caged birds

May 30, 2007 at 1:34 am (Uncategorized)

I just finished reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings last week, and it was truly an emotional and psychological experience. The novel was inspirational yet at the same time, it was extremely depressing. Maya Angelou’s writing style is very reminiscent of the prose of Toni Morrison, they both write with a pen of wonderful metaphors and beauty…that pull incessantly on our heartstrings. The novel is largely integrative and lies in the midst of confliction and dissent – black versus white, freedom versus oppression, and life versus imprisonment.  The protagonist, Marguerite takes us along on her journey through the dark heart of the world, through the racist Southern town of Stamps, Arkansas to the city of oranges and sunshine of
California. She encounters racism, bigotry, and confinement and tries to fly with a pair of broken and maimed wings. In the beginning of the book, she is a bright young girl who spends much of her time reading the Bronte sisters, especially Jane Eyre…and almost from the moment we see her, she defines herself as a oppressed, Black, victimized individual. At the age of seven, she is raped by her mother’s boyfriend, Mr. Freeman, and that treacherous experience and horrible memory causes her to retreat from society and from herself. She begins to create these insurmountable, impermeable walls in her soul, and as a result, she refuses to let anyone in. From a very young age, she associates love with evil and hatred, and she rarely speaks to anyone, and she has a difficult time coming out of her shell of repression and taciturnity. She and her older brother Baily, are treated like moveable property – they go from their Momma’s (their grandmother’s) home in Stamps to California, then back to Stamps, and then to California and then they make the trek back to San Francisco…so they never have a chance to develop roots anywhere – they don’t know where they belong from beginning to end. They must adhere to the sad “tedium of life” and see themselves as “unwanted children” from the start. However, Momma, their grandmother is very much like Baby Snuggs from Beloved – they both break free from those chains that physically, mentally, and emotionally harden the individual. Both authors allude to the idea of spiritual reality – they seek love that exists beyond the chains – because in the struggle lies joy and happiness…Emily Dickinson once wrote – “Who are you?/Are you —  Nobody – too?” So I think with Marguerite’s character Angelou directly refers to this ideal of what it truly means to be “Nobody.” Marguerite sees the oppression that surrounds her and she sees the villainy that exists behind the mask of magnanimity. During her graduation, the proudest day of her life, she sees the inevitable fate of the Black, oppressed individual in the South. A special speaker, a white man comes in to speak to the anxious crowd, but he indirectly belittles the entire race of African Americans and Marguerite only wishes to run. Here they stood, waiting to receive their diplomas, waiting for their moment in the sunshine, yet even the white world prevents them from taking that step. Thus, in Native Son by Richard Wright, this struggle is also revealed – the white world prevents him from ever reaching his full strength and potentialities – throughout all of African American literature this theme is evident and rampant. Where can one find meaning and purpose, where can one find color and fruit within a realm of faceless creatures who not only hate and despise, but are indifferent to one’s freedom and inalienable right to the self, and to existence, and to freedom?
            However, with all African American literature we must look for the saving grace, my professor pointed this out when we were discussing Beloved. Through their oppression and struggle, one can not deny that there is some means of joy. Marguerite experiences this wonderful cusp of freedom when she meets the lovely and beautiful Miss Flowers, who takes her aside one day at the Store, and tells her that reading is not enough, one needs to live the experience, one needs expression and voice. One can never be free if one does not speak – language is freedom, just as reading and writing are. My favorite part in the novel is when Mrs. Flowers takes Marguerite to her home which is warm and friendly and smells of “sweet vanilla” – Mrs. Flowers teaches her one the greatest lessons of her life – the importance of reading and literature upon the human mind…Read this passage please and you’ll see what I mean…           

“When I finished the cookies she brushed off the table bought a thick, small book from the bookcase. I had read A Tale of Two Cities and found it up to my standards as a romantic novel. She opened the first page and I heard poetry for the first time in my life. “It was the best of time and the worst of times…’ Her voice slid in and curved down through and over the words. She was nearly singing. I wanted to look at the pages. Were the same that I read? Or were there notes, music, lined on the pages, as in a hymn book? Her sounds began cascading gently. I knew from listening to a thousand preachers that she was nearing the end of her reading, and I hadn’t really heard, heard to understand, a single word” (Angelou 100).        

