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Voices in the Mirror: An Autobiography [Anglais] [Broché]

Gordon Parks


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Description de l'ouvrage

janvier 1992

Alone after his mother’s death, homeless in a Minnesota winter, young Gordon struggled to stay in school, working at menial jobs and riding streetcars all night to escape the cold. Refusing to succumb to despair, he instead transformed his anger at poverty and racism into a creative force and went on to break down one barrier after another. He was the first black photographer at Vogue and Life, and the first black screenwriter and director in Hollywood, at the helm of such projects as the award-winning Shaft. And his novel, The Learning Tree, has sold more than a quarter of a million copies.

Spanning the major events of five decades, Voices in the Mirror takes readers from Minnesota and Washington, D.C., to the glamour of Paris and the ghettos of Rio and Harlem. His intimate portrayals of Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini; of the Muslim and African American icons Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad and Muhammad Ali; of the young militants of the civil rights and black power movements; and of the tragic experiences of the less famous, like the Brazilian youngster Flavio, combine to form an unforgettable story.

Gordon Parks’s life is a metaphor for the courageous vision and extraordinary resilience of the African American community, while also serving as a testament to the spirit and generosity that are its hallmarks.

--Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

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Extrait

One


I was born in the small town of Fort Scott, Kansas. Clumped in the vastness of the prairie, it was proud of its posture as part of a free state, while clinging grimly to the ways of the Deep South. Blacks and whites moved about in deceiving air, seeming to avoid any sort of relationship that might somehow damage their pride. And as they lived, so were they consumed, one race by despair, the other by intolerance. It was a place with an inner music of its own; a tormenting music that provoked our black souls. The grade school was segregated but the high school wasn't--mainly because the town fathers couldn't scrounge up enough money to build a separate one. But even inside those walls of meager learning, black students had to accommodate themselves to the taste of salt. We were not allowed to participate in sports or attend social functions. The class advisers warned us against seeking higher education, adding, "You were meant to be maids and porters." College for us, they said, would be a waste of time and money.

Both the Empress and the Liberty theaters spoke silently, with small signs for blacks pointing toward the "buzzard's roost." From there only could we watch Hoot Gibson and William S. Hart chase Indians across the silent movie screens. White eating places warned us not to poke our heads through their doors or there would be trouble, and we were not allowed to drink a soda in either of the two drugstores. Even the graveyards shunted black burials to unkempt outer fields. Law was white, and issued death to blacks with the flick of a thumb. The executioner was a tobacco-chewing sheriff named Kirby. Humiliated or enraged, most blacks had to take in whatever spirit the white town fathers gave, and that spirit usually kept them in darkness. But there were other blacks with outsized courage, who showed that death was nothing to fear. They too were gun-minded, and as mean as Kirby was, he wasn't stupid. When the opposition became too fierce his old Harley Davidson churned up dust.

In retrospect, I consider myself lucky to be alive--especially when I remember that four of my close friends died of senseless brutality before they were twenty-one. I also consider myself lucky that I didn't kill someone. There was always the opportunity to do so--out of self-defense or uncontrollable anger, and not because of any wrongdoing of my own.

Reflecting now, I realize that, even within the limits of my childhood vision, I was on a search for pride, meanwhile taking measurable glimpses of how certain blacks, who were fed up with racism, rebelled against it.

In 1921, when I was nine, the Tulsa, Oklahoma, race riot took place. Whites invaded the black neighborhood, which turned out to be an armed camp. Many white Tulsans were killed and rumors swept through our community that the fury would spread into the state of Kansas and beyond. At this time Martin, a cousin of mine, decided he would go south to work for a mill that had offered him a job. My mother, knowing his temperament, pleaded with him not to go, but he caught a freight train headed south. Months passed and we had no word of him. Then one day his name flashed across the nation as one of the most wanted men in the country. He had killed a white mill hand who had called him a "dirty nigger" and spat in his face. He had killed another while fleeing the scene.

He came one night. I remember it was raining and I lay in the darkness of my room listening to pounding on the roof. Suddenly the window next to my bed slid up and Martin, soaking wet and cautious, scrambled through the opening. I started to yell as he landed on my bed, but he quickly covered my mouth with his hand and whispered his name, frightening me into silence. He went straight to my mother's room and shook her awake. She prayed over him and then tried to persuade him to surrender. He refused. He went to our old icebox, filled a paper sack with food and went out the same way he had entered. Two weeks later, trapped by lawmen on the viaduct between Kansas City, Kansas, and Missouri, he shot one and escaped again.

