duminică, 16 iulie 2017

Little lamb, who made thee?

Little lamb, who made thee
Dost thou know who made thee,
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed
By the stream and o'ver the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, woolly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?
Little lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?

William Blake, The Lamb (1789)



If I were to believe in a god, I would most certainly not believe in Jesus or the Almighty. Not in the paternal, powerful, threatening and always punishing God, since there are so many things I fail to understand in relation to him: who would be so cruel as to give life to his son and then give him death or who would be so mean as to treat his children differently based on their gender?  
Besides, I can understand or, better yet, accept death but I cannot understand illness. Ok, in his never-ending affection towards us, his children, God decides to punish us for our curiosity. For our thinking outside the box attitude and our creativity.
He decides that we need to die, but why can't we die with dignity? Why must we be so old, so vulnerable and so sick? Why would our father let us suffer so much?!
"The only one I ever liked was Jesus, the baby, the boy. I was always impatient with the crucifixion bit, and I was always mad at his so-called father. God, [...] You know, my grandmother mainly prayed to the Virgin, and, in fact, she told me the Virgin appeared to her in dreams, and once, she said, in a vision. I think she secretly didn't like that God guy either. In fact, if anything, it was as though she emotionally lumped God and the Devil together. Distant, threatening - one threatened if you did, one threatened if you didn't. Both masculine, isolated entities. [...] That God guy has us in a bind. Too isolated, not enough joy. He needs a lover, that's what I think. [...] Yeah, I think God needs some pussy." (Alma Luz Villanueva, The Ultraviolet Sky)
I would much rather prefer the serene, peaceful, mundane Virgin of Guadalupe. La Virgencita. The ordinary, everyday, run-of-the-mill Virgin from Yolanda Lopez's paintings. Because divinity resides in the ordinary. we are god. god is us. god is the ordinary.






miercuri, 5 iulie 2017

Ph.D.

Conceiving a Ph.D. thesis or even dreaming of ever doing so can be a tiresome and nerve consuming activity. Towards the end of the researching and/or writing process, one can get to hate not only all his/her professors and colleagues, but also the subject of the thesis itself. One's life-long, or at least college-long, passion, to put it differently. Yet, from time to time, one accidentally comes upon short phrases, passages that rekindle one's long-forgotten passions. I've just experienced this and want to share with everybody my recently rekindled passion, i.e. latina literature. Though when I feel I hate my thesis the most it is suffice to read only a few fragments from Gloria Anzaldua, this time it's Sandra Cisneros' The House on Mango Street:
Esperanza rejects her inheritance of waiting "by the window her whole life, the way so many women sit their sadness on an elbow". (Cisneros qtd in Quinn-Sanchez's Identity in Latin American and Latina Literature)

sâmbătă, 24 iunie 2017

I love Joyce Carol Oates! However, (2)

I love Joyce Carol Oates' writings. However, I feel that her short stories are less great than her novels. Surely, they do  share some of the great elements of her novels (e.g. mystery, psychological depth, absurdity), yet they lack the value of Oates' novels.
What I did like about this collection of short stories, DIS MEM BER and Other Stories of Mystery and Suspense, is not the psychological insight or the way she constructs the path towards the climax in each of the seven short stories (since these are far more great in her novel Daddy Love), but the feminist traces placed inside this book of mystery and suspense:
"[...] it was a time when breast, uterine, and cervical cancer were referred to as mother's shame and all medical problems related to women's reproductive organs were designated with vague distastefulness as female problems."

 "It was like my father to be rude sometimes. But it was not like my father to be rude to another man, especially a man who was wearing a suit, a white shirt and a necktie and eyeglasses."

"In marriage, one plus one is more than the sum of two. But sometimes in a marriage, one plus one is less than the sum of two."
Some other bits that I liked are the following:
"In a family, one day is not so different from any other. Especially when you are very young - a 'child'. The important thing in life is routine. You can depend upon routine. There is comfort in routine. There is even comfort in the boredom of routine, for where there is boredom there cannot be fear."

"Lula cried, Daddy why? Daddy said, Because I am Daddy, who decides how things end."




* I received an advanced reading e-book copy from the publisher via NetGalley.


marți, 21 martie 2017

Vers 13, Judith Ortiz Cofer

Orar: To Pray

After the hissed pleas, denunciations -
the children just tucked in -
perhaps her hand on his dress-shirt sleeve,
brushed off, leaving a trace of cologne,
impossible, it seemed, to wash off
with plain soap, he'd go, his feet light
on the gravel. In their room, she'd fall
on her knees to say prayers composed
to sound like praise; following
her mother's warning never to make demands
outright from God nor a man.


