Hope

Viktoria Kalmatskaya

Taylor Kantor

Katrina Nolan

Kyle Brunner

Hope: Aspiring and expecting a desired outcome

Etymology: The verb form of hope is to look forward to something while the noun form refers to a wish or expectation. This word is first recorded in Old English but is believed to originally root from the Low German domain, which then spread to Middle High German as hoffen. The verb derives from the Old English term hopian which means to have trust or confidence in something. The term is thought to have a connection with the verb hop, in connection of leaping into an expectation. The noun form derives from the Old English term hopa, which means the expectation of something desired (Hope (v.)).

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

In the book A Raisin in the Sun, hope is a reoccuring theme that motivates each character. Hope adds motivation to people’s lives and gives them the little push that is needed to achieve that outcome. An example of hope is when the play describes the environment that they live in. “Still, we can see that at some time, a time probably no longer remembered by the family, the furnishings of this room were actually selected with care and love and even hope—and brought to this apartment and arranged with taste and pride.” (26). By saying the furnishings were an epitome of hope further proves how it applies to everyone in this play. The hope in this scene is not literally in the furnishings, but the family gave it that emotion. The hope that was driven from their living space was the hope to move into a new one. Explaining the Younger house is essential to comprehending why they would want to treat themselves to a bigger, and nicer home.

Some other examples of hope in A Raisin in the Sun is the entire family’s hopes to move out and live the American Dream. During this period, only the average white family could hope to achieve this American Dream, yet the Younger’s worked to defy that standard. When the “Clybourne Park Welcoming Committee” visits the Younger’s home, Walter shows hope in saying “We come from proud people, we have all thought about your offer and we have decided to move into our house because my father earned it for us brick by brick. We will be good neighbors. We don’t want your money” (147). He declined the offer because he had hope that they could make a life work in this highly white populated neighborhood. Also, the Walter families dreams could be better achieved in the proper living environment. It was rare to see a person of color from “the ghetto” succeed. When this white man came to their home in attempt to restrain them from this success, their hope to peacefully live in an all white neighborhood  decided their fate. This proves that hope is not just a theme in this book, it is a way of life.

The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ essay “The Case for Reparations” uses multiple true stories as examples to show how unfair the government has been towards people of color. These stories are filled with so many devastating events that it seems like all hope is lost. That is not the case, however. Reparations are amends created for those who have been wronged which brings hope into their lives. After all the reparations, we have made it, somewhat, into the “postracial” society which is the idea that we have overcome issues of inequality. One example the author, Coates, uses is Clyde Ross who suffered the loss of his family’s land, car, and all of their animals because Ross’ father was accused of owing three thousand dollars in back taxes. They did not have a lawyer and could not fight against it. Clyde Ross also lost his chance for better education because he did not have access to a school bus that would get him to the better school. Many years and failures later, things finally started looking up and hope came back into Ross’s life. He started to move north to “flee the acquisitive warlords of the South. They were seeking the protection of the law.” Ross had found a job, gotten married, and had children. Coates even stated that, “When he walked down the street, he did not have to move because a white man was walking past. He did not have to take off his hat or avert his gaze.” This is a huge step up from having everything taken away from him since he was a young boy. Hope is the reason Ross never gave up fighting for his rights. Ross did not sit back and wait for things to start looking up, he had hope for the future and that is what drove him to keep fighting. Coates uses the technique of laying out all the negatives to make it seem like there is no hope and then bring light into the readers eyes again towards the end of the passage.

The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts by Maxine Hong Kingston

The Woman Warrior, by Maxing Kingston, is the story of ghosts and the effect the dead have on the living years after they’ve moved onto another place. Kingston, throughout her novel, develops the idea that hope is nonexistent due to the people Kingston focuses on in each chapter. The one that resonates most with this theme is the “No Name Woman”, as this woman was left to time and forgotten about. It seems as though optimism is restored through Kingston’s writing, as she brings attention to this person that was seemingly lost to time and would have never been thought about again. The No Name Woman is Kingston’s late aunt, and because she is not here to the tell the story of her life to Kingston, she develops these fantasies that tell a fictional version of her life. Through Kingston’s writing, The No Name Woman is able to stay in the minds of the people and that she won’t be lost to time just yet, and that alone inspires hope within the context of the novel. In the last chapter, Kingston grows from being insecure and quiet as a little girl to using her past to let her voice be heard through her writing. The ghosts in the story represent the hauntings of each character in the chapters.

Citizen by Claudia Rankine

In Citizen: An American Lyric, Claudia Rankine pieces together poems and images that portray the African American experience when it comes to racism and microaggressions.

Although the people in these short essays experience racism, sometimes by their own friend, they often think of another possibility for why they would say such a racist comment. For example, Rankine writes, “You never really speak except for the time she makes her request and later when she tells you you smell good and have features more like a white person. You assume she thinks she is thanking you for letting her cheat and feels better cheating from an almost white person” (5). When faced with racist remarks this person still has faith, hoping that it was not intentional. Another example of hopeful thinking in the face of oppressive behavior or comments is when Rankine writes, “This friend says, as you walk toward her, you are late, you nappy- headed ho… maybe the content of her statement is irrelevant and she only means to signal the stereotype of “black people time” by employing what she perceives to be “black people language.” Maybe she is jealous of whoever kept you… you don’t know what she means” (41-42). The narrator hopes for a more positive reasoning for why her friend would make such a remark.

Where hope for racial inequality is implied, institutions like higher education often oppress African Americans. Rankine writes, “He tells you his dean is making him hire a person of color when there are so many great writers out there. You think maybe this is an experiment and you are being tested or retroactively insulted” (10). The narrator is in such disbelief of the comment that they question if the situation is an experiment. Also, “When the woman with multiple degrees says, I didn’t know black women could get cancer, instinctively you take two steps back” (45). These remarks leave the reader with the strong desire for improvement in human nature.

