Monday, May 23, 2011

I Never Thought I'd Go on a Journey with a Crazy Cat....


             Good evening, fellow bloggers and readers.  Shalom to you all, within a shelter from the raging storm outside (uh yes- tornado warnings and all).  A dark and stormy night seems to be a suitable setting for this week’s read, as I greet you from Algeria.  I just finished reading the adventures of Kitty in Joann Sfar’s graphic novel The Rabbi’s Cat.  Ah, Kitty:  his commentary kept me more than amused, start to finish. 
This graphic novel was a vast contrast to another graphic novel I have read and love, Zorro.  Unlike Zorro, Joann Sfar both wrote the text and illustrated the graphics for the novel.  Isabelle Allende wrote the story of El Zorro, while Matt Wagner put the story into text, and Francovilla did the artwork.  The artwork itself was really interesting.  The Rabbi’s Cat has a much more apparent cartoon-feel.  However, notice that Sfar creates distinction and importance through how detailed his characters are in each image.  Check out the panels of Kitty on page 92, as he thinks seriously and nervously about his mistress’ pending marriage.  Sfar also sticks with the more traditional graphic novel appeal:  straight-lined panels that never alter in size, that consistently read from left to right.  Francovilla took to a more modern and eye-catching approach for Zorro.  He shows the reader which way to proceed:  my eyes practically interacted with the action of the text, as his panels have fluctuating gutters, big images, and zig-zag sequences.  Sfar’s gutters never change, but they are uneven and give the feel of homeliness.  I actually liked how he used zooming in and out within his images because it gave me a more classic comic book-feel.  I mentioned earlier of the storm I am enduring, which brings me to the use of color.  Pages 103 and 108 have panels of gray and rainy images that define the family’s mood toward Paris. Panels of their home in Algeria are sunny yet tastefully muted in sandy colors.  Interested now?  That’s one of the best things about graphic novels:  they feed one’s imagination visually as well as textually.
            Oh, you know what?  I believe that one of things that make this graphic novel the most interesting is the main character himself.  Uh, for one, it’s a cat and the story is told from his point of view.  Secondly, he’s not your typical protagonist.  Okay.  To be honest, Kitty can be a biased jerk.  For instance, when Kitty’s master asks his rabbi for a Bar Mitzvah for Kitty, the rabbi responds no (as we are told arrogantly by Kitty’s thought bubble), yet his voice bubble reads “Tututut” (Sfar 17).  Nice job Kitty, you’re a little vague on the details there.  That is, the useless, contradictory, and unimportant details to Kitty are omitted to his liking.  So, here we have a genuine unreliable narrator.  Kind of scary, huh?  Yes, it is indeed an experience to be under the guidance of Kitty.  He reminds me of those people in your life who are brutally honest when they can find pleasure in it, and who lie, refracting, when they don’t want to be badgered.  Basically, the types of people you may try to avoid from time to time. 
            Oddly, I found myself having one thing in common with Kitty:  the habit of constantly questioning and contradicting religious beliefs.  I, however, have more to say about Church, as a religious institution.  Kitty likes to take things a step further and question the truth of God.  He fires back after the rabbi’s rabbi states “that only God is true” and responds “that God is a reassuring myth.  I say that he doesn’t have anyone to take care of him because he is old and his parents are dead” (18).  Jeez, Kitty, seriously harsh much?  The master asks the same question as I pose on the very next page.  The questionably moral Kitty replies “I’m just trying to tell the truth, to see how it feels.”  Yeah, I bet he enjoyed that way too much!  
            Go ahead, get to know Kitty for yourself and report back to me.  I love graphic novels, more in the superhero line (you know how much I adore Batman), but The Rabbi’s Cat makes for a fun read too.  Adios, my friends:  until next time…if there is a next time?  Let me know what you think!  It’s been a pleasure writing to you.

