Ghosts

Jordyn Ferguson

Lidia Sferrazza

Shane Gresser

Michael Raymie

The etymology of “ghost” can be defined from the Oxford English Dictionary as “the soul or spirit, as the principle of life, also ghost of life, obsolete except in phrase to give up” (OED). Another definition from Dictionary.com describes a ghost as “the soul of a dead person, a disembodied spirit imagined, usually as a vague, shadowy or evanescent form, as wandering among or haunting living persons” or “a mere shadow or semblance; a trace.” When we think of ghosts, we may think of these definitions or even typical ghost stories that we heard growing up which often involve fear. Though the word has several meanings, they all somewhat define a ghost as a spirit and as something that is unseen or even ignored. It seems that the word has developed over some time throughout the course of history. Ghosts and ghost stories are very powerful because they can haunt someone or have a large effect on them without literally existing or at least not existing at this moment. The power of ghosts is demonstrated throughout The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston and Mean by Myriam Gurba.

Looking at the beginning of Mean, Gurba immediately tells us the story of Sophia, a girl whose tragic story had not been given enough attention to on the news. She had been raped and murdered in a park, yet she had only been reduced to a “transient” (3), which deprived her of being known at least as a real person who lived a real life. Because we find out later on in the book that Gurba had been sexually assaulted by the same man that killed Sophia, we can understand why Gurba feels this guilt. She grew up in a very different situation with stability, and she survived, unlike Sophia. This explains why Gurba may feel like “Sophia is always with [her]” and “She haunts [her]” because she knows that Sophia’s story is invisible, like a ghost, therefore she wants readers to be confronted head-on with the horror and violence (3). Even though she never knew this girl, her story is powerful because it is ignored, overlooked, and forgotten about, yet still, Gurba continues to remember her because she wants everyone to know who she is. After what happened to her, Sophia deserves at least that. In this case, Sophia’s ghost story can help readers to understand the power and significance of guilt in the book.

We see the idea of ghosts occur often in Maxine Kingston’s The Woman Warrior. These ghosts help tell her story, and they are used to give extra information about the author. The way the author describes a ghost gives us insight into the author’s life and how they see the world. The ghosts appear in different forms, but the most important ghost is her aunt. Kingston starts off her memoir with the main ghost, her late aunt who killed herself by jumping into a well. In the very first line of the memoir, she says ““You must not tell anyone.” My mother said, “what I am about to tell you. In China, your father had a sister who killed herself. She jumped into the family well. We say that your father has all brothers because it is as if she had never been born” (Kingston 3). The last part of this quote is the most powerful because Kingston’s mother tells her that it is as if her aunt had never been born. The family had turned Kingston’s aunt into a ghost including her own brother, Kingston’s father. Her mother then reinforces that Kingston’s father has acted like his own sister didn’t exist because she had brought “shame” to their family by becoming pregnant by a man who was not her husband. After the villagers go to her house the aunt’s family tells her “Death is coming. Look what you’ve done. You’ve killed us. Ghost! Dead Ghost! Ghost! You’ve never been born”(Kingston 13 and 14). Before she even kills herself and the child the family has already started to turn her into a ghost by telling her she has never been born. Kingston talks about how her aunt’s ghost haunts her she writes “My aunt haunts me- her ghost drawn to me because now, after fifty years of neglect, I alone devote pages of paper to her…I do not think she always means me well. I am telling on her, and she was a spite suicide, drowning herself in the drinking water” (Kingston 16). This shows that her aunt even though she is not around still has an

effect on Kingston. She says that after fifty years someone is finally talking about her but Kingston does not think that her aunt likes this all the time. She feels as though her aunt doesn’t “mean her well” because she is telling the world that she killed herself and in Chinese culture that is frowned upon.

Even though Kingston never gets to meet her aunt, and she only knows about her through what her mother tells her, she still has an impact on Kingston’s life. Kingston, after learning that she had an aunt, starts to imagine that her aunt’s life was similar to her life and makes assumptions based on what she has experienced in life. The aunt also has an impact on Kingston’s life because the mother tells the story of the family turning the aunt into a ghost as a way to scare Kingston into not making the same “mistake” as her aunt did. She tells her “Don’t humiliate us. You wouldn’t want to be forgotten as if you had never been born. The villagers are watchful” (Kingston 5). Kingston’s mother tells her that if she makes the same choices that her aunt made that the family will also turn her into a ghost, making her into nothing but a distant and forgotten memory.

We also hear about the physical ghost that Kingston’s mother sees later in The Woman Warrior. Kingston’s mother, Brave Orchid, describes the ghost as “a full-grown Sitting Ghost loomed up to the ceiling and pounced on top of me. Mounds of hair hid its claws and teeth. No true head, no eyes, no face, so low in its level of incarceration it did not have the shape of a recognizable animal” (72). This ghost that Brave Orchid was describing was included in a story in which she was telling to Kingston. This story that Brave Orchid tells was from a ghost she made up in medical school to impress the students around her. The story of the Sitting Ghost, was a ghost that particularly went after newborn children, feeding off the weakness of humans. This ghost is very prevalent in the story, and represent one of the many ghosts that are described throughout the book. Kingston later goes on to describe the “ghosts” that Brave Orchid has told Kingston about. Although these aren’t the typical ghosts most readers would think about, such as “the soul of a dead person, a disembodied spirit imagined, usually as a vague, shadowy or evanescent form” (dictionary.com “Ghosts”), Brave Orchid describes the white people around them as ghosts. Kingston says that “America has been full of machines and ghosts– Taxi Ghosts, Bus Ghosts, Police Ghosts, Fire Ghosts, Meter Reader Ghosts, Tree Trimming Ghosts, Five-and-Dime Ghosts” (97). By telling Kingston that the white people are ghosts this implies that everyone living in America that is not Chinese is a ghost. Brave Orchid thinks of Americans as ghosts because of the different lives they live. Americans are viewed as ghosts because the Chinese people are unfamiliar with how the Americans live and their way of life. They’re culture and customs are a foreign concept to Kingston’s family. Brave Orchid passes down this idea of the ghosts to Kingston and because of this, Kingston grew up her entire childhood living in fear of all these different kinds of ghosts, the biggest reason is because of the story about her aunt that had “never been born” (3). This story resulted in Kingston growing up and living in fear because she did not want to disappoint the family as the aunt had in the past. Kingston lives in fear of the Ghost of her dead Aunt that her mother, Brave Orchid, said had “never been born” (3). Brave is living in fear of all non-Chinese people and passed this idea down to Kingston. Kingston lives in the fear of ghosts from all of the stories that her mom had told her. Kingston feels completely surrounded by ghosts, and it is because of these stories that Kingston struggles to figure out the things that are true in her life. Brave Orchid used the story and Kingston’s fear to control her behavior. Ghosts help us understand literature more as well as understand the author of literature’s life experiences and views. The author’s use of personal experiences to describe ghosts allows us to see more into their lives and learn more about them. It makes us have to also interpret their lives instead of them coming out and telling us things about them, it shows us who they are without them directly telling us who they are. Ghosts allow us to read literature with an open mind and allow us to interpret the text more in contrast to just reading facts for how they are.

Works Cited

“Free Image on Pixabay – Spirit, Creepy, Halloween, Ghost.” Spirit Creepy Halloween – Free Photo on Pixabay, https://pixabay.com/photos/spirit-creepy-halloween-ghost-2304469/.

“Ghost.” Dictionary.com, Dictionary.com, https://www.dictionary.com/browse/ghost.

“Ghost, n.” OED Online, Oxford University Press, December 2019, www.oed.com/view/Entry/78064. Accessed 5 December 2019.

Gurba, Myriam. Mean. Coffee House Press, 2017.Kingston, Maxine Hong. The

Woman Warrior. Vintage International, 1975.

