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Global Literature: A Capitivating Experience

There is so much to be said about this course but before I am give any feedback on this class, I must state a couple of things. I graduated with my Associates Degree from Queensborough Community College in January 2010 after a long journey of indecisiveness. From the very beginning I always knew that I wanted to be an English teacher because of my passion for literature but I was stuck on majoring in Business.  I come from a family of business owners and I knew I had what it took to be successful.  As the years went by I realized that this major I so called “loved” was all about entrepreneurship and numbers which I actually hated. I was so focused on working for a big corporation and making it “big” that I wasn’t seeing the bigger picture. The bigger picture was that I wasn’t able to be myself,  there were no classes where I was able to give my insight on things because everything was about MONEY, MONEY, MONEY. What insight can you give on money? We need it to survive, we work had to make it and then waste it, The End!

So I came to Queens College with a different mindset, doing what I love. Since I came with so many business credits,  I had to choose to get my Bachelors in either Psychology or English and later on do my Masters in Education. I knew the amount of papers I would have to write if I  but I have always loved writing and after all, hadn’t I been complaining about lack of expression all along? It was finally my time to do what I loved, read  books of all kinds and write about them. I am now one semester of graduating with my BA in English.

As you can tell, I have been in college for quite some time now and I have pretty much experienced everything type of English class possible. All my Professors have been completely different, they have all had unique teaching habits but I must say that Global 255 has been the only class where I have been able to be myself in. In fact , I feel privileged that I got to take this course because I am not sure if I will ever be given the chance to take one like it. In this class I have been able to express what I felt without any hesitation because every response was accepted. I was able to freely discuss the highlights of each book but also express my hatred towards a particular character. I was even able to use humor when I felt completely lost. Most importantly I was taught that there is no such thing as a bad blog entry as long as you write with commitment and complete perceptiveness. So what differentiates this course from any other English course? Well, everything. Unlike most classes, in this class we weren’t required to write 7-10 pages about whether or not the narrator of the story is reliable or not. What’s sad about this is that we only complete these assignments because they are all an important part of our grade so we have no other option. But the truth is that each paper is excruciating pain and torture. It is foolish to think that we are going to understand a text better if we write pages and pages that cannot use the word I, or give any personal opinion. (That’s High School form of writing)

Well thank GOD for this class and our personal blog entries where we were encouraged to say “I” as many times as we felt necessary. I truly connected with my blogs the further we went along. In the beginning of the semester I  wrote little, I was limiting myself in my writing, perhaps because I had never done anything like this before. I also felt like I couldn’t be as blunt as I wanted to be because I thought I would get penalized. It was only when I sat down with you that I really came to realize that I wasn’t giving my all. In other words you told me that I had so much potential but I wasn’t transmitting it through my writing. It all changed from here on forward because I promised myself to write exactly what was on my mind and it worked. Believe It or not I have chosen to continue blogging, I feel like it gives me peace of mind with all that it going on in my life right now. This is how I know that this class was  successful for me.

What really worked for me?  Everything. What truly struck me most about this class besides the blogging was the diversity of books we read. Dreams From my Father was one of the highlights of the semester, but not because it was one of the favorites but because of it was the most controversial. On one side of the classroom  we have people that think that Obama was trying to promote himself in this book and not really tell his story, while others dispute that and so on. The Sound of The Fury was probably one of the most difficult books I have ever read because of the format which it was written in. One minute we were reading Benji’s narrative in the present and the minute we were back in the past. You would think this would make me hate the book and William Faulkner for creating this 10,000 piece puzzle, but I actually enjoyed it. The fact that this was such a challenge shows that literature never gets old, it is a new experience each and every time. Drown and The Woman Warrior were both AMAZING works of literature that brought a piece of their own culture into our lives. It is only through the beauty of literature that we are able to explore a different world and for an instant think it is our own. Persepolis shows us that comic strips are not only for children. Through the eyes of a young girl we are taken back through time during  a revolution that will never be forgotten. We were required to read books in this class that we would have probably never chosen to read on our own, all unique, all captivating, all great works of literature.

