Sunday, October 23, 2011

Reading Rosa Lee

This week, we're looking at how journalist Leon Dash created a window into American poverty when he wrote his Washington Post series about Rosa Lee Cunningham and her family. The series received a lot of criticism for reinforcing stereotypes about poor African Americans, but it also generated discussion about how public agencies in the nation's capital ignored what was happening in Rosa Lee's household.

Inner City Blues, a review by Douglas J. Besharov
Besharov reviews the book and calls Rosa Lee's form of parenting "child abuse."

Readers React: 4,600 readers contacted The Washington Post to respond to the series about Rosa Lee -- installments were published in The Post before the series became a book.

Rosa Lee's Obituary: Leon Dash spent six years chronicling Rosa Lee's life. Before she died, she called him "a friend."

Further Questions to Consider

What's your experience with what Dash calls "the underclass"?
Does this this book give you a new perspective on poverty?
Does it reinforce any stereotypes?
How would you describe Rosa Lee's level of literacy?
What opportunities did Rosa Lee have to get out of poverty?
How would you describe Rosa Lee's upbringing?
Would you describe Rosa Lee's method of parenting as "child abuse"?
Would you agree that Rosa Lee was a victim of child abuse?

Would education have changed Rosa Lee's prospects?
Did anyone offer Rosa Lee guidance?
How about her children?

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