An Analytical of the Piece “My Neighborhood” Essay Example

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An Analytical of the Piece “My Neighborhood” Essay Example

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An Analytical of the Piece “My Neighborhood” Essay


Racial discrimination is one of the social issues of our time that may, however we very much try to alleviate, never be removed.  The world will be a dull place to live in if everybody belongs in one ethnicity, hence come the variety.  This variety induces curiosity and interest on each other, and how one perceives and accepts this difference is what makes up prejudices.

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We will examine one particular literary piece that was created by one of the most notable writers of his time, Ishmael Reed.  “My Neighborhood” primarily dwells on the author, Ishmael Reed’s stories and things he can remember the best that he could, from his constant moving to various places.  In this piece, he showed us a peek of a good part of his life and what he makes of the things and people surrounding him.  Further, Reed tells us in his point of view, how things and people of these communities deal with him and of his being black.

Ishmael Reed is one of the notable American writers of his time, having had nominations in prestigious literary bodies (Reed, year, pp – An Analytical of the Piece “My Neighborhood” Essay introduction. 1)[1].  His literary genius has been compared to by others, but then again another one hails Reed as really having “no true predecessor” (Reed, year, pp. 1)[2].

In this analytical essay about the piece, “My Neighborhood”, we will use close textual analysis in an attempt to see the author’s personality, what he focused on and what his purpose is for creating this essay.  We will also attempt to identify the basic elements in analyzing this literature, particularly the theme, the point of view and the tone of this piece.  The essay, however, requires deeper digging as it can be quite deceitful in the sense that it could take the reader astray from identifying the basic elements of literature.

While others chose to fight it and become hostile to one another, others chose to educate others.  These people believed they can make others broaden their awareness about discrimination, and this is what we will find out in this paper.  We will know at the end of this essay how the featured writer, Ishmael Reed, chose to do in order for his reading audience become aware of racism.


The essay starts with Reed informing of the quirks of his current residence, in 53rd Street North Oakland, which is a predominantly black neighborhood.  It somehow does not read as is because he actually started with telling us his stepfather being an evolutionist, which he later on connected with him doing a step “backward” for moving into a black neighborhood (Reed, year, pp. 1)[3].

Reading from his essay, one can easily recognize his focus on racism as he moved along with enumerating the places that he moved into, although the discrimination comes in varying degrees and primarily doesn’t lean on the violent tendency.  Varying degrees of discrimination in a sense that he describes the culture of the communities of the towns he went to, and how these communities become “racists” in their own way.  He experiences little or no discrimination at all in Santa Ynez, California, where he and the white neighborhood get along just fine (Reed, year, pp. 5)[4], while in Bret Harte Way in Berkeley Hills, he cites particularly the instance when one police officer entered his garden gate unannounced, and giving him the alibi that somebody reported homicide in his house just to get himself inside Reed’s house and see what he is up to (Reed, year, pp. 5)[5].  Another is when blacks with an address of 53rd Street, North Oakland, are being treated strictly on bill collections, like they are being “reprimanded” already if missed a due date (Reed, year, pp. 24)[6].  Once Reed tried to obtain a bank loan but was given a hard time getting one, and when he tried contacting the same bank and was mistaken as a white client, he was told he can get his loan the day after (Reed, year, pp. 24)[7].  No matter where he goes, however, discrimination is still present.

The writer makes use of simple words, thereby leading the readers to an easy read.  He could conjure the readers’ imagination by being able to give vivid descriptions.  Like taking his readers to a physical tour, he describes the towns and its culture as if the reader was him.  He found it fascinating to see retired white men getting inside their own cars just to spend the day snoozing, reading the paper or listening to the radio (Reed, year, pp. 5)[8].  Reed likewise makes use of first person narration point of view, having him narrate his personal experiences.

Further, Reed uses humor in this piece, reflecting on his observation with jest and inserting comic anecdotes.  When he was given a snide lip by a woman from Pacific Gas and Electric, he had to comment that he was more inconvenienced with just paying his monthly bills than getting them to fix his stove (Reed, year, 24)[9], hinting subtly it was because he is black that everything cannot be easy and others may not go easy on him.

The author of the essay also likes to make use of Irony.  He commented that his evolutionist stepfather, whose concept of moving forward is for the black people to be able to co-mingle with the white community, might think he was going “backwards” as he decides to stay in a predominantly black neighborhood (Reed, year, 1)[10].  Reed in fact praises his North Oakland neighbors more than any other neighbors he had, which makes up the irony in the sense that Reed may have moved “forward” in the concept of his stepfather, but he did not and instead, moved “backward” and defied said concept.  Another interesting point is when he was invited by his wife’s employers to use their cabin, where Reed can be able to concentrate on his writing, but he did not accept their offer.  Reed mused what would their reaction be should they found out he is black (Reed, year, 1)[11].  Since Reed’s wife, Carla Blank is white, he assumed that the employers thought Blank’s husband is also white.  Interracial union does not fit in the racist’s world, and this is an irony of his life, as a black writer who writes of racism, and having a white wife.  Furthermore, Reed talks about racism in his essay and somehow contrasted it with the goodness of his neighbors in an attempt to do away with racism in general, by helping each other and offering a hand in times of a neighborhood trouble.