  Do you see what I mean? I think this paragraph demonstrates the main reason why I love reading African American literature. Some say it’s all the same, only about the struggle and endless toil and no means of redemption and salvation. But one can not be a student of literature and say such things… In this book, there is joy – it may be indiscreet, and it may not be omnipresent, but it is undeniably there and it makes me happy and it gives me reassurance that things will be okay for me, and Marguerite and all those who face a similar fate.   “I was liked, and what a difference it made. I was respected not as Mrs. Henderson’s grandchild or Bailey’s sister but for just being Marguerite Johnson” (101).   

What do you think of this book? Have you read it?

Advertisements

Permalink 2 Comments

Annabel Lee

May 23, 2007 at 2:23 pm (Uncategorized)

Annabel Lee
Literature creates more literature. Do you know what I mean? I was reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and in novel Marguerite received a battered book of poems written by Edgar Allan Poe for her grammar school graduation. She opens the book and stumbles upon the poem “Annabel Lee” and I after I finished that chapter I grabbed the Anthology of American Poems from my bookshelf (a book that I bought for the low and awesome price of 1.00 at the used book sale) and looked up the poem and read it immediately. I read it once, and then I read it again, and then I read it again and again. What a sad poem! I remember reading A Sonnet to Science in American literature, and I really connected to that poem because I live with that same mentality. I always saw the “dull reality” of all that existed within that realm of numbers, formulas and all else that involves memorization and nothingness. I guess literature teaches us to seek things in life that have meaning and purpose…so I guess you can say that am skeptical of everything that doesn’t include words. But I want to talk about the Sonnet to Science first: “Why preyest thou thus upon the poet’s heart” – I think Poe is trying to make the same connection within Annabel Lee. He exists in that realm of liminality – he is trapped between two words the realm of sea and of the moon and of the realm of science and his outside, fatalistic fate. However, the realm of the latter leaves no room for moral choice and Poe vies for some means of control in his world, only to find that he has none. Annabel is the bright star of his existence – their love is stronger than “kingdom by the sea,” — their love is stronger than time, stronger than human reason and physical existence.
 

But in the poem Poe struggles against the contention of the world – even the angels, those are supposed to protect and console, are against him and are envious of their love – “Yes!” Poe reassures himself…”—that was the reason…” of her death…she is swept away from him by the wind, which has the power to take away human life and love. Thus, even the forces of nature are aligned against him.   

My favorite lines are:“For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreamsOf the beautiful ANNABEL LEE;And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyesOf the beautiful ANNABEL LEE…” 

Annabel Lee was the color in the narrator’s life, she is always associated with the moon/stars/sea– all that is unknown to us…and perhaps she herself was concealed and unknown to Poe, and her elusiveness created more of attraction between the lovers. He says that their love was young and free and beautiful – better than those “older” and those “wiser.” The purest type of love is the young love, and that’s what’s he’s trying to hold onto with Annabel Lee.  

“And neither the angels in heaven above, Nor the demons down under the sea,Can ever dissever my soul from the soulOf the beautiful ANNABEL LEE.” 

Also, I just noticed that her name is always capitalized, which may suggest that she is grander, that her existence gave Poe more life than he could ever had imagined… “In her tomb by the side of sea” is where she dwells, but I her body I think has somehow resurrected…I am not sure if Poe was a religious person – correct me on this please – but maybe like Jesus, she rose from the dead, her body is no longer there, no longer within the confines of the tomb – she found means of freedom within death? Her spirit has the power to conquer the sea, the moon, and all else that vies against her sweet yet potent spirit. 

So I think that’s enough thinking for now…this is why like this blogosphere thing, I don’t need to have my ideas clear or organize…I can just write and hope others will listen. What was your take on this poem? Do you agree with me? Disagree?

