i don’t even know…

This is my last post for LIT 490… and it’s going to be about Persepolis. But only a little bit J

As this semester is coming to an end (and I should be graduating), I can’t help but wonder what the hell I’m going to do after college. I’ve worked since I was sixteen, had a full time for the past three years and have had the same, well paying job for two.  I work in retail and while many of my co-workers urge me to work hard to get my own store, I keep encouraging myself to find anything to do, BUT that! While I love my job and the people I work with, I can’t imagine working in customer service (like that) for the rest of my life, working holidays, late nights, preparing for corporate visits, audits, inventories, certifications… It actually makes me feel physically ill to even imagine myself five years from now doing that. The sad thing is, I don’t have an alternative. I mean, I kind of do… There’s obviously opportunities since I’m getting my degree in English, Psychology and a minor in art, but seriously, none of the jobs I’ve been advised for sound interesting. I have not a shred of experience in anything that has to do with my fields of study because I’ve worked so hard at my current job to be the best that I can be. I work in a top volume store with high caliber talent and record sales for my company. As I’m getting closer and closer to graduating, I can’t help but feel I’ve wasted a lot of invested time in that job for me to feel like I’m at square one. And this is where Persepolis comes into play…

I read one specific passage that resonated with me, a lot. As Marji is thinking about the consequences of smoking cigarettes and how her doctor would advise otherwise, she comes to the conclusion, “I think that I preferred to put myself in serious danger rather than confront my shame. My shame at not having become someone, the shame of not having made my parents proud after all the sacrifices they had made for me” (Satrapi 244). Story of my life Marji! I’m sure I’m not the only feeling like that during this stage of transition. I just wonder if the decisions I’ve made were the right ones and what I’m going to do for the rest of my life. Although I love reading and writing, I have a hard time thinking and finding any jobs that I would actually enjoy. Which is precisely why I’m getting a double major in Psychology. I still have another year of college left and at this point, I’m determined to find something. I don’t want to have spent five years in college for me to get a job that I hate and that I’m shameful of. After reading this passage by Marji, I was not only comforted that someone else has felt like this, but actually found some hope for myself. If Marji experienced all of this and become a successful writer, I (hopefully) can do the same. While I’m still not exactly sure what my goals will be after college, this small little passage gave me a little glimmer of hope that eventually I’ll find what it is that will make life fulfilling.

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cultural ties

When told I would need to have a multi-genre project done by the end of the semester I was freaking out a little bit. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to research and what I would do with that research. I find it difficult sometimes, as do others I’m sure, to pick a topic for projects. In the fall semester I had to do a presentation on anything of my choice, it just had to be informative and I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do. I find myself thinking alright I have a month left… okay I have two weeks left, and before I know it, my project is due in like 3 days.

I thought I knew what I wanted to research when I finally chose my topic: cultural literacy and how people view art. I had all the perfect ideas of how to present this and what my argument was going to consist of. When I failed to find any real research, I had no idea what to do. I quickly wrote my draft and assumed I would find my research once I got it back. Finally, I bought a book about artist Frida Kahlo, and decided to base my project about Surrealist art and why it’s difficult for American’s to view Kahlo’s work as art. My mom is Mexican so our culture was always a big part of my life when growing up. We were extremely close with my grandparents and saw them several times a week. As I got older my mom decided to redecorate her house and we decided to paint the walls in shades of terracotta and yellow, place tiles with Mexican themes around the house and hang up reproductions of Diego Rivera’s paintings. This is was originally sparked my interest in Frida Kahlo. I researched Diego Rivera when I was younger so I could know a little bit more about him. That’s when I learned about Kahlo. I’ve always liked strange and unusual art so her work interested me greatly.