Monday, May 2, 2011

MATCH TONIGHT: Bad Babamukuru VS Nervy Nyasha

         Good evening fellow bloggers and readers!  Mhoroi to all (Yes- Mhoroi means hello in Shona)!  My greetings come to you this week from Zimbabwe, where our current author's roots lie.  Tsitsi Dangarembga, writer of Nervous Conditions, has been brave enough to show readers a new point of view in the world of colonialism.  After reading her true-life accounts, I now have a better understanding of how the white-European mindset was planted in the minds of Africans.   She boldly unveils how it can uproot and detach one from their home and their self.
          Well, I guess we should begin by becoming acquainted with the contenders of tonight's match.  Ladies and gentlemen:  in corner number one, standing grizzly at around forty-years old, we have Bad Babamukuru!  He is selfish, egotistical, and crudely overbearing.  In this patriarchal society, Babamukuru calls himself King.  Pfff.  (Boo!)
          In corner number two, standing just about five foot, our brave fourteen year old, we have Nervy Nyasha!  She is rebellious, truly intelligent, and hard working.  In this patriarchal society, she has been given two choices:  Bow down to Babamukuru or suffer the consequences.  (Goo Nyasha!)
         I was extremely disturbed by the fight that took place.  I believe that Babamukuru was out of line:  he accused Nyasha based on his assumptions.  Might I say, that as teenagers, almost all of us experience this trust issue with our parents.  "Where have you been young lady?"   Jeesh, I know that they worry because they love me, but was the tenth degree necessary those times?  So, take this situation which almost all of us have had and can relate to, then multiply it by one million.  Babamukuru completely crosses the line when he escalates from questioning to torturing.
          I do believe my mouth dropped wide open when I read of Babamukuru climbing on top of Nyasha, who was already in "her miniscule skirt riding up her bottom."  This was a sickening case of sexual abuse, poor Nyasha, and it only grew worse.  Babamukuru proceeded to call her a "a daughter who behaves like a whore," layering on the verbal and mental abuse.  I soon feared for Nyasha's life, for he continued to beat her until it looked as though "he would kill her with his bare hands."  What also bothered me at this point was the action, or gross lack thereof, on the sidelines.  Maiguru, Tambu, and Chido all stood there silently, watching Babamukuru nearly take the life of his fourteen year old daughter.  Ugh!  Uh, hello?  A little help please?  And then, the family called Nyasha selfish for sulking after that horrific event.  Good grief!
           Yet, it is their silence and Babamukuru's actions that uncover the ugly affects of colonialism.  No one interfered with the fight because they were all brainwashed into believing Nyasha deserved to be punished for defying her patriarch.  Unlike the English mindset of those characters, my clear mind had a great respect for Nyasha and for her bold attitude.  I simply could not understand how the onlookers could be so spineless as to let such abuse go on!  However, I later realized the white European mindset was that powerful.  It cultivated, grasped, and lived off of the fear one had of not being accepted in society.  Dangarembga is telling us to resist the poison of such colonialism.  I agree with her, for the only place one should feel the need to be accepted is in one's self.

         

Monday, April 25, 2011

Come All and Have Your Mind Colonized by Ngugi

          Good evening, fellow bloggers and readers!  Salama to you all!  I was unable to find the translation for hello in Gikuyu, an oral language of Kenya.   Not just any oral language, it is the same language that Ngugi wa Thiong'o speaks and works for.  The Kenyan author gave me fantastic insight on the life of Africans affected by white colonization.  Folks, what I'm about to discuss will shock and disturb you.  As an educated person born in the U.S., English has been my first language.  For the Africans, my language has caused pain and sorrow, on many levels.
         A recurring motif for Ngugi's writing has been the affects that white European colonization has on the minds of black Africans.  One example is how the Africans had to leave their home and travel to Europe to receive an education.  It wasn't an education pertaining to their society or language, but rather the white European society and their language.  It would be infuriating to me if I had to travel to some other country and learn their language, in order to be considered an accepted intellectual.  Many Africans learned English simply to try to create a new written language for their mother-tongue.  I had so much respect for them when I heard this!  I thought, "Way to stick it to the man!"  However, this education had a very negative, emotional impact on the Africans.  Ngugi once said:  "See the paradox:  the possibility of using mother-tongues provokes a tone of levity in phrases like 'a dreadful betrayal' and 'a guilty feeling'; but that of foreign languages produces a categorical positive embrace."  He later explains the colonization of the European mindset in these European educated Africans:  "The fact is that all of us who opted for European languages...accepted that fatalistic logic to a greater or lesser degree."  Did a chill go down your spine as well?  That's not even the tip of the iceberg:  at school, Africans would be beaten for speaking in their mother-tongue.  Now, knowing this, Ngugi takes on the colonial mindset and criticizes those who give in to such beliefs.
          I preferred Ngugi's story titled "Wedding at the Cross" for a few reasons.  I was able to see how people are often forced to live in synchretism (NOTE:  Having contrasting belief systems, yet believing both.).  Poor Miriamu watched her husband become a lost soul amongst the European's graveyard of Africans.  This reminds me of watching someone you love changing into a different person, right before your eyes, but there is nothing you can do to stop it.  Well, she tries by going along with it, which had to have been very difficult for her (psychologically).  I was very happy that she told Mr. Livingston no at the alter, freeing her mind from the looming threat of colonization!  I avoid threats of colonization that lurk in my Cosmo and People magazines:  those ever-thinning, cosmetic surgery, yes, Botox-fiending celebs of Hollywood!  Ahh!  
           However, I did find myself having more of a connection with Ngugi's "Minutes of Glory."  Beatrice and Nyaguthu both had many transitions dealing with who they are as a person.  I, myself, have done the same.  After I broke up with my high school boyfriend, I was just heading into college.  I had to stop grieving and evaluate myself, not all the memories.  What was I going to do now?  What career should I make for myself?  What kind of goals are important to me?  All of these things helped shape me into the (I would say good-hearted) hard-working person that I am today.  I have nowhere to go but up in this world and I wish that Beatrice would have given herself the chance to do that!  Seriously, she spit and was arrested, what an ending.
          Ngugi, you have opened my eyes to the struggles of the inner self.  How is that people so often form this power over others?  It is upsetting and I am glad you are writing about it!  I was a little worried about the gender bias that often left women in the story deriving power from prostitution, but it was an actual occurrence at the time.   I will continue to read your stories because I don't mind the positive colonization of my mind!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Gordimer’s Pen Keeps the Flame of Justice Burning

