Angelou, Maya, “I know why the caged bird sings” (Random House, New York, 1969). In the fictional section of the library, this is a largely autobiographical book about the author’s growing up with her grandmother in Banks, Alabama and her experiences with her mother, step father and father in San Francisco. I did a lot of it with my seventh graders at Troup—they loved it. But eighth grade students at Sheridan couldn’t handle it. Read it first and you decide. Avoid Angelou’s second autobiographical fiction, “Gather Together in My Name”—I found it be shocking and without redeeming value.
Baker, Russell, “Poor Russell’s Almanac” (Doubleday & Company, Inc., New York, 1972), pp. 160-162. A fun book on language on the line of William Safire’s column in the New York Times. Source of that great piece on voice.
Baldwin, James, “The Harlem Ghetto,” pp. 1-11 of “The Price of the Ticket:” James Baldwin, “The Price of the Ticket; Collected Nonfiction 1948-1985” (St. Martin’s/Marek, New York, 1985). What a collection! I borrowed it from the Woodbridge Town Library and kept renewing it. “Notes of a Native Son,” a reflective essay written at the death of his father, pp. 127145, is worth sharing with your students, sixth grade and up. It deals with racism, self hatred, life in Harlem. . .”Hatred, which could destroy so much, never failed to destroy the man who hated,” is what Baldwin concluded. Read it and share it.
Baldwin, James, “No Name in the Street” (Dial Press, New York, 1972). The most casual Baldwin that I’ve read—written in a relaxed first person almost as a stream of conscious collection. A great essay for descriptive experts; difficult reading for students under grade nine.
Berke, Jacqueline, “Twenty Questions for the Writer: A Rhetoric with Readings” (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., New York, 1976). Useful for ideas for teaching writing skills if you can get past the annoying format and style (e.g., “How should X be interpreted?” and “What are the facts about X?”) The writing samples in the section about narration (“How Did X Happen?”) are each short and choice including Dick Gregory’s “Not Poor, Just Broke,” pp. l86-188 a three page piece about Gregory’s being shamed by a teacher and therefore dropping out of school and Willie Morris’ “The Accident,” p. 190 described above on p. 18.
Brown, Claude, “Manchild in the Promised Land” (MacMillan, New York, 1965). Brown’s telling of the story of the migration of blacks to New York City during the decade following the Great Depression through his autobiography (mostly first person narrative). It would be valuable to compare parts of this book with the “Laura” or the “Homeboy” chapters of Malcolm X’s autobiography. Both tell of the same peoples and city, similar experiences, twenty years time separation, autobiographies, but different voices.
Castro-Klaren, Sara, Sylvia Molloy and Beatrice Sarlo, editors, “Women’s Writing in Latin America: An Anthology” (Westview Press, Boulder,l991). An excellent selection but most for high level middle school and high school students.
Comer, “James, Beyond Black and White” (Quadrangle Books, New York, 1972). An excellent autobiographical, sociological and historic narrative about growing up black in America, land of racism. Every New Haven teacher should read this to begin to become informed about where so many of our students come from. Comer is a professor at Yale’s medical school.
De Jesus, Carolina Maria, “Child of the Dark: The Diary of Carolina Maria De Jesus,” translated by David St. Claire (E. P. Dutton & Company, Inc., and Souvenir Press, Ltd., 1962). Described above on p. 11.
Dillon, David, “Writing: Experience and Expression” (D. C. Heath and Company, Lexington, Massachusetts, 1976). In the section entitled “Description” are James Agee’s “Run Over” which describes a people on a city street watching a cat struggle to survive, a John Updike description of Central Park, and brief descriptions of a watch, nail clippings and the “Uncommon Cold.”
Emanuel, James A. and Theodore L. Gross, “Dark Symphony: Negro Literature in America” (The Free Press, New York,1968). If you own or read only one Afro-American literature anthology, this should be the one.
Fisher, Rudolph, “The Walls Of Jericho,” written 1928 (Arno Press, and “The New York Times,” New York, 1969), pp. 3-4. Fisher, of the Harlem Renaissance, was himself a brilliant renaissance man—medical doctor, song writer and prolific writer. This book “blends the extremes of Harlem society into a single cohesive story,” (p. IV of introduction) that is a bit stilted but definitely worth reading for the teacher and possibly high school students. Easy vocabulary but hard to understand.
Gere, Anne Ruggles, editor, “Boots in the Sawdust: Writing to Learn Across the Disciplines” (NCTE, Urbana, Illinois, 1985). A collection of essays that teach various subjects by having students write about them (and thus teach writing through the subject areas!). A useful book for teacher’s in the vein of these Yale curriculum units.
Hughes, Langston, “The Langston Hughes Reader” (George Braziller, Inc., New York, 1958). This book has Hughes’ short stories, poems, children’s poetry, song lyrics, novels and humor (those priceless “Simple” stories), two of his plays, his autobiography, and speeches and essays. This collection alone could be the source for each part of this curriculum unit.
