Harvard Educational Review
  1. The House of Joshua

    Meditations on Family and Place

    By Mindy Thompson Fullilove

    Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999. 160 pp. $20.00

    Thoughtful educators are naturally interested in identifying and recognizing the myriad forces that have shaped their students’ experiences. It is important to know the place from which each student has come. After all, without some understanding of students’ emotional, psychological, and environmental histories, teachers and schools cannot teach them effectively. The tenor and structure of the learning environment also play an essential role in student development because the place in which a student is educated invariably shapes not only the quality or type of educational experience, but also the child’s identity to some extent.

    Place is equally fundamental outside the classroom, as most historical clashes have painfully demonstrated. Having access to, or being exiled from, certain areas — countries, towns, neighborhoods, houses, schools, universities, or classrooms — can immutably determine a person’s fortune and fate. Wars are not waged over mere dirt and stones; at issue is the safety of place that land provides.

    In her new book, The House of Joshua, Mindy Thompson Fullilove explores and explains what she calls the “psychology of place” through a series of vignettes focused on her family’s experiences. Each chapter tells a single story, reconstructed from Fullilove’s personal memories, conversations with other participants, and family papers. Organized more or less chronologically, readers are regaled with nine complex and wise tales that address love and laughter, racism and bigotry, displacement and homesteading, ostracism and acceptance, politics and empowerment, and learning and teaching.

    In one chapter we accompany a timid and disconcerted seven-year-old Fullilove through the halls of her newly desegregated elementary school, “a new school on the hill, where the white people lived. It was not in our neighborhood. It was high and big, not our kind of place” (p. 48). In another, we experience her pain and disillusionment as a student at Columbia Medical School, where she realizes that, “as a black student, I was caught in the net of association that went something like this: black patients were drunkards and should be segregated in certain parts of the hospital; black students were inferior, and therefore black doctors had no place in the hierarchy” (p. 82). And in another chapter, Fullilove recounts the challenges of parenting an adopted son who mourns the separation from his long-term foster family:

    We commiserated nightly about the horrors of losing the only home he had ever known . . . this strange turn of events in which his wonderful foster parents had let some yokels take him away from the swimming pool where he really belonged. (p. 113)

    The thread that ties together all of the pieces in this tapestry of narratives is the theme of dislocation: families are uprooted and children misplaced, classrooms and libraries prove to be chilly and hostile sites, ideas are summarily dismissed, and rooms seem inevitably too small. Fullilove’s writing is beautiful and her voice temperate; while it is clear that she is urging readers to think and care more deeply about the politics and meaning of “place” — especially its denial — she manages to avoid indulging in overt exhortations. This is a lovely and thought-provoking work that should be read by anyone interested in effective education and student learning.

    L.N.N.
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    Abstracts

    Tribal Sovereigns
    Reframing Research in American Indian Education
    K. Tsianina Lomawaima
    Symposium: "Habits of Thought and Work"
    The Disciplines and Qualitative Research
    Reba N. Page, George Spindler, Lorie Hammond, Shirley Brice Heath, Mary Haywood Metz, Annie G. Rogers, and Magdalene Lampert

    Book Notes

    Imagining to Learn
    By Jeffrey D. Wilhelm and Brian Edmiston

    New Perspectives on the Holocaust
    Edited by Rochelle L. Millen, with Timothy A. Bennett, Jack D. Mann, Joseph E. O’Connor, and Robert P. Welker

    Natives and Academics Researching and Writing about American Indians
    Edited by Devon A. Mihesuah

    The Struggle of Latino/Latina University Students
    By Felix M. Padilla

    Inside a Head Start Center
    By Deborah Ceglowski

    Students as Researchers
    Edited by Shirley R. Steinberg and Joe L. Kincheloe

    Arts and Learning
    By Merryl Goldberg

    A Passion for Teaching
    Edited by Sarah Levine

    The House of Joshua
    By Mindy Thompson Fullilove

    Charter Schools
    By Seymour B. Sarason

    Many Faces of Mexico
    By Octavio Ruiz, Amy Sanders, and Meredith Sommers

    Debatable Diversity
    By Raymond V. Padilla and Miguel Montiel