Black Boy Annotation Guide
Annotations are the notes you take in the margins of a book you are reading. Annotating a
text is your way of “talking back” to it. It traces your thoughts, questions, predictions,
analyses, etc. throughout the book. It is also the best way to find your way back to a specific
part of the book when writing an essay on it later (hint, hint: you will be writing an essay
on it later).
To annotate is not just to underline or highlight or bracket certain passages but to also
write your thoughts about the passage. Annotations are written with a pencil, not a
highlighter. If you do not have your own copy of the book you must use Post-it notes.
General annotation guidelines:
- Define words you don’t know.
- React to what surprises you (!), confuses you (?), pleases you (), disgusts you (ew!)…
- Make connections to your life, the world, or another text (book, movie, song, etc.)
- Make connections to other parts of the book. Go back and find the page number of the
other passage and write it next to the new one.
- Mark the elements (plot structure, setting/mood, character, shifts in point of view,
tone, irony, etc.) and techniques (imagery, diction, figurative language, odd
punctuation, etc.) the author uses and comment on the effect of these elements and
techniques (i.e. what is the connotation of a specific word?). What might the author’s
purpose be in using them in the way he or she does?
- Become a textual tourist. Note what is unusual and conjecture as to WHY the author is
including a specific detail or writing in a particular way.
Annotation guidelines specific to Black Boy:
What are the effects of racism on Richard? In what ways does he critique white
culture? In what ways does he critique his own black culture? Based on evidence from
the book, what are the roots of racism and is it possible to end it?
- Individual v. society
How and why does Richard separate himself from others? In which ways does he
attempt to connect with others? What are the consequences of his interactions with his
family, friends, employers, comrades, etc.?
- Power of the written and spoken word
How does Richard make sense of his life? How does he make his life meaningful?
Hunger (both literal and metaphorical)
In addition to your annotations, you will write (in the book) a brief summary at the end of
each chapter. I will periodically collect your books to check your annotations/summaries
for a grade.