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Choice vs. The Right Things To Do

It’s not easy, to consider every little detail about a character from the very beginning, that much I’m sure anyone who has attempted writing a story would agree with that. But occasionally you run across a moral dilemma, that’s less of a dilemma and more “do I let the character do what I expect them to do, or do I have them do what’s expected of them”?

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For instance, I expect Lawrence Fishburne to only offer me the truth, nothing more.

 As I belt away at my story having completed my literature review, I had experienced this very engagement as I work around the climax of the story. To elaborate at this point, the main character finds the artifact that virtually everyone had been trying to get their hands on for the entire book (and then some). His enemies want it, his companion wants it, and he wants nothing to do with it…..at least he initially thought. However, he slowly begins to witness the impact this artifact could have on society if it’s left in the hands of the enemies, and not the gods who created it. Naturally, he resolves to give it back to the gods……until he finds out that there’s an ancient conspiracy going on with them, and suddenly the villain doesn’t seem so villainous for opposing them. Huh.

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 And I wish it didn’t take 10 straight minutes for the Matrix Reloaded to recognize this.

 But this is where I believe most writing soon becomes organic, depending on the type on the conflict at play. There is an inherent loss I feel, in making a plot revolve around a character acting a certain way. Cause let’s be real, people are people and will make impulsive decisions and regret it immensely. That’s just how life goes at times. I considered that my main character, while not a selfish individual by any means, would rather keep himself out of as much conflict as possible, regardless of the repercussions. That’s not a fatal character flaw, or even a negative trait. It’s simply how I believe the character would respond to a situation, and that makes the story almost as much of a surprise to me as I feel it will a reader, even though I’m the one writing it.

I have an idea of how my story will end, but it’s not necessarily up to me to decide it. Sure, I’m the one writing it and have the most creative control as a result, but the interactions of my characters, including their thoughts and feelings throughout the story, are ultimately the biggest factors behind the things they do, and whether it’s in the name of the right thing, or the freedom of choice, it’s the conflict that’s what makes people keep reading.

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Wouldn’t be much of a writer if I couldn’t.

I Ain’t Changin’ Nottin’ Fa Nobody!

adult african american beautiful black and white
Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

Well, well, welcome back everyone! Spring break was more of a high-speed week instead of a break. But you know what? I’m glad it was. A couple of weeks ago I wanted to give up what I was trying to do for my thesis and start a new topic. I was face to face with an issue that I did not know anything about, the scholars behind it, or the history of it. I was being asked questions from family members that I couldn’t answer and were given answers and opinions from them that I didn’t even ask for. My professor told me to keep going with it. Reluctantly, I did. I doubted myself. Was I smart enough to handle a topic like this? What did I get myself into? Well, this post is to happily tell you that I have hit the jackpot. I opened the door to not only a topic but another world that I can never return back to earth. (Sorry for the mushy-gushy stuff.)

I have gathered so much information and notes from the readings I have been doing that I could not fit it into this post. I would have to make five posts. For time’s sake, I’ll put the links to the different documents of notes I have created for each reading at the end of this blog under the section “Documents: Thesis Notes.” I also have notes on YouTube videos and a documentary as well! I am also proud of myself because it’s been a long time since my mind has been able to think in this way. Creating new ideas and connecting points to readings and my own experiences. After doing some more reading and research, these were the ideas that came to my head, which, I think, is formulating my Burning Question.

  • Why choose between African American Vernacular English and Standard English? Why pick Standard English over African American Vernacular English? What are the benefits (if any)? What’s the consequence?: Losing your identity. (Thought about while reading The Language of Identity by Sonja L. Lanehart)

 

  • White society standard-proper or “Standard English.” Reality: You’ll never reach the white society standard no matter how proper you speak, you’ll always be black. Instead of trying to tear away something that is going to be part of you anyway, just embrace it and learn that there is a deep and enriched history behind it. It’s not just a bunch of words put together that makes no sense. You take away that, you take away a part of not only you but your ancestors and the black community. (Thought about while watching Nikki Giovanni and James Baldwin: A Conversation (1971): YouTube Video)

 

  • Sometimes I hear other people speaking “improperly” who are not African American and for the most part, they are not as criticized or ridiculed for it. And if they are, it’s kind of a slap on the wrist, but for black people, it’s a slap in the face.

 

  • Sometimes black English has no words. It’s more than just sounding improper. The way I speak will not be the sole reason or the main reason why I won’t land a job or be successful in the professional world. Hair, skin color, names, money, class, status, all of these other things have more weight to whether or not I am accepted in a particular profession, school, academic setting, etc. than the way I speak. You can’t just say, “Speaking black will not land you a job.” That makes absolutely no sense. I don’t have to open my mouth for a white person to look at me or my name and judge me and not give me whatever they want to give me merely because I am black. People will judge you and automatically think you know less than you do just because of your skin color. So if that is the case, I say accept the way you speak and stop putting down people who do.

 

  • Question: What are the consequences when you remove your language as a black person? My answer: You lose your identity, you lose a part of your history, you lose that sense of community and culture…you lose your blackness. Mind you, my answer is not to say that every single black person in America speaks the same way. However, I am hurt when I hear people say that when black people talk “ghetto” or “improper” then they “make us all look bad,” etc. Even a black person who speaks Standard English will still sing R&B the way it is, which is cutting off the ings at the end of words. That’s not improper, it’s artistic. When you discredit the black language, you are disproving your grandparents, their parents, music, history, art, international connections, movies, television, poetry, literature, and much more! You are cutting the cord to something that belongs to you, and instead of embracing it, you are trying to not only get rid of it, but you’re throwing it in the garbage to be turned into such a negative aspect of the American culture.

