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Kidder and Baker

Kidder interviews Deo, who is a refugee from Burundi. Deo first comes to America as a young college student with dreams of going to medical school and becoming a doctor. However, when he first comes to the United States and is taken in by another man; he discovers the abject poverty many of his fellow Africans live in while living in the United States. It is hard to make a decent living, especially in New York City. Deo is scarred with the memories of the war he has escaped from and he tells his experiences to the narrator. During part two in the beginning of Chapter Ten, the narrator talks about how he first met Deo and his wife tells him his story because Deo talks to her about them. They know each other through a mutual friend. The narrator ascribes an almost “dream-like” quality to them because they are probably too real for him to fully comprehend. I believe the narrator is pretty much a third-party observer in this piece and doesn’t seem to really connect much with Deo in a personal level. I think he respects him more for what he has gone through as a refugee from a violent civil war.

Baker’s piece “The Escape” is interspersed with both letters Maryam wrote to her parents while she is staying in Pakistan and the author’s own personal reflection on who Maryam was. She also drops some personal tidbits from her own life. I feel like the author in this piece is much more present than Kidder is in “Strength in What Remains”. Maryam is a former secular Jewish girl who has converted to Islam and decides to go live in the house of an erudite Pakistani Muslim scholar so she can learn more about the ways of being an Islamic woman. Later on, she writes books comparing the culture and the ways of the Western world to that of the Islamic world; she seems to think Western ways are much more frivolous. The author mentions after Maryam’s second letter on page 10 that she studies the lives of different people until she can “…think like them”. The author is trying to understand why Maryam thinks the way she does because it is very rare for a Jewish girl to convert to Islam. She is also seen comparing Maryam to herself in different places,  like on page 18 when she talks about how she questioned things alot when she was younger but that Maryam must have questioned things for much longer.

Rosin and Tea

Rosin makes use of plenty of quotations, almost as much as Tea does. However, she probably relies on it more since she is not writing a firsthand account like Tea is, even though she does use “I” in some parts as well as some personal reflection. Her piece, even though its a human interest story, is a little more like hard news. She uses quotes from different experts as well as from parents struggling with their transgender children. One of the people she seems to quote a lot is a woman named Tina and some other people from her family; Tina’s son Brandon wants to transition into a girl. I think there is some bias in Rosin’s piece because she seems to support the fact that transgender children may in fact just be going through a phase. For instance, she quotes a psychologist named Dr. Kenneth Zucker who was successful in treating children with gender dysphoria. Towards the end of the piece, she even says that she misses one people would say their child was a girl or a boy.

“Transmissions from Camp Trans” by Michelle Tea is slightly more personal because it describes Michelle’s experience at Camp Trans. She is a lesbian who is dating a female-to-male transsexual. I’m not sure if she is queer or lesbian though because she states at one point that she found everyone at Camp Trans attractive so its not entirely clear cut. Michelle Tea interviews various people at Camp Trans and seems to be introduced in their stories. She even includes some quotes from people from the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. Since Michelle is clearly in support of the trans* community, there is some bias included within the article.

“Littoral Zone” and “Crossing the Boulevard”

In the piece “Littoral Zone”, Short talks about changes to an area of Astoria in and around 30th Avenue. She talks about a garden that has been planted and a mural project around Welling Court. From the eyes of various residents Short interviews during 2011, we get a picture of how the neighborhood has changed. One person she talks to is named George Haridimou, whom she finds barbequing in front of his auto repair shop. He talks about a mural art project that has been constructed around Welling Court. Apparently, artists were hired by a couple to put art on the walls via graffiti. In Astoria Houses, Short talks with a group of young people who create something called Reelization Films. Astoria Houses is a nicer kind of projects. According to people working for this tiny film production company, there was increased amount of shootings around there during 2011.

“Crossing the Boulevard” is a series of firsthand accounts of various goings on in and around Queens.  In the first section, two middle eastern men are interviewed that have restaurants on Steinway in “Little Egypt”. Moustafa’s restaurant is decorated on the outside with Islamic imagery. Ali’s restaurant is more simple looking and has “Kebab Cafe” on the front of it. During their interview, they talk about how they came to this country, their experiences with their customers as well as how the area has changed around them. They also compare everyday life and culture between their respective country and that of the United States. She also interviews the Navarro Brothers; the Navarro Brothers are Mexican brothers who open up a rodeo show. It goes successfully for awhile until one of their bulls escapes. This piece is rather comical because it is ludicrous how a bull just calmly walks down a street in Queens and cops are chasing it and trying to shoot it down. In this story, she uses different people’s opinions to talk about the bull chase and you see things from different perspectives, which is interesting.

