Category Archives: AfroMadu Book Club.

Half of A Yellow Sun: Week 1 Synopsis.

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Week 1 brings us character development, plot placement, and conflict like no other! In the first chapters we have already faced some issues and learned things about these people that would be panned out and developed over a long series of pages in other books. For this book we are story lining our entire discussion on twitter and it is available to view here! https://storify.com/AfroMadu/half-of-a-yellow-sun-discussion-1-jul-23-2014 If you haven’t participated on twitter with us, we HIGHLY recommend that you read the story line of the discussion first and then our synopsis to get the full experience of week 1!

Summary of Points:

Ugwu’s class shock: It is very interesting to know that only a few blocks away from Ugwu’s village, his new place of employment overwhelms him with modern day technology and a whole new world of professionals, education, and space to discover and explore a life beyond his village. Ugwu’s class shock is super important in this book because it allows us to realize some class privilege that readers have when Ugwu is amazed by libraries and refrigerators. This grants us perspective to how things were during the 60’s in Nigeria and the historical context behind house servants and help around the “richer”.

Dynamics between Ugwu and Odenigbo: Not only did Odenigbo hire the small boy as a house maid, but it is clear that Odenigbo is dropping gems and becoming a fatherlike figure to Ugwu as well. Despite the casual barks and rude comments that are said and demanded when it comes to Ugwu’s job, moments where there are room for intellectual growth, Odenigbo uses his profession and privilege to uplift Ugwu and grant him opportunities. Enrolling him into school, for one, shows the readers that Ugwu is not going to be an ordinary houseboy. What a cool benefit package! 

Subliminal political plug-ins: Adichie has a way with words! the dialogues that are held within the characters aren’t just regular conversations that need to be dismissed during this time. Every conversation is definitely needed for us to understand Nigerian history and other international conflicts during the sixties. This is not an ordinary tale. We are learning about the characters but is being taught about events during that time as well. Conflicts between the Nigerian tribes and European influence seems to leak out of these pages, giving us more insight on race relations and inequalities.

Plot twisting Olanna and company: Just when Ugwu was getting into the swing of life at the home front, Odenigbo’s girlfriend Olanna is in the picture. Not only is she gorgeous, but the amazing love story begins to heighten this book to the next level. Odenigbo and Olanna’s beautiful energy is definitely a breath of fresh air for this story and her family history and drama is very fun to see unfold as well. Things like the small rivalry between Olanna and her sister Kainene, Olanna’s minimalistic ideology while her parents wants to force her into a lifestyle of materialism and credentials, and the search for Kainene’s love life is a great way to enter more people into this beautiful story mix. 

European perspective: Just when we thought drama would be casted onto the characters in the first two chapters, chapter three smacks us in the face with White privilege and stereotypical Whites in Nigeria. We are introduced to the small crowd of colonialistic, (yea, we made that word up) assholes that enjoy deeming Nigerians as barbaric people rather than the human beings that they are. Adicihie’s way of reminding us that there are in fact “those people” who will not allow the country to prosper. We are introduced to Richard, another important character in another important developing love story between him and Kainene. Yes, an interracial couple in Nigeria during the 60’s.

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Chapters 4-16 is up for this week, and although those are a lot of pages to tackle, this book is definitely worth it. Dig deep, and read up on it! You will benefit from it when we are all discussing what went on in those chapters. Keep reading! See you during the end of the week!  

 

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Beloved: Week 2 Synopsis.

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“Good for you. More it hurt, more better it is. Cant nothing heal without pain, you know,”

This week the plot thickens with the appearance of Beloved and many more themes and additions to the book. Here’s some things that we’ve covered, and some things we missed: 

1. The flesh aspect of this segment was very well exposed, with Beloved coming out of the swamp to start her new life in a physical body, and the physical characters throughout the text reacting to a new person in the house. The character dynamics between Paul D relationship with Denver and Sethe; Sethe and Denver’s newfound relationship with Beloved; and company to Denver as she finally felt the spirit’s physical presence.

