Throwback Thursday is a meme hosted by Jenny at Take Me Away Reading
His Own Where by June Jordan 1971 (Re released 2010)
IQ "Buddy sure the whole city should be like a hospital and everybody taking turns to heal the people. People turning doctor, patient, nurse. Whole city asking everybody how you are, how you feel, what can I do for you, how I can help. Fantastic if the city turn into a hospital the city fill with a million people asking a million other people how you feeling, hows everything, what you need." Buddy pg. 10
His Own Where is a love story between fifteen year old Buddy and Angela. They can't be together though because of Angela's family who assumes the worst of her (i.e. that she is a slut). Angela has heard about Buddy; he's F-I-N-E and he has a bad reputation. Buddy doesn't know anything about Angela but he thinks she's pretty and cool. Buddy begins working on an escape, a way to get Angela away from her family so that they can be together.
I had previously never read anything by June Jordan. I had heard of her, mostly around the blogosphere, perhaps a few times in outside reading (definitely not in school). His Own Where is legendary because it was the first novel to be written in Black English (I don't really care if that's PC or not, that's the term I'm using) and became a finalist for the National Book Award (which makes you wonder about why publishing companies seem so afraid to publish books where the main characters speak Black English). Anyway, reading this book takes some getting used to. June Jordan rarely uses commas, so some of her sentences can be seen as run-ons. She uses commas when they don't seem to make much of a difference and she doesn't use commas when you think it would make a difference. However, her sentences flow. Her writing is absolute poetry. I have so many favorite lines from this novel, besides the Incredible Quote listed above. In describing how Buddy feels June Jordan says "his life form into habits following his love." (pg. 23) Also "Buddy and Angela keep track of the daytime just by figuring out the last and next time they will come together and how long alone. They become the heated habit of each other." (pg.24) I thought that was actually a very romantic line, "heated habit."
Angela and Buddy are genuine characters who leap off the pages. Reading His Own Where is akin to listening to a private conversation between lovers. The author explains very little to the reader, you have to piece things together and just read. Sometimes the conversations between Angela and Buddy make no sense (like how Buddy doesn't like street corners), but it's not for you to judge. It's a privilege to be able to read their conversations; they intimate, relaxed and honest. Angela and Buddy are both in tough situations they either have absent parents or cruel parents. Yet, they manage to put up with it. Their relationship with each other is the only bright spot. The story has its funny moments, Buddy is a little crazy. He is a natural leader and rallies the boys at school to dance in the cafeteria and demand sex ed. "They want sex free and healthy like they feel it." (pg. 37)
His Own Where is a short novel (92 pages) that packs a punch, not because of tension or drama but because of the beauty of the words and the authenticity of the characters. The love story between Angela and Buddy is pure (not in the sense of sex because they have it and no it's not graphic), they understand each other and support one another. They may be unrealistic in that support, but they are always there for one another. Besides the love story, issues of adult incompetence/ignorance arise, as do issues of race and class. Angela and Buddy manage to survive and it is quite sad that their love can only be acted upon in a cemetery. It's a fantastic book filled with small, unique scenes and daunting poetry. June Jordan's writing is hard to get used to at first, the grammar and lack of prior knowledge, may very well annoy the reader (it bothered me a bit at first), but stick with it. I promise it will be worth it.
Disclosure: Received from Neesha to review during our celebration of June Jordan week. Thank you so much Neesha! Read Neesha's post here and the Rejectionist's post here. My post is the end of our little blog party honoring June Jordan. I hope you read all the posts, learned something and are inspired to pick up His Own Where and other works by June Jordan. I know I am. June Jordan died of breast cancer in 2002 at the age of 65. She is dearly missed.
PS Recognize this famous line? "We are the ones we've been waiting for." Yup she coined that phrase, absolutely brillant.