December 24th, 2010

Literary Cannon Yes, Global Literature No. (Final Post)

“The fact that I am writing to you in English already falsifies what I wanted to tell you.
My subject:
How to explain to you that I don’t belong to English though I belong nowhere else”

-Gustavo Perez Firmat

I wanted to begin with this interesting quote. This quote has haunted my thoughts ever since we read Drown by Junot Diaz. The quote has enlightened my point in how I interpret works from immigrants living in America and writing about their lives. The quote shows British and Americanized Caucasian people versus the rest of the world. Living in this Americanized world has led everything to become a giant mall. A lot is lost from ones perspective if they are assimilating to the culture of the oppressors. Is a person such as Junot Diaz still writing for Dominicans? Or is he writing for a different type of reader? Is Maxine Hong Kingston writing about the Chinese experience? Or does she have hatred for her culture? A significant amount of authenticity is lost when these writers are writing about a story or a personal experience in English. The language they are using shows assimilation. How can readers actually live an authentic experience of one’s true culture if they are not writing their own experiences in their native languages? Not everything can be translated to English. For example in Korean, 짚신도 짝이 있다 the direct translation of this is even the straw shoe has a mate. In the native language it sounds perfectly fine. It sounds awkward in English but if you speak Korean it makes perfect sense. It’s a Korean proverb that transcends to the Korean culture and people, a  translation would just make the expression lose its meaning.

I. The Language of the Oppressors

As English majors does it ever bother anyone as to why English is considered the language everyone in the world should learn? Who’s to claim that the English language is the standard language of the world? There are a billion Chinese and Indians, we should all instead be learning a Chinese dialect or Hindi because there are technically more of these ethnic people in the world. The reason we don’t is the result of years of oppression and colonization of Western Europe and America to the rest of the world. I don’t consider the works of Americanized writers writing about their experiences of growing up in America to be authentic because they are writing for Americans. Most of the time they differentiate growing up in America, there always a recollection dating back to their past as shameful and inferior when they grow up in America. This logic goes back to the idea of the savage versus the non savages. A tremendous amount of culture is lost. For example Hong Kingston throughout most of Woman Warrior narrates in English. Junot Diaz in Drown narrates in English and mixes it with some Spanish. The point is these books are intended for American readers. They begin to look at their culture from an American point of view. Authenticity and essence becomes lost in translation. How can someone still consider themselves Chinese when they grow up here their entire lives speaking English, actively participating in American traditions and customs? As you are farther away from your home you are losing a sense of your culture. Why did Diaz and Kingston leave their native homelands to come to America? That itself leaves us to believe that there is a sense of inferiority of their homeland versus the Western World.

II. Cannon, Cannon, and Cannon

I firmly believe that the course should focus on the Literary Canon of English works in Britain or America. As undergraduates we should respect the history and cultural significance of the English books in the cannon. I will be the first college kid to admit how much useless trivial knowledge college kids know. Most males my age know the date of sports icons such as when Michael Jordan was born, or even useless stats such as point per game a basketball player averages. Do these empty facts actually peculate our minds or hold significance to history? How many of us know when Walt Whitman published Leaves Of Grass? Or when Ernest Hemmingway was born? If a student can learn useless basketball statistics we should at least take the time out and respect the history of English. The way I analyze anything is always looking at the history of something. The past is what creates the future.

I will be the first to admit that I still do not understand why works such as T.S. Eliot’s  The Waste Land or William Faulkner’s Sound and the Fury are considered classics. It was extremely difficult to read and follow both works. I often found myself frustrated, confused and lost throughout both these works. I wanted to give up and quit reading the literature but I stayed with the plan and read it, making these two works one of the most frustrating readings I’ve ever encountered. We need to respect the works these writers create because the British and Americans are native language users. The works English writers produce echo history and current events of what is going on during the time these literary works were created. Where I currently am in my English career, I find it difficult to understand works in the cannon. Works are inserted in the cannon because these writers wrote articulately for the art of writing. We all must respect what works are in the canon. I believe that as English majors we will all progress and begin to understand and appreciate these works more. I know it’s a difficult read and tiresome but I can only show respect by at least attempting to read what the writers intend. For example T.S. Eliot wrote for the elite often showing arrogance but the man is groundbreaking for his poetry. I honestly don’t know why, at this point but I want to have an answer in the future. I would have never understood The Waste Land if Professor Gross didn’t break down the poem for the class. Even as she dissected this masterpiece I am still confused somewhat. I think it’s only fair that as readers, one must be aware of the writers background as it helps to know tremendously information about the writer.