In conclusion, hope is important to literature because it allows sadness and despair to turn into strong will for the better. Hope allows the readers to experience empathy during difficult times or challenges. Both the characters in the short poems and the readers are only left with hope over the dissatisfaction of the present pain and struggle. Belief that a positive occurrence will happen among negative circumstances is necessary to rise above challenges. Having hope in hopeless situations is the reason the main characters in our pieces of literature overcame their battles.

Works Cited

Coates, Ta-Nehisi. “The Case for Reparations.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 22 June 2018,

Hansberry, Lorraine A. A Raisin in the Sun: Lorraine Hansberry. GMC Distribution, 2007.

“Hope (v.).” Index, Online Etymology Dictionary

Kingston, Maxine Hong. The Woman Warrior. Perfection Learning, 1989.

Rankine, Claudia. Citizen: an American Lyric. Penguin Books, 2015.

Humor

Photo credit to Aarón Blanco Tejedor

Amanda Fraticelly

Hailie Addison

Angela McEnerney

Humor

In medieval times humor referred to a human fluid that was thought to measure a human’s mental and physical health. Later on in the 1600s it was used to refer to the style or character of a person or a thing. Today, the concept of humor is most often thought of in the way that the Oxford English Dictionary defines it: the quality of being amusing or comic, especially as expressed in literature or speech. As a verb, it means to be accomodating and adaptable. As the use of the word has changed over time, the emphasis on comedy has become increasingly relevant.

There is a reason why his theatrical storytelling made Shakespeare popular for his poetry and for his politics: he used humor and irony to tell dark stories, ones that were otherwise not palatable for the general public. Humor has  developed as a mechanism for addressing difficult topics and easing audiences in to understanding.

In Mean, by Myriam Gurba, both the horrors of coping with sexual assault and the pains growing up experiencing racism in sexism, are brought to attention using a combination of brutal pointedness and humor. The book opens with a graphic and brutal rape and murder scene of a woman named, Sophia Torres. Throughout the book, Gurba reflects on the sexual assaults and abuse she encountered throughout her life. She uses humor as a way to cope with what she went through; by overcoming the trauma of her rape and learning how to let herself live past it. The style in which she uses the concept is unique and important to telling her story. She uses it in moments that can be shocking but she also uses humor in casual, witty, and comical ways.

Currently, discussions surrounding sexual assault are stifled by an unwilling audience, people that don’t want to think about it. In mainstream media outlets,  discussion surrounding the significantly higher rate of assault towards minority peoples are almost nonexistent. In Gurba’s writing, she creates a world where these realities are impossible to ignore. She uses her narrative both as a way of personal coping, and also a method of humoring her audience into to thinking hard about the variety of experiences she shares.

How Gurba uses blunt humor to cope with her rape is critical to understanding the way she views her past and her surroundings, but most importantly how she views herself and her process of coping and healing. Gurba writes, “I secrete English, Spanish, and tears, but, like a urinal, I also function as a vessel. I hold sadness, language, memories, and glee” (32). Here, within a beautiful sentiment, Gurba refers to herself as a urinal and it is comical. This is an example of where she uses self deprecating humor to describe how she holds sadness and memories, and in doing so she allows her audience to level with her. This is one example of how she establishes sense of repor with her audience using comical humor.

The sadness and memories she holds resulting from the trauma she has endured are expressed throughout Gurbas book. She recalls various sexual encounters as she was on the pursuit to rid herself of the ghosts haunting her sexuality. Gurba writes:  “I’d already become buff and gotten my 4.00, so I gave myself a new challenge: to have sex with a married man. It seemed like a good idea to have sex with someone and ruin his family” (146). It is apparent that at this stage in her life, Gurba does not know how to cope with her suffering, and she uses sex and humor as ways to deal with her inner conflict and the desire to cause someone pain.  This is an example of how shock her audience with a raw approach to a situation that people would not likely make jokes about, but Gurba does. Her reckless and unapologetic attitude and humor help her to deal with what she has lived through.

In her book, Gurba also draws attention to the bizarre aspects of human interaction in a humorous way. Following her encounter with the married professor, he says to her,  “‘You’ve just been diddled by a Jew. How does it feel?’” And she responds with, ‘Kosher..’” (149). Gurba exhibits that her humor also exists outside of her pain and trauma. She is quick to respond wittily to strange behavior in others. Another example of this is when Gurba’s friend, Ida, accidently smokes crack. Gurba writes, “She once smoked crack on accident. She thought it was heroin” (12). The thought of someone smoking crack on accident can already be amusing to the reader, but her blunt and quick reaction makes it even sharper.

The way she responds to more difficult moments might be seen as surprising and abnormal way she tries to make her audience laugh in moments that don’t seem right. She does something like in her response to her mother leaving. Gurba writes, ““I got that it was important for Dad to go be with Mom, and I kind of got that something very bad might be happening, something that might prevent my mom from ever coming back, but I wasn’t upset by it. I was excited. The abandonment felt like an adventure” (8). Here Gurba uses her humor as an almost positive spin on how she interacts with stress, and introduces the idea that humor is a vital tool for dealing with survivors guilt. When asked about her reasons for writing Mean in her interview with The California Report’s Sasha Khokha, Gurba summarizes: “to construct some sort of meaning to come to some sort of understanding to give myself permission to enjoy being alive” (Gurba, KQED 2018).