Now, I know that Dr. Zamora is going to have my fine tune these ideas more, but I believe I am more grounded with this topic than I was two months ago. After the break, I also had to start thinking about how I am going to put my thesis into a form, which is my methods section. Back in November, when I first started becoming interested in this topic, I was in North Carolina for a funeral. My brother, father, Nana, and Papa stayed with my Aunt Jesse (who is my Papa’s sister). We were sitting around the kitchen table, and I was fascinated with something. I started to pay attention to the way they were speaking. Specifically my grandparents and Aunt Jesse. People who speak Standard English will believe they are not talking correctly. However, putting aside the fact that they all have Southern accents, they were, in fact, speaking African American Vernacular English or Black English.

This is what I heard my entire life. This is how I picked up my own accent and way of speaking. Even the laughs, hand gestures, body movements, all of that is Black English! I want to document or record myself and my family sitting around the table and talking. After church on Sunday at dinner or when we’re all hanging out. There is a very beautiful rhythm when we are speaking together that I want to capture the rawness of that. On the other end of that spectrum, I also want to record myself in a setting outside of the comfort of my home. Such as work, school, or in front of my professors and classmates. I want to capture how wonderful and actually better it is when a person knows how to codeswitch and speak more than one dialect. (Just an idea!)

Last night I was talking to one of my classmates after class, and I asked her how she was doing since we haven’t spoken all semester. The conversation went like this:

Me: “Hey girl, what’s up? How are you doing? We haven’t really talked in a while.

Her: “Girl, I be stressin’!” 

Simple conversation right? We laughed after she said that because I understood her! Now, in Standard or “proper” English, this is what she said, “I am under a lot of stress.” Even while typing her sentence in the blog, a red line came under “I.” The system wanted me to say, “I am stressing” or “I will be stressing.” This was me speaking my dialect to someone else who speaks that dialect. I felt comfortable. I didn’t have to try too hard to think about what I’m going to say next. I also did not have to be concerned about whether or not she understood me or if I understood her. Now, in the classroom setting, we both speak Standard English. (She does more than I do actually.) But the class was over, and we knew that we had the green light to code switch into our natural dialect.

Also, I attempted to write another proposal, which I already sent out. I can’t wait to receive feedback on it because this one is definitely more developed than the first one.

I am still studying and researching, but I am ready for some methods and writing! (I think) Here are the documents of notes and also if you want to listen to the videos from my family in NC, I put a private YouTube link below so you can listen and enjoy!

See you all tomorrow!

Documents: Thesis Notes

Sonja Lanehart: The Language of Identity

Lisa Delpit: Other People’s Children

Nikki Giovanni & James Baldwin: A Conversation

Key Words and Phrases

Talking Black in America Documentary Notes

Video Links

Nikki Giovanni and James Baldwin Video

NC Family Conversations 1

NC Family Conversations 2

NC Family Conversations 3

NC Family Conversations 4

NC Family Conversations 5

Things are Heating Up

General Question: How’s everyone’s thesis process going?  😊

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Google Images 

The more I dive into my deep reading, the more excited I become about my thesis and the whole process of studying a topic that has become close to my heart, almost like a child. (Mind you, I have no children, but I do have a lot of nieces and nephews.) I am very protective of this topic of AAVE (African American Vernacular English); but beyond that, I am curious about it. I want to know it’s “favorite color” or “what makes it itch,” I want to know every single detail and as much as possible. Studying and taking notes more this past week made me realize that I forgot I was in a class for this and eventually will receive a grade for this. I am working hard to produce something pretty awesome for my own pleasure and ambitions. With that being said, let’s dive in!

So last week I was relieved to know that I am on the right track! (Phew). The reading list that I had in my previous blog was a good start to building a Literature Review. Obviously, between working full time and going to school full time, I can’t read 20 pieces of literature in seven days. So for now, I started with four new readings and one continuation.

  1. Bell Hooks: Black Looks, Race and Representation: This book had so many interesting points when it came to talking about black people and the way their representation effects not only their lives but how it’s metaphorically embedded in their DNA when it comes to their clothes or music. However, that representation is considered cool or current, but when it comes down to history or what a black person deals with daily, it’s considered everything under the sun except being cool. Within the first chapter, I saw a lot of great points that she made that could be used in my thesis (possibly), but I don’t see this being a book that is the main part of it. Here are the points that could be used for my thesis:
  • “We have to change our own mind…we’ve got to change our own minds about each other. We have to see each other with new eyes. We have to come together with warmth…” -Malcolm X
  • Every aware black person who has been the “only” in an all-white setting knows that in such a position we are often called upon to lend an ear to racist narratives, to laugh at corny race jokes, to undergo various forms of racist harassment. (pg 16)
  • And that self-segregation seems to be particularly intense among those black college students who were often raised in material privilege in predominately white settings where they were socialized to believe racism did not exist, that we were all “just human beings,” and then suddenly leave home and enter institutions and experience racist attacks. (pg 16)
  • While it has become “cool” for white folks to hang out with black people and express pleasure in black culture, most white people do not feel that this pleasure should be linked to unlearning racism…(pg 17)
  • As long as black folks are taught that the only way we can gain any degree of economic self-sufficiency or be materially privileged is by first rejecting blackness, our history, and culture, then there will always be a crisis in black identity. (pg 18)
  • Internalized racism will continue to erode collective struggle for self-determination. (pg 18)

