Monday, November 24, 2008

Conclusions and Thoughts

Ah! term is almost done!

Although I was a little skeptical at first, I really enjoyed this class (only skeptical because i'm a spanish major and i expected to read/hear more spanish). But! it turns out that chicano literature is very interesting and not necessarily written in spanish. Ultimately I thought it was very appropriate that we speak in spanish when the book was written in spanish and english when in english.
The novels were well-chosen and none were tedious to say, although the Martí readings were a little difficult to get through because of his use of colloquial language. 
In-class discussion was always exciting and was impressed that the majority of the class participated. i think that this was facilitated by three things. One, that we were given sufficient time to read the books. two, that the online blogs forced us to do the readings on-time and develop our own opinions prior to class. and three, that jon presented ideas and questions that always got us talking or thinking.
It was so refreshing to read contemporary novels; so many of the spanish major prerequisites focus on ancient spanish literature. 

This class had a different format than any other class i have taken. The weekly online blogs, commenting and wikipedia contributions made the class modern. It was at times frustrating and confusing and other times new and refreshing. I felt that the blogs facilitated communication with other students outside of class and the development of independent thought. They also, as i said before, forced us to do the readings on-time. I have written journals for other courses that were due at the end of term, this was a huge disaster because people would try to write it all at the end and didn't necessarily promote unique thought from students.

The wikipedia article gave me mixed feelings though. I have found it tedious, frustrating unrewarding.  I think its a really interesting concept and i do use wikipedia frequently. Its a very useful thing as a student to get a broad, unbiased study of a subject or concept. it also leads you to sources (if sourced properly) for research essays etc. I do like the idea that I am giving back to the wiki community but i also feel a certain resentment maybe or anxiety every time i open up my tomas rivera wikipedia page. 

Everything included, I think that the class was structured very well. I might actually enjoy working on another wiki article now that i know (more or less) how it all works. I think Jon has a great ability to get conversation flowing which is such an important skill for a prof to have ( no i am not trying to stroke your ego Jon ). It was the class I felt the most comfortable in, contributed the most in and did the most readings for; all of which are my responsibility but at the same time are things that the prof can definitely encourage in other ways than just instructing. 

I think i only have enough time to say hi at the gallery, term paper to write :( 

Monday, November 17, 2008

and a body to remember with

I learnt about the Chilean coup and following dictatorship in a latin-american studies class last year. The stories Rodriguez tells of her rebel experiences during this time and exile to Canada are much more personal and honest than the textbook i was reading. 
This brings me back to a question that was asked of us this first day of classes; why are  latinos/chicanos in Canada? Not just Chile but Brazil and Argentina had military dictators that acted in similar ways. Torture and death as punishment for conspiring against the dictator were extremely common. It was much more sick than just torture, as Rodriguez writes. Doctors were used to keep victims alive, or just alive enough to keep on torturing them. Women's unborn babies were taken away from them and given to hopeful, rich women that couldn't have babies themselves, oblivious of their origin; groups of people were pushed off flying planes. This type of history begs the question that when the dictatorship is over, how do you punish the guilty, or do you move on and try to leave the tragedy in the past? How would it feel to be rejected or hurt and violated by your home country?
Rodriguez's writing style is blunt and raw. In Canada she can write and express herself in ways that she could not have in Chile. Yet in Canada, she has to learn how to express herself all over again. 
I find the stories to be very emotional and i wonder how much of their content is based on events in her life. So far, to me, the stories are quite similar and thinking back on them, they seem to converge and form one story with different actors and a similar past. As a writer, i wonder if Rodriguez ever feels the need to branch out or try writing about something else, something not so connected to her own life? 

