Topics & Questions for Discussion
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Common opens his autobiography with descriptions of his family from two polar perspectives. He wonders what others saw when they looked at his family. At this point in the autobiography, how do you perceive his family?
Writing seems to be freeing to Common. What does writing do for you? What do you do to free yourself?
In the letter to his mother, Common writes, “Thank you for being my mother before you became my best friend.” Do you sometimes feel that your parents don’t understand you? Do you want your parents to be your friend so that they can better understand you? Why or why not? Why do you think that parents can’t be their children’s friends?
Common states in the letter to his mother that the most important lesson he learned from her was to care for others. What has been the most important lesson that you have learned from one of your parents thus far?
Why do you think that Common was confused by his father’s absence when he was a child? Why do you think it was easier for him to be angry instead of confused? Has there ever been in time in your life when it was easier to be angry than confused?
When Rashid analyzed his father’s lack of parenting, he had to reflect on his own lack of parenting. He wrote, “It was never for lack of love, but for lack of fight. I haven't fought at certain times to be around her.” Wouldn’t love make you fight for your child? What emotion—love or fear—did Rashid allow to influence his decision-making as a parent?
Common uses the term “nigga” 44 times in this book. During various interviews, Common has been asked about his use of the word. Common’s defense has been that the word is a term of endearment. Research terms of endearment. Explain at least three terms. Research the origin of the word “nigga”. How does "nigga" compare to the other terms of endearment that you identified? Do you think African-American youths understand the nature of the word? Why or why not? Do you think anyone should use the word? Why or why not? Do you think African- Americans should use the word with each other? Why or why not?
Read page 144. Why do you think Common felt like giving up at that point in his career? What emotion—love or fear—dominated his decision?
Do you think the song “I Used to Lover H.E.R.” played an unintentional role in the East Coast— West Coast war? Why or why not?
Common states that whenever he needs to remove something or someone from his life in order to succeed, he does it. What are you willing to remove from your life in order to be successful? How could those things hinder you from being successful?