On the other side of the thin wall,
I lay listening to the sounds I recognised
from an early age: knees on wood, shifting
the pain so the floor creaked, and a woman's
conversation with the wind - that carried
her sad voice out of the open window
to me. And her words - if they did not rise
to heaven, fell on my chest, where they are
embedded like splinters of a cross

I also carried.



Women Who Love Angels

They are thin
and rarely marry, living out
their long lives
in spacious rooms, French doors
giving view to formal gardens
where aromatic flowers
grow in profusion.
They play their pianos
in the late afternoon
tilting their heads
at a gracious angle
as if listening
to notes pitched above
the human range.
Age makes them translucent;
each palpitation of their hearts
visible at temple or neck.
When they die, it's in their sleep,
their spirits shaking gently loose
from a hostess too well bred
to protest.



Blood

They poured it into his veins
until he became someone else, a drunken man as he tries
to rise from the hospital bed, where the stained sheets
are a testament of shame to the anonymous nights
spent with the stranger his body has become.

He slides down feet first
like a child, hoping his legs will not betray him.
But he gets dizzy looking down at the reflective tiles.

Hanging onto the rails,
he sees himself flat on the ground, until the nurse
leads him by the elbow into sunlight.
Outside, he is hurt by a world where every surface
is a mirror of steel or plastic.

No place
for an old man avoiding his own face like a good friend
he has offended.

marți, 21 februarie 2017

alas!


  My first experience with Elif Shafak took the form of Three Daughters of Eve (2016) and left me somewhat disappointed. It is a well written book and I could easily recognise the author's talent and  her intelligent use of various narrative techniques, yet it could have been a splendid book had it not been for the few supernatural appearances, unrealistic experiences and some elements of the plot.
  It could have been a great book dealing with modern day problems like terrorism, religion and its place in the 21st century, feminism, Eastern and Western societies, democracy and so forth. Unfortunately, Shafak turned all these stringent problems into some sort of a classic professor-student love story.
  I could have happily written pages on feminism and motherhood; on how Peri evolved from a curious little girl who swore not to repeat her mother's mistakes into a brave, powerful and independent woman, who raised her three children in the spirit of feminism and globalization. I would have eagerly mentioned  Peri's promise to herself "not [to] live the life of her mother. She would not be inhibited, limited and reduced to something she was not". I would have bragged about a woman's power to overcome her condition, to surpass everyone's expectations, including hers, to succeed in a foreign land afraid of (Turkish) immigrants, to fight oppression and chauvinism. I would have proudly made Peri a spokesperson for Third World feminism.
  Sadly, Peri failed to become the woman of my imaginary essay on feminism. As her daughter comments, she chose to "drop out of Oxford, return to Istanbul, get married, give up your education, have three kids in a row and become a housewife. How original, bravo!" Through these choices, Peri proved her depressed and overly pious mother was right: "For Selma, Peri's education was less and intellectual awakening or the precursor to a promising career than a briefly interlude before her wedding."
  I loved Peri in the beginning of the novel. I loved her as she was chasing and fighting the thief that stole her purse. I loved her force and determination, as heedless as they were. But I ended up feeling disappointed. She lost all her dreams of being the only one in her family to graduate from college and of becoming a powerful woman with an important career. All because of her love for professor Azur. But, after all, isn't this what feminism is about?! Isn't feminism a woman's freedom to choose for herself?
  In short, the novel is an enjoyable book to read, yet it could have been better had it focused more on feminism, religion and Turkish society.

P.S. Alas, the open ending was so predictable!



* I received an advanced reading e-book copy from the publisher via NetGalley.


luni, 20 februarie 2017

oppression

Or the woman at the checkout stand who had to tell me it was a shame I was having kids at such a young age. My two-year-old brother was with me in line holding on the colored coupons after I'd counted them. I was fourteen and not yet bleeding. (Ednie Kaeh Garrison, "Sitting in the Waiting Room of Adult and Family Services at SE 122nd in Portland, Oregon, with My Sister and My Mother Two Hours Before I Return to School" in This Bridge We Call Home, Anzaldua and Keating, eds.)

luni, 6 februarie 2017

tineriada

bun, am fost în piață, mi-am strigat nemulțumirile alături de oamenii de acolo (mai ales în primele zile, cînd magazinele încă aveau vuvuzele în stoc), m-am certat cu părinții, am înjurat foarte mult, mai între dinți, mai direct, m-am simțit abuzată de o mînă de ticăloși, iar m-am certat cu părinții, am simțit cum mi se năruie întregul sistem de valori, ba chiar m-am gîndit să mă mut din țară, să caut un loc mai civilizat și mai onest. pesimistă din fire, nu am crezut nicio clipă din cele în care-am înghețat în piața unirii că dragnea o să dea înapoi.