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(i just love this picture)

Given the opportunity to research her art and difficulties that American’s experience when viewing her art was actually fun. I found a lot of cool information not only about her work, but Kahlo herself. I found that one of the houses she lived in was turned into a museum. I’ve traveled to Mexico several times and I hope the next time I have an opportunity to travel there, I can visit her house. The pictures look beautiful and I would love to see some of her art in person. Mexican culture has always interested me, somewhat because I’m Mexican myself, but mainly because it makes me feel a little closer to my now deceased grandparents. I hope someday to visit Kahlo’s house with my sisters and mom so they too can experience her work and a sense of comfort from  it. If you’re interested in seeing pictures of her house, I found a website that does even better… Here’s a virtual tour of the now museum: http://www.recorridosvirtuales.com/frida_kahlo/museo_frida_kahlo.html

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disconnect

While many of you are probably getting annoyed by reading my blog posts about Persepolis, I just have a lot of thoughts about it. We talked about in class all of the issues that are going on in the text. Anything from cultural issues, the controversy of assimilation, religion and the role of God, relationships and women’s role in the public vs. private sphere. One thing we didn’t get to talk about much is the disconnect that Marji feels throughout the memoir. Marji has a hard time understanding the revolution and acts of her country as well as her own friends and family. She moves from Tehran to Vienna and back while she’s growing up. This constant shift in culture makes it difficult for Marji to connect with people. She has a hard time making real, long lasting relationships.

We can see this when Marji returns back from Vienna. She’s in Tehran for ten days when she meets up with some of her old friends. She explains that she wasn’t particularly excited to see them but that they were the same age so it would be easier for her to connect with them (Satrapi 259). Marji admits a short while after talking to them that later on she realized how different she was from her old friends. Marji explains, “A part of me understood them. When something is forbidden, it takes on a disproportionate importance. [Referencing night clubs in Vienna vs. forbidden ones in Tehran.] Much later, I learned that making themselves up and wanting to follow Western ways was an act of resistance on their part. Nevertheless, I felt terribly alone” (Satrapi 259). Even though Marji somewhat understood the disconnect between herself and her old friends, she was still alone.

One of the other things I thought was interesting about Marji’s return to Tehran was her willingness to disconnect herself from who she used to be. She returns to her parent’s home and enters her childhood room late at night and can’t bear to turn on the lights. She’s overwhelmed with the thought of looking at her past and can’t bring herself to do it. I would think most people would be excited to return home and see their old belongings. I know when I go through boxes in my basement I find toys and knick-knack type things that bring back great memories. For Marji, however, she’s overwhelmed by looking at her past. The next morning she wakes up and notices a drawing she made of a punk rocker on her wall. When she looks for her old cassettes but can’t find them, she decides to wash the punk rocker off her wall. She states, “I decided to take this little problem as a sign. It was time to finish with the past and to look toward the future” (Satrapi 249). I just found these passages to be interesting because they show polar opposite feelings in Marji. She’s at first terrified to look at her past but then so easily removes it and washes it away. After reading further along in the book I think it’s easier to understand how or why Marji does these things. She has had so many different experiences as a child and growing up. When she returns to Tehran she’s an adult and wants to experience life on her own terms and without the influence of others.

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reading

Throughout the course of this literature class, our discussions were frequently connected to figuring out how to better foster reading.  We discussed how technology has influenced our reading, in mostly negative ways, how children have more access to other activities than reading, and how children, mainly, don’t have a say in their reading selection.

I believe technology has reduced people’s attention span and made reading more difficult. We live in an age where we can pull out our lap top, go onto google and find answers to our questions almost immediately. To read an entire book or search through books to find information is rare. With instant access that the internet provides us, even reading an entire article is more difficult online. I know I personally find myself skimming through articles and readings online just so I can understand the main points to the argument. I think it’s also difficult for students to want to read because of other activities they can participate in. At a young age, children would rather be social and play outside than read a book on their own. Reading is normally an individualized activity whereas playing a sport or socializing with friends is more interactive. I also believe that parents and teachers don’t provide their children with a wide variety of books. If kids had the opportunity to select the books with subjects that they were actually interested in, they would probably be more excited to read. For example, I used to babysit for close family friends who had two sons. They raised their oldest more strictly than their younger son, probably because the younger one was just a handful. As a result, he frequently got almost whatever he asked for. On a bright side, however, he was given any type of book he wanted. He loved reading more than playing sports or playing with friends. When I would ask him what he wanted to do for the day he would want to stay inside and show me his books while the older boy wanted to play soccer and baseball with his neighbors. The younger boy loved trucks, trains, cars, planes, basically anything with a motor. He had picture books, short stories and even a couple of chapter books. I firmly believe that because he was able to select books about things he liked, he thoroughly enjoyed reading.

