Individual Struggles, but Shared Experiences

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Undeniable is the diversity of the African-American experience in America. Although we share in similar ancestry and, for some, skin pigmentation, there still exist many differences not only about how we define ourselves individually, but also how we see ourselves through the eyes of others and the kaleidoscope of varying experiences that we have. These different experiences, further, become made known to the world in the aesthetic expressions of writers and artists. Most notable examples include, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, and—most recently—Beyond Katrina by Natasha Trethewey. All of these recognized scholarly expressions attempt to articulate, in some way, the consummate experiences of an individual.
Moreover, although experiences vary, there are those which may be shared by African-Americans collectively. Using Trethewey’s Beyond Katrina as a primary example, one may find specific themes which are shared collectively by people of African descent, and those include the effect of the absence of the familial male, tragedy as a motivating force for African-Americans, and the history of America as told by the oppressor.
Among the many pervasive themes in Trethewey’s Beyond Katrina is the effect of the absence of the familial male. Natasha’s brother is incarcerated for the entire duration of the book, however it does not appear so considering the amount of the letters that they exchange. Although he is locked away, he still has an obvious presence in her life. This serves as a direct distinction between many other African-Americans today in realization that most families now develop in the absence of black male figures. In a letter written between Joe and Natasha, the context around which Joe fo...

... middle of paper ... to our past and remind us across time and space how we are alike, not that we are different” (Transcripts for Poems). These connecting experiences sometime involve the absence of a male figure. They, for Blacks, almost always has value in tragedy as a motivating force, of the most obvious tragedies in slavery. Finally, transcending class, race, or ethnicity is the distortion of history preventing the development of the collective memory.

Works Cited

Charles, Ron. “U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey: Poetry still matters.” Washington Post. 2 May, 2013. 6 April, 2014.

Transcript for Poems, History and Memory with Natasha Trethewey. 6 April, 2014.

Trethewey, Natasha. Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2010. Project MUSE. Web. 6 Apr. 2014.

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