Confronting an Apology

Image result for the native american apology resolution

President Obama signs the Native American Apology Resolution

You only need to read the Native American Apology Resolution to know it’s not sincere. Before you even get to the completely disrespectful disclaimer at the end which undoes any potential good the Apology could have done, there is this snippet:

“Whereas Native Peoples and non-Native settlers engaged in
numerous armed conflicts in which unfortunately, both
took innocent lives, including those of women and children;” (Congress)

This is putting both sides on equal grounds, as if both sides did equal harm. Yes, white families were murdered, but Native People were decimated culturally, spiritually, and physically. It is not the same.

Image result for trump both sides

President Trump has also been seen refusing to pick the right side

Layli Long Soldier writes a response to this “Apology” in the form of a book of poetry published in 2017. Long Soldier is a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation and currently lives in the Navajo Nation. She earned her BFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts and her MFA from Bard College (Poetry Foundation). She titles her piece “Whereas” after the excess use of the word in Congress’s document. She mirrors the format, but contrasts with it in that Long Soldier uses scene whereas the official document is vague and generic — mostly avoiding pointing out specific cases.

Throughout the poem are specific scenes where the speaker is reacting to the Apology Resolution and the actions and ignorance of those around them. “Whereas I drive down the road replaying the get-together how the man and his beer bottle stated / their piece and I reel at what I could have said or done better;” (Long Soldier 14-15). The concreteness of the poem makes for a very real reaction. It draws attention to the people affected by not only the Resolution, but still by the genocide and destruction wreaked upon their ancestors not so long ago.

Long Soldier brings a human to the inanimate table set by Congress in their Resolution.

 

Works Cited

“Layli Long Soldier.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation,
www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/layli-long-soldier.

Soldier, Layli Long. “WHEREAS.” January 2017.

United States , Congress. “Text – S.J.Res.14 – Native American
Apology Resolution.”Congress.gov, 6 Aug. 2009,
www.congress.gov/bill/111th-congress/senate-joint-resolution/14/text.

 

Blog Post 2

Unacceptable Apologies

At times it is difficult to apologize and take ownership for one’s personal wrongdoings, but what happens if the government neglects ownership for its own misconducts? Layli Long Soldiers’ poem, “WHEREAS” (2017), explores this tension in an Apology written by the U.S. Government to Native Americans. In the story, the main character encounters a man who is content with the apology letter. However, when the main character does not share her own thoughts with the man, she later feels regretful. This sense of regret is captured through metaphor.

In the poem, Soldier says “whereas since the moment had passed I accept what’s done and the knife of my conscience pierces with bone-clean self-honesty;” (Soldier 1).

The phrase, “the moment,” references the author’s encounter with the “blue-eyed man” at the beginning of the poem (Soldier 1). Her conversation with the man made her feel as if she had missed an opportunity to enlighten him on the government’s lack of ownership in their apology. This idea is referenced through how she “accept[ed] what [was] done” (Soldier 1). During her conversation with the man, she did not voice her dissatisfaction with the vagueness of the Apology. She never mentioned her discontent with the fact that the Apology did not take responsibility for the genocide they committed against the Native Americans. This idea is represented through the metaphor of the knife piercing her conscience. She feels a pain in her conscience because she did not speak out against the Apology. Her conscience tells her what is right from wrong and it is experiencing a piercing pain since she knows it is wrong to stay silent. The knife piercing her conscience is like the moral guilt she feels from staying silent. Her conscience forces her to accept her obligation to voice her dissatisfaction with the Apology in the future.

The Apology neglects the inclusion of the term “genocide,” but uses other words to describe the atrocities made against Native Americans. In the Apology, it refuses to address genocide by saying that:

“[U.S. citizens apologize] for the many instances of violence, maltreatment, and neglect inflicted on Native peoples” (Native American Apology Resolution 5).

The use of the words “violence” and “maltreatment” are a replacement for the term genocide. The Apology does not take ownership for genocide and, instead, would rather use language that is a misrepresentation of the murders that were committed.

 

Works Cited

Soldier, Layli Long. “From WHEREAS by Layli Long Soldier.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry           Foundation, www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/91697/from-whereas.

