I have been interested in autobiographies ever since I read Run Baby Run: The Life Story of Nicky Cruz, a hard core gang member from the streets of New York City. David Wilkerson would reach Nicky Cruz and then write his own book The Cross and the Switchblade . I would read both books in seventh grade. Later, I would read The Autobiography of Malcolm X while in eight grade on Chicago’s Westside. However, it was my first college class that really drew me into autobiographies. Samuel Betances, a young Puerto Rican graduate student from New York City, was my first college instructor. Betances used Down These Mean Streets written by Piri Thomas as our main text to introduce us to Sociology 101, and to motivate us not only to read, but to want to read. Betances, years later would graduate from Harvard with a PhD in Sociology.
I am going to use autobiographies of minority writers and also New Media (Blogs) to get First Year Composition students in the community college system to write, as my independent research project. I have modified my research at this time about teaching autobiographies in the jails and I will put that off for another study. I have been conducting research on autobiographies of minority writers and one of my first sources I found this semester dealt with the subject of autobiographies in the African-American community.
This discovery pointed out the importance of autobiographies in the lives of African-Americans. Andrews (1990) a scholar and professor of English at the University of Kansas wrote the following on autobiography. “Autobiography holds a position of priority, many would say preeminence among the narrative traditions of Black America.” Andrews goes on to expound in detail on how autobiographical writings in the African-American community or in African-American Literature are highly revered within the African-American experience:
“The history of black narrative since the slavery era is informed by a kind of literary counterpoint between autobiography and its successor, the novel. The number and importance of novels that read like or are entitled autobiographies in African- American literature confirm a recent black critic’s contention that ‘ours is an extraordinary self-reflexive tradition,” (Andrews, 1990, 197).