Final Reflection Explained

This is it. It’s the final days of this semester! And boy, it was one heck of a trip. Time really does fly by!  I can honestly say I’ve grown so much more this semester than any other in the past. With the help of some amazing professors and their classes , I was able to push my intellectual boundaries even further… and that’s what college is all about, right?

After blogging about the various American women writers, we were assigned to come up with a website for a particular one we were interested in. Without any hesitation, I joined the group for Zitkala-sa. Out of all the authors we read in class, she was the one I connected to most. She had such a different writing style and came from a background I was less familiar with, which stirred up my interest. When any professor mentions group work, I already know there would be eyes rolling around in classrooms. However, my group was such a pleasure to work with. Creating a website was no easy task!

It was my first time ever using the Wix platform and took a while to get familiar with it. I’m a techy kind of person and love trying to figure out the mechanics of sites, so the frustration was definitely a choice. Once I got the hang of it; adding pages choosing the theme, and all the general elements, putting the content together was easier.

Each section was split by the members of my group, and I was in charge of assembling most of the contents of the site. Besides site building, I was responsible for the sections: Zitkala-sa 101, Bright Feathers, and a scholarly work critique entitled A Fixation of the Native Identity, as well as a contributor in our quotes section. What surprised me most about this project was the amount of content we were all so eager to add. In doing our research for Zitkala-sa, we saw that she didn’t have a huge presence on the web. It was either small glimpses of her or only one section on a large-scale site. Our goal was to give Zitkala-sa her own home, where anything you can possibly know about Zitkala-sa was visible. We also wanted to leave our personalized touch with our quote analysis and scholarly critiques. This project helped me realize how important it is for our authors to have a presence to the public eye. Nowadays, everyone does their research on the internet, and the main purpose of it is to get instantaneous answers. It is important to let the audience know about the overall demographics of a writer, but to also enlighten them with ideas they cannot find on a simple “About Author” section.

I cannot take all the credit for this website. It was truly a group effort and I appreciate their cooperation and patience. We didn’t want to leave one person in charge of adding each content, so we tried to log in and add our own. However, we figured out that because there was more than one person logging on and saving… another member trying to save would have their content deleted. It was frustrating but we pulled through. Not one person’s section was any more important than the other. We saw how each tab was significant in knowing Zitkala-sa more. I think I speak for us all when I say we wanted to make the best website possible for Zitkala-sa. Adding the little extra artwork and transitions were time-consuming, but definitely worth it. I was very impressed with the work my group put in. They had thought-provoking content and completely poured their heart out on each section.

Writing for the public audience was scary. Just the simple fact that typing in Zitkala-sa’s name and having our site be one of the options they can click on sparks my adrenaline. It is a responsibility. Are we giving them what they are looking for? Is our content good enough? Are we giving Zitkala-sa justice? These are some of the questions that popped into my mind during this project. We needed to make sure our sources were credible. There must be more facts than mere opinion. At the end of the day, we are trying to shine light on the author and not only us. It was interesting to switch the mentality of research a bit. Was this something I would be looking for when conducting research? If the answer was yes to every section our group made, then our purpose was well served. I believe that our website is the best web presence out there for Zitkala-sa. That’s not because I am biased, but because I know that the work contributed by my fellow group-mates is noteworthy. All aspects of Zitkala-sa has been covered. Zitkala-sa was very passionate about preserving her traditions and ensuring the voice of her people be heard. We wanted to be the ones who allowed her voice to resonate. It was finally Zitkala-sa’s turn to be heard.

