November 2010 Archives

Blog 4

For me, the most interesting piece that we have read in the past couple of weeks was "Teething Trouble" for a variety of reasons. First of all, I just thought the piece had a level of humor that has been missing from what has been assigned lately (I haven't laughed out loud at a piece since "The Stolen Child"), and I really appreciated how Smith was able to layer the story. The aspect of religion coming full circle was just brilliant in my opinion, with her starting off wishing to be saved by Ryan and rejecting him in the end for his religious "awakening." Also, the way that Smith talked about Clara's sexuality by connecting it to religious language was humorous and well thought out. By putting the feeling of being saved by Ryan with "the nether region of the unmentionables," Smith is showing just how deeply Clara's religion is connected to her life, as she feels arousal by the thought of having a religious connection with Ryan.

The other thing about this piece that I liked was reading it and thinking back to how I perceived the "woman writer" before this course. I would have expected a teenage romance story that was written by a woman writer to be much more flowery, with a prince charming and flowerly language. Smith, however, pushes completely against this, with a not so epic love story that was awkward and written in sometimes vulgar-ish language.

Blog 4

I know this is two hours late and I don't have an excuse other than I completely forgot until I laid my head on my pillow to sleep and thoughts of every kind flooded my head as they usually do. I apologize for being absent-minded. :) But anyways, the chapter we read from Zadie Smith's book was wonderful. I enjoyed her writing style as well as the plot and such. The one theme that stuck out to me was faith and defiance of it as well. I have found myself and others defying faith and all of its rules, watching in disagreement at those who do follow their religion and do seemingly illogical and space-invasive things to get into 'heaven'. It was beautiful the way Smith transformed Clara from a follower into her own person, or at least the beginnings of the person she truly wanted to be. The line that stuck out to me happened after being with Ryan Topps caused Clara to continually forget about her religious ways. She decided: "She would not tell anyone about missing steps. She discovered dope, forgot the staircase, and began taking the elevator." That line was so profound! What does it mean to take the elevator instead of the stairs! What a wonderful metaphor used throughout the story (stairs), and to evolve it by deciding to take the elevator... It was great, and described the transition perfectly, and beautifully: Clara found a new way to live, a more convenient way, a leisurely way... She could simply push a button and arrive at another floor without having to worry about missing steps... What a luxury! :) I am interested, very much so, to read the entire novel!

Blog 4

Two Words by Isabel Allende was a fascinating story about a woman name Belisa Crepusculario who made living by selling words to people. One day, while sitting in her tent, a group of Colonel's men abduct her and was taken to the Colonel. The Colonel wanted Belisa to write a speech that would win people's hearts. After finishing writing the speech, the Colonel offered her to pay fifty centavos and in exchange, she gave the general two secret words. It was at this point that I had hard time understanding what those two secret words were. I never figured out what those two secret words were and the story ends without telling us what they were. I think if I knew those two words, I would have a better understanding on how the story ends and knowing those two words would have given me a different view on how the story ends.

11/19/2010 Blog

I enjoyed reading Gordimer's piece, Comrades, because I felt it was able to bring me into the place of the woman's (main character's) position. Very often, in stories of racial or political issues, authors tend to bring the reader into the perspective of the victim and often neglect the emotion or thoughts of the person who is not directly affiliated with being the "true victim." Her take on this is especially effective because she, in reality, was very involved in the South African politics; through her knowledge of the effects of white supremacy and its negative tolls on society, Gordimer is able to illustrate the realities that were to be the futures of the young boys in her home (who could barely handle the awkward situation of being personally offered food in a white woman's home).

Blog #4

I really enjoyed Annie Callan's "How Ireland Lost the World Cup". In my Gender Violence in a Global Perspective class I am taking this semester I am writing my final paper on Ireland and the way women are treated there, so this story offered some relevant insight into my project. I enjoyed the way this story was somewhat divergent from the majority of the other pieces we have read this semester in that it portrays a positive view of a male/female relationship. Though it ends tragically, the romance between Emer and Rory is sweet, genuine and positive. The nuances of their relationship make it unique, and explores the intensity of falling in love, and of grief and loss. We discussed in class that their relationship probably would not have had happened if they had been in Ireland since they come from such starkly different social situations, but in America they shared the quality that they were both Irish and this allowed their relationship to bloom from that connection. I think that says something interesting about context and how it really molds the potential of a situation. Overall, lovely story.

