The Watsons go to BirminghamAs you preview the book, what are your predictions about the book? Read the dedication page, what do you think the author means by "giving us roots and wings"?  Who...

The Watsons go to Birmingham

As you preview the book, what are your predictions about the book? Read the dedication page, what do you think the author means by "giving us roots and wings"?  Who have given you roots and wings?

Asked on by thenez

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accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I thought it was clearly going to be some form of coming of age book. The focus on Kenny and his various trials and tribulations and his love-hate relationship with his older brother, Byron, clearly suggest that through the course of the novel Kenny is going to somehow mature and come to terms with who he is. Not knowing much about American history, I found the somewhat darker mood when the family reached Alabama a bit of a shock.

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litelle209 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

I want to edit my previous post...after a little deliberation I think the "wings" part may also refer to the trope of flying that we often find in African American literature. Those who are close to their African heritage, their roots, can fly. Originating in the wish to simply up and fly away from the slave overseer in the fields, those Africans who spoke the language of the motherland could do just that. They could reconnect to the African spirit and simply fly away, while the anglicized slaves could not. In that regard "roots and wings" takes on another dimension altogether since it is firmly grounded in the history of slavery and outside the realm of western rational discourse.

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litelle209 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

I loved this book when I read it in my seminar. It is a book that should be marketed for adult readers as well. The "roots and wings" quote, in my opinion, can mean that Arican American youths need to understand the detailed impact of their history. They must know not only that a church in Alabama was bombed and children died, but, and that is the crux of the novel, that there were distinct human beings with dreams, wishes, and lives who were killed in that tragedy. The novel carries the abstract into the concrete. That I view as the root part. Once we are familiar with our roots, have established the humanity in all of us, as von Humboldt once said, we can grow wings and move forward.We have wings.

I see the work firmly grounded in African American aspirations as they as expressed by W.E.B. Du Bois ,for example, as well, who never gave up hope for progress for his people.

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