Permalink Leave a Comment

mockingbirds

May 19, 2007 at 12:17 am (Uncategorized)

Do you like rereading books from high school? For as long as I remember, I’ve always wanted to teach and I guess I figure if I’m going to teach a book, then I better have a firm grasp on what it means and what it means to be in that character’s position in life. These past two summers I have tried to reread every book that I read in high school and I don’t know why. I think it’s because I’ve changed. Or maybe just because there is no particular reason other than inherent curiosity to see what I missed. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the books, and the sad part is I don’t even remember reading it. I know I was supposed to have it read it during my freshman year, in poor young, blue-eyed Mr. Daris’s class, but it is has somehow escaped my memory…Anyway, I just finished reading it this week and was struck and touched by Harper Lee’s lovely, compassionate, and poetic writing style. I probably won’t come even close to doing it justice, but I will try. I will try, Reader, and maybe you’ll be inspired to give the novel another read. But, I am also writing this for myself, so I can remember what I exactly loved about this novel. I have a horrible short term memory and I write in attempts to remember, if that makes any sense.  

First I love the humble, well-spoken and respected, character of Atticus Finch (maybe this stems from the fact that he reminds me of my own father and the way things used to be). He is probably one of my favorite characters in all of American literature. He is such a good father to his children and he fights for justice and reason and love in a world of contention and duplicity. However, he is an erudite man who almost hides behind his newspaper and reading material. I am not sure about this assertion, what do you think? But I feel as though he does hide. He comes home to read every night and for him it provides an escape I think.  

 

The small town of

Macomb
County reminds me of the town which is depicted in The Scarlet Letter. I remember how Hester emerges from the prison and how she couldn’t even look into the light of sunshine without flinching. The town in which Hawthorne depicts is no different from the one Harper Lee depicts more than a hundred years later (correct me if I am wrong here) – the people still lead double, artificial lives – they have double personalities, double souls, yet the ultimate question is posed again and again: how is possible for the soul to survive amid such contention? Why try to be someone you are not? Why oppress the other, if the other is just another individual, another human being who yearns for the same ideals as you? Jem and Scout, only young children at the time, try to distinguish one race from another, but find they can no make distinctions without sounding foolish. Thus, we see echoes of Hawthorne and the Romantics here – only children can see reason and truth. Atticus tells Jem that if the jury was full of children, his case would be won, justice would be served, and innocent Tom Robinson would be set free. But, that is not the sad reality. In this instance, Scout and Jem find no distinctions to be made. We may be a dime a dozen, but we are still human beings, and well, that means something, it has to, otherwise we wouldn’t care about Jem, Atticus, or Scout, we would care about one another. In the novel, we are plunged into this new world of
Macomb and we care about these characters, we watch them crumble, fall, and then rise above again.  

Boo Radley is stuck in his house, as Jem states, maybe it’s simply because “he wants to.” This struck an internal chord in my soul. It reminded me of someone I knew and I felt the black serpent of despair leap up in my soul…Maybe its because he just doesn’t want reenter society again, he doesn’t want to be apart of all the falsehood and deception, of all that has consumed his life. I don’t know. I really don’t. But, in the story Boo Radley will never leave his house, and to me that is so strange and morbid. What would keep someone locked behind their own bars? Why create your own chains? Aren’t the four walls of the house confining enough?  

I want to leave you with this quote which I wrote down on a separate piece of paper because I liked it so much (if you read nothing else of my post, read this): “…son, I told you that if you hadn’t lost your head I’d have you go read to her. I wanted you to see something about her – I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do…” This is how I regard writing in my life…I might not get anywhere with it, but hey I love to write, so I will.  

Permalink 1 Comment

May 14, 2007 at 6:32 pm (Uncategorized)

I like to write poetry though its not something I do very often…Here is something that I wrote and I enjoyed. What do you think? I don’t think that this will post the way I want it to…so bear with me 🙂

Trees? 

I look up,to see a ring of emerald trees.

Their little wings,bounce, twirl, jump, and sing.

What are they saying to me? 

Their intricate, blessed dance

within the warm spring sky,casts a black-eyed shadow,

over Sun. What are they saying to me?

Look closer – Someone speaks. Listen closer, please –

They sing, dance, and laugh.

What are they saying to me? 

He enters the emerald ring:

“I don’t understand! I don’t understand!” 

Only more chatter follows. More dance, More laughter.

More humiliation.

Trees –Can speak, but can’t see. The sky makes me wonder,

If time stopped,

would the trees finally,

speak to – speak to –

me?  

