Form and Content

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Nikki Giovanni offers autobiography as point of view instead of psychological analysis or confession. Her subtitle hints at the freedom she takes in Gemini by describing the contents as “Extended Autobiographical Statement,” thus allowing for both poetic style and subjective focus. The dedication to her son, Thomas Watson Giovanni, and the son of Barbara Crosby—who wrote the introduction— includes “their fathers,” who are never named or mentioned again, except by implication.

In the opening pages is a family snapshot; in it the child called “Kim” is seen surrounded by a beautiful family: her maternal grandmother, Louvenia Terrell Watson; her mother, Yolande Cornelia, for whom she was named; her father, Gus; Gary, her older sister and only sibling; and Aunt Gladys.

The book contains thirteen chapters; in them, Giovanni presents a selective account of her youth and young adulthood, blending family history and personal memoirs, black history, political commentary on the 1960’s, assessments of black American artists, analyses of race relations, and observations on the relationships of black women to black men. Six of these segments are topical but nevertheless autobiographical by Giovanni’s definition. She deliberately chooses to highlight persons, movements, and issues influencing her first twenty-five years and unashamedly asserts her subjective viewpoint: “I discovered I am not objective. . . . There are no objective standards when it comes to your life; this is crucial.”

The first six chapters move from vignettes of early childhood through the birth of her son in 1969 to her travels in the Caribbean, establishing authority for her later...

(The entire section is 698 words.)