|Study Guide - Part Two Assessment|
Part Two Assessment – Chapter Quizzes & Short Essay topics
Used most frequently with high school students, these quizzes are designed to check to see if the students have completed the reading with some understanding and comprehension. These questions are not meant to trick the student, but rather to see if the student read the material, remembers what was read, and has some understanding of the material covered in the chapters. Often there are some “gimme” questions, ones that are easy enough for everyone to answer if they read the material. The quizzes might be put together for use as an objective test covering the entire book.
The short essay topics are designed to get the student thinking about and reflecting upon the ideas presented in the book. Depending upon the subject, teachers could use such essays for various purposes. English classes might use them for in-class 45 minute timed writing and require a 5 paragraph essay, while a Black Studies or Psychology class might use the short essay topics as a 10 minute writing assignment to use as a springboard to class discussion. If used as a prompt for writing an essay, the students would not required to answer all the questions; the questions should be used to help guide the students’ thoughts.
Also, instructors could separate the questions, using them individually as short answer questions on a test covering the chapters, and numbering them consecutively. Or questions from different chapters could be used as short answer essay questions covering the entire book. Hopefully, at the very least, these questions will help spark other questions the instructors would like to add for their own specialized classes.
I believe in the “Into, Through, and Beyond” approach to teaching literature. This involves delving into the book, analyzing the concepts and themes through the book, applying those themes beyond the book to one’s own life and then perhaps, to society in general. That’s why the essay topic questions are formulated the way they are.
This “Into, Through, and Beyond” approach is also used in the project/activity section of the study guide. Often the activities are methods of taking the students “through” the book; many take the student “beyond” the book.
Quiz #6—TRUE/FALSE – Chapters 14, 15, 16, 17, & 18
Select TRUE if the statement is completely true, or FALSE if any part of the statement is not true.
T – F 1. When Brian hears Mrs. Wentworth call his mother a “whore,” he finally breaks down and cries.
T – F 2. Reinvigorated, Brian’s mother announces she’s going to sue over the eviction order.
T – F 3. The congregation of the Presbyterian Church supported their Pastor’s idea to invite a black congregation to join their church picnic.
T – F 4. Brian tells the police that he fell asleep while putting his car away.
T – F 5. In the hospital, Brian’s arms and legs are handcuffed to the gurney.
T – F 6. Mr. Wentworth breaks into the apartment to steal money from Carolyn so that she won’t be able to pay the rent.
T – F 7. Like the cop and the nun, Mr. Wentworth also lies to Brian.
T – F 8. The white girls at his school are the ones who are really guilty of giving Brian mixed messages.
T – F 9. On Good Friday, 3 white boys chase Brian into a dead end and pelt him with rocks.
T – F 10. The “creepy white man” with the Southern Drawl calls the cops to come and help him rescue Brian.
Short Reflective Essay Questions – Chapters 14, 15, 16, 17, & 18
Background - In chapter eighteen, Brian discusses various mixed messages he received as a child. Black is beautiful is taught to him on the one hand. Yet on the other hand, society is teaching him that black is bad. He watches on television as Southern white men beat black men for no reason except that they are peaceably protesting for their civil rights. Yet a Southern white man rescues Brian from three young white attackers. We become quite aware of the irony of his being attacked on Good Friday and rescued by a Southern white man.
Topics – In a short essay, discuss the term “mixed messages.” What kind of mixed messages must we deal with most often in our society? What are some of the effects of mixed messages on children, on adults? What are some of the mixed messages Brian presents in this chapter as well as in the other chapters in this section? When does Brian first meet Mr. Wilkins, his rescuer? What does Brian think of Mr. Wilkins at first? What kind of a person is Mr. Wilkins? In what way is Mr. Wilkins’ presence a mixed message for Brian? What is the irony of Brian being attacked on Good Friday and being rescued by Mr. Wilkins? What kind of mixed messages do we all get growing up? Have you ever been guilty of giving someone a mixed message?
