Beverly Hills, Chicago

Author

Brooks, Gwendolyn

Genre

Poetry

Overview

Renowned for her "small... terse portraits of the Black urban poor" (Richard K. Barksdale), the Pulitzer Prize-winning Gwendolyn Brooks here showcases the disparity created by social class and race. The worlds of wealth and poverty do not clash when they meet in this poem because they never do actually meet--the wealthy remain in their large homes as the destitute narrator and her companions drive by in their car. The narrator's tone is neither bitter nor "furious" regarding her situation, nor is she vindictive; she is merely stating the truth of the situation. The narrator's unspoken cry for help is the powerful and profound message in Brooks' poem as she explores the barriers we construct and perpetuate for ourselves.

Full Text*

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Source

The Vintage Book of African-American Poetry, eds. M.cHarper & A. Walton (Vintage Books, 2000), pp. 190-191

Type

Reading - Short Enough to Read Aloud.

Themes

Connection and RelationshipJustice and EqualityPower and Privilege

Big Questions

Why is connection important? What does it enable? What does it impede?Can there be justice without equality?Is justice for all possible? Or will injustice always exist?How do we know or identify privilege?How does a person or community gain power or privilege?What is power? How does it work?

Sample Discussion Questions

  1. How would you describe the gardens in this poem?
  2. What does "natural" mean in the second to last and last sections of the poem?
  3. How are power and privilege related in this story?
  4. Where do you see the power and privilege dynamics of this poem in real life?
  5. Are differences in power between people reconsilable? Why or why not?
  6. What do you make of "we drive on, we drive on"?
  7. What is justice?
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