I live in the Northville/Plymouth area and every year, Laurel Park Mall in Livonia does a book fair. It started April 21st and will run through the 28th. It’s Bookstock Used Book Sale which is a community service to help raise money for education and literacy. I think this would be a good opportunity for anyone with kids or young teenagers that are looking to help get them reading. From my knowledge, the books are fairly cheap in price because they’re used, second hand books. If you want more information on the book sale then you can access it here: http://www.laurelparkplace.com/shop/laurel.nsf/NewsandEventsWeb/B328EB9772529D21852577FA0066E6FB?OpenDocument

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relationships

When reading Persepolis and discussing the memoir in class, I found it interesting the relationships Marji has while growing up. I really enjoyed reading this book because I was able to see Marji grow up from a young girl to a grown woman. I think this would be a great book for adolescents to read because not only would it educate them of a culture other than their own, it would give them another outlook on growing up.

 

I found interesting the romantic relationships Marji has while growing up. Besides Reza, she has three main relationships that dominate the majority of the body of the book. Enrique, Jean-Paul and Markus are all people that Marji becomes intimately involved with. The main theme connecting all of these relationships is Marji’s idea of love. I think it’s common for people to misinterpret interest and attention for love. While I’ve been through my fair share of relationships and have also seen my friends go through their own, I think it’s easy for people to want to be in a relationship so bad that they settle for attention and equate that with love.

 

One of Marji’s first boyfriends is Enrique. She explains how he’s twenty years old, plays piano and asks her to go to an anarchist party. She then immediately states, “I liked him a lot” (Satrapi 208). This is a declaration of emotions based off of the idea of loving someone but not actually loving him. She loves who he is and what he represents but doesn’t actually know anything about him. There’s hardly a personal and emotional connection so I find it hard to believe that it’s possible to “really like” someone without that type of communication.

 

Jean-Paul is Marji’s next relationship. After experiencing her break up from Enrique, Marji meets Jean-Paul, a transfer student, and immediately declares that she “Liked him a lot” (Satrapi 216). Similar to Enrique, there’s no actual relationship but rather the idea of a relationship, attention, affection,  that Marji longs for. At this point in the text I think it’s more understandable for Marji to long for this type of relationship because she doesn’t have the in person love and support of her family, nor any close, long lasting friends. Marji is just longing for something permanent, stable and rewarding.

 

Along with Enrique and Jean-Paul, Marji dates Markus. Our first introduction to him is that he was the love of her life (219). Marji goes on to explain how she attended a party ever though she put no effort in her looks, was an hour late and didn’t like dancing. Then, Markus kisses her and Marji states “Things always happen when you least expect, it was happiness” (Satrapi 219). Marji received immediate attention and, what she believes to be validation. In reality, Markus was just a really good friend who could relate to her. His harsh relationship with his mother was something Marji could relate to because she hardly had a relationship with her parents. The distance between Marji and her family made it difficult to for her to have support while growing up during her adolescent years.

 

I think while these types of intimate relationships can sometimes provide support during difficult times like growing up, they can also become hurtful. Marji experiences break ups and betrayal from these relationships as a result of her longing for attention and love. I believe this memoir can provide a different cultural context for students as well as another point of view of relationships while growing up.

