cover image Families: Poems Celebrating the African American Experience

Families: Poems Celebrating the African American Experience

Dorothy S. Strickland. Boyds Mills Press, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-56397-288-1

Using works by Lucille Clifton, Nikki Giovanni, Langston Hughes and other African American poets, this determinedly upbeat collection focuses on happy childhood experiences-getting hugs and kisses, going on family outings and saying a tender good night. The poems selected are rarely representative of the poets' best writing; moreover, they tend to stereotype pretty little girls and big strong boys. The larger problem, however, is that in ``celebrating the African American experience,'' the editors try to be both inclusive and exclusive at the same time. Little here suggests either the uniqueness or the variety of black culture; conversely, the Stricklands' own initial poem extolling ``all kinds of families'' and poems that applaud children of ``every color skin'' seem at odds with the uniformly black faces Ward depicts in his acrylic paintings. But even though the focus is blurred, many teachers and parents will welcome the volume for its use of an African American cast in paying tribute to middle-class family values. Ages 5-8. (Nov.)