Possible answers to Chapters 14, 15, 16, 17, & 18 Essay questions:
Most students will probably describe mixed messages as people saying one thing and doing another. A boss might say that the door to his office is always open, yet when the employee goes in to talk, the boss is on the phone or the computer the whole time. Or the political candidate will say he will lower taxes, but once elected increase the taxes instead. Brian experiences many mixed messages – the cop who is usually perceived as someone to trust, arrests him and lies about him; the nun who is supposed to love everyone, hits him and lies about him; the boy scout man who is supposed to teach him to fish, refuses because Brian is black. The cop (Brian thinks it may be same cop!) who asks for Brian’s autograph in chapter 16 or the fair housing discussion Chapter 15 are also mixed messages Brian must deal with. The effect of mixed messages causes children and adults alike to experience doubt, become fearful, and lose self confidence.
The main mixed message Brian faces is “black is beautiful” versus “black is bad.” On the one hand, James Brown and others recognized the tremendous need in the black community to build feelings of self worth and confidence. His song stating that “black is beautiful” had a tremendously positive effect upon the black community. The word “black” became the preferred way to refer to oneself. Even those who were not black, understood the importance of being proud of oneself and embraced the message of the song. However, on the other hand, Brian finds it very difficult to be proud of himself because most of the messages he receives tell him that “black is something bad.”
Brian first meets Mr. Wilkins when he and his sisters are walking by his house on the way to school, and Mr. Wilkins strikes up a conversation. Mr. Wilkins himself is an example of a mixed message for Brian, but one that turns out to be favorable. For years, Brian learned that Southern white people were filled with prejudice towards his race. On television, he watches videos of Southern white policemen beating black people with Billy clubs, washing them down steps with fire hoses, and sending dogs to attack them. When he first meets Mr. Wilkins, a white man with a strong Southern accent, Brian is understandably wary. However, he begins to change his mind about this particular Southerner. For instead of being mean and filled with hate, Mr. Wilkins shows Brian respect and care. Not only does Mr. Wilkins treat them with respect, he is also Brian’s rescuer, saving Brian from the three white kids who are barraging him with stones. The irony is that Brian was attacked on Good Friday – a day of devotion for Christians, and that an old white Southern man – who usually is a racist -- was his Savior.
Brian is rescued by a person he would normally perceive to be “the enemy,” the enemy he learned to avoid after the incident with the nun who lied. And while Brian is confused at first by the perceived mixed messages, Mr. Wilkins’ helping him with his wounds, his giving a cutting board he made to Grandma, his gentle kindnesses, and his respectful manner all contribute to Brian beginning to like a white man with a Southern accent. In the book, we have now come full circle, returning to the original mixed message – “Black is Beautiful” versus “Black is Bad.” However, we now have a better understanding of mixed messages and their mostly negative effect upon all of us. Although we have learned that not all mixed messages are negative, they can all cause distrust and confusion. It’s clear that it is far better to be as straightforward, honest, respectful, compassionate, and kind as humanly possible and to watch ourselves for signs of mixed messages and correct them. We are all guilty of unintentionally sending mixed messages, but hopefully we will all try to recognize and get rid of the mixed messages we send to our family, friends, and people in general.
Quiz #7—Multiple Choice – Chapters 19, & 20
Select the answer that best completes the statement.
1. When Brian was being transferred to the psychiatric hospital, he asked the drivers to: a) let him go and he would give them an autograph, b) take him to his home,
c) take the handcuffs off of him, d) let him sit in the front seat with them.
2. Brian meets his first girlfriend, Dana: a) where she works at the NUMI plant in Fremont, CA, b) a few weeks after she’s released from the psychiatric hospital,
c) a few weeks after Brian is released from the psychiatric hospital, d) after a performance at Cobb’s Comedy Club.
3. The doctor decides that Brian will be kept in the hospital until he is: a) no longer a threat to himself, b) no longer a threat to others, c) no longer screaming at the attendants, d) both a & b.
4. When Brian is in the hospital, the nurses: a) tie him to his bed with leather straps,
b) ask him to perform his comedy routines for them, c) give him a sleeping pill, d) both a & b.
5. While he is in the 5150 ward, Brian is: a) sleeping most of the time, b) confined to
a private room, c) keeping all the other patients laughing at his jokes, d) worrying about being considered a threat to others.
6. Brian is impressed with Mr. Ware, the attorney, because he: a) can order white people around, b) has a beautiful set of golf clubs, c) has a swimming pool, d) can write both his left and right hands.