In her book she also uses humor in the sense of the verb; she talks about learning to deal with survival, and  how to live with her ghosts. Gurba writes: “I’m glad I can keep inhaling the corticosteroid nasal spray that relieves my allergy symptoms. I’m glad I can keep on listening to right wing talk radio for fun” (174).  Here she allows her audience to acclimate to a place of familiarity after sharing the brutality of her assault. This is an example of how Gurba actively humors her audience by celebrating the small and relatable sources of satisfaction in life. In the last lines of the book Gurba illustrates the point where humor intersects with harsh reality.  She writes: “Somewhere out there, Ida is probably smoking crack on accident. And a woman is getting touched to death.”

Humor is used in literary texts to motivate the reader to think about stories beyond the words they are reading. It is an instrumental way to awaken the conscience of  the reader about painful realities often avoided out of fear. This use of humor as a means to impart wisdom is analogous to healing a wound instead of letting it fester.   In her book Mean, Gurba uses her story to draw the reader’s attention to facets of life that either go unnoticed or are thought to be too painful to acknowledge. Whether it be to mitigate the impacts of trauma, to anatomize survivors guilt for her audience, or to laugh at the oddities of life and human nature; Myriam Gurba sheds light on the ways humor allows us to survive, observe and experience life more vividly.

 

Citations:

 

Gurba, Myriam. Mean. Coffee House Press, 2017.

Khokha, Sasha. “Myriam Gurba’s ‘Mean’: A Memoir of Hurt and Humor.” KQED, 28 Feb. 2018. www.kqed.org/news/11652366/myriam-gurbas-mean-a-memoir-of-hurt-and-humor.

Tejedor Blanco, Aarón. “In a Bunker” Unsplashed, https://unsplash.com/photos/VBe9zj-JHBs. 

Discrimination

Photo by Alexas_Fotos on Pixabay

Amanda F, Michael F, Kyle S

Discrimination is a term that can have various meanings. The most relative one being from the Oxford English Dictionary: “The unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex”.

Although we couldn’t find an exact etymology, the oldest known origin of the word discrimination is from 1620’s coming from the word ‘distinction’, and from the verb discernere.

Discrimination plays a huge role throughout society, past and present alike. People are always discriminated against, everywhere you go. Every person, at some point in life, has seen or been a part of an act of discrimination. However, this ongoing problem looks like it’s going to stay a problem, for a while. Discrimination and stereotypes usually go hand-in-hand with each other, and the literature we read in class proves it. The texts we read in class, specifically A Raisin in the Sun and Mean, both show significant signs and examples of discrimination throughout their stories.

A Raisin in the Sun is a play written by Lorraine Hansberry that debuted on Broadway in 1959. A Raisin in the Sun is a story of an African American family’s experiences with discrimination. One way personal, cultural, and institutionalized discrimination creates and sustains privileges for some while creating and sustaining disadvantages for others in A Raisin in the Sun is when the Younger family is about to move into a predominantly white neighborhood and a man named Mr. Linder came knocking on their door trying to convince the family to not move into the new house in the white neighborhood. Mr. Linder was trying to convince the Youngers because he and others believed that there would be concerns in the neighborhood regarding their race because they were simply different from the other residents of the community. Mr. Linder says, “Well, I don’t know how much you folks know about our organization. It is one of these community organizations set up to look after–oh, you know, things like block upkeep and special projects and we also have what we call our New Neighbors Orientation” (Hansberry, 115). The tone throughout these few sentences shows that Mr. Linder is nervous about abruptly telling the Younger family that they shouldn’t move into the neighborhood. Mr. Linder is hesitant about telling the family the truth about the neighborhood’s feeling about the Youngers moving in. Mr. Linder knows that he needs to inform the Youngers of the community’s feelings but he also doesn’t want anyone’s feelings to get hurt. Mr. Linder tries to seem polite he explains,

“Now, I don’t say we are perfect and there is a lot wrong in some of the things they want. But you’ve got to admit that a man, right or wrong, has the right to want to have the neighborhood he lives in a certain kind of way. And at the moment the overwhelming majority of our people out there feel that people get along better, take more of a common interest in the life of the community, when they share a common background. I want you to believe me when I say that race prejudice simply doesn’t enter into it. It is a matter of the people of Clybourne Park believing, rightly or wrongly, as I say, that for the happiness of all concerned that our Negro families are happier when they live in their own communities” (Hansberry, 117-118).

Mr. Linder’s tone then becomes rude and he tells the Youngers that they are not wanted in the community and they would be making the people of the community feel threatened. Walter Younger simply responds to Mr. Linder with “Get out” (Hansberry, 119). This scene in A Raisin in the Sun is a great example of how discrimination sustains privileges for whites. Mr. Linder and his community thought that they could exclude black citizens from their community, as they believed that white citizens were entitled to quality living and black citizens were not. Mama Younger and her family were desperate to move into the neighborhood because it was the best place they could find with the money they had. The whites in the neighborhood didn’t want any diversity. This created disadvantages for the African American family because they simply weren’t wanted in the community they wanted to move into to begin to better their lives. The whole disagreement between Mr. Linder and the Youngers was all created because the whites didn’t want a racially diverse neighborhood. Discrimination played a big role in the Younger’s live but together they remained strong and moved into a better home to begin to live the lives they deserved.

To create a safe space for all cultures, races, and genders, one has to comprehend the idea that diversity stems from understanding the effects of discrimination at a young age. While analyzing works of literature like Mean by Myriam Gurba, the reader receives a first-hand account of how discrimination affects young people. Gurba describes the facilitation after an altercation between her and a group of white girls in grade school. While explaining to the teacher what happened, Myriam, a girl with Mexican heritage, says “[t]hey call us wetbacks and tell us to go back to Mexico. Those girls are racists. And she’s [referring to her white friend] not even Mexican,” (20).  The white girls then start to hysterically cry, and the teacher forces Myriam to apologize for the statement. This makes Myriam feel alone in her grade, due to the lack of diversity in her grade. Although the lack of diversity isn’t Myriam or the school’s fault, the lack of diversity sparked a racist thought process in the young white girls. One can say that the white girls made these comments because they wouldn’t know any better, but the recognition that Myriam was different from them comes from influences outside of school. If as a society, we support and emphasize the importance of diversity at a young age, society will be more open minded to the acceptance of all races. With this information a student can progress their behavior, success, and understanding of empathy at a young age.