Jacobs, Jane, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” (Random House, New York, 1961). The informal tone of this highly readable book is largely due to its being written in the first person, although it describes cities: their spaces, their uses, our failures to make them better.
Kazin, Alfred, “A Walker in the City” ( Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers, San Diego, 1951). Wonderful source of descriptive essays and how the describing of places and things tells the story of a people and a history.
Lacy, Dan, “The White Use of Blacks in America: 350 Years go Law and Violence. Attitudes and Etiquette. Politics and Change” (Atheneum, New York, 1972), p. 159. This is the book that you read after Comer’s. It tells more about how blacks have been systematically and routinely abused in this country. Fascinating, enlightening and infuriating reading. You’ll be able to borrow many parts of it for middle and high school students.
Levin, Gerald, “Short Essays: Models For Composition” (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., New York, 1977). Has Jim Brown’s description of his growing up in a broken home, a well written (informative and interesting) essay.
Lewis, David Levering, “When Harlem Was in Vogue” (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1981), p. 103. A well researched book on the Harlem Renaissance. Covered lots of territory.
Lowe, Jeanne, “Cities in a Race with Time” (Random House, New York, 1967). An interesting documentary about the problems faced by New Haven and four other cities. The title itself might be the beginning of a class discussion in which the teacher can learn a lot.
Mayfield, Marlys, “Thinking for Yourself: Developing Critical Thinking Skills Through Writing, second edition,” (Wadsworth Publishing Company, Belmont, California, 1991). My favorite book for approach to critical thinking and therefore for teaching writing to students of all levels. Mayfield’s writing examples are usable for high level seventh graders and up. Tons of city pieces are included.
McCuen, Jo Ray and Anthony C. Winkler, “Readings for Writers. second edition,” (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., New York, 1977). As mentioned, has many short descriptive pieces on city topics.
McKay, Claude, “Harlem Shadows,” 1922, Reprinted in “Dark Symphony: Negro Literature in America,” editors. James A Emanuel and Theodore L. Gross (The Free Press, Macmillan Company, New York, 1968), pp. 91-92.
McKay, Claude, “Home to Harlem” (New York, Harper and Rowe, 1928), p.8 as quoted by Kathy J. Ogrenin in the essay “Controversial Sounds: Jazz Performance as Theme and Language in the Harlem Renaissance,” pp. 159184 of Singh’s “The Harlem Renaissance: Revaluation.”
McLaren, Joseph, “Early Recognitions: Duke Ellington and Langston Hughes in New York, 1920-30,” in “The Harlem Renaissance: Revaluations,” Amritjit Singh, William S Shriver and Stanley Brodwin, editors (Garland Publishing Company, New York, 1989), pp.l95-208; p. 198.
Miller, Wayne Charles, editor, “A Gathering of Ghetto Writers: Irish. Italian. Jewish. Black and Puerto Rican” (New York University Press, New York,1972). A great collection of city writers from five important ethnic groups.
Morrison, Toni, “Playing in the Dark” (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1992). Morrison’s latest book; less mystical and less difficult than her trilogy and “Beloved.” Can be read in an afternoon and provide you with all kinds of examples of city writing. Or use her other book of this year, “Jazz.”
Naipaul, V. S. “Three Novels: The Mystic Masseur, The Suffrage of Elvira and Miguel Street” (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1982). Different countries, different oppressed peoples, same/similar problems. Beautifully written novelettes.
Rockas, Leo, “Style in Writing: A Prose Reader” D. C. Heath and Company, Lexington, Massachusetts, 1992). Collection of good advice on teaching writing, useful assignments and wonderful literary examples. The Orwell essay on “The Hanging” is pp.45-50.
Scholes, Robert and Nancy R. Comley, “The Practice of Writing second edition” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1985).
Amritjit Singh, William S Shriver and Stanley Brodwin, editors, “The Harlem Renaissance: Revaluations” (Garland Publishing Company, New York, 1989). A wonderful collection of essays about the Harlem Renaissance.
Stubbs, Marcia and Sylvan Barnet, editors, “The Little Brown Reader” (Little, Brown and Company, Boston,1977). An anthology of high quality writing. Those two articles on city language are in this edition.
Turner, Faythe, editor, “Puerto Rican Writers at Home in the U.S.A.” (Open Hand Publishing, Inc., Seattle, Washington, 1991), pp. 289-290. Lots of poetry and prose and a photograph of each author. Many city poems—note especially Victor Hernandez Cruz’ “The Man Who Came to the Last Floor;” Pedro Pietri’s “Intermission from Monday” and “For South Bronx.”
Whyte,William H., “City: Rediscovering the Center” (Doubleday, New York, 1988). Good source for city plans and photos.