Blog #4

Zadie Smith's "Teething Trouble" is a perfect rendering of a cynic's thoughts debunking modern romance. The story opens with a traditional case of an awkward high school crush, ripe with weird moments and adolescent desire. The scene where Clara is first invited into Ryan's house is both cringe-worthy and very reminiscent of awkward teenaged moments. Smith follows the average storyline most teenaged relationships do, and yet she does it with such bite and honesty, setting the reader up to feel ridiculous if by the end we're still advocating ideas like "true love" and finding "the one." Of course, Clara is drawn to Ryan in a somewhat romantic, fanciful way: they're both awkward outsiders in their school. But Smith turns the tables on us when we discover not only is he not the boy Clara thought she had fallen for, but also that love is both fleeting and not necessarily limited. In the end, Clara falls for another guy, essentially at random as she looks the "gray-green eyes of loss." Clara's desperation and the ease into which she slips into a new relationship is Smith's exemplifying that life doesn't always work out like the Disney Princes tales we're fed from a young age, and that maybe we should consider that in our day-to-day relationships instead of being so complacent.

Blog 4

I love love the story "two words" by Isabel Allende. Until this day I still wonder what "two words" did she tell the Colonel. This just bother me, however I found the story to be such a motivation at how wonderful learning how to write is. One of her quote that speak to me the most is "Words make their way in the word without a master, and that anyone with a little cleverness can appropriate and do business with them" (Allende 214). I just totally realize that this is so true. That when speaking with words, it is like being in a world where there is no right or no wrong. This also remind me of Jennifer DiMarco "Word Warrior" how writing can be like a heaven to some people. These two reading just make me appreciate the way how human communicate with words, it is as if they are their own individual people and they can shape us as well as we can shape them. Like how the two words Belisa told the Colonel and it had shape him or how DiMarco have use world to shape her little own heaven. Through this semester reading, these two reading speak the most to me about words and about writing as a whole! It is so wonderful how many message writing can give! I love it!!!

blog 4

Ama Ata Aidoo captures the dynamics of sisterhood in her story "Two Sisters." Sisters often form opinions about the others actions. Connie believes her sister Mercy's relationships are sinful because she is a general's mistress. Mercy, on the other hand, believes Connie is a hypocrite because she lets her husband cheat on her. She allows her husband to "behave the way [he does] instead of seizing some freedom [herself]" (90). Her husband is aware of her knowledge of his adultery, but they joke about it. Connie is more concerned that Mercy is other woman in another person's life. Aidoo does not say which person is wrong or right in this story. She does not condone the actions of either sister, but equally portrays each side of the argument. Sisters are supposed to step into each other's lives when they believe the other's actions are wrong. They do it because they love and care for each other, and this love is evident through the pleas and tears shed from Connie.

Blog 4

The stairs featured in the piece "Teething Trouble" by Zadie Smith are the metaphor which sums up the transition Clara takes through her relationship with Ryan Topps. I really love the stair metaphor Smith utilizes throughout the piece; from Clara resorting to the stair description of the Jehovah religion when she fails to find a topic of conversation with Ryan, to the staircase on which she meets Archie, her second love interest. The stairs are a great metaphor to use in pieces like this because stairs often connote being lost as well as status quo reflected in the piece. Clara discovered the value of those living at the lower level of the staircase; the "Hippies, Flakes, Freaks, and Funky Folk." Clara discovered that some of the best people live on the lower level of the staircase of life. The value reflected through the staircase metaphor in this piece reflects the transformation Clara goes through as well as her getting lost on her stairway and meeting those below the top tier.

Blog 4

The reading by Annie Callan is one that I enjoyed the most these past two weeks. I really like this sort of tragic love story. These two native Irish people who come across eachother in a circumstance ( the squirting of the beer in Emmers eye) that would likely not bring them together, but it did because they were able to find eachother and . What intrigued me the most in this reading was the ending line. Where Emmer is reading the note of Rory's death and it says "Widow. Wanderer. Beloved." I just thought this was crushing. i read this story the entire time and to me i just felt like Rory was this man who kept putting on sort of a show for Emmer with all his flowers and calling her "love" but he still had so many secrets from her that obviously we eventually see leads to his death. I just really enjoy a story where you can see how people come together for all the soccer games and are united and so passionate about something. im such a sucker for a love story, even if it ends tragically. in my eyes i guess i hope Rory really was this man who loved Emmer, and what can i say, i think every girl would love an irish man who sent her flowers regularly at work and when he speaks to you, he calls you love. Even though this story had such a heartbreaking ending with the death of Rory, i cant help but over look the little things like we talked about in class about the unity simple things like a soccer game bring to a community, that make me just really enjoy reading peices like this.