Diversity includes more than race; it is also crucial to expand gender diversity at a young age as well. On page 14 of Mean, Myriam talks about boys in her grade. She goes on to say “A boy interrupted me. It asked ‘Can we be in your club?’ ‘No,’ I answered. ‘It’s girls only.’” Myriam uses the word “it” when describing the boy, dehumanizing the boy because of his gender. The way she excludes the boys isn’t a new way of thinking for kids.

As readers, and writers, literature is a great example of something that forces us to confront the reality of discrimination. It helps us look at the many faces of discrimination and by analyzing literature, we are able to fully understand their viewpoints and stories. One way of analyzing literature is to examine how the elements in the text relate to a social or cultural situation. Each book we read this semester evidenced it’s own version and definition of discrimination and brought all of them to the reader’s attention in different ways. A Raisin in the Sun shows discrimination from the viewpoints of the African American family and showed how they were mistreated. Myriam Gurba’s novel, Mean, deals with different type of discriminations, one of them being gender. She dehumanizes all genders throughout the novel. She does this by calling them “it” or other names that offends either, or uses words that poke fun at them. Overall, each author uses different textual strategies and each had different characteristics to show the reader what diversity is and what it stands for.

 

 

Works Cited

 

Gurba, Myriam. Mean. Coffee House Press, 2017.

Hansberry, Lorraine. A Raisin in the Sun. Penguin, 1987.

 

 

Memoir

 

(Picture Credit: Jarmoluk)

Rachel Hine, Nicole Bendetti, Dustin Wheeler, and Charlie Buckley

 

“Memoir” is a word that has many meanings dating back to the 1000’s. These meanings included a momento, a bibliographical notice, an essay or dissertation on a learned subject closely studied by the writer. In earlier periods, this word was originally spelled “Memoire”. Over time, memoir changed in spelling to reflect the dynamic of gender. In Old French around the year 1190, memoire was a masculine word that meant “written account or description.” By 1356, memoir was a document that would contain the facts about a case that would be judged. In 1477, this definition then changed again, referring to a document that contained instructions on a certain matter. Since then the word had then shifted back and forth from masculine to feminine.

At one point, this term referred to a record; a brief testimonial or warrant; records, and documents. Later, this would change into a memorandum, a document that was specifically used towards business or diplomacy. There are many other ways memoirs would be used for. Unlike autobiographies, which are texts that are written based on an account of a person’s life in a chronological way, memoirs allow readers to see different memories or events the author experienced in a way that was not in any certain order. During this time, this was a common genre that writers would use.

According to N. Nicholls in 1769, a work known as Gray’s Correspondence, “…a writer of memoirs is a better thing than an historian” (1843). One reason that a memoir would be “better” is because it is written by someone who has been through the events and are subjective, whereas, historians focus on the researched insights into the past. Experts of history may be considered reliable to others because of its intense research. Though because memoirs are subjective, this may reflect in others believing that it is relatable and/or more reliable.

In the memoir Mean, Myriam Gurba tells her story through a bold and humorous narrative of her life through recalling past experiences. This allows her to cultivate a different relationship toward the sexual assault and trauma that characterizes her past. She does so through humorous and sometimes gross descriptions of body parts and sex through food, which help her get through this past trauma. She introduces the readers to many characters that she has encountered many commemorable or relatable memories alongside. She opens the book with a reference to the attack of a woman by the name of Sophia Torres, who was attacked and murdered by the same man Gurba was attacked by. She references Torres throughout her whole memoir because of the significance of their connection.

Later, Gurba recounts her first experiences with the character, Macaulay, the first young man to sexually assault her. They were in the second grade together and would play a game on the playground with their peers called, “Kissy Boys versus Kissy Girls” (Gurba 23). One time, Gurba states, “Macaulay’s face careened at mine. His mouth banged into my lips, and my teeth dug into my own white flesh. This was an unsanctioned kiss, we were off the kissy clock…” (Gurba 23). In only the second grade, Gurba was kissed, giving no consent, by Macaulay. Then, Gurba talks about when her and Macaulay meet again in Mr. Hand’s history class in junior high. Macaulay began touching her inappropriately under the table and Gurba tells us, “the hand that was molesting me slid to my inner thigh and squeezed the fat. Sensing that if I yelped, I’d look like the bad guy, I obeyed the shh” (Gurba 25). As Gurba is being molested, she feels as if she were to yell for help, she’d be seen as the one who is doing the wrong. As readers, we know that she’s feeling scared and hopeless. Gurba’s memory of being assaulted has changed in her mind to where she connects body parts to food. She says, “once Macaulay began stirring, my tapioca warmed and bubbled. I didn’t want it to be cooking in public” (Gurba 26). She compares her body to tapioca, a kind of starch, thats being cooked due to Macaulay assaulting her. She does this to attempt to make light of her horrible situation. Since this is a memoir of her own experiences and recollections, Gurba, as an author, is able to use tactics like comparing horrific memories to food, as a way to cope with what happened to her. These stories belong to her and she incorporates ways that allows some light into such dark situations.      