United States , Congress. “Text – S.J.Res.14 – Native American Apology Resolution.”Congress.gov, 6 Aug. 2009, www.congress.gov/bill/111th-congress/senate-joint-resolution/14/text.

The Complexity of an Apology

In her essay, “The Complexity of Identity: “Who Am I?””, Beverly Daniel Tatum discusses the concept of identity and explains what one’s identity is shaped by. She identifies shaping factors of identity as one’s individual characteristics, family dynamics, historical factors (Tatum). In Layli Long Soldier’s poem, “Whereas”, she incorporates these factors of her own identity in a response to the Congressional resolution of apology to Native Americans, which former President Obama signed in obscurity in 2009.

"Can I apologize for the apology?"

As an illustration of these aforementioned factors, Long Soldier lays out the realities of certain aspects of identity in everyday life. These aspects include her roles as an Oglala Lakota, poet, mother, and daughter. She utilizes the literary device of anaphora, placing the word “Whereas” at the beginning of each successive statement (“Whereas”). Long Soldier portrays a sense of restraint that she’s felt in certain aspects of her life by recalling things she wanted to do, yet didn’t, and things she thought, but never said. The most prominent aspect of her poem which contrasts beautifully with the Apology Resolution is when Long Soldier speaks of the way in which her own father apologized to her for not being a part of her childhood.

With this in mind, amid both her father and the Federal Government’s apologies, both perpetrators offer recognition for their actions, yet only one actually accepts responsibility for them. This can be seen in the language that each apology utilizes. For example, in the apology given by Long Soldier’s father, there is a sense of sincerity and humanity, “I have come now. I am seated across from a Whereas smile” (“Whereas”). The simple structure of the phrase “I have come now” sounds reassuring and even relieving when it is read, and the word “smile” has a positive connotation, and encompasses emotions of happiness and joy (“Whereas”). Her father not only offers recognition for his actions and past wrong doings, but he also accepts responsibility for them.

The apology made by Long Soldier’s father contrasts with the Congressional apology to Native Americans. This apology is faulty in itself as no Native Americans were present to receive the apology. In the apology, it is written, “The United States…apologizes…for the…violence, maltreatment, and neglect inflicted on Native Peoples by citizens of the United States” (S.J. Res. 14). However, how is it possible for an apology to even be received when it is included in legal document and is not formally presented to who it is directed towards?

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Works Cited

Soldier, Layli Long. “From WHEREAS by Layli Long Soldier.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry           Foundation, www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/91697/from-whereas.

Tatum, Beverly D. “The Complexity of Identity: Who Am I?” Scribd,           www.scribd.com/doc/47686971/Who-Am-I-Tatum.

The Library of Congress, “Bill Text: 111th Congress (2009-2010) S.J. Res. 14.IS,” www.congress.gov/bill/111th-congress/senate-joint-resolution/14/text.

Diminished Responsibility

It was the intent of the United States “To acknowledge [the] long history of official depredations and ill-conceived policies by the Federal Government regarding Indian tribes and offer an apology to all Native Peoples on behalf of the United States” (U.S Senate,1). Though it is true that acknowledgment is the first step in the recovering process, a simple ‘recognition’ of the wrongdoings of the United States regarding the treatment of Native Americans, is not enough. In order to actually reconcile the relationship between the United States and its Native Peoples, it is going to take more than a national, half-hearted apology. This is urged in Layli Long Soldier’s poem “WHEREAS”, as this Native American poet use juxtaposition to analyze the language used in the national “Joint Resolution” address.  

 

 

Feminist and Civil Rights Activist, Audre Lorde noted that “It is the responsibility of the oppressed to teach the oppressors their mistakes”(Lorde, 1). And that is exactly the burden Layli Long Soldier carries when she uses her poem to challenge the language used in this national address. The government of the United States apologized “for the many instances of violence, maltreatment, and neglect inflicted on Native Peoples by citizens of the United States” “whereas Native Peoples and non-Native settlers engaged in numerous armed conflicts” (U.S Senate 2-3). Soldier’s direct response to this statement was the reflection that she “could’ve but didn’t broach the subject of ‘genocide’, the absence of this term from the Apology and its rephrasing as “conflict” for example”(Soldier 16-17).  

