Op Ed Draft

Elizabeth Acevedo’s The Poet X (2018) is a young adult novel in verse that follows the story of a young woman named Xiomara. The poems are framed as entries in Xiomara’s secret journal, where she writes poetry that she shares with no one. Over the course of the novel, Xiomara struggles to navigate high school as a young woman who experiences sexual harassment and often clashes with her strict mother. She develops a relationship with a boy in her class, joins a poetry club, and eventually begins to perform her poetry in front of her community. Her identities as a Black and Latina woman inform her experiences throughout the novel.

In the United States, young Black women are hypersexualized in the media and their voices are undervalued in school, and in society as a whole. Complex and affirming representations of Black girls are scarce in literature and media. Acevedo enters this lack of representation and provides a story that is rooted in a young Black woman finding her voice. As a spoken word poet, Acevedo highlights the genre as an important pathway for marginalized young people to find their place in society and elevate their voices.  

In the poem “At the New York Citywide Slam,” Xiomara finally performs onstage in front of her family and friends. She writes,

With Ms. Galiano’s assistance: I let the poem rise from my heart,

With Twin helping me practice: I hand it over like a present I’ve had gift wrapped,

With a brand-new notebook: I perform like I deserve to be there;

With Aman’s (and J. Cole’s) inspiration: I don’t see the standing ovation (Acevedo 353).

Acevedo uses the split form of the poem to highlight how the act of performing poetry is both a deeply individual experience of expressing one’s voice and also an act of relying on and creating community.

The division of the poem allows the reader to experience both Xiomara’s sense of being powerfully individual in the act of performing her poem, and also her simultaneous knowing that her poem, and she herself, couldn’t exist without the support of her loved ones. The phrases on the right hand side of the colons all begin with “I,” highlighting Xiomara’s individuality. In these phrases she speaks of the poem moving from her heart to her hands, presented to an audience she doesn’t even see. She is speaking her truth into existence without allowing anyone to censor it. At the same time, she is very aware of the support she receives, and the fact that the audience’s willingness to listen gives purpose to her performance. Each phrase on the left hand side of the colons begins with “With,” making each phrase a dependent clause that is left hanging without its second half. Together, the “with,” and “I” phrases form a cohesive whole. Xiomara’s voice would not have its power without her individual truth, but it would not have meaning without her supporters and her audience.

 

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Elizabeth Acevedo

OpEd: First Draft

Cartoonist Thi Bui’s graphic memoir The Best We Could Do (2017), is a 329 paged graphic memoir which documents the detailed history of her family’s escape from Southern Vietnam in the 1970s to their new lives in America. Published by Abrams ComicArt in New York City, Bui narrates the text of the graphic memoir in a poetic fashion alongside engaging illustration. Bui titled the memoir The Best We Could Do, from her perspective as an aging mother and in recognition of the two paternal generations which the timeline of her memoir follows. The structure of the memoir begins from the birth of her first born son, backwards through memories of the war in the eyes of her siblings in the United States, in a refugee camp, to Bui’s birthplace in Vietnam. In this timeless story of immigration and the Vietnamese diaspora, Thi Bui examines the importance of identity and the meaning of home.


Thi Bui, NPR interview

The most accessible narrative of the Vietnam War portrays the American solider heroically fighting the communist super powers of Northern Vietnam. These depictions are drawn predominantly from perspectives of American soldiers and circulate within American popular culture. 1960s McCarthy age of postwar America sustained a culture of conformity and anxiety towards communism in the United States. In this age of McCarthyism, the U.S. government deemed any act which challenged the preservation of American culture as untrustworthy or inherently communist. Fear in the spread of communism from Southeast Asia prompted U.S. military involvement. Antiwar movements followed in the late 1960s when a recorded 500,000 plus American soldiers were documented fighting in Vietnam.

The Bui’s Graphic Memoir

Upon arrival into the United States, Bui’s family moves into a two bedroom house with her aunt, her husband, their five children and one dog in Hammond, Indiana. From an impressionable age, Bui sensed the societal pressure to assimilate into American culture. Bui’s older cousins, who immigrated three years earlier, often scolded Bui for behaving like “such a REFUGEE!” when for example she ate cereal out of the box (285). In response, Bui blamed herself for “probably embarrassing” her cousins for appearing “fresh-off-the-boat” (285). The words of her cousin invoke the fragility in their identities as Vietnamese-American immigrants (285). Similar interactions at school inform self-consciousness in her identity. Bui’s cousin reveals the precarious nature of her American identity when she reprimands Bui for harmless mannerisms such as eating cereal out of the box.

