Thursday, July 28, 2011

On forming your destiny

I just finished The Untelling by Tayari Jones. It wasn't literary genius like anything by Toni Morrison or Edwidge Danticat, my ultimate favorites. But it was a good read about a modern day black woman whose tragic past was a part of uncertain present. What struck me and stayed with me after reaching the end was that the main character Aria didn't want to tell her boyfriend, turned fiance', that what she believed to be a pregnancy was an illness that led her to learn that she was menopausal and incapable of bearing children at a very young 25 years old.

She didn't want to tell this boyfriend the truth, because in her words, "Dwayne is going to leave me." And he did leave her, not because she couldn't have children, but because she didn't tell him the truth. She told everyone else and he learned from a third party and couldn't understand why she couldn't be honest, thus he couldn't marry someone who could hide something so serious. He did leave her as she expected, though not for the reason she expected. She either spoke it into being or knew through her communion with her self what would become of this relationship.

The story ends on a rather forced moral: "There is balm in the telling, and in the hearing too. These words, these truths will ride on the air like a ragged scrap of song. ... Our past is never passed and there is no such thing as moving on. But there is this telling and there is such a thing as passing through."

I think our past forms, reforms, transforms us on many levels as often as we let it. And though I believe that telling the truth, telling our story can heal us and others, I believe we neglect the power in speaking what we want for ourselves.

I love Project Runway for that reason: these talented designers choose and speak what they want for their lives and they run after it with such passion.

Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club echoes the power of speaking for yourself and your future. One of my favorite lines, "And I think now that fate is shaped half by expectation, half by inattention. But somehow, when you lose something you love, faith takes over." Rose partly expected her marriage to fail and partly let it fall apart. In retrospect, her expectations contributed to the failure of the marriage. Like Aria, in The Untelling, Rose told herself this union will not or can not last. Speaking those words, even to herself, put what would be into motion. She helped to form her fate or destiny.

I firmly believe that when things fall apart, as they do, or you lose something you love, faith is powerful and takes over and helps to reform you. But, the more I read literature and people, I firmly believe, there is power in speaking what you want for yourself.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I love who he is.
He demands my attention when he needs it, pulling my arm or pulling my face to him. He finds an ooowie when he has been reprimanded, refusing the reprimand and seeking consolation.

He hurt himself, said ow, and then kissed his arm and went about playing. He sneezed and didn't wait for anyone to speak up, but said, "bless you" to himself.

He calls for his brother when his brother is not there. He likes to talk to his uncle and grandmother on the phone. He told another kid's grandmother, "bye grandma" one day, just cause she must be everyone's grandma. I asked him why do I have to yell at you in order for you to come here, he shrugged his shoulders and said "I dunno." He calls for Morgan, his two year old friend and he knows the names of the neighborhood kids and adults alike, going down the street, saying Jay, Lydia, Corey, Ms. Rain...

Once I asked, "what is that?" He said, "a lego," I said, "how did you know that?" He said, "I mart" leaving off the "s"

He pouts and his bottom lip is adorable. He likes to hug. And when I put him to sleep, he says, "read, sing, winkle, pray." I pat his back and sing, but he reaches to make sure I'm still there by touching my arm.

From the moment they pulled him from my belly and said it's a boy, I thought it's Ezra. I love when he exckaims, "I'm Ezra!" He is.

I love who he is.

Friday, July 22, 2011

On Laughing So Hard

I tried to be ladylike and stifle my laughter by covering my mouth. I didn't want to be too boisterous. But the laughter could not be contained. It wriggled out through a compulsory kick to the seat in front of me. The laughter squeezed out of my eyes in the form of tears. As I wiped tears away, more followed their cousins. At one point, I was sad for the main character. But somehow amazing writing and comics danced across the screen and this time as I covered my mouth, my body lurched forward. It is rare for laughter to run rampant through one's body seeking an exit. I welcome that type of hilarity back for more frequent visits.

Monday, July 4, 2011

On The Help

I enjoyed reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett. It was quick and easy and entertaining. I was rooting for the team all the way throughout. I didn't like Hilly and couldn't understand how an entire group of women could blindly follow her. This was a tad unbelievable and contrived for me. I felt really crushed that Skeeter was able to escape the madness of her home and Aibileen and Minny (and the other black women) did not have that same luxury. I did not like that Skeeter's involvement in the text thrust her into the career of her choosing, whereas Aibileen and Minny suffered after the text's publication.

I became more critical of the text when I really thought about the blurb on the cover by NPR and then sought out the article (this could be one of the most important pieces of fiction since To Kill a Mockingbird...If you read only one book this summer, let this be it.)

Why is all of NPR appearing to applaud this book? What about Toni Morrison's Beloved or Octavia Butler's Kindred, James Baldwin and all the texts by Black writers that deal with civil rights and/or slavery? How do we leave out a whole history of black authors writing about race to only focus on two white women as writers of the most important literature. It's a good story by a white
author about black women, race issues and civil rights. However, I take issue with it being called great literature.

I disagree with the reviewer, Grigsby, who says that Stockett has put us in the shoes of three ordinary women (white liberal Skeeter and black maids: Aibileen and Minny)at an extraordinary point in American history. I don't believe that Stockett gave her reader as intimate a portrayal as she herself might have believed. I believe her position as woman who had a black nanny/maid causes her to be inept at putting on the shoes of a black maid, let alone help her audience walk around in those shoes. I think her position of power inhibits her from portraying an accurate voice of the oppressed. I also think Toni Morrison's Beloved does an amazing job of illustrating that we can not understand the complexities of being oppressed no matter how intensely and good intentionally we try.

Are these texts The Help and To Kill A Mockingbird so great because they are so accessible? Why is the bar so low in terms of classifying something as important? Why is the source attribution so vague? Why not attribute this phrase (Most important book) to a specific speaker (Karen Grigsby Bates)? Of course NPR is loaded with ethos and the vagueness of the quote attribution leaves room for interpretation that all of NPR supports this claim and thus helps sell books. I just wonder if white women writing about black women/people/Civil Rights is much easier on the mainstream American palate than black authors writing about these issues in more complex, nuanced and convincing ways.

On communicating

I think people respond to each other based on how they see that other person and not really on what the person said, meant or intended. Philosopher and psychologist, William James wrote Whenever two people meet there are really six people present. There is each man as he sees himself, each man as the other person sees him, and each man as he really is. ( #1: how A sees B, #2: how A sees A, #3: how/who A really is, #4 how B sees A, #5 how B sees B, #6: how/who B really is).

That's a lot of damn people in a conversation between 2 people. Imagine how this grows exponentially when C walks in to disrupt the impossibly delicate balance between A and B and then D interferes with the good intentions of fixing the problem. How many people are now engaged, enraged in a confusing conversation and no one really knows what the hell anyone is saying!

How do you communicate effectively when no one really sees the other person?