blog 4 leah vogel

One thing that sticks with me since Thursday's discussion is the overall negative opinion towards Zadie Smith's writing style and Teething Trouble in general. Her direct and blatant writing style is so refreshing to me, not that I don't appreciate a well thought out metaphor now and again I actually really enjoyed the story and all of the awesome layers she incorporated into Clara's coming of age. It is incredibly relatable; it really is an awkward and hilarious read.. Whether or not you can truly understand Smith when she says "For ridding oneself of faith is like boiling seaweed to retrieve the salt- something is gained but something is lost." I thought this was fantastic. I have never heard it described that way. As gray, as something not bad but not absolutely good either. She does a wonderful job illustrating the complexities of human consciousness and our desire to be happy.

Blog #4

Ann Callan is absolutely amazing. There is something to say about Irish storytellers. They never fail to draw you into their worlds, as if they are born with some gift. At least that was my experience while in Northern Ireland. Everywhere I went people has stories to tell.
The pride that Irish people had surrounding the World Cup was enough to bring potential enemies together in this story. In Ireland these two would have easily never spoken. Away from home somehow it made sense for them to be together. Perhaps back home she never would have believed in his kindness, so close to all of the signs that made him the enemy. With nothing but flowers and kindness in a strange new land she surrendered to the possibility. Okay I will admit, it was a bit corny. Of course she finds an Irish man in America, a man who reminds her of everything she doesn't want in a lover. But there is something to be said about the ways our perception shifts when we are taken out of our element. Wither or not this guy was who he said he was, I am happy she was able to experience his soft kindness. The troubles have torn Irish people apart and made their lives rough and defensive. But love and kindness is in everyone...its what they fight for. Its worth fighting for.

Blog # 3

Its been some time since our discussion of these readings in class but I am glad to return to them and write this blog. Thoughts can come to late, but its never too late to think.

The piece that drew me in the most was "Lyric in a Time of Violence" by Meena Alexander. This work captures a tragedy in a way that many have tried and failed to do. I remember hearing people talk about how scared they were, the news flashes and blocked phone lines. I remembered my math teacher, he looked like Santa Clause. He entered our classroom and said with a patient and calm tone(he was covering his fear) that "...the United States are under attack". What possessed him to phrase it the way he did I am not sure. The unknown...perhaps. I remember later thinking as a million theories were expressed through different speeches, films, and articles that the United States was attacking itself. Meena Alexander made this even more real for me. Yes...we were attacking ourselves, and anyone who fit our description of terrorist. I remember walking in the airport as a brown woman, in fear of who might stop me. Asking me to take my shoes off and empty my bags. It was a terrible feeling being scared in my own home.
Meena Alexander captured the emotions...the rawest though processes that people seemed to forget. Either they forgot to say it or they forgot how to say it.

Blog #4

There were many aspects of "Teething Trouble" that I both enjoyed and felt thoughtful about. Clara is the basis for most of them. The beginning was interesting due to Clara's zest for her religion. It felt very correct and similar to what most children go through with their parents. Often times, a young person will simply believe what their parents believe (especially if said parent is overzealous about it), and this idea seemed to fit Clara, especially since she changed her opinion towards it at the end. I also enjoyed her youthfulness in her adoration of Ryan. I feel like, all too often, loving people merely admire those that are practically apathetic towards them, and this is very much like what Clara did towards Ryan. Another aspect that I liked was how after Ryan and after her mother, Clara keeps many of the qualities she adopted in an act of affection towards Ryan. Her language and actions both display her youth and her personality in an imperfect, yet positive way.

Blog #4

I thoroughly enjoyed this past week's readings. My favorite by far was "How Ireland Lost the World Cup." It was very entertaining for me to read, partly because it was suspenseful in a sense, and because I love stories that have unexpected twists and turns. It was a very emotional, tragic, love story between two human beings that had nothing in common except for the fact that they were both living lives outside the world they were familiar with, Ireland. I have to admit I am a real sucker for love stories and anything that is the least bit romantic. I especially admire the way Annie Callan discovered a way to make the story heart wrenching for anyone who would read it. It really struck a cord with me because it showcased such a powerful realness, and truth about romantic relationships. In my opinion, a large message that was conveyed in Callan's story was that you should live every day you have on earth completely and to your fullest potential, and never miss the chance to tell someone you love them, because at any moment, they could be gone forever. Her language was very poetic and struck a cord with me. I would love to read more from this author.