2. Paulo Freire: Pedagogy of the Oppressed: Freire is a brilliant scholar and based off of this book I truly admire what he writes about. However, like Hooks, I feel as if this is not what my thesis is going to be surrounded by. He spoke about oppressors and oppressed and how these groups work in the world of class, power, race, and identity. I can see this being apart of my thesis literature review, but for a Doctorate Degree. His points and topic would broaden my specific topic of AAVE too much instead of helping focus on one thing. These points I found interesting:

  • The “fear of freedom” which afflicts the oppressed, a fear which may equally well lead them to desire the role of the oppressor or bind them to the role of oppressed, should be examined. (pg 46)
  • The oppressed, having internalized the image of the oppressor and adopted his guidelines, are fearful of freedom. (pg 47)
  • Freedom would require them to eject this image and replace it with autonomy and responsibility, (pg 47)
  • Freedom is acquired by conquest, not by gift. It must be pursued constantly and responsibly. Freedom is not an ideal located outside of man, nor is it an idea which becomes myth. It is rather the indispensable condition for the quest for human completion. (pg 47)
  • However, the oppressed, who have adapted to the structure of domination in which they are immersed, and have become resigned to it, are inhibited from waging the struggle for freedom so long as they feel incapable for running the risks it requires. Moreover, their struggle for freedom threatens not only the oppressor but also their own oppressed comrades who are fearful of still greater repression. (pg 47).
  • The oppressors do not perceive their monopoly on having more as a privilege which dehumanizes others and themselves. They can not see that, in the egoistic pursuit of having as a possessing class, they suffocate in their own possessions and no longer are; they merely have. For them, having more is an inalienable right, a right they acquired through their own “effort” with their “courage to take risks.” If others do not have more, it is because they are incompetent and lazy, and worst of all is their unjustifiable ingratitude towards the “generous gestures” of the dominant class. Precisely because they are “ungrateful” and “envious” the oppressed are regarded as potential enemies who must be watched. (pg 59)

3. Lisa Delpit: Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom: This book has so many points and pieces of information that I have a separate Google Doc just for Delpit. (Click Here to see it). There were specific quotes that I would like to mention here because they made me think about my “Burning Question” and I feel like I am getting closer to finding out what it is.

  • The children in Trackton, in short, read to learn things, for real purposes. When these children arrived in school they faced another reality, They were required, instead, to “learn to read,” that is, they were told to focus on the process of reading with little apparent real purposes in mind other than to get through a basal page or complete a worksheet – and much of this they were to accomplish in isolation, Needless to say, they were not successful at the decontextualized, individualized school reading tasks. (pg 63)
  • Those who have acquired additional codes because their local language differs significantly from the language of the national culture may actually be in a better position to gain access to the global culture than “mainstream” Americans who, as Martha says, “only know one way to talk.” Rather than think of these diverse students as problems, we can view them instead as resources who can help all of us learn what it feels like to move between cultures and language varieties, and thus perhaps better learn how to become citizens of the global community. (pg 69)
  • Rather than teach decontextualized operations, she would typically first pose a “real-life” problem and challenge the students to find a solution. (pg 65)
  • To give some background information, Delpit gave examples and quoted other scholars and teachers; they were making the point that black students learn in a different way than white students would. There needs to be a purpose for learning and using it for real-life situations. Black students do not have a disadvantage because they speak AAVE, but rather it is the concept of learning differently. Here is the example I thought of:
  • My favorite TV is A Different World (About students at an HBCU (Historically Black College)). One of the characters, Lena James, comes from a rough neighborhood in Baltimore but comes to college to receive an education. She is having trouble with calculus until her professor, Dwayne Wayne, is able to relate calculus to something she is passionate about or something she could relate to. It is present that she speaks AAVE but is certainly not dumb or “less than” because of it. All the professor had to do was relate it to the student, and she succeeded. (The part I’m talking about stops at 31 seconds of the video. Also, I apologize for the bad quality!)

 

So far, I have two main points for my thesis. The first one comes from the quote I made in my previous blog about people or specifically students who can speak in more than one way, as an advantage. The stigma that African Americans speak “improper” is considered “less than” but in reality, they know how to speak in two ways (or more), which would be AAVE and “Standard English.” The second one is that AAVE is not acceptable in an academic setting but what about if the language could be accepted in the classroom, would there be a change in grades, behavior, and confidence in the students? Delpit and her fellow scholars say yes.

3. Felicia R. Lee: Lingering Conflict in the Schools: Black Dialect vs. Standard Speech: This article

4. Alice Lee: Why “Correcting” African American Language Speakers is Counterproductive: This article

For next week, I’m going to write about literacy and multiple literacies and why it’s important for my thesis. Also, a few scholars that I will be talking about will be Elaine Richardson, Sonja L. Lanehart, and more Lisa Delpit. I also will be talking about a documentary that I found about Black English! It’s the first documentary about AAVE, and I can’t wait to share my notes about it!