The metaphor of appearing “fresh-off-the-boat” threatens Bui’s cousin, who has already gauged the sacrifice she is expected to make in order to find comfort in the contrasting binds of American culture. Vietnamese people have historically named themselves “boat people”. This title reclaims aspects of the shared refugees experience of escaping Vietnam in boats. The boats provided the Vietnamese refugees a means of survival and an opportunity for escape. Floating for weeks at a time in a wide expanse of ocean water, most families were split apart or never had the opportunity to reach land. Bui foreshadows themes of assimilation and the model minority in this scene when her cousin threatens her for her dress and mannerisms which don’t align with American culture. Boats which were once sought-after for protecting refugees, now represent a discarded narrative as an foreigner subject to alienation. Assimilation now dictates how Bui will craft a home for herself in the United States. The although the boat represents a concrete Vietnamese identity distinguished through war history, the drifting boat also connotes an emotional and physical sense of unidentifiable weightlessness. Despite actions of assimilation, the boat in “boat people” is symbolic of the American identity which Vietnamese refugees will never claim.

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Work Cited

Bui, Thi. The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir. Abrams ComicArts, 2018.

The Art of Taxonomy and Poetry

The intersection of race, art, and poetry is just one of the many forms of voicing, remembering and monumentalizing histories that have been forgotten. What Natasha Trethewey, the author of the of poetry collection Monument (2018), does is situate readers in historical narratives that blend with her own. In the Poem “Taxonomy” by Natasha Trethewey, the poet splits up her piece into four numbered poems that are based on different casta paintings by Juan Rodríguez Juárez in the 18th century. These casta paintings were commissioned in New Spain at the time, by unknown patrons (Khan Academy). They speak of the formulaic results of the mixing of the different races during colonialism and  propel stereotypical narratives of those who inhabited those lands. Just as art was used to portray what the colonists tried to state as fact, Trethewey utilizes poetry as a tool for making race at the forefront of contemporary dialogues. Trethewey shows the importance of memory and the assurance that it lives on through written word often grounded in historical photos and paintings. Poetry becomes a way to evoke in readers the emotions and historical context concerning issues of race to past and present narratives. More specifically in “2. De Español y Negev produce Mulato, ” a section from the poem “Taxonomy,” Trethewey utilizes ekphrasis, which is the “description of visual art” to contextualize her work into the past that demands attention and relevance today (McHaney). It is through her eyes that readers of “Taxonomy” can piece together narratives that shaped the perception of races, and live on to this day.

Image result for de espanol y negra produce mulato

The inscription in the top right read “De Español y Negra Produce Mulato,” which became the title for Trethewey’s poem. Images of paintings are not included in the poet’s collection.

In the section “2. Espanol y Negra Produce Mulato,” Trethewey starts with the inscriptions in the art as the title for the poem. In the piece, she uses ekphrasis to describe the painting of a Spaniard and Black women on either side of a young boy referred to as “mulato” (141). The poet goes on to describe the racial dynamics and components that make it a casta painting. She even asks what we should do about these different components that such as the inscription in the corner serving as a taxonomical title of the art and the depictions of racial stereotype in the portraits. She states how the artwork and the story changes if we took out the inscription or hid the child. Trethewey then writes,

 

The boy is a palimpsest of paint —

layers of color, history rendering him

that precise shade of in-between.