 

It is evident, that even within this national address, the United States continues to diminish the history of Native Peoples here in America. Solider emphasizes that by using the term ‘conflict’, opposed to genocide is a euphemism   The language used within this piece fails to convey the severity. Soldier challenges this address by stating that the apology is simply not enough recognition. In return, she opposed the concept of a formal apology and “whereas” proposed a more authentic way of addressing the history of the U.S and its Native Peoples, such as “setting a table” and eating and conversing genuinely without formalities.  

 

Soldier uses this piece to highlight the notion that the United States government has to put forth a greater effort to acknowledge their role in the genocide of Native Americans. With a lack of a genuine, humane approach to this history, nothing will be resolved.

 

Works Cited:

Lorde, Audre. “Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefining Difference”. April 1980  

Soldier, Layli Long. “WHEREAS.” January 2017. 

United States , Congress. “Text – S.J.Res.14 – Native American Apology Resolution.”Congress.gov, 6 Aug. 2009, www.congress.gov/bill/111th-congress/senate-joint-resolution/14/text. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Culture Conditioned to Subordination

https://blog.thelonghairs.us/long-hair-native-american-culture/

If a random American was asked to describe Native American society, expected responses may range from an appreciation of elaborate cultural practices to references of incredible injustices inflicted upon these peoples throughout history. Regardless, it is becoming evident that the way Native Americans imagine themselves versus how generations stemming from European settlers do is different. In Layli Long Soldier’s 2017 collection of poems entitled “Whereas,” she responds to the “Native American Apology Resolution” given through a 2009 joint resolution by the U.S. government where she details the internal feelings of Natives, evaluating the contrast between ideals of these groups.

Introducing this contrast and addressing how the minds of Native Americans are conditioned to believe in their inferiority and a gentler version of history, Long Soldier begins by using a simile to describe how, “like a bird darting from an oncoming semi [her] mind races to the Apology’s assertion / ‘While the establishment of permanent European settlements in North America did stir conflict / with nearby Indian tribes, peaceful and mutually beneficial interactions also took place’” (Long Soldier 9-11). This device works in conjunction with her later critique of the government’s attempt to sugar-coat past events, with “the subject of ‘genocide’ the absence of this term from the / Apology and its rephrasing as ‘conflict’” (Long Soldier 16-17), as above. The comparison of her mind to a fragile bird in its escape from an imposing semi-trailer truck is a blunt, harsh form of imagery, where a beautiful creature is at the disposal of some technological monster. Here, the Native speaker and her people are automatically adopting the bird’s persona, while seemingly implying the white settlers and current government act like merciless semis. She creates this sense of hostility (similar to actions against Natives) by pairing an animal that represents innocence with a looming contraption. Furthermore, she directly responds to the Resolution, forcing the conversation onto the implications she claims the Resolution alters.

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By using the simile to create a divergent coupling of a bird to a truck, she also highlights the contrast between the government’s soft explanation/apology for what happened to Indians versus actual mass casualties that occurred. Additionally, she goes on to describe how the overall word choice can disguise underlying truths. By contradicting the peaceful claims of the U.S. to Native American reality, the poet stresses the need to recognize different perspectives, no matter how painful, while pinpointing flaws in connections between Native American perspectives and the acknowledgement of the government that controls them.

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Work Cited

Long Soldier, Layli. “Whereas.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation, January 2017,
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/91697/from-whereas.

The federal government’s last word

“An apology is a good way to have the last word” (unknown). Apologizing is often so hard even on a small scale because they entail self reflection, acceptance and regret which are all difficult things to come to terms with. On a very large scale, a nationwide scale apologies are quite admirable. In 2009, the “Native American Apology Resolution” was signed by Barack Obama. The resolution sought to “offer an apology to all Native Peoples on behalf of the United States” (1). As a big step forward for all the wrong doings The United States government and Americans have committed against Native Americans this resolution is seen in a positive light. However, this resolution was met with negative (and rightfully so) reactions, one of which is Long Soldier poem “from WHEREAS” (2017). Written years after the resolution Long Soldier expressed her dissatisfaction and contemn of the resolution.

