black boy I

July 26, 2007 at 3:00 pm (Uncategorized)

black-boy.jpg     I finally had the chance to begin reading Richard Wright’s Black Boy. Let me just say that Wright is right up there with Toni Morrison for me – these two are my favorite authors when it comes to African American Literature. Wright’s tone is so wonderful, he tends to write in the colloquial way one would speak, yet his simplistic style has the power to intercede into the core of our hearts. His struggle for life is a lot like mine, and this is perhaps one of the reasons reading him or Morrison is more of a comfort for me than anything else – your not alone, is what these books tell me over and over again.          

Wright’s struggle as a black man in the South is clearly illuminated in this text. As a child, he has a faint idea of the difference between black and white, yet as time passes, he realizes the color becomes a defining factor in determining one’s identity and he begins to hate the world for its horrible inequities.

“Watching the white people eat would make my empty stomach churn and I would grow vaguely angry. Why could I not eat when was hungry? Why did I always have to wait until others were through? I could not understand why some people had enough food and others did not” (Wright 19).

These words make me cringe in anger and despair and the thought of hunger makes me wince. Why could I not eat when was hungry? Wright poses these continual unanswerable questions and kills me to see how he was forced to live, and how society treated him. But the sad part is that society didn’t have to lynch him in order for him to have these feelings — he was conditioned to believe he indeed was nothing – he internalized what society told him to – “I had never in my life been abused by whites, but I had already become as conditioned to their existence as though I had been the victim of a thousand lynchings” (74).

So from the very beginning, we see the threads that are woven into the society become real, tangible barriers. Throughout Part I, Wright is continually inflicted with a terrible hunger – physical, yes — but his hunger extends beyond mere corporeal existence; he sees himself as an outsider, a outsider who is always struggling to find his way into a world filled with white noise and meaningless talk that always runs into circles – “but there was only endless talk that lead nowhere and I began to keep away from home as much as possible, preferring the simplicity of the streets to the worried, futile talk at home” (28).

Where in the world can I find freedom, he continually asks us. Many times he thinks of an escape, especially at the orphanage and when he does flee, he only finds himself more alone and empty, he wanders aimlessly along the streets with white faces staring at him through their bars and saloons. Only to be picked up and “rescued” by a white policeman who takes him to the station, thus only to find himself clutched under the white patriarchy once again. But he doesn’t want to be rescued by anyone – he wants to be who he is, whether that scares his mother he doesn’t seem to care – he just wants to find the roots to his existence.         

I read Wright’s Native Son last summer and really enjoyed it though the novel was extremely sad and frightening and rather bleak. But it still stands as one of my favorite books, and I would love to teach Wright in the future, no actually I will find a way to teach him no matter what – his ability to connect the reader to his words is what keeps me reading for hours on end. He does an excellent job of breaking that usual barrier that exists between the reader and the author and within his work, we can see that he is truly free, there are no barriers, no mountains or impediments or walls, because he doesn’t allow there to be any. In his work, he is truly to free to say and be who he wants. He finally found connection and freedom. 

Not to know the end of the tale filled me a sense of emptiness, loss. I hungered for the sharp, frightening, breathtaking almost painful excitement that the story had given me, and I vowed that as soon as I was old enough I would buy all the novels there were and read them to feed that thirst…No words or punishment could have possibly made me doubt. I had tasted what to me was life, and I would have more of it, somehow, someway…” (40). How wonderful are these words? I will continue this post when I finish the novel.

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what do you do?

July 24, 2007 at 1:39 pm (Uncategorized)

          Why are we always defined by what we do? At church the priest brought up some important points that I want to bring up here. In this world, as soon as we meet someone for the first time, and even before their names register in our brains, we immediately ask, “What do you do? What do you do?” I thought, yes, everyone wants to know what we do – so they can quickly place a label on us and try to figure out who you are and how they can compete.

