Voice=Identity.

December 8, 2010

A Song for a Barbarian Reed Pipe:

In this final chapter, Kingston discusses further the difficulties she experienced growing up as a Chinese-American female.

“I remember telling the Hawaiian teacher, “We Chinese cant sing ‘land where our fathers died’.”

“The girls were not mute.  They screamed and yelled during recess, where there were no rules; they had fist-fights.”

Brave Orchid’s supposedly cut Kingston’s frenum, which in cutting would restrict the tongue’s movement. One cannot imagine living without that.  More and more struggles are expressed throughout this chapter.  Kingston searches to locate a middle ground in which she can live within each of these two respective cultures.

Although the book seems to be a blend of fact and fantasy, the fifth chapter brings forth some unforgettable incidents.  This chapter helps  tie up some loose ends for the narrator.

Obviously, the difference between Chinese and American cultures was quite marked in the fifties.   Concepts that seemed normal to Americans were unfamiliar to a little Chinese girl. Kingston, in fact thought it was normal not to speak.  At first it did not occur to Kingston that it was necessary to talk, or even pass kindergarten.  That’s how different Chinese and American culture was. Her fear of speaking recalls the previous chapter, in which Moon Orchid’s ability to talk greatly diminished when she met her husband. The silence that Moon Orchid, Kingston, and other Chinese girls in Kingston’s school experience seems culturally based. “The other Chinese girls did not talk either,” Kingston notes, “so I knew the silence had to do with being a Chinese girl.” Chinese cultures traditionally frown upon the female who speaks her mind.  While on the other hand, American culture is based on the rights of the individual.

After American school, the Chinese went to Chinese school.  There, the girls were not scared to use their voices.  Here all the students read in unison, here the Chinese girls felt more comfortable, more at home.  Here, the girls feel somewhat normal,  until a new teacher is introduced.  Now the girls have to stand and recite out loud, and alone.  Here the comfort that they found in the Chinese schools is shattered.  Kingston and her sisters’ voices fade regularly. Kingston’s and her sister’s experience in the Chinese schools again stress language’s power to create personal identities.

Kingston’s lack of confidence in speaking English continues into adulthood. it remains excruciating for her to ask a bus driver for directions.  Even casually saying hello, bothers Kingston.  “A telephone call makes my throat bleed and takes up that day’s courage,” To become more assimilated into American culture, Kingston believes that she must totally ignore her Chinese traits.  Perhaps in rejecting her Chinese traits, she will be less afraid to use her voice.  She also decides that she will never be a slave or a wife, both female roles that she associates with Brave Orchid’s talk-stories. Kingston claims that she has her own future plans, which do not include marrying

The book concludes in arguments:

“I didn’t say you were ugly…That’s what we’re supposed to say. That’s what Chinese say. We like to say the opposite.” Brave Orchid says that Kingston has been misunderstanding her all these years. Perhaps, by confronting her mother, Kingston finds her true voice, a voice that is a mix of American and Chinese.  Identity is a main topic throughout this text, specifically “female” identity.  It is a relief to know Kingston, by the end of this novel, finally spoke up.

Shaman/Western Palace

December 6, 2010

In Shaman, Brave Orchid (Kingstons mother) finds independence and triumph at the Keung School of Midwifery. After her first two children died in China, Orchid decided to use the money her husband sent her to become a doctor. She attended a medical school in the city of Canton. Here, she is responsible for no one but herself.   Orchid quickly makes herself known as one of the more brilliant students in her class. She impresses her classmates when she fights and destroys a spiteful ghost.

Orchid returns to her village, here she is treated like a magician or shaman.  Orchid has peculiar abilities to both heal the sick and to destroy or scare away ghosts. She fools ghosts that seek to prey on newborn babies. Kingston vibrantly recalls one talk-story in which Chinese people eat brains out of the head of a living monkey. When i had finished reading this section, I perhaps thought Orchid was a true hero among her people.  A warrior in every sense, I’m not sure I felt the same with the conclusion of this chapter.

The last section of Shaman takes place in the present.  Kingston’ is visiting her  parents. Orchid whines about life in America, how hard her work is.  She claims time passes to quickly in America. Orchid also tells Kingston that they have finally given away their remaining lands in China and now will never go back. I’m not sure if there is some underlying coincidence here, maybe that Orchids past is in the past for a reason.  Maybe in making this point, that is why the final section of this chapter is in present day.    And in fact, Kingston knew they never would have returned anyway.  Orchid begs her daughter to come and live with them again.   Kingston says she gets too sick when she is home.  She claims to many ghosts bother her.  I think the ghosts do haunt Kingston, but i think there is more reason behind that excuse as to not return to her parents.  Near the end of Shaman, Kingston is surprised  that her mother refers to her as “Little Dog.” That nickname depicts love.  This chapter depicts the struggles of Orchid’s life and the relationship she has with her daughter, Kingston.  Kingston seems to gain inspiration from some of Orchids choices, for example, being a woman warrior in her own right.  A woman of incredible powers who escapes her traditional, stereotypical Chinese stay at home wife ways.