None of us ever saw or heard of him after that. But I had sleepless nights wondering if he would be caught and also killed. And I said a prayer for him each night--remembering the huge slabs of peanut brittle he used to bring me, and the thrilling rides he used to give me on the back of his old motorcycle. I loved Martin like a brother. He was a gentle kind person until he was abused or wronged in some way, then he was all fury. Many years later when we were both in Kansas City, his brother Claude pointed at a beaten junkie lying on the sidewalk on Paseo Boulevard. "That's Martin," he said, shaking his head.

"Martin?" I asked in astonishment.

"Yep--my brother and your cousin, but he wouldn't know either one of us. He's in another world. I spoke to him one day, told him who I was and tried to shake his hand. 'I never laid eyes on you, man,' he said, and walked away."

Two words, "dirty nigger," and spit in the face had turned Martin Brown into a rageful murderer. To call what he did an act of rebellion is to beg the question. Those two nasty words cost three men their lives and another his soul. Unless you are black like me and millions of others who have been called "nigger" "darky" "shine" and other names that arouse anger and humiliation, I have no understanding to ask of you. When I was a child the indignities came so often that I began to accept them as normal. I too fought back, but not as viciously as Martin.

I was only twelve when another cousin of mine, Princetta Maxwell, a fair girl with light red hair, came from Kansas City to spend the summer at our house. One day she and I ran, hand in hand, toward the white section of town to meet my mother, who worked there as a domestic. Suddenly three white boys blocked our path. I gripped my cousin's hand and we tried going around them, but they spread out before us.

"Where you going with that nigger, blondie?" one snarled to my cousin.

We stopped. The youngest one eased behind me and dropped to his hands and knees, and the other two shoved me backward. Pain shot through my head as it bumped against the sidewalk, and I could hear Princetta screaming as she ran back toward home for help. I caught spit in my face, and a kick in the neck. I jumped up and started swinging, only to be beaten down again. Then came a kick in the mouth. Grabbing a foot, I upended its owner, scrambled up and started swinging again. Then suddenly there was help--from another white boy. Waldo Wade was in there swinging his fists alongside mine. The three cowards, outnumbered by the lesser count of two, turned tail and ran.

Waldo's left eye began puffing up as we walked along nursing our bruises. "How'd it all start?" he finally asked.

"They thought Princetta was white."

"Idiots," he answered. "Hell, I know'd she was a nigger all the time." Waldo and I had trapped and fished together all our lives, but only through the delicacy of the situation did I resist busting him in his jaw.

Because of similar incidents Princetta had to leave before her vacation was over. She was never to come back and visit us again. As her train pulled out, I asked my mother why whites hated us so much. She was silent for a few moments, trying, I'm sure, to find an answer that would last me for a lifetime. Finally she said, "All whites don't hate you, son. And those that do are in such bad trouble with themselves they need pitying. They're not worth worrying about."


That fight was sort of a turning point. Slowly the frustration was boiling into anger, pushing me to the edge of violence, creating one emotional crisis after another. Why, I was beginning to wonder, had God made some people black and others white? One terrible night I dreamed that I was white, but my skin seemed flabby and loose, so I kept trying to pull it into shape--trying to make it fit. Finally I awoke, frantically clutching my long underwear. Shaking my head at such a crazy dream, I looked closely at my underwear. Well, the damn things were white. Nobody sold black underwear. At least not for boys.

Where could I begin to build pride? In church, God and the saints and angels were always white. In school the textbooks always showed my ancestors picking cotton, dancing jigs or strumming banjos. Africans were always depicted as savages. My history books never mentioned heroic blacks like Hiram Revels, Peter Salem, Benjamin Banneker or Harriet Tubman. Much later I read about Russia's great poet Alexander Pushkin and France's revered novelist Alexandre Dumas, but not until years later did anyone tell me that they were men with black blood.

So in a black and white world anything whiter than I became my enemy. At fourteen I began to strike out--suddenly, quickly and at times without reason. One day, in a fit of temper, I struck my twenty-two-year-old invalid brother (he was a couple of shades lighter than I). Immediately ashamed, I attempted to apologize. Understanding my frustration, he smiled and waved me aside, and I ran from the room humbled and with tears welling. It hurt many times worse when I was told by my sister Gladys that he was incurably ill. Just before he died the following winter he called me to his bedside. "Pedro," he said, using his nickname for me, "for the life of me I don't know why you're so mad at the world. You can't whip it the way you're going about it. It's too big. If you're going to fight it, fight with your brain. It's got a lot more power than your fists."