Before this he was nothing: blank

canvas— before image or word, before

a last brush stroke fixed him in his place. (Trethewey 142)

 

 

 

Trethewey not only describes the creation of the artist who represents the hegemonic society of New Spain, but uses an interrupted phrase to dig deeper and go beyond what the finished artwork depicts. In using this literary device, the poet expands upon the word “palimpsest,” which is defined as, “something such as a work of art that has many levels of meaning, types of style, etc. that build on each other:” (Cambridge Dictionary). In the interrupted phrase, Trethewey uses words like “layers” and “history” allowing readers to understand the depth behind the surface of a canvas. This device gives the poet the space to insert a  reversed timeline at the end of the poem, a reminder that art speaks to the past, present, and future state of humans. In doing so, it is like she lets the reader become the artist and see the reverse progression of the artwork. She starts with undoing the layers, then situates readers by presenting them with the boy’s “precise shade.” Finally, the poet takes us all the way back to the “blank canvas” (142). At that moment Trethewey ends the interrupted phrase and continues with the rest of the sentence. In doing this, she suggests that the mulato child has no identity beyond that which the artist (colonial Spanish society) create for him.

In the interrupted phrase, it is evident that Trethewey’s word choice holds powerful significance to the title of the entire poem, “Taxonomy.” This word itself stands for “the science or technique of classification” (Dictionary.com), which add weight to the words “fixed” and “precise” (142). These words illustrate an exact classification of the shade of the mulato child, despite the layers of colors it took to paint him, and the real identities of children from European and African descent. And so just as the paintbrush is a tool for the artist to translate stereotypical portraits and environments of miscegenation, Trethewey’s words are tools for the readers to analyze the depiction of race in art.

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Works Cited

Kilroy-Ewbank, Dr. Lauren G., “Spaniard and Indian Produce a Mestizo, attributed to

           Juan Rodriguez.” Khan Academy, https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/ap-art-history/early-europe-and-colonial-americas/colonial-americas/a/spaniard-and-indian-produce-a-mestizo-attributed-to-juan-rodriguez

Trethewey, Natasha. “Taxonomy: 2. Espanol y Negra Produce Mulato.” Monument.     

          Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018, pp. 141-2.

OpEd: First Draft

Citizen Illegal by José Olivarez (2018) is a collection of poems addressing coming of age as the child of Mexican immigrants. The collection is composed of five chapters, each containing eight to ten poems. The poems themselves typically have multiple stanzas. Notably, throughout the collection are woven eight pieces of the poem “Mexican Heaven,” which explores the celebrations and struggles of Mexican American life. While most poems have multiple stanzas, some pieces, such as “I Walk Into The Room And Yell Where The Mexicans At” are written as prose. Citizen Illegal thus informs readers of the conflict within Mexican American identity. Specifically, the poem “River Oaks Mall” explores Olivarez feeling like a misfit within American culture due to his Mexican roots.

In “River Oaks Mall,” Olivarez describes walking through a mall on a Saturday with his family. The poem begins with the speaker describing a refusal to confess his feeling for the girl he likes, and concludes with his throwing a coin from his father into a fountain in the mall. In seeing other young people around him at the mall, Olivarez notes that he feels he is different than they are. This feeling of difference demonstrates the speaker’s conflict between American and Mexican identity:

trying too hard is another way to confess.

my family takes a Saturday stroll

through the mall dressed in church clothes

 

every other kid in jeans, t-shirts, & Jordans.

fun fact: when you have to try to blend in

you can never blend in (Olivarez 6).

The juxtaposition in the sentence “my family takes a Saturday stroll/through the mall dressed in church clothes” specifically elucidates the reader’s conflict between Mexican and American identity. In this phrase, the family is representative of Mexican identity. The mall, as a staple of recreation in the United States and an extremely casual setting, is the pinnacle of an environment in which the family’s behavior is unusual. The situation of “through the mall” and “dressed in church clothes” in the same line makes the juxtaposition impossible to ignore. This placement signifies the adjacency yet perceived incompatibility of Mexican and American identity to Olivarez. The imagery within the quote also highlights the juxtaposition of the family and the shopping mall. The poem facilitates the reader to envision the scene, as picturing a family dressed in church clothes among groups of kids in stylish clothing is almost comical.

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Works Cited

Olivarez, Jose. Citizen Illegal. Chicago, Haymarket Books, 2018.