‘Til Next Time!

(Also: If you want to watch A Different World, it’s on Prime Video!)

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Google Images

Writing & Technology & I Couldn’t Think Of A Clever Title

I feel that technology has a very unique place in the world of both reading and writing: whereas most people could make an argument that technology has been detrimental in some areas where it is prominent (communication for instance), it has been nothing short of beneficial to the way books are both written and consumed. Anyone who knows me will know that I am a big advocate of the Kindle e-reader (partially driven by my return to using Amazon after 3 years) and the very concept of it still blows me away to this day, even though it has become so rudimentary by now. Read your entire book collection on a screen that looks like paper, with a battery that lasts for weeks? How could anyone not like that?

And for the most part, thankfully, most people do seem to embrace it. While I thought I would be at odds with most of the English department over this, there seems to be a consensus where the most controversial opinion was that everyone has their own preference and as long as reading is being done, it should be done on any method. Yep, such a hot take. But still, it’s interesting to see how much of a divide there can be on this subject, particularly on the internet. There’s even a few advocates for the traditional books, citing things like unlimited “battery” and the “feel” of reading paper from a page (but not the potential of getting books wet, rotted, or having the print fade away depending on age, interesting).

the-ebook-reader-home.jpg

Pictured: My precious.

I don’t know my typing speed off the top of my head, but I know for a fact that I tend to be way more productive with writing when it comes to typing. And I know, typewriters have been a thing for the better part of the last century, but backspacing on a keyboard is several measures more convenient than retyping over a spelling error done on a ink ribbon. Several. I don’t write as frequently as I probably should, so I’m glad that my proficiency with a keyboard allows me to get out as many words as I had hoped, so I can reflect over the actual written text with greater efficiency. It feels weird, praising a keyboard when these things have been around since before I was even born, but I know for a fact that I probably wouldn’t have had as much of a fondness for writing, or even English in general, without its presence. I learned cursive the hard way in 4th grade and for some reason I prefer writing it that way all these years later.

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The PTSD is still very real. Also, those numbers aren’t even cursive, the hell.

Writing is writing, but sometimes software really makes the experience that much more pleasant and more efficient. Scrivener is a word that is synonymous with a scribe, clerk, or notary. It’s also a nifty mobile and desktop app that I’ve been using to work on my story and other narrative projects. The app itself is no more than a bunch of organization menus that you can freely tweak to your liking, but I believe that good organization is half the battle when it comes to good writing, and Scrivener is very much worth the entry fee. Was that an advertisement? Probably.

Where the magic happens.

Overall, I feel that we are in a great place in regards to technology and writing. The technology compliments the writing instead of hinders it, and the consumption of the media has been more accessible and pleasant than ever before. It’s fascinating to see how much has changed in the last few decades in how we write and read, but also how little it has changed from the standard paper and pencil. The more things change, the more they stay the same, and writing is perhaps one of the best examples in recent memory of this.

Writing & Technology & I Couldn’t Think Of A Clever Title

I feel that technology has a very unique place in the world of both reading and writing: whereas most people could make an argument that technology has been detrimental in some areas where it is prominent (communication for instance), it has been nothing short of beneficial to the way books are both written and consumed. Anyone who knows me will know that I am a big advocate of the Kindle e-reader (partially driven by my return to using Amazon after 3 years) and the very concept of it still blows me away to this day, even though it has become so rudimentary by now. Read your entire book collection on a screen that looks like paper, with a battery that lasts for weeks? How could anyone not like that?

And for the most part, thankfully, most people do seem to embrace it. While I thought I would be at odds with most of the English department over this, there seems to be a consensus where the most controversial opinion was that everyone has their own preference and as long as reading is being done, it should be done on any method. Yep, such a hot take. But still, it’s interesting to see how much of a divide there can be on this subject, particularly on the internet. There’s even a few advocates for the traditional books, citing things like unlimited “battery” and the “feel” of reading paper from a page (but not the potential of getting books wet, rotted, or having the print fade away depending on age, interesting).

the-ebook-reader-home.jpg

Pictured: My precious.

I don’t know my typing speed off the top of my head, but I know for a fact that I tend to be way more productive with writing when it comes to typing. And I know, typewriters have been a thing for the better part of the last century, but backspacing on a keyboard is several measures more convenient than retyping over a spelling error done on a ink ribbon. Several. I don’t write as frequently as I probably should, so I’m glad that my proficiency with a keyboard allows me to get out as many words as I had hoped, so I can reflect over the actual written text with greater efficiency. It feels weird, praising a keyboard when these things have been around since before I was even born, but I know for a fact that I probably wouldn’t have had as much of a fondness for writing, or even English in general, without its presence. I learned cursive the hard way in 4th grade and for some reason I prefer writing it that way all these years later.

1200px-Cursive.png

The PTSD is still very real. Also, those numbers aren’t even cursive, the hell.

Writing is writing, but sometimes software really makes the experience that much more pleasant and more efficient. Scrivener is a word that is synonymous with a scribe, clerk, or notary. It’s also a nifty mobile and desktop app that I’ve been using to work on my story and other narrative projects. The app itself is no more than a bunch of organization menus that you can freely tweak to your liking, but I believe that good organization is half the battle when it comes to good writing, and Scrivener is very much worth the entry fee. Was that an advertisement? Probably.

