Black Girl by Patricia Smith and Aurora Levin’s Morales’ Child of the Americas
Comparison between What it’s Like to Be a Black Girl by Patricia Smith and Aurora Levin’s Morales’ Child of the Americas
Issues of race and racism coupled with those of culture and multiculturalism, in the society constitute one of the problem areas in which different groups of people have had to deal with, some of them having to face the issues on a day-to-day basis. In light of this, various literary works have been produced with the view of expressing the existence of such problems and finding ways in which these issues can be handled (Gale Group, 2003). Such literary works come in the form of poems which include the likes of “Child of the Americas” written by Aurora Morales and “What it is like to be a Black Girl” by Patricia Smith, works which form the basis of this discussion. The two literary works explore to a personal extent the experiences of different minority groups within the American society with respect to how they embrace and understand their cultural make up and backgrounds. Like many other kinds of poems, some of which focus on similar themes, “What it’s Like To Be a Black Girl” and “Child of the Americas “have similarities and differences as exhibited in this discussion. These similarities and differences come in a variety of ways and these include elements like their content, forms and styles.
Similarities of the Poems
The similarities between the literary works, “What it’s Like to Be a Black Girl” and “Child of the Americas” lie in a lot of factors which relate to the contents of the works, their forms as poems and styles used by the authors in relaying the contents of the literary work as to the audience.
With reference to content, both the poems talk about the negative issues that associate with racism albeit from two different perspectives. In “What it’s Like to Be a Black Girl,” the persona speaks of the pressure that race adds to the already present confusion in the form changes that occur during puberty. In this poem, the author describes a girl of African descent who experiences confusion; a confusion which mares her life as she attempt to reconcile the changes that occur within her body from the age of nine years.
The persona in this poem at one point states that in her situation, a girl feels like her edges are wild. Here she expresses the discomfort she feels from the changes that go on within her own body irrespective of her race. She goes further to revel how in denial she is of the fact that she is black. With this feeling in mind, the persona goes to the extent of putting into her eyes, blue food colouring in an effort to make them look like those of white people. In spite of the pain she feels in trying to change her looks, the persona finds no answers from the efforts and only seems to sink more and more submerged into the confusion of being black.
In “Child of the Americas,” the persona portrays the difficulties she faces in not being the pure white girl within the society she lives in. The persona is basically affected by the historical American public discernment of her background. She herself is not sure anymore of how to consider herself in terms of her cultural background as she seems to have a mixture of many races. She however has the strong desire to identify with her actual historical culture although she finds her American culture not escapable.
The persona in expressing such feelings says that she is Caribbean and Spanish is her flesh to indicate that her ancestors are Spanish. She goes ahead to reveal how much rooted in her continent she is, an aspect which determines how her speaks. According to her, English, she speaks as the language of her consciousness and that she does with passion. To her English seems to be unavoidable as it is a tool she uses mainly for her survival in the society she lives in.
Additionally, both of these poems focus on the issues of gender as they affect the people of different races within the American society. Both the authors use the girls as their personas in advancing the theme of race, racism and multiculturalism in the society. Both the authors use female personas as their objects of focus. Further, both the personas have an African descent. The fact that the persona in the first poem is referred to as the blackgirl automatically qualifies her to be of African descent. The female character in “the Child of America,” according to the description she provides indicates that she is of a mixed race, an African race being one of them. It is stated that the character is a child of Diaspora who has been born of cultures that cut across continents. The persona says that she is from the United States while a Puerto Rican and Jew at the same time. At some point she indicates that Africa is in her although she cannot return to Africa.
The two literary works are also similarly in the sense that both are poems. As such, these works constitute the various elements of poetry. These elements include the likes of meter, rhythm, metrical patterns, rhythm schemes, lines and stanzas and visual presentation. Furthermore the two works fall under different genres of poetry (Strachan & Terry, 2000). For instance, different stanzas and phrases are used within the poems to bring out the visual presentations to the readers. For example, one is able to picture the desperation of the black girl in the first poem as she tries to make herself look less of a black girl by applying food colouring in her eyes and the way such an action hurts those very eyes.
Besides this, the “the child of Americas” in stating that she is a product of the ghettos, the readers are able to visualize the way of life in which the personal lives. Repetition as a literary element is also brought out in the second poem where the persona seems to put emphasises on her connections and disconnections with various regions of the world. In the third stanza, she says that she is not African and neither a Taina nor a European. At the same time she mentions of how Africa, Taina and Europe live in her and yet she finds no way of going back to such cultures; cultures which still define her. Also of importance to note is that both the poems are unrhymed. Each of the sentences in the stanzas end with different syllabus.
The tones which are used in the two poems are also similar considering the longing nature that exists among the two personas in the poems. Both the black girl and the multiracial one are in searching of something which seems to be inaccessible. Although the way the two embrace their situations with different attitudes, both of them yearn to be in a position where they can possess some definite identity. The black girl, trying to find out who she is attempts to consider herself better white than black. In light of the negative impression the society has towards her culture she is frustrated of t he facts that she cannot identify with what is considered right in the society and thus uses artificial means to make himself look different. All these efforts are however in futile as she seems to distort all her efforts at finding herself, even in the midst of the changes she is experiencing in her own physical body. The phrases like, “…that deny your reflection…” As used to denote the feeling the girl has as she looks at her fake hair colour in the mirror is a clear indication of her unsuccessful attempt in changing her identity.
