Standing on the stage, I felt exposed and like an intruder. In these professional settings, my personal experiences with hunger, poverty, and episodic homelessness, often go undetected. I had worked hard to learn the rules and disguise my beginning in life...
So begins Born Bright, C. Nicole Mason's powerful memoir, a story of reconciliation, constrained choices and life on the other side of the tracks. Born in the 1970s in Los Angeles, California, Mason was raised by a beautiful, but volatile16-year-old single mother. Early on, she learned to navigate between an unpredictable home life and school where she excelled.
By high school, Mason was seamlessly straddling two worlds. The first, a cocoon of familiarity where street smarts, toughness and the ability to survive won the day. The other, foreign and unfamiliar with its own set of rules, not designed for her success. In her Advanced Placement classes and outside of her neighborhood, she felt unwelcomed and judged because of the way she talked, dressed and wore her hair.
After moving to Las Vegas to live with her paternal grandmother, she worked nights at a food court in one of the Mega Casinos while finishing school. Having figured out the college application process by eavesdropping on the few white kids in her predominantly Black and Latino school along with the help of a long ago high school counselor, Mason eventually boarded a plane for Howard University, alone and with $200 in her pocket.
While showing us her own path out of poverty, Mason examines the conditions that make it nearly impossible to escape and exposes the presumption harbored by many—that the poor don't help themselves enough.
Langston Hughes, born in 1902, came of age early in the 1920s. In The Big Sea he recounts those memorable years in the two great playgrounds of the decade--Harlem and Paris. In Paris he was a cook and waiter in nightclubs. He knew the musicians and dancers, the drunks and dope fiends. In Harlem he was a rising young poet--at the center of the "Harlem Renaissance."
Arnold Rampersad writes in his incisive new introduction to The Big Sea, an American classic: "This is American writing at its best--simpler than Hemingway; as simple and direct as that of another Missouri-born writer...Mark Twain."
A biographical chapter is enriched by an exclusive interview granted by Angelou, and a chapter on genre discusses Angelou's work in the context of the tradition of American and African American autobiography. A chapter is devoted to each of the five volumes of her serial autobiography--I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings(1970), Gather Together in My Name (1974), Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas(1976), The Heart of a Woman (1981), and All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes(1986). The discussion of each novel features sections on narrative point of view, plot development, character development, thematic issues, style and literary devices, and an alternate critical approach from which to read the work. A complete bibliography of Angelou's work, plus a list of reviews of each work and selected secondary critical and biographical sources, complete the work. This companion is ideal for students, teachers, and others interested in Maya Angelou, the African American experience, and the craft of autobiography.