I think this class should continue being called Global Literature because the name fits what the class is truly about. This class is free in the sense that it not only covers different writings from around the world but it also touches diversity of subjects, from religion to different ethnic groups etc. The word Global can also be defined as universal, international, worldwide, a direct correlation to what literature was, is, and always will be.

I cannot end this blog entry without wishing you the best in your future endeavors and also by thanking you Professor Gross. Thank you  for changing the structure  , for allowing your students to be as creative as they want to be, for giving us a voice.



Maxine’s Silence, Maxines Reality.

So as I am preparing to write my final blog entry, (For this class at least, I have actually found a great interest in blogging, what I like to call “my private escape”)I realize that I am like Maxine. Maxine has evolved, she has matured, and now looks back at her past at a distance, the same way I have grown in this class and now look at my blogs, my memoirs of English 255.

The last chapter of  “The Woman Warrior” is symbolic is many different ways and I think that was the authors complete intent. Allow me to be more specific, it is the first time in the entire book that we concentrate on Maxine’s life alone. We have read pages and pages of the people that surround Maxine, we have even taken amazing journeys to places that she has created in her mind, but we have never gotten to know her early life.We got to see the plant but we never saw the seed. How symbolic is that this is  end of the chapter but the beginning of her life. This is the end of the beginning.

Childhood is a very important chapter in one’s life because it molds you to what you are to become as you get older. The experiences, both good and bad, the lessons learned and not learned, are all a process in the development your character. A lot of questions have been answered now that we know about Maxine’s early life. The story does not fail to disappoint me, and begins with another surprising discovery; Brave Orchid slit a part of Maxines tongue when she was a baby so she would never become tongue-tied. When I read this, I seriously had to pause and think to myself.. REALLY? From here on forward, we begin to visti

Everything becomes clearer now. Maxine has lived her entire life holding back her thoughts and emotions. She was a prisoner in the sense that she was not able to talk and express herself like a normal person, like a child does. We have to remind ourselves how outspoken children can be, that’s what characterizes them. They don’t even know how to form sentences and they are already babbling their life way. But Maxine is stuck in the middle of two very diverse cultures, Chinese and American. For an American, the idea of speaking your mind comes natural, it’s basically something you are born with. For Chinese people, a woman that speaks her mind isn’t looked at in a positive way. Her silence was really her doubt, her confusion of not knowing what was acceptable. I think that Maxine finds herself, finds her voice, when she confronts her mother. I am not able to answer whether it was a Chinese or an American voice, as a matter of fact, I don’t think Maxine would be able to answer that herself, but it doesn’t even matter because it is a voice that screams.

I think that there is much to be learned from this book because it really shows the difference of cultures.What may be perfectly normal to one country, may be completely abnormal to another. But that is the beauty of  diversity. Unlike hundreds of books that have titles that have no direct correlation to the actual text, I think this books title suits the book perfectly. Only a warrior would be able to live through difficult conflicts and survive. A warrior fights till the very end without giving up, a warrior shows great vigor and is courageous, even through silence. To me, Maxine is a woman warrior.

“Shaman” & “At The Western Palace”

So we’re getting to our final blog entries for this semester and I’ve decided to change my blog appearance,  perhaps for some inspiration. Lets see if it works!

In “Shaman” we trace back to Brave Orchids life when she was living in China. I must emphasize that this is a completely different person than the one that lives in America. In America, Brave Orchid  has housewife duties, she works in the laundry and in the tomato fields. ( I found this part of the story very interesting because everyone comes to America to live the “American Dream.” They leave everything they have to seek a better future, to find the perfect job and to have the white picket fence life. But then reality sets in and things are not so beautiful as they were thought to be. In China Brave Orchid is a somebody, in America she is a nobody) But in China, Brave Orchid has almost goddess like characteristics. She is a very brilliant woman who not only attends medical school, but also has the ability to heal the sick and to scare away ghost. At this point of the story I am very surprised to find out that the complete psycho I had met in “No Name Woman” was actually capable of performing these acts.