Black Identity in I, Too

The poem, I, Too by Langston Hughes was published in 1926 but first seen in his book, “The Weary Blues” in 1925. It is a rather short, free verse poem of five stanzas, opening and closing with similar one line sentence, and using simple language throughout. The poem is only five sentences in total, but covers two events, today and tomorrow, and two places, the kitchen and the table. The narrator of the poem creates black narrative and exposes the African-American identity within the oppressive dominant white culture of America. More powerfully, it captivates the history of slavery and oppression that creates systems of racial inequality and denied blacks their rights. The poem uses an exemplary event of the unfair treatment of a person because of their darker skin complexion to comment on the racism that plagues our nation. When the poem emerged in 1926, the Great Migration (high rate relocation of African-Americans from Southern states to the North), The Chicago race riots (the lynching of blacks), and Jim Crow (state and local laws that legally separated the South), painted the racially divided climate of the US.

In the Poem, I, Too, the narrator is sent to the kitchen to eat his food alone by an authority figure when people come to visit who all eat together at the table. The narrator does as told but claims that he will not be in the kitchen in the future. Through the use of commas, Hughes expressed his feelings towards racism and comments on the racially discriminating state of our nation.

Hughes writes,

                                                                    “I am the darker brother.

They send me to eat in the kitchen

When company comes,

But I laugh,

And eat well,

And grow strong.”           

 

 

 

The use of commas in this quote forces the reader to slow down and take in the actions of the narrator. The commas show the continuation of the unfair treatment because the commas combined with the word “grow strong” shows the longevity and multiplicity of times he was had to eat in the kitchen because he is “the darker brother.” The commas also allow for the tone shift through the lines as well as stanzas of the poem. The tone shift from one of anger to one of strength through the use of the commas because the commas allows for the poem to be read like blues music, filled with sorrow and anger, but finding the beauty by finding its worth like the narrator does. Commas produce this effect because it showcases the narrator’s growth and emotions. The commas allow us to get a whole picture view of the changes the narrator goes through after being banished to the kitchen such as the, “But I laugh,” that is followed by the, “And eat well,” then him saying, “And grow strong.” He is not allowing for his banishment to the kitchen to keep him down, but rather laughs and thinks of the future when he is stronger and can escape the segregation that has been forced on him. The commas also produces a contrast between not being able to eat at the table juxtaposed to his claim of his, “tomorrow(‘s)” right to eat at that table. His perseverance and resilience in self authorizing that he will be at the table comes through because of the use of commas showing that he is not accepting his current situation.

  The vagueness in the setting of time in the poem (today and tomorrow), showcases how whether or not it takes place during slavery or post-slavery, the remaining effects of oppression and unequal treatment of blacks is still present and draining in the American society. Moving on, the narrator claims his liberation and argues for unification at the table. He is claiming his right to feel included and equal as a citizen in America. He is disapproving the idea that equality is based on race, or more specifically that you have to be white or of a lighter skin complexion to be fairly treated.

Through his poem, Hughes makes a declaration of freedom for blacks and stands against the oppression and cruel treatment of slaves as if they aren’t equal human beings. The narrator’s fight still remains true and ongoing in American society today because we still see ongoing movements and suffrage for racial equality and freedom. The Black Lives Movement is a 21st century visual representation of the poem and the theme of Freedom that it demands. This theme of freedom rings through in Hughes other works of poetry such as, “Let America be America Again” and “Montage of a Dream Deferred.” Malcolm X said, “Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you’re a man, you take it.” Parallel with Hughes message, Blacks are demanding their freedom in all pursuits, but more than just demanding it, they are taking it  peacefully or via force.

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Works Cited

Hughes, Langston. “I, Too by Langston Hughes.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, 1926, www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47558/i-too.

Tolnay, Stewart (2003). “The African American ‘Great Migration’ and Beyond”. Annual Review of Sociology. 29: 209–232. doi:10.1146/annurev.soc.29.010202.100009. JSTOR 30036966.

Michael O. Emerson, Christian Smith (2001). “Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America”. p. 42. Oxford University Press.

