Is the six-year-old protagonist of seven children's verse books by Lucille Clifton, published between 1970 and 1983. Each story-poem is illustrated by pen-and-ink drawings or sepia watercolors that realistically represent the characters’ Negroid physicality. In each narrative, Clifton reiterates major themes of her own poetry and of the 1960s Black Arts movement: familial and self-love, ethnic pride, African American masculinity, resistance to racism, the inner city as home, the power of self-referentiality, and the subversion of Euro-American conventions. Moreover, Clifton at once demonstrates allegiance to second-wave feminism and debunks myths of oppressive African American matriarchy through her characterization of Everett's mother as a loving and conscientious single parent-wage earner. In Everett Anderson's Nine Month Long (1978), Clifton uses Everett's mother's second marriage and subsequent pregnancy to illustrate parental sensitivity to a son's anxiety about displacement as well as to reveal African Americans’ reverence for self-definition. Clifton also explores children's responses to multiculturalism, gender equality, and bilingualism by introducing Everett to Maria, a girl-next-door who beats him at sports and whose Spanish-speaking mother prepares Mexican food. Clifton portrays Everett as a conventional child: he attends school; exults in natural wonders, including his own brown body; sometimes misbehaves; often grieves his dead father. Yet she also insinuates the particular impact of his ethnicity on his experience: the Andersons’ tenement apartment functions simultaneously as a site of lessons in self-assertion, charity, security, discipline, and patriotism and as a site of lessons in economic and political injustice and the exclusivity of the mythic American dream.
Dianne Johnson, Telling Tales: The Pedagogy and Promise of African American Literature for Youth, 1990.
Joycelyn K. Moody