It’s hard for English majors to enjoy literature from the past and at times students believe they cannot connect with literature written 100 years ago. We live in a society that’s multicultural. It’s hard for the majority of this generation of English majors to consistently read about dead white men. I don’t find it racist or wrong that we are constantly reading about white men  because the Western Europeans  did create middle English as we know it today as modern English.  We have to realize that native English speakers are the British and early Anglo settlers coming to America, which were also Caucasians. This in turn makes English their language . It’s only going to be natural that English writers are going to be predominantly white males.  I can also see a parallel to English writing to hip-hop music with which people are hailed as legends. In hip-hop a cannon of music exist as well. The greats  consist of artist such as Tupac Notorious Big, Nas and Jay-Z. Hip-hop is an African-American form of music and a majority of the men that are praised as greats are black. Just as how hip-hop is predominantly African American, the early Literature that we study as English majors is predominantly white. It’s not so much of a race issue but we must respect that these group of ethnic people have created something that their group accomplished.

III. Last Thoughts

You cannot get an authentic cultural experience from someone that has moved to America and assimilated. The writers are writing for an American readership. The course focuses on Global Literature in English but the books we read are  from non Western writers that  moved to America and assimilated. The perspectives they have are interesting to Americans and they are no longer writing for their heritage rather for a different audience. When anything is translated from its original language to another, cultural value is lost. For example when Americans need to remake films or literature from other nations, often Americans tend to Americanize the movie or work of writing so it’s normal by that I mean westernized. Americans feel that they have set a standard to be followed. This goes back to the perspectives of the global writers that we have read in the course of English 255 this semester. Kingston, Satrapi, Diaz all admire America. The product of becoming accepted by Americans has made them Americanized. They are writing for Americans. The reason why these works are studied or praised by America is because the works give some insight on non American culture with a perspective from one that is Americanizing.
You get a small portion of what it feels to be Chinese, Iranian and Dominican westernizing. You get some culture but not to much,the work should be identifiable and understandable to Americans. This is enough culture for readers. The texts are predominantly English and readers get some words not in English rather the native language of the author. The works suggest that its perfectly normal to assimilate and accept American culture values and make your culture take a back seat. I’d rather continue to  painfully enjoy the Literary Cannon than read watered down interpretations of  ethnic peoples cultures translated in English.

December 8th, 2010

Kingston’s Reed Pipe

I honestly dislike Kingston. Is this suppose to be an experience that shows readers authentic life about Chinese-American immigrants? All I see is hatred for her mother, herself and her culture.

Growing up Asian in America. I personally see the social problems that immigrants from Asia face. I know her experiences are from a Chinese “American” but these social problems she encounters are evident from Asians immigrating to this country.

The father realizes that he can hear Chinese from far  away and it’s very loud. They believe that it’s ching chong ugly to American ears. No one ever says this in the book but the father believes its this way. I was reminded by this experience of Asians coming to America to quickly assimilate. I personally knew a girl that was Filipino and she came to this country but said she doesn’t speak the native language of tagalog because she grew up here. It was a lie and her family immigrated here when she was 16 years old. It’s not just this one isolated case but look at how many Asians try to assimilate in the U.S. This ethnic group tries so hard to be accepted often at times forgetting their culture and putting self oppressive on ourselves.

This self hatred is evident with the quiet girl in Chinese school. She looked at her face closely with hate, hating her black bangs, and her cheeks  being baby soft. I think Kingston was very jealous of this girl. She wanted to be everything this quiet girl is. Her family loves her, they can stay home if the weather is terrible. These small things have gotten to Kingston because she is competing in school as the Chinese girl that people should notice.