Only the sad part is, we shouldn’t be judged by the jobs we do – too many times we are defined by what we do, instead of who we are. We all want titles, we all want to be recognized and understood, but I think this serves as a mask for who we really are – our job or profession, serves as a veil, I guess that we use it to hide behind. This question — What do you do? — signifies everything that is wrong with our world. We always have to be doing something every waking moment of the day – we can never just sit still and listen – listen. Doing “nothing” in our world is frowned upon – we must fill our time with things to do – meaningful or not — because doing nothing is not accepted or tolerated. Our“free will” is severely limited and constrained, because we are conditioned to believe what the world tells us to.          

I am entangled in this web too, don’t get me wrong. Why do I need a piece of paper to prove that I am worthy to teach? But, if I start asking questions, I will never stop, so let me stop here. I guess, I am tired of the old questions, what do you do? And I didn’t recognize it until now. I’m fortunate enough to have the means to accomplish something in my life, but others are not so lucky, and they spend their lives trapped behind metaphorical bars – I always think of Hurston’s They’re Eyes Were Watching God, because the protagonist is trapped within the walls of her husband’s store — because society doesn’t give them the means to attain anything. Those people are looked down upon yet those are those are the ones who work behind the scenes and keep our world afloat. I don’t really know where I am going, but I like to ramble, so I will.

Now is actually a perfect time to quote from Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich as she speaks about the yearning for freedom among the Native American people and the cold, naturalist lenses of society: “Society? Society is like this card game here, cousin. We got dealt our hand before we were even born, and as we grow we have play as best as we can” (Erdrich 357). And sadly the characters in her novel are entangled within the vast, intricate web that I spoke about earlier. They are entangled and lost and broken. No one knows each other. Mothers don’t know who their sons and daughters are, and fathers are the same way.

In her novel, Erdrich opens that seed of loneliness and emptiness, and the novel is filled with the need for human connection and love and fulfillment, in a world that vies to tear apart and destruct. Erdrich is telling us to wake up and see the world as it is, wake up world, she is telling us, and look at what we’ve done to our people. Moral awareness, is what she is asking us for.

“How come we’ve got these frail bodies? They are poor supports for what we feel.” – Louise Erdrich

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literature and you

July 21, 2007 at 1:11 am (Uncategorized)

I usually don’t dream, but last night, I dreamt that I was a teacher and it was my first day of class. I know, can you believe it! I stood there with my long skirt and bright flowery top, and stood with my back to the class. I was writing on the board (which is one the reasons I always wanted to become a teacher, for the sheer pleasure of writing on the board!). I wrote my name in the left hand corner, Miss Angela Soaria, and then underneath, Freshman English. I told the class they could call me my first name if they wanted. Angela. Then I wrote in my big fancy cursive writing,

“What does the word LITERATURE mean to you?”

I took up the entire extent of the board with these words – and then just as I was about to turn to face my class, Just the sound of my class, makes me happy. So happy. Someone once said, Do whatever makes you happy. And this is it.  I awoke. I tried returning to sleep, I yearned to continue my dream, but nothing but darkness followed. I woke up hopeful and happy. For this is my destination.  What does the word literature mean to you? I hoped and prayed that I could be as wonderful a teacher as Miss Eva or Hobgoblin. J  

Reading update: I’ve been wanting to read Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and so I began it today and so far it’s been a delightful read. I love her Thoreau/Emerson way of looking at the world. In her story, she takes us along a journey through untrammeled territory of the natural world, and she asks poignant questions that concern our place amid the cosmos. We are fearful creatures who are placed on this planet without really knowing any answers, except the here and now.

Here are a few quotes to give you a feel for the novel: 

“We have really only that one light, one source for all power, and yet we must turn away from it by universal decree. Nobody here on the planet seems aware of this strange, powerful taboo, that we all walk about carefully averting our faces, this way and that, lest our eyes be blasted forever” (Dillard 25).  

“So I travel mute among these books, these eyeless men and women that people the empty plain. I wake up thinking: What am I reading?” What will I read next? I’m terrified that I’ll run out, that I will read through all I want to, and e forced to learn wildflowers at last, to keep awake” (44).  