“Malcolm X Quotes.” BrainyQuote.com. BrainyMedia Inc, 2019. 19 April 2019. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/malcolm_x_387554

Facing the Unattainable

Baddawi, by Leila Abdelrazaq

Baddawi, by Leila Abdelrazaq

Baddawi (2015), a graphic novel written by Leila Abdelrazaq, follows protagonist Ahmad as he grows up in Lebanon as a Palestinian refugee.  Based on the life of Abdelrazaq’s father, Baddawi contains roughly 100 pages of black and white illustrations and text to outline both the political context of the Palestinian conflict between 1959 and 1980, as well as the personal implications these conflicts had on individuals such as Ahmad.  In the aftermath of the Palestinian Nakba in 1948, which dispersed Palestinians into occupied territories or into neighboring countries in light of the establishment of Israel, Palestinians no longer had legal citizenships to call their own.  Baddawi explores what life was like for one such Palestinian refugee as he dodged violent attacks and bounced between refugee camps in Lebanon amid rising political tensions and the beginning of the Lebanese civil war.

Page 113 of the graphic novel

Near the end of the graphic novel, Ahmad got accepted into a university in Texas right around the same time his parents approved of a marriage between him and his study partner, Manal.  Having only a refugee status and no actual Lebanese citizenship, if Ahmad were to go to the U.S., he would be unable to return to Lebanon for years.  Abdelrazaq illustrates Ahmad’s internal struggle of how to proceed with his life in a full-page drawing which utilizes metaphoric visual imagery.  In the drawing, Ahmad is facing two paths.  One leads through a shape resembling the United States, where he can attend college and start a new life for himself.  The other path leads through the shape of Lebanon, where he would remain in the Palestinian camp to marry his friend Manal and raise a family.  Neither of these paths, however, lead to the shape of Israel/Palestine, pictured glowing in the background sky, unattainable by either of the two paths drawn.  Drawn onto the country of Israel is a stripe of the traditional Palestinian tatreez embroidery pattern (Abdelrazaq 113).  This final detail of visual imagery completes the metaphor by exhibiting how Ahmad, as just one of many Palestinian refugees, has different choices he can make as he enters adulthood, but none of these choices will lead him back to his homeland, the source of the tatreez and his Palestinian identity.

On this same page, Abdelrazaq provides an allusion to the Palestinian cartoon figure Handala.  A political cartoon character created by Naji al-Ali in 1975, Handala is represented as a young Palestinian refugee boy.  The ideology behind his figure is that the world would only see Handala turn around when the people of Palestine could return home (Abdelrazaq 11).  In the illustration where Ahmad is facing his two separate paths, he is depicted in a similar stance as Handala—back facing the reader with hands clasped behind his back.  In this way, the allusion to Handala ties in to the notion that Ahmad is unable to reach Palestine.

Handala

Handala

Interpretation of Handala I found drawn onto a wall in Baddawi camp (2018)

Interpretation of Handala I found drawn onto a wall in Baddawi camp (2018)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Abdelrazaq, Leila. Baddawi. Charlottesville, Just World Books, 2015.

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Police Brutality

 

Cover of Angie Thomas’s The Hate You Give

Police brutality presently encompasses many different areas of expression, one popular book that brings attention to the topic is the book The Hate You Give (2017) by Angie Thomas. The captivating 444 page young adult fictional book describes the story of a young black man named Khalil, who is driving home from a party with one of his best friends named Starr. Eventually, Khalil and Starr are pulled over by Police Officer 115, for having an out tail light, which escalates into Khalil being killed because Officer 115 mistakes Khalil’s hairbrush for a gun. Lately, the mistreatment of African Americans by the police force has gained a lot of attention due to social media. As a result many people have begun to wonder why the police force has gotten away with the killing of black people so frequently. The truth is, it has not just begun: it is an issue that has been happening for years. Thomas wrote this book in order to give black youth in urban cities a novel that they could easily relate to.

In one scene of the book, Starr debates whether she should tell Khalil’s side of the story about what happened the night of his death or not. She later on decides, in order to  gain justice for Khalil she has to tell his side of the story just as Officer 115’s father did for his son.

“Brian’s a good boy,” he says, in tears. “He only wanted to get home to his family,   and people are making him out to be a monster.”

That’s all Khalil and I wanted, and you’re making us out to be monsters.