7. Mr. Ware tells Brian that the reason he became a lawyer is that: a) he wanted to help the people in our society, b) he knew he would become rich if he became an attorney, c) his brother was killed in a drive by shooting, d) both b & c.
8. Brian realizes that Mr. Ware lies about his background because he: a) wanted to be dramatic, b) couldn’t come from Birmingham and NOT have a juicy story, c) he wanted poor black people to relate to him, d) both b & c.
9. When he leaves the lawyer’s office, Brian is certain that he: a) will not testify in the case, b) will become a civil rights lawyer, c) will get in trouble for asking for a root beer, d) will never see Mr. Ware again.
10. Brian returns home after meeting Mr. Ware to find that: a) Sylvester has returned to the family, b) his mother has become very sick, c) Mr. Wentworth broke the pipes and water leaked all over the apartment, d) Grandma has inherited a lot of money.
Short Reflective Essay Questions – Chapters 19, & 20
Background - Both of these chapters deal extensively with major themes of the book; specifically the negative effects of racism on the human being and the question of just what is a genuine black man. We see Brian taken to the hospital unwillingly, and feeling like everyone thinks he’s “a threatening black man,” all Brian really wants to do is to go home. In Chapter 20, Brian meets one of the most important influences in his young life, Mr. Ware.
Topics – What feelings of racism are affecting the way Brian is dealing with the situation in the hospital? What does he do to try to get the boys to take him home? How does he react when they don’t? What thoughts cause Brian to be unable to sleep in the hospital? What does Brian learn about suicide and the law? Who is Mr. Ware and what effect does he have upon young Brian? What impresses Brian the most about Mr. Ware? All people have feet of clay, what causes Mr. Ware’s image to crumble for Brian many years later? What are some of the specific topics Brian wishes he could discuss with the anonymous letter writer? What kinds of things does he want to tell him? Have you ever hoped to have the courage to tell someone off? Who? For what reason? What does it mean when Brian goes home after meeting with Mr. Ware and smells brut?
Possible answers to Chapters 19, & 20 Essay questions:
Since Brian has had to deal with so much racism in his life, the logical path is for him to assume that everything involves racism. When he is held for observation in the hospital, he’s told he will be kept there until he is no longer “dangerous to others,” a common phrase used for all people who attempt suicide. However, Brian’s psyche has suffered so much racism in his life the remark comes off as racist. It is quite natural for him to feel once again the effects of being black in a white society, because now he’s being treated as if he were a “threatening black man.”
On the ride to the hospital, Brian performs his very funny “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” comedy routine for the drivers. It gives us another sample of Brian’s quick wit and delightful humor, but it doesn’t accomplish for Brian what he had hoped. He hoped the drivers would enjoy him so much that they would see he’s OK and just take him home. However, when they do not take him home, Brian gets mad, screams, and even cries, causing the white drivers to feel sad for him.
Unable to sleep at the hospital, at first Brian is afraid of being recognized. It’s the worry over how people will react and how this hospitalization will affect his career. Then the worry turns to thoughts of his mother, Catholic school, thoughts of purgatory, and wondering if his mother were right; she always felt heaven was white. Brian learns at the hospital, that it is illegal in California to commit suicide, and he wittily wonders if death is the penalty for committing suicide.
Mr. Ware is the successful black lawyer his mother hires to help her with the eviction case. A posh office in Palo Alto with white people working for him, Mr. Ware is just about the best, most important black man that Brian has ever met. He’s never seen a truly successful, professional black man before, and Brian is duly impressed. He’s also impressed with Mr. Ware’s apocryphal story of why he became a lawyer. And years later when Mr. Ware is disgraced because of his lie, Brian is extremely saddened. Now an adult, he understands the motivation behind the lie, but still was completely shocked when he heard the truth. Though as a child, Brian had fantasies about Mr. Ware marrying Carolyn and becoming his father. He would have a good father, not one who beat and threatened Brian whenever he returned to the home.
Brian’s dream is to find out who the anonymous letter writer is through his DNA on the envelope and tell him off. Brian wants to say things like “I’m sorry I’m not bad like Sylvester, who is never accused of not being a genuine black man. I’m sorry I don’t deal drugs; I’m sorry I don’t disrespect women or have children who know who their father is.” He wants to grab the man, and scare him to death, screaming at him “forgive me for wanting more, not less.”