On the other hand, Orchid reinforces many of the negative labels that Chinese women are, unfortunately,   born with.  This is evident particularly in her descriptions of the slave-nurse who seemed to be worthier to her than her own daughter. It seems to me this mother daughter relationship is at somewhat based upon lies.  Kingston never knows if these talk-stories are real or not. We never quite know—as Kingston herself never knows—what, in these stories, is factual and what resides merely in the imagination of either Kingston or  Orchid. Perhaps the absence of her father has something to do with the way the relationship of Kingston and her mother plays out.  Orchid perhaps tells these stories because these stories are how she wanted to be, how she wished to live her life or maybe it really is the truth.  She may be telling these simply because she does not want Kingston following in her footsteps, or even to somehow leave her footsteps in her daughters life, even if that means telling fables that scare her half to death.

Upon research too, I have learned that the Chinese culture does a fair bit of worshipping to many different ghosts: http://www.chinaculture.org/gb/en_chinaway/2004-03/17/content_46337.htm

I think most of the power from “In the Western Palace” comes from the blending of sorrow and humor.  Orchid is both a tragic figure, and a comic.  In a sudden and powerful role reversal, Brave Orchid and Moon Orchid become the ghosts in America. Despite all her mistakes, we see Orchid’s tender side.  She tries desperately to comfort Moon Child as she slowly deteriorates.  Brave Orchids begs for her sisters spirit to come home, much like her friends at medical school.  Brave Orchid humors her sisters paranoid delusions.  Throughout this story we are reminded of Kingston’s true feelings towards her mother.  Although “At the Western Palace” seems less of a talk-story than the previous chapters, Kingston is strengthened by recalling Moon Orchid’s struggle to assimilate in America.

No Name Woman and White Tigers.

Kingston really blew my mind.  Upon reading this book I thought it was about a women who went to war, or was fighiting for her country.  After the first two chapters, I realized, Kingston was fighting for her self,her soul, for survival.

In the first chapter we learn that narrators aunt has killed herslf.  “Your aunt gave birth in the pigsty that night. The next morning when I went for the water, I found her and the baby plugging up the family well.” So blatantly put, yet so dramatic.  Kingston’s mother tells her the story as a cautionary tale, in the years Kingston begins to menstruate. Kingston comes to realize she lives in an “invisible world of ghosts”. Kingston believes that her aunt decides to kill herself and her baby together in order to spare the child a life without purpose. Kingston also notes that the baby was probably a girl, and as such she would have been considered practically useless to society.  That is a theme that shines throughout these chapters.  Gender issues is something that is such a disaster around the world.  I’m happy to be living in a free country.  The most vivid parts of the chapter are those in which Kingston lets her imagination about her aunt run free. She imagines her aunt in heartbreaking detail.  It is obvious that this story deeply moves her.  And it should.

The first section of “White Tigers” is Kingston’s childhood fantasy of living the life of Fa Mu Lan, the woman warrior—a story that derives from one of Brave Orchid’s talk-stories. In this fantasy Kingston comes upon a hut where she meets an old couple who want to make her into a warrior.  As part of training, she spends years alone on the mountain of the great tiger.  She fasts, and no food causes her to hallucinate and have fantasies about the world.  This section really has a feel of a war epic.

The story of Fa Mu Lan provides an alternative to the traditional Chinese beliefs—espoused by Brave Orchid and others, about the place of women in society. As the woman warrior, Kingston takes on a traditionally male role.  She ties her hair and intimidates a male to bring fear to her enemies.  In her fnatasy though, she is not simply taking on the role of a male, but also is a female avenger.  She is a warrior but still has the capacity to love and be gentle.  There is many role reversals sprinkled throughout this chapter.  Like the sky sword created out of thin air, Kingston’s words have only as much power as she can give them. Kingston can turn roles around if she wants, she can see through stereotypes if she fights.  She can give birth to new ideas, she can be a warrior in every sense a man can be a warrior.

Obama’s Dreams

December 1, 2010

” A Story of Race and Inhertiance”

I never had to deal with the problems of the color of my skin, so before I started this book i decided to go into it open minded.  The fact that African American boy born into poverty can succeed to become the leader of our nation is truly remarkable. I did not vote for Obama, nor did I look forward to reading this piece, but it did strike me as a truly heroic story.. I am glad I went into this book with no previous stereotypes.  I allowed no thought to go into my mind about how this man is ruling over our country, with declining support from the people of America.  I thought not of the author, but of the man who overcame a hell of a lot to get to where he is today.

