American Studies Questions for Racial Identities Packet “Prologue to Invisible Man”

1. In an introduction to Invisible Man that accompanied an edition printed in 1981, Ellison writes, “My task was one of revealing the human universals hidden within the plight of one who was both black and an American.” What do you infer from this selection about the plight of those who live with this double identity? I found this confusing. I understand what he’s trying to say that because he is a black man he is simply ignored yet I found the story oddly confusing. I think I know what the answer is supposed to be here asking what I infer from this section about the plight of this man I imagine the answer would be something like…. It’s terribly unfair that he feels this way, it’s terribly unfair that he has to live in a crappy apartment, it’s terribly unfair that people do not treat him with compassion and human kindness. Yet I found his whole story kind of creepy. It sounds like he is stealing electricity, squatting in an apartment he doesn’t own and that he has stabbed a man. Maybe I’m just reading too much into it maybe those were supposed to be dramatic license saying something about the human condition..but taken at face value he sounds like a rather horrible man. I think there are invisible people out in the world. Homeless people come to mind instantly. We walk by them and they simply don’t exist, it’s not that we avoid them it’s not that their plight isn’t in our minds is just that we don’t want to deal with it head-on so we pretend they’re not there. I believe that is what he’s trying to say in this essay.


2. What is the poem asserting about Native American women’s identity? How does it develop that assertion? Why might the author have chosen a poem, rather than an essay or story, to develop her ideas? What are advantages and disadvantages of using poetry to convey an idea?

I believe that the poem is saying that Native American women are the voice of the earth. When she talks about burning with every breath she takes I believe she’s talking about yelling her feelings for the earth and apparently the earth is pissed. I believe she develops this assertion by first starting talking about how women can’t survive alone and then moving on to living in nature and then ends with yelling. I believe the author chose a poem because her ideas were too large to pinpoint so she wanted to give you a general idea how she felt not an exact representation in words. They are big disadvantages in using poetry to convey an idea. I read the poem and I thought it was about an angry woman that was part of nature who wanted to yell yet somebody else may read this poem and think this woman’s all about how beautiful mountains and the sky are and she wants to be camping more outside. When you use a shortage of words every one becomes terribly important in a poem, especially a very short one. Each word has meaning to her and her alone. You give it meaning when you read it that only may make sense to you and it might be something completely different than what she intended.


“Split at the Root”

3. In what ways does Rich “flirt with identity”? What does she mean by this expression? She also writes “moving into accountability,” of claiming both her heritage and her responsibility. For what, or for whom, does she feel she should be responsible? Why do you think claiming an identity or a heritage is so difficult and even dangerous for Rich? This was easily the best reading in my opinion. Rich flirts with her identity because she is a lesbian, a feminist, half Jewish, half Christian and she grew up in the time when any one of those things was good or bad depending on who you were talking to. Her accountability speaks to her desire to teach her culture first to herself and then to her family. I believe she feels cheated by her father side of the family for not teaching her Jewish culture and ways. She had go off to college to learn what other Jewish people seem to know by birth. She feels responsible to know her history because so many people died because of what they were. Claiming an identity or heritage is difficult and dangerous because she lives in a very ugly time. Could be worse, she could have been born 100 years earlier. Stereotypes about lesbians and Jews are ugly and unrelenting. If She was born on Bainbridge Island in 2015 I think she would’ve had a much better start in life.

“Frank Chin”

4. Compare and contrast Chin’s view of assimilation with that of another author represented in this packet. Frank Chin had the funniest of the writings. I especially liked the part about Oakland being the tower of Babel. “All these languages and nobody even speaks English like everybody else” that’s hysterical! I’m could look up to see if he ever wrote anything else he sounds funny. I also like the idea that Asians don’t get offended as easily as blacks to find that to be true. Asians have been more accepted into society more than African-Americans and I can’t think of a single reason why. He believes that assimilation was a self protection mechanism so Asians didn’t have any more problems. It seems like an effective tool at the time to him. If you compare Frank Chin to Ellison “the invisible Man” from the first reading there are many differences. Ellison is full of anger and hatred he wants to be heard and be taken seriously. He lashes out to the point of stabbing someone in the middle of the street. Frank Chin takes another route using humor and deflection trying to get the attention away from himself so people leave him alone and walk away laughing.


5. What connections is Serrano making between the term “Chicana” and cultural identity? What is the connection between the individual, the community, and culture in forming identity. Serrano is a very angry Chicana. She believes her cultural identity comes from Aztec heritage and believe she is a descendent of Spaniards and Native Americans. Sounds like a very angry young lady if she becomes a lawyer I don’t doubt she will sue the crap out of the US government who was nice enough to send her college instead of jailing her for her many gang activities. That said the connection between individual, the community and culture and forming her identity. I imagine the correct answer would sound something like…. She feels disenfranchised from the United States because they want to pigeonhole her as a Latino when in fact Latinos encompass thousands and thousands of different sub-types of human beings and she feels the United States cannot be bothered to name every type of Latin culture and country on US forms so the US is evil. I find her sense of entitlement puzzling.