“At the Western Palace” we meet Moon Orchid, Maxine’s aunt and Brave Orchids sister. Moon is one of those characters that you will always remember because of how tragic her life is.  She isn’t the brightest person. She doesn’t know how to do any chores around the house and instead follows the children around the house, causing them to get super annoyed. It is clear that she cannot adapt to change, she begins thinking that ghost are after her and her delusion gets the best of her. In the end, she is sent to an asylum where she dies. I hate Moon Orchids story because it feels so real, because it is very touching. It is the typical story of a woman being completely helpless and defenseless. Being left by a man who has re-married without any remorse or shame and has forgotten about her. I have truly connected with Moon Orchid, more than any other character in this story, perhaps because I know a Moon Orchid myself,………………..yeah that’s it.

I believe that the main difference seen in these two chapters is that in “Shaman” Brave Orchid is very strong to her traditional roots. Ghost are definitely a key element in this chapter and she has the ability to do with them as she wishes. She seems so powerful but  in “At the Western Palace” she seems defenseless and even pitiful when she tries to convince Moon to get her husband back. She appears to be so independent and capable of doing anything she sets her mind to but then she makes stupid “traditional” decisions that prove the complete contrary. Also, in “Shaman,” Brave Orchid shows that even though she is a mother, she doesn’t act like one. I say this because no real mother would be able to come up with the devilish comments that she manages to always come up with. Perfect example: Her complaints about Kingston’s birth costing her( as if a price could EVER be given to the birth of a child)$200, when she could have gotten a slave girl for free.We see a different persona in “At the Western Palace.” In this chapter she actually becomes sort of a mother figure to her sister Moon. She comforts and humors her, gives her time and care, the way a mother would to her child. This is a tender side that was not shown in “Shaman,” a side we have not yet seen in Brave Orchid, a side that we may not every see again?…

A Woman’s Worth

As I’m reading through pages of ” The Woman Warrior,” I begin to ask myself if there are any connections between the different stories we have been reading throughout the semester. At first I am thinking too in detail, and I think NO, what does Obama have to do with Maxine? Or Drown with Persepolis? But I then begin to look at the bigger picture…And then it hits me!! Um hello!?? Of course there’s a connection, a cultural one. We have been given a taste of different society’s, cultures, and difference ethnicity’s, in each individual text. Each one different, but interesting in its own particular way.

So as I’m trying to dissect the different pieces being thrown at me,  I begin to think about the role of women in Chinese society. The lack of freedom, the voice that isn’t heard, traditions that can’t be broken.  I am speechless at the idea that the “No-Name Woman” is labeled this way, as if she was a piece of object. Well,not even an object, because every “object” is labeled with a name. The idea of her killing herself and her illegitimate child makes me both angry and sad. To think that DEATH was her only escape leaves me speechless. What a cruel life!! What a cruel society!!  But then I realize,  death was the only way for her to escape from the misery of life that she would have continued living. She knew that her child would go through the same thing and she didn’t want that. Perhaps she was also scared that she would have gotten killed regardless, so she took a step ahead. Regardless, her death becomes symbolic because it actually represents gaining back her life.

Ohh and then I become angry again, at the fact that Maxine cannot ask about her no-named aunt. The story was only given to her to teach as a lesson. Since Maxine has hit puberty, her mother has to warn her to not make the same mistake that her aunt made.   But Maxine is such an intelligent and creative character. She doesn’t just treat the story as a lesson to herself, but rather reflects on what it means. She tries to identify herself with her aunt, and what she has gone through. She even manages to reject the idea that her aunt was at fault which demonstrates how strong of a “woman” Maxine is. She is not scared to let her mind wander, she is not scared to have a voice, she is not afraid to go against the norms.

