New African by Andrea Lee and Autobiographical Essay

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New African by Andrea Lee and Autobiographical Notes by James Baldwin or outside work.

In this essay you'll write your own statement about the value of a work of literature and then provide reasons why your evaluation is correct and evidence to support those reasons.

On one level this essay is about your opinion -- you set the criteria by which the work is judged -- but it is also about thinking clearly and supporting your ideas with evidence. If you'd like to sneak a look at this exercise before you start the prewriting, it's on pages 1181-1184 in your textbook.

Before you begin the reading for this section, make a list of stories, books, poems, or plays that have moved you. Some of your entries may have moved you because they seemed so wonderful and some because they seemed so downright awful. Either kind is a good candidate for this type of essay.

Give yourself a little time as you do this exercise. Perhaps you should update the list over the course of a few days, because the perfect essay subject may not be the most obvious choice. You should list at least five possible works. Be sure to identify them fully with title and author and perhaps a source if you own the book or an anthology in which it's included, or know where to find it at the library or online.

Autobiographical Notes -- James Baldwin (Contemporary Literature)

New African -- Andrea Lee (Contemporary Literature)

Jacob Have I love -- Katherine Paterson (Library)

My Lucy Friend Who Smells Like Corn -- Sandra Cisneros (Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories)

Under the Influence -- Scott Russell Sanders (The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present, ed. Philip Lopate)

Exercise 5.2A: Pre-Writing: Reread

Directions: When you finish the Contemporary Period (Collection 21), you'll write an evaluative essay in your journal. This essay can be about any work of literature either from this course or outside.

Before you begin the reading for this part of the lesson, pick the piece you want to write about from the list you wrote in Exercise 5.1A. Then reread the piece, paying special attention to the content of the piece and how you react to it. Take notes now about points that strike you and flag quotes you think are significant.

The story of my childhood is the usual bleak fantasy, and we can dismiss it with the restrained observation that I certainly would not consider living it again.

I read just about everything I could get my hands on -- except the Bible, probably because it was the only book I was encouraged to read.

The Negro problem, concerning which the color of my skin made me automatically an expert.

Any writer, I suppose, feels that the world into which he was born is nothing less than a conspiracy against the cultivation of his talent.

The world looks on his talent with such a frightening indifference that the artist is compelled to make his talent important.

The things which hurt him and the things which helped him cannot be divorced from each other.

It is quite possible to say that the price a Negro pays for becoming articulate is to find himself, at length, with nothing to be articulate about.

It is absolutely necessary that he establish between himself and these affairs a distance which will allow, at least, for clarity, so that before he can look forward in any meaningful sense, he must first be allowed to take a long look back.

The past is all that makes the present coherent.

I hated and feared white people. This did not mean that I loved black people; on the contrary, I despised them, possible because they failed to produce Rembrandt.

The difficulty then, for me, of being a Negro writer was the fact that I was in effect, prohibited from examining my own experience too closely by the tremendous demands and the very real dangers of my social situation.

I love to argue with people who do not disagree with me too profoundly.

I don't like people who like me because I'm a Negro; neither do I like people who find in the same accident grounds for contempt.

I love America more than any other country in the world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.

Exercise 5.3A: Pre-Writing: Collect Your Thoughts

Directions: When you finish the Contemporary Period (Collection 21), you'll write an evaluative essay in your journal. This essay can be about any work of literature either from this course or outside. Open the work you've chosen and write two quick paragraphs or a list about it.

Put your opinion of the work first and then add specific reasons why you feel the way you do. Include page numbers for quotes and details you can use to support your opinion. You should state your opinion and then write a paragraph or two or a list of at least six reasons you feel that way, along with page numbers for supporting details.

Baldwin's introspection excites introspection: not the Bible because it was the only book he was encouraged to read.

His honest writing allows readers to be honest with themselves: story of his childhood.

His writing is suggestive to our sensibilities and imagination: his mother's exasperating habit of having babies.

His writing is enduring: Notes of Native Son was published in 1955 and his autobiographical notes made it into an anthology published in 2003.

His writing teaches us about people: he didn't like people who like him because he's black, and he didn't like people who disliked him because he's black.

His writing is readable: it's not full of flowery language or posturingly ambiguous language on purpose to make it "art." He writes in a truthful manner.

Exercise 5.4A: Pre-Writing: Establish Criteria

Directions: When you finish the Contemporary Period (Collection 21), you'll write an evaluative essay in your journal. This essay can be about any work of literature either from this course or outside. Have you ever noticed that some reviewers list the criteria they use to evaluate something right in their review?

When you write your essay, you'll need to be clear what criteria you used to evaluate the work. In this exercise, make a list of criteria that fit the type of work you've chosen. (These might differ for poetry, fiction, nonfiction, or even among genres like young adult fiction, "literary" fiction, historical fiction, etc.) For example, if you are evaluating a piece of science fiction, one criteria might be "Uses Believable Scientific Concepts."

Your textbook lists more sample criteria and explains this step more completely on page 1182. In this exercise you're just writing a list of criteria. (See the chart on page 1182; right now you will only fill in the first column. You'll fill the rest of the chart in later.) You should establish at least four clear criteria.

Enjoyable

Readable

Examines life

Makes us see the truth of who we are.

Exercise 5.5A: Criterion-Assessment-Evident Chart

Directions: When you finish the Contemporary Period (Collection 21), you'll write an evaluative essay in your journal. This essay can be about any work of literature either from this course or outside. In the last pre-writing 5.4A, you wrote down your evaluation criteria. In this exercise you'll put those criteria to work by making a criterion-assessment-evidence chart.

For more information about how to make this chart and an example, please look at step 5 on page 1182 of your textbook. (Note that you should put your criteria list from Journal Exercise 5.4A in the first column.) You should list at least four criteria with an assessment and evidence for each.

Criterion

Assessment

Evidence

Enjoyable

Mildly humorous

His comments about the writer's plight and his mother's habit of bearing children.

Readable

Believable narrative voice, uncomplicated language

He is often a little self-deprecating.

Examines life

That's about all he does.

Story of his childhood, story of his life.

Reveals truth

Important lessons about how we judge and are judged

The social stigma of being Negro, liked and hated for it, automatically an expert just because he's black.

Exercise 5.6A: Final Criteria

Directions: When you finish the Contemporary Period (Collection 21), you'll write an evaluative essay in your journal. This essay can be about any work of literature either from this course or outside.

In a previous pre-writing exercise (5.5A) you made a chart with your criteria, an assessment of the work, and evidence. Look back at that chart now and mark off what you think will be your strongest point. Add new entries as you think of them. Search for new evidence if necessary.

Examines life

That's about all he does.

Story of his childhood, story of his life.

Reveals truth

Important lessons about how we judge and are judged

The social stigma of being Negro, liked and hated for it, automatically an expert just because he's…[continue]

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