Alienation

For our keyword project, our group decided to analyze the term alienation. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines alienation as the “withdrawing or separation of a person or a person’s affections from an object or position of former attachment : ESTRANGEMENT”. The term alienation was originally “alienacioun”, a Middle English word which was defined as a transference of property rights, derangement, or estrangement. The Middle English borrowed the word from the Anglo-French word “alienaciun”, which was borrowed from the Latin word “aliēnātiōn-, aliēnātiō”. So the history of the term goes way back and was used in many different ways and cultures. It is thought to be first used around the early 1500’s (Merriam-Webster, Alienation). This term, in most literature, simply means to cast someone out of a group, or a feeling of unbelonging. A theme of alienation can also be seen in many works of literature, including some of the books we have read in our course this year. Myriam Gurba in her memoir Mean experienced alienation because she grew up as a queer and mixed Chicana. In Claudia Rankines, Citizen: An American Lyric, she goes into depth about how people of color, specifically Serena Williams, are alienated from society through micro-agressions. Maxine Hong Kingston also shows how she was alienated from American culture because of her heritage in her memoir The Woman Warrior. And finally, Serena Williams was also alienated from the traditional tennis community and umpires because of her skin color and “outbursts”. It is critical to understand alienation when analyzing these works of literature in order to fully grasp what the authors are illustrating; that people of color or from different heritages are treated as if they have no place in society.

The term alienation can be seen as a theme throughout Myriam Gurba’s memoir, Mean. Throughout this memoir, Gurba discusses the difficulties and hardships she faced growing up during the childhood and adolescent years of her life as a queer chicana. 

She faced discrimination and was isolated from her classmates, peers and teachers; this caused her to believe the world was against her.

At an early age Myriam Gurba knew she was different from most people. From the time she started nursery school, it was evident that she was not like the other children because of her race. In the second chapter of this memoir, English is Spanish, Myriam starts speaking Spanish on the first day of nursery school as she believed everyone knew the same words. She didn’t know any better and believed since she grew up speaking both languages, that everyone else did. 

However, the nursery school instructors thought that because she spoke Spanish in class, she didn’t know any English, and tried to teach Myriam English; despite the fact that Gurba knew both English and Spanish. 

While most people learn a second language during the adolescent years of their life in school, Myriam was already ahead of the game and started learning two languages as her first language. However, since she was Half-Mexican, and she looked Mexican, the instructors assumed that she had no prior knowledge of English and she needed to be educated in the English language. Despite the fact that these women didn’t have bad intentions and were trying to help her, they demonstrated to Myriam at a young age that not all people are the same, and in this world, people are treated differently by how they look and where they come from. Gurba says, “I didn’t know Mexcians were Mexicans, a category for some mistake for subhuman, a category my grandfather mistakes for divine. People were people, and people talked, and talking was for everyone. Today, I understand the words that are for everyjuan, but that not everyjuan is for everyword….” (5), this just goes to show that whether we realize it or not, our actions impact those around us. Children are like sponges–they’re young, fresh and ready to absorb content of their surroundings and the world around them. Even if someone didn’t have the intention of hurting or offending a child, this could shape the narrative of their childhood.

 Gurba had to learn at a young age that she wasn’t like everyone else—she was different because she was Mexican; and because she was Mexican, she was going to be treated different. She was going to have a difficult life, because she wasn’t one of the caucasian girls and boys; and that’s a lot to process as a child.

Another incident where we can see how Gurba was being discriminated against, is in the chapter, Googleplex. A group of white girls made fun on Myriam and her friend, Ida for being Mexicans, so Myriam fought back and attacked one of the girls—making her cry and run away. They then were called into a classroom to discuss what happened, and Gurba carefully explained the events how the white girls were being racists towards them and called them “wetbacks and told them to go back to Mexico”. However, the English-only teacher said, “Apologize for making them cry” (20), despite the fact that these girls were racists and cruel towards Myriam and Ida.

These events only gave Gurba clarification that she was different from the people around her. She never had a chance. They were white and she was not; they were always going to look at her and treat her differently because of this. 

Growing up and living in a predominantly white society was always going to make Gurba out to be the outcast. 

  In Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric, microaggressions are used to make the reader feel uncomfortable and alienated from the rest of society. Microaggressions are defined as “verbal, behavioral, or environmental actions (whether intentional or unintentional) that communicate hostility toward oppressed or targeted groups including people of color, women, persons with disabilities, and religious minorities” (“A Guide”). The novel is filled with real stories that contain both subtle and intentional offensive remarks. Rankine uses the second person to put the reader in those situations and see how it affects us personally. We aren’t able to assign emotion to any other characters because it is us who is feeling the pain that microaggressions cause. Victims of microaggressions often find themselves asking questions like “Did she really just say that?” and “Did I hear what I think I heard?” (Rankine 9). Microaggressions relate to alienation because victims of both feel a sense of estrangement and isolation from certain groups and sometimes even society as a whole. 

In Chapter II, Rankine specifically focuses on Serena Williams, who is a prime example of alienation within the tennis community. Tennis has traditionally been a predominantly white sport with very little change. When talking about the emergence of Serena (and sister Venus) onto the tennis stage, Rankine used a quote from Zora Hurston that stated “I feel most colored when I am thrown against a sharp white background” (Rankine 25). The white background here are the traditional customs and long-established customs of tennis, and the numerous white opponents they face. To many people, Serena’s “black body didn’t belong on their court, in their world” (Rankine 26). So one might ask, who did belong on “their court”? Rankine answers this by including a picture of Caroline Wozniacki, another tennis player who is an image of “smiling blonde goodness” (Rankine 36). In the picture, Wozniacki has her top and bottoms stuffed with clothes to mimic how Serena looks (an obvious microaggression). To the tennis community, this was the epitome of a tennis player. This symbolized all of Serena’s attributes “while leaving [her] ‘angry ni**er exterior’ behind” (Rankine 36). This is an example of alienation because Serena is not only being isolated from the tennis community but is being mocked and ridiculed in the process. 

This alienation and indifference also followed her onto the court during play itself. Serena was treated unlike any other player because of her skin color and “angry” outbursts. In the 2004 US Open there were five bad calls made against her in the quarterfinals that were so clear that “no one could understand what was happening” (Rankine 27). Several years in the semifinals of the US Open a foot fault is called on a serve, again another overofficiating call against her. Serena’s outburst causes her to be fined $82,500 and be put on a two-year probation. These are all examples of unfair treatment against Serena that would not have occurred to other white opponents. And, when Serena wants to speak out against this injustice she is fined and put on probation. Rankine points out this alienation when she talks about racism and how skewed the balance of rules are. She says “Perhaps this is how racism feels no matter the context- randomly the rules everyone else gets to play by no longer apply to you, and to call this out… is to be called insane, crass, crazy. Bad sportsmanship” (Rankine 30). Rankine literally explains alienation here and how it feels to be oppressed in it. For Serena, when you try to play by the rules that others have been for hundreds of years, they all of a sudden don’t apply to you; and when you want to show your frustration and anger you are quickly stifled with flagrant penalties and fines. 