Where the magic happens.

Overall, I feel that we are in a great place in regards to technology and writing. The technology compliments the writing instead of hinders it, and the consumption of the media has been more accessible and pleasant than ever before. It’s fascinating to see how much has changed in the last few decades in how we write and read, but also how little it has changed from the standard paper and pencil. The more things change, the more they stay the same, and writing is perhaps one of the best examples in recent memory of this.

Killing Your Role Models

Over the past week I’ve had a conflict of epic proportions, one that kinda sorta went at odds with everything that I had believed up until recently. I thought voice actors were untouchable role models, someone that everyone should look up to. They come in all shapes and sizes, had a range of voices that could be sorted almost into a rolodex, and having met many of them in person, it’s no surprise that I could see them as people to look up to, and for the most part that had not changed…until this month.

Sexual harassment claims fly around Twitter, which had now been turned into a minefield of toxic Tweeting and allegations, and everyone who dared to step into it had gotten blown up. The lines had been drawn and I was forced to choose one, and choose it fast.

Sometimes silence is a valid option.

maxresdefault.jpgTelltale Games told me so, but now they no longer exist, so your mileage may vary.

That isn’t to say, I don’t have an opinion on the matter. But rather, it feels and even becomes irrelevant in the face of the thoughts expressed by the voice actors that I once considered role models. The amount of contempt, hatred, and unprofessionalism all around; can it be justified, given the context? Justified, given the lack of actual evidence given and the amount of false evidence generated? I’m not quite sure, but I do know it doesn’t feel right. No matter who may be right or wrong in this case, I do feel a little shaken up by the revelation that people who I looked up to, could be as hateful and mean as I had seen in this past month.

This begs the question, where do I separate the art from the artist? I’ll admit, the volume of the hostile opinions coming from many of my favorite voice actors has begged me to question as to whether my opinion on them should extend to the work they are featured in as well. The rational part of mean is saying that of course, they are separate. Bill Cosby’s (mis)deeds doesn’t take away from my fond memories of Little Bill, why should my opinion on a show or character change because of the actor? But deep down, I’m still coming to terms with the degrees of separation that I should be giving this situation. Nice actors play mean actors all the time in movies and films. So why does this feel so different? I believe this comes from the fact that voice actors give a character much of their personality that can’t be expressed from physical appearance. Sure, they have written lines and scripted actions, but you can never really take away that feeling that the voice actor delivers a performance that gives a character a life of their own, and therefore you typically associate a character’s strengths and flaws as an extension of the actor playing them.

But I digress. If there is anything that I’ve learned from this entire real-life anime, is that you don’t have to actually meet your role models to follow the rule of “never meet your role models”. Ironically, every single voice actor I have met (including the ones involved in this incident) have been nothing but pleasant and gracious in my interactions with them, and I hope that will never change in the future. But I did learn how to “kill” your role models as a result; recognizing that they are not without flaw or opinion and therefore you should not take it too personal if they do something that goes against your own thoughts. I’ve had a few broken pedestals since this happened, but I feel this is even more inspiration to work on my own projects; nothing would flatter me more to be a role model one day to someone, and hopefully I’ll do nothing that’ll change that too.

Now vs. Then

One of the struggles that I experienced when writing Godreign was the inevitable question of setting and protagonist. Particularly, what time period would this take place, and what about the main character would reflect that? While I can safely say that the final selection of the late 19th century and the character of was always my original choice, I have to admit that it wasn’t always the intended one.

Nothing in fiction happens without a reason. Even the non-linear structure of Ulysses or Pulp Fiction adds something to the narrative and presentation that wasn’t there if it didn’t include it in the first place. But I’m a strong believer in the idea of picking something and sticking to it as much as possible, so the non-linear approach simply wasn’t for me.

So, back to Godreign. I actually wrote parts of it in the present time, and called this experiment in scenery Modreign, both as a modern interpretation of the story and as a moderation of the story I have now. I ultimately decided to forgo the modern-day setting for a few reasons. For starters, most of the heroes carry a lot of weapons throughout the story; Zach (the protagonist) has a small arsenal by the end of the story, including a (semi-relevant to the story) revolver, lever-action rifle, shotgun, and short blade. Annabelle has her longsword, a blade attached to a chain (scarier than it sounds) and eventually learns to use a gun down the line. Considering the current climate in England and most of Europe today, where even home improvement tools can be considered deadly and illegal depending on who is using them (that’s a slope alright), it’s probably best if the current climate stays as far away from the story as possible.

Pictured: “Weapons” that Annabelle would sneer at endlessly.

On the subject of the present-day, there are some areas that I cover that may not be as transparent today as they were in the past. Women in most of the world couldn’t vote until 1928, even. Aside from the idea of a female knight being mostly wishful thinking at the time (which partially helps me explain a little more about Annabelle in the process), there’s also the tensions brought about thanks to the class system in place at the time. Zach used to work for an extremely wealthy businessman who was self-made, a concept that for some reason wasn’t entirely embraced back in Victorian times. Apparently it was considered “dirty money” and those people were considered outcasts anyway. Rich people, am I right folks?

