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At one point, Haulsey describes the heroine's remembrance of a tale that her father related to her mother as "a lively dancing thing, draped in green and gold, and scented with almonds." That is also an apt description of Angel of Harlem. This is a lyrical, intoxicating, and timeless novel." -- Mel Watkins, author of Dancing With Strangers: A Memoir and On the Real Side: A History of African American Humor
"Kuwana Haulsey is an awe-inspiring artist with a rare willingness to high-dive into the abyss, not troubled by such mere trifles as where she'll land. This beautiful, expressive novel displays her unique gift for delving straight to the heart of the human condition. With Angel of Harlem, Haulsey has once again managed to take my breath away." -- Nick Chiles, author of Love Don't Live Here Anymore
Praise for Kuwana Haulsey and The Red Moon
“Haulsey deftly plays tangled personal and cultural differences against one another [in her] smoothly written, engrossing novel.”
–The Washington Post Book World
“The Red Moon is an impressive first novel [that is] moving, shocking, and unforgettable.”
“This is a novel that should be read by everyone who wants insight into modern Africa and the women who mother and daughter it.”
“This unflinching tale marks Haulsey as a promising young writer.”
From the Hardcover edition.
A gifted, beautiful young woman in the 1920s, May Edward Chinn dreams only of music. For years she accompanies the famed singer Paul Robeson. However, a racist professor ends her hopes of becoming a concert pianist. But from one dashed dream blooms another: May would become a doctor instead---the first black female physician in all of New York.
Giddy with the wonder of the Harlem Renaissance and fueled by firebrand friends like Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, May doggedly pursues her ambitions while striving to overcome the pains of her past: the death of a fiancé, a lost child, and a distant father ravished by the legacy of slavery. With every grief she encounters, a resilient piece of herself locks into place. At times risking her life--attending to men stabbed in their homes and women left to die in filthy alleys--May struggles to carve out a place for herself within a medical world that still teaches that a "Negro" brain is not anatomically wired for higher thinking. Yet against the odds, she achieves her goal, starts her own practice, and becomes one of the first cancer specialists in the city.
Alive with the pulse of black unrest in 1920s New York, this beautifully textured novel moves with fearlessness and gracethrough a history that is by turns ugly and sublime. With Angel of Harlem, critically acclaimed author Kuwana Haulsey gives poetic voice to the story of a remarkable woman who had the courage to dream and live beyond her era's limitations.
1. Throughout the book, several of the characters experience moments when they are forced to make decisions that alter the course of their life. Discuss these turning points and what they reveal about each of the major characters.
2. One of May's greatest regrets is that her father cannot love her as she is. To May, her father has always seemed more focused on what she should be rather than what she wanted to be. Is this true?
3. William and Lulu Chinn are two strong but often opposing characters in Angels of Harlem. Both are dominant forces in May's life and she is very much the child of both parents. Discuss the ways the two shape her character.
4. William Chinn is haunted by his past and his own failed ambitions throughout his life. How much of his own history influences his choices and his treatment of May?
5. As a family, the Chinns are rarely apart from each other. Although there are periods where Lulu, William and May are separated, they ultimately reunite and by the end, have spent many years in uneasy company with each other. Discuss the complicated nature of the Chinn family. Why do they stay together?
6. In medicine May finds a purpose that she did not have as a musician. How does her choice of medicine change her life?
7. Profound loss is a theme that runs throughout Angels of Harlem. Neither William or May ever fully recover after losing people they love. Explain how the loss of Fanny and the loss of Coleman and Phillip shape May and William Chinn as characters. What is the significance of Fanny's death and the way it occurred?
8. Many of May's decisions are made against the wishes her father. Does his opposition affect on her? Does she succeed in spite of her father or because of him?
9. May's education allows her to break free from the life of menial labor both of her parents must endure. Lulu places great faith in education while William does not. Why? Does William discourage May's education because he is afraid she will fail or that she will not be permitted to succeed?
10. Of the three men May falls in love with, the first disappoints her, the second is taken from her by death and the last she refuses. Why does she push Steven away? Does her experience with Gilbert and Coleman affect this choice? Why is she unable to allow herself happiness?
11. Much of the Angel of Harlem takes place during the Jazz age, the Harlem Renaissance, and a growing civil rights movement. How do real events shape the story? How do the development of the characters and plot mirror real life events?