Good evening fellow bloggers and readers!  I would like to take this time now to reflect upon my high school education.  Um, where was Apartheid?  Hello!  Why wasn't I taught about this shameful occurrence in the world's history?  Why wasn't I taught more about Africa in general?  I am outraged tonight:  by my lack of knowledge until now and also, by the actions of my fellow humanity.
          For those who are unfamiliar with the term, I'd like one to get acquainted.  Apartheid was the heinous crime which ruled South Africa and Namibia from 1948 to 1993.  The new legislation, comprised of the minority of white people, had won the general election in1948 and began to enforce a system of legal racial segregation.  This was a horrible time!   People were classified merely as white, colored, black, or Indian.  Black Africans were deprived of their citizenship and many became slaves to white men.  I was horrified to learn about this oppression. I am ashamed of such history.  Take note, friends, for mistakes happen so that we learn from them and try to do all in one's power to not have them repeated.
           More importantly, mistakes happen so that we may grow from them.  The South African writer Nadine Gordimer frequently wrote about the Apartheid.  I quickly took a liking to her short stories because they were different from anything I've read so far, in one way:  she speaks for all people.  I recently learned more about Gordimer in my Women in Literature course.  The Nobel Prize winning writer is also a political activist.  She had been a member of the African National Congress in the anti-Apartheid movement and has recently been active in HIV/AIDS causes.  Gordimer once said:
            “The writer seems to have more responsibility for human rights than anyone else in the arts…When we come to the relationship of writers to their society, to an oppressive society, the word carries tremendous weight…writers have to accept this special responsibility for defending human rights…to move away from writing to acting.”
            I have the utmost respect and admiration for the way Gordimer carries out this responsibility which she has taken upon herself. In her short story “Amnesty,” Gordimer’s characters remain nameless.  Without names, the characters would represent anyone, and everyone as a whole, which is what she had intended.  I found the reverse of this situation in her other short story, “Six Feet of the Country.”  In this short story, Gordimer left the narrator nameless.  He is nameless because he represents the scared, na├»ve, minority white man.  Or should I say, “Baas man?”  I believe that the narrator could also represent, speaking in times of the Apartheid, the white man’s imperialistic system.  I would like to think of it as this:  a criticism of the very system that oppressed the Africans.  I would like to thank Nadine Gordimer for her bravery in moving from writing to acting.  I am fortunate to have read her literature, which has grown out of her “life as a writer, out of [her] necessity to act upon the social fabric around [her] and to be acted upon by it, to be a part of it.”   