Racial tensions were a problem, but not nearly as significant as they were in the United States at the time. Zach’s former mistress was of mixed British and Chinese descent, and combined with the “dirty money” she inherited, naturally she would end up making a few enemies even among her own class. It’s their fault, however. There’s also another character who is of Spanish/English descent, but had convinced everyone that she was exclusively English. She had also lived for several centuries up to that point in the story, so she’s had plenty of time to work on an accent too. Racial discrimination doesn’t have a major role in my story themes or lessons, but it helps explain why some characters seem larger than life; it’s because they had to be at the time.

Ultimately, the plot of my story can be done in most “modern” time periods, and I still haven’t completely given up on re-writing it for a modern setting. But so much of the character dynamics between Zach, a Victorian era Englishman, and Annabelle, a French knight during the last years of the Middle Ages, rely on them being from majorly different settings, yet developing camaraderie from their mutual sharEd military experience. That is the “now vs. then” within my story, and hopefully it expresses a good part of the humanism themes that do play a major role within my story.

Wish I Thought of a Reading List Sooner!

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Two weeks ago, I was given the challenging task of diving into a deep reading of various books and articles from scholars in the topic I want to look at for my thesis. (African American Vernacular English or AAVE for short). Although I am only a month into the process of my thesis, finding exactly what I want to discuss. During our Peer Review session two weeks ago, I discovered that my thesis seems to be wet cement. I am holding bricks in my hand to build a foundation, but I don’t know where to put the bricks or where to start. I know that the subject of AAVE is what I am wholeheartedly passionate about but what exactly?

I am happy and proud to say that my deep reading and studying of the reading list below was a success. I wish it were something that I had thought about earlier, then maybe I would be a little further along in my thesis. However, nothing was lost. Once you check out the reading list, it is ambitious to finish everything in two weeks. As I was reading Lisa Delpit’s Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom, there was something that stood out to me, and it made me think that maybe this was where I could place my bricks. Native American teacher Martha Demientieff states this in Delpit’s book:

“We have to feel a little sorry for them because they have only one way to talk. We’re going to learn two ways to say things. Isn’t that better? One way will be our Heritage way. The other will be Formal English. Then, when we go to get jobs, we’ll be able to talk like those people who only know and can only really listen to one way. Maybe after we get the jobs, we can help them to learn how it feels to have another language, like ours, that feels so good. We’ll talk like them when we have to, but we’ll always know our way is best.” (pg 41)

In my previous blog, I expressed the concern or more the need to not write about my family for my thesis and focus on how language and the use of AAVE have affected not only me but my academic self. I am not going to fully exclude my family, but if you read the blog, you’ll see a few reasons why I want to go down a different path. I haven’t spoken to my professor or class about this decision yet, but I do believe I have done the right thing. I was about to focus on how language plays a part in forming one’s identity at a higher level and more than we think. The quote above from Demientieff perfectly articulates what I’m trying to develop my thesis around. (I think.) After reading that passage, I thought to myself, Yeah, why can’t we learn how to say things in two different ways?. I think about second language speakers of Polish, Russian, Italian, Portuguese, or French who are deemed to be skilled when balancing multiple languages even though their language use of Standard English is not always at its best. They may get a pass because they speak [set languages stated above]. However, when it comes to AAVE, switching languages seems to have a negative connotation to it. As if someone who speaks AAVE is considered having less knowledge or unintelligent.

Now, I do understand that when it comes to African Americans who speak this form of English has had ancestors who were denied access to education, and it was illegal for them to learn how to read and write. However, because of these limitations, we (the speakers of AAVE) have formulated a beautiful and complex language filled with vocabulary, grammar, and rhythm. We too can code-switch (switching back and forth from both languages) and know when and where to use Standard English and AAVE. I’m rambling, but I guess what I’m trying to say is: If it’s better to know two ways to say something, then why doesn’t my language fit in this category and not accepted? 

I’ll be honest, I still need help developing a thesis statement, but I do feel as if I am coming along well with the beginning stages of this process.

Reading List:

  • Lisa Delpit: Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom (2006)
  • Bell Hooks: Race and Representation (1992)
  • Paulo Freire: Pedagogy of the Oppressed (2005)
  • John R. Rickford: What is Ebonics (African American English)? (2012)
  • Alice Lee: Why “Correcting” African American Language Speakers is Counterproductive (2017)
  • Felicia R. Lee: Lingering Conflict in the Schools: Black Dialect vs. Standard Speech (1994)
  • Samuel A. Perez: Using Ebonics or Black English as a Bridge to Teaching Standard English (1999)
  • John Baugh: American Varieties: African Amerian English: Ebony + Phonics (2005)
  • Sonja L. Lanehart: African American Vernacular English and Education: The Dynamics of Pedagogy, Ideology, and Identity (1998)
  • Liberation Education Project: African American Vernacular English (2017)
  • Tylah Silva: What’s the Difference Between Slang and AAVE?: Understanding the Cultural History of Language is Critical When Deciding Whether to Bae or not to Bae (2017)
  • Lisa Delpit: The Skin that We Speak: Thoughts on Language and Culture in the Classroom (2002) *Recently added to the list*
  • *This isn’t a book but it’s part of my research* The documentary Talking Black in America (Click Here for the link to their website).

I am excited to present what I have for class tomorrow but also nervous! I want this thesis to be at my best.

Until Next Week Y’all!

Previous Blogs for Pleasure Reading!