As easy as it may seem to read his work, one could still find himself off-guard because Reed can throw you to different directions.  The essay is not ambiguous but the context can sometimes lead you away to the main subject.  One has to re-read in order to digest his point.  It was like tracing branches of a tree but it does not necessarily have to, for you need to only get back to the root to be able to understand the piece.  In general, Reed’s theme is about racism.  However, the tone of his essay is not quite distinguishable at first.  Reed makes use of humor in the sense that he tells a story, and reflects them with funny anecdotes.  If one should not see Reed’s biography, and would just concentrate on this piece alone, it would be conclusive that Reed views his situation in a come-what-may attitude.  He adds lightness to the negativism of his situation by being funny.  In a way, he contrasts this negativism by not looking at it too seriously.  In a come-what-may attitude, he accepts the negativism because he cannot do anything about the situation, and would rather have a laugh at it and move on, make do with what he has, what he can offer and what he can get.

Reed informs us of many instances that he experienced discrimination in various places he moved to.  But he favors one particular place and that is his current residence, which is the North Oakland.  At first he tells us of the apprehensions he felt when he moved in, as well his new neighbor’s apprehensions over the new occupants.  But Reed later won his neighbors over when he helped get rid of the pesky pigeons “roosting in the crevices of this house” (Reed, year, pp. 15)[12].  Reed later got to know each of his neighbor’s names, was able to socialize with them in various occasions, and have become his friends.  He praises his neighborhood in the sense that he liked how his neighborhood helps each other (Reed, year, pp. 30)[13].  Reed tells of his neighbors who keep an eye on the surrounding area, and where they would converse with him of ongoing political comedies in some states (Reed, year, 24)[14].  The neighbors would also offer to watch another’s house if the owner is away (Reed, year, 30)[15].  Should there be any problem, the neighbors are ready to lend a hand (Reed, year, 30)[16].  Likewise, Reed tells us of his neighbors who still know the basic skills to survive, like hunting or fishing (Reed, year, 24)[17].  Further, Reed emphasizes that his neighbors are loyal Americans but not to a point of fanaticism (Reed, year, 24)[18].

Perhaps the fact that barely few whites stay in North Oakland that the neighborhood comes to terms with discrimination, and will do whatever it takes to help each other despite of.  Reed tells us of the dwellers, present and past, of North Oakland.  The shops there would be owned by Koreans, Italians, French, Germans, Israelis, Africans (Reed, year, pp. 25)[19].  Past dwellers would consist of Italians and Portuguese, where Reed later learned from his neighbors (Reed, year, pp. 25)[20].  In this location of mixed race, discrimination is something they have to put up with but not to a point that they would allow it affect their lives.  They recognize racism but it does not put them down.  They would rather concentrate on other important things than that.  Communicating and helping each other out is one thing that they resolved to do instead of dwelling on what they cannot do anything about.  This is how Reed paints the picture of his neighborhood.


My Neighborhood is a meditative tour written by Ishmael Reed, on the various places that he moved to during particular parts of his life.  The literary piece is a Nonfiction Prose.  It uses First Person Narration point of view.  The literature’s theme is discrimination.  The tone makes use of humor, even satirical.  His view of the subject light, yet is able to develop strength to get the readers into thinking, what could one do to help, or to avoid if not to prevent the situation.

As a writer, Reed tells us of his stories and his main point.  As a person, he reflects on his situation in life and how he handles it.  But he focused more on a particular neighborhood which is the North Oakland neighborhood.  During the course on reading the essay, he compares the places he has stayed, but he raises his neighbors from North Oakland well by describing them as a “Human Neighborhood” (Reed, year, pp. 30)[21].  These two words pretty much summed up the focus of this literary piece.

Further, Reed tells us of Racism.  However, he also pointed to us that Racism, although should not be taken for granted, is not something to be taken seriously either.  He tells us that despite of the negative situation, one should move on and continue life.  Likewise, Reed emphasized that we can be good to each other (his neighborhood) rather than look down to people just because they possess different ethnicity or color.  Reed believes and keeps his faith to mankind.  Reed gives us this message that someday, everyone can understand and will be able to see beyond the different color, race or ethnicity.


Reed, Ishmael (year).  My Neighborhood.  Title of Book, 1-30.

[1] Ishmael Reed, My Neighborhood (Place of publication:  year of publication), 1.

[2] Ibid, 1.

[3] Ibid, 1.

[4] Ishmael Reed, My Neighborhood (Place of publication:  year of publication), 2.

[5] Ibid, 5.

[6] Ibid, 24.

[7] Ibid, 24.

[8] Ibid, 5.

[9]  Ishmael Reed, My Neighborhood (Place of publication:  year of publication), 24.

[10] Ibid, 1.

[11] Ibid, 1.

[12] Ishmael Reed, My Neighborhood (Place of publication:  year of publication), 15.

[13] Ibid, 30.

[14] Ibid, 24.

[15] Ibid, 30.

[16] Ibid, 30.

[17] Ishmael Reed, My Neighborhood (Place of publication:  year of publication), 24.

[18] Ibid, 24.

[19] Ibid, 25.

[20] Ibid, 25.

[21] Ibid, 30.

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