Gurba also attempts to bring in light of other situations she had encountered when she talks about her experience in junior high gym class. The P.E teacher, known as Coach, made all the kids line up to do stretches. Gurba states, “this was the most humiliating pose. Perverts looked around to see what other people looked like in this pose so they would have something to masturbate to later on” (Gurba 39). She then continues to describe another memory of when the boys in that gym class mooned the girls. She says, “their butts popped free. The humps hardly jiggled. They possessed the firmness of the newly ripened” (Gurba 40). Gurba brings in the concept of food, which is a theme in Mean, when talking about her experience of being mooned. When something is ripened, it becomes mature and/or ready. Often this is related to food, such as fruit, that are ready to be eaten. Gurba compares the boys’ butts to being newly mature and ready as in they have gone through puberty. She and her peers are rarely exposed to seeing bare butt in public, which may be why she can recall so much of this experience. Gurba also mentions, “we mulled over how white they were, the strangeness of seeing ass in public, how one had hair on it…” (Gurba 40). The girls are forced to see things they weren’t expecting and never agreed too. They’re being exposed to bare parts with no consent. Gurba is using the power of memoir in her own way, to show how it is funny and strange this encounter was.

Throughout the memoir, Gurba shares with readers her personal memories the way she recalls them. The first memory that Gurba is almost eager to get off her chest, is the haunting story of Sophia. Gurba tells readers, “he [the rapist and killer] creeps up behind the girl and swings a pipe…He reaches down his sweatpants. He fondles his penis” (Gurba 1, 2). Gurba compares his penis to corn. She continues by saying, “he strokes his corn” (Gurba 2). While describing the absolute horror of Sophia’s murder, Gurba remembers body parts as food, again. This is Gurba’s s way of engaging the readers by mixing body parts with food to make her experiences relevant and interesting. It’s a different kind of comparison but she does it to add some sort of humor and life into her story.

Along with the examples above, Gurba continues to reminisce about various past events. She uses emotions and great details to describe the events that she can recall, regardless of the situation. For example, Gurba mentions events that range from sexual assaults to childhood memories with her friends. She maneuvers strange but funny thoughts she may or may not have had in the moment but includes looking back onto them, in this text.  As stated before, “Memoir” has many meaning but with its definition as records of events from personal experiences of the writer. Gurba uses her haunting of the ghost Sophia Torres, because of her unfortunate end of life whereas Gurba was spared, by the same attacker. This is very unusual compared to how other writers create memoirs. The power of memoir is through the personal accounts they give and the intense feelings toward those experiences.

Memoirs, while fairly uncommon forms of text have a unique advantage over many other styles of writing. That advantage being the ability of the author to directly transfer their own memories onto the page, exactly the way they are recalled. This allows the audience to dive into the mind of the author, and see the story from their first person perspective rather than a third person narrative. Instead of the author trying to appeal to an audience’s expectations of a normal story, memoirs force audiences to be on the same brain wave as the author, and see things through his or her eyes. This means that in order to accurately read them, audiences must understand that they are reading unadulterated and sometimes unfiltered memories of the author. Memoirs also allow the reader to interpret what the author thought and felt throughout those memories. With such an intimate connection with the author, the audience is able to understand the thoughts author and their writing style with much more ease than other forms of writing such as autobiographies, and biographies.

 

Works Cited

           “Free Image on Pixabay – Photo, Photographer, Old, Photos.” Sea ​​BottomPhotocomposition · Free Image on Pixabay,           pixabay.com/en/photo-photographer-old-photos-256887/.

Gurba, Myriam. Mean. Coffee House Press, 2017.

           “Memoir Definition.” Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University Press, 1928, libproxy.cortland.edu:2267/view/Entry/116334?          redirectedFrom=memoir#eid.

 

 

Ghost

(Picture Credit: TheDigitalArtist)

Melissa, Brianna, Cody, Taylor P

Ghost

Noun:

  1. An apparition of a dead person which is believed to show themselves to the living, typically as a nebulous image.

The building is haunted by a ghost of a girl who died here.

 

Verb:

  1. Act as a ghostwriter of (a work)

His memoirs were smoothly ghosted by a journalist.

    1.  Glide smoothly and effortlessly

They ghosted up the river.

  1. End a personal relationship by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication

I told him I wanted to go slow and he started to ghost me.

 

Etymology

Even though the word ghost is only known in the Germanic Languages of the West, it seems to be in a pre-Germanic formation. The word ghost has German and Latin background. In the past ghost has been related to words like angel, spirit, immaterial part of man and incorporeal being. The spelling of ghost with the “gh-” was infrequently used until the middle of the 16th century and was not entirely established before 1590.

Explanations of how the word ‘ghost’ is used in books:

Mean by Myriam Gurba

Mean by Myriam Gurba is a book about a woman describing her life through other people’s stories and her own experiences. Myriam Gurba details her many ghosts throughout the chapters. These ghosts represent a variety of things, from her own trauma to the appropriated trauma of others. Sometimes these ghosts possess her, other times, they run along beside her. Her ghosts take a wide variety of forms. They vary from intrusive thoughts to unrelenting memories. She personifies these symptoms through the example of Sophia. Sophia is always with Gurba—she is ever-present in Mean, much like Gurba’s trauma.

The three most notable ghosts in Mean are Sophia, The Black Dahlia, and Gurba’s trauma. Sophia is the first ghost to be mentioned in the book. In chapter one, we witness her death the same way a bird might’ve witnessed it. Gurba writes, “She lurches, her purse tips, and two receipts sail. A nail file spills. Her toothbrush hits the ground bristles first” (2). The way she describes the receipts falling shows that she was viewing this situation from the outside as a bystander. Gurba brings life to this ghost by showing us the final moments of her passing. She also creates a connection to this ghost that the reader only discovers later in the book. Gurba and Sophia share the same attacker. Gurba and Sophia share a similar trauma. Gurba and Sophia share a ghost. Their ghost is the experience of the assault they both went through. Gurba writes, “We share this thing. . . She and I share a fear of him. We share what it’s like to have him touching us and watching us. . .” (112). This quote shows the mutual feelings they had during both their experiences.