Jumping to the Halfway Point: Too Early for a Breakdown?

Hop in the Delorean…We’re Going for a Ride

Jumping to the Halfway Point: Too Early for a Breakdown?

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I’ve always heard the saying, “A girl can change her mind, can’t she?” -Unknown, from television and movies. However, when it comes to my academic studying and thesis, could I actually change my mind? Is it too late?

Lemme break it down. 

The day after our Valentine’s Day class I was not only excited about the further steps of my thesis, I was energized by the unknown knowledge that I still have to discover. It seems as if my mind has become “obsessed” about language and identity within the African American community. It’s not because I am not interested in other languages and culture; it’s more because there is, in fact, a name, a coined term for the way I speak at home that goes beyond “just talking English.” It’s not Ebonics either. African American English or African American Vernacular English (AAVE) is what I heard in my house growing up and even when I went to my grandparents’ house. I never thought they spoke incorrectly. It was as simple as, I heard, I understood, I communicated back. As I became more passionate about the power of this subject and newly found territory, I was eager to share what I have studied so far with my family. Unfortunately, this approach took a wrong turn.

As I expressed specific concerns and questions to a couple of family members, very close ones, and my thesis was…well…ripped to shreds. Pulverized. Torn apart. Torn from limb to limb. (You get the idea.) Now, these family members are brilliant with multiple degrees in THEIR particular field of study. I delivered the very early foundation of my thesis, which was how AAVE has not been given the opportunity to evolve as a means of declaring something that’s ours. Long story short, I had not one but two breakdowns. I doubted myself and was hard on myself. I live for my family’s approval, and when I don’t receive it, it’s almost as if a switch turns off in my brain. I’m not smart enough. I can’t do this. Blah Blah Blah.  I spoke to my boyfriend about this and basically brought my breakdown to him. (I mean, I was very ugly crying and hyperventilating.) After he calmed me down, he told me, “I don’t expect you to have the answers to everything. Nobody does!” That’s when it clicked for me.

I have decided to not include my family in my thesis, and I have a few reasons why:

  1. From before I was born, I had a swarm of support from family and even non-family members who just knew I had a great purpose in my life. I mean, why else would I be born 14 years after my brother? There had to be a reason. However, I never had the chance to breathe and figure it out on my own.
  2. For as long as I could remember, I was told, “you’re so smart” or “you know better than that” (even though I was seven). I never had the chance to stop and think, what am I smart in? What is something that could be just for Vee and not something that everyone has an opinion on? My family is my life, but I think it’s time that some things in my life need to be just for me.
  3. My whole undergraduate thesis was about my family, for 90 pages. It’s not because I have nothing else to write about, but it’s like I mentioned before. My family is my life. Also, there are some pretty interesting stories that I felt was important to write about. I think for this thesis, it’s time to separate from my family and see what I can write and produce on my own.

Now, on to a more lighter note; I have been reading and studying the books, articles, and authors that were suggested from last class along with some articles I found on my own. I also took the peer review notes from class and have been trying to make a clearer thesis statement and focus on what I am trying to accomplish with this thesis. Specifically something my fellow classmate Kelli said, “Make it clearer how you are going to approach this issue and how much you is going to be in this?” What’s making me nervous at this point is that I still don’t have a clear question. “The burning question,” as Dr. Zamora would call it, is what I lack so far. What I am hoping is that my reading list and early research will help me develop a clear question and thesis statement.

Since I am separating this thesis from my family, I am wondering if simply using my own experiences will be enough. I will check back in a week and share my notes from my research.

Until Next Time! ♥

Other Blogs!

Hop in the Delorean…We’re Going for a Ride

“At the Family Reunion! Who We Introducin’? Who We Introducin’?”

Hop in the Delorean…We’re Going for a Ride

 

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Google Images

 

Last week after class, there was a spark of creativity and inspiration that came from talking about the next steps for my thesis. The critical moments within my family that adds up to language and the power of language seems to be the main topic that keeps coming up. I had to research what an autoethnography, memoir and autoethnographic narrative was and the differences between them. Then, I had to figure out which one of these styles would fit the type of thesis I want to write. Before I go into that, there were two readings I had to research to get my juices flowing. Victor Villanueva wrote Bootstraps, which unfortunately I was only able to find the abstract. It states:

An autobiography detailing the life of an American of Puerto Rican extraction from his childhood in New York City to an academic post at a university. Also, ponders his experiences in light of the history of rhetoric, the English Only movement, current socio-and psycholinguistic theory, and the writings of Gramsci and Freire, among others.

The other reading was Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom by Lisa Delpit. Although I did not have the time to read the entire book in one week, I did manage to find an article that wrote a review and critical points about the book, which you can see by clicking here. I was amazed by what Delpit says and the points that she makes concerning students and their disconnect in the classroom because of language and writing as students of color. Delpit, “explores how teachers, especially those with ‘progressive’ teaching methods, need to examine how they are helping or impeding minority and low-income students’ access to the power that mainstream society and institutions have invested in ‘Standard’ English” (Harvard Review). What I found interesting was that Delpit recognized that in these situations, it’s not just racism that causes these issues, although it’s one of the main factors. She points out that it’s the ignorance of people who have power and privilege who always sees themselves differently from others with a blinded vision.

