up the Harlem Writer's Crew, recruiting young people who lived in low- income housing projects in Harlem—the ``'jects''—to keep journals. Meeting regularly in Williams' Harlem apartment, the young men and women—including a teenage mother, a college graduate, and a high school dropout in trouble with the law—read and discussed each other's stories and their lives. Their language ranges from poetic flights to hard-core street talk, as they voice dreams, ambitions, and the determination to escape the web of drugs and crime in the neighborhood outside their projects. Credit goes to the grandmothers, parents, project managers, and tenant organizers who fight to keep the children off the streets, to keep the stairwells clear of dealers and addicts, to maintain a secure community. Williams introduces his crew to writers like Franz Fanon, and the crew offers the reader discussions of Hip Hop and rap music, sexual rituals of the street, and sometimes moving insights into their inner lives. A poem from Sheena, the young mother, concludes: ``...believe it or not, I'm scared of life.'' The authors weave in some of the history and culture of the Harlem neighborhood that surrounds the projects. They also began to act as mentors for some of the young writers, helping them plug into educational opportunities and find jobs. As a result, proof of their thesis rests on shaky ground—are the projects really ``good places to raise children'' as a blurb has it, or are the children involved a self-selected group who would make it anywhere? Rewarding for its glimpses into the real lives and thoughts of black adolescents in the city, otherwise diffuse and unconvincing.

Pub Date: March 31, 1994

ISBN: 0-399-13887-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1994

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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