 

DFW and D’Agata

“Ticket to the Fair” was set in a state fair and is rich in description and imagery. The writer David Foster Wallace appears to be a news reporter or a journalist of some kind. He is clearly writing an article on the state fair in Illinois. He describes all of the animals he sees, the various competitions, the plants, the rides, etc. The piece is separated by  times and is set over two days. The speaker is very observant and seems to absorb all the sights and smells around him. Not much goes unnoticed in this piece either.You can almost taste and picture all the greasy and oily food he describes that is served at the state fair. The piece was very much to me like a series of physical impressions interspersed with some personal input here and there.

D’Agata’s piece, on the other hand, is more political since it discusses the Senator Harry Reid and the ethics of putting nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain. It hardly felt like a feature at all and the I voice is barely seen in this piece. D’Agata does a good job though of setting up the array of opinions on what to do with Yucca Mountain and there is so much political tension that you could cut it with a knife. Another issue that comes into play is the rights of the Shoshone Indians and the fact that Yucca Mountain is technically on their land. The people in Las Vegas and the surrounding area are also concerned with what would happen if there was a nuclear meltdown. The government in this piece is described as money grabbing bigots in a sense because the speaker talks about they received handouts from nuclear energy lobbyists.

Quinonez and Yang Response

In “White Baby”, Quinonez talks about his years growing up in Spanish Harlem and going to places called botanicas to buy Spanish comic books and to look at the Santeria paraphernalia they have, like candles and statues of saints. Issues of race come into play in the piece because Quinonez is talking about a religion, called Santeria, that was a mixture of the religion brought over by the black slaves and Catholicism. Black slaves worshiped their gods by disguising them as Catholic saints and implies that whites were in the supremacy during that time. His piece “The White Baby” talks about his personal experience with Santeria and the close knit community that Spanish Harlem was. Quinonez talks about babalawos and the talk he has with one of them regarding a man wishing to have a “white baby”. He hears different versions of the story from different members of Spanish Harlem; gossip appears to be very popular around there. In “The White Baby”, his writing style is a mix of formal and informal but seems to be more informal and personal.

On the other hand, “Paper Tigers” by Wesley Yang is written more like an informative article, although there is the use of the pronoun “I”. I think the author is trying to paint a general picture of the Asian American experience and draws from a wide variety of examples. For example, he talks about in some places how Asian Americans lack strong leadership skills because they are brought up to not speak out as much and to do what is best for the whole group. He also mentions the difficulty some Asian Americans have with dating and talks about a company that specifically helps Asian men with approaching women. Overall, I think that the author sort of downplays Asian Americans and makes it seem that whites have the advantage over them since they are not pushed to excel as much as Asians are by their parents.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem and I Was A Chinese Internet Addict

Both of these pieces deal with the topic of addiction; although one delves into addiction with drugs and the other goes into Internet addiction. In Funk’s piece, the narrator becomes much more personal with his audience and discusses his own addition problems, as well as those of other people in the treatment facility. The narrator, according to the title, is addicted to going on the Internet and goes to a facility that really focuses on this, along with some other addictions like alcoholism.  He also talks about the rampant Internet addictions problems among youth in China. Funk’s piece is both observatory and personal at the same time. It is written more along the lines of a feature than the Joan Didion piece. In Funk’s piece, the narrator undergoes a kind of metamorphosis through the strict regime put on the narrator by the treatment facility the narrator’s girlfriend puts him  in.

Joan Didion’s piece is less personal than the Funk piece. The narrator in this feature observes a group of junkies that she, the narrator,  is writing the piece on. The narrator talks about how they take the drugs and how they live their lives, which seems to be somewhat chaotic. The druggies in the feature seem focused mostly on smoking weed or taking hard drugs like ecstasy. It is the 60’s and the age of the Hippies. Here and there the narrator does include some personal touches , however. In the beginning, she explains why she decides to look for writing material in San Francisco and she describes her relationship with certain people, such as the undercover cop she meets up with to exchange information. She also includes her own personal opinion within the piece about what she observes around her.

Creative Nonfiction Post #5

In Van Meter’s piece “First”, he talks about his first crush as a young five year old and when he first noticed the first sign of him being gay. In the story, he is sitting in the back seat of a car with his friend and he admits to him that he is in love with him. His friend responds that he loves him as well. The main conflict in this piece is that apparently, according to his parents, boys are not supposed to love other boys and what he is doing is apparently wrong. His mother instills in him a shame of his sexuality at an early age and does not encourage him to explore it. In her world, boys and girls marry each other — not boys with other boys and girls with other girls.  The piece structures its story around this conflict by showing a single episode from his childhood in which he is made to feel shame for wanting to marry another boy.