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graphic novels

 

So I wasn’t exactly excited to start reading Persepolis. Not because it didn’t sound interesting but because I’ve never had an interest in graphic novels. I read Fun Home in Bruss’s class last semester which was my first graphic novel and found it mildly enjoyable. Once I started reading Persepolis, however, I found that I really liked this graphic memoir. I felt like I was actually learning something, not only about the problems within the text, but the first few chapters were extremely informative. I knew next to nothing about Iran and their revolution so I think it’s the foreign culture and unknown aspect that really drew me into the book. I thought about if I were to read this book in middle school or high school and I think, even then, I would have enjoyed it. The way the information is presented is simple, to the point and extremely straightforward. And the graphics just add to the history. I’m a visual person so I found the text accompanied by photos pretty enjoyable.

 

We talked in class, briefly about the graphic memoir being split into a series of books or one large volume and which would be best suited for people of different age groups. While the entire memoir is graphic in varying ways, I think separate volumes would be suitable for children/teens and one book compiled of all volumes would be more appropriate for adults. Having Persepolis separated into a series of books would allow separation between time periods and stages of development of the main character, Marjane Satrapi. I think children and teens would more easily identify with the character this way. For adults, however, I think one large volume would be more enjoyable. I read the memoir as one large volume, and while my opinion is skewed because of this, I really loved the presentation this way. It was one cohesive story while still maintaining smaller bits of information and memories over time. One of the main reasons why I liked having the compiled volume is because it gave me the ability to flip through the entire story and see the comics and how they changed over time. Professor Tange pointed out that the beginning of the memoir has hardly any text while the middle to end becomes more dense with words. I also really enjoyed how Marji changed over time. It’s nice to have a visual representation of growth in a character and it’s easily accessible with the larger volume.

 

By reading this graphic memoir and really enjoying the text along with the graphics, I’m finding myself more interested in graphic novels. I had a friend recommend reading magna, specifically horror ones by Uzumaki. I read The Spiral Obsession and really liked it. I’m even thinking of going back and looking at Fun Home for a second time. Although I’ve always been hesitant of reading graphic novels, Persepolis has changed my views of them and I find myself more interested in the material. If you want to read work done by Uzumaki, you can go here and it’s all online: http://www.mangahere.com/manga/uzumaki/v001/c001/

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persimmon

I grew up eating what probably most would consider to be a strange assortment of fruits. My mother is Mexican and shopped just as much at Mexican grocers as she did at Hillers. We grew up eating traditional fruits like strawberries, bananas and apples, but loved papaya, mango, guava, and a certain type of pear that we could only find at the Mexican market. We also ate persimmons. Now knowing that they’re a Chinese apple, I’m not sure how my mom was introduced to them. I just always thought they were another fruit that she got from the Mexican market. I don’t know one person who even knows what a persimmon is so I was pretty excited to read the poem by Li-Young Lee.

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They look more like tomatoes than apples. Now that we’ve cleared that up, back to the poem.

I loved it. The poem took me back to being a kid and when I would get confused with certain things. I always had a hard time distinguishing the letter “C” with the word “see” and thus, got the letters “C” and “S” confused. I would want to spell “see” with an actual “C.” It was awful. I was good at spelling other words but if something had those letters, I would grow full of anxiety. The poem also reminded me of my relationship with my grandpa. Lee talks about his father and for some reason, it reminds me of my grandpa. My sisters and I were really close with my mom’s parents and both of our grandparents died fairly young. Reading this poem brings back memories of them. Just another reason why I like the poem.

While we were talking in class, we discussed the word precision. Is language precise or is it the actual words that hold the meaning? I don’t think language is precise at all. Words change over time and develop different meanings. I also think that the context in which words are spoken can have different meanings. For example, I can casually swear around my friends but if I’m around my mom, those words take on a whole new meaning because I know she has stronger feelings towards those words. I can also think of words that are derogatory. It’s okay for certain people to throw around words but if someone else tries it’s not acceptable. Words are precise for certain situations and conversations. I think words can hold the same meaning but the seriousness of that meaning changes depending on the conversation and who you’re talking to.