Monday, April 11, 2011

Just So, We Meet Again At Last, Achebe

          Good evening fellow bloggers and readers!  Over our past week of separation, I was fortunate to have read the works of Chinua Achebe.  The tales of African literature have certainly mesmerized me thus far.  However, I must admit that when Professor Benander mentioned reading Achebe, it was not my first acquaintance with the great Nigerian author.  My first Achebe experience occurred when I was a freshman in high school.  My English teacher assigned the class to read Achebe's novel Things Fall Apart.  While reading Achebe's short stories "An Image of Africa," "Girls at War," and "The Madman," I felt a certain familiarity in his text.  Achebe's stories are connected by common themes that are very important to Achebe in the real world.
          I was reminded of my own values of karma when I read Achebe's short story "Girls at War."  I immediately took a liking to the character of Gladys, who was a strong-willed feminist.  Due to recent events in my life, I have developed a more liberal view on life.  Gladys makes me think of another woman in my life, who is often oppressed by others' opinions of what makes her happy.  Nothing could outrage me more than this!  This woman's right to marry was turned down like how Gladys' right to join the militia was turned down.  I was glad to see Gladys working for the Red Cross, fighting in her own way for liberation.  The truly sad part of this story was the depth of corruption and greed.  I was very saddened to read of Gladys selling her body to live day to day.  It made me consider what I would do in her situation.  Honestly, I do not believe I would be strong enough to survive it.  Gladys was a good person who had no other choice but to become an entrepreneur in her own way.           
         On the other side of the story, Nwankwo was loading up on goods and food for his family without sparing some for others.  The greedy Nwankwo said naively, "one cannot help the crowds" and so he only helped himself.  If I were in his situation, I would definitely give some type of food to others.  It is the right thing to do, morally!  I truly believe that if one is able to provide for others, one should do so.  This is why I was so angered at the end of the story!  The morally good Gladys dies trying to save the wounded soldier, while Nwankwo saves himself and lives.  This irony lives when bad things happen for good reasons or when good things happen for bad reasons.  However, I wondered, did Nwankwo survive so that he may now live with the regret of his morally bad behavior?  I would certainly like to think so.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Mnthali Rightfully Strangleholds the English Lit. I Know and Love!

          Moni fellow bloggers and readers!  Moni is supposedly the translation for hello in Malawi (I really hope about.com is right about this one).  Speaking of Malawi, it's author Felix Mnthali has taught me some other things.  More important things which have been overlooked by our imperialistic society.  Mnthali's poem "The Stranglehold of English Lit." nearly shouted at me from it's page.  How could I have been so blind?  I am ashamed that I have not realized our literature poisons the roots of Africa and is killing them at their core.  Mnthali gives an outraged voice to his homeland of the oppressed in his probing poem.
         Africans are multi-lingual people, for their land is comprised of many different tribes and indigenous peoples.  The natives of Africa pass on strong oral traditions as opposed to written traditions.  The reason for this is because most African languages cannot be written using standard alphabets.  They mix sounds with letters to create their words, and I love how unique this is.  I truly wish I could learn many, or even all, of these languages because they fascinate me!  I also wish that I could help these people write their language!  Unfortunately, imperialism has destroyed their traditions from the way it educates them.  Many Africans have to learn English to even attempt to write their language.  Can one imagine learning the values and traditions of a society that has oppressed oneself?  It is infuriating and degrading!  This is exactly what upsets Mnthali and I was glad to finally realize this.  
          Mnthali refers to his fellow Africans who have left to Europe for an education as the dispossessed.  The word itself is haunting.  What may be more haunting is the truth to his choice.  I can only imagine how angry these Africans are to leave their home just to receive an education that defaces their heritage with the views of the very people who oppressed them!  Oh my!  Ngugi explains this as "a case of black skins in white linguistic masks."  Mnthali brings up another good point in this light, when he states, "those questions/ stand/ stab/ jab/ and gore/ too close to the centre!"  The questions he is referring to are those that the literature of other countries pose, which absolutely do not help the Africans.  Africans do not care about the societal woes of Jane Austen or Shakespeare's "Hamlet."  The problems of our imperialistic society do not matter to these souls.  What matters to Africans, I'd say, is the revival and continuation of their traditions.  I hope their English education does not destroy their pride, and instead, enlivens it.  For once they know the alphabet, they can write their own words of wisdom to share with the world.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Ashley Duvelius Loves The Muy Caliente Chocolate Esquivel Serves!