What I appreciate most about this American Women Writers course is how personal it was. My blog up to this point has been dedicated to the authors we’ve read and how influential each were to topics relevant today. We’ve read stories that revolve around identity, strength, and finding a voice. I don’t think I can capture how significant this class was to my life with a single post. But I think it’s safe to say that it did empower me. Hannah Crafts taught me about freedom. Harriet E. Wilson shared ideals about the role of men. Harriet Jacobs gave importance to my childhood. Zitkala-sa reestablished the power of education. Nella Larsen showed me the importance of identity. Zora Neale Hurston helps me cope with falling out of love. I’ve learned a lot about these authors, but I know I’ve learned even more about myself. In previous classes, I was consumed with getting good grades and writing papers that were all about the structure. For so long I’ve written things that were never to satisfy me, by my professors. Suddenly, I have lost my voice in the sea of reasearch papers, strict MLA citations, and thesis statements that I could care less about. Like the authors I’ve read this semester, I was stripped of the one thing I valued most: my voice. Blogging holds a very personal place in my heart. I’ve done it before it was a “trend,” or before sites like Tumblr had gotten famous. It was my outlet. To have the opportunity to blog again was so refreshing. I fell in love with writing all over again. I actually wanted to read the books that were assigned. I remembered why I became an English major in the first place. Dr. Travis, I know you are reading this and I want to say thank you! Thank you for introducing me to such amazing writers and allowing me to connect to them through blogging. Thank you for letting my mind roam free, yet staying grounded on the importance of content. If there is one thing I will walk away with from of this class, it is to be fearless. I have to take the strength and lessons expressed by these women and remember to never forget my self-worth.

It’s okay to write a preface in a book. It’s okay to have your work hidden for a while. It’s okay to lose yourself sometimes.

My work might be forgotten. Maybe not even be found.

But it’s still mine. It’s my story. It was explained by me.

Slavery and Childhood Explained.

When I think back on my childhood, I remember putting a quarter into the little horse ride in front of our local shoe shop; begging for another turn. I remember Arts & Crafts and Story-time in Mrs. Frances’ class. I remember my brother and I running around in our backyard and falling off my bike. I remember holiday parties with family and receiving more gifts than my little arms could hold.  I remember the first time ever crushing on a boy, all because he made me a card using green construction paper and lots of glitter. I’d like to think he knew me pretty well. But the most invigorating thing about childhood was my freedom and belief that I was truly free… because I was.

And that’s what childhood should look like: a picture of freedom and happiness. But the sad reality is some are not as fortunate as I was growing up.

In Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, we can see how slavery strips one of their childhood. Linda Brent was cared for and sheltered by her parents since the age of six, able to live a pretty normal life, free of being identified as a slave. However, when they died, the shadow of her slave identity creeped in faster than she could blink. Under Dr. Flint’s household, Linda was subjected to the same mistreatment we read about in previous novels. She was ordered, abused, and deprived of her basic human rights. Let us remember, she is still a young girl. Can you imagine? Growing up feeling privileged and having some sense of self-worth because you had parents that nurtured you, then being forced under such brutality by Dr. Flint?

This caused Linda to grow up quicker than most. She needed to learn her duties, express respect for those who hurt her, and endure the pain and agony of slavery. Linda was not seen as a child by her owners. She was a slave, a piece of property, and nothing else. Jacobs’ novel show readers that in slavery, a child’s innocence is taken from them. That at their young age, their life is predetermined to be subjected to their masters, unable to dream or live as they pleased without suffering consequences. Linda’s story of two young sisters captured the effects of slavery on children and their childhood:

I once saw two beautiful children playing together. One was a fair white child; the other was her slave, and also her sister. When I saw them embracing each other, and heard their joyous laughter, I turned sadly away from the lovely sight. I foresaw the inevitable blight that would fall on the little slave’s heart. I knew how soon her laughter would be changed to sighs. The fair child grew up to be a still fairer woman. From childhood to womanhood her pathway was blooming with flowers, and overarched by a sunny sky. Scarcely one day of her life had been clouded when the sun rose on her happy bridal morning.

How had those years dealt with her slave sister, the little playmate of her childhood? She, also, was very beautiful; but the flowers and sunshine of love were not for her. She drank the cup of sin, and shame, and misery, whereof her persecuted race are compelled to drink. (Chapter 5)

Both children are seen as innocent, full of laughter and happiness. They are oblivious to the fact that they come from different worlds and one of them will suffer. However, as readers, and like Linda, we know that this happiness will not last forever. The white sister will have a better fate than that of her slave sister because their skin-tone is different. The white child will be privileged and continue to experience the joys of her childhood; whereas the slave girl will be deprived of such happiness. As well as in adulthood, their fates are on opposite ends. Even though both girls are of kin and beautiful, their potential is pushed in two different directions because of slavery. And the fate of the slave girl is not full of sunshine and flowers. There is no sign of love. There is only “sin and shame, and misery.”