“I cannot cause light; the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam” (Dillard 35).  

Alright that is enough for now. I don’t feel like explaining or analyzing this tonight, so sadly I will just allow these quotes to hang in midair. Forgive me, please.

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the Pizza show!!

July 20, 2007 at 1:50 am (Uncategorized)

          The other day I was telling my friend a funny story that happened to me at a Brick Oven pizza place when I was younger, and I said, “You know, I should write a story about that!!” So, that’s what I am doing. Writing a story. I miss writing. So this will be fun for me.

At one least one Friday every month, my family and I used to go to Brick Oven’s pizza. We used to sit in the tiny reddish-velvet booth in the corner of the restaurant and talk about whatever we wanted. I was always the center of attention and I was always good at making conversation and cracking those hilarious jokes of mine, though my sister says that it was not the joke, but the sound of my laughter that was funny. I spoke, truly spoke, and laughed and poked my little sister and instigated all the fights until my cousins arrived.

We always met my cousins – Ant and Kate and their parents Patina (godmother in Italian) and Uncle Rick there, and we all squeezed around the circular table. I always made sure I sat next to Anthony. Ant, what we like to call him, was the second eldest next to me, so I guess you can say we were the leaders of our pack. But, I, Angela S. was the oldest child, and therefore the smartest, brightest, and most brilliant, of course. Everyone looked up to me, yet I seldom liked that spotlight. I never wanted it. I wanted to follow, and sometimes I wondered what I was doing in the front of the pack in the first place. I never felt like I belonged anywhere. I was always scrounging to find a way in; I was always on that boundary, wingless and broken.

Anyways, the Brick Oven Pizza place was your ordinary standard restaurant, average sized and quaint, yet that wonderful aroma of fresh bread sticks and gravy and strong Italian cheese never changed. Come to think of it, the only thing I can recall is the glass sheet in front of the pizza oven, in which the chefs with their white hats twirled dough within their hands and put on their daily, what we used to call, pizza show.

After we placed our usual order, Ant, Ricky and I, would pull chairs up and sit and watch the chefs twirl the pizzas within their hands. Sometimes if the nice crew was working, they would give us cute little packets of dough wrapped in wax paper, and we would spend the entire night with it in our hands as though it was clay or play dough. I remembered that it smelled so sweet and we always added pink packets of Sweet and Low to the crumbling mess– we made action figures, and probably anything you could think of. That night, the nice crew was working and they handed us three packets of freshly made dough. We always fought for the largest piece and we would play “rocks, paper, scissors” to see who would win. I never did and I let Ant and Rick fight over it. They usually wrestled and tried to “pin” the other right there in front of the chefs and scores of people.

While we waited for our dinner to arrive, we used to watch the chefs cook the pizza. I remembered that one of the older men, his name was Vincent, was spinning a large pizza on his index finger. How cool, I thought. I want to try that. Spinning it like it was a Frisbee, so effortlessly. Then all of a sudden, he sent it flying my direction! I turned my head and tried to flee, yet the reaction was too late, and it landed directly on top of my poor sandy brown head. I was in shock. And then when it finally hit me, I cried. The only thing I heard was the sound of my wailing, and let me tell you, I was quite good at crying….And you think Ant and Rick would be sympathetic? No, they were scrambling to see who could accumulate the most dough off of my head, and I continued to cry like a madwoman.

“Stop!! Leave me alone!!” I shouted as I ran through the restaurant and raced into my mother’s warm arms. “MAMA!!!” I yelled with all of my might into her arms. I wanted to blame Ant and Ricky, but they had really done nothing. I wanted to blame the pizza guy, but that seemed wrong too. I couldn’t place the blame on anyone. “MAMA!!!” I continued to yell, and I remember my father chiming in and opening his arms to me. “Come here.” If anyone could heal me, that person was my always my father. I believed in him, and he believed in me. I loved his praise.