2. Paul D and Sethe’s relationship seems to become more prominent, realizing that their storytelling of slavery is necessary in their relationship. Paul D’s disclosure on his experience as a slave to Sethe is what is bringing them both together, as Paul D brings another piece to Sethe’s story about Halle and his existence. Sethe cannot continue to think that Halle might be somewhere still alive, when this entire time she coped with the fact that he might be dead. Sethe’s openness to hearing Paul D’s stories is vital in the continuation of him remembering the past. Thus, having this couple feel as if their relationship is vital in hashing out their experiences.

3. Baby Suggs community scene in the middle of the woods was very important in the healing process for the characters in the story. Toni Morrison did a great job in vividly show a flash back and connecting it to the solution of the problems within the text, and the solution to loving Blackness in general. Loving ourselves and protecting the things that we cannot change. Such a beautiful and very important part in the text.

4. We also see that Beloved has some unfinished business with her mother. Whether it is positive or negative, Denver is beginning to realize that her sister’s visit isn’t to merry after all. Few scenes show how Beloved begins to get very territorial over Sethe and the things she has planned to ask and do to her mother. Is Denver beginning to become isolated all over again? 

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Things that were not discussed:

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The significance of Mister, the rooster.

In Paul D’s recollection of biting an iron, his grand memory of a rooster seemed to be very interesting. He states,

“Mister, he looked so..free. Better than me. Stronger, tougher. Son a bitch couldn’t even get out the shell by hisself but he was still king and I was…”

“Mister was allowed to be and stay what he was. But I wash;t allowed to be and stay what I was. Even if you cooked him you’d be cooking a rooster named Mister. But wasn’t no way I’d ever be Paul D again living or dead. Schoolteacher changed me. I was something else and that something was less than a chicken sitting in the sun on a tub.”

In this text, concepts of freedom, racism, identity,and self-worth bled through this paragraph. What was Paul D really trying to say? Was his being less than a rooster on a plantation? How did that rooster make him see hisself as a slave? Something to think about…

This Sunday our discussion continues covering our third segment of the text, (pg. 125-198 in hard copy, 205-317 in pdf) followed by another synopsis of Beloved!

Beloved: Week 1 Synopsis.

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This past week, we finally kicked off our reading and discussion, and we must say that our first dialogue was a success! The best way to dive into the beginning of a great book! Breaking down themes that were clearly noticeable and helping others to see different perspectives was definitely needed and we wanted to highlight some things that we did discuss, along with some ideas that we didn’t. We also have some tweets for reminding and acknowledgement!

Points to remember:

1. Morrison’s common theme in this first segment is a plethora of emotions around adversity. Desperation, grief, guilt, isolation, evil, heavy, sad, lonely, rebuked, etc. All these words lay the groundwork of how unfortunate our scenes are set, but in fact very powerful. 

2. Each theme or unsuitable situation is not only a reflection of the book’s time period, but the reality in our current events as well. Trauma from slavery, gender issues, motherhood, Black womanhood, truth-telling, spirituality, etc also bleeds through the world we live in today. 

3. Denver’s character is very interesting to observe. Not only does she manage the Beloved spirit in the house, but she is the realist in Paul D’s and Sethe’s relationship, along with the after effects of Sethe’s parenting. 

4. “Its not evil, just sad.”

5. “Anything dead coming back to life hurts.”

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Things that were not discussed:

Each week we have a small segment of something that was not mentioned on Sunday. This column is very important to us, as it attempts to shed more light and perspective to the book, providing us with a new angle in understanding the text. 

The Symbolism of the Chokecherry Tree

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Photo Credit: Kelsey Otocki

We read in the text about Sethe scars on her back being her “Chokecherry tree”. Could this depiction of a tree be symbolism of the family baggage that she carries throughout “Beloved”? Besides the flashbacks of her experience in Sweet Home and the casual talks and conversations about Baby Suggs, could each scar have a meaning behind Sethe’s real story and truths? Moreover, can the idea of taking off the tough shell (her clothes) to reveal the horrible past and her current situations be the rhetoric behind the Black Woman and the reason for the pain and suffering in the Sethe character? What do you think?