(pg. 168-170) Brian is beginning to come to terms with just what a “genuine black man” is. Even though Brian doesn’t recognize it at this moment, we see that Brian is a genuine black man.
Students will have various answers concerning someone they hoped to tell off. Some might not have anyone they can remember. While with others, the person might be a teacher, an old flame, a stranger, or a policeman who mistreated them. However, the stories will, no doubt, be interesting to read.
The smell of Brut in the home when Brian returns from his wonderful visit with Mr. Ware means that Sylvester has returned home once again. Brian’s fantasies of having Mr. Ware as a father are dashed to the ground with Sylvester’s return.
Quiz #8—TRUE/FALSE – Chapters 21, 22, 23, & 24
Select TRUE if the statement is completely true, or FALSE if any part of the statement is not true.
T – F 1. With the suicide of his friend Duane Garrett, Brian realizes that suicide is the result of unbearable pain.
T – F 2. With the suicide of his friend Duane Garrett, Brian realizes that suicide is the result of extreme selfishness.
T – F 3. Brian, ironically, was more of a “genuine black man” than he thought because he was not allowing himself to admit that he was depressed and needed help.
T – F 4. Brian’s mom tells him that there are people who will look at him as if he were doing something wrong just because he’s black.
T – F 5. When Brian is accused of stealing in the department store, he gets mad and tells the manager that he is not bad just because he’s black.
T – F 6. Brian cries himself to sleep, saying “I don’t want to be black. I’m not bad.”
T – F 7. Brian gives wrong answers on tests on purpose, so that he won’t appear to be too smart and stand out from the white kids in his class.
T – F 8. Brian and Jon Regan become close friends the first day they meet because they are both outsiders.
T – F 9. Brian and Jon didn’t become friends until Brian was the only class- mate to attend Jon’s birthday party.
T – F 10. Brian is relieved when the authorities finally determine that his suicide attempt was accidental.
Short Reflective Essay Questions – Chapters 21, 22, 23, & 24
Background - In these chapters, the occurrences of racial profiling and the amount of pain Brian is experiencing are increasing rapidly. Both as an adult and as a child, he’s almost reached the bottom. However, the friendship with Jon Regan was one of the few positive occurrences in his life.
Topics – In a short essay, reflect upon your feelings about Brian’s depression and about depression in our society today. What happens that seems to trigger his thoughts of suicide? What are the major symptoms of the depression he’s experiencing? How does the accusation of shoplifting accelerate Brian’s depression as a youth? What, specifically, is causing his depression? Why do Jon Regan and Brian become friends? What are some specific positive effects of Brian’s friendship with Jon? How do they help each other? Why does Young Brian give decide not to give wrong answers on purpose when he is taking tests in his class? What happens to affect the happiness Brian feels at being released from the psychiatric hospital? How does this incident contribute to the pain Brian is already experiencing? Reflect on how we, both as individuals and as a society, can help those who are clinically depressed.
Possible answers to Chapters 21, 22, 23, & 24 Essay questions:
Students will give many accounts of depression, and they should mention especially the extreme pain and anguish caused from a feeling of having no self worth or identity. They will probably also discuss how depression is one of the most undiagnosed illnesses in our society today. Because many people still feel that a person with mental problems is a weak person, many depressed people believe that they should be able to solve their problems on their own, without any help from others, such as family and mental health professionals. All too often, those who are experiencing depression simply try to hide it and bottle up their emotions, never dealing with their problems.
When Brian’s friend, Duane Garrett, jumps to his death off the Golden Gate Bridge, Brian’s suicidal thoughts are triggered, and he drives to the bridge many times with thoughts of jumping into the water below. An extremely depressed Brian is in trouble, but he hides the pain he’s feeling from everyone just like his friend did. Brian realizes that it is intense pain that causes a person to commit suicide, and that it is not a selfish act. He doesn’t seek help from anyone, and eventually, as we know, Brian attempts suicide, hoping to make his own pain and anguish stop.