Obama formed an image of his absent father from stories told by his mother and her parents. He saw his father only one more time, in 1971, when Obama Sr. came to Hawaii for a month’s visit. Obama takes readers from his boyhood memories of Hawaii to his grassroots efforts to help African Americans in Chicago to his search in Kenya for a solid connection with the father he barely knew. Throughout this book, Obama tells us of his struggles faced mainly because of his race.  I understand why many of my classmates think  this is written only to help in his presidential election.

This book also suffers at times from hints that this public-minded man writes too self-consciously before a reading public. Overall, this book shows its talented, socially committed author as a person to watch, a leader being born.

Obama seems to have found his identity, which he was searching for throughout, at the end of this book.  Maybe if i start writing about my life, i can find who i really am too.  All in all, he really is an intelligent  man.  President or not, this books author deserves attention.  I have not read many books on racial issues, in fact, this may be the first.  Obama does a fantastic job in showing how we can bridge the issue that should not be an issue- the color of our skin.

Blogs I Enjoyed.

November 30, 2010

I had posted this earlier! on time, don’t know where it went.

Michael B- Negocios & Opression

Nishatnt- Diaz has style.

Each of these were interesting to read.  I liked that my fellow classmates not only agreed with me but also disagreed.  Felt like a breath of fresh air.

Eh.

November 18, 2010

We find in these 10 stories the tale of at least two cities: the cities that Diaz depicts in his minimalist fictions, and the cities that reviewers have built around them. The despair of urban youth casting about for lives of sex or drugs plays a large part in them.  I just don’t know if i agree with much about how real these stories could be.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some lines that i had to read 3 times to make sure i read it correctly.  Maybe it is just the end of the semester, or maybe the last of the 5 stories were not as touching to me as the first.

Perhaps nothing reflects this better than “How to Date a Brown Girl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl, or Halfie.” In this story, a young Dominican narrator imagines an edgy suburban mother dropping her daughter off with him, a dark and perhaps dangerous city boy: “Her moms will say hi and you’ll see that you don’t scare her, not really. She will say that she needs easier directions to get out and even though she has the best directions in her lap give her new ones. Make her happy.”

If i had to pick a favorite, I would say Aurora.  Some lines I particularly liked:

“Here’s where i shot my first pistol.  Here’s where we stashed our porn magaizens.  Here’s where I kissed my first girl.”

“Nothing in the apartment, only us naked and some beer and half a pizza, cold and greasy.  You’re named after a star.”

“Why can’t I see us there? Her smoking in the bathroom and me dealing to the groom.”

“When I told him we were in love he laughed.”

“We seemed like we were normal folks.  Like maybe everything was fine.”

I think this is my favorite chapter in this book because Diaz does a fine job of depicting unordinary people.  I think it was intriguing to me mostly because I have lived on Long Island my whole life.  Whether true or not, these stories were not what I had to deal with growing up.  I think Diaz’ plan of action was to put on everyones plate a little taste of the inner city he was brought up in, and I think he did a fine job in that.  Aurora and the narrators relationship was straight up messed up.  Nothing about it was clean, and I think that is what grabbed my attention most.  I have never dealt with a relationship like that, and it is sometimes interesting to read about things you have never personally lived through.  The uncommonness of their actions cleared a path of what truly lied in between them, love for one another.

Drown.

November 11, 2010

Drowning? not so much, finally! Totally different text, kind of a breath of fresh air.  Diaz displays plenty of talent in his writing that makes noise.  These are powerful and convincing stories.  He didn’t hold anything back, at times I actually had to read the sentence twice to make sure i saw it correctly.  Whether it was his older brother Rafa beating him up, getting with girls, or downright assaulting Ysreal, he was truly brought to life in my eyes.  I envisioned Papi and Mami and their traditional relationship, where the male says all that goes.  The fiesta and the affair are both described very well too.  I think Diaz has a much different tone than what we’ve been dealing with this semester.  His words explode off the pages into the canon of our literature.  His stories are very engaging, it was necessary to pause to admire his sly lyricism.

April 8, 1928.

November 8, 2010

I think the ending was okay.  I did not really care for it.  The last chapter takes place on Easter Sunday, which i thought was pretty cliche.  Much like the Compson’s downfall, we see Jesus Christ’s light in hope through Easter.  I also thought, that Caddy, the most inspirational character in this text, was going to narrate this chapter.  Instead she gets no chance to speak, which might even conclude why she is my favorite character.