And now to the quote we were asked to analyze; “The swordswoman and I are not so dissimilar.” This is both a powerful and symbolic line in many ways. Maxine  is seeing herself as Fa Mu Lan, the warrior, because she has a living warrior inside of her. Maxine is not satisfied with the way her culture runs things, but unlike Fa Mu Lan, she is helpless. Fa Mu Lan has been tattooed( literally) and Maxine has been tattooed with Chinese stories from a very young age, that technically have been tattooed into her brain. The difference though, between both these women, is that Fa Mu Lan’s battle is only temporary, since she can always return home. On the other hand, Maxine’s struggle is a never ending one.

They are so similar yet so different. I am eager to see how this wonderful story evolves, and  I hope I come to understand the purpose of the author’s narrative. Was it to teach us a lesson? To enable a warrior in us? Or was it a form of liberation for her?

Obama, I am on your side!

I must begin this blog by saying how surprised  I am at the different feedback and different view points of this story. We have spent the entire semester reading very diverse forms of writing, but I don’t think I’ve heard so much negativity before?! Well, there was “The Sound of The Fury,”but we aren’t talking about crazy Benji, we are talking about THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA FOR GODS SAKE!

I must stress this point, once again, that I feel like we read this story the wrong way. A similar situation happened to me in my English 252 class.  We were reading “Dracula”  and the entire class seemed so blah about it, mentioning how boring it was and how the entire text seemed cliche. Others were saying how “corny” the text seemed, and how unrealistic Dracula was. Of course, I completely disagreed with them and I actually praised Bram Stoker for an entertaining novel. Yes of course, by now we have all read and watched hundreds of vampire stories, including the modern ones that can actually sparkle in the sun,(Twilight) but we have to remember that Stoker wrote this novel during the end  of the Victorian era in 1897! This had to have been a huge deal during that time and that is exactly how I treated it, as a new text!

So back to my point, I feel like we didn’t get to enjoy this text because we are all stuck on the idea that Obama was trying to “sell” himself to us. Umm or a better idea! Maybe the fact that some of us our disappointed with his promise of “change” not really being taken place. I opened this book making myself believe that I didn’t know who Obama was, the same way I treated  “Dracula” like a new story.  I disagree with the idea of Obama campaigning himself in this book. He did not paint this pretty picture of life about himself either. If anything, I was actually surprised that he was humble enough to speak so thoroughly about his personal experiences. Whether he knew that he was going to become president or not, whether he knew that

Realistically, I would have never gone to B&N to choose this book as my top “Must Read” list, but I am glad that it was a requirement for this class.  I mean, love him of hate him, he’s still our President right. Isn’t that already enough reason to know more about  him?

Junot Diaz!

There are those stories that you read just to read (perhaps because you don’t have another alternative, since its on your syllabus) but then there are the ones that simply captivate you. I cannot possibly stress how much I have enjoyed reading Junot Diaz’ “Drown.” His style of writing is very unique, probably different than what I have ever read before, but “different” has never felt so good :)!!!

So what makes Junot Diaz so unique, well besides how bluntly honest he is, he also shifts into 10 stories in just one book. He brings his different characters alive to us, shifting them from joy to frustration, from anger to release.

I love that although the book is written in English, there are words that are written in Spanish. Now, I must emphasize that these words aren’t just regular words, they are words that are very symbolic in the Latino community.”Barrio,” “Malecon,” “Negocio.” There are words that represent us.The story would not have had the same affect if Juno would of chosen it to have been written completely in English.  Not only does he show how close he is to his roots but he wants to takes us, his readers, on a powerful and cultural journey. The fact is, you don’t have to be Hispanic, or have  to have been to “Santo Domingo” to enjoy this book, you could be of any nationality, and the book will take you to your old roots. To the traditions your mom, dad, and grandparents inserted in you. To the cool “Slang” words ypu