III. I honestly have a problem with Asians calling other Asians “FOB.” YOU ARE NOT AN AMERICAN RATHER YOUR PARENTS CAME HERE AS IMMIGRANTS AS WELL. This term given to Asians coming into America by Americans, somehow mistranslated by Asians now labeling other Asians this “other”. I see this term closely related to savage. It’s now ok to call someone a FOB? So the mother culture is inferior as opposed to acting American? How can that be? Do Asians hate themselves then? A lot of Asians classify each other being a fob or not and its a great deal. I personally think its stupid using the language and got in a lot of  fights because of this in high school. The colonizers used this term to label us as savages and now we are oppressing ourselves.

December 7th, 2010

Brave Orchid Not So Brave

I have seen little love from Kingston’s mother however it feels as if though Kingston wants us to feel sympathy for herself and see how the mother has mental abused her in a way. The mother’s personality doesn’t really change much in both chapters but I do see the theme of Brave Orchid trying to instill their heritage, and the mental abuse to her daughter.

The mother in the chapter Shaman, showed brief stints of herself being a very strong modern woman thats a heroine. She fights off evil ghost and can shun them away. The people in the village see her as a sorceress that can fight and repel evil spirits. The mom is depicted as a super hero. All this credibility fails to me when the mom tells Kingston that her birth costs her money and that baby girls were being given away practically free as slaves. This implied to Kingston that women in Chinese culture are seen as a second and that her own mother doesn’t treat her like a daughter that she loves. Kingston also prefers California over her native land China.The mother fails to instill culture in her daughter rather she sees something wrong with it. When the mother says that all white people are ghost, it was to scare her away or not to interact or talk with them. I just saw a lot wrong with what the mom is doing. They are in America now and should interact with other people but the mom is still implementing these tales.

The confrontation of the sisters husband was a complete disaster. Brave Orchid didn’t even have the courage to go upstairs and confront her sisters husband with the new wife in there. Instead she resorts to a tactic to get him downstairs which fails miserably. The husband thinks they are both extremely elderly and doesn’t want anything to do with her anymore. This leads to the beginning of Moon Orchids downfall. She mentally begins to break down and eventually can’t be taken care of where she is put in a metal home to die.

I am having a difficult time describing Kingston’s mothers personality. Based on Maxine’s interpretation of her mother should I hate her? A lot of so called “Asian Americans” have this problem with their parents they hate all the things enforced on them, so
they end up assimilating to the point they have self oppression and deem there culture inferior. As similar to the mother she tries to instill their culture in her daughter but it fails miserably. She’s selfish to tell her own daughter that she lost money because of Kingston. I also believe she cost her sister her own mental break down and death. The plan to confront Moon Orchids former husband fails miserably and the plan blows up in their face. This eventually leads to the paranoia and break down of Moon Orchid.

December 2nd, 2010

“The swordswoman and I are not so dissimilar”

Kingston claims to be a woman warrior. I see parallel to her actual life and the fantasies she lives in. As a Chinese immigrant arriving to America her struggle to fit in with western culture as well as her old culture have rifted her apart.

As the woman warrior Fa Mu Lan, Kingston puts herself in her position as a woman that will lead the entire Chinese population to victory over the emporer. What this paralled to Kingston’s life is all the business men and Chinese men that have oppressed her. She feels that she can lead the Chinese-Americans to a movement just like Fa Mu Lan. Getting great grades in school and her accomplishments are always shunned. She believes that Chinese women shouldn’t be oppressed and she sees this happening to her in the new land.  Kingston believed her words could be come weapons just like the swordwomans sword.

November 23rd, 2010

Blog Hopping

Michael Z. – Interesting things I found on his blog. I think many of us were nervous to respond to his thoughts and questions. I found it interesting that he compares sports to literature. He also believes that there is no such thing as good writing but a like, dislike and lazy. I hope anyone is up to the challenge of answering his question “what are we doing here?”

What are all your thoughts about this? My response to this is in his blog I suggest you check it out. It was this:
It was interesting you mentioned you don’t believe that there is such thing as good writing. Its either like or dislike and lazy. It’s true in a sense. We all have different perspectives about what we do find to like or dislike, it’s a matter of preference. I think the standards of “good” not just for writing is the fact when people start to appreciate what someone has created and with that fame comes fortune. Success is tragically always measured by currency. Literature just like everything else is entertainment so of course with the fame comes fortune. Just because something sells a lot it doesn’t necessarily mean its great.