Blog #4

This weeks readings were particularly interesting to me because of their reliability. "How Ireland Lost the World Cup" was a sweet story that made me want to continue to read. Ann Callan uses very descriptive language, making the characters come alive. "His eyes were bi g and open like sunflowers. His hair was tuft of wheaty blonde, spiked I suppose. The gold ring in his ear caught the sunlight and gave a honey glow to his face"(341). From this quote I gained a clear image of what Rory looked like. This helped while reading the rest of the story. She continued this style in her description of the events throughout the rest of the story. The second story, "Teething Trouble," was very easy to read because it was a relatable story. The embarrassing moments that Clara experienced, I identified the most with. Zadie Smith wrote in a way that when I completely the story I was left not knowing what to think. She was very outspoken in this piece and that's what I believe made it stand out.

Blog #5

I had a love/hate relationship with Zadie's piece, Teething Trouble. It was amazing the way she wrote it: how she began with Clara trying to convert Ryan, and ended with Ryan trying to convert her. I found it really ironic that their roles had completely switched. And another thing; what drew Clara to Ryan was that she felt she could find a "kindred spirit" in him and also because she wanted to be saved. I loved how Clara was attracted to Ryan because she wanted to be saved, and thought he could save her. At the same time, this also seems very teenage typical, and that was one thing that bothered me about it. I felt like Clara was a weak character in the beginning; she couldn't stand up to her mom, for one. But as the story progressed, she grew stronger, which is evident when Ryan tries to convert her and she refuses. I loved this piece because of the irony; but I also disliked it because the characters were very cliche.

blog #4

The two pieces that we read this week had to be two of my favorite pieces out of the whole semester. White Teeth was very interesting to me because I could connect with it so easily, as I'm sure everyone in the class could. We all had that moment growing where we made complete fools out of ourselves in the front of the person we have the biggest crush on, and then realizing later that we have fallen for someone else. I was attracted to How Ireland Lost the World Cup because of the mystery of it. Parts that I couldn't understand became somewhat clear, and then at the very end it all made sense. It was so tragic that she lost the man that she fell in love with, the one person that she felt comfortable with in her new home. What can I say, I'm a sucker for a love story!

blog #3

The pieces we read for November 4th really made me think. They discussed violent times, and the writer's reactions to them. They even discussed the events of 9/11. Immediately when I read this, I began to think about 9/11. I remember I was in 4th grade, and my teacher was Mrs.Ebert. When the attacks happened, we were outside for recess. When we came back inside, we found Mrs.Ebert watching the news, standing near her desk with her hand over her mouth, crying. We all walked in in complete silence, extremely confused as to what was going on. Then, she had us all sit down and told us what had happened. We were all too young to fully comprehend the extremity of the situation, but we knew it had to have been serious by the look on Mrs.Ebert's face. A few years later, with the war going on, it became more and more clear to me how serious this all was. My 7th grade English teacher, Mrs.Martinson, had us write a piece of work for the soldiers. This could range from poetry to a song. A few select students would be selected to go to Fort McCoy and read their pieces for the news station that would be shown to the soldiers. I was one of the lucky ones that was chosen. I wrote a poem, and as I wrote it, it made me realize how much I loved my country, and how great of a thing these soldiers were doing for all of us. By writing about it, it made everything so much more real for me, as I'm sure it did for the women that wrote the pieces we read.

Blog 4

The stories this week, "Two Words" by Isabel Allende and "Before" by Annie Saumont, were both interesting and beautiful. Both stories illustrate the power of words. In "Two Words", one sees the power of words as almost magical entity. The character Belisa Crepusculario uses words a profession, selling them instead of herself, she used words as a magical remedy used to help each individual with their problems, she crafts words so beautifully they can be used to instill hope on individuals in masses and help a man to become president, and through her words, almost as though she has cast a spell, she captures the love of the Colonel. I feel this story beautifully showcases the versatility of words. I feel that the power of words is evident in everyday life. Words, the tool for communication and expression, can foster love, can end a marriage, can save a life, and can start wars.
As I child I always asked my parents why people didn't talk things out instead of having wars. They never had an answer. I still don't understand.
I feel that words outweigh actions in starting wars, yet somehow, words don't appear magical enough to stop them. I have often wondered that if there were enough words opposing war, or as many as advocating for it, if there would be war.
In "Before", I feel one is privy to a simplified idea of war: the power of words fueling the fire for hate. The father in the story is advocating for the battle between them and the "people opposite", the mother, in opposition, saying that they were all the same in most respects, the children, the innocents caught in the crossfire, and the river, a place big enough for everyone to share. One sees that after a gathering, people getting riled up, throw around their words, and anger multiplies, war ensues and people become divided by more than land.