Another aspect of this story that stood out for me was the amount of imagery Diaz uses in his sentences. He is very cautious and precise in structuring them, making sure each one flows perfectly. “Rafa and I stayed with our tios, in a small wooden house just outside Ocoa; rosebushes blazed around the yard like compass points and the mango trees spread out deep blankets of shade where we could rest and play dominos- ” Imagery makes this story even more capturing because  there are many authors that  have a style of writing that is very “straight forward” and direct. This of course makes everything flow a lot faster but I personally become completely captivated when I can read about delicious mangos  hanging from the “mango tree.”

Dedicatory: Thank you Professor Gross, for introducing me to an amazing 208 pages of creative literature. & Thank you Juno Diaz for taking me back to my roots.

The Downfall!

To my surprise, the ending of ” The Sound and the Fury” was different than what I expected. I really thought that Caddy, being one of the most important characters in this novel, would have her own narrative. I wonder why Faulkner chose not to give her a voice? Perhaps because even though she made poor choices, we still have some sympathy for her. This might have changed if she would have had her own narrative.

I wasn’t surprised about Miss Quentin fleeing, but it was definitely the point that marked the downfall of the Compsons. One may argue that there is still hope though,…. Dilsey? She is simple, but most importantly, she represents stability (which is what everyone else lacks)

Irony is definitely represented with the mentioning of Easter Sunday. I believe this is Faulkners reiteration to his readers that there may be hope for the Compsons. Easter Sunday = resurrection, new beginning,  rise. I  get where Faulkner is going with this but I’m not so sure if I agree.

Another surprise for me was that Benji did not end up at the mental institution. My initial reaction was a sign of relief but then I wondered if Benji would have been better off going there. It’s not like he is better off in the hands of EVIL Jason.

Jason does not fail to disappoint me. He is a complete nut!!! I never liked him and I would  have not been bothered at all if Faulker would have made him disappear. Allow me to be more frank, I would have enjoyed this ending sooo much more if Jason would have somehow died or would have chosen to kill himself. I don’t feel bad saying this because Faulkner’s obvious intent was for us to hate Jason. Faulkner, you have succeeded! On a brighter note, I was filled with joy when I found out that his money had been stolen. Payback is ohh so sweet.

Ultimately Disturbing

After reading Benji and Quentin’s narratives, it was a true RELIEF to read Jasons narrative because of how clear-cut it was. Having said that, I am truly disturbed at how cruel and emotionless Jason is. (May I add that the further along I get in the book, the more confused I am on which character is worst of all!) Although it was  always evident that Jason was mean from the beginning of the text, it becomes crystal clear in his narrative because we are giving pieces to complete the puzzle.

In this section we find out that Jason does not get the job at the bank that was mentioned in Quentin’s section but rather works in a farm supply store. For this, he is resentful towards Caddy.( But um Jason, you wouldn’t have been offered the job in the first place if it wasn’t for Caddy’s relationship with Herbert?)We also get more information on the show Luster was so eager to watch. Jason has two tickets, that he does not want!!! Yet he prefers burning them then giving them to Luster. This has to be the most malicious thing somebody can do to someone.- Ultimately Disturbed-

It truly bothers me when Jason demonstrates his lack of toleration for his family. He is so embarrassed about Benji’s illness but he is not embarrassed at himself for being a thief? For being an old mean spirited man? For abusing his mothers trust ? Ohh and how lovely that you take advantage of her blindness but you can barely tolerate her. The truth is that he finds pleasure in belittling everyone around him…everyone except himself.

Jason you are a miserable, miserable man!!

June 2, 1910.