This inability is particularly destructive in classrooms where teachers view low-income and minority children as “other” and “see damaged and dangerous caricatures of the vulerable and impressionable beings before them. -Delpit, pg 13.

The Harvard Review sums up another main point of her book stating, “her thoughts about the failure of process writing approaches to provide minority and low-income students with access to the ‘code of power’ of ‘Standard’ English emerged from her own experiences as a classroom teacher committed to ensuring the success of African American children.” Delpit focuses on what teachers should be teaching students instead of teaching what they think should be taught. (In a more eloquent way of saying this would be from Delpit herself.) “It is important to teach our children to read and write, but it is more important to teach them to be proud of themselves, and of us” (Delpit, pg 89). Education should not overshadow or disconnect from a student’s culture and identity. What I realized is that so far my thesis seems to focus on how education, class, power, and language has, in fact, overshadow and disconnect a specific group (African Americans) from their culture and identity. I believe African Americans from the time they are students to whenever they finish school, has been stripped away from their power and pride when it comes to how language affected their lives and how that has passed on to the next generations or how it affects their life in general.

What Delpit wanted her readers and teachers to take away is, “classroom teachers lead the way to offering diverse groups the opportunity to learn about each other without the presumption of privilege or domination by any.” I thought this was such a powerful statement. This proposal was something I have never heard before coming from a scholar. This is the type of source I would love to use for my thesis. (I would have to double check first of course.)

I thought this was going to be difficult considering the potential I have for each of these styles. I was more focused on autoethnography since I took a memoir and women’s autobiography class during my undergraduate years. Before I reveal my final choice, let me show you my research.

*Warning: I did use Wikipedia for a lot of this research because I couldn’t find the material I needed but all articles used will be located at the end of the blog!*

Beginning with autoethnography, it is a form of qualitative research in which an author uses self-reflection and writing to explore anecdotal and personal experience and connect this autobiographical story to wider cultural, political, and social meanings and understandings. Sarah Well from the University of Alberta, Canada wrote “Easier Said than Done: Writing an Autoethnography” said this about autoethnography:

  • Autoethnography is an intriguing and promising qualitative method that offers a way of giving voice to personal experience to extend sociological understanding.
  • It emerged from the postmodern philosophy, in which the dominance of traditional science and research is questioned, and many ways of knowing and inquiring are legitimated autoethnography offers a way of giving voice to personal experience to advance sociological understanding.

Now a memoir is different from an autoethnography. A memoir is a historical account or biography written from personal knowledge or special sources. It’s a collection of memories that an individual writes about moments or events, both public or private, that took place in the subject’s life. I wondered what the difference between a memoir an a biography was. A biography or autobiography tells the story “of a life,” while a memoir often tells a story “from a life,” such as touchstone events and turning points from the author’s life. After reading what Wikipedia had to say, I decided to make a chart of memoirs and autobiographies that I have read. After making the chart, I did notice that these groups had different writing styles.

Memoirs Autobiography
Bastard out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison Just Kids by Patti Smith
Another BS Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston
Why Be Happy When You Could be Normal? By Jeanette Winterson Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
The Liar’s Club by Mary Karr My Lord, What a Morning: An Autobiography (Music in American Life) by Marian Anderson
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coats
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
Night by Elie Wiesel
The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeanette Walls

Before I made my final decision, I stumbled across the genre of Narrative Inquiry. Narrative Inquiry is a way of understanding and inquiring into the experience through “a collaboration between researcher and participants, over time, in a place or series of places, and social interaction with milieus. (Clandinin and Connelly, 2000, p 20.) It uses field texts, such as stories, autobiography, journals, field notes, letters, conversations, interviews, family stories, photos (and other artifacts), and life experience, as units of analysis to research and understands the way people create meaning in their narratives. (Wikipedia). However, it is criticized for not being “theoretical enough.” Before reading about Narrative Inquiry, I wanted to write an autoethnography. Now, I seem to be stuck between the two. Autoethnography allows me to incorporate just enough theory to support the point of my thesis but not overbearing the creative process that goes along with writing it. Narrative Inquiry would allow my thesis to be multimodal, which is something I think is an excellent opportunity to take advantage of while writing this thesis.

The last prompt I was given for the week was to think of five specific moments in your family history that has to do with power/language/race/identity. After doing some digging, I had a difficult time finding only five specific moments, but then I had an idea. I figure it was an original idea and something that I think could turn into something pretty great. It may seem ambitious but here’s my idea:

  • Within my family, there are five different generations. Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z. Within these five groups, I have the same amount of family members that I could speak to get the information I want for my thesis. I am interested in the different comparisons of power, race, language, and identity as they see it. Is there something that the Traditionalists went through concerning language that still effects someone from Generation Z? (It’s a far stretch for now.) My point is that since all five groups come from the same family, same culture, same language, it would be easier to compare and contrast and truly see how the oppression of African American language affects not only one person, but an entire family. There’s so much that could be done with the interviews and gathering research to formulate an interesting thesis. Also, this is something I am not only interested in but have become passionate about.

What’s Next?

Attempting to write an early proposal. 😬

Wish me luck!

Resources:

NarrativeInquiry

Diving into Autoethnographic Narrative Inquiry_ Uncovering Hidden

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Other Blogs!:

“At the Family Reunion! Who We Introducin’? Who We Introducin’?”

Thesis and a Whole Lot of Coffee!