He said in his rustic stern voice, “RICK and ANT, get over here, NOW!” I was scared for them, but then I was assured when he said in a much softer voice, “Leave Angela alone,” he warned them and they nodded, and made their way back to the pizza show. I was my father’s star then and I was happy. I didn’t know anything, but I knew my father loved me and that was always enough. ***

When I went to middle school, Brick Oven pizza went bankrupt and shut down. Nothing remains of what was. I have a few memories, but I am afraid that these few moments can never be enough. I am afraid of what these moments stand for. Who we were then, is not who we are now. Everything has changed. People have changed, the times have changed, and I feel, I know that everything is crumbling apart like an insidious bout of cancer that you try to fight and fight against, but in the end find it still there, always lurking in the shadows or within the depths of your mind.

How sweet life was then! I miss so many things, but more than that, I miss the way I used to feel about the world. I missed the way I used to feel about who I was, who I could be, what I wanted. Now I am not so sure about any of these things. I guess this is where the inspiration for my story comes from. But sometimes I think it is a good thing that all of this stuff happened to me — if it hadn’t I always think — I would never have be able to compose what I did. All that anger, frustration, and sadness needed to come out, and so I finally allowed it to. And how much better I feel!

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on Writing…

July 18, 2007 at 9:34 pm (Uncategorized)

I want to thank all of you who read my blog – you know who you are J It really means a lot to me, that others are enjoying — even if it may be sad and depressing sometimes, and you may be saying half the time, what in the world is she talking about??— what I have to say. I just love getting comments from others, and sometimes they really strike me and make me think…Well, if people enjoy my blog, then maybe they will like my writing, and then they will feel compelled to read my novel…YAY! 

So I haven’t looked at my piece in about two weeks. This was no easy task. I continually found myself yearning to read it, and I truly missed working on it. This must be a good sign, right? So, after I met with the writing group yesterday, which was a lot of fun and really helpful, as it always is, (I was secretly glad that we didn’t touch my piece – because I know Vinni will just tear it into shreds, I can see the sad lines of pink ink plastered all over the first page, and I know he means well and all of his feedback is right on target, but still — it hurts to have your work torn apart nonetheless…), I sat down and began to read from a random place somewhere in the middle. I reread a scene, one of my favorites, before Paul leaves his hometown and has one last conversation with his childhood love, Molly Hart. This scene struck me in a newfound way, and I was somehow engulfed in the work and I found myself continuing to read on. Hey this doesn’t sound as bad as I thought it did. I really liked what I had written! I feel that some scenes, are really well written and thought out, yet others are weaker and need a lot of revision and reworking. But I like to reread those scenes that I especially liked because it gives me the feel that maybe the whole thing can sound that strong. 

So, I think that distancing myself from my work was a good thing. The only problem is where do I go from here? I just feel like this is an interminable task…but we’ll see I guess.

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screaming literature

July 16, 2007 at 12:03 am (Uncategorized)

          First, I have one more compliment to add to my feel-good-meme, though it won’t really sound like one at first, but listen anyway please. It was my best friend’s 21st birthday this weekend and so we hung out and went to a really nice place for dinner, and did make-overs and played Scrabble (upon my request, of course, though I came in a measly 2nd place) and had a really good time. I didn’t read for more than one day!!! And when I told my friends this, they rolled their eyes, shook their heads, and laughed that horrible, yet infectious cackling laugh. So, I figured I better laugh to – “Oh Annnngela” they lamented – “what are we going to do with you? What are we going to do with you?”

We also talked a lot. My friends always make fun of me for looking like a “sweet librarian” – but then they immediately reassure me and tell me again and again that I “look fine, anyway. Just fine” and then the “you really do. You look fine. Don’t worry about it.” Okay I won’t worry about it, though sometimes I do. So I nod, and try to look appeased, but something still just doesn’t sit right with that and I don’t know why. What’s wrong with looking like a sweet librarian anyway? But I’ve heard that phrase from not just my friends, I don’t know why I give off this image! What does your typical librarian look like anyway! But I asked my friend what she would think of me if she saw me on the street and didn’t know me in the least bit. She pondered for a moment and then said, “Your appearance just screams literature.” I thought wow! That is one of the best compliments ever! My appearance just screams literature!!  