For example, Young says that he remembers to tell Donna that she is as beautiful as the moon. I literally took this as him saying she’s beautiful and maybe mysterious or mystical like the moon in the sky. When talking in class, I learned that Chinese hold the moon to have a deeper meaning. This changes my idea of that portion of the poem. Those words aren’t precise because they have a different meaning in the context of this poem.

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justification

We recently read articles discussing the future of literacy. I think that Michael Berube’s “Students in and Out of Class” was one of my favorite readings we have had this far. I think he has a fairly good grasp on his students and students in general. I sometimes wonder if my professors realize that I have a life outside of school. It’s difficult to balance taking eighteen credits, working a full time job, maintaining steady grades as well as a social life, all while trying to get my homework and papers done on time. Berube discusses in the beginning how he admires most of his students because most not only spend a considerable amount of time studying and in class, but also working. His understanding of that simply kept me reading more. While I mostly enjoyed this reading for entertainment purposes, I also enjoyed Gary Day’s “Beyond Management Culture.”

Day discusses the value of literature that his college students have. He talks about English and management speak, which I’ll be honest, lost me for a bit… but went on to explain that English doesn’t need to be justified. He claims that if we justify English then it has to have some utilitarian purpose that can be measured. Day explains that most other areas of study have to justify themselves to their students whereas English would be justifying the “Profound questions of human existence to which there are no real answers” (215 Day). This kind of led us into discussion of the purpose of reading and why people do or do not read.

We discussed in class reasons why we don’t think people read anymore. I see two things that get in the way of reading. One is our faced paced lifestyle of always wanting more of what we already have not only faster, but also sooner. And the other reason is that there is no quantifiable way of figuring out what purpose reading serves. Technology is advancing so quickly and I believe, to be a huge reason why we don’t read as much. While I do think e-readers are closing that gap in reading, I still believe that technology has diminished reading. I talk to my mom about this concept all the time. We’ll have conversations and she’ll ask me questions or purpose ideas that I don’t exactly have the answer for. So what do I suggest? Google it! We have access to the internet which gives us immediate answers and response to almost anything. My mom never fails to remind me that while she was growing up she had to go to the library and use an encyclopedia to find something. While I love book stores and finding new reads, I hardly ever go to the library mainly because I already have access to much of the information through the computer and internet. I also think this shortens the amount of time that people can read. I know that every once in a while I can sit for about 40/45 minutes and read before I take a break. But that’s normally only if I’m extremely interested in the text. I normally read in increments of probably 15/20 minutes and let my eyes/brain rest for 5 before I resume reading. I know the internet has played a part in this and it’s not that I can’t read for that long, but I mainly get bored. The internet provides such quick and easy access to anything and everything that I get bored while reading articles or books most times.

Aside from technology, specifically the internet, I think people find it hard to read because there’s no way of really measuring what we get from reading. This is where Day’s discussion of justifying English also plays a role in this idea. We used gardening, working out and cooking as other hobbies that people have and actively participate in. Whereas, there are probably less people that would want to sit for a few hours and read a book instead of playing a sport/working out in the sun. I don’t think it’s because one option is more enjoyable than the other, but rather, it’s difficult to see what you get out of reading. I know that while I think I’m learning things from books, sometimes I finish a book and feel like it was just a big waste of my time. Reading requires the knowledge that you’re taking a risk. You might not get anything out of it and I think that’s something that not everyone is willing to do. If you play a sport, basketball for example, you run the risk of losing but at the same time, you have an end result of being in shape and healthier. Reading doesn’t exactly give you the same results. It’s not a hobby that yields a measurable or tangible end product and therefore, people don’t see it as valuable.

