Saturday, January 26, 2008


There was a young man sitting at a table at the entrance of a book store in the mall today. And, usually when I'm in a mall it is for a specific purpose, and I tend to have blinders on; only searching for that thing that I went for, and nothing else. So, the first time I walked past, I just knew that I wasn't in the market for books right now, at least not any that doesn't pertain to one of my classes, and so I didn't pay much attention to him. But, once I'd passed the store, I realized that he had books on the table, and I thought.."he must be doing a book signing".

So, leaving Sears (after having purchased a couple of articles for in-laws in Trinidad), I decided to stop by the table afterall. The young man lit up, "Well, I see you decided to come back." He sounded enthusiastic, and right away I was beginning to feel a little bad. You see, right away I noticed the brightly colored cover of his books, with big, silver bold letters, and I just knew it wasn't something I'd be interested in reading. "What type of writing do you do?" The answer I already knew, "Urban fiction."
To make a long story just a little shorter, he was self published, no use for agents or publishers..."get yourself a distributor" and do-it-yourself. Inside, I cringed. I thought, see Persistence, your turning into one of those literary snobs that Marlon James and Matt Johnson talked about.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Studying Slave Narratives

Since my academic focus is beginning to narrow down to 19th century African American Literature, it is impossible to avoid reading some of the many slave narratives which often document relationships between masters and slaves with amazing clarity. As a citizen of the 21st century, it is sometimes frustrating to witness these affiliations, from the safety and comfort of my livingroom, knowing and believing slavery to be only a cruel and injust system inflicted upon people just like me, for profit and sport, to the benefit of others. It is bewildering while reading these narratives when some of the individuals, in spite of the cruelty they have been subjected to, still find that they feel much affection for their former masters. In the narrative Behind the Scenes or Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House, Elizabeth Keckley, former dressmaker to Mary Lincoln remarked,
"how warm is the attachment between master and slave."
I could understand the attactment a master would have, as a slave performed those duties that I wish I had someone to do for me at times. But, a slaves' attachment to a master? I don't quite get it, nor do I think I ever will. Upon a long awaited visit to her former master after the Civil War, Keckley goes on to say,
"Could my friends of the North have seen that meeting, they would never have doubted again that the mistress had any affection for her former slave."
In spite of my own mistrust (well founded, I think), still there is something for us all to learn in these narratives which often bring to the forefront the human interest aspects of slavery.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

A New Year, A New Semester

Next week begins the final year into my quest for a Bachelors degree, a semester that will be at the least engaging, if not arduous. I chose to forgo my gig in the President’s Office, and instead take on an 18 hour load which includes an internship with a literary journal. I will also be doing a directed research for which I created the syllabus. (I’ll talk about that in the next post.) I actually only have classroom time for my four other courses which includes fourth semester Spanish, Renaissance Literature, African American Literature before 1850, and a Contemporary Literature course. And, because I’m not working in an office everyday, I can revert to the comfort and ease of wearing jeans and tennis shoes to school again, ah….

I’m excited about this New Year, because for the first time since I first pursued a college education many, many years ago, I am actually beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel; my goal of continuing my studies and building a foundation for a writing career is conceivably in my reach.

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Studying 19th Century Black Women Writers

So, one of the highlights this semester for me will be this directed research that I’ll be doing. This is like, taking a class, only I’ll be the only student. That’s a good thing in that I’ll get time and attention (or at least I think I will) with studying and focusing on a subject or genre of particular interest to me. It will be under the direction and guidance of a professor that I’ve chosen, and I’ll be using this information to help prepare for my thesis in the fall. I had to create and propose the syllabus for this research, which had to be accepted by he Language and Literature department head. For me, this subject will be 19th century African American women writers.

The two texts I’ve chosen as primary are Reconstructing Womanhood: The Emergence of the Afro American Woman Novelist by Hazel V. Carby and Written By Herself: Literary Production by African American Women, 1746-1892 by Francis Smith Foster (a scholar at Emory University that I hope to ultimately have more interaction with). The writers that I’ll be studying are the narratives of Harriet Jacobs and Elizabeth Keckley, Anna Julia Cooper, Pauline Hopkins, Francis E.W. Harper, Ida B. Wells, and Mary Church Terrell. It will be interesting to study the similarities and the individualities of these black women and their work through the veil of the Victorian era and in the aftermath of the Civil War.

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