Masterpieces of Women's Literature Gemini Analysis

Nikki Giovanni firmly identifies herself as a black woman and black poet. She writes in one of the essays in Gemini, “On Being Asked What It’s Like to Be Black,” that any identity crisis she may have had never centered on race. The reader also gets the impression that she is not ambivalent toward her gender. Giovanni’s strong belief in herself is attributable to the love and understanding that she has received from her family. Throughout her first twenty-five years, her family served as a buffer. In the essay “For a Four-Year-Old,” Giovanni wittily accounts her idolizing relationship with her sister Gary, three years her senior. This is an important stage in Nikki Giovanni’s life. In a four-year-old’s eye, her all-knowing sister means everything to her. People would tease her “Can you do this?” or “Can you do that?” and she would always answer proudly, “No, but Gary can.” She felt closely connected to Gary and was content to be simply “Gary’s sister.”

This interconnectedness is also seen with Giovanni and her grandmother, Louvenia Terrell Watson. The two developed a mutual understanding and respect. The house of her grandmother—400 Mulvaney Street, Knoxville, Tennessee—was always her spiritual home. Gemini begins with Giovanni arriving in Knoxville on a speaking tour and experiencing a sense of homecoming. Though both 400 Mulvaney Street and Louvenia exist no longer—the house has been destroyed by urban renewal and her grandmother is dead—Giovanni knows that this place is her source of strength and power. Although Giovanni did not know it at the time, she realizes later that Louvenia had been the force behind her to finish college. She was graduated from Fisk University on February 4, 1967, and Louvenia died on March 8 of that year.

Giovanni’s parents, in their own way, were a steadying influence in her life. Her essay “A Revolutionary Tale” is about her involvement in the revolution for black power. Giovanni recounts how her mother made a firm decision that she either find a job or go to graduate school. Her father, all the time being sweet and understanding, quietly tells her that the revolutionary works in which she has engaged are ignorant of the realities of everyday black people. Giovanni’s parents were trying to show her the importance of setting an example, of learning about a system in order to change it, and of understanding the people for whom and with whom you are...

(The entire section is 1007 words.)