Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Relating the Un-Relatable

If you are curious to hear more about why I, your esteemed English teacher, dislike the word "relatable," you can find a longer discussion of that question at the Non-Fiction Writing blog. If you don't care, perhaps you'd prefer to check out a funny video of a baby panda sneezing.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Ideas for the Bless Me, Ultima Response Paper

You can write your Bless Me, Ultima response paper on whatever topic you choose, but here are a few ideas to help you get started if you're having trouble coming up with a focus. Also feel free to share your ideas for response papers in the comment section below.
  • The character of Antonio and his believability as a young child: Is Tony a realistic seven-year-old or so character, or is he to mature, too "deep," too articulate for his age? More importantly, if you find that he's not, is that a flaw of Bless Me, Ultima, or does it make sense, given some of the other less-than-realistic elements of the book?
  • Bless Me, Ultima as magical realism: How would you define "magical realism," if you're familiar with the genre, and do you feel that Bless Me, Ultima qualifies? Why or why not?
  • The problem of good and evil in Bless Me, Ultima: What conclusions, if any, does this novel draw about the nature of good and evil and their balance in the world?
  • Antonio and faith: His Catholic faith, his role in Ultima's more complex spiritual world and work, and "pagan" spiritual ideas like Golden Carp keep Tony engaged in a deep inner struggle throughout the book. Does this struggle resolve, in your view, and how?
  • Ultima––bruja, curandera, or both? Is Ultima merely a misunderstood curandera, or is she also/instead a bruja? And if so, what does Bless Me, Ultima seem to think about brujas and their possible relationship to good and evil?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Ideas for the Miko Kings Response Paper

You will have a choice fourth quarter of writing your response paper on LeAnne Howe's Miko Kings or on Rudolfo Anaya's Bless Me, Ultima, the next book we'll read together. If you choose to write in response to Miko Kings, here are a few ideas to consider. (As always, students are welcome to offer additional ideas for response paper topics in the form of a comment to this post.)

Miko Kings as a baseball story. Did you find Miko Kings to be a satisfying baseball story? Why or why not? If so, how did Howe's incorporation of baseball-related details and events enrich the novel? if not, how might a more in-depth or different approach to the baseball aspect of the novel have enriched it?

Miko Kings and time travel. What role does time travel play in this novel, and what thoughts and/or questions did that aspect of the novel leave you with?

Miko Kings and history. How did reading Miko Kings change, enrich, or illuminate your understanding of history? Did you find this novel satisfying as a work of historical fiction, and why or why not?

The role of science and/or language in Miko Kings. What assumptions, arguments, and/or challenges does Miko Kings make regarding scientific knowledge, language, culture, and the relationship between the three? Does Miko Kings offer compelling portrayals of physical and/or temporal principles as you understand them? What connections does it seem to make between the physical world, the realm of time, and language? Do these connections strike you as insightful or do you find yourself resisting them, and why?

Miko Kings as a multi-genre novel. LeAnne Howe incorporates a number of different genres of writing and artifact throughout Miko Kings. What effects does this create for you as a reader? In what ways might this shifting, collage-like strategy enrich our understanding of particular characters, relationships, and events, or any other aspect of the novel?

Miko Kings as postmodern fiction. How does Miko Kings compare to other postmodern fiction you've read? What elements of the book strike you as typical of postmodern fiction, and to what degree does the book depart from, add to, and/or challenge your perceptions of postmodernism?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Ideas for the Caramelo Response Paper

As always, you can write your Caramelo response paper on whatever topic you want, but here are a few ideas to help you get started if you're having trouble coming up with a focus.
  • In what ways might this novel be considered a “rebozo”? In what way is Celaya contining the lost family tradition in telling this particular story as she tells it?
  • Evaluate Caramelo as a coming-of-age story. Does Celaya come of age? In what sense? 
  • Look at Caramelo through the lens of gender and/or race? What does this novel illuminate about gender roles in different cultures and eras, and/or about the racial/cultural realities and complexities?
  • There are a number of names in Caramelo that might be considered significant. How do the names of various characters affect how we see or understand them? Are there any ways that Celaya's name and/or her various nicknames seem important to you?
  • Given what we’ve seen in the book, imagine Candelaria’s life at the time of the anniversary party. How old is she, where is she, what is she doing, and what is she like?
  • After her father disappoints Celaya by telling her the wrong "secret" in the anniversary party chapter, she muses that "maybe it's okay" that there are so many apologies unspoken in her family, and so many conflicts unresolved (p. 428). In what sense is it "okay," and/or are there ways in which it's not?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Project links from past semesters

Here are a few examples of past student multimedia projects with a significant web presence, just to give you a sense of how some Native American and Chicano Lit students have incorporated web elements into their projects.

Brandon's Chicano Rap Wiki

Sarah S's Trickster Wiki

Jo Ellen's Tejano Food Blog

Rodney's Cherokee Language Blog

Dax's Videos on Chicano Cooking
(This link takes you to the video on guacamole. Once you get to the guacamole video on YouTube, you should be able to find Dax's other videos on tortillas and tamales in the upper right hand side of the page. All of Dax's videos are narrated by James.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Josephine Baker and the Charleston

In "Trochemoche,"* chapter 29 of Caramelo, we meet Freda MacDonald, stage name Josephine Wells, nickname Tumpy, the mixed-race cabaret dancer who steals Narciso Reyes's heart during his stay in Chicago during the nineteen-teens. We also learn that Narciso works (somewhat) hard at his Uncle Old's upholstery shop during the day and plays hard at "the black and tan clubs on South State Street" at night, "during the time the Charleston was outlawed in some US cities" (p. 140).

Freda aka Tumpy is none other than the infamous Josephine Baker, just before she leaves Chicago to "marry Billy Baker, abandon Billy Baker for New York, abandon New York for Paris, dance with a banana skirt, and well, the rest everybody knows is history" (p.142).

If you're not familiar with the history behind Jo Baker and the Charleston, here are a few resources to begin your education:

First Baker's famous banana dance, originally called "le Danse Sauvage," at the Folies Bergère in Paris, France some time around 1927:

Next, a modern (made to look vintage) example of the Charleston, the dance that truly did cause a major uproar and led not only to moral consternation and handwringing, but (in a few instances) to riots started and laws passed:

Last, a film clip featuring Baker herself doing the Charleston. The film is sped up, so the steps are harder to make out, but you get a sense both of Baker's frenetic dancing style and her comic flair. Baker was, as Caramelo describes her, "a born comedienne... Her act was part pantomime, part acrobat, part dance. She laughed and winked, crossed her eyes, put her hands on her hips, pouted... and nearly killed Narciso" (140).

Josephine Baker is worth learning more about, so check out one or two summaries of her life and career. She became an international superstar, lived in Paris for most of her life, became an outspoken supporter of the American Civil Rights movement, and adopted and raised fourteen children from a variety of racial and national backgrounds. She collectively nicknamed her family "the rainbow tribe" and raised her many children for much of their upbringing as a single mom (albeit a single mom with a mansion and a large household staff).

* Trochemoche, by the way, is a Mexican Spanish word, thought to have Nahuatl origins, meaning "half-assed" or crappy. Narciso uses it on page 138 to describe Uncle Old's home and shop.