In many ways, Sophia literally haunts Gurba. Gurba says, “Some ghosts listen to the radio through the bodies of the living. They use us to conduct pain, pleasure, music, and meaning. They burden us with feelings that are both ours and theirs” (3). This quote shows how ghosts can still feel emotions and have feelings even though they passed on. Gurba saying ‘burden’ shows that she doesn’t want the presence of Sophia upon her. At one point in the book, Gurba brings in another ghost, The Black Dahlia, to help her cope with Sophia’s presence. The physical manifestation of the Black Dahlia’s ghost in “The Collector” leads me to believe that the ghost’s presence in Mean is more than symbolic. Gurba writes, “I didn’t realize that I was staring at my Sophia surrogate” (159). This quote shows the idea that Gurba has viewed this other grave as a possible peace-offering to Sophia. Gurba going out of her way to see this grave could be her wanting to reconcile with the fact she lived and Sophia didn’t.

In the chapter, “The Post-traumatic Bitch and the Sea”, Gurba attempts to free herself of both The Black Dahlia and Sophia.  Gruba describes, “At the edge of the dry earth, I pulled the bag out of my pocket. I untwisted it, turned it over, and let sand sprinkle into the sea. The sea took it” (161). In this excerpt, Gurba tries to rid herself of the ghost of The Black Dahlia. She releases The Black Dahlia by throwing her memento into the sea.  She does not succeed in freeing herself from Sophia, just as she does not succeed in freeing herself from the trauma. Instead, she learns to live with her ghosts. She lives with her past, she lives with her trauma, she lives with guilt, and she lives with ghosts. Gurba writes, “I wasn’t only trying to get rid of Dahlia. I was trying to free myself from the other ghosts, too” (161). This quote shows how she wants to erase Dahlia from her life which makes her feel like the guilt has been lifted.

Ghosts play a significant role throughout Gurba’s life. Each ghost in this novel was accompanied by a struggle Myriam faced. Sophia represented the assault both the girls went through and beginning of her struggles in life. Gurba thinks, “The privilege of surviving doesn’t feel good. It makes me feel guilty. It makes me not want to enjoy strawberries” (112). This quote shows the type of struggles she felt daily. The negative thoughts towards the strawberries are ironic because they’re seen as sweet and good but now this assault and murder gave them the bad connotation. Dahlia represented the want for escaping the past and the need for growing from the pain she endured. Gurba writes, “I wanted all of it to go back to the sea even though I hadn’t stolen it from the sea” (161). This quote shows the desperate state she was in to get the curse of The Black Dahlia off her chest. The need to have one less ghost and one less weight on her shoulder was immense. Both ghosts affected her life and how she expresses herself and her emotions throughout the book.

 

The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston:

 

The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts was written by Maxine Hong Kingston in an attempt to give the reader insight into her life growing up as a young Chinese girl in America. Being that ghosts are one of the main themes in The Woman Warrior, we already see it in the subtitle of the book. The subtitle is important because it emphasizes the consistent use of ghosts throughout the book. The subtitle also makes the reader uneasy because it suggests that the narrator is surrounded by many ghosts at a young age. Kingston was the first generation in her family to be born in America so her family had many traditional beliefs, particularly ghosts, that made it difficult for her to fit into American society. Kingston often uses ghosts to describe a variety of scenarios where she doesn’t understand something. Her mother also uses ghosts in stories to describe the unknown or actual spirits that come up during a story. In both cases, ghosts seem to embody fear and obstacles that the narrator or storyteller faced.

The narrator grew up in a very traditional Chinese family, and, in the midst of this, never developed a real understanding of American culture. She uses ghosts to describe moments in her life when she was young and easily scared or confused by what is going on around her. One of the more prominent examples of her using ghosts to show her fear is when she says, “But America has been full of ghosts, Taxi Ghosts, Bus Ghosts, Police Ghosts, Fire Ghosts, Reader Ghosts, Tree Trimming Ghosts, Five-and-Dime Ghosts. Once upon a time the world was so thick with ghosts, I could hardly breathe; I could hardly walk, limping my way around the white ghosts and their cars” (Kingston 97). The ghosts are actually different people in an American community, yet she calls them all ghosts because she doesn’t truly know who they are or what they are doing. You can tell that she is afraid by the wording she uses in the last sentence. The narrator states that when the world was thick with ghosts, she could hardly breathe or walk, and that she was limping around the white ghosts and their cars. She makes it seem like the ghosts were suffocating her and like she was injured. At the time she was not suffocating or injured, but the negative terminology indicates that she was very scared of her surroundings.

The narrator’s mother is a very traditional Chinese woman and likes to tell many stories involving ghosts. The narrator describes her mother’s experience with a ghost in medical school in the quote, “It rolled over her and landed bodily on her chest. There it sat. It breathed airlessly, pressing her, sapping her. ‘Oh, no. A sitting ghost,’.” “I’ve heard of you sitting ghosts before. Yes, people have lived to tell about you. You kill babies, you cowards. You have no power over a strong woman” (Kingston 69). In this story, the mother wakes up, trapped in her bed by a “sitting ghost”. It is described as something big and heavy with a thick coat of hair, like an animal. The mother is in a frightening position, and she does everything she can to get out of the situation—  but no matter what she does, she fails, and has to wait until the sitting ghost eventually leaves. She convinces herself over and over that it isn’t that bad of a situation. She uses lessons from her professor about spirits to explain why it was there. When she says, “After life, the rational soul ascends the dragon; the sentient soul descends the dragon. So in the world there can be no ghosts. This thing must have been a fox spirit” (Kingston 71), she is reciting what her professor taught her in order to make the sitting ghost seem less scary and ominous. When the ghost finally leaves and she sees the children in the morning she admits to being scared and she asks the children to “call her back” in case her fear had caused her soul to leave her body.  The children grab her earlobes and chant repeatedly that she won against the ghost and that she has to come home. They are trying to comfort her after a traumatic experience.