It is also clear within the “The Woman Warrior” by Maxine Hong Kington, that alienation is presented as a clear theme throughout Kingston’s life.   Kingston’s transition from her past Chinese culture in her family to her childhood growing up in America was difficult to maneuver through.  She first talks about the story of her Aunt, heard first hand from her mother, discussing the shame that was brought upon her mother’s sister for ultimately becoming pregnant with a baby and the nearby villagers ultimately punishing them by ransacking and destroying their home and all of their livestock.  Kingston goes on and relays this story to her growing up in America by stating, “Those of us in the first American generations have had to figure out how the invisible world the emigrants built around our childhoods fits in solid America.” (Kingston 2). This fixates on how difficult it is to carry her old traditions to the new world, growing up in a completely different culture compared to the stories and family traditions that still carry on with them along with adapting to American culture.  Furthermore, Kingston’s view of her chinese back-round is skewed because of how little she knows about it, only able to recollect stories that her mother tells her. This inevitably only allows her to speak about her culture from a second-hand view and even then she still finds it difficult to assimilate herself between her Chinese culture and her own life in American culture. Kingston also writes about how double standards in China are unfortunately placed upon women to become a dutiful and faithful housewife through marriage.  The aunt, whom Kingston has no name for, “always did as she was told,” discussing how, “Some man had commanded her to lie with him and be his secret evil.  I wonder whether he masked himself when he joined the raid on her family.” (Kingston 3). She realizes that women such as her aunt have no say in China, and obeyed the commands of another man out of this fear, realizing the mistreatment a woman received for an act that wasn’t meant to be placed on her in the first place.  Kingston listening to her mother’s story feels that her aunt was mistreated and alienated from her own family members as well as Kingston herself because of all the questions she couldn’t simply ask about her. Kingston stated, “If I want to learn what clothes my aunt wore, whether flashy or ordinary, i would have to begin, ‘Remember Father’s drowned-in-the-well sister?’ I cannot ask that.” (Kingston 2).  Consequently, this alienates her from a family member and her culture as she looks upon this event as something that is apart of her family and life but is disassociated with the inhumane culture that her aunt had faced punishment from. 

Another piece of evidence that displays alienation is Kingston’s childhood is her time as a young child growing up in an American school.   Kingston became alienated from other children at a young age and by popularity was nearly ranked towards the bottom alongside another chinese girl.  She goes on by illustrating a game that the students played and how, “sometimes the pitcher wouldn’t bother to throw to us. ‘Automatic walk,’ the other children would call, sending us on our way.” (Kingston 110).  These memories of Kingston’s separated her and some of the other students from truly participating in the game, based on her differences of being Chinese. She also writes how one day when alone with the other chinese girl, she aggressively attempts to get her to speak by pulling her hair and tormenting her in other physical and mental ways.  Kingston, desperate to talk with the girl essentially handles the situation completely inappropriately and believes she was punished for it by coming down with an illness that inherently keeps her in a hospitalized bed for months. As a young girl, Kingston’s introversion reflected on how alienated she felt, even from a girl who was simply in her same situation.  She recounts afterwards that, “sometimes I hated the ghosts for not letting us talk; sometimes I hated the secrecy of the Chinese.” (Kingston 117). Additionally, Kingston takes this interaction between her and the Chinese girl to portray the silence over them that alienates the two from each other due to their family’s secrecy, as Kingston’s parents would say “don’t tell” and the girl’s parents “protect[ing] both [of their] daughters.” (Kingston 110).  Ultimately, Kingston, and the Chinese girl especially, weren’t properly accustomed to naturally talking to each other, making it harder for themselves to have a conversation together or with any other kid. We see in literary texts like “The Woman Warrior” common themes of alienation that correlate with the invisible yet existing problem that separates individuals from society. This theme displays the separation and displacement of people in an environment they’re marginalized in and nearly forgotten about as a whole.  Kingston’s stories gives the reader a view from a life’s perspective that is transformed mainly due to barriers of her Chinese family and culture to first generational American life.

Works Cited

“Alienation.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/alienation. 

“A Guide to Responding to Microaggressions.” Illinois.edu, https://wie.engineering.illinois.edu/a-guide-to-responding-to-microaggressions/.

Kingston, Hong Maxine.  The Woman Warrior. Alfred A. Knopf, 1976.

Rankine, Claudia. Citizen: An American Lyric. Penguin, 2015.

Gender

By: Kaylee Oliver, Emeilya Erway, Dana Circelli, and Ryan McCann

Historically, the terms “sex” and “gender” have been used interchangeably, but their meanings are becoming increasingly distinct. In biological terms, sex is classified by either male or female, but the definition of gender is more complex. The social and cultural roles associated with each gender is what is used to categorize and set them apart . The term gender is now used more broadly to explain a range of identities that do not correspond to established and historical ideas of what constitutes male and female. Outside of the binary sexual classifications of male and female there is a similar categorization of human beings based on the individual’s personal awareness and identity. To each owns gender there are required pronouns that distinguish the identity one chooses to associate with, having it so a person can choose how specifically they want to be addressed as.    

The word gender is derived from the Middle English word ‘gender’, which at the time it was grammatical gender. Grammatical gender meant that every noun was either feminine, masculine or neutral. The Old French word gendre is defined as kind, sort, and a class or kind of persons or things sharing certain traits. It also was defined as the quality of being male or female, which in the twenty first century is considered outdated; gender is no longer restricted to the domains of male and female. In 12c. From modern Modern French came the word genre which means kind, species; character; gender. Genre stems from Latin genus which means race, stock, family; race, kind, species, as well as female or male sex. The use of male or female sex stopped in the early 15c. Seeing as the word sex started to become erotic and no longer fit within the definition. With this happening, by the 20c. gender become the word that was used to describe a persons sex. 

Throughout the play, A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry portrays three generations of women through the characters Mama, Ruth, and Beneatha, emphasizing the changing expectations placed on women throughout history. 

Mama is the oldest member in the Younger household and is seen as a traditional woman which stems from her being a part of the older generation. She is a strong motivational force for the family tasked with the decision of what to do with the money from the insurance check. Mama also asserts herself as the leading figure for the family by stating, “There are some ideas we ain’t going to have in this house. Not long as I am the head of this family” (Hansberry 54). With Mama being in charge of the family, this is seen as an uncommon practice during the play’s time period as it was usually the male’s role to be the authority figure and in charge of the household. However, at the same time that Mama assumes this powerful position, she also upholds the idea that her son Walter should be the one in charge of household decisions. Mama gives Walter the remaining money in the check and tells him, “It ain’t much, but it’s all I got in the world and I’m putting it in your own hands. I’m telling you to be the head of this family from now on like you supposed to be” (Hansberry 107). Mama admits that she was wrong and feels guilty for not letting Walter take his place as the man of the household. By the end of the play, Mama mentions how Walter “came into his manhood” (Hansberry 124), by putting the needs and wants of his family first before his own.

Ruth portrays the role of a housewife during this time period as she is married to Walter and takes care of the household. However, during this time period, black women did not have the luxury of a single income household and housewives usually consisted of middle and upper class white families which does not represent the Younger family as they were African American and poor. A recent study shows that since the 1980’s, the median wealth among black families has been less than $10,000 which is only 2 percent of the wealth the median of white families own (Collins 2019). Ruth is also faced with a jarring decision on whether or not to get an abortion. This stems from the idea that their current living conditions are already tight and the family having little money to support another child. During the play’s time period, it was illegal for a woman to get an abortion, yet during a conversation with Walter and Mama, she tells him that Ruth is thinking about getting rid of the child. Walter refusing to accept this idea, tells Mama that Ruth would never do that, Mama replies, “When the world gets ugly enough – a woman will do anything for her family” (Hansberry 77). Aborting the baby is a huge sacrifice, albeit an illegal one for Ruth and something that she is willing to do if it ensures a better future for her family.

Beneatha Younger sets herself apart from the other members of the family by battling the societal expectations of getting her dream job and deciding herself on who she is going to marry. Beneatha Younger dreams of one day pursuing a career as a doctor, but struggles to accomplish this as it is the societal norm that women are seen as nurses. Her older brother Walter even goes as far to say “go be a nurse like other women” (Hansberry 41) despite her hardworking efforts to achieve this goal. Beneatha’s family also expects her to marry George Murchison due to his wealthy status as a black American, although she shows a clear love interest towards Asagai. Early in the play, Ruth ask Beneatha why she doesn’t want to marry “That pretty, rich thing.” talking about George, to which she responds, “No I would not marry him if all I felt for him was what I feel now.” (Hansberry 52). Beneatha challenges the role of women in American society by achieving her dreams of becoming a doctor and through her relationships. 