          Buenos noches, mis amigos!  Well, good evening to my fellow bloggers!  Oh my goodness!  Ladies and gentlemen, I have just finished a novel that set my soul on fire!  Laura Esquivel's passionate read Like Water For Chocolate opened my eyes to a new level of magical realism.  (Si- I was excited to know the title translated to Como Agua Para Chocolate!)  My confession for this week is that I am not a very good cook.  Hence why I enjoyed Esquivel's brilliantly original use of recipes which directly addressed me, as the reader.  Yet wait!  There's more!  I enjoyed the exaggeration of people, events, things, and actions most!  That mis amigos, es the nueva magical realism experience I had!  For lighting my inner match, I'd like to thank and highly recommend this book!
          Esquivel's idea to start the reader off with instructions to chop onions was bold and luring.  It was almost a foreshadowing of the heart ache and weeping that was to come throughout the whole novel.  I, myself, do not like chopping onions:  I am a crier.  It is because of this irritating reaction I shared with Tita that I felt a connection to her.  Also, speaking of onions, I felt another connection with the story through the author's use of recipe preparations.  The tense would shift from third person point of view to second person so smoothly that is was refreshing.  It kept me interested!  Best of all, the deliciouso breaks left my imagination time to roam and wander about the romance that continued to bloom in the story.  What's going to happen next?  Are they going to kiss?  So exciting!  Alright, here is my next confession: indeed, I do enjoy a good romance read every now and then. I must say, Esquivel's richly Latin forbidden love was far more attention-holding than Hollywood's supposed true love.  Would it be fair to compare Tita and Pedro's love and fate to that of Romeo and Juliet?  That is up to the reader, as an individual, to decide.  Well, I'll tell everyone my opinion of the tasty Chocolate!
          I would certainly like to think and hope that I have found my true love.  Si, I am a believer of true love between two people.  I believe that there is another soul out there for every single person, someone waiting, who is destined to be one's soul mate.  Sounds nice, doesn't it?  If only it were this simple in real life.  That was what fascinated me about Tita's life and changed my view on what makes for a happy ending in love.  I felt so sorry for Tita, who was constantly controlled by and overcome with obstacles.  She proved to me that true love can be better tended to in the afterlife!
          Just so, I was immediately repelled by Mama Elena's Anglo-Saxon/Puritan mindset and her dictator tendencies. Her oppressive government of a ranch was such a horrible life for Tita.  Just so, this was not one's typical love story.  Si, Tita and Pedro were true loves, and their tale was not fairy-like!  I hoped that if I were to ever be in Tita's situation, that I would be able to leave that kind of life in a heartbeat!  However, that was not the decision Tita made.  Instead of running off with her true love, she stayed and endured the physical and emotional abuse of her mother!  Aye, aye, aye! Mama Elena was a perfect example of the archetypal figure, the shadow.  I felt that her negative presence was necessary, though.  It was a metaphorical parallel to symbolize what was occurring in the Revolution.  Battles and romance, what a mixture!
          Mama Elena's repulsive tradition for Tita offended me.  I felt that it was very wrong to strip one of such personal freedoms.  One should be able to love and be with whomever they want!  I respected Tita for her strength through her downward spiral but was still saddened by her resistance to Pedro.  I would have given into running away with my true love!  Like Gertrudis!  Yes, I have to say something about good old Gertrudis.  What a woman!  She stood up to Mama Elena, found her true love, and had also become the General in the Spanish army!  I had a lot of respect for her, along with Nacha, who represented the archetypal figure of the mentor.  These Latin women were loving and fierce, who played key roles in giving Tita hope.
         The best part about this novel was the constant flow of emotions!  After all, the title does imply the boiling of water for Tita's famousa hot chocolate.  Between the shadow, missing Nacha, missing Gertrudis, tension with Rosaura, her confused feelings for John, and her lust for her true love Pedro, Tita's emotions were siempre (always) on the verge of boiling over, like agua!  The constant rush of passion, lust, anger, and sadness was intensely engaging!  I loved that Pedro symbolized the chocolate that belongs with Tita's boiling water.  Chocolate has been known as an aphrodisiac for quite some time now, and I like how Pedro's passion was a symbol for this!  I want to especially commend Esquivel for her use of magical realism to intrigue my soul's passion with phrases like (243-4):
          "If a strong emotion suddenly lights the candles we carry inside ourselves, it creates
           a brightness that shines far beyond our normal vision and then a splendid tunnel
           appears that shows us the way that we forgot when we were born and calls us to
           recover our lost divine origin."
         Although it was a sad ending, the death of Pedro and Tita gave them the opportunity to leave "together for the lost Eden.  Never again would they be apart."  Si, so it was similar to the fate of the star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet!  I wasn't as sad for Tita and Pedro because Esquivel briefly showed the reader the "luminous tunnel" that they entered and the Eden they now shared forever!  How sweet and oddly satisfying!  My only hope was that there passion continues in the heavens!  The love that lives between those two characters was inspiring and powerful to behold.  I believe this was the first novel that successfully, and unexpectedly, awakened my senses.  I would love for Esquivel to write more novels that are as enticing as this one was!  Por favor and gracias, Laura Esquivel!