9780465036813 / 0465036813

Soldier: A Poet's Childhood


Publisher:Basic Civitas Books



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About the book:

"There was a war on against colored people," June Jordan recalls her father telling her. "I had to become a soldier." Jordan's fierce, funny, lyrical memoir of her first 12 years reveals the seeds of her adult poetry in her childhood experiences: the magical sounds of words in the nursery rhymes her mother crooned, the awareness nearly from birth of the bitter complexities of family relations. Jordan's father (depicted in a brilliantly nuanced portrait) was a proud Jamaican immigrant who encouraged his daughter to read and took her to museums and to Carnegie Hall, but also called her "damn black devil child" and beat her for the slightest misstep. He moved his family from a Harlem housing project to their own home in Brooklyn, enrolled June at a white boarding school, and fought savagely with his wife, who argued, "The child is a Black girl ... you gwine to make her afraid to be sheself!" Jordan reproduces the rhythms of West Indian speech as vividly as she captures African American culture of the 1930s and '40s in a poignant autobiography that, for all its racial particularity, tells an all-American story of the charged emotional legacy bequeathed by parents striving to give their children a better life. --Wendy Smith

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