în teorie (și în discursurile agramate ale politicienilor noștri drăguți) am cîștigat, dar nu mă simt deloc învingătoare. știm cu toții că e o chestiune de timp pînă cînd prevederile din OUG 13 vor intra în parlament, sub o formă sau alta. simt doar că mi s-a dat o șansă să-mi mai hodinesc nițel picioarele. astăzi stau acasă, dar mîine știu unde mă duc!

ce mă mîhnește profund e protestul pro-guvern. sînt perfect de acord ca oricine să protesteze de fiecare dată cînd simte că îi sînt încălcate drepturile, însă felul în care se manifestă protestatarii de la cotroceni mă supără teribil. oamenii aceștia sînt părinții și bunicii noștri. nu înțeleg de unde atîta ură pentru copiii lor. noi nu am cerut niciodată ca votul să nu fie recunoscut. cerem acum demisia guvernului pentru că cineva trebuie să fie tras la răspundere pentru criza socială care a înghițit România. sorinel puștiu și florin ciordache trebuie să plece. hai, liviule, caută bine, sigur mai găsești vreun iepuroi în pălărie.

ce am cîștigat însă e un puternic sentiment de mîndrie. or asta nu e puțin lucru! vă mulțumesc, dragi români, pentru că mi-ați redat speranța în noi. dar lupta nu e gata. hai în stradă!  

vineri, 27 ianuarie 2017

Make America Great [Britain] Again!

One American Dream by Bernard Beck is yet another book (on its way to becoming a bestseller) about the [futile] pursuit of living the American dream. This time the protagonists are neither African-Americans nor Latin Americans, but second and third generations of Jews coming from Poland and struggling to find success and happiness. 
Jacob Rubinowitz, in particular, seems to be obsessed with becoming a real American. He was only a child when his mother took him to the States and, as soon as the law allowed him to, he changed his name and became John Rubin. Still, each time he got a bit closer to finally becoming a true American, he felt he lacked authenticity: "Throughout my life I have invented, reinvented, burnished, refurbished, constructed, and reconstructed myself as often as necessary in order to achieve my ultimate goal: to be a real American". Thus this became John's obsession and it marked his entire existence and even his relationships with his close family, his wife, Rose, and his daughter, Ruthie. Only in the end of the novel did he realize what it meant to be a real American: 
"I discovered that being an American isn't about what you wear, or how you speak, or where you live. Anyone can do that. It's what's in your head and in your heart that makes you an American. We Americans argue about everything, but in the end we always do the right thing. [...] In Europe, and in the rest of the world, there is history and privilege. But in America, everything was new and equal right [ha!] from the start." 
Overall, this is a book to be read only for its story, which, unfortunately, is not an original one. And what bothers me the most about it is the style. It is so poorly written! There are multiple voices in the novel, each chapter being told from the perspective of a different character, but in fact there is no real difference between the perspectives. Hence, what the readers perceive is not the story being told from multiple perspectives, but one narrator struggling to create the impression of multiplicity. There even are at some point a few lines that instead of deepening this sense of multiplicity, they portray the author's clumsiness in terms of narrative technique: "(You might notice that this is somewhat different from the way my husband remembers it. Men always seem to picture themselves as more macho than they actually are.)"
To sum up, this book is an unsuccessful struggle to portray the American dream and it reminded me of another struggle, a little more mundane and actual: Make America great again! or, better yet, make America Great Britain again!