Students should see that one of the most wrenching experiences of Young Brian’s life is when Brian, an alter boy, is accused of shoplifting. He knows he is a good boy and is shocked and deeply hurt when he realizes that they think he’s a crook. A good kid and probably the smartest boy in his class, Brian is once again the target of racism and racial profiling. Holding him in her loving arms, his mother gently tries to teach him that white people will think he’s doing something bad simply because he’s black. Feeling a complete lack of identity and self worth, the little alter boy wonders, “Why is God punishing me?” He finally falls asleep after crying into his pillow, “I don’t want to be black. I’m not bad. I’m not bad.” (pg. 185) Society is teaching Brian (as it does his son, Adam, years later) that “black is bad.”
Back then, the only bright spot in his life was his new friendship with Jon Regan. At first Brian is wary of the new white boy who is told to sit next to Brian. After the kids in the class also tease and bully Jon, Brian begins to see how much they are alike. The friendship doesn’t flower, however, until after Jon invites the class to attend his birthday party, and Brian is the only one to come for the celebration. During the party that now only consists of Brian, Jon, his mother and siblings, Brian realizes that they are both different, and hopes that “we can be different together.” (pg 191) They are both poor athletes; they don’t fit in with the other students, and they are both excellent students. Brian no longer has to pretend to be dumb in order to fit in with the others in the class. Just having a friend who is also smart enables Brian to have the confidence to mark all the correct answers on his classroom exams. He no longer feels so very alone.
As Brian is finally leaving the hospital, the intern tells him that his suicide is being called a “gesture,” not a suicide attempt, and that he might be suffering from depression. Once again Brian’s sense of self is in question. He feels that he is not worthy of even being called an “attempted suicide.” His attempt is only called a “gesture.” Just when he needs support, understanding, and help from the people around him, especially the medical profession, he is thrown into despair and pain. Once again he feels completely alone, unable to even call anyone for help. As much as he tries to hide his pain, his daughter asks why he is so sad. Longing to play with his kids, Brian is unable to get himself up off the couch. Since the medication can take a month or more to take effect, Brian sinks lower and lower, until he is literally unable to move.
Students will have various answers for helping those around us who are experiencing depression. They should be encouraged to refer to any personal experiences they remember. One of the ways we can personally help people who are depressed is to listen to them, to get them to talk. It’s important to realize that if they suddenly start giving things away or quit talking about their depression, that is the time to sit up and take notice.
As a society, we need to educate ourselves and remove any stigma caused from getting counseling. We need to help people understand that seeking help is a sign of intelligence, not weakness. When our car is broken, if we can’t fix it ourselves, we take it to a mechanic! When we are sick with heart disease or cancer, we go to the doctors to help cure us! The same should be true for mental illness of any kind. When our mind and emotions are sick, the mental health professionals are the ones who can help cure us. Just like the mechanic and medical doctor, the mental health counselor’s education teaches him how to help us become mentally healthy.
Quiz #9—Multiple Choice – Chapters 25, 26, & 27
Select the answer that best completes the statement.
1. Thinking that no one is at home, Brian: a) turns on the radio and dances, b) eats some cold cereal with milk, c) calls his friend and laughs out loud, d) does his homework.
2. Brian realizes that the bumping sound is: a) his sisters playing basketball, b) his grandmother telling him to be quiet, c) his neighbors damaging the water pipes , d) his mother’s head hitting the wall.
3. When he sees that Sylvester means to kill his mother, Brian: a) calls 911, b) gets a small pistol, c) gets a big kitchen knife, d) gets a heavy baseball bat.
4. Sylvester doesn’t let go of Brian’s neck until a) Brian faints, b) Carolyn screams and hits him, c) Grandma throws hot water on him, d) the police finally arrive.
5. Brian becomes the “man of the house” when he: a) fearlessly stands up to Sylvester, b) testifies in court, c) finally stops crying every night, d) both a & c.
6. Mr. Wilkins says that: a) folks should be called whatever they want to be called,
b) we have to take some kind of responsibility, c) he never used the “n” word,
d) both a & b.
7. When Brian goes to Jon’s house, he finds that: a) Jon’s parents are getting a divorce, b) Jon’s father beat his mother too, c) Jon’s father is best friends with Sylvester, d) both a & b.
8. Brian hugs his friend Jon because he realizes that: a) Jon is in emotional pain, b) he can finally help a white boy, c) Jon is going faint, d) both a & b.