In “the Child of America” the persona clearly yearns to have a connection with her actual culture. Although she accepts her new gotten identity as an American, she finds it hard to let go the cultures which are embedded in her flesh. She seems to consider learning English a tool of convenience and not out of outmost love for the language and the culture of the region. According to the persona, she is Spanish in her flesh since she grew up in the Caribbean Islands. However, she is more conscious of the English she speaks, and this, as she puts it she does with passion. To her, English it a tool and a craft. Seems like in her present society, she cannot survive without this language. Even though she has some Taina, African and European in her, the persona considers it impossible to enjoy these cultures since t here seems to exist no way back to these cultures. She seems to comforts herself by stating that she is none of the three cultures, seemingly to indicate her lack of capability to reconnect with the Taina, European and African aspects of her cultural Identity. Considering that she was born across different cultures of the world, an aspect she identifies as a crossroad, the author decides to rest on the belief that she is simply the child of the Americas, where diverse cultures are found.
With reference to the contents of the poems and the theme under which the writers relate their poems, the probable results of the poem to the readers would be the same. Both Patricia Smith and Aurora Levin’s strive to propagate acceptance and revelation of identity for all individuals in our society who have struggles in their identities. These authors voice their concerns over the issues of history as they relate to cultural and multicultural experiences especially for the minority in the American situation.
Smith relays to the audience the false perception that some races are considered within America and the effects it would have especially to the young minds. The vulnerable nature of the young and growing female children in the American society as portrayed in the poem clearly indicated the need for advocacy against such influences in the society. By demonstrating the yearning nature of the child of Americas, Aurora tends to express the need for individuals to accept their backgrounds and appreciate it whatever negative perception such cultural backgrounds are associate with. This author uses a person who seeks to understand her multicultural background with the views of understanding her real identity. This identity the persona pursues her social condition as described in the life she leads at the ghetto and being the child of an immigrant notwithstanding.
Differences between the Poems
Like the case is for the similarities within the poems, there also exist differences which are likewise, exhibited in the forms of style, content and forms.
The content of the poem first differ in the way each of them define the personas. In the Patricia Smiths poem, the character is brought out as a young black girl who while going through the changes that she experiences as a result of puberty, is in denial of her own identity. Although the black girl tends to relate with her ancestors who came to America as slaves, she finds it hard to completely accept herself and her culture owing to the negative ways in which their culture is portrayed within the society. As a result, she feels a lot of discomfort over her identity and tries to identify with a different culture.
By attempting to change the colour of her eyes using the blue food colour, the persona exhibits the desire to be of a different ancestry other than what she really is. The world around the nine years old girl in this poem seems to tell her that everything about her and her culture is wrong. The dyeing of her hair all to look white among other things basically portrays an effort by the girl to straighten out the things that are supposedly wrong with her, thanks to her race. Also in addition, the girls seem to be purely black as no mention of mixed race is made by the author within this piece of work.
The poem, “the child of the Americas” on the other hand, tends to relate to a woman who tries to keep in touch with her cultures irrespective of the fact that achieving most of her needs with regards to her attempts are not easy. The girl, who unlike the black girl is of mixed race expresses a lot of desire in knowing matters of importance in all her ancestral connections irrespective of the impossibilities. In the poem, the situations of Latin-Americans and their survival in the region are widely explored. Further, the description of these individuals is also elaborately provided. The phrases like, a ” a light skinned Mestiza of the Caribbean,” “a Puerto Rican Jew,” “an immigrant,” “a Puerto Rican Jew,” “my first language was Spanglish” and many others indicate a number of features with which a Latin-American can be described with. The Child of Americas expresses a lot of pride in indicating that she is a child of many cultures and seems to portray no regrets in referring to herself as the child of the crossroads.
The forms of the poems also differ to a great extent. While the “Child of America” is arranged in stanzas, one following the other and producing a flow in the story which the persona tells, what it’s like to be a Black Girl flows in one paragraphs with the lines following one another in the poem to relate to the readers the situation of the persona. However, both the poems are able to portray the message of the persona and relate to the themes of race and racism as intended by the authors.
The poem “Child of Americas” consists of five stanzas, each of which is made up of different numbers of lines. In total, the lines in the poem are twenty three with the numbers of lines per stanza decreasing with each stanza that follow one another. The first stanza constitutes eight lines, the second and the third stanzas six lines each, the fourth one two and the last stanza a single line. The poem, what it’s Like To Be a Black Girl, on the other hand, flows in a prose form. All the contents of the poem are put in one single stanza which constitutes numerous lines within it. All the ideas expressed within the whole poem are therefore found flowing within the single and long paragraph of the poem.
According to this discussion, the two works of literature, “What it’s Like to Be a Black Girl” by Patricia Smith and Aurora Levin’s Morales’ “Child of the Americas” undoubtedly relate to the theme of race and racism, an issue whose existence in the globe cannot be ignored. In addressing this subject, the two works of literature explore the cultural and multicultural aspects as indicated in the historical backgrounds of two personas, both of who come from minority groups in America. In advancing these significant features, the two poems have a number of similarities and differences as portrayed by the author in their contents, forms and styles, among other things. The similarities in these works include the likes of the themes of the poems, the African background of the personas, the negative view of the cultures of the personas, the tone of the pieces of art, the poetry forms of the works, the use of female characters and the ultimate purpose of the authors. As regarding the differences, the personas embrace differently their multicultural backgrounds, the forms of the poem in terms of the arrangement of the lines and the stanzas are different and the racial combinations of the personas’ background also vary.
Gale Group (2003) Twentieth Century Literary Criticism Annual Cumulative Title Index, Volumes 1-130, Connecticut, Cengage Learning
Reilly, K et al. (2003) Racism: a global reader. Armonk, N.Y: M.E. Sharpe
San Juan, E, (2004) Working through the contradictions from cultural theory to critical practice. Bucknell University Press
Strachan, J.R & Terry, R.G (2000) Poetry: an Introduction, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press
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