Ghosts played a significant role in Kingston’s journey throughout her childhood. The Woman Warrior is ultimately about the power of stories and the ability to overcome hardships. Each ghost in this novel was accompanied by a challenge in which the narrator or her mother had to overcome. One of the final instances of ghosts being used is when the mother refers to the narrator as a “Ho Chi Kuei” (Kingston 204). The literal translation for this term is “good foundation ghost”. The term is an insult that refers specifically to people born in America that have it too easy. The term itself is very serious. This is the last straw, and the narrator is kicked out of her own house. Throughout the entire book, Kingston writes about how life was among ghosts and around her mother’s stories. Yet, now she is referred to as a ghost herself. This indicates that she has become her own obstacle and fear, because soon after, she experiences immediate regret. She repeats her mother’s actions of coping with her fear when she says, “I learned to think that mysteries are for explanation. I enjoy the simplicity. Concrete pours out of my mouth to cover the forests with freeways and sidewalks” (Kingston 204). She eventually grows into an adult using logic to explain phenomena instead of stories and ghosts because it is far less frightening and much less colorful.

Works Cited

“Discover the Story of English More than 600,000 Words, over a Thousand Years.” Home : Oxford English Dictionary, oed.com/.

Gurba, Myriam. Mean. Coffee House Press, 2017.

Kingston, Maxine Hong. The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood among Ghosts. Picador Classic, 2015.

Feminism

Lacey Bartlett, Sarah Cohen, Katie Barber, Abby Feyerabend

Feminism (noun)

Fem·i·nism | ˈfeməˌnizəm

Advocacy of equality of the sexes and the establishment of the political, social, and economic rights of the female sex; the movement associated with this.

History:

The issue of rights for women became increasingly prominent during the French and American Revolutions in the late 18th century, with regards especially to property rights, the marriage relationship, and the right to vote. In Britain, it was not until the emergence of the suffragette movement in the late 19th cent. that there was significant political change. Women’s suffrage was a movement to fight for women’s rights to vote. Women were banned to vote in Britain after two acts were passed, the 1832 Reform Act and the 1835 Municipal Corporations Act. It wasn’t until 1918 when the Representation of the People Act was passed, that women who fit the property qualifications were allowed to vote. ‘First wave’ feminism focused on suffrage and legal matters regarding gender equality in voting and property rights. A ‘second wave’ of feminism arose in the 1960s in the United States, focused on a wider range of issues including family, sexuality, the workplace, and reproductive rights. A more diverse ‘third wave’ arose in the 1980s and 1990s, as a reaction against the perceived lack of focus on class and race issues in earlier movements.

In 1991, Anita Hill, an African American woman, testified that she was sexually harassed by Clarence Thomas, who was nominated for the Supreme Court of the United States. In front of an all-white, all-male, Senate Judiciary Committee, Hill said, “So I write this as a plea to all women, especially women of my generation: Let Thomas’ confirmation serve to remind you, as it did me, that the fight is far from over. Let this dismissal of a woman’s experience move you to anger. Turn that outrage into political power. Do not vote for them unless they work for us. Do not have sex with them, do not break bread with them, do not nurture them if they don’t prioritize our freedom to control our bodies and our lives. I am not a post-feminism feminist. I am the Third Wave.” According to The New York Times, “Judge Thomas forcefully denied the accusations, claiming they played into the stereotypes of black men.” This quote exemplifies ‘third wave’ feminism because Hill is bringing attention to the lack of support that women had during this time period.

Etymology:

The word ‘Feminism’ originated as the Latin word femina, which meant woman. In French, it was used in a medical term as féminisme (1871 or earlier). Catalan feminisme (c1910), Spanish feminismo (1898 or earlier), Portuguese feminismo (1905), Italian femminismo (1896).