9. After Brian testifies in court, Carolyn: a) plans a “Leakfest” at the iHop, b) hugs and kisses Mr. Ware, c) plans to find a new place to live, d) hugs and kisses Brian.
10. In order to prepare for testifying, Brian: a) was coached by Mr. Ware about exactly what to say, b) watched a lot of Perry Mason shows on TV, c) read books about becoming a civil rights attorney d) practiced testifying with Grandma acting as the lawyers.
Short Reflective Essay Questions – Chapters 25, 26, & 27
Background - These chapters show a major turning point in young Brian’s life. He is finally able to stand up to Sylvester, and becomes not only the man of the house, but a real hero. Because of two white people in his life, we see Brian’s injured self-respect start to heal a little. We see Brian testify in court, and we realize what the results of the trial will be.
Topics – What does it mean to be the “man of the house?” How does Brian finally become the man of the house? What thoughts go through his mind during the event? In what way is Brian a real hero? What specific incidents help Mr. Wilkins and Jon Regan boost Brian’s self-respect? What happens to Mr. Wilkins? How does Brian’s testifying in court go? What does Carolyn expect the result of the court case will be? Have you or a close friend or family member ever had to testify in court? What must it be like to be 8 or 10 years old and testify in court?
Possible answers to Chapters 25, 26, & 27 Essay questions:
The students will give various definitions of the “man of the house,” and should probably include the concept that the “man of the house” is the person who is responsible for the safety, well-being, and protection of the family. Usually, the husband is considered the “man of the house.” But in Brian’s case, the husband is mostly absent.
Young Brian becomes the “man of the house” when he saves his mother’s life. In order to stop Sylvester from bashing his mother’s head into the wall, he threatens Sylvester with a butcher knife, and consequently, Sylvester starts to attack Brian. At first, Brian’s thoughts are taken up with how to stop Sylvester from killing his mother, but then as he yells to Sylvester, “You’re going to have to [kill me] if you don’t let my mother go,” (pg. 197) he realizes that he is not afraid of Sylvester any more. After Brian puts up a tremendous fight, Sylvester grabs Brian, trying to kill him. His thoughts race in his head and he decides that he will not give in. Even though he is only a little over 4 feet tall, he hits Sylvester in the groin with his fist. Almost immediately, Sylvester starts to strangle Brian, the police arrive, rescuing Brian and arresting Sylvester. But it is Brian who is the hero; his mother is hurting, but alive.
Mr. Wilkins gives the kids candy, makes a rolling pin for Brian’s Grandma, and takes photos of Brian and his sisters. However, probably the most important thing Mr. Wilkins gives Brian is self-respect. Along with caring discussions about prejudice, and how we must think about today, the most symbolic act Mr. Wilkins does is to change the label on his slide photo box from “Negro Children” to “Black Children.” With this act of accepting Brian and respecting his wishes to be called “black,” Brian experiences, for the first time in his life, a white Southern man showing him the utmost respect. Brian is sad when Mr. Wilkins just disappears from the neighborhood. It was said that his relatives did not want him to live alone any more and moved him to a home.
Jon Regan is crying when Brian goes to his house, and Brian begins to understand the meaning of true friendship. It is his turn to give, for Jon is in terrible pain. Even though Brian doesn’t totally understand why a divorce is so bad, he does understand that his friend is suffering and needs a hug. They are two little boys in pain, helping each other to understand just what it means to have a friend. Now they are not alone. Now the friends share the title of “man of their house,” as they share the task of mowing Jon’s lawn, one boy on each handle of the lawnmower.
Brian’s confidence about his day in court is very high. As the man of the house he’s preparing carefully, watching Perry Mason. His Grandma takes him f or a haircut and buys him a new pair of shoes, Grandma’s way of giving her grandson an extra feeling of self-worth. Once on the stand, he does well, until the other attorney brings up the fighting between Sylvester and Carolyn. Brian tells the truth that he witnessed Sylvester try to hurt his mother. After he is dismissed, his mother says between her tears that she hopes they will have enough time to find another apartment. She knows the case is lost.
