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His Own Where


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The first novel of poet and essayist June Jordan, His Own Where (1971) made the New York Times List of the Most Outstanding Books of 1971 for young adults and the American Library Association List of Best Books; it was also nominated for the National Book Award.

His Own Where is the love story of sixteen-year-old Buddy Rivers and fourteen-year-old Angela Figeroa, two African American adolescents struggling with parental abandonment and violence, an intimidating urban environment, and social institutions indifferent to human need. The young characters define their own world and establish their own values, which are often at variance with society's and their parents’ demands. Their story's unsparing depiction of society's slow extinction of youthful hopes and dreams warns about the effects of prejudice and sexism, and champions freedom over constriction, sensuality over puritanism, living for others over living for success. Narrated from Buddy's perspective, it is told in flashbacks and dream sequences in an African American spoken English whose rhythms poeticize Buddy's often heroic conflicts with his environment to change situations he finds physically or emotionally confining. At school he agitates for free sex, contraceptives, coeducational classes in anatomy, and dancing and music in the lunchroom; he helps Angela escape her abusive parents as well as an oppressive girls’ home. Refusing to be trapped by the hopelessness of indifferent and cruel environmental elements, Buddy takes Angela to a deserted cemetery toolshed, determined to make a new life for them, which includes the prospect of a baby; he seeks “His own where, own place for loving made for making love.”

His Own Where makes central June Jordan's interests in architecture and urban design and her commitment to African American English. The novel shows that space and language, vital means by which environment is shaped, bear directly on personal development and community health. Buddy's work on the house he and his father have renovated and on the toolshed he and Angela inhabit suggest that urban redesign should be enlisted to create environmental conditions that can foster African American life. The novel's poetic stream of consciousness style closes the gap between words and experience, with the result of a striking verbal immediacy that realizes the integrity of African American English as well as its energy and creativity. This reflects Jordan's educational and artistic goals to defend and preserve the language while luxuriating in its lyricism, rhythm, and poetic idiom.

His Own Where is an exemplary work from the “second renaissance” of African American culture of the 1960s and 1970s. Blending elements of fantasy and realism, the novel suggests a reconceptualization of realism from the perspective of poetic vision; its dreamlike quality and impressionistic style evoke the grittiness of urban life and the energy of being young and African American. In its emphasis on activist urban redesign and its pride in African American English, His Own Where is a novel of political protest that fits in a tradition of works by Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, and other socially conscious African American novelists of the 1970s.

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Subjects: Literature.


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