I remembered those words as I stood watching his coffin lowered into the grave. One day the truth of them would filter through the daily anguish of racism. But that day, still a long way off and smiling coldly, stood waiting. During those times, whites of Kansas acted as though they stood at the center of the universe; behaved as though we Negroes were just... --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

Revue de presse

“A classic of black autobiography.” —Kirkus Reviews


“An engrossing, wise and often wonderful mélange of American cultural history, social commentary, and a portrait of the black artist as a protean creator.” —Charles Johnson, Los Angeles Times

“His life lends a unifying logic to the telling shards and splintered narratives of 20th-century black life.” —New York Times Book Review

“Highly recommended.” —Essence

“His exhilarating, inspirational autobiography provides a searing view of what it’s like to be black in America.” —Publishers Weekly

Voices in the Mirror is a primer on the contradictions of the American dream.” —San Francisco Chronicle
--Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

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Amazon.com: 4.6 étoiles sur 5  5 commentaires
9 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 AN ADVENTURE 19 février 2001
Par Joel Peck - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
Never before have I read a book with such honesty flowing off the pages. As Gordon Parks talks about his life from a young boy to a man you can feel everything he is going through. He doen't hide his feelings and lets you know how he felt at certain times in his life. When he talks about the hate he saw growing up and how he felt about white men, you can sence what it must have been like for him to challenge the odds and become one of the most powerful photographers of his time. Another thing that real made this book powerful was when he talked about his time as a Photo journalist for Time, having to tell people everything through the voice of a journalist and not an activist. He also makes the clear point that pictures speak louder than words. He remarks many times that he used his camera when others like red jackson used a gun. The camera is a powerful weapon in the right hands. If you have ever seen an of Gordon Parks's work or seen his movies, you will enjoy this book. It is a personal glimps in to the life of the man behind the camera.
4 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Picturesque Testament 17 novembre 2005
Par The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
I enjoy reading about a person's life and IN VOICES IN THE MIRROR, the autobiography of Gordon Parks, I found his story interesting, edifying and at times inspirational. Mr. Parks was born into a life where the world made differences in people based on the color of their skin and not their character. However, instead of using their biases as a crutch to not succeed, he worked hard to make his dreams come to fruition.

Mr. Park's life spans many decades, wars and social climates in America. At age 15, he was homeless and living a depressing existence. He worked menial jobs to survive. He persevered and went from working on the railroad to being the first African-American photographer for Life and Vogue magazines. His life's adventures took him all over the world to cover some of the most politically disturbed countries, America's civil right's struggles, as well as Third World areas where poverty was rampant, all which were captured for posterity with his camera. He also composed a musical concerto, wrote books and penned poetry. His first novel, The Learning Tree was made into a motion picture, where he was the director and executive producer, which was an unknown anomaly during this period of time. Let's not forget he was the director of Shaft. His stories and pictures touched the hearts of many Americans, and during his life he received many accolades for what he enjoyed doing. So from the dirt roads of Kansas, Mr. Parks graduated from the school of hard knocks but lived a life that is and was so illustrious, fulfilling and awe-inspiring.

This autobiography presents itself as an honest rendition of Mr. Park's life. He tells his story eloquently and allows readers to feel the emotions he was experiencing in each particular time of his life. He tells readers how powerful a picture can be and the pictures interspersed throughout are a testament to this truth. Readers get a glimpse into his marriages, children and even grandchildren and he shows us he is fallible as well. I truly enjoyed every aspect of this autobiography from the private conversations with Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali; to showing the people in his hometown he indeed was successful, because his life is a history lesson. He made great strides for African-Americans, and no matter how angry and depressed with the situations he faced, he continued to move forward. When the final door shuts on his life, his legacy will always remain.

Reviewed by Cashana Seals

of The RAWSISTAZ™ Reviewers
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 An Admirer 8 août 2006
Par Saundra N. Harris - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
I'm surprised that this book has not gained more notarity. I am an admirer of Gordon Parks. His story is one of inspiration and challenge. An imperfect man who maximized his potential. Gordon Parks is an American Icon. Author, composer, photographer, and mentor his life is simply amazing. From being proclaimed dead at birth to succeeding at everything he touched; his life embodies hope and aspiration.
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Look in the mirror 7 mai 2006
Par soulonice - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
This book is full of life lessons and was told by a man who had plenty of experience to tell them. He speaks about his upbringing, which was humbling to say the least. He tells about the first camera he ever purchased. Not having much experience at all, he took some shots, and the rest was history from that standpoint. He was always humble, and just enjoyed doing the things he loved: photography, literature, and music. He made the most of his opportunities when he was given them. His undying love and support for the poor and the less fortunate is well-chronicled, and his loyalty to fellow Blacks at the harshest of times put him in very compromising situations, but he was always able to adapt, sympathize, and relate to his subjects, and it showed in all of his work. He never compromised his beliefs for personal gain, and he was widely respected for it. This book is a reminder to all who may give up on hoping, dreaming, and staying positive. It's a reminder that life is full of twists and turns, hills and mountains. If you stick it out, the sky's the limit. He is an inspiration to all.
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Voices in the Mirror 17 octobre 2007
Par Scifiwoman - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
This is an excellent book and all young people should read this. It contains history lessons that will open ones eyes.
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