Also I just want to say one other thing. We spoke about humans always want recognition, and self-gain – basically we want to be recognized and rewarded for all that we do for others and for the world. Then we spoke about how when we do something that goes unrecognized and unnoticed, namely “behind the scenes” — in those wonderful few moments, when we do something or go out of our way to help someone else – then that’s when we gain the powers of immortality. Isn’t that a wonderful thought? So I guess I don’t need to write a book to gain those powers, right? But– I still really want to.

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“You’re The Sound and the Fury!”

July 12, 2007 at 11:30 pm (Uncategorized)

After reading Dorothy’s post and taking the Book quiz, I have discovered that my criteria meets:

the-sound.jpg

You’re The Sound and the Fury!
by William Faulkner


Strong-willed but deeply confused, you are trying to come to grips with a major crisis in your life. You can see many different perspectives on the issue, but you’re mostly overwhelmed with despair at what you’ve lost. People often have a hard time understanding you, but they have some vague sense that you must be brilliant anyway. Ultimately, you signify nothing.

What do you think? I actually think this is really, quite accurate…I am “deeply confused” and I have lost someone…so this is kind of right on target….I haven’t read The Sound and The Fury, yet but I guess, I will need to read it….

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“the richest plan is not to have one…”

July 12, 2007 at 1:46 am (Uncategorized)

I am reading Louise Erdrich’s novel Love Medicine, and I’m really enjoying it. I remember reading “The Red Convertible” in American literature class and it was one of my favorite short stories. I need to read more of her, I thought to myself long ago, and I finally got around to it! I actually bought her book at the book sale for a small price of $2 (and I don’t know why I feel the need to tell you that). In some respects Erdrich reminds me of Sherman Alexie and I can’t really say why, I just feel that same connection between the two authors.  

The characters all have this inexplicable yearning – this yearning is written beneath prose that seems terse, yet wonderful and distinct. The misery is uncertainly there. I can feel it. Families are distorted, between those that live in the “white world” and those that live in the reservations. The struggle for those two worlds to coexist, how can one balance their heritage, and traditional beliefs with the American way? Thus, how can we can find satiety in a world in which we know or truly understand anything?   

The conversation between Albertine, the young Native American woman who returned from college, and Lipsha, the reticent orphan boy, encapsulates what I am doing a poor job of explaining. Lipsha never knew his mother or father, yet his mother tried to kill him though this information is remained concealed:           

“What about your father? I asked instead. Do you wish you knew him?” Lipsha was quiet, considering, before he answered.“I wouldn’t mind.”

Then I was falling, and he was talking again. I hung on and listened.

“Did you ever dream you flew through air? He asked. “Did you ever dream you landed on a planet or a star?“I dreamed I flew up there once,” he said, going on. “It was all lighted up. Man, it was beautiful! I landed on the moon, but once I stood there at last, I didn’t take a breath.”….

“No,” he said. “No I was scared to breathe.” 

I don’t really know where I am going with this, and I apologize if I am not making any sense, but I will leave you to figure it out.  If anyone asks me what I want to do with my life, what my plan for the future is…I will say I don’t have one and I will quote Louise Erdrich and say well “the richest plan is not to have one”—when I read this – I wondered and questioned and doubted, but also felt comforted in some way.

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“let us go then, you and I…”

July 10, 2007 at 2:48 pm (Uncategorized)

My friend told me something the other day and it made me think. She said, “You know when it comes to literature, you wear your heart on your sleeve, but when it comes to you, you – yourself—you don’t….”          

“Your right…” I said, knowing what she meant and yet still unwillingly to agree completely.