Despite being the only male adult within the Younger household, Walter has conflicting issues with each female member in the family. Walter wants to take initiative for the family by opening his own liquor business, but is conflicted when Mama refuses to give him money because it goes against her religious morals. Walter believes that a man should be the leader of the household; however, he struggles because his mother is the one making the decisions and preventing him from opening his business. With Walter’s sister Beneatha, his argument that she shouldn’t become a doctor stems from her being a woman. During a dispute with Beneatha about what is best for the family, he proclaims, “She should not even want to become a doctor….Who in the hell told you, you had to be a doctor? If you so crazy bout messing ‘round with sick people, then go be a nurse like other women – or just get married and be quiet” (Hansberry 41). Walter believes that women are only fit for supporting roles and this belittles Beneatha’s dreams of wanting to become a doctor. Also, Walter tells Beneatha to get married even though she’s not worried about who she is going to marry, nonetheless if she does decide to get married. Finally, Walter feels that he is leaving his wife Ruth dissatisfied and that he should be buying her luxury items, despite not having the money. He states, “Ain’t she supposed to wear no pearls? Somebody tell me – tell me who decides which women is suppose to wear pearls in this world. I tell you I am a man – and I think my wife should wear some pearls in this world” (Hansberry 143). Walter being the man, thinks that he should be able to provide for his wife with luxuries and beautiful things, but by not having the money it makes him feel less like a man.

In studying literature, we can better understand the depth of gender; in turn, through understanding gender we can better analyze the characters and reason in literature. The traditional roles filled by each gender affect the characters we read about and can help explain why they do what they do. This predictability and understanding comes from the fact that each gender’s members share common experiences, and have historically behaved in a similar way in society. In The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston, stories are used to portray the memories of Kingston’s growth into adulthood. She tells the story of her aunt, who was shamed into suicide for going beyond the expectations that as a woman, she would be a silent housewife who stayed faithfully within her marriage. When originally told the story of her deceased aunt, Kingston writes that her mother told her, “You must not tell anyone…what I am about to tell you,” (Kingston 3). This quote shows that even in the twentieth century, Kingston’s mother expected her not to speak out of place, and still believed the sexual freedom of the aunt was something to be ashamed of. Knowing the potential fear generated by the horror story of her aunt’s fate, readers can understand Kingston’s rejection of common female roles. 

Through literature, authors can show the complications that stem from harmful gender stereotypes. “Even now, unless I’m happy, I burn the food when I cook. I do not feed people. I let the dirty dishes rot” (47). She burns food so as to reject the stereotype that women belong in the kitchen, and she isn’t overly social so as to avoid the stereotype that women serve as hostesses in a social setting. By telling her aunt’s story, Kingston fights against the idea that women should be silent and go unnoticed. Authors like Kingston can use their words to fight back against what is assumed about a gender, but not true to all of its members. By going against what people expect and embracing the qualities of who they are, writers are able to provide insight into the many facets of each gender.

It is important to understand gender when analyzing literature because it provides readers with a greater understanding of characters within the stories they read. Without knowing the traditional expectations of each gender role among differing cultures, socioeconomic levels and even races, readers are unable to fully grasp deeper concepts within the work. Within literature, gender roles play an important part in the reader understanding the characters for the  time and place that the book was written and takes place in. Gender roles also come into play when it comes to the authors. By knowing the author’s gender, too, the reader is able to see the differences between writing styles; the intention of each author in portraying gender related themes and issues through their writing is more evident to the reader. Writing style can be affected by the author’s feelings and experiences revolving around gender. When we as readers more thoroughly understand gender itself, we are more effective at finding meaning and depth in literature. 

   Works Cited

Collins, Chuck. “New Study Says the Median Black Family Will Have Zero Wealth by 2082.” 

InTheseTimes, 31 Jan. 2019, https://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/21705/race-wealth-gap-black-family-inequality-white-economy-united-states

“Gender, n.” Gender, n. : Oxford English Dictionary, https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/77468?rskey=A7sfMq&result=1#eid.

“Gender (n.).” Index, www.etymonline.com/word/gender.

“Gender.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gender

Hansberry, Lorraine. A Raisin in the Sun. Methuen Drama, 2018.

Image by Peggy_Marco

Kingston, Maxine Hong. The Woman Warrior. Vintage International, 1976.

Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 7 Feb. 2018, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/232363.php.

Newman, Tim. “Sex and Gender: Meanings, Definition, Identity, and Expression.”

Feminist Killjoy

Feminist Killjoy

Photo by 🇨🇭 Claudio Schwarz | @purzlbaum on Unsplash

Melissa, Roisin, and Sadie

Feminists have reclaimed what used to be negatively called the “feminist killjoy” and have successfully made it their own. This is most present in an article written by Sara Amhed titled “Feminist Killjoys”. She writes about the courage of feminists having their own voice and remaking unkind words into something extraordinary. She brings up countless examples of this such as, “Does the feminist kill other people’s joy by pointing out moments of sexism? Or does she expose the bad feelings that get hidden, displaced, or negated under public signs of joy”? Ahmed makes sure to point out what would be the so-called previous “norm” for feminist killjoys and then twists in into a sensible and comprehensible version that anyone could understand. She even goes as far to give sexists and racist alike a shread of agreement when she says “ Feminists do kill joy in a certain sense”. Then she rips the rug out from under everyone by saying, “they disturb the very fantasy that happiness can be found in certain places. To kill a fantasy can still kill a feeling”. Ahmed beautifully says that now what a feminist killjoy can accurately be described as is someone that kills a fantasy that has no room existing in today’s society. Ideals such as racism and sexism have the right to be stomped out by today’s “killjoys” and that is exactly the idea Sara Ahemd gives to the reader to take away from in her essay. 

To define the “Feminist Killjoy” it must first be dissected into its two terms. The Oxford English Dictionary loosely defines the act of feminism as someone who advocates for the rights and equality of women while a killjoy is said to be someone who makes an otherwise “fun” situation awkward by bringing up something how something played off as enjoyable is actually distasteful. Examples include, a woman bringing up the reality of sexual assault after a rape joke is told or a person of color explaining the disproportionate rates of police brutality when a white person says “but don’t all lives matter”. These words do not have a particular etymology, as they are so new to our vocabulary. However, the term feminist is shown to have come from an English and Latin descent, mostly from the Latin word “fēmina”. The combination of feminist and killjoy has not been commonly used in everyday speech, as shown by Google Ngram.

This is, fundamentally, what the union of “feminist” and “killjoy”  has come to mean recently. Examples of his can be seen in exquisite works of literature such as Mean by Myriam Gurba and A Raisin in the Sun by Loraine Hansberry and, as previously stated, Sara Ahmed in her article “Feminist Killjoys. All of these women have stories to tell as to how they were brought down, criticized, for noticing society’s wrongs. Feminists want to be able to create a safe space for those who have been left behind as they have been. For calling out a racist slur or a sexist joke, as this is still typical societal behavior, the feminist becomes the agressor and therefore the “feminist killjoy”. 

    The notion of feminist killjoy helps us better understand literary texts in a more complex way. In several of the novels we’ve read this year, feminism was an important theme. But in these books, characters that appear to represent feminist values are ridiculed. Although “feminist killjoy” is not used in these books, many of the narrators and characters we have read about fit under this archetype. Myriam Gurba writes in her novel Mean about being a feminist killjoy. She writes that being mean is a defense mechanism and a way to stay entertained. Additionally directing her mean ways toward boys is “a second-wave feminist duty” and closes by saying that “being a bitch is spectacular” (Gurba 17). It is not that she hates men, nor is a cruel person. Rather, in light of all the abuses women have faced at the hands of men, she feels that it is only right for women to be allowed to be mean to men. It is expected that a women be kind, even in the face of aggression and harassment. But Gurba, having been sexual assaulted herself, rejects this ideal and embraces being mean. It makes her feel empowered and counters that patriarchal notion that women need to be polite. 