I can’t breathe, like I’m drowning in the tears I refuse to shed. I won’t give One-Fifteen or his father the satisfaction of crying. (Thomas 247)

Throughout this scene of the book, the use of comparisons and proper nouns modifies the message that can be taken away from both Starr and 115’s father’s interpretation of what happened the night Khalil was killed. The mistreatment of Starr and Khalil makes it clear to Starr that the police officer does not see her or him as a priority in society. Starr was able to acknowledge that the police force views Khalil and her as monsters, rather than people. By labeling both children as monsters, it is interpreted that they should not be treated as humans but instead as creatures to be feared. This can be interpreted because monsters are typically associated with aggression, whether it be in stories or movies. Monsters are typically characterized as creatures rather than people. Starr refers to the officer as 115 rather then Brian as his father does. By not using his real name, Starr dehumanizes the cop just as he dehumanized Khalil by mentally labeling him as a monster in order to justly murder him. Through comparing Khalil and Starr to monsters within the book, readers see where the police officer was coming from in his thought process which had caused him to, in his opinion, rightfully kill Khalil. This comparison was used to point out how many officers portray black people in society; hostile, aggressive, inferior, defective, threatening, and worthless. All of these descriptions feed into the idea of African Americans not being human, which leads to their encounters with the police being discredited.

Khalil and Starr know they are viewed as monsters by the officer, which causes them to fear him, knowing 115 associates them as being a problem in society. Because Khalil and Starr are seen as problems, the officer believes that in order to solve the problem he must eliminate them. Khalil is viewed as the enemy, and in the officer’s eyes, deserved to die, because it was not the officer’s duty to protect him. Throughout the entire scene of Khalil being pulled over, he did not do anything threatening to 115; being perceived as a monster caused Khalil’s death because monsters are something to be feared rather than protected. The officer ultimately discredits and disrespects Starr and Khalil because he doesn’t treat them as humans. This gives Starr the right to show no respect to the officer or his father by refusing to name them. This quote reveals that throughout the scene where Khalil and Starr are pulled over, Starr remained silent in order to prevent herself from offending the officer because she knew the officer did not see her as a human but instead as a threat. Khalil and Starr knew they were seen as threats in the officer’s eyes so it would be wise to hide their opinions about the situation in the heat of the moment. Starr and Khalil were in fear of how 115 would react, and they wanted to prevent conflict. Starr dehumanizes the officer as a coping mechanism. By taking away his name, she takes away his identity as a person and instead labels him as just another number. Names tie people to who they are; they are how people are identified. By taking away 115’s name, Starr takes away any power he thinks he holds over her in society.

 

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Works Cited:

Thomas, Angie. The Hate U Give. Balzer + Bray, 2017.

 

Their EYES: Simile Analysis

Zora Neale Hurston’s Florida based 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching Godtakes the reader through a journey of a woman finding herself and obtaining self-fulfillment through many struggles in her path. This 256-page coming-of-age novel has an organized structure of repetitive ending and start, in which the novel starts and finishes with the main character, Janie, and her friend, Pheoby, both sitting on the porch of Janie’s house. Janie’s story runs chronologically and is told from the third person point of view. In the novel, Janie’s grandmother shows her love toward Janie by marrying her off to someone who will provide financial support and social standing. Janie moves in with her new husband, Logan Kellicks, and soon become dissatisfied with her life with him. Logan uses her more as a maid than a wide and does not show affection towards her. She then goes on to marrying two other men, Joe Starks and Tea Cake, but both these marriages end badly.

During the 1930s traditional women were taught to be subservient to men. Women were forced to believe that they needed a man in order to be taken care off, and that they should be happy with their husbands. During this time women were still being discriminated against their gender while applying for jobs. This was worsened for women of color who had the burden of intersectional oppression placed on them. Therefore, given to the struggles of a women of color during this time, they were pressured to get married as soon as possible in order to obtain security. Marriages for these women during this time constrained them to oblige to their husbands demands. Many of them felt unhappy but new that the norm was to stay in their marriages and be subservient to their husband. On the other hand, Janie is an exception to the traditional roles of married black women from this time. She is not a woman of her time.

The novel demonstrates how Janie is not a woman of her time, and breaks the stereotype that women are supposed to be bound to marriage. Janie ran away with her second husband Joe Starks to an all-black town, Eatonville. Joe becomes the mayor of this town and transforms Janie into a model wife. Joe is the most popular, the richest and the most confident man in the town, though Janie soon finds these qualities not good enough to sustain her happiness. His qualities transform him into an obsessive and demanding husband, who does not care about Janie’s voice or opinions. One day Joe publicly humiliates Janie in the town store that he owns in front of everyone they both know, because Janie mistakenly cut a piece of chewing tobacco incorrectly. Joes remarks hurt Janie’s feelings and make her feel “like somebody snatched off part of a woman’s clothes while she wasn’t looking, and the streets were crowded” (Hurston).

