Midnight

This book is difficult for me to assess. I enjoyed reading it. Sister Souljah is an impressive figure. She's done a lot of work for her community, and is so opinionated and well-spoken she can shut down a room of dissenters (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-Dzei...). She can sometimes boil down an idea in such a simple manner, that you're left wondering why you never saw it that way before. For example, my favorite quote from her is on the idea of "Street Lit": "I think that when European author This book is difficult for me to assess. I enjoyed reading it. Sister Souljah is an impressive figure. She's done a lot of work for her community, and is so opinionated and well-spoken she can shut down a room of dissenters (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-Dzei...). She can sometimes boil down an idea in such a simple manner, that you're left wondering why you never saw it that way before. For example, my favorite quote from her is on the idea of "Street Lit": "I think that when European authors or Euro-American authors write about urban, suburban or rural areas, it’s just called literature."Here's the issue: I got the impression from various things I've heard about Sister and from her accomplishments that she was a feminist. However, her do-no-wrong main character with whom it appears the reader is meant to sympathize with 100%, makes it apparent that this is not the case. Since she's stated before that writing is a form of activism for her, I'm assuming that the rants the character Midnight fires off about women in the black community are meant to represent her opinion. If so, Souljah's outlook is troubling.Sorry, there are a lot of expletives in the following quotes.For example: When discussing a girl who was RAPED by her uncle: "Of course I didn't think it was her fault that some grown demented man, a blood relative, went into a young member of his own family, his sister's daughter. I thought it was filthy...Why was she keeping her uncle's secret? Did she like fucking him? And if she hated it, why was she still fucking him? Why were his pants and the condom wrapper up in the bedroom, same like it would be if two lovers met in a secret rendezvous? And why did she pretend to hate him whenever she saw him? Then in private, what? She would lie down for him and crack open her legs?...I would never marry her...I couldn't protect her honor, because it was already gone...I could easily fuck her. But I already knew I would never fuck her without wearing a condom. If she chased me hard, I would allow her to be the first to suck my dick...I was mad at Bangs for being what Umma called 'a lesser thing.'"Stemming from this rant, he goes on to talk about non-believers (this means non-Muslims):"The mothers of non-believers are prettied-up mindless whores."I could quote more and more paragraphs to illustrate this point. There are also all the times when Midnight had discussions about marrying a non-Muslim and how it is OK because the woman will always follow the man's lead. OK, so I guess the book isn't that difficult to assess. Most of it is disgusting in its treatment of women. Souljah often lays blame on black males for their treatment of women, but the main critique seems to be

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aimed at the women who, she (through Midnight) claims are in terrible relationships, dangerous situations, or impregnated too young due to their too-revealing clothing and their boldness in hitting on men (this is another thing Midnight loves to go on rants about, women who talk to him first). This idea that women are ruining things for themselves, and for the men in their community, is well-illustrated toward the end of the book when one of Midnight's neighbors and his brothers get arrested for murdering a girl: "Now, they are all found out and taken down because of a simple wrong choice of a female with an influential body and a mean-ass walk." Notice, the wrong choice that got them "taken down" was not murdering the girl, it was that one of them dated her. Even in her "Acknowledgements," Souljah dedicates 5 of the 6 free verse paragraphs to thanking "brothers worldwide" for talking to her, teaching her, respecting her, listening to her, and standing by her. The final and 6th paragraph goes out to "females" and thanks them for reading her books and reflecting on her words. If this introduction coupled with the content of the book were attached to an anonymous author, I might have assumed that the book was actually written by a 14-year-old boy (overlooking Souljah's skillful writing). Beyond the decidedly misogynistic viewpoint, the main character is some sort of untouchable super being. First off, he always knows exactly the right thing to do and is never wrong (except for that one time when he almost had sex with that "lesser being" of a rape victim). Secondly he is so handsome and looks so old (by the end of the book, he's only 15), that every female (adult, teenager, or child) swoons over him. Thirdly, he is great at everything: mostly focused on Ninjutsu and basketball, but also dabbling in being the best at chess and soccer. The highlights of this book are Souljah's descriptions of Sudanese and Islamic customs, and the picture she paints of New York from the perspective of someone living in the Brooklyn Ghetto. I was mesmerized by the character Umma, an amazingly strong female character who provides for her family by working at a factory and then creating custom Sudanese garments on the side. It is Umma who taught Midnight many of his ideas about what is right or wrong for a woman to do, and yet Umma seems to always lead while paying lip service to following Midnight. Souljah successfully captures a terrifying tension throughout the entire book that resides with Midnight and his family as they live on a block full of violence and manipulation, trying to quietly save money and move to a place where his little sister can safely play outside, and he won't have to worry about leaving his mother and sister alone at home."Midnight" definitely has its moments, and I got through it quickly, always interested to see what was coming next. Unfortunately, what came next was inevitably further vilification of women without any apparent understanding of overarching societal issues that someone with Souljah's experience should have. I've heard the Coldest Winter Ever is much different in perspective from this book. It still contains the character Midnight, but I believe it is told from the perspective of a female character. I might still give it a chance....more


Category: Review

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