Blog 3

I am very bad with this blog! NEVER REMEMBER to do them! But I still want to post it up! I love love love this week reading about language. This week reading just make the world a little bigger place for me to live in. I just love Lisa Fiol-Matta reading on how language is not a identify by paper or skin but also the language. I think that it just make me think a lot about who I am as a individuals. I can totally relate to her on how she feels about French, because it is also how I feel about english too. All her worries, her frustration that she express in her pieces just make me relive my moments of going through it with her. I love the idea of colonization and how much that change a culture and I think that Lisa Fio-Matta does a great job of making the reader see how hard it is to live with two cultures. This reading from this week had made me realize what I am going to do for my final paper! Writing about my own identify while comparing it to the world that I am living in. Very excited to write my paper!

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Identity can only be defined through the lens of the owner. I own my own identity, but what forms my identity is the world and culture around me. Meena Alexander's identity is formed by her past and present life. When devastating events happen in her life, her past becomes more of her identity. The beginning of "Lyric in a Time of Violence" is so powerful, she writes "The girl who eats stones, swallows them so she can live. She comes to me at a time of difficulty" (24). This confusing quote becomes beautiful once her story is told. Meena swallows the stones of her culture and discards her sari so she can live a life in New York after the 9/11 attacks. However, she is able to do this because she will fight back with her words. Her poem "Kabir Sings in a City of Burning Towers" is powerful in describing her struggle with discarding her sari "What a shame/the scared you so/ you plucked your sari of/ crushed it into a ball" (35), but she is able to "save her engeries for writing" and lets her identity be known through the means of poetry.

Blog #3

Identity is not a simple thing to define, especially when describing the individual in context of an entire society, country or through the broadest lens of the world. Our ancestors' heritage, our country of origin and our language all coexist to affect our connection with a particular place or culture and thus our "place" and identity in the world.
In "Lyric in a Time of Violence" Meena Alexander reflected on her identity within a post-9/11 United States. She asks, "What does it all mean though really when our place in the world can be taken away so quickly, by something so out of our hands?" As after effects of September 11 demonstrate, the constant shift between language, cultures and current events leaves us with an essentially false sense of comfort within the borders we identify with. These imaginary borders can gather a population together, as exemplified by Giocanda Belli's desire to re-join her former fellow citizens in Nicaragua rallying against the government. But these lines of language, identity and legal citizenship can also tear apart how we define ourselves as well as our relationships with others.
Alexander wrote she worried she would tear the cloth of her family apart due to her worries regarding their obvious Asian heritage. In an attempt to avoid this Alia Mamdouh related to her place in a very different manner: "I love my situation, a stranger wherever I am ... It is the most successful way to placate the self in all places, and to not be dependent on any one place." This connection with self rather than country can in some cases be more stable and more comforting than the transitory belief that we can really identify ourselves with one much broader culture, country or even language.

Blog Three

Although these pieces were difficult to connect to, I felt that they were very personal and self-reflective upon the authors. They seemed to be written for therapeutic purposes, as Meena Alexander herself had said that she had to write to gather her emotions of the September 11th attack. I felt that Lyric in a Time of Violence was a wonderful piece that illustrated both the emotion, and then, the emotion within the emotion. She was successful in this that she strategized in narrating her prose with descriptions of her sudden and progressive day-to-day reactions of the attack, and then strongly and inventively created her deep and artistic poems that dove into the intimacy of the emotions she felt following the terrorist attack.

Literature in the face of violence

This week's theme brings me back to 'writing is not therapy'. I believe that statement is wrong, and I always have. It bothered me from the beginning and the way the authors this week grappled with their issues just proves my stance even more. In the piece 'lyric in a time of violence' the author struggles with the 9/11 attacks and their effects on her city, her identity and her family. She seems really torn up about the whole thing and is also troubled when torn between standing strong and supportive in her culture and history, or remaining a patriot to a country that is now discriminating against her in this time of angst. The way she deals with this is through poetry. And through writing, it is her way of coping and it is therapeutic. By diving into her art she can deal with all of these emotions and inner conflicts.
Also interesting, her writing can become a mode of coping for the people in her same position. So by sharing her poetry, others can relate and somehow find their way out of their 'darkness' as well. And these shared experiences through writing 'in a time of violence' allow for the individuals to 'come together' instead of singling people out. So yes, writing is a very effective form of therapy.