Egzona – She quotes one of the most interesting lines in the book “Tell her that you love her hair…because, in truth, you love them more than you love your own.” This defines the standards of whom the narrarator dates and how he feels about himself. She also mentions the tear gas that the mother smells. This smell refers a lot to the occupation of the USA in the Dominican Republic. The narrator mentions this war a few times in the book. Information can be found in this link below:

Caitlin – She gives an interesting read on Drown. If she were to add one more thing it would be the children of the father meeting each other. Based on how she realized she had more cousins in a pool party that made a bet they cant spell her own last name. I don’t wanna spoil it for the rest of you please do enjoy and check it out.

These are three great entries that I took a look at. Hopefully you do as well.

November 17th, 2010


I don’t have a particular favorite but to me Negocios intrigued me. Negocios to me captured Immigrant life. I would hate to romanticize this chapter but Immigrant life in America is tough. Most of the time immigrants that come here don’t know how excruciating the task of building a new life in the western world. Growing up in Jackson Heights and the neighboring areas of Corona, East Elmhurst and Ridgewood, I was very fond of stories people would tell me about the struggles and hardships adults face in America. Adults I encountered in the parks, delis and friends relatives or a friend of a friend would stress the importance of it for the kids to do well.

As seen in Negocios when Papi ventures to the United States he encounters hardships right away. He arrives in Mami with no family or place to stay and not a lot of money. He finally experiences a place to shower where his hairs go down. He first shares a place with three Guatemalans and works a double job. He later realizes that Eulalio is taking advantage of them. Eulalio has the biggest room, has a car and never pays for rent. This makes Papi mad and he leaves to go to New York. He takes a bus to Virginia and walks most of it to New York. Papi had to walk 389 miles to arrive to New York but it was better to have money when arriving there. He walked with no jacket,bad shoes and his money was sewn in his boxers making it extremely uncomfortable. Finally a cop car stops him but he is terrified that he will get deported but rides on anyway. His first year he lives in Washington Heights and secured his first apartment with two jobs cleaning offices and washing dishes. He began to write to his family again. He worked 19-20 hour days seven days a week. Eventually he needed to become a citizen. He met with someone that was bald that would set him up with a wife. He paid the man $50 and wasn’t guaranteed the money back. He meets a woman that would do the marriage for him for $1000 and Papi realizes later he is scammed. He later meets a woman named Nilda and moves in with her. They get married right away after and have two children. He still sends money to his children in the Dominican Republic but the kids back home wonder if he is ever gonna visit them or not. He does visit but he may have vaguely visited the kids. Papi himself didn’t visit Mami when he was there.Upon his visit to the DR he sees the country as very different to America. He can’t believe this is how he use to live. This goes back to the oppression I have talked about in the previous post. Papi later on gets a higher paying job and is offered a position as a superintendent of a building. His marriage with Nilda is falling apart and he ponders to himself that this can be a new beginning in a new building with his old family. No one knows them in that neighborhood and they start of clean.

Diaz ends with this chapter because it shows a rags to riches story. Americans love hearing about different perspectives and overcoming struggles to eventually succeed. Papi has an apartment and a Volkswagon van later on and is able to bring his family to America. They might not be wealthy but he has accomplished a lot and counts as American success by providing food, clothing and safe home for his family.It’s hard to critique Papi’s actions by forming a new family and staying unfaithful to his original children and wife. If he didn’t do the things he did Yunior, Rafa and Mami would never be in America. They know that he has done wrong but they still owe gratitude towards him.