After reading that, how can we believe in happy endings? As a child, I’ve lived off of fairy-tales. I’ve been told stories of princesses, happy families, and adventures. My parents told me that the world was mine for the taking and with hard work and determination anything was possible. Even in my adulthood, I believe in all of that… just in different contexts. But those stories, the endless possibilities they hold, were what got me by. I saw love in my parents, loyalty in my friends, and empowerment in my education. For Linda it was the complete opposite. She saw the world differently because the convention of slavery taught her to see it that way. Growing up, my view on the world and how things work are definitely different. But to imagine myself stripped of possibilities, forced into labor, separated from family, abused, and reminded I am nothing but property every day of my life? I don’t know if I could ever live. And as Linda expressed, she didn’t want to either.

Every child should have the right to dream. They have a right to happiness. They have a right to exercise what it means to be free. However slavery deflates the air of that happy balloon and one just watches it spin-off to a far away place. Children should roam wild and free, and if they want to fly, then they should be told it’s possible. If they want to be happy, show them its real.

Men Explained (at least an attempt to).

First off, I want to give a quick disclaimer: I am by no means an expert when it comes to the mind of a man.

But here’s some reassurance: For as long as I’ve been alive, all the books, movies, real-life experiences, and rants read on Twitter, I do know a little something about the female counterpart. They thoroughly express how women are so confusing and I, somehow, agree. However, I think I speak for my ladies out there when I say: “Men are just as confusing!” So the pressure is expressed both ways, all thanks to this predetermined idea of what make men, men and women, women.  It’s not entirely our fault! These ideas have been passed down, forced into action, and “accepted.”

Here’s a set of qualities / expectations of a man (expressed by many, but not entirely by me):

  1. A man is supposed to be the breadwinner of the family. He’s the money-maker. The guy who does all the heavy lifting when it comes to providing food and income to the household.
  2. He wears the pants in the relationship. What he says goes and there should be no questions asked. Since he is the provider, he is also the law. A man is trusted to make the best decision for his family and for the overall well-being of others.
  3. A man should remain faithful. This is in regards to everything: family, job, religion, etc.
  4. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. If he isn’t singing that song, then you better go on and hit next. A man is expected to respect others, especially his better half: his spouse. He must hear you out, defend you, and learn when his ideas are not always rational. He might have the final say, but he should also value opinion.
  5. He is drama-free. Maturity is what separates a boy from a man. He knows what he wants and goes for it. This goal-oriented mentality is so important because that drive pushes him through all the over-analysis, whining, and contemplation. He goes straight for the finish line. Once he is there, he holds on to that idea and protects it for dear life.

Now all of the above has been argued for and against, both by women and men. Men are pressured to be the stone hard figure with a loving heart, and when they fall even slightly out of the square box we label “Man,” they are ridiculed. I mean, I’ve heard so many complaints about guys and how men will never change… it’s insane! I get it, trust me I do. I’ve had my share of badmouthing men, but I’ve grown up and surpassed the whole “I’m blaming all of them because my little heart was broken by a tool” phase. Not everyone is like that. We have to be more open about gender roles and expectancies because times have changed.

In Harriet Wilson E. Wilson’s Our nig or, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black, In A Two-Story White House, North the expectations of man is manifested in James. Go down that list and you’ll find how he can fit in each one. He’s a family man and stays true to his beliefs and moral values. Reading past novels and observing the master-servant relationship, male figures were always the brutal force. Remember when I said they are the law? Well, these “men” took that idea to an extreme. They over-worked, beat and mentally abused their slaves as if they weren’t human. Men were feared, and because of this many had to respect them. However, James was the exception. He took what was mentioned on the list and used it for the good. He cared for the well-being of Frado and didn’t look at her as a mere servant. James protected, cared for, and respected her despite his mother’s indifference towards the girl. James was a man because he stood loyal to what was right.

I think the expectation of man then, is not so different now. Many still expect them to fall into this kind of ideal. To be honest, I think they kind of work. Now before I get shunned out of existence let me explain. Tie all of the qualities you want in a man and expect him to be, then tell me what it all means. What should men be? Come on, give me one sentence. Hm, maybe answering what they shouldn’t be would help?

We make up these guidelines because we want to prevent something from being what we don’t want. Like, if you follow all these steps, everything would be as they should. So, what do these guidelines prevent men from being? JERKS. A-HOLES. DEADBEATS. LAZY. Whatever doesn’t make them useless. 