Blog 3

This weeks readings, under the theme of "Politics of Language," and "Lyrics in Time of Political Instability," were very interesting. However, for some reason, these readings were much harder for me to connect to and really dive into. I did however really like the fact that each author had a very different way of approaching the topic. I always find it to be especially interesting when people are given a topic and everyone seems to look at it with different eyes, I love the unpredictability about it. Out of all the readings for this week's themes, Assia Djebar's piece, "Writing in the Language of the Other," would have to be my favorite. One of my favorite lines from her piece is: "Identity is not made up only of paper or blood but also of language." In my opinion, this line is very strong not only because of the way Djebar beautifully worded it, but also because it expresses that our language is a major part of who we each are individually. I also think that Djebar is trying to express that our identity should not be classified as something so shallow, such as tangible and/or physical characteristics, but instead deeper traits, such as our language. Our language identifies where we come from, where we have been, and in some cases, where we are headed. By this I mean that our language clearly describes our culture and our geographical location. It also has the power to represent where we are headed in life by how many languages we know, and what specific languages we are acquainted with. Our language plays a significantly large role in our identities, it has the power to bring people together and help us relate to one another, and then on the other hand, it also has the power to completely exclude people and act as a "gatekeeper." Although each author took a different angle on the topics, I believe that they would all agree to some level, that our language shapes who we are individually, and we should all be proud of where we come from.

Blog 3: Identity and Language

The last two week's readings, "Writing in the language of the Other" by Assia Djebar and "Lyric in a Time of Violence" by Meena Alexander, I found especially touching. Both of these pieces provoke one to think about identity, how one's language shapes their identity as well as how language and identity fit into a cultural identity. These readings spoke to me on both a political and a personal level, but mainly they have caused me to question a lot of things.
When reading "Lyric in a Time of Violence", Alexander's story challenged me to explore America (or Canada) as a "melting-pot". I have read, in my Clinical Psychology class, that it is estimated that by around 2050, America's inhabitants will be approximately 50% non-Caucasian. Therefore, yes, America is a melting-pot. However, when thinking about the fear provoked witch-hunt that befell all those who had dark skin, or appeared to be Arab, after 9/11 and the focus on English-speaking which often represents being American, power and belonging, I have begun to wonder if the "melting-pot" idea only works if one melts, or assimilates, in one direction, white-American. Does this melting pot really represent a mesh of many cultures, languages, and identities? Or is it rather a melting-pot which sucks up and then covers up all of the colors and flavors it encounters? Alexander's recount of 9/11 makes me wonder if being American (or part of a country), even if you know the language and merge your self-identity as such, is only as possible as melting away one's color in a sauce. If one sticks out like black pepper speckled into an alfredo sauce, will they always be subjected to speculation and seen as the "other"?
When Djebar speaks about her connection and her identity in relation to the French language, it caused me to evaluate my own relation to French. Djebar speaks of identity as "...not only made up of paper or blood but also of language" (114). On paper I am a Canadian who lives in America. I have often felt a strange proud connection to French, even though I no longer speak it (in the second grade I moved from a French-only education to an English school), such as when I present my birth certificate or passport which read in French with English as the secondary translation. However, I have also wondered, if, by blood, I should feel a connection to German. I discovered, when I was 15 years old, that my grandfather is German and speaks it fluently. I have never heard him speak in German; he did not choose to teach it to his children, because in the melting-pot of Canada, he did not want his children to be pepper-flakes easily picked out by an accent. I have often wondered if I feel a connection to French because I am (or was), as Djebar describes, " occupant..."of Canada that feels "...hereditary rights" (115) to a French identity and I wonder if I should feel a hereditary bond to German because I am (well at least part) German (granted because I am kind-of a mutt, so to speak, I would have a lot of languages to learn and relate to).
Thinking of owning these languages makes me wonder, if I were to identify as French or German, would I find more of myself? Would German make me closer to the blood-line which runs within me, would French reconnect me with a Canadian-ness I feel I am missing? Or would these identities make me feel like more or an "other"? ( I do not mean to downplay the magic and identity which arises in and of itself within understanding another language. My miniscule knowledge of Japanese has not changed my English-identity, but it has enhanced it, it has given me a different mode in which to think feel and express myself. ) Would identifying as French or German make me more of an outsider in an English-speaking American country, and in Canada, would French, when although it is one of Canada's two national languages, it is the less-spoken of the two, cause me to identify my as an "other"? Because English is the main component of my countries' melting-pots.
These readings have caused me to question many things. Is America wrong to be frightened to losing itself in a melting-pot? Is Quebec wrong for making a stand, especially when Canada is losing touch with its French identity? Personally, do I hide behind a personality I define with the word "Canadian" when I have done nothing to earn it or own it outside of being born in a specific location?