In the play A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry follows a poor African-American family who must decide what to do with a life insurance check they have just received. It takes place during the 1950s. One of the members of the family, Beneatha Younger, is a young woman aspiring to go to medical school and become a doctor. The desire to be a doctor was uncommon for anyone women at the time, but especially black women, who dealt with racism and segregation on top of the sexism still prevalent at this time. She deals with sexism from her own family members. Her brother, Walter Lee, states “Ain’t many girls who decide [to become a doctor]” (36). Beneatha is able to complete the sentence, showing that this is a conversation she has had before. Walter does not outwardly condemn her for her career choice, but tries to guilt her for all the money that she will spend on medical school. But as a true feminist killjoy, she flips the script on him and tells him to leave her alone because the money is their mother’s, and “picking on [her] is not going to make her give it to [Walter] to invest in any liquor stores” (38). It’s not ladylike, and Walter is upset by it, shaking his head at his sister and wife for their lack of support before exiting the house. In this defiance, she not only stands her ground in becoming a doctor, but contradicts her brother’s own desires as he has done to hers. Here Walter shows us the typical view of women at the time, and what he hopes Beneatha will end up doing. Beneatha proves to be a feminist killjoy by not doing what her family hopes for her and instead pursuing a tough and expensive path. 

Another reason that Beneatha is a feminist killjoy is due to her rejection of typical social norms such as marriage and domestic life. Other characters in the story, including Walter’s wife Ruth and one of Beneatha’s suitors express a desire for her to marry and settle down, as women were supposed to. Beneatha tells Ruth “Listen, I’m going to be a doctor. I’m not worried about who I’m going to marry yet – if I ever get married” (Hansberry 50). She tells her suitor, Asagai, that he “never understood that there is more than one kind of feeling that can exist between a man and a woman- or at least, there should be” (Hansberry 63). Asagai disagrees, saying that “there need only be one type of feeling” (Hansberry 63). Beneatha tells him that it is not enough for her, even though he says that “for a woman it should be enough” (Hansberry 63). In these scenes, Beneatha rejects the role she is supposed to play in this time and place. She is supposed to get married and be content with a domestic life. That is what her family, and her prospective husbands want for her. Even though it will make her life harder and disappoint people, Beneatha continues to fight for what she believes in and what she wants to do, effectively proving herself a feminist killjoy. 

In reading A Raisin in the Sun and “Mean” with the idea of a feminist killjoy in mind, it gives these moments more importance, makes them a celebration of strong women. Though it is discouraging that people try to shame women for their ambitions and personalities, when we classify these women as feminist killjoys, we see how they take back their power. They claim their killjoy title and take pride in it, as Ahmed does with her essay. Being a bitch is being a powerful woman. Being a feminist killjoy is being a woman who is unapologetic about what she wants. 

Works Cited

Ahmed, Sara. “Feminist Killjoys (And Other Willful Subjects).” S&F Online, issue 8.3, 2010,

http://sfonline.barnard.edu/polyphonic/print_ahmed.htm. Accessed 28 November 2019.

“feminist, adj. and n.” OED Online, Oxford University Press, December 2019,

www.oed.com/view/Entry/69193. Accessed 5 December 2019.

Gurba, Myriam. Mean. Coffee House Press, 2017.

Hansberry, Lorraine. A Raisin in the Sun. Vintage Books, 2004.

“kill-joy, n. and adj.” OED Online, Oxford University Press, December 2019, 

www.oed.com/view/Entry/103385. Accessed 5 December 2019.

Schwarz, Claudio. resist feminist text. 1800. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/xg79IrCrSA8

Microaggressions

Amanda Cook, Leah Bernhardt, Chris Feustel, Safiya Tonico

Professor Savonick

ENG 252

21 November 2019 

Image result for microaggression

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, microaggressions are sets of actions, words, or instances that cause for discrimination of a group of people, whether it be intentional, subtle, or indirect. There will always be microaggressions everywhere, whether a person is in school or work, and most people experience it. Microaggressions are commonly committed throughout society in today’s time; they are often seen being used against minorities and people of different backgrounds and cultures. On our class slides, microaggressions are defined as “The everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based on marginalized group membership” ( Dr. Derald Wing Sue, Psychology Today). This includes racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and so much more. Microaggressions also lend a hand in creating stress and affect both a person’s mental and physical health when they are being discriminated against. According to the Center for Health Journal, “Research on microaggressions provides strong evidence that they lead to elevated levels of depression and trauma among minorities. In a sample of 405 students at an undergraduate university, depressive symptoms were the link in the relationship between racial microaggressions and thoughts of suicide”.  In addition to this, when conducting a study of Native Americans who have been diagnosed with diabetes, they have received “microaggressions from their health care providers. Among those sampled in the study, a correlation was found between microaggressions and self-reported histories of heart attack, depressive symptoms, and prior-year hospitalization.” The two different types of microaggressions are gender microaggressions and racial microaggressions. 

According to OED’s Etymology of microaggression, the term came around during the 1970s when the therapist produced the idea that different offensive mechanisms would be considered microaggression rather than different macro-aggression like lynching. Microaggression was discovered by Chester M. Pierce, who is a Harvard Psychiatrist in the 1970s, to describe racial put-downs that degrade physical health over a lifetime. “In 1973, Mary Rowe, an MIT economist, extended microaggression to include analogous aggression against women. Microaggression applies to any casual degradation of marginalized groups, such as disabled people, gender, and sexual minorities” (Sjwiki). Lots of people get targeted from microaggression, and it damages their self-esteem. 

Racial Microaggressions are common stereotypes reflected towards other races. An Example of Racial Microaggressions would be when A white man or woman clutches their purse or checks their wallet as a black or Latino man passes them (Psychology today). (Hidden message: You and your group are criminals.). Another example is when Asian Americans, born and raised in the United States, is complimented for speaking “good English.” (Hidden message: You are not a true American. You are a perpetual foreigner in your own country.) Lastly, when a black couple is seated at a table in the restaurant next to the kitchen despite there being other empty and more desirable tables located at the front. (Hidden message: You are a second-class citizen and undeserving of first-class treatment.)

Gender Microaggressions are commonly known stereotypes reflected towards women and men. Some examples of Gender microaggression are when an assertive female manager is labeled as a “bitch,” while her male counterpart is described as “a forceful leader” (Psychology Today). (Hidden message: Women should be passive and allow men to be the decision-makers) and a female physician wearing a stethoscope is mistaken as a nurse. (Hidden message: Women should occupy nurturing and not decision-making roles. Women are less capable than men). Another example is whistles or catcalls are heard from men as a woman walks down the street. (Hidden message: Your body/appearance is for the enjoyment of men. You are a sex object.)

Microaggressions can be tied into the book, Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, and Claudia Rankine’s Citizen. Whether it is racial microaggression or gender microaggression, it leaves a scar on the author. 

 Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, the African American family gets an insurance check for ten thousand dollars. Using the money, the family members want to use the money to accomplish their own dreams. Throughout the play, the characters are navigating both their dreams and what they plan on doing with the money. Throughout the play, there are different microaggressions occur that threaten the family’s ambitions. This is present when Karl Linder who is there realtor, makes it sure that Younger Family stays away from the new house. Linder states, “What do you think you are going to gain by moving into a neighborhood where you just aren’t wanted?” (103) They do not want African Americans near a white neighborhood. This is an example of racial microaggression. The location of the houses is for the high income people, not for African Americans,  in this case the Younger Family is low income people. African American people are being charged double the price of the house than white people; it makes it harder for them to purchase a house. According to the article, “Discrimination in Housing Against Nonwhites Persists Quietly, U.S. Study Finds”, the author Shaila Dewan explains how minorities have a harder time buying houses than whites. In a study that had 8,000 testers visited different homes to buy or rent, the results showed that “White testers were more frequently offered lower rents.” (1). Along with whites getting lower rent for houses, they were shown more houses and were quoted for a lower price than blacks, Hispanics, and Asians. This shows that its harder for the Younger family to move up in society and to buy an affordable home for the family to live in.  

