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Book Report

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Gwendolyn Brook's short poem "We Real Cool," is featured in her 1960's book The Bean Eaters. Written in the early years of the Civil Rights movement, the book was inspired by social issues that were occurring in Chicago's south-side neighborhood of Bronzeville. In this particular poem, Brooks focuses on the educational integrity of seven pool players who she passes in her Chicago neighborhood, at pool hall called The Golden Shovel (Poets.org). Instead of judging the boys for not being at school, she questions why they are all there. "We Real Cool" uses literary devices such as alliteration and irony to convey that as teenagers combine to form groups, their own individualism slowly diminishes.

Brooks was the first of two children born to Keziah Wims and Dave Brooks on June 7, 1917 in Topeka, Kansas. Her paternal grandfather was Lucas Brooks, a field slave. Family history states that Lucas threw his master into a hollow stump and escaped to join the Union Army (Kent 1). As for Brooks's maternal grandparents, they seemed to face less hardship than that of the paternal family. Keziah and Dave were wedded in July 1916 and raised their two children, Gwendolyn and Raymond, in the poor south side section of Chicago. Her mother was a full time stay-at-home mom and her father gave up his desire to attend medical school to work as a janitor (eNotes). Early on, Brooks experienced racial prejudice in grade school and was often ignored by the other children. Finding comfort in reading and writing, her parents noticed their daughter's talent for poetry when she was seven years old (Kent, 5).



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