The interaction between language and personal identity is something that I had always more or less been aware of, but had never examined as closely as we did in this past week's readings. It was interesting to hear about everyone's experience of and relationship with language, whether we were multilingual, bilingual, or "uni-lingual", a.k.a. "American" :)
Language is obviously a huge part of anybody's identity, as it is the way we both express ourselves (whether it be through written or spoken word) and relate to the world around us - more specifically, with others who speak the same language(s) we do. The piece by Rosebud Ben-Oni entitled "The Derech" really helped this topic hit home with me. Following along with the author's narration, we really get to feel her pain and frustration as her ego-maniacal f***-buddy continually asserts his "expertise" on her identity, rather than letting her express it herself, and discounts her entire people and way of life because (as he believes) they have no real language to speak of. He reduces her to a pet name ("motek"), not out of affection, but in a condescending way, as motek can be used not only for a lover, but when speaking to a child; this speaks volumes about the way he sees her, and the way he thinks of himself. I think that the jerk in this story needs to learn something about other languages, namely, the ones that require no spoken words at all. Call it "body language", if you must (I was avoiding this corny-sounding phrase), but whatever you call it, he would have benefited far more by being fluent in this language, because he would have been able to understand the effect of his words on her, which she sums up quite concisely in a beautiful line on page 223:
" are still holding me in your arms and I am again standing alone on that cliff, I am yours but you are not mine."

Blog 3

The most perplexing thing about the readings this week was thinking about how language forms our identities, especially after reading the Assia Djebar piece and discussing this question in class. I never really considered how much the politics of language shapes our identities. It can identify where we were born, whether or not we are an immigrant in our country, our educational status (and in turn our economic class), and the list goes on. It can identify us as "the other" in a country we have citizenship in if we speak with an accent. And while language can shape our identities as citizens, it also shapes our identities as artists. As an English major, I always had an idea of how much things such as word choice and syntax affect a piece, but this week really highlighted how language as a whole can affect art. When I was researching Assia Djebar, I learned that she learned Arabic and then wrote in French with Arabic grammar and syntax. I never realized that this could be a way that language could be used as both an art form and a form of political protests, as Djebar did this to bring light to the way the language of "the other" overtakes. I thought this was a brilliant form or resistance on Djebar's part, and something I would like to explore further.

Blog 3

While the theme for this week was about The Politics of Language and Lyrics in Times of Political Instability, each author took on a different approach. While some of the authors wrote about their national identity, others wrote about what they seen or what was happening around them when they wrote their pieces. However, the story that got my attention was "Writing in the Language of the other" by Assia Djebar. Djebar greatly expressed her relationship with the French Language and her writing in French. In addition, she also wrote about struggles with her original identity and the geopolitical of writing in her native language which was Arabic. I think the French language was the only language she knew how to read and write really well and that is why she writes in the French language. I felt the same way as in Djebar because initially I only speak Somali in my house and when speaking to other family members in Africa. In addition, outside my house, everyone else's spoke English to me even the Somalia people. Hence, I started seeing myself as American, because English became my preferred first language rather than my native language.

language and identity

I loved this weeks reading because so much of it delved into areas that I really had not given much thought. And this is odd to me, because it is not nearly as taboo as the topics of desire and sex. Yet, language and the way words shape us and place us is not taken nearly seriously enough. I think maybe this is because we are enveloped in it every day, we are never outside of it. And those who are outside of our language are outside of everything. We tend to view language anthropologically, like the ass hole in that story viewed his own "lover". But as Lisa Fiol-Matta discussed in her story, language is personal and deeply rooted in each of us, so we cannot just reduce it to one more component of someones culture. It is part of someones culture and nationalism, but it is also deeply personal. The sounds and rhythm of our own words, the connotations of those words to someone, and only them, is part of their identity. It is tangled up in everything else that sets them apart from anyone else. And although this is something so valuable and important to each of us, it is rarely an issue that crosses my mind.