November 17th, 2010

Opression – The First Four Stories

Most of Drown had a lingering theme of self-oppression and a vague understanding of real love. This theme is extremely evident in the first stories. As early as the second page when Rafa and Yunior are together, Yunior is teased about his Haitian attributes.The narrator is very descriptive of his complexion, hair and the size of his lips. He is teased by Rafa because of his Haitian attributes.  Rafa even goes as far to say Mami took Yunior in because she pitied him as if he were a boy from the slums. The significance of this to me is that Rafa already sees a difference in both of them, because Yunior is darker and has African attributes. This teasing of Yunior implies that light skin is superior over dark skin. When Yunior and his family arrive to America they begin to make distinctions between their native Dominican Republic and the United States. When Yunior gets sick for the first time in the van, Rafa couldn’t believe that Yunior has thrown up and was known for having a steel-lined stomach and Yunior refers to his native country as being third world. Referring to a country as third world is extremely terrible. You are placing yourself 3 worlds away from the rest of the world. It was interesting to me he referred to his country as term third world, as I saw a definition in wikipedia, which defines third world as a  provided way of broadly categorizing the nations of the Earth into three groups based on social, political, and economic divisions. The people that have implemented this idea are from capitalistic nations such as Britian and the United States. Yunior just refers to himself and his culture as a third world because his standard of living changes when he encounters the change in his lifestyle from the Dominican Republic and United States. It’s not fair to label someone from a different culture as other. It goes back to the label of savages versus non savages.

An interesting connection paralleled with the self-oppression is the broken relationships throughout all of Drown. Here is a brief summary of all the broken relationships I’ve encountered in drown.

I.Papi with Mami. She is possibly aware of his mistress and the time that he was in the Dominican Republic and didn’t bother visiting her. On the contrast Mami remained loyal to Papi for 9 years without him. All these men would visit her but she never once would cheat on him. Papi on the other hand thought that by getting ahead is finding a wife and he couldn’t control himself and bedded other women.

II. Aurora and the narrator. She is a drug addict and he is a drug dealer, in the second page of the chapter in one of their nights it’s detailed that they each hurt  each other too well to let it drop. Aurora breaks everything he owns and wants him to promise her love but the narrator thinks of other women. A scary scene I remember is when Cut jokes with the narrator telling him if the “aids didn’t bite his penis off yet.” The narrator responds in a care free manner claiming to be “immune.” The couple  abuse each other telling each other it will all be alright.

III. The narrator in Drown and Beto. Both confused with their sexualities. The narrator decides the friendship should be over due to his own fear of his sexuality. Both had a homo erotic experience the first time and the narrator runs in fear and the second time it happens. The end outcome of it is that the narrator doesn’t want anything to do with Beto.Before Beto went to college, he gave the narrarator a   notebook with maybe something inside of it. He just throws it away without looking. The reason for this is that the narrator could possibly have feelings and it could escalate which is why he choose to never look at it.

IV. Rafa. Rafa never has any girlfriends but always wants to constantly have sex with women. He never commits to any woman’s interest or feelings but only commits for only their intimacy.

V. Boyfriend. The narrator hears the argument of the boyfriend and girlfriend instantly reminded of a girl named Loretta that he dearly misses. He gets the courage to ask her out one day because she hasn’t had company for a long time and they smoke together. Nothing did happen but it was jut an encounter.

VI. Narrator and Wayne. Wayne already has a wife but has cheated on her twice already. The narrator stole many things one time so he can just feel rich and buy his girlfriend anything she wants. She ends up cheating on him though with a guy name Dan. They eventually break up. They both encounter a woman on one of their delivers that wants to leave Pruitt’s residence, the woman and Pruitt are possibly intimate.

VII. Yunior dating various women. He gives his advice on which women to date and how to impress them. There was this emphasis on government cheese. He wanted to hide it from the girls but when his mother comes home it must be in the same place. This symbolized Yunior oppressing himself and hiding his status. He was playing these games to lure these women to sex. He wasn’t interested in a relationship but filling that void and being the man that has sex with all these girls.

VIII. Papi and Nilda. She took him in and he never paid for rent and just put all his belongings in her apartment. He was never a father towards Nilda her daughter and their two sons they had together. It’s as if Papi used her for sex and a place to stay. He was very cold to her when she gained weight and he didn’t wanna be with her anymore. This gave him an excuse to go back to the old family.