When we think about a cloudy day we usually associate it with a gloomy and depressed day.This is no different in “The Sound and the Fury” when Quentin states  “If it had been cloudy I could have looked at the window, thinking what he said about idle habits.” It is completely clear that Quentin is undergoing a couple of problems, he is suffering from depression.  Caitlin hit it right on the nail when she said that by him wishing for a cloudy day he is unconsciously hoping the mood of the earth would signify his own mood. Caitlin also brought to my attention something that I had not thought about, the idea that bad weather would ruin a wedding (Caddy’s wedding.)  Quentin’s obsession with his sister not only makes me super uncomfortable but it allows me to see that he is sick in the head. Although Benji is the one with the mental illness, Quentin is allowing us to see that he also has a problem, a more severe one  He never found happiness in Harvard, he knows that a relationship with his sister can never happen. He feels empty, he is ruined inside.

Piecing Benji’s Puzzle

Benji in the present is told by Luster to not approach Miss Quentin because she is with her boyfriend. Benji then takes us back to the past when he remembers seeing Caddy with Charlie. It truly amazes me how even though Benji is not able to think subjectively, he still senses when something is different with Caddy (like someone being around her). His love/obsession relationship with Caddy is really displayed in this part of the story when Caddy is with Charlie. Benji does not like Charlies presence as Charlie does not like Benjis. Charlie becomes even more angry when he sees that Benji wont leave them alone but instead is crying louder. When Benji cries, Caddy listens. She even washes her mouth with soap letting Benji know that she is sorry. It is as if she is trying to make Benji believe she regrets doing it. The last line goes back to Caddy smelling like trees which symbolizes that everything is ok again, Benji feels safe that he has Caddy, Benji is happy.

“Benjy.” she said. “How did you slip out. Where’s Versh.”
She put her arms around me and I hushed and held to her dress and tried to pull her away. “Why, Benjy.” she said. “What is it. T.P.” she called. The one in the swing got up and came, and I cried and pulled Caddy’s dress.
“Benjy.” Caddy said. “It’s just Charlie. Dont you know Charlie.”
“Where’s his nigger.” Charlie said. “What do they let him run around loose for.”
“Hush, Benjy.” Caddy said. “Go away, Charlie. He doesn’t like you.” Charlie went away and I hushed. I pulled at Caddy’s dress.
“Why, Benjy.” Caddy said. “Aren’t you going to let me stay here and talk to Charlie a while.”
“Call that nigger.” Charlie said. He came back. I cried louder and pulled at Caddy’s dress.
“Go away, Charlie.” Caddy said. Charlie came and put his hands on Caddy and I cried more. I cried loud.
“No, no.” Caddy said. “No. No.”
“He cant talk.” Charlie said. “Caddy.”
“Are you crazy.” Caddy said. She began to breathe fast. “He can see. Dont. Dont.” Caddy fought. They both breathed fast. “Please. Please.” Caddy whispered.
“Send him away.” Charlie said.
“I will.” Caddy said. “Let me go.”
“Will you send him away.” Charlie said.
“Yes.” Caddy said. “Let me go.” Charlie went away. “Hush.” Caddy said. “He’s gone.” I hushed. I could hear her and feel her chest going.
“I’ll have to take him to the house.” she said. She took my hand. “I’m coming.” she whispered.
“Wait.” Charlie said. “Call the nigger.”
“No.” Caddy said. “I’ll come back. Come on, Benjy.”
“Caddy.” Charlie whispered, loud. We went on. “You better come back. Are you coming back.” Caddy and I were running. “Caddy.” Charlie said. We ran out into the moonlight, toward the kitchen.
“Caddy.” Charlie said.
Caddy and I ran. We ran up the kitchen steps, onto the porch, and Caddy knelt down in the dark and held me. I could hear her and feel her chest. “I wont.” she said. “I wont anymore, ever. Benjy. Benjy.’ Then she was crying, and I cried, and we held each other. “Hush.” She said. “Hush. I wont anymore. So I hushed and Caddy got up and we went into the kitchen and turned the light on and Caddy took the kitchen soap and washed her mouth at the sink, hard. Caddy smelled like trees.

 

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