Towards the end of the poem Long Soldier’s illustrates her anger through a metaphor which compares a tablecloth and the word “whereas”. “Whereas sets the table. The cloth.” (2) Long Soldier writes, introducing the metaphor. This comparison highlights not only Long Soldiers overall negative reaction to the Resolution but even worse, her belief  that the resolution was only a  cover up for the still unresolved issues between Native Nations and the American populace.

A table cloth can be found in most households and is used on a daily basis, making this metaphor more powerful because of its relatability. The purpose of a table cloth is to cover the table, stains and messes, make things look nice and provide a surface to din on. All these purposes of a tablecloth parallel the the overarching deception that Apology Resolution creates. Despite attempting to apologize Long Soldier makes it clear that like a tablecloth, it is impossible to fix a past issue or stain. The tablecloth or “whereas” cannot possible cover up or make up for the mass murder genocides of Native Nations, forced assimilation, disrespect or failure to stand by treaties that (2-3) the federal government agreed to. It is also impossible for the Apology to expect tensions between Natives and Westerners to disappear in hopes of creating a new foundation to build a positive relationship off of like a tablecloth creates a new surfaces every night.

In the resolution the word “whereas” is used in the beginning of each statement signifying the next part of the apology. The amount of times it is written digs the American Federal government further into a hole of ingenuine apologies. This magnifies the disrespect that this apologies holds towards Native Americans. Long Soldiers closes her poem by saying “Whereas… just enough to eat” (2). Again connecting “whereas” to a table setting the word and apology allows the federal government to maintain control, continuing to disrespect Native people. The federal government had to have the last word.

 

Works cited:

Long Soldier, Layli. “from WHEREAS”, 2017.

United States , Congress. “Text – S.J.Res.14 – Native American Apology Resolution.”Congress.gov, 6 Aug. 2009, www.congress.gov/bill/111th-congress/senate-joint-resolution/14/text.

 

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Inauthentic Formality

Native Americans were the first people to live in the United States. Unlike many citizens, who trace themselves to immigrants, Native Americans have a direct claim to US land. It is tragic, then, that Native American’s have been oppressed and treated as outsiders for much of America’s history. Layli Long Soldier’s 2017 poem, “WHEREAS” is a commentary on the Senate’s 2009 Resolution of Apology to Native Peoples of the United States.

GIPHY Native AmericansIn the last stanza of her last page, Soldier personifies “Whereas” as a person who invites the speaker to sit down and talk at a dinner table. Through this personification, Soldier’s poem suggests that the Apology attempted to fix, but did not successfully amend, the relationship between Native Americans and the Federal Government.

The speaker of the poem personifies Whereas and compares it to a dinner host who has power and control. She states, “Whereas calls me to the table because Whereas precedes and invites… Under pressure of formalities, I fidget I shake my legs” (59-61). At first, Whereas is inviting. This suggests that the speaker originally felt welcomed by the Senate’s Apology. However, “Whereas precedes,” and in the invitation to sit, Whereas still holds the upper hand. There is no equality, because Whereas (aka the Government/its apology) holds the power in the relationship.

Then, Whereas becomes full of “formalities” that make the speaker uncomfortable. The speaker “fidget[s]” and “shake[s].” Her discomfort suggests that Whereas, personifying the Apology, is too regimented to be genuine. It lacks a sincerity and only wants to better its “formal” image. This demonstrates that the Senate, in writing the apology, was less concerned with righting its wrongs and more concerned with protecting its image.
GIPHY Uncomfortable DInnerThe speaker goes on to challenge the Apology. She says, “Whereas, I have learned to exist and exist without your formality, saltshakers, plates, cloth” (Soldier 63). Here, by stating that she has discovered how to “exist without [Whereas’s] formality,” the speaker concludes that she does not want to be given just any formal apology. She does not want to receive a letter; she wants something authentic. Something that will ease the discomfort and tension in her conversations with others about Native American life. Something that will put Native Americans on equal footing with other Americans. Something that may not be documented in the Senate’s sessions but will change the culture.