* I received an advanced reading e-book copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

joi, 5 ianuarie 2017

A humorous discovery

A humorous discovery or how I came to like Judith Ortiz Cofer's writing after reading two of her autobiographic works that didn't impress me much. A less good writer of memoirs than a storyteller, Judith Ortiz Cofer surprised me in The Line of the Sun as having a great sense of humour and a gift for storytelling:
Small towns are vindictive, and when it became known that El Padrecito Cesar had been sent away to a mountain retreat for his health, a rumor began to circulate that the young priest had been caught "in flagrante" by the housekeeper, Leonarda, who had then aroused Don Gonzalo from a deep sleep. For days Leonarda was sought after by the townswomen for afternoon coffee, and even invited into the wealthier homes in town, where the old woman had never crossed the threshold except to wash floors. They interrogated her endlessly about the scandal up at the rectory, but she played the coy maiden and would only say that the little priest had too many wild friends visiting him in his room; that he would stay up till all hours reading poetry with one of them in particular; that it didn't seem natural to her for young men to spend so much time together, reading love poems to each other. And who was his special friends? They all wanted to know. One or two names would be sufficient. No names, no names, insisted Leonarda holding a porcelain coffee cup, little finger extended up to her toothless mouth. Some of her hostesses would later mark the same cup with an X and use it only when beggars are pilgrims asked for a drink at their back doors. Leonarda was soon forgotten but it wasn't long before another name was brought up for speculation.

It was just dawn, and in El Polvorín the houses were coming alive with the sounds of women setting pots of water to boil for coffee and getting their brooms and sprinkling cans ready. While their children were getting ready for school and their husbands for work, they would sweep clean their dirty yards, taming the pervasive dust with water so that it would not get into their houses and on the laundry they would be hanging on the lines strung from tree to tree.  

 Life was lived at a high pitch in El Building. The adults conducted their lives in two worlds in blithe acceptance of cultural schizophrenia, going to work or on errands in the English-speaking segment, which they endured either with the bravura of the Roman gladiator or with the down-cast-eyed humility that passed for weakness on the streets – a timidity that mothers inculcated into their children but that earned us not a few insults and even beatings from the black kids, who knew better.

duminică, 1 ianuarie 2017

2016 in books

another harsh and interesting year is over and i find myself, yet again, feeling sorry for not reading as much as i could have. so, 2016 means the following books and articles:

1. Maya Socolovsky, Troubling Nationhood in U.S. Latina Literature: Explorations of Place and Belongings
2. Ellen McCracken, New Latina Narrative. The Feminine Space of Postmodern Ethnicity
3. Judith Ortiz Cofer, Silent Dancing: A Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood
4. Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez (ed), Women Writing Resistance. Essays on Latin America and the Carribean
5. Cherrie Moraga, Giving Up the Ghost, Teatro in Two Acts (I am so happy to remember having read it in the Erlangen-Nurnberg train)
6. Cherrie Moraga, Loving in the War Years
8. Martha Lorena Rubi, Politically Writing Women in Hispanic Literature. The Feminist Tradition in Contemporary Latin American and U.S. Latina Writers
10. Maria-Cristina Ghiban (căs. Mocanu), The Female Subject in Chicano/a Literature, teză de doctorat, cond. științific Odette Blumenfeld, UAIC, Iași, iunie 2012
11. Alma Luz Villanueva, The Ultraviolet Sky
12. Jeremy Harmer, The Practice of English Language (re-read it)
13. Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
15. Jim Scrivener, Learning Teaching: The Essential Guide to English Language Teaching
16. Cecilia Ștefănescu, Intrarea Soarelui 
17. Armando B. Rendon, Chicano Manifesto. The History and aspirations of the second largest minority in America 
18. Cristian Tudor Popescu, Timp mort
19. Giannina Braschi, United States of Banana
20. Julia Kristeva, "Women's Time" (1981)
21. Norma Alarcon, "Traddutora, Traditora: A Paradigmatic Figure of Chicana Feminism"
22. Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra (too much wishful thinking)
23. Sonia Saldivar-Hull, Feminism on the Border. Chicana Gender Politics and Literature
24. Maria Herrera-Sobek, Beyond Stereotypes. The Critical Analysis of Chicana Literature
25. Debra A. Castillo, Talking Back. Toward a Latin American Feminist Literature Criticism
26. Alma Luz Villanueva, Song of the Golden Scorpion

my greatest discovery for this year is Nora Iuga, whom i absolutely adore for her lively and strong writing. i am disappointed of Villanueva's Song of the Golden Scorpion, which is not necessarily a bad book, but i love Villanueva so much that my expectations are always high when it comes to her books. the worst book is of course  Intrarea Soarelui. the biggest loss for this year is of recent date: the 30th of December marks the sudden death of the Puerto Rican writer Judith Ortiz Cofer, whose writings will always mark my life.