Later on in the play, after the Younger family decides to move to Clybourne Park, they meet with Linder a white man. Linder makes a statement to the Younger family, saying that the community does not want the Younger family to live in Clybourne Park because they do not share any common interest. Linder says, “And at the moment, the overwhelming majority of our people out there feel that people get along better, take more of a common interest in the life of the community when they share a common background. I want you to believe me when I tell you that race prejudice simply doesn’t enter into it. It is a matter of the people of Clybourne Park believing, rightly or wrongly, as I say, that for the happiness of all concerned that our Negro families are happier when they live in their own communities.” (117-118). The Clybourne Park community doesn’t know any information about the Younger family. The community doesn’t know where the Younger family works, what they work on during their free time, or what their goals are. Without this information, the community can’t determine if the Younger Family still has any common interest with them. He says explicitly that it has nothing to do with “race and prejudice” as well as interest. This is a form of microaggression because Lindner is trying to prevent their Younger family from moving into the neighborhood due to the color of their skin. The Younger Family feels threatened by Linder, and Walter kicks him out of his home. Linder constantly says rude sayings that the Younger Family does not want to hear. This does not stop them from buying the house. They buy this house for themselves. Linder even pays the family money not to buy this house. The family does not take the offer to stay strong to show that Black lives matter. 

Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior has many examples of microaggressions, just based upon Kingston’s race and gender. The Woman Warrior can be seen as a coming of age story for Kingston because it is a memoir recounting her life and her experiences. When Kingston speaks to one of her elders, they end up saying, “Maggots! Where are my grandsons? I want grandsons! Give me grandsons! Maggots!” (Kingston, 191). Microaggression was derogatory. The maggots represents the granddaughters.  This shows gender microaggression because the author’s grandfather only wants grandsons and leaves his granddaughters out. Kingston’s elders are constantly being shown to commit gender microaggressions against her because she is a girl. And by calling Kingston a maggot, she is effectively being put down and devalued as a person, because she is being compared to a bug. 

In Citizen, by Claudia Rankine, microaggressions are used to convey the feeling of unsettlement and prove that racism is relevant today. An example of microaggression is shown when Rankine states, “And when the woman with multiple degrees says, I didn’t know black women could get cancer” (Citizen, 45). This shows racial microaggression because it discriminates against the author. This statement shows that even educated women believe in false stereotypes. Another example is when, “Dane Caroline Wozniacki, a former number-one player imitates Serena by stuffing towels in her top and shorts, all in good fun, at an exhibition match” (Citizen, 36). Dane thought it was funny to make fun of how Serena Williams’s body shape looks. This microaggression is making fun of somebody’s body figure. 

Along with the microaggressions shown in Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, and Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, there are different types of microaggressions that exist. These microaggressions include gender and racial microaggressions. Microaggression has existed in society for a long period of time, and for that reason, it has been and continues to be incorporated in literature. By understanding the meaning of microaggression in literature, people can become knowledgeable when reading novels regarding microaggression. 

Work Cited

“DiscriminationWikipedia. 2 December 2019.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discrimination

Gurba, Myriam. Mean. Coffee House Press. 2017. 

Hansberry, Lorraine. A Raisin in the Sun. New York: Signet/NAL, 1988. Print.

 Kingston, Maxine Hong. The Woman Warrior; Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts

Vintage International Edition, 1989.

Mayo Clinic. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Mayoclinic.org 

Rankine, Claudia. Citizen: An American Lyric. Penguin, 2015.

Sjwiki. Mediawiki. Microaggressions. 11 December 2014.

http://www.sjwiki.org/wiki/Microaggression

 Sue, Derald Wing Ph.D. Microaggressions: More Than Just One Race. Psychology Today © 

2019 Sussex Publishers, LLC.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/microaggressions-in-everyday-life/201011/microaggressions-more-just-race

Torino, Gina. How racism and microaggressions lead to worse health. CENTER FOR HEALTH 

JOURNALISM MEMBER POSTS. 10 November 2017.

https://www.centerforhealthjournalism.org/2017/11/08/how-racism-and-microaggressions-lead-worse-health

YOU, ME AND THEM: EXPERIENCING DISCRIMINATION IN AMERICA.

Scientists Start To Tease Out The Subtler Ways Racism Hurts Health.

Heard on Weekend Edition Saturday November 11, 20178:07 AM ET.

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/11/11/562623815/scientists-start-to-tease-out-the-subtler-ways-racism-hurts-health

YOU, ME AND THEM: EXPERIENCING DISCRIMINATION IN AMERICA

How Racism May Cause Black Mothers To Suffer The Death Of Their Infants

Heard on Morning Edition. December 20, 20175:01 AM ET.

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/12/20/570777510/how-racism-may-cause-black-mothers-to-suffer-the-death-of-their-infants

Haunt by: Sophia Chimenti and Jessica Schaechinger

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, haunt is defined as “frequenting, visitation by fears, suspicions, imaginary beings, spirits, etc.” According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, haunt is defined as “to stay around or persist”. However, the best definition of haunt comes from dictionary.com, of which haunt is defined as, “to recur persistently to the consciousness of; remain with.” Considered together, these definitions suggest that being haunted involves a lesson or idea of which lingers until resolved or uncovered. In the literary works The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston and Mean by Myriam Gurba, haunting describes lingering ghosts or stories used to teach lessons.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word haunt does not have a clear origin: “it is unclear whether the earliest sense in French and English was to practise habitually, (an action etc.) or to frequent habitually (a place). The order here is therefore provisional.” In addition, according to Merriam-Webster, the word haunt comes from “the Middle English, from Anglo-French hanter, probably from Old Norse heimta to lead home, pull, claim, from heimr home.” According to etymonline.com, the definition “spirit that haunts a place, ghost” was first recorded in 1843, in stereotypical African-American vernacular. It has now been developed into a more frightful term, as the word haunt today is related to ghosts, ghouls, and being haunted by someone or something. The word haunt is also tied in with the idea of learning a lesson or taking something important out of the experience, thus the idea of being “haunted” by the things we do and the decisions we make.

Image result for the woman warrior

The word Haunting is used to demonstrate people who hold an impact that follows one throughout their life. In texts such as The Woman Warrior and Mean, both speakers begin their own memoirs talking about another person’s story. Because these stories are reiterated throughout the memoirs, it shows how the authors have been impacted so heavily by these ghosts. In The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston, the ghost that Kingston is haunted by is her lost aunt, who got pregnant at a young age, and passed away, and her family chose to leave her in the past and essentially forget about her, until Kingston’s mother told her story. In Mean by Myriam Gurba, she is haunted by the story of Sophia Torres, a girl who was raped and murdered at a young age, and the news article only described her as “transient”. These stories and ghosts haunt the authors because they are constantly reminded of them throughout their daily life.