This simile metaphor produces the effect of humiliation and embarrassment. When someone’s clothes are taken off, they become vulnerable, that vulnerability takes over their power and their right to choose. The choice can be seen to be taken away by the syntax in which the phrase “and the streets were crowded” comes after stating Janie’s embarrassment, in order to add on to how embarrassed Janie felt and amplify that she did not choose for this situation to occur. This connects to the idea that Joe purposely embarrassed her and purposely made her vulnerable in order to show her the power he has over her, and how their marriage gives him the power and opportunity to do this to her. In a marriage a woman becomes vulnerable when she chooses to show herself to her husband without clothing, in this way a man and a woman create a connection, this connection is thrown away and used by Joe to embarrass her in front of the town.

The embarrassment that is explained and symbolled here is crucial to be understood, because it therefore gives Janie justifiable reason as to why she lashes out at Joe, in front of everyone in the store, in the subsequent sentences after this quote. It makes the readers not see Janie as the stereotypical aggressive woman that needs to be better controlled by her husband, due to the fight in the store. Instead, it allows the readers to view this scene as a pivotal moment in which Janie, for the first time, says to her husband what she truly feels regardless of who is watching, regardless of her subservient position in her marriage, regardless of what society expects of her. Based on this scene, she makes her way toward self-fulfillment and freedom that she sought out to obtain from the start of the novel

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Works Cited:

Hurston, Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1937

Del Otro Lado De La Noche: Metaphor Analysis

Cover of Francisco Alarcon’s From the Other Side of Night/Del Otro Lado de la Noche

From the Other Side of Night/Del Otro Lado de La Noche is a collection of poems published in 2002 by Chicano poet Francisco Alarcon. The collection includes Alarcon’s work from the past fifteen years with a couple new additions; all of which are neatly categorized into sections. These sections represent crucial stages in Alarcon’s life including love, heartbreak, and family. Yet, it is the poems of struggle and hardship that invoke the most emotion. As an activist for Latino rights, Alarcon used his profession as a poet in order to spark notions of change in those that read his work with a huge focus on the younger generation of Latinos. The pain expressed in Alarcon’s poems stem mostly from his experiences of discrimination as a Chicano in the United States.

Considering the current election, President Trump has caused a level of panic resulting in American citizens targeting Mexican immigrants. Since the election there has been an increase in hate crimes towards Latinos as well as many signs reading “go back to Mexico”. Thinking historically; however, indigenous people resided in Mexico long before the conquistadors followed European settlers. This appears to be a forgotten fact to many American’s, despite Chicanos knowing this reality all to well. Alarcon’s poem “Natural Criminal” expresses these feelings of displacement and alienation experienced by millions of Chicanos in the United States. 

Alarcon uses metaphors to portray what it feels like to be “a drop/of oil/in a glass/of water”(38). These lines appear in the second stanza of the poem after the speaker states they are “a nomad/in a country/of settlers”(38). This provides some historical context to support the feelings expressed in the second stanza. Reading the stanza it is easy to imagine the separation of oil and water when they come into contact, but one must also consider that it is only a drop of oil. This means the water would completely surround the oil. Considering the liquids are contained within a glass there is only so many places the oil can move to, but no matter where it moves it is always in contact with water. The colors of both liquids coupled with the fact they are in a clear glass also aid in the clear mental distinction. Thus the metaphor provides an example to the reader of what the speaker feels like being a Chicano in America.  