The students will give many possible answers here, depending upon their own experiences. They will probably have answers ranging from how it must be very frightening for a young person to testify in court to how some young people may enjoy the experience. I would find this part very interesting to read, especially if they describe an experience of their own.
Quiz #10—TRUE/FALSE – Chapters 28, 29, 30 & Afterward
Select TRUE if the statement is completely true, or FALSE if any part of the statement is not true.
T – F 1. A major turning point for Brian is when his Grandma calls and yells at him, telling him to get up off the couch.
T – F 2. Brian is stunned and shocked that his Grandma is so mean to him.
T – F 3. After Grandma’s phone call, Brian gets up and plays with his kids.
T – F 4. When Brian reads the court records, he realizes that the judge didn’t believe it when he said Mr. Wentworth entered the apartment.
T – F 5. After the trial, the family got enough money to move to a better apartment in San Leandro.
T – F 6. After converting to Catholicism, Sylvester returned to the family a changed man and better father.
T – F 7. One of the reasons Brian still lives in San Leandro is that there is still some work to be done concerning racism.
T – F 8. Brian’s play, Not A Genuine Black Man, is the longest running one- man show in San Francisco history.
T – F 9. Sylvester promised the 16 year old Brian a car for his birthday.
T – F 10. Twenty five years later, Sylvester doesn’t even recognize Brian when they see each other on the street.
Short Reflective Essay Questions – Chapters 28, 29, 30 & Afterward
Background - In these chapters, we see Brian’s Grandma use tough love with her grandson, and another adult lets Brian down when the Judge doesn’t believe that Brian was telling the truth. San Leandro makes great strides toward becoming an inclusive, accepting city. While Sylvester exhibits the worst of mixed messages on Brian’s 16th birthday, Brian wonders years later what his mother ever saw in Sylvester. Brian’s emotional state, however, is healing, and his personal life and career are beginning to flourish at the end of the book.
Topics – What is the concept of “tough love?” What does Brian’s Grandma tell him on the phone that makes him sit up and start moving again? What is Brian’s reaction to her phone call at first? How does Brian feel when he realizes the judge didn’t believe that he was telling the truth? How has San Leandro changed over the years? Why does Brian continue to live in San Leandro? What has Brian done to help himself through the healing process? What mixed message does Brian’s father give him on his 16th birthday? How does Brian react? When he sees his father on the street 25 years later, why doesn’t Brian tell him who he is? How does Brian come to understand why women pick men like Sylvester as their mate? And finally, how does Brian finally come to terms with what it means to be a “genuine black man?”
Possible answers to Chapters 28, 29, 30 & Afterward Essay questions:
In order to stimulate him to begin to live rather than be depressed all the time, Brian’s grandmother shocks him into awareness. Though she probably doesn’t even realize it, she borrows a technique from psychology called Tough Love when she calls him and tells him to “Get your black ass up!” The shock of his loving Grandmother speaking to him in such a mean fashion, surprises Brian and causes him to take a closer look at himself. For the first time in a long time, he begins to feel OK. He gets up and plays twister with his kids. Now he finally has a sense of identity; he feels black.
Young Brian is extremely hurt to realize that the judge didn’t think he was telling the truth about Mr. Wentworth. It’s amazing how many adults just seem to think that kids lie, when it is usually the other way around. So many of the adults in Brian’s life lied. The cop lied; the nun lies; the white barbers lied; the boy scout fishing coach lied; Mr. Wentworth lied; Sylvester lied; even Mr. Ware, the man he idolized for so many years, lied. But Brian didn’t lie.
San Leandro has almost become Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream come true. It is now a city where all races live mostly in harmony, side by side. The old ways of bigotry and racism crop up now and then, but Brian describes them as changing, “coffin by coffin.” The old racist faction is literally dying off to be replaced with people who respect diversity. And the Mayor of San Leandro honored Brian’s Grandmother and Mother (posthumously) for their bravery in fighting to make San Leandro the inclusive caring city it is today. And even though all the rest of his family has moved, Brian still lives in San Leandro for three main reasons. He wants to honor his mother and continue his mother’s fight, standing up for what she believed in. He stays because of the friends and benefactors who helped him through his childhood. And in spite of all the improvements in race relations in San Leandro, he stays because there is still work to do. Things are not perfect yet.