Blog #3

One of the themes of the week was poetry as lyric. This was interesting to me. I have been writing poetry my entire life and have never thought of it as lyric, though I suppose I have always thought of it as musical. And to some, lyric and music are one in the same. However, this is not how it is for me. When I attempted to write my first poem in 6th grade, the teacher made no mistake in informing me that I was no good at it. The problem was that I assumed poetry had to rhyme (like music), and without rhyming a poem was just a terrible short story. A year later I had learned that I could write in free verse, which was a sort of poetry that technically knew no bounds or restrictions. Poetry was redefined for me. This week, poetry was again redefined for me as lyric, as a music not bound by rules but entwined by emotions and thoughts.

blog 3

The readings this week were a little harder to handle than past weeks. All the pain and suffering behind these readings was hard to grasp for me. The language that Meena Alexander uses really makes you feel like someone had just ripped her heart out. In times of crisis, people either come closer or are pushed further away and these authors portrayed that well. All of these authors were innocent, and yet still part of all the violence that was occurring around them. Meena was pushed away and exiled in a sense, because of the color of her skin in a time of crisis. Alia Mamdouh is out casted and looked at as a minority no matter where she goes but she draws from that and much of her writing comes from that freedom of not being tied down to a nationality. A majority of the readings were all nonfiction pieces. I think this is because a lot of what they discuss and the feelings that occur are something that cannot be made up, and only someone who truly experienced them can grasp them on the level that these authors have.


To me, the readings this week were harder to follow because they covered such a wide variety of themes. Literature can do funny things to abstract human ideas. In the face of violence, it mutilates it. In many cases I think, modern literature glorifies violence. If it doesn't glorify it, most literature turns violence in to something beautiful enough to be included and mentioned in their art. In Meena Alexander's Lyric in a Time of Violence, I think that her poetic perspective is very beautiful, she has turned violence into poetry. Obviously she is not endorsing the horrible things that happened, quite the opposite. But it gives a new perspective that mere passerby would not be able to see. How she felt, how others felt, and the massive aftereffects. In the face of violence, words can fuel or quench the violent tendencies around them. It is a very peaceful form of resistance.

Blog 3

The readings this week were particularly intriguing to me because they were all about the use of language. The different ways that people view language and its connection to identity. The first thing we can identify ourselves with is what language we speak because it describes who we are. Language incorporates more than just words, it is culture as well. If you do not speak your native language for a while, it may seem that part of your identity is slipping away. So the questions arises that is keeping up with the time and speaking the most common language enough to drift away from your native language, in turn losing some of your culture?
The reading that was the most interesting to me was the Giconda Belli piece. Her language about grief is beautiful. Her last stanza was a representation of the different stages of grief. The way she describes it describes the way she sees the different stages. This part of the piece represents how her language portrays her personal views on grief. The reader gets a sense of how grief is and engages you in the language.

Identity: Paper, Blood & Language

After reading the essays and short stories from the week I found it very interesting the way different people view language, and their identity. Paper has a way of identifying ourselves without looking beyond the surface. At birth we are given a certificate with our name, then ID's as we get older. If we need to travel we have a book of papers that identify us to the world. In another sense, paper (as in money) absolutely gives us a piece of our identity. With more paper we have higher status, more education, more access, and (unfortunately) more power. Papers read our identity.
Our blood tells us who we can or can't help in times of need. It can distinguish our physical relationships, and can kill us. In another sense, people have time and time again shed blood in the fight to identify themselves. Wars, where many have died, continue so that individuals can fight for the person they want to be. Our blood is our identity.
But Language is a different story. Do we have the power to choose our own language? With paper and blood in the way, can a person choose the language they want to identify with? Paper, Blood and Language give people in the world lines or borders to divide by. Language can change, but at what cost?

blog 3

"Life is a journey, not a destination." Ralph Waldo Emerson's famous words, most often pasted on the nature posters above tipped-back thrones of vinyl at the dentist office best describe the passages for this week. The piece which spoke to me the most was Meena Alexander's prose piece "Lyric in a Time of Violence." There was a side of September 11 many Americans did not see, like the Arab women afraid to don their traditional saris in fear they would be ostracized from the newfound union of the white populous streets, buses, and stores. Alexander describes being filled to the brim with shame for succumbing to conformity. The stanza which spoke to me the most was "What a shame/ they scared you so/ you plucked your sari off, /crushed it into a ball." The usage of the word "pluck" connotes sharp, almost painful removal of an object, just like the way Alexander removed her sari urgently, causing her the pain which is connected to denying one's cultural identity. Through her poetry, she explores her feelings, finding writing as a way to "crystallize and think through without fear." Poetry was, for Alexander, a journey through her grief after the attacks on her culture and the Twin Towers.

History of the Dom ("The Derech")

For those of you interested in a fuller history of the Dom:

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