In “Coming Out, Coming Home”, Jenesha de Riviera is a Filipina lesbian as well as her partner. The two of them are going to visit Jenesha’s family and plan for them to find out that Jenesha is dating Patty. The conflict in the story is Jenesha’s struggle with worrying about her family accepting her partner. In the beginning of the essay, she talks about how she met Patty and her journey as a lesbian. The rest of the story deals with her journey to Manila with Patty and her family reacting with her. Unfortunately, there is one awkward moment when Patty mentions she is a lesbian activist but Jenesha’s gay uncle, Lolo Ermis, helps make them feel at home.

 

Creative Nonfiction Post #4

In “Notes of a Native Son”, the narrator has an interesting relationship with his father. His father, who is an African American preacher, appears to be quite racist and wary of black people. On the other hand, his son, who is the narrator, does not seem to hold these same beliefs and seems to have no problems interacting with white people while he is still a kid. It is only when he gets older, after moving away to college, that he experiences a larger amount of racism coming from white people and causes him to develop some hatred towards them like his father did. The story takes place a little before or during the civil rights movement and the narrator describes race riots that occur in Harlem. His father’s death causes him to realize, particularly during the speeches made about him during his funeral, that his father was not only a hateful man. He was also a Christian and had a good side to him. I think the narrator wants to exemplify these good traits of his fathers’ in the end by saying that he wants to fight against injustice but not through over overpowering and he also says he doesn’t want to simply hate white people.

In ” “Shul/School”, the narrator is bi-racial and has a white, Jewish mother and a black father. The narrator seems to have an interesting childhood growing up because his mother makes him and his siblings go to all-white, primarily Jewish public schools and she has to defend her unique family from the ugly stares of racism. The narrator seems to be ashamed of his white mother when he is a kid because “black power” during the 60’s was in and his mother represents the white elite and not someone who is black. He wishes his family was all one race because he finds it difficult to negotiate between the two races. At the end, he mentions how he is grateful today for being brought within two worlds and his mother’s strong will to fight against ignorance leaves them with the desire to see all people united under one God.

Post #3 Creative Nonfiction

In “Mirrorings”, we see that Lucy is extremely distraught over her face and how disfigured it has become after the extensive chemotherapy she has to undergo after she develops cancer. Unfortunately, part of the right side of her jaw has to be removed and she has to undergo massive facial reconstruction over the years in order to reconstruct her face. Black Swans is told just like a story in the first person and is a literary piece in that sense. I think of one of the major instances of the usage of symbol are the mirror and the narator’s face. The mirror is a symbol of fear for the narrator; she is frightened of looking in her own reflection. Her face is a symbol of her greatest shame and she tries to forget she belongs to this face and worries, particularly later on in life, what people think about her face. She gets made fun of alot for it. I really think that Lucy’s story is very relatable to anyone who has experianced bullying and has learned to rise above it.

“Black Swans” also reflects on the similar themes of overcoming an illness and rising above adversity except in this piece the author is suffering from OCD, or obsessive compulsive disorder. At first, the author is just a normally nervous person but one day, while she is Cambridge reading a book, she has an almost barrage of the thoughts “I can’t concentrate” attack her mind. This thought continues to haunt her throughout her trials of therapy and she truely becomes mentally ill. Rituals also become her only avenue for inserting control into her life. Clocks for the author represent disturbances and cause her to think of not concentrating. One day, she gets introduced to Prozac but this is also doesn’t completely work; in the end it fails her. She compares Prozac to “healing powder” at one point because it stops the barrage of repeating thoughts. The apperance of the black swans represents a turning point for the author because she is able to concentrate on their beauty without having the repeating thoughs plague her mind. She realizes that, even though Prozac doesn’t work for her anymore, she can still learn to survive in those brief moments of clarity and appreciate life.

Post #2 Creative Nonfiction

Komunyakaa’s story “Blue Machinery” and Wolff’s “Professions for Women” both use aspects of showing in their pieces. Komunyakaa talks about how he was a former soldier in the Vietnam War and how he wants to go to college eventually to his fellow coworkers, like Maria. However, he doesn’t tell how deeply it impacted his psyche and how he thinks about it when he looks upon the character Lily. He also goes through the motions of working on his factory job but inside feels that there is more to life to it. Vietnam is not present either in the text itself but images are floating around in his mind. Both methods are quite effective.

Wolff’s “Professions for Women” also uses showing and telling. She talks about how she is a female writer and how many women have just entered the writing profession. When thing she feels, or shows, is a loathing of how traditional women are supposed to act and how she doesn’t want to act. She doesn’t want to act like the Angel, who is all charming and unselfish. One thing she also tells is how she has the means of supporting herself; writing isn’t a very lucrative career. This gives her an edge over women who can’t afford to go to college without making their own money, which was hard at that time since less money was given to women for jobs than men.  This is something she shows. She also clearly shows a very strong passion for writing and a desire to better the station of women. Wolff is an angry woman, which is also clearly shown. She also discusses the various projects she has as a writer and the method through which she is paid, which is on average two shillings per article.

 

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