Image result for haunted mean gurba

In Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, the word haunting is used to portray many life lessons.  For example, in the first chapter “The No Name Woman,” Kingston speaks about how her aunt and her story of being shunned haunts her all the time. She states, “My aunt haunts me- her ghost drawn to me because now, after 50 years of neglect, I alone devote pages of paper to her,” (16). Because this story has been told to her by her mother, the ghost of her aunt now haunts her. The story of the no name aunt comes about when Kingston’s mother is trying to teach her about becoming a woman. This idea of a haunting emerges when Kingston’s mother states, “You must not tell anyone what I am about to tell you”(1). By telling Kingston this story, her mother is allowing the ghost of the no name aunt to emerge upon Kingston in order to teach her what not to do when becoming a woman. From telling her this story, this ghost of her no name aunt now lingers in the back of her mind, haunting her thoughts. She even writes the story down on paper for the world to read- something of which she was not supposed to do. By writing this down, she allows the ghost of her aunt to now haunt others, almost as if she is trying to bring justice to her aunt’s memory. This idea of being haunted by her aunt’s memory ties into the subtitle of the book: The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts. This subtitle allows us to see into Kingsotn’s past, and how she grew up around the idea of ghosts and being haunted by stories in order to understand the world around her. Alongside this definition, Kingston’s memoir portrays how negative it can feel to be surrounded by ghosts. Kingston states, “ The Chinese are always very frightened of the drowned one, whose weeping ghost, wet hair hanging and skin bloated, waits silently by the water to pull down a substitute,” (16) which shows that the haunting lessons of these stories is what scared the Chinese the most. The Chinese feared these hauntings, as these stories were passed down to teach them the fear of what would happen if they disobeyed or did something their family or village did not approve of. Using the word haunt in two different contexts and connotations allows the reader to see how the word can be used to motivate people to learn about the past, and to teach lessons for the future as well.

Image result for the woman warrior

In Myriam Gurba’s memoir Mean, she discusses her life, and stories that followed her throughout it. The first chapter “Wisdom” is the story of the brutal rape and murder of Sophia Torres. Since this novel is a memoir, it is strange that it opens with a story of someone else; however, in this chapter Gurba mentions that “Sophia is always with me. She haunts me. Guilt is a ghost.” (Gurba 3). Gurba opening her memoir with this story conveys to the reader how much the story of Sophia haunts her. The audience can continue to see this haunting throughout the novel. Gurba tells the audience about Ana Mendieta’s artwork, focusing on siluetas. Gurba wonders when she looks at the siluetas if  “she was a psychic. I wonder if she made these for Sophia” (Gurba 116). This quotation allows the reader to see just how much she was thinking about Sophia, and how Sophia’s story haunts her. Gurba then repeats “Guilt is a ghost. Guilt is a ghost. Guilt is a ghost.” (Gurba 116). This phrase has already been mentioned, but in this chapter it she repeats it three times. The importance of this phrase is to convey how Gurba’s life is interrupted by painful memories, but not only her memories. Her life and stories are also haunted by Sophia’s story, and all other women who have faced this abuse. 

Image result for ana mendieta silueta

Kingston uses the word haunt to give insight to the ways of the Chinese culture and how she learns to navigate life through stories passed down and the ghosts that linger from them and haunt her throughout her life. Gurba uses the word  haunt in order to allow the reader to feel the weight of past stories and guilt on their shoulders; she allows them to feel and notice the lingering messages of her stories in the background. In today’s world, not many people believe in ghosts or the idea of hauntings. However, haunting is very prominent in literature, especially in these memoirs, as it allows us to see how past choices affect our future decisions. Both of these works of literature give insight to the versatile definitions of haunt and show the different aspects of which they affect people from, proving there is a deeper meaning to this word.

Works Cited

Gurba, Myriam. Mean. Coffee House Press, 2017.

“Haunt.” Dictionary.com, Dictionary.com, https://www.dictionary.com/browse/haunt

“Haunt.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, 24 Nov. 2019,   

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/haunt

“Haunt (v.).” Online Etymology Dictionary , Online Etymology Dictionary ,   

             www.etymonline.com/word/haunt

Kingston, Maxine Hong. The Woman Warrior; Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts, Vintage                 International Edition, 1989.

Histories Many Roles Within Mean

In Myriam Gurba’s memoir, Mean, the idea of history comes to play throughout and is used in many different ways. From the first time someone reads this book the reader is able to understand that history is an important concept and that as they continue to read it just becomes clearer. History takes on many different roles within this memoir and they all are able to give us a better understanding of Gurba as she was growing up. 

History makes its first appearance when we are told that it is a memoir, which according to the Oxford English Dictionary is “records of events or history written from personal knowledge or experience of the writer, or based on special sources of information.” So we already know that this is Myriam Gurba’s life and history, these are the events that happened to her and things that shaped her to be who she is now. We are able to see history through Gurba’s eyes and get a deeper understanding of her life. 

Gurba also uses history to show a bit of irony within her life. Throughout her time in college, Gurba took at least one history class every semester. This is ironic due to the fact that Gurba had been molested in her history class and had nothing but terrible memories from history class. Gurba says “Yeah history class was where I got molested. Nonetheless, I couldn’t stop taking history classes. I really loved history” (150). Even Gurba knows that this is ironic and crazy that she liked these classes considering her past experiences that are associated with history class. But by taking these classes it is as if she’s showing that you can overcome these experiences that change you and then turn them into something that you can make a better outcome from. By overcoming her molestation she was able to turn something that she loved and make it a career.  

Gurba then goes on to tell us that she had graduated with a history degree and then went on to become a history teacher. I find this to be ironic as well considering her past that she has with her history teacher, Mr. Hand. Mr. Hand had known about Gurba being molested in his class but pretended that he hadn’t seen it and chose to do nothing about it. This is shown when she says “Unable to look into a girl’s eyes or soul while she was being molested, something all teachers should be prepared to confront, Mr. Hand snapped his eyes back to the worksheet he’d been grading” (30). Gurba is disappointed in Mr. Hand due to that fact that he couldn’t do something that all teachers should be able to do and that is to stop something from happening when it shouldn’t be. When she states “all teachers should be prepared to confront” she is personally calling him out for being a terrible teacher and showing that what he did should not happen with in any school. Gurba is showing that she can and will be better when she becomes a teacher and that no child should have to go through what she went through.

History is also an important part within the memoir because Gurba goes out of her was to show how history repeats itself. Sometimes in obvious ways and sometimes in more subtle, deeper ways. One time we see this is when Gurba is at a strip club in San Francisco and she says “The stripper was me and I was him. I was reenacting the history of the moment after the art museum from a different perspective” (151). The moment that she is talking about in this quote is when she was raped in an alley after she had left the art museum. She says that she is reenacting the event from a different perspective. She sees the interaction between her and the stripper as almost a parallel to the interaction between her and the man that raped her. This is a way of history repeating itself because Gurba is able to make connections between these two different interactions. She sees how it is so similar to something she had previously gone through.

Another way that history repeats itself is when it comes to how other people are seen by the public. After she was raped, Gurba chose not to testify against her attacker due to the fact that “I’d be that girl that got raped by that cholo just like the boys Mr. Osmond fucked are still referred to as the boys Mr. Osmond fucked” (140). She saw what happened to these boys and was afraid that if she was to publicly say that this had happened to her then no one would be able to look at her the same. They would only see the fact that she was raped. This can also connect to Sophia being called a transient in all of the news articles. No one ever called her by her name and this ended up belittling the incident and making her seem like she was less than human. Gurba also didn’t want that, she didn’t want to feel less than human because of what this man had done to her. By not testifying she is not giving history a chance to repeat itself, she is not allowing herself to become what others before her have. 

Discussion Questions:
1. Why do you think Gurba choses to connect history in different ways within her memoir?

2. When reading Mean how did you see the irony behind Gurba’s choice to major and pursue a career in history?

Work Cited

Gurba, Myriam. Mean. Coffee House Press, 2017.

The Way Ghosts Can Tell A Story: By Michael Wentling-Raymie

            In Myriam Gruba’s memoir, Mean, there is a similarity in section to another section in the memoir, The Woman Warrior, by Maxine Hong Kingston. In Gruba’s Mean, when she goes to San Francisco to visit the art exhibit of Hannah Wilke, she realizes she is dead and then starts describing how she thinks Wilke was like. She uses the word maybe while describing Wilke, she says “Maybe Wilke called this series Intra-Venus because she found Eros in dying”(Gruba 84). Later on she writes “There is Hannah ( I feel I can call her by her first name because of what she’s shown me)”(Gruba 84). She then finishes this scene talking about how she feels connected to Wilke because of her art, she feels a similarity to a ghost. She believes that Hannah Wilke is like her and “was modeling how to be me for me”(Gruba 85).