Stay tuned for our sunday discussion followed by another synopsis next week covering our second portion (68-124 in hard copy, 97-205 pdf version) of Toni Morrison’s Beloved!

 

 

Book Review: The Twelve Tribes Of Hattie.

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A contemporary book that captures Black life in the South from a prominent time of Black migration. Each chapter delivering different themes and common concerns that Black people face in their everyday lives. Living through the characters and their moments of triumphs. Finding a truer value of love and the dimensions it takes on. What book does all of this? This one, of course.

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie not only made me feel as if I could possibly be the thirteenth tribe (in a creepy allegorical sense), but it was a great book to read and dive into. This book not only showed the impact of self-esteem and love, but through the perspective of family and how love has an effect on future generations.

The book starts off with tragic deaths that lay the foundation of how the story will develop throughout the book. Hattie, the main character, and the mother of the dead children, is shown through each chapter from their adolescent years, illustrating the impact that her actions had on the different characters in each chapter. I don’t want to give the book away too much, because each chapter shows the characters in their rarest forms. Each chapter is FILLED with topics on religion, sexuality, infidelity, womanhood, mental disorders, and soooo much more.

There are many observations and themes that are represented in this book. Womanhood, more importantly is very interesting to look at in Hattie. With the main character being the center of this book, every other character is seen to be a burden on Hattie’s back. If haven’t eleven children isn’t enough, the struggle that Hattie goes through (without barely mentioning) depicts the strong, but very weak, complex woman Hattie is in the text.

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Ayana Mathis, thank you for writing a book that can be so melodramatic but impactful at the very same time. Living in a book and feeling like I was in the story is beyond creative, as a novelist; to be able to make a reader feel as such.

Not really a book review but for a call to actually go out and get you a copy! I tried my hardest to not give ANYTHING in the book away, solely because I want our viewers to go ahead and read it!

Have you read it already? Tell us what you think about it in the comments below!

Guest Submission: Women’s Disciplines.

Author and scholar, Alice Walker, shed light on a discipline that made Black women feel at the center. There are two disciplines, which are broken into two parts, feminism and womanism. Womanism was first coined by Walker in a narrative essay entitled “Womanism: Coming Apart.” In 1983, Walker went into depth further when she explained just exactly who the womanist is.

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Each of the disciplines can be problematic for some. For an example, feminism falls into two categories [white] feminism and Black feminism. Womanism is also broken down into womanism, coined by Walker and Africana womanism, which was coined by Clenora Hudson-Weems. Each of the disciplines have stated the problem, as most disciplines do. Feminism is problematic on so many different levels because although there were Black women who were the first feminists, the construct like many others faced a “manifest destiny.” This meaning that the ideology was removed and stripped by white supremacist though or the social construct of whiteness. 

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When white feminists first began their movement, many of them were abolitionists. Even then, the white abolitionists within the slave period had no understanding that slavery was not the overall issue. Our history has taught us that. Humanity was an even larger issue. Once enslaved Africans were freed they were exposed to another world of problems thanks to what whiteness represented.  Black women were not included into the [white] feminist conversation. Why? Black women, the African woman had agency over herself before slavery, during slavery and after slavery. Enslaved Africans viewed their slaveowner’s wives as defenseless creatures. Even in enslavement, the African woman, knew and recognized her role and how important that would be for her people. Slavery, never allowed for her to lose sight of that. Feminism appeared to be more about working, something that African women were already breaking their backs to do, identity, something that African women were consciously aware of because of the extreme trauma that they faced, and being in the white man’s shoes, which was not a desire of the AFRICAN woman. Therefore, in so many ways many both men and women of African descent view feminists who not only identifies the man as the enemy within our patriarchal society, but within the same breath actually desires to wear his shoes. 