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Julia Alvarez pt. 2

I think I must not be alone in feeling a sense of confusion and curiosity at Alvarez's choice of ending. It seemed there might have been a mistake and that the last chapter of the book was accidentally missed out. Told in a reverse chronology, the book begins with a grownup Yolanda in "Antojos" and ends with Yoyo the child in the "The Drum". 
The last chapter and the last couple of paragraphs especially seem rushed. Alvarez writes: "You understand I am collapsing all time now so that it fits in what's left in the hollow of my story?...I grew up a curious woman, a woman of story ghosts and story devils, a woman prone to bad dreams and insomnia" (285-6). The narrator is the same at the beginning as the end yet the story does not come full circle. Is this abrupt end on purpose, to prove a point maybe? Authors often leave stories open for their readers to make their own conclusions but this ending left me wondering.
The "hollow story" that Yoyo speaks of contrasts with the colourful yet complicated story we have just finished. The detail in the story leads us to believe that it is being told from the child's point of view yet the adult perspective ("I grew up...") says the opposite. This discrepancy asks us to question the narrator. This final quote introduces themes that weren't introduced before. Yolanda has never mentioned insomnia, frequent bad dreams or haunting ghosts (besides her short stint in the mental institute). The end of the book makes me rethink the beginning of the book just as I refer back to the family tree sketch, to try and connect these two seemingly different narrations. 
Other aspects in these ending chapters make me question the congruencies and connectedness of the stories. Our narrators are young and are often unsure how to interpret the actions happening around them. Imagination plays a large part in their young minds and their inventions often incorporate themselves into the storytelling. An example of this is the boy/creature Carla finds in the garage behind Doña Charito's house. Carla was on the hunt, alone, looking for something that would incriminate the Doña. She did find what she was looking for but what was it exactly that she found? A small man locked up with a metal collar in the garage carving statues for the local church? Do the maids keep their masters secret? Do the families that come to stare at the odd architecture hear the screams of the prisoner? Does it really exist?
When one hunts for trouble, it is usually not far off, especially if your imagination is young and frightful. 
I don't think that Alvarez was trying to make us question the validity of her story but instead points us in a certain direction. Children exaggerate stories in their own favour, the imagination of the young is wild and at times they'll have difficulty distinguishing reality from imagined, children lie to win or obtain something they want for themselves; all are normal occurrences for children. If they are unable to distinguish reality from imagined then the imagined is what they remember and that becomes the story of their life. Because our narrators are for the most part children, these are details that should be acknowledged. 
The story in its entirety is a mix of imagined, multi-perspective, and reality but who is to say which is which?

Monday, November 3, 2008

How Yolanda Lost Her Accent

I have just finished the first of three parts to this book. I am not completely sold on it but I think I can account that to the fact that I am only a third of the way through and nothing has really come together yet. 
So far the story has been told from Yolanda's point of view. In the first story "Antojos", she contrasts the lives of her sisters to those of her cousins who stayed behind on the island. While blowing out the candles to her birthday cake she compares her two homes; "But look at her cousins, women with households and authority in their voices. Let this turn out to be my home, Yolanda wishes" (11). Yolanda is stuck between two worlds in which she fits neatly into neither. She has spent the majority of her adult life in the US and can now speak english without the old hesitation or inability to find appropriate words for her feelings and thoughts. Those were the justifications for the end of her past relationships; with Rudy, the reasoning behind her abstinence was clear in her spanish thoughts but confusing in her english vocab. Likewise, John was unable to take her seriously, constantly misunderstanding her mastery of the english language. Now Yolanda seeks solace in her old, foreign home in the Dominican. But is this really what she needs?
Yolanda seeks 'authority' with men and family, a issue that stems from her father's authority and her failure with relationships. I am not convinced she will find it in the Dominican, at least not yet. When she is caught off-guard by the two campesinos in the night, she becomes mute, not at all the authoritative woman she hoped this country would allow her to be. I think Yolanda, as well as her sisters, have spent enough time in the US to feel comfortable but not at home and too much time away from home to feel like a Dominicana. 
Once again, this adds a whole new facet to the chicano/a subject. I am starting to feel like chicano is too broad a term but then again white is as well.