For those that don't know, I created this blog, aptly titled MANChild Swagga, in honor of a book that I read when I was a young teenager. This book changed my life as a wayward teenager growing up in NYC (sure... I'll elaborate on this one day). ManChild in the Promised Land, an autobiography by Claude Brown, chronicled the hardship and glory of growing up as one of a first generation of blacks that migrated from the South in search of prosperity, equality and hope in what was referred to at the time as "the Promised Land". Far from a land of promise, Claude painted a picture of a life as:
"There was a tremendous difference in the way life was lived up North. There were too many people full of hate and bitterness crowded into a dirty, stinky, uncared-for, closet-sized section of a great city. The children of these disillusioned colored pioneers inherited the total lot of their parents—the disappointments, the anger. To add to their misery, they had little hope of deliverance. For where does one run to when he's already in the promised land?"
Sounds rather depressing huh? Well, to my surprise, the experience of growing up in squalor, combined with stints in juvenile detentions, coupled with living in a drug and violent culture, became a wake up call for Claude, who would eventually escape the hard streets of Harlem and turn his life around by graduating from Howard University. Toni Morrison, one of Claude's teachers at Howard, was very critical of his work at the time - but this never stopped Claude from writing. In 1965, ManChild in the Promised Land was published. This autobiography quickly became a best seller and was later followed by The Children of Ham, a story about the struggles of young blacks in Harlem.
Since it's release in 1965, Manchild is the 2nd best selling book ever published by Macmillan (over 4 million copies as of 2000).
In my own personal way, this art imitates my life. Life has a way of taking us on a journey that is untamed, unpredictable, yet filled with a substance (in itself) that is a reflection of who we are. In appreciation of my own personal hardship, I am thankful for what my experiences have yielded. My life as a youth has prepared me for doing what I love best - writing. The substance of what I write about is a symbol of who I was - as the Roman god Janus symbolizes - the transition of a young mind that has found his purpose in life.
(Janus is the Roman god of gates and doors (ianua), beginnings and endings, and hence represented with a double-faced head, each looking in opposite directions. He was worshipped at the beginning of the harvest time, planting, marriage, birth, and other types of beginnings, especially the beginnings of important events in a person's life. Janus also represents the transition between primitive life and civilization, between the countryside and the city, peace and war, and the growing-up of young people.)
"I didn't know anything other than my own life, so that was what I wrote..."
C l a u d e B r o w n
born February 23, 1937, New York, NY
died February 2, 2002, New York, NY
What book or novel transformed your life? What was it about that book? If not a book or novel, was it a person? How did this person impact your life? If you could define a title of your life right now, what would you name that autobiography?
(See, this is definitely much bigger than a mere blog series. This is DAY Zero of my "30 Blogs in 30 Days" journey. This 30-day fast isn’t about not eating, not drinking or not having sex—those are only small aspects of what the next month has in store for me. It’s about 30 days of discipline and mental strength. The plan is to write in the moment and post based on my mood and personal outlook for each day. DAY Zero is a point of reflection, but stay tuned... I have plenty of funny tales to tell, poems to write, and observations about relationships, life, politics and myself to unveil.)
Please be sure to visit Just Tonya B. to see what my marathon partner is talking about.