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A Guide for Reading Groups The Return of Buddy Bush
by Shelia P. Moses
1. Pattie Mae says that her grandfather died not from illness or old age, but "from a broken heart about [her] Uncle Buddy and what the white folks did to him. (p.3)" What does she mean? Do you think it is possible to die from a broken heart? What is the connection between mental and physical health? What impact can years of discrimination and mistreatment have on a person's well-being?
2. The Jones family and others in Rich Square observe certain rituals when people pass away. Give examples. What is the meaning behind these customs? What is their purpose, and how do they serve to strengthen family and community in times of crisis? What rituals does your family observe when someone dies? How is death honored in different religions and cultures?
3. Pattie Mae says, "Uncle Buddy should have stayed North. North of Baltimore, where colored men belong, so they can be men (p.2)" Later, Uncle Buddy tells her that southern blacks move to Harlem so they can "get some respect (p. 75)." If you were to ask Pattie Mae and Uncle Buddy to explain what they mean, how would they respond? Why and in what ways was life in the south different from life in the north in the 1940s? What factors (historical, economic, cultural) affected race relations? Is the situation the same today? Why or why not? What has, or has not, changed?
4. What are Pattie Mae's first impressions of New York? What surprises, confuses or excites Pattie Mae about her environment? Consider not only physical and material differences, but cultural differences as well. How does Pattie Mae's experience in the north help her to better understand life in the south? What impact do you think Pattie Mae's trip to Harlem will have on her as she grows into adolescence and adulthood?
5. How does the news media influence Uncle Buddy's trial? What effect does it have on the verdict? Would the outcome have been different if the trial did not have media attention? Explain your answer. Consider how the media influences trials today.
6. What educational opportunities exist for Pattie Mae in North Carolina? Does she go to school regularly? Why or why not? What were public elementary schools like in the U.S. in the 1940s? When she grows up, Pattie Mae says that she wants to attend Shaw University. (This historically black private college was founded in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1865.) Why does she want to go to Shaw? What does she hope to achieve? What do you think she will study?
7. As Shelia Moses explains in her Author's Note, The Return of Buddy Bush
is based on true events in her family's history - "with a little fiction for excitement." What are the basic facts of the story? What do you think might have been embellished, or fictionalized, to heighten the drama?
Activities & Research
1. Put The Return of Buddy Bush
in historical context. The story takes place in 1947. What were the major events in U.S. and world history leading up to this time? Think specifically about what these events meant for African Americans.
2. Write a newspaper article about Uncle Buddy's trial from the perspective of a foreign journalist visiting Rich Square. Think about how the journalist would report the story to readers living in another country. How would he or she present the facts of the case, and how would he or she explain the relationship between blacks and whites in the United States?
3. Research Richard Wright and other African America authors living and working in Harlem in the 1940s, including Langtson Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. As Mr. Wright tells Pattie Mae, "There are black writers, and you should know about them." Write a brief biography of each author. Choose one book or a poem to read.
4. Listen to jazz. This quintessential American music flourished in Harlem. It was popular when Pattie Mae arrived in New York. Listen to music online, or check out recordings from your public library. If there is a local jazz radio station in your area, tune in. Artists to look for include Duke Ellington, Dorothy Dandridge, Cab Calloway, Ethel Waters and Lena Horne. Read about the artists at Harlem: 1900-1940 An African American Community
(http://www.si.umich.edu/CHICO/Harlem/) presented by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
5. Create a conversation between Pattie Mae and Richard Wright. As Pattie Mae puts it, "Mr. Wright [talked] to me for about two hours about what to do and not to do when I get back home. (p. 107)." What advice does Mr. Wright offer? What questions does Pattie Mae ask? Write the dialogue in the form of a script. Act it out with a partner.
6. Learn more about the history of public education in the United States. Visit Separate Is Not Equal: Brown v. Board of Education
(http://www.americanhistory.si.edu/brown/), a Web exhibition presented by the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, for details about the Supreme Court decision that desegregated the public schools. Click on Education Materials to access the Brown v. Board of Education
7. Imagine Pattie Mae's future. What will her life be like? Will she go to school? Will she stay in the south or move north? Will she become involved in the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s? Write a postscript to the story that explains what happens to Pattie Mae in the years following Uncle Buddy's trial.
This reading guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
Margaret K. McElderry Books SimonSaysTEACH.com