All the relationships in Drown show no emotional connection or values. The only commitment all the characters look forward to is intimacy. Everything is physical. I think this refers back to how Rafa feels in the beginning of the book with how he works all day and he wants to party and dance with all the girls after. It’s a way for all the characters in the book to cope with oppression with self and the struggle with the new world. By having sex it’s a way to cope with all these stressors. We may find it peculiar and unconventional but this is how the characters cope with these problems.

November 11th, 2010

The Voice of Diaz

Throughout the first few stories I felt that the voice of Diaz was that of a narrator. He very much reminds me of how immigrants such as myself fuse both English and their native tongue. Many groups of immigrants that come to America do this. I was well reminded of my childhood growing up reading the first few stories.

I feel the book is more modern and easier to understand even though some of the words are in Spanish, its what makes the book have the essence of being in the shoes of Diaz as a Dominican boy. I like that he hides nothing about Rafa. Rafa is very sexual and explores all this without care and is free willed. He is telling younger Rafa about all these explicit things he is doing.

November 11th, 2010

The End To The Fury

I was completely confused and a little disappointed that the last section wasn’t about Caddy. I was anxious to see and hear about her perspective of what has occurred. We heard from Benjy,Quentin and Jason but we are left in the mystery with Caddy’s thoughts, feelings and ideas about everything that has occurred. I believe Caddy has done well for herself but we the readers never get to figure out what her occupation is so we are left in the dark about what her job could possibly be. She must be doing well because she is able to send money to Quentin even though she knows something is suspicious with Jason receiving the money to give to her daughter. I felt that with Quentin escaping she broke away from a Compson cycle. Her mother was banned to stay with the family but, in reality it’s better to be away from the family. I think that Quentin and Caddy get their revenge on Jason and the rest of the family by Quentin escaping away from the Compsons.

November 3rd, 2010

April 6 1928 Jason’s Section

Things that got clarified to me were:

The sex of Caddy’s child is revealed in this section. I found a tremendous amount of irony with Caddy’s child Quentin. Not only was the child named after Quentin her brother but a new life was given to this child honored after a suicidal man. I found it a little chilling that Caddy honored her brother that was madly in love with her not to mention that he committed suicide and didn’t think of the  selfish repercussions for the rest of the family. I was shocked and had to look the second time wondering who Quentin was and it was to my astonishment her child. The wish Quentin had of Caddy’s child being his seed kind of comes true. The name of the child is honored after his name and the qualities of the kid are a fusion of  both Caddy and Quentin’s. Quentin is rebellious and does things on her own. It’s also interesting that history repeats itself. The concern of Quentin with Caddy kind of reflects the same concern that Jason has of Quentin. I wonder why Jason cares, whom Quentin dates or if she does her homework. It’s out of his character to care about the well being of someone. I usually see him as a rude arrogant bastard.

Jason’s character is finally seen in the limelight of this section. Where can I begin or start? Jason is utterly disgusting, selfish, thieving, racist and everything horrible someone can possibly imagine. When he was having a bad day and someone almost hit him with a car he chases the person with the red tie around. He also notices that the girl in the car is Quentin. All the chasing around and he is led no where but with his tires slashed. He comes home and takes out the frustration on Lester. It was extremely humiliating to make Lester beg for the tickets. The man has known Jason his whole life and Jason wanted to sell him the tickets for 5 cents. What Jason does is put it by the stove and lights it on fire leaving all of Lester’s hopes away. Jason just doesn’t care. I was disgusted with how someone could do this to a person. Jason practically had him begging and Lester did want to go but all those dreams were taken away.

The mother is to naive to believe that Jason is scamming her. When he ask her to sign the money order she does. He got her to believe it was $10. It seems to me she turns a cheek for Jason and believes this man is worthy of love. I found it weird also that why was no one not suspicious of Jason owning a car. His own mother won’t even ask him to borrow it as she sees how much people  use it and that her loving son needs it. Everytime Jason always complains about changing the tires and how someone black should be doing it for him. It just bothers me so much that Jason gets away with all these things and does everything for himself. All he does is complain, lie and steal.

The two characters I feel sorrow for are Quentin and Benjy. They both relied on the love of Caddy and they are suffering  because of Jason and the mother. It feels as though the author is punishing Caddy for being promiscuous by having the two people that she loves the most by suffering in this hell hole that they call a house.

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