Permalink 4 Comments

my recent reading and other things

May 10, 2007 at 12:36 am (Uncategorized)

How did I come across the book Ellen Foster? It was lying around my house, it is old, battered book that my brother was supposed to read in high school, yet he failed to give back (and now its mine of course), and I found it amid an endless drawer of clutter. A new day and a new discovery.  I haven’t finished reading it yet, I thought I would start the summer out with something short and easy.                 

As I read Kaye Gibbon’s prose, I just kept thinking, I hope my writing doesn’t sound like this – if it does, then I might cry. I just don’t want my writing to be so depressing that it becomes hard to read. I want my writing to be bittersweet – that’s actually what my friend called it. “Why is your writing like that?” she asked me one day. I didn’t know what to say, except for “I don’t know.” I was at loss for words. “I just don’t know.” It’s just the way I am. I can’t change the way I am, I thought. She smiled and pretended to look reassured and poised. I wasn’t quite sure, and her question still floats within my mind. Why do I write like that? Where does it come from? Why does it always feel like it’s a complete mess of disconnected parts? But, the writing of Kay Gibbons, reminds me of my own writing. The same anguish. The same pain. The same struggle. The same wall that the separates the soul from the self. I actually haven’t worked on my long-long story for some time. I don’t know why. Tonight I will try to work on it, but sometimes I just feel like it’s a futile endeavor. What am I trying to prove? Why am I doing it? And I hate to think that way, but those thoughts are always there. I just feel like writing has almost overstepped its boundaries in my life, if that is even possible. It’s not even a story anymore, but a reflection of something I can’t even describe.  But the reason I intended to write this post was to cite a passage that I really struck me from Ellen Foster. All of the characters in the novel are unnamed (which I thought was a great literary device), except for the newly orphaned protagonist Ellen, a young girl who is internally starved. She is placed within her “mama mama’s” for some time, and she is treated like an indentured servant who has been exiled from the world. Her grandmother hates her because she has the eyes of her daughter’s deceased husband, who is a drunken and abusive father and husband. Ellen’s duty is to serve and to please this mentally sick and starved human self. I loved this passage and when I read it, I starred and highlighted it. Ellen is watching her diabolic grandmother sleep:        

“I could wake her up and ask have you ever been to the ocean? but I already know that answer. She has not. You can tell.          It would humble you I whisper to her sleeping if you for one time stood by something stronger than yourself” (79).  I just really liked and connected with these words. I just wrote a paper on the ocean for one of my classes and I realized that was the exact reason, put into words that I couldn’t express, of why I was so drawn to it. That is why literature is like a vital organ within my heart. I can always read. I can always hold a book in my hand. I felt something that someone else felt too.   

Permalink 1 Comment

in honor of my brother

May 6, 2007 at 3:36 am (Uncategorized)

Today was one of the first days that I was home since school began in January. I mean I was always in and out of my home throughout the school year, but today I finally had the chance to reconnect with the people I love, and truly miss, in my life. I was apart of something I that I thought I lost. Things still aren’t okay, but things were much better today, anyway. I guess maybe some things never change; hey, I found that the wonderful banter between my siblings and I, still exists. We might have only the past to dwell upon, but still….we have something and it is wonderful and bright, like the sunset in the distant shore, we all see it and are inspired by its infectious rays of light and power. I was happy to see my brother laugh again. I missed the sound of his laughter. It was the sound of my childhood, and so much had changed since then, that I wondered if even he, would ever come back. But, he did. I imagined him in his untied Timberline works and
Levis as a child and smiled.
It was my little cousin’s Angelina’s confirmation party, and we went to Zizi’s house for a special dinner and dessert. My brother and sisters and I dread going all the way there, simply because we are just sick of little children, heck there is just way too many count and we are too old to hear their constant wailing and nagging for a mere stupid toy or battle over the last piece of watermelon, or the fight over who gets to hold the newborn baby. I always felt like an outsider in my family and I don’t really know why. Maybe I just grew up. Maybe I’ve just changed. I don’t know, but I always feel misplaced somehow. Meaningless conversations….Little kids who won’t leave you alone…and nothing, but cartoons or meaningless shows on the television. Today was no different. We entered Zizi’s home, kissed our grandparents “hello,” along with everyone else (hey…you kiss no one or everyone…you pick)…people I hadn’t seen in ages, but still they pretended to know me and ask the typical questions that you ask someone when you haven’t seen them in a few months. After the usual greetings and hellos we took our seats and avoided the boisterous mass of children that hovered near the dessert table which was filled with plates wrapped in foil and plastic.There were pink tables in the living room and my siblings and I took our seats at the end of the table. No one spoke for a little while. We just watched and waited for the food to be unwrapped and served. But, then something happened and I wasn’t sure what and we just started to talk and talk and talk. Nothing stood in our way. There were no walls, no mountains, no nothing, except the four of us. I had missed them so much. Life just isn’t the same when you lose the people you love, even if it is for just a short while. I felt as though I had grown so distant from the people I once knew, I felt as though a huge weight had been placed on my heart, and I was constantly fighting, constantly fighting for something to hold onto. But now I no longer had to fight. They were right there in front of me. My brother and I secretly stole a few drinks from the drink table and we talked about things. We touched upon nothing that hurt us in life, but we spoke of the wonders of