Feminism in The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts

       Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior is chock-full of examples of feminism. It is a novel made up of “talk-stories” that tell of vastly different women—crazy, silenced, and powerful women. Kingston uses these stories of empowerment and disempowerment to analyze her own life. Ultimately, they allow her to tell the story of how old Chinese traditions and expectations of women affected how she was raised. In the end, Kingston defies being labeled as a traditional Chinese woman and embraces her identity as a first generation Chinese-American.
       It is important to express that it is not only the men in the story who are oppressive. Rather, it is the power that men and women give to traditional patriarchal views and expectations of women. Kingston writes, “When we Chinese girls listened to the adults talk-story, we learned that we failed if we grew up to be but wives or slaves. We could be heroines, swordswomen… Perhaps women were once so dangerous that they had to have their feet bound” (19). This quote shows that society has taught women they must become wives or slaves, or else they have not really become a woman. This knowledge is passed down to Kingston from her mother through a talk-story, demonstrating how older generations valued societal expectations and made sure to teach younger generations to succumb to them.
       Most of the stories told to Kingston are cautious tales intended to warn her about the punishments for deviating from the expectations placed on women. In the chapter No Name Woman, Kingston tells the reader about how her aunt was raped by a man who was from her home village in China. She became pregnant with his baby. Kingston writes, “Women in the old China did not choose. Some man had commanded her to lie with him and be his secret evil. I wonder whether he masked himself when he joined the raid on her family… His demand must have surprised, then terrified her. She obeyed him; she always did as she was told” (6). Women didn’t have a choice when things happened to them. Women’s voices were insignificant, and therefore they had to accept things as they came. After Kingston’s mother tells her this story of her long-forgotten aunt, her mother tells her, “Don’t let your father know that I told you. He denies her. Now that you have started to menstruate, what happened to her could happen to you. Don’t humiliate us. You wouldn’t like to be forgotten as if you had never been born. The villagers are watchful” (5). In this quote, Kingston’s mother isn’t saying this to Kingston for her own sake, but rather for her and the family’s. She is warning Kingston to be obedient, to ensure that she doesn’t ruin the family name as her aunt did.
       In this novel, feminism is often shown in the comparison between men and women. An example of this is when Kingston writes, “Mothers who love their children take them along. It was probably a girl; there is some hope of forgiveness for boys” (15). Kingston is talking about how her aunt drowned herself and her baby in the family well. She is pointing out that had the baby been a boy, things might’ve been different. Boys could be forgiven, but girls seemed to be a curse to the family. The aunt has brought shame to her family for having a baby with a man who isn’t her husband. She kills herself and her baby due to being forced to succumb to the idea that women are inferior. This quote reveals to readers that boys were the superior gender within these patriarchal societies of Old China.
       The stories that Kingston’s mother tells her are to warn her about the obstacles she may face in life. Each story tells of the difficulty that women faced in the eyes of equality. Becoming a woman in traditional Chinese culture consisted of becoming a slave, a housewife, or essentially a mute. Instead of taking these stories as something to learn from, Kingston takes them as limitations and believes that her mother is trying to stifle her. In the end, it’s these very stories that empower her.

Feminism in A Raisin in the Sun

       The play A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry, shows the life of an African American family during a time of segregation. This play tells the story of the Younger family who lives in the Southside of Chicago in the 1950s. Everyone in the family is trying to overcome adversities in order to achieve their dreams. Throughout this play, there are many examples of feminism, especially related to Beneatha’s character. When the play opens the Younger family is impatiently waiting for an insurance check to arrive, as each has their own ideas of what to do with it, and as the play progresses, they clash over their rivaling dreams.
       Beneatha wants to use the insurance money to pay for medical school. She is a college student who doesn’t want to assimilate to the stereotypes of black women at the time. Women during this time period were always nurses when they entered the medical field.  However, Beneatha wants to become a doctor. She refuses to let her gender hold her back from her dreams. When even her own family tells her that she should just marry a rich man instead, she still refuses to listen. She says, “Listen, I’m going to be a doctor. I’m not worried about who I am going to marry yet—if I ever get married” (50). Although she has little support, she wants to follow her dreams and refuses to be held back by a man.
       When feminists are trying to express their beliefs, they often need to face those with conflicting views. Beneatha’s boyfriend George says, “I want you to cut it out, see—The moody stuff, I mean. I don’t like it. You’re a nice-looking girl… all over. That’s all you need, honey, forget the atmosphere. Guys aren’t going to go for the atmosphere—they’re going to go for what they see. Be glad for that. Drop the Garbo routine. It doesn’t go with you”(96). George believes that women are supposed to be housewives, as many women of the time were. However, Beneatha wants more for her life. She wants to pursue a career and will not let gender inequality hold her back. This makes Beneatha a feminist because she doesn’t want to follow stereotypical gender roles.
       There is a general tendency in literature to standardize all black women’s experiences and disregard their ethnic diversity. In the eyes of many people, Beneatha is just a pretty face. She decides to cut her hair to demonstrate that she is against conformity and assimilation.  When George Murchison asks her, “What have you done to your head—I mean your hair,” Beneatha responds with, “Nothing—except cut it off” (80). By cutting her hair, she attempts to prove that there is more to women than just their appearance. In a study conducted by Vanessa King and Dieynaba Niabaly, it was found that African women altered their hair mostly due to community and media influences, while African American women altered their hair primarily because of their family’s opinions. Beneatha, although an African American woman, alters her hair simply because she wants to connect to her heritage. In summation, A Raisin in the Sun wonderfully speaks to the concepts of African American beauty and identity, and as Robert Nemiroff states, also revolutionizes black women’s consciousness.

       In today’s society, feminism has progressed drastically. During the revolutionary period, women’s rights were a large focus. This need for equality has been further amplified in today’s society. Throughout history, women have fought for issues such as voting and marriage equality, and have found success. However, women still need to fight. They are still not considered to be equal in society regarding certain issues such as equality in the workplace. Women only make around seventy-five to eighty cents to the dollar that every man makes, regardless of the fact that they do the same work.
       It is important to understand this term in literature because understanding the term will help bring about change.  Feminism is often overlooked and shot down in today’s society due to the fact that conditions have improved for women. However, they have not improved enough, and understanding the term will help bring about equality in today’s society.

 

Works Cited

 

Hansberry, Lorraine A. A Raisin in the Sun: Lorraine Hansberry. GMC Distribution, 2007.

Jacobs, Julia. “Anita Hill’s Testimony and Other Key Moments From the Clarence Thomas Hearings.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 20 Sept. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/09/20/us/politics/anita-hill-testimony-clarence-thomas.html.

“John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute.” Race and Ethnicity in Advertising | John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute, fhi.duke.edu/highlights/riot-grrls-and-maker-culture-zine-publishing-event.

King, Vanessa and Niabaly, Dieynaba (2013) ” e Politics of Black Womens’ Hair,” Journal of Undergraduate Research at Minnesota State University, Mankato: Vol. 13, Article 4.

Kingston, M. H. The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts. Random House, 1976.