This poem shows the challenges still faced by Native Americans who feel ostracized and uncomfortable with the way other Americans view their history and culture. The poem challenges people to not let a formal Apology be the end of the conversation. “Whereas” calls on readers to learn about Native American culture and appreciate it—to see it as something unique and valuable, not as something to label “different.”
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Works Cited
Soldier, Layli Long. “WHEREAS.” January 2017.

Denial of Knowledge as Power

Not learning is resistance. Beverly Tatum, in “The Complexity of Identity: ‘Who Am I?’”, presents Herbert Kohl’s not-learning as the “reject[ing] [of] their world” (4). The “their” in this context are dominate figures. The Others, or as Tatum would suggest the subordinated, tosses off the dominates attire—regardless of the risk— and decides to operate within their own worlds.

Though extremely dangerous—as it may incite violence— some members of imagined subaltern groups find it necessary to resist in this way. Understanding that refusal to submit, or “to agree to learn from a stranger who does not respect your integrity” may result in an irrevocable “loss of self” (4). And writing has been a major mode of “reject[ing] their world.”

Layli Long Soldier, in “Whereas” (2017), participates in resistive writing. Layli directly challenges u.s colonialism, “apologies”, whiteness, and stereotypes of Indigenous People. She calls it “genocide”, not “conflict” (1). And is unsatisfied with the stealthy u.s.

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Within “Whereas”, the speaker demonstrates their dissatisfaction with the “Native American Apology Resolution” by personifying whereas as a white-american, and by stripping whereas from its original amicable connotation. Through the repetition of “Whereas,” the speaker establishes its racial background. Because Long Soldier repeats “Whereas” throughout her poem, mocking the Apology Resolution written by the u.s government (a totem of whiteness), the race of “Whereas” is birthed because of this explicit intertextuality.

Therefore, the speakers claim that “Whereas asks and since Whereas rarely asks, I am moved to respond” is understood as a white individuals attempt at parsing through the experiences of Indigenous Persons (2). This quote too underscores the lack of attention, traditionally, given to Indigenous Communities. The juxtaposition of “rarely asks” with “asks” highlights: 1) historically, “Whereas” may have been interested in ASPECTS of Indigenous People’s lives, but not their entirety 2) now, “Whereas” has a newly discovered interest in Native People’s way-of-being. Their newly discovered ethnocentric interest “moves” the speaker to respond to absurd questions. Though they may not fully desire to. Thus, the narrator’s level of discomfort is too signaled by this quote.

However, it is earlier in the poem where the speaker’s discomfort, or dissatisfaction, is revealed. “Whereas the curled hand I raised to my mouth was a sign of indecision” this reaction arises post-hearing of a resolution (1). The speaker reveals their “indecision,” or inability to grapple with the backhanded apology. Thus, they reason to “stand up excusing myself I leave them” (1). Nonetheless, this opening is littered with visceral responses because of the “resolutions” unsettling nature.

Maybe the u.s tried to be civil and reinstate peace. Maybe they tried to wash their blood-stained hands. But, as evident by Layli’s piece, it was in vain. Indigenous Communities were still left harmed: their histories became coincided with u.s’s failed attempt at an apology.

Works Cited:

Long Soldier, Layli. “WHEREAS,” 2017.

Tatum, Beverly D. “The Complexity of Identity: ‘Who Am I?’” , 2015.

