Study Guide

A Poem for My Librarian, Mrs. Long Innocence

By Nikki Giovanni

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In "A Poem for My Librarian, Mrs. Long," Nikki Giovanni reflects on her childhood in Knoxville, at a time when the pace was slower and her chief pleasures were books, books… and more books. Oh, and music too: playful, soulful songs about love and romance sung by glamorous celebrities. She also shows us two powerful protectors of her innocent childhood world: Mrs. Long and Grandma. While there are things threatening this innocence—note the "troubled little girl" included in the title and the problems caused by discrimination—this time of exploration and open doors is preserved in Giovanni's memory as a safe and wondrous moment in her life.

Questions About Innocence

  1. How does Giovanni set up the poem as a reflection on the past?
  2. How old do you think the poet was when she visited Mrs. Long's library? Is it easy to tell?
  3. What was so important to Giovanni about her interactions with Mrs. Long? What did her "friendship" with the librarian provide?
  4. What does the line "Mrs. Long opened that wardrobe" mean? Is this a positive thing for the young poet?

Chew on This

Giovanni writes a poem in praise of her librarian because Mrs. Long helped protect her childhood by shielding her from the difficulties of the outside world—props to Mrs. Long.

Giovanni credits the simplicity of her childhood for making her into the poet she has become.

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