Discovering Myself In
“To Be Young, Gifted and Black”
by Gabrielle David
". . . the only books that influence us are those for which we are ready, and which have gone a little farther down our particular path than we have yet got ourselves."
' E. M. Forster (1879-1970), Two Cheers for Democracy, 1951
I read a lot, and find that books influence me a great deal, to the extent that a great part of my personality is defined by what I read. In my youth, my appetite for books not only covered the standards, but also the raw experiences the nation was facing during the late 1960s and early 1970s. I not only read children’s classics, such as Grimms Fairy Tales and Louisa May Alcott, I also read Piri Thomas, Nikki Giovanni and Leroi Jones (Amiri Baraka). Unlike other children who read what was assigned and/or given to them, I was always encouraged to discover and read books that talked to me as elegantly as if they were in the flesh. Looking back, the book that influenced me and parted the way for critical works was TO BE YOUNG, GIFTED AND BLACK by Lorraine Hansberry. TO BE YOUNG, GIFTED AND BLACK came at a time in my life when I had begun writing poetry and stories, and published them in my class newspaper. It was not too long before I began to dream that I too might one day become a writer. Thus, certain books not only give a sense of life, but like certain rare individuals, augmented my life. In this case, this was the book that did it for me.
I was first introduced to Lorraine Hansberry in 1971 when I was ten years old. My fourth grade teacher, Ms. McCarthy, taught us a considerable amount of poetry. Not only did we learn about authors like Shakespeare, Frost, Longfellow, and Poe, we were also required to memorize and recite many of their works as well. While she taught me to love and appreciate poetry, I did have one beef with Ms. McCarthy ' none of the poets she taught us were black. I finally complained to my mother about this and...