Junot Diaz

I’m always intrigued by stories like “Invierno” – of an adult reflecting on childhood experiences. (To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorites.) This story contains some universal childhood anecdotes (fighting with a sibling, getting dressed up when guests come over). But there are also some aspects that are unique to Yunior’s experience of being an immigrant. His family doesn’t know any English, so they watch a lot of TV to try to learn the language. This didn’t seem to be very effective. Later, when Yunior tries to play with the neighbors, he can’t communicate: “We sat there for a while, my head aching with desire to communicate…” (141). I can imagine that this language barrier would be very frustrating for a little kid, especially since Yunior seemed so optimistic about befriending his neighbors: “This was my first real encounter with Americans and I felt loose and capable” (137). Poor Yunior never does get the chance to befriend his neighbors, though, because of White Flight. “In less than a year they would be gone. All the white people would be. All that would be left would be us colored folks” (141-142). I’ve learned about White Flight in a few of my classes. The racial minorities come into a neighborhood, and the white people promptly leave. This phenomenon leads to highly segregated neighborhoods. Because white people don’t want to live in predominantly black or Latino neighborhoods, property values in these neighborhoods go down, and the residents are left with poorly funded schools and fewer resources in their neighborhoods.

cathedraloflearninglawinwinter

Source

“The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars” is earlier in the book, but later in Yunior’s life. He is an adult now, and has cheated on his girlfriend. Usually, I don’t have sympathy for cheaters, but I can’t help but feel bad for the guy. He seems to feel at least a little guilty about cheating on his girlfriend, since he keeps reassuring himself that he’s not a bad guy. The story starts with him saying “I’m not a bad guy. I know how that sounds – defensvie, unscrupulous – but it’s true. I’m like everybody else: weak, full of mistakes, but basically good” (3). (On another note, this quote also brings up an interesting thought about human nature – is it true that everyone is “basically good”?) Later, he again is trying to convince himself that he isn’t a bad guy: “I’m thinking over and over, I’m not a bad guy, I’m not a bad guy” (22).  Seems to me like a manifestation of guilt.

Like the White Flight in “Invierno”, there are also instances of racial discrimination in “The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars.” In a pretty blatant example, Yunior says “All of Magda’s friends say I cheated because I was Dominican, that all us Dominican men are dogs and can’t be trusted. I doubt I can speak for all Dominican men but I doubt they can either” (18-19). Magda’s friends aren’t even trying to hide their prejudices against Dominican men. In another example, Yunior says “When she smiles niggers ask for her hand in marriage; when I smile folks check their wallets” (16). This sounds to me like racial profiling. People are suspicious of Yunior; they pass a harsh judgment on him – thinking that he will steal from them – seemingly because of his race.

 

Advertisements

SMC Walk-Out

Attending the walk-out was an eye-opening experience. As a white person, I’m not always aware of the racism experienced by my classmates of color. I stood in Dante Quad with my fellow students for over an hour, listening to people’s experiences with macro and micro aggressions. These students have had to deal with listening to bigoted comments from fellow students and staff at SMC, whether it be because of their race, sexuality, gender identity, or disability. As a non-straight woman with a mental illness, I was able to relate to some of these students’ struggles, and I learned a lot about the struggles of students in other marginalized groups. A student talked about her struggles with being reduced to a fraction (half Latina and half Asian). She’s a whole person, not two halves. Another student talked about the discrimination they faced for being non-binary. A few students talked about Seminar as a dangerous place rife with offensive comments. After this open-mic session, I participated in a march through the library (which I felt slightly uncomfortable doing). Then we headed over to the business/registrar office, where  everyone gathered for another open-mic session. President Donahue was present at this session, and after a few people spoke about their experiences with discrimination and read the list of demands, he responded. He said that he promises to do everything in his power to make these students feel comfortable at SMC. After this, we headed over to the SMC parkway, where we stood on the sidewalk holding up our signs to get the attention of the people leaving Saint Mary’s. I’ve never been part of this kind of demonstration before, and I’m proud of my fellow students for organizing this event. I hope that it will lead to changes being made at SMC.

Rich and Plath

I’ve read “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath in other classes before, and it’s always very interesting to me. The speaker has some kind of Electra complex going on, since she marries a guy who’s just like her father. The speaker describes herself as a victim in relation to both men. With her father, she compares herself as a Jew and her father to a Nazi. Pretty extreme metaphor. She also creates a contrast with colors, describing her father as “black” and herself as “red.” Her husband she compares to a vampire, saying that he “drank [her] blood for a year, seven years” (73-74). Also a pretty extreme metaphor. Because of her bad experiences with men, she generalized that “every woman adores a Fascist” (48), but I’m not sure whether she meant this seriously or sarcastically.

I also find it interesting that she refers to her father as a variety of terrible things – A Nazi, a devil, a vampire – but it isn’t until the very last line that she refers to him simply as a bastard. It’s as if she is using these exaggerated descriptions to vent her frustrations regarding her father, and at the end of the poem, she is finally able to describe him more honestly and simplistically. I’m wondering if she always felt this way about her father, or if she came to this realization about him gradually. After all, she tried to kill herself when she was twenty so she could be with him again, but now she is metaphorically “killing” him. Interesting.

sylvia_plath

Source

In “Diving into the Wreck” the speaker emphasizes a sense of loneliness – “but here alone” (12), “there is no one to tell me when the ocean will begin” (31-33), “I have to learn alone” (40-41). She described the war-like qualities of her scuba gear: the “knife-blade”, and the “body armor”. She also conveys an obligation to complete this task, by saying that she is having to do this. From all this, I’m getting the sense that although she doesn’t really want to do this scuba diving thing, she’s doing it anyway out of some unspoken duty.

2100605657_4f4918a79e_o1

Source

A line that stood out to me in this poem is “you breathe differently down here” (51). This is the first time in the poem that “you” is used, and I am wondering who this “you” is referring to. A little later, the speaker seems to be going through an identity-split: “I am she: I am he” (77) and “We are, I am, you are” (86). What’s going on here? Is the speaker trying to include other voices within her own voice? Hmm.

The last lines of the poem “a book of myths in which our names do not appear” (92-94) is a call-back to the beginning of the poem, when this elusive book of myths is also mentioned. I’m not sure what to make of this. What is this book of myths, and why don’t our names appear in it?

 

220px-cover_design_a_book_of_myths

Source