River Road

, our old yellow playroom, and our wonderful matching blue bikes that we got for Christmas one year. My sister also chimed in now and then, but she was born a few years after my brother and I and didn’t have the same experience as we did on good old

River Road

. Heck, it was the best time of our lives. It truly was. We spoke of the white Batgirl the cat that we used to own, how she eventually ran away to a new neighbor down the street, who took her in because she thought she was a stray. We spoke of the silver playground in our small backyard and how I cracked my knee open when I had slid down the slide one Sunday afternoon when our moms were not around. I remembered I told my cousin, Franky, to water my knee down with the hose, yet even though he had it on full-blast all attempts were futile. Let’s just say it was a bloody mess. Imagine this: My knee had spilt, and my cousins and I were trying to patch it up with flowery napkins and Scotch tape. I didn’t want to tell my dad. I was a good child, and I didn’t want to his ruin his day. We wondered why we were so foolish and we laughed and laughed. It was so nice. I hadn’t felt so good in too many months to count. Nothing was better than this. Nothing could be better. I could still salvage some pieces of what was lost, I thought. Things were still bad. But this was my saving grace. This had to be. I thank my brother for coming back from where he had been. I pray for him everyday. I miss him.

 

Permalink Leave a Comment

remember the moon

May 3, 2007 at 5:56 am (Uncategorized)

I can’t remember the last time that I saw the moon. But tonight I did and it was wonderful and orange and bright. After taking a nature hike with my class and being fully immersed in the wilderness (okay, it was approx. 6 hours, but still) I have gained a new appreciation and deeper understanding for all things that surround me. Well, anyway, it was a beautiful night, the skies were the color of the deepest of blues, yet it was mixed with a soft, beautiful russet, almost golden hue. As we circled around the track in our old sneakers, I didn’t even realize that I was moving. I felt as light as air. My eyes were fixated on a distant planet, that seemed to flicker and twinkle in the distance. I tried to wait to see it if would move or dart across the sky, but it remained in place. Before I knew it, a blanket of darkness slowly covered the world and I could barely see the face of my friend, Kara, yet the stars continued to smile at us. As I rounded the corner, I saw something that looked like a giant Christmas ornament hanging in the sky, but there was no threads holding it in place. I looked closer and quickened my pace. The giant orange orb was the moon, our moon. I was almost level with it! I saw it through the distant trees and it seemed so close, too close almost. I felt as though if only I could run a little farther, if I could only run….that I could reach it somehow. I had never seen it glow that bright before. There was a fire inside of the moon and I was there to see it. The world was mine for just this one night. I could hear nothing but the sound of my own footsteps and the jingle of my keys in my pocket. It was me and then there was the world. Me….I kept looking at the sky that seemed to stare and blink, it seemed as though it was filled with a lonely eyes, and I wanted to know their shapes and see their distinctive light and color. I kept circling the track, a stationary, flat plain, yet I kept my eyes on the sky, and the orange moon full of fire and embers.

Permalink 1 Comment

remember the moon

May 3, 2007 at 5:55 am (Uncategorized)

Permalink Leave a Comment