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A Green Goddess of Light

In the 19th Century, it was a widespread belief that the word “liberty” suggested violence and revolution (“The French connection”). However, the man who proposed that the Statue of Liberty should be built and given to The United States as a gift from France, had a contrasting idea of what liberty truly meant. Édouard de Laboulaye believed that this monument should “not be seen as leading an uprising, but rather as lighting the way, peacefully and lawfully,” hence giving it the name of Liberty Enlightening the World (“The French connection”).

http://carycitizen.com/2011/10/28/happy-birthday-statue-of-liberty/

The sentiments of de Laboulaye, along with ideas about America as a nation, were effectively portrayed by Emma Lazarus. She was an American poet born in New York City, and is most famously known for her famous poem entitled The New Colossus. In her sonnet, Emma Lazarus uses a wide range of rhetorical techniques to convince her audience that America is the new land of the free, and offers everyone a chance to succeed (“A short analysis of Emma Lazarus”). The most significant rhetorical device used in the poem is a metaphor, which is found towards the beginning of the poem when Lazarus writes, “A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame/ Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name/ Mother of Exiles” (“A short analysis of Emma Lazarus”). Before analyzing and discussing the effectiveness of this powerful metaphor, it is necessary to regard the host of divergent literary techniques that Lazarus employs throughout her piece.

Among commencement of the poem, it is clear that the tone in which this poem is written serves as a delivery-method for multiple devices. The tone of this poem is powerful and accusing. It is powerful in that there are words with connotations of strength and advantage being employed throughout the sonnet such as “brazen,” “conquering,” “mighty,” and “command.” Moreover, in the second half of the poem, the tone shifts to one of an accusatory nature. With the authoritative line, “Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp,” Lazarus is essentially telling ancient lands of Europe that they can “keep” their history, because here in America, there will be no “homeless,” “tired,” or “poor” (“A short analysis of Emma Lazarus”).

Looking back at the previously-mentioned metaphor, it is clear that it serves as the pillar of this poem. In the comparison, the bright light that the torch produces is juxtaposed with the power and light of lightning. With the words, “a mighty woman with a torch,” Lady Liberty is being personified, and the name “Mother of Exiles” portrays that the statue will be a mother-like figure (“A short analysis of Emma Lazarus”). The parallel between lightning and a torch invokes the symbol of light in the poem, one which inspires hope and a bright future.

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Works Cited

“A Short Analysis of Emma Lazarus’ ‘The New Colossus’.” Interesting Literature, 3 Feb. 2017, www.interestingliterature.com/2016/08/30/a-short-analysis-of-emma-lazarus-the-new-colossus/.

“The French Connection.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 8AD,   www.nps.gov/stli/learn/historyculture/the-french-connection.htm.

Colossus

“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land…”

The Statue of Liberty is something different – even if it wasn’t meant to be. That’s the power of poetry.

Greek Reporter

Colossus of Rhodes & The Statue of Liberty

 

In her poem, “The New Colossus” Emma Lazarus marks the Statue of Liberty as the “Mother of Exiles.” This is a vastly different stance than the old Colossus of Rhodes which Lazarus describes as a conqueror. Rhodes with the help of Egypt prevented a siege in 304 BC and with the enemy gone, Rhodes used the money from selling the leftover equipment to build the tallest statue in the ancient world.

Alternatively, Lazarus personifies the Statue of Liberty as mother embracing and welcoming the people of the world into her home, our country. She is just as mighty as her predecessor, but making her a mother makes the Statue inherently more reachable, more welcoming, to newcomers than passing beneath a protecting sun-god. By personifying the Statue of Liberty, Lazarus has forever given kind voice for exiles and immigrants and refugees to heed as they journey to this foreign land. She holds aloft her torch of “imprisoned lightning” flame. Though she stands unmoving and with silent lips, she has the power to imprison lightning in her work to light the way for her children to come to their new home. Even in the poem itself, she takes control of the narrative with enjambment – she doesn’t let the end of a line end her either her description or her speech.

The Statue of Liberty was constructed as a monument to Republicanism, with nothing to do with immigration whatsoever. Emma Lazarus made the decision to immortalize the statue as a mother to all who cross our borders. This being written right after the signing of the Chinese Exclusion Act which explicitly barred a specific ethnic group from entering the United States for the first time in its history. Emma Lazarus wrote about the America we should be, even if it’s not exactly who are just yet.

Blog Prompt #1

Works Cited

Pliny the ElderNatural History xxxiv.18.

Auster, Paul (2005), “NYC = USA”, Collected Prose: Autobiographical Writings, True Stories, Critical Essays, Prefaces, and Collaborations with Artists, Picador, p. 508, ISBN 0-312-42468-X.