Ward dating

Many children in these schools are travelers on the school-to-prison pipeline.

During the Obama administration the Justice Department released data revealing the overuse of expulsions and suspensions to discipline kids who live in poverty.

Black, brown, Native American, and poor white children are disciplined more harshly than those in the middle and upper classes. Hence the schools themselves have been widely cited as the reasons why kids end up in juvenile facilities and from there begin cycles of incarceration.

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He tells Jojo that the inmates nicknamed Pop River Red because “he rolled with everything like a river, over the fell trees and stumps, through storms and sun.” Then one storm broke that he could not roll through. Pop/River was at Parchman when it was a work farm—a profitable cotton plantation. Inmates worked and lived in a wide open space, but open space, he says, does not mean freedom: You see them open fields we worked in, the way you could look right through that barbed wire, the way you could grab it and get a toehold here, a bloody handhold there, the way they cut them trees flat so that land is empty and open to the ends of the earth, and you think, I can get out of here if I set my mind to it.

Jojo wants to know what stopped River from rolling. There is the modern prison where his father, Michael, is incarcerated. I can follow the right stars south and all the way on home.

You can’t be the same person you were when you walked into the courtroom…. It is the kind of place that would, to use Eady’s words, “cause you to step outta your character.” It has been chronicled in literature: in nonfiction books such as David M.

You can’t be the same person because they are not normal people back there. Oshinsky’s riveting “Worse Than Slavery”; in the blues and rock and roll; and in work songs such as those recorded by John and Alan Lomax, a number of which can be heard in the recent collection Parchman Farm: Photographs and Field Recordings: 1947–1959. Two—thirteen-year-old Jojo and his mother, Leonie—live in the present, and the third—a boy named Richie who is about the same age as Jojo—is a ghost.

Jojo, who has stopped calling Leonie by any maternal name, has got her number: “She ain’t Mam. She ain’t never healed nothing or grown nothing in her life….

Leonie kill things.” Jojo notices this because he sees. His ability to see and the development of his seeing in the course of the novel are what gave me the confidence that this young man will break the cycle of incarceration that has snatched two generations of men in his family. But when the goat’s guts are being pulled out, “the smell of death” conquers him: “The rot coming from something just alive, something hot with blood and life.” He runs away and vomits.

Sometimes he’ll tell me the same story three, even four times.

Hearing him…makes me feel like his voice is a hand he’s reached out to me, like he’s rubbing my back and I can duck whatever makes me feel like I’ll never be able to stand as tall as Pop, never be as sure.

His mother, Leonie, a black woman, is by her own definition Michael’s “baby mama.” Leonie’s father, called Pop by Jojo, spent time at Parchman too, as a teenager. Cross-racial dating is not unusual in the world of this novel; but the previous generation’s racism, like that of Michael’s parents, has not budged. Her daughter, Kayla (short for Michaela, after her father), a toddler, is not yet completely verbal. Mam says that this is because Leonie did not breastfeed Kayla.

Jojo and his younger sister, Kayla, live with Leonie’s parents, Pop and Mam, as do Leonie and Michael when he is out of jail. In the real world, a thirteen-year-old with Jojo’s profile might have an would record everything about him, including information about his family. All of the adults around Jojo are connected to the system of mass incarceration. Mam says the kneading of her brother’s ear is her substitute for the comfort she was not given by her mother. But it’s who she fell in love with that causes her to be haunted by Given’s ghost.

Jojo understands he has to face death to become a man like Pop, his grandfather, whose name is River. Sing, Unburied, Sing has an abundance of smells—vomit, liver frying, pasta sauce, body odor, salt, sulphur, pine, lemon cleaner, fried potatoes. He is very clear about what he needs to do to get the firm foundation that his parents cannot provide.

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