Brian begins to “put his house in order” (pg. 229) help himself with the long road back from depression. He continues his medical treatment and works closely with a therapist to help him battle the childhood demons. He concentrates on doing the things he loves, his writing and his comedy. A couple of years after a sad divorce, he gets married again to a wonderful woman. His one-man show based on his life is wildly successful, setting records and running for two years at the Marsh Theatre in San Francisco, and he even gets to perform his show in New York City. Hollywood directors like Rob Reiner have taken notice of him, casting him in a movie with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. Who knows what’s next? Life for him is finally looking up.
Then there is one last chapter about Sylvester, one more important part of Brian’s childhood to come to terms with. After his mother dies, Brian sees his father once again, and Sylvester, the man who so brutalized Brian, promises to get him a car for his 16th birthday. Why are we not surprised when Sylvester doesn’t show up to get the car? Poor Brian’s hopes are dashed once again as Sylvester gives the most heinous of mixed messages – the broken promise to a child. Why do women pick people like Sylvester for their mates? Brian describes himself as h aving had to work through “The Henry Higgens” complex – picking girls who are downtrodden and in need of great help. I’ve always called it the “missionary complex,” for I too fight against that same need to rescue the downtrodden of our society. But with Brian’s mother, he recognizes that there is another factor involved in her choice of men. Sylvester was a “reflection of how she saw herself on some level” (pg. 200), not believing that she deserved more.
Twenty five years later, Sylvester doesn’t even recognize Brian when they meet on the street. Brian asks the time, and Sylvester gives him the only nice thing he ever gave Brian, the time of day. But Sylvester does not recognize his own son. Juxtaposed to this event, however, is the scene where Brian gives his son Adam a truck on Adam’s 16th birthday. Brian has indeed learned from Sylvester what NOT to do to be a great father. Brian won’t miss out on the joys of parenting the way Sylvester did.
In the afterward, Brian realizes that he is resilient. He has landed on his feet after experiencing some terrible setbacks in his life. He now knows he is a genuine black man, because, as Mr. Wilkins told him so many years before, “people should be called what they want to be called.” (pg. 244) And now, almost grateful to the anonymous author of the hate mail that initiated this quest for the meaning of “Genuine,” Brian is at peace with himself. He is a genuine black man.
ANSWER KEYS for Chapter Reading Check Quizzes for Part One:
Quiz # 1 – Prologue & Chapters 1, 2, & 3
1-b, 2-d, 3-d, 4-a, 5-a, 6-c, 7-c, 8-a, 9-d, 10-b
Quiz # 2 – Chapters 4, 5, & 6
1-F, 2-T, 3-T, 4-T, 5-T, 6-F, 7-F, 8-T, 9-T, 10-T
Quiz # 3 – Chapters 7 & 8
1-b, 2-a, 3-a, 4-c, 5-a, 6-b, 7-b, 8-c, 9-d, 10-d
Quiz # 4 – Chapters 9, 10, & 11
1-T. 2-F. 3-F, 4-T, 5-T, 6-F, 7-F, 8-T, 9-T, 10-F
Quiz # 5 – Chapters 12, & 13
1-c, 2-a, 3-b, 4-d, 5-a, 6-d,7-d, 8-a, 9-c, 10-d.
ANSWER KEYS for Chapter Reading Check Quizzes for Part Two:
Quiz # 6 – Chapters 14, 15, 16, 17, & 18
1-F, 2-T, 3-F, 4-T, 5-F, 6-F, 7-T, 8-F, 9-T, 10-F
Quiz # 7 – Chapters 19, & 20
1-b, 2-b, 3-d, 4-c, 5-d, 6-a, 7-c, 8-d, 9-b, 10-a
Quiz # 8 – Chapters 21, 22, 23, & 24
1-T, 2-F, 3-T, 4-T, 5-F, 6-T, 7-T, 8-F, 9-T, 10-F
Quiz # 9 – Chapters 25, 26, & 27
1-b, 2-d, 3-c, 4-d, 5-a, 6-d, 7-a, 8-a, 9-c, 10-b
Quiz # 10 – Chapters 28, 29, 30 & Afterward
1-T, 2-T, 3-T, 4-T, 5-F, 6-F, 7-T, 8-T, 9-T, 10-T