She is right, come to think of it, she is always right. And I thought, in my writing I’m the same way – I could have paragraphs and paragraphs of description about feelings and images, but I still don’t truly say anything!!! Metaphorically, yes, but that’s not enough and I am beginning to realize this. I fail to give the reader any clues as to what is going on, so they just kind of wander aimlessly along with me, without really knowing what exactly is going on.  But then I think – this could be a good thing – right? I mean isn’t this emblematic of the postmodern world? Isn’t this rather accurate of the human self? I think of one of my favorite poems “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock” (Let us go then you and I when the evening is spread out against the sky…”)

We spend our lives trying to figure out who are, only to find out that we really don’t know anything about life, time, and evolution, about who we are. I guess the course I took last semester with Dr. W on the Contemporary Novel, really did have an impact on me. The strange part is I have been told that I write with an “old fashioned feel” and yet I am writing in the post-modern era. So let’s see. What could this mean or signify? What is the meaning here? Here’s what I think: my piece is trying to recapture something that has been lost, something or someone that you once knew and held dearly is forever gone from your world, never to return and you are only left with the past, that haunts instead of enlightens.

What else? Let’s see…What it feels like to be alone, what it means to battle against all the forces aligned against you, and lastly what it means to fight your fate. What it means to live in a world where nothing is discernable from first glance. What it means to keep trying. Keep trying in the face of all those people who turn the other way when they see you. This book is a testament to my life, and I will keep trying.     

Okay, so I have all these ideas, but I need to figure out how to better develop them… 

“And would it have been worth it, after all/Would it have been worth while,/After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,/After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor – And this, and so much more? –

It is impossible to say just what I mean!” (T.S.  Eliot).

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replaced, sadness

July 8, 2007 at 12:12 am (Uncategorized)

            Let’s see. With this post I am not sure what I want to write, but I want to write so let’s see where my thoughts take me. First of all, I am disappointed in myself for not doing anything this summer; I don’t technically have a real job, I mean I have the library, but that doesn’t really count, and I realize, yes I know a little too late, that I should have better pre-planned my time. The thing is, I was supposed to be tutoring, but no one signed up for the sessions, so now I am left with nothing, and I feel really bad, because I feel so useless! Apart of me wants to sit and read all day, but I know I need to make money for school, and so…I don’t know, I will have to call the tutoring place on Monday, and maybe they will have some office work for me. But still…it hurts, that I am being replaced at the library, I thought of Willy in The Death of a Salesman and how he worked for this company for thirty or so years and how they just let him go one day, as though he was a mere dispensable part – it took me awhile to get this out – but I am being slowly replaced and I feel it and know it. How sad is this? Me, the author-librarian-look-a-like is being replaced….But then I think that it someone else’s turn, I no longer truly belong there anymore. Do you know what I am feeling? The library is a relic of my past, and I think I need to move on. This will my last summer working there, I’ve decided. I am done with it.               

But on a lighter note, I just finished reading The Joy Luck Club, and I loved it! I think that Amy Tan is one of my favorite authors just because she and I are quite alike. Her central focus is one seeking the self, in a foreign American world, where one is always forced to be disconnected and thrust in different directions.   I want to share with you a few of my favorite quotes: 

“In two years’ time, my scar became pale and shiny and I had no memory of my mother. That is the way it is with a wound. The wound begins to close in on itself, to protect what is hurting so much. And once it is closed, you no longer see what is underneath, what started the pain” (Tan 47). I think, wow, this is what I feel all the time. I feel nothing for my father and yet how can I still hurt so much….? 

I wiped my eyes and looked in the mirror. I was surprised at what I saw. I had on a beautiful red dress, but what I saw was even more valueable. I was strong. I was pure. I had genuine thoughts inside that no one could see, that no one could ever take away from me. I was like the wind. I threw my head back and smiled proudly to myself. And then I draped the large embroidered red scarf over my face and covered these thoughts up. But underneath the scarf I still knew who I was. I made a promise to myself: I would always remember my parents’ wishes, but I would never forget myself.”

I thought of The Awakening and Edna when I read this… “I would give up my life for my children, but I wouldn’t give up myself…”  But the truth is, I would give up myself, my life, and all talents I possess (including writing) for my children. I would be nobody if only they could be somebody.                                                                                                                    

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