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Alice Walker states in “Womanist” (1983) that the womanist is “committed to survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female.” The question must be asked does feminism do the same thing in both white and Black disciplines? Walker also states that a  womanist is “wanting to know more and in greater depth than considered “good” for one.” This means, that the Black woman is concerned about Black people and not just Black women. She values and loves the Black woman “sexually and/or nonsexually,” but also has this same feeling for the Black man. A womanist has an understanding that we have faced so much together as a people, that it would make no sense within a white supremacist society to identify one another as the enemy. Who is the enemy? What white men and white WOMEN represent is the enemy to the discipline of womanism. Whiteness is the enemy. Walker when she coined womanism did have every intention on the attempt to support Black feminists, because they are our sisters. Hudson-Weems felt as though womanism was still too much similar to the discipline of feminism. Africana womanism, chooses to identify the homeplace, which is Africa. Not only is Africana womanism about agency as women, it is about the agency of being African. Womanism and Africana womanism has many differences, but they both target “whiteness” as the ultimate issue, because of the collective social injustices that we face in this world.

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-Melanie “CoCo” McCoy

Audre Lorde: Use of Anger; Sister Outsider.

Allow this excerpt to be the foundation of language that is presented in this post:

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The stereotypical thought of Black women always being angry, as shown in the text, is not to scare or send people away, but an outlet from the sense of rage that we deal with on a daily basis. The intersectionality of both race and gender and realizing that while idea of White supremacy is dawning on people, the patriarchal views of men ESPECIALLY Black men can be a daunting factor to Black women. Lorde’s statement, “My anger has meant pain to me but it has also meant survival, and before I give it up I’m going to be sure that there is something at least as powerful to replace it on the road to clarity.”, shows how anger is a coping mechanism to the oppression that is faced.

As a Black women, this text was very relatable to my past experiences. Encountering racism on a daily basis and birthing rage from feeling oppressed only allows me to turn rage into anger and find ways to get through the dark tunnel of oppression.

Audre Lorde’s work, here, shows that it is ok to be mad or angry about the situations you are in. This anger, if used correctly, is consciously making choice to not lash out on the things that bother you. Lorde shows Black women that we are all in this together and are feelings are noticed and have meaning to it.  What do you think about the text? Let us know! 

Book Review: Sister Citizen.

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Ever read a book that made you reevaluate your life because of the factual information it discussed? Black women! Melissa- Harris Perry’s thought-provoking book CAREFULLY weeds out the problem with Black women and their issues of trying to fit into a society that labels us as second-class citizens. Harris-Perry makes claim that our experiences in society has a DIRECT correlation in politics. 

At first, I was a bit apprehensive in reading a book that compared my experiences (as a Black woman) to the political system, but every detail and argument was super right in the evaluation of Black women trying to readjust in a “crooked room” (you will understand once you read). Each chapter showed real-life events that occurred in a 5-year span that depicted Black women being victimized or scrutinized, and how those events also linked backed to these “second class citizens”. Things like the “Mammy”, “Jezebel”, and “Strong Black Woman” stereotypes are also discussed, arguing that ALL labels are simply a way to gain recognition in a place where Black women are silenced.

It is interesting to have a  book that helps you understand the adversities that are faced from Melissa Harris-Perry, who is a Black women. It allows you to think differently and critically about the conversations that are talked about in your daily life, along with incidents and scenarios that happens on the news and even in your surroundings.

I don’t want to give the book away too much, but this book set the tone for understanding history, contemporary issues, and the problems we face, as Black women if we don’t dissect the many issues that follow. Feeding into stereotypes, or even trying to steer away from stereotypes will both be detrimental to Black women in America. 

AfroMadu, as always, challenges our viewers to read! If you read this book, or want to tell us about a book that you read, email us at afromadu@gmail.com. Let the world know what you’re reading!