Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

In the late 1960’s, when the concept of black pride enabled many African Americans to recognize and proclaim a hidden heritage of struggle and endurance, poet June Jordan collaborated with editor and publisher Milton Meltzer to design a book in which Jordan’s poetry would complement and comment on pictures concerning black identity chosen by Meltzer. In explaining her intentions, Jordan commented:We do not see those we do not know. Love and all varieties of happy concern depend on the discovery of one’s self in another. The question of every desiring heart is, thus, Who Look at Me? In a nation suffering fierce hatred, the question—race to race, man to man, and child to child—remains: Who Look at Me? We answer with our lives. Let the human eye begin unlimited embrace of human life.

In order to guide the majority of white Americans in an exploration of the world of African Americans, Jordan has fashioned a poem—or, more precisely, a poetic cycle—that is interwoven with twenty-seven illustrations—paintings, lithographs, posters, and a collage—by artists from both the black and the white community. Her title Who Look at Me is both assertive and interrogative, emphasizing both the importance of the person who is the subject of the poem or painting and the questioning gaze of the onlooker joining the observer and the subject. The artists whose work illustrate the...

(The entire section is 512 words.)