This list can easily work for women. Actually, this whole argument can be viewed as a female’s issue as well. We go through just as much as men do, in fact, a lot more. However, I want men to know that not every female in this universe expects them to be perfect. We invest time, love, and hope in you guys because we know your capabilities. We want you in our lives. But we don’t want to have just anybody, we want you to be the best YOU that you can be. So we push, push, push you guys to the limit, and I am sorry if it gets a little crazy. A man is expected to be whatever he wants to be, with a little less Jerk involved. If you have even the slightest bit of compassion James expresses in Wilson’s novel, consider yourself in the winners’ circle. You’re already doing better than those who have yet to learn what manhood is about.

Tagline Explained.

It was one of those days you cannot take for granted: OFF DAYS. There was no school, no errands to take care of, and work was not until the next day. But of course, when I’m free… no one else is. So there I was flipping through the T.V. guide trying to find something interesting and there it was. A movie that changed my perspective on life.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a movie you should experience. A group of British retirees’ take a trip to India with hopes of staying in a grand hotel. This hotel serves as a residential area for the elderly, a getaway. Only when they got there, the hotel is far from luxurious. Furniture covered in dust, rooms that have been inhabited by birds, and a phone that doesn’t work, is not what was mentioned in the brochure. However, later on the retirees discover the beauty of the hotel is not found in its structure, but in what it has offered them: a new life. Each character had an amazing story and going to India made it all the more exciting. It’s a connection that doesn’t make all that much sense until you let the movie sink in. They go through different situations and have various personalities, but seem to aim for something similar: an answer. In the late years of their lives they are looking to be “whole” or discover some kind of unfound joy; as if the life they lived was not something they really lived. None of them really looked felt happy. Only when they reached India and experienced something new, do they find their answers; or better yet, their purpose.

But the soul of this movie is found in Sonny, the enthusiastically proud owner of Marigold Hotel. He attends to the guests’ every need despite knowing the restrictions of his not-so-grand hotel. He is full of energy, optimism and ambition, which is felt throughout the movie and projected onto the viewers. Then we get to know that Sonny comes from a wealthy family, where his brothers are successful and a mother who is constantly on his case about his choices in life. Sonny has a dream, a vision to outsource to the elderly. But whatever dream he has is not the “success” his family expects. Still, he preservers because patience is key and success doesn’t happen over night. Sonny constantly lives by his famous line, “Everything will be all right in the end… if it’s not all right then it’s not yet the end.” This line is adaptable to the roller-coaster ride we call life. The movie teaches the lesson that we shouldn’t live in doubt like the retirees. We can’t let parents, employers, or ANYONE, tell us who we should be or how to live out our ambitions.

We cannot settle. We can’t dwell on our problems. We shouldn’t beat ourselves up about misfortunes. We need to live. 

We both know that happy days don’t make up every 365 days a year. And even when we do have those days and moments that fill us up with joy, we still struggle. But what I can tell you is Sonny is completely right, because everything will be all right in the end. The only reason why you might not agree is because you are still unhappy or unsatisfied; therefore, it is not yet the end. Keep ‘doing you’ and you will find peace within yourself. Keep on living, and you will find that happiness. This is the reason why the line is so beautiful. It gets you out of that rut you’re in and tells you to stop worrying. You contemplate on something so much, nitpick every single detail, that it leaves you stationary.  You forget to keep going…

Human beings are so complex, our minds work in ways not everyone understands, experiences interlock with other experiences, emotions go through highs and lows, and stories are shaped unique to our own. The relation of what Sonny says and this course is simple: We will witness struggle, feel pain, and question happiness or purpose. It will make you wonder about life. Though, like most of the stories we will read, the journey is the important part. It’s being able to go from word to word or flipping to the next page that makes a book worth reading. Stay on one sentence and you’ll forget that there is an ending.  It’s going through that hardship and telling your story that will make things all right in the end. And if you don’t keep going, how will you ever reach an answer? Don’t stare at the problem, wait for the solution to show up and mope about it possibly being wrong. Be proactive and life will take care of the rest.

Sonny’s line will always have me pushing forward when an obstacle heads my way, and I hope it gives you the same motivation.

Trust me when I say The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a must watch. Not only do you laugh, but you learn. Allow it to impact you the way it impacted me. May the words grace your minds, when your heart feels a bit shaken.