Miss Quentin flees and at that point the Compson name is ultimately ruined.  Caddy is banished and none of the other brothers are capable either mentally or physically to pass on their name.  Her escape helped prove how much of a failure the Compson men were.  If Caddy was around, I do not think this would have happened because it was obvious Caddy dominated the relationship with her other 3 siblings as well.

The Compson’s downfall shone through in this last section, but some hope comes with every failure.  Again referring back to Easter Sunday.  The novel closes with Benjy.  Back to his chaotic and somewhat ordered mind.  When Benjy returns to his normal route, he returns to peacefulness. Faulkner shows us that under Dilsey, the Compson name may not end in the dark.  Some hope always prevails.

April 6, 1928.

November 3, 2010

Jason’s narration takes place the day before Benjy’s.  We find ourselves in the Compson household.  “Once a bitch, always a bitch”.  If we did not realize already, now it is clear that Jason is a miserable, mean spirited man.  Jason’s narrative is clear and almost entirely emotionless.  Jason confirms that Benjy has been castrated, that Quentin drowned himself, and that Caddy was divorced. The wickedness that Jason shows as a child is merely doubled in his adulthood.

Jason is the only one of the Compson children to win Mrs. Compson’s love. Jason abuses his mother’s trust, using it to blind her to the fact that he is stealing large sums of money from her. Perhaps Mrs. Campson favors Jason so much   is because he shares Mrs. Compson’s tendencies toward misery and self-pity.  Much more than the other children show these traits.  Unlike Benjy and Quentin, Jason is wholly focused on the present and on manipulating the present for future personal gain.

Jason is a bitter man, and he was a bitter child.  There really is no reason for him to be such a negative conniving man.  One might actually feel bad for him.  He does everything for his own personal gain, and does not care for anyone but himself.  His section, although easiest to read, was the most saddening.

June 2, 1910

November 3, 2010

Quentin Compson wakes up in his dorm room at Harvard, hearing his watch ticking. He realizes that it is between 7 and 8 o’clock in the morning. Quentin remembers his father giving him the watch.  When he got the watch, his father was saying that the watch might allow Quentin an occasional moment when he could forget about time. Which is a pretty odd thing to say upon receiving a watch as a present.  Quentin gets up briefly, then goes back to bed.

Quentin  dazing in and out of present day, suddenly sees his roommate in the doorway telling him he will soon be late.  Quentin tells his roommate to leave him.  Then he suddenly remembers falsely confessing to his father that he had committed incest.  He claimed he and not Dalton Ames, was the father of Caddy’s child. He muses on Dalton Ames’s name and remembers his father telling him that his great tragic feelings were meaningless.

Quentin breaks the face of his watch on his dresser, and at the same time cuts his hand.  The watch oddly continues to tick.  This, along, with me, would eventually drive Quentin a little insane.  This section of the narrative relates Quentin’s tormented and jumbled inner thoughts on the day that he commits suicide. Faulkner uses Quentin’s narrative to continue his exploration of the human experience of time. Quentins part, just like Benjy’s narrative, is very abstract.  Like Benjy, Quentin has memories of the past that intrude on his narrative constantly. Quentin’s memory is complicated because it is largely mixed up with his fantasies. Sometimes it is difficult to tell which of his memories are based on events that actually occurred and which are based on fantasy or wishful thinking. Quentin’s mind is far more complex than Benjy’s, and, unlike Benjy, he is clearly aware that his flashbacks are just memories.

Quentin is effectively trapped in time, obsessed with his past and memories. He always notices the bells of the Harvard clock tower. The ticking of his watch haunts him even after he breaks the watch against his dresser. Quentin asks the owner of the clock shop whether any of the clocks is correct, but does not want to know what time it is. Unlike Benjy, who is oblivious to time, Quentin is so obsessed and haunted by it that he sees suicide as his only escape.

Clearly, Quentin’s main struggle is with Caddy’s promiscuity.  Caddy’s conduct horrifies Quentin.  Quentin firmly beleives in femine purity and modesty.  Quentin so afraid of breaking this Southern code, asks Caddy to commit suicide with him.  When she rejects, his next thought goes to taking blame for the child so that maybe his family name can still be honorable.  Quentin’s anguish is tripled when he learns that his father really could not care less about Caddy’s promiscuity. Quentin,  finds his father’s indifference completely dishonorable to the Compson name.  Quentin seems to be very jealous of any man in Caddy’s life.  Their relationship consists of much jealousy, it was actually uncomfortable to read.  Faulkner implies that there is an unconscious sexual frustration between Quentin and Caddy. This section was more difficult than Benjy’s, it was just plain weird to me.  The structure was difficult to follow alike Benjy’s jumps from present to past, but it was just odd with the sibling rivalry.