            In Rankine’s The Woman Warrior, Rankine also does this comparison and starts describing how she believes her aunt’s life was like. Rankine first learns of the story from her mother of her fathers sister, a ghost, the one who “never existed.” She uses synonyms to the word maybe to demonstrate that these are her own thoughts on how she believed her aunts life was like. Rankine writes “Perhaps she had encountered him in the fields…”(Kingston 6), “She may have been unusually beloved…”(Kingston 10), and “He may have been somebody in her own household”(Kingston 11). These words and phrases demonstrate that these are not concrete facts about her aunt, these are just her thoughts and ideas about her aunt’s life based on how her life has gone and her personal experiences. She personally connects herself to this ghost, her aunt, and uses this to create a story that she can accept as how her life was.

            This connection between the two books is important because they are two different memoirs that are about themselves that use someone that is dead as a way to compare and find themselves. These ghosts allow the reader to see how the authors mind works, and how the author thinks about themselves by reading what they believe these ghost’s lives were like. If we look at their descriptions of these people we can see the authors personal experiences in life through their descriptions, like when Gruba is talking about Wilkes creative process and how she came up with the name and ideas for her art she uses her personal thoughts and logic and it influences how she thinks this person she has never met was like and how she lived. Rankine also does this by basing how her aunt, who was shamed into killing herself by the villagers, lived in the Chinese society. Rankine uses what her parents taught her and her experience with Chinese culture to formulate a story.

            The author’s use of personal experiences to describe ghosts allows us to see more into their life and learn more about them. It makes us have to also interpret their lives instead of them the just coming out and telling us things about them, it shows us who they are without them telling us who they are.

            In Gruba’s case it shows us that she likes art and that it connects her to something. It helps her find herself and express herself. When she says that Wilkes helped show her how to be herself without ever meeting her shows that art has a strong impact in her life. She says that she feels connected and close to Wilke because of what she has seen in her art, she believes that all of Wilke’s art is teaching her a lesson.

Discussion Questions:

1. How do you think an author’s personal experiences factor into how they describe ghosts?

2. What does Gruba’s ideas of what Hannah Wilke was like tell you about her?

Works Cited:

Gruba, Myriam. Mean

Kingston, Maxine. The Woman Warrior

Mean. Does it make you feel better? Are you stronger now?

Myriam Gurba’s memoir, Mean, focuses on the childhood and adolescent years of Gurba’s life, where she has to deal with growing up in California as a mixed-raced Chicana surrounded by a population of white people, and being queer. Gurba faces a lot of racism and misogyny throughout her teenage years and over the course of learns how to “be mean”.

“Being mean” is something that had heavily impacted Gurba growing up. She was always treated differently due to her race whether it was in School or in her community. 

She always knew she was Mexican, but she didn’t think she was much different from other people til people started referring to her as a “Mexican”. This can be seen in the beginning of the novel when Myriam has with Emily’s family while her mother has complications giving birth. Myriam asks Emily’s mother what they’re having for dinner and she answers with, “Since you’re visiting, Mexican.” (5)

Myriam thinks that her mom will cook up a storm of all of these traditional delicious Mexican cousine meals, whilst instead she makes a Mexican casserole out of basic American ingredients.

This small example demonstrates how at such a young age, Myriam is already facing racism, and she doesn’t know how to react. On the next page she even adds “There was nothing Mexican about it.” (6)

Americans today even stereotype Mexican cousine to be Taco Bell, however, for a child at a young age to subjected to being called “a Mexican” and making a half-fast Mexican-American meal because that is someone’s ethnicity is extremely damaging to any child.  

This incident sparked and inspired Myriam to become a stronger person and fight back against this racism with the strength she gained from being mean.

At an early age, Gurba learned that it was ok to be mean. It was how she was going to survive in this world.

She learned from this incident that there is evil in this world, and the only way to truly fight back is to treat people the same way they treat you… only 10x harder.

In the next short story from her memoir, The Problem of Evil, Gurba asks her father “Why does evil exist?”, and he answers with “Myriam, think of how boring life would be if nothing bad ever happened?” (16)

Although this probably wasn’t Myriam’s father’s intentions, these words gave her permission to be mean. Gurba expresses on the next page how “we act mean to defend ourselves”, and later exclaims how “It’s best practiced by those who understand it as an art form.” (17)

One incident and the people around us affect us act a young age. If it wasn’t for the people that surrounded Myriam, she wouldn’t have been exposed to racism at such a young age, and I don’t think she would’ve been able to know how to stand up for herself as well as others, if she didn’t have this experience.

However, being mean changed Myriam at a young age, and in many ways led her to be act cruel and senseless towards other people. 

It seemed as if she was looking for a sort of vengeance towards the white people who had wronged her in the past and present. An example of this can be seen, when she exclaims, “I hoped Steve would injure himself and die so that I wouldn’t have to let him into my club. That had been my strategy. To give his sex an insurmountable initiation. Like the literacy test given to black folks in the American South before the Voting Rights Act passed.” (15)

Despite the fact that Gurba had been wronged and treated poorly by those around her, she was acting cruel towards other people who hadn’t wronged her. 

She wasn’t defending herself or anyone else.

So what fun could she have really had?

Discusson Questions:

  1. Do you think if Myriam had lived in another city or state, she would’ve had a different childhood experience? Do you think she would still be mean?
  2. How can such a small incident impact a child to question the world around them, and change their perspectives on life? 

Work cited:

Gurba, Myriam. Mean

Fire of Hate: A Found Poem about Relationship Abuse

By Lucy Syvarth

For my found poem, I used the lyrics from the song “Love the Way You Lie” by Eminem. This song is about relationship abuse from the perspective of the abuser himself. Instead of keeping the same point of view of the abuser, I made my found poem from the perspective of the woman being abused. My method was to read the lyrics of the song over and over again while listening to it and picking out the most powerful words and phrases that stood out to me. I then printed the lyrics and cut out these words and phrases. I would look at them and think about what I want those words to say in the bigger picture. For example, when I saw the word “game”, I wanted to fabricate that into the speaker feeling like a game to be played. Additionally, with the word “suffocate”, I wanted the speaker to feel as if being with her abuser is suffocating. I also wanted to use the phrase “Here we go again” at the beginning and the end of the poem. I did this to show that abuse is a vicious cycle that is very hard to get out of. I left the last phrase without a period to create a sense of the poem being unfinished because this abuse isn’t over either. Additionally, I used the space on the page to space out lines that are meant to be read more slowly and space lines close to each other that are meant to be read quickly. I also taped the words on the page haphazardly to show that these are more jumbled thoughts of someone being abused rather than a thought out speech. I also shadowed some of the words with the same word for phrases that are meant to be read with more emotion, as if the speaker’s voice is breaking.

This poem means a lot to me, not only because I worked hard on it and put a lot of effort into it, but because I can relate to the speaker’s experiences. I put a lot of my own emotion into this poem. And even though the speaker feels broken down and trapped, I wrote this from the perspective of how I used to feel. Working on this poem empowered me because I realize how differently I now feel ever since I got out of that abusive relationship. Also, the song is about the same issue that my poem is about so it is nice to know that there are people that can relate. They take those issues and create them into a piece of art, whether it be a song or a poem. I never thought much about Zong! and what a found poem means but now that I created my own, I understand much better. It is about taking a piece of something that means a lot to you and making it into your own piece in order to tell a story and illustrate the feelings they bring up. I learned that you can take something that upsets you and create it into something to tell your story and empower you.