Tips for Reading the Interviews with Former Slaves
Read the Chapter Introductions and the Introductions to Each
Interview/Narrative. The introductions are short and easy to read, and can
help you identify important issues, topics, and events to look for while you
Focus on the Big Picture. The first time you read each narrative,
rather than concentrating on following and understanding each and every
detail, concentrate on gaining a sense of the overall topic or event described
by each narrative. You can always go back and re-read.
Keep Reading without Stopping. Stopping every time you come
across a word or term you don't know or understand will slow you down,
detracting from the overall impact of the narrative. In most cases, even if you
don't know a specific word, you can still understand the gist of the
interviewee's description. In many cases, you'll even be able to figure out
what a word or term means based on the context. You can quickly jot down
any terms or words you don't know to look up or research after you are
finished reading the entire selection.
Read More than Once. The first time you read, focus on the big
picture, and read straight through without stopping. However, if there are
certain sections that particularly interest or intrigue you, re-read them. The
next time you read, you can go through more slowly and thoroughly,
appreciating individual details, concentrating on the language, noticing specific
images, words and phrases.
Read Out Loud. Since these are transcriptions of spoken interviews,
they have a logic and flow that is more like spoken conversation than formal
written English. If you read the selections out loud, hearing the words as they
were originally spoken, you can better recapture that rhythm, and more of it will
make sense. This is especially true of those narratives written in dialect; on
the page, this writing can look bizarre and unfamiliar, but as soon as you start
reading out loud, it sounds more like regular spoken speech.
Keep a Reading Journal. Writing is one of the best ways to help
improve reading comprehension. When you write about something, you begin
the work of processing information and making it a part of your knowledge.
You also more formally articulate your thoughts, questions, and responses
regarding what you read in a way you wouldn't if you simply closed the book
and walked away. You therefore might consider keeping a Reading Journal as
you go through Remembering Slavery. After reading each chapter, or
individual slave narrative, take a few minutes to freewrite in your journal. (See
description of freewriting in Chapter 2). You can also use the journal to respond
to the questions included in this Reading Guide, as well as to write down any
of your own questions or thoughts about the material. You might even sketch
some drawings, or write a poem or short story. It's your journal; you can do
what you like in it.
Form a Book Discussion Group. The journal provides a means of
discussing the book with yourself; however, it can also be extremely valuable
to discuss what you read with others. Consider forming an informal discussion
group, with friends and/or family. This will provide an opportunity for you to
hear other people's reactions and questions, and share your own. Very often,
by expressing a thought out loud, you begin to pinpoint exactly what you
understand and/or how you feel In a group, each member will have his or her
own individual areas of interest, expertise and knowledge to share.
Make a plan to meet as a group after everyone has had a chance to
read a portion of the book. Since the narratives lend themselves so well to
reading out loud, you might have some dramatic readings from the book;
different members of the group might choose passages they find particulary
interesting or troubling, and prepare recitations to be done before the group.
This will make the group meetings particularly engaging.
For some tips on how to run your discussion group, read the section on
forming a discussion group in the Tips for Listening section in Chapter 2.
Use the Reading Guide: This Reading Guide is like having your own
personal tutor or discussion partner for Remembering Slavery, with a variety of
activities and questions to help make reading a more interesting, informative,
and meaningful experience. For each of the book's five sections, you'll find, as
with the Listening Guide, a Preview to help you begin thinking about that
chapter's important issues before you start reading, and a Reading Goal with
topics to focus on while reading. Since you may not have time to read the
entire chapter, each section of the Learning Guide includes a listing of
Selected Readings that you might focus on to get an overall sense of the
chapter's issues and themes. Following the Selected Readings are a series of
thought-provoking, informative, and interesting Follow-Up Questions and
Additional Activities. Remember to freewrite in response to any questions you
find in the Reading Guide (see freewriting description in Chapter 2).