The contrast of oil to water in Alarcon’s metaphor are meant to parallel the relationship between Mexican and Latino immigrants to the rest of American society. By providing some historical context in the first stanza one must think about the history of colonization in America. Conquistadors were the first to raid the Aztec empire and claimed Mexico for Spain. Later on the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo gave Mexican territory away yet again to America prompting a flood of white settlers into the new land. But along with them came their hatred and disgust for the Mexican people. This leads into the speaker considering themself a drop of oil in a glass of water with the glass symbolizing America. Like the water overpowering the oil white people are statistically considered the majority in the United States, with Latinos being the second largest ethnicity. It is interesting that Alarcon used these to elements, commonly known for not mixing well to describe the interaction of the two races. Does this imply his beliefs that there is no way Chicanos can mix into American society? Or are they not allowed to mix considering the overpowering presence of systems put in place against them? By making this juxtaposition within the metaphor Alarcon reveals the tension felt by the Chicano community to the rest of society. Additionally, making the comparison a metaphor allows the reader to clearly visualize and example how just how divided Chicanos feel in America. 

Works Cited:

Alarcon, Fransisco. From the Other Side of Night=Del Otro Lado De La Noche: New and Selected Poems, University of Arizona Press, 2002, pp. 38

B6

Esoteric Experiences in Citizen Illegal

In his 2018 collection of poems, Citizen Illegal, author Jose Olivarez encompasses emotions and experiences revolving around Mexican immigrants. Citizen Illegal is divided into five sections and contains poems ranging from 1 stanza to multiple stanzas and emotions of nostalgia to sorrow. While there is no set character, the poems are meant to either place the reader in the author/Mexican immigrants’ position or simply enlighten identifiable situations. Throughout the poems, readers learn about relations between individual family members, and between Mexican immigrants versus American society. It alludes to esoteric experiences while educating and informing the reader of more than the misconceived notions or what is often portrayed in the media. In particular, his multiple one-stanza poems titled “Mexican Heaven” describe the ideal “heaven”/utopia that consists of both Mexican and American culture. 

Cover of Jose Olivarez’s Citizen Illegal

Although Olivarez himself is not an immigrant, he is the son of immigrant parents, whose experiences outlines some of his poems. His work helps readers understand the untold experiences of Mexican immigrants that no one thinks twice about. Often, what is portrayed or misconceived of Mexican immigrants is that they “don’t contribute to society” or “they’re taking all our jobs” or, as President Trump has most recently described them, “drug dealers, rapists, and criminals”. Unfortunately, we believe or perpetuate these notions because these narratives are most often the only ones portrayed, making us unaware of their experiences. Given today’s political climate with our current president, Olivarez’s work engages readers to learn and understand true experiences told by someone who is knowledgeable about Mexicans immigrating into the U.S.  

Jose Olivarez’s collection of poems, Citizen Illegal, comprises poems that speak to things that are relatable to Mexican immigrants. While he has multiple poems titled “Mexican Heaven” in different sections of the book, the “Mexican Heaven” poem in the third section exemplifies Mexican women’s role in the Mexican community. The common misconception of Mexican immigrants is that the men are the hardworking one, while the women stay at home. Although I am not dismissing their effort, it is important to highlight the unofficial work Mexican women partake in. The poem is one stanza comprised of five lines and narrates common responsibilities:

all the Mexican women refuse to cook or clean

or raise the kids or pay the bills or make the bed or

drive your bum ass to work or do anything except

watch their novelas, so heaven is gross. The rats

are fat as roosters & the men die of starvation (Olivarez 31).

The word “or” separates the numerous tasks/responsibilities Mexican women have, even though they don’t work at an actual job. The repetition of the word “or” produces the effect of “never-ending”, that the responsibilities Mexican women have are infinite (could go on and on). This goes against the misconception and highlights the unnoticed work of Mexican women.

Additionally, in omitting commas to separate the tasks and using multiple “or”, the poem forces the readers to take their time in reading each task, reflecting the difficulty of each and realizing the domesticity of them. Implementing commas would make the list become fluid and rushed, not allowing for reflection and thought for each task. The repetition of “or” and the omission of commas showcases the jobs of Mexican women as, although domestic, still important. Important enough that the son of immigrant parents noticed as a kid growing up. It conveys that Mexican women are just as hardworking as men, and also contributes to society (misconception that they don’t) by implementing same actions as American women. Further, these devices highlight immigrant Mexican women’s roles and showcases one of the relatable “things” that other Mexican immigrants or children of Mexican immigrants can relate to.

 

B6.

 

Works Cited

Olivarez, Jose. Citizen Illegal. Chicago, Haymarket Books, 2018.