While I do have my bouts with reading and finding a reason to read instead of doing other things, I still find myself gravitating towards books instead of other hobbies. While Day doesn’t exactly think we should have to justify English and reading, I am able to justify it. I learn something about people, the human existence as Day puts it. While I learn things about people and the human condition every day, books give so many different perspectives about life in general that it’s hard not to use that as a reason to want to read. Reading allows, me at least, to better understand people, ideas and things more than if I hadn’t read about it. For example, I’m about 150 pages into Persepolis and I’ve learned a lot about the culture and time period, but also people. I’m not sure that I would have the same ideas and feelings if I hadn’t begun reading that book. I will probably never travel to Iran and would never have the experience that I’ve had while reading that book. So yes, I do justify reading. I find a purpose in it. I want to know more about people, about conditions and existence.

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criticism

When reading “Outing Criticism” by Graff, I couldn’t help but think about my senior year of high school and contemplate whether or not criticism should be introduced to students earlier than college. I always enjoyed reading and writing in high school so that’s mostly the type of classes I signed up for in high school. During my senior year I signed up for an individual reading course where you could pick whatever four books you wanted to read and write papers about. Instead, I was placed in CPC, a College Prepatory Composition class. It was a reading and writing intensive class so when I saw my counselor she advised me to think hard if I wanted to take the class or not. Turns out I didn’t have much of a choice because it was that or I change my whole schedule. Luckily, the class was taught by a teacher I had for other classes so I wasn’t too worried about it.

We started the class by reading Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. I wasn’t exactly excited about reading this novel nor any of the other ones we were assigned. I struggled to keep up with the reading and the material until the end of the class. We were allowed to pick a novel by choice, research the author and criticism on the novel. My teacher took us to the library where there were carts of books with suggestions. I looked through five and six hundred page books, quickly realizing that there was no possible way I could ever read that much. I ended up choosing Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. Probably one of the best decisions I made in high school. The novel was amazing and I couldn’t put it down. I was actually excited to learn about Nabokov but fairly hesitant to find criticism. I realized that while I thought I knew what the story was about, there was so much more to it. The criticism gave me a better understanding of the characters Humbert Humbert, Charolotte and Lolita.

I’m thankful that I experienced literary criticism before I graduated high school and began college. It was a lot of work and was difficult at first but it opened up possibilities with literature. When I read books I’m interested in what critics think and normally go online to see people’s opinions and perspectives on the book. I only wish that my high school had introduced literary criticism when I was younger. I read Shakespeare, Salinger, Hemmingway, Fitzgerald, Wharton, Kesey and Vonnegut without being taught any outside criticism. I struggled with the novels and even hated some. I think if I had criticism then I would have better enjoyed the novels and possibly learnt more than I did.

Graff discusses reasons why teachers don’t want to teach criticism and why students are reluctant to learn it. Looking back, I think it’s highly possible that if students were given even just a small ounce of criticism it might spark more of an interest in their readings. Graff explains that criticism “Is just a fancy word for what any of us do when we respond to any text” (175). Graff goes on to explain that as soon as students begin talking about the texts they’re reading in class, they’re forming their own criticism. I can’t help but agree with this. While I’m sure some people think that it’s the student’s responsibility to form their own criticism instead of being influenced by others, I think it’s more important to expose them to different ideas and concepts besides their own.

When I read The Great Gatsby in high school, we focused primarily on symbols and characteristics rather than messages or themes of the novel. I recently took LIT 421 with Csicsila and he spoke about The Great Gatsby just as much as he did about the novels we read in class. I had almost no idea what he was talking about because what I learned about that novel was far from what he was speaking about. Now I want to go back and re-read the novel and I know if I do I’ll learn more about it. I’ll be able to pick up different ideas and concepts simply because Csicsila exposed me to it. I think if teachers introduced students to criticism earlier on in high school they would highly benefit from it. It’s definitely a challenge but isn’t just about anything that is foreign to us?

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the head and the heart

do yourself a favor and enjoy the next four and a half minutes of your life.

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