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

5 Replies to “The Way Ghosts Can Tell A Story: By Michael Wentling-Raymie”

  1. Michael, I really enjoyed reading your blog post, I was interested the entire way through! I loved how you made the connection to “The Woman Warrior” because as I was reading this part of “Mean” it instantly reminded me of it. The way Gurba worded her thoughts about Wilke such as “Maybe Wilke called this series Intra-Venus because she found Eros in dying”(Gruba 84), reminded me of how Kingston worded her thought about her forgotten aunt. To answer discussion question 1, I think author’s personal experiences effect how they write about ghosts in a strong way. I feel as though people who have had a harder life, such as Gurba and Kingston, have a want for connection with someone, even if it is a ghost. Both of these author’s used the ghosts to connect with them.

  2. Hey Michael, I thought your blog post was very intriguing and I liked how you focused on one chapter of the reading and made comparisons with Rankine’s “The Woman Warrior”. As for Gurba and her experience with the ghost, she does seem to have a sentimental attachment to it just like how Kingston did in her memoir. One strong piece of evidence that shows this is when Gurba states, “I put my face near her dying face…Her face reminded me of my mom’s” (Gurba 84). This can also be tied back to Kingston’s story about the ‘No Named Woman’ since Kingston also didn’t know her dead Aunt personally, but still found her story interesting and posed questions to better understand it. As for what Gurba might think of Hannah, she says, “She was an artist, but she also had what it took to be a saint” (Gurba 85). This tells us that Gurba viewed Hannah as not just her profession of being an artist, but she also compares her to a Saint.

  3. Hi Micheal, I enjoyed reading your blog post. I found it very intriguing that you made a connection to Kingston’s “The Woman Warrior”. I also saw the similarities between the two while reading this part of the book and instantly connected Gruba’s story of Hannah Wilke to Kingston’s story of the no named woman. I liked that you brought up the fact that both authors used ghosts within their memoirs to describe personal stories, while also interpreting what might have been happening during the time that these ghosts were alive. This can be seen when Gurba says “Maybe Wilke called this series Intra-Venus because she found Eros in dying”(Gruba 84). The way she worded this is quite similar to how Kingston told the story of her aunt. They both posed questions of what these ghosts went through as a way to try and understand what was happening to them while they were alive.

  4. Hi Micheal, I really enjoyed reading your blog post. I actually wrote my blog post on the theme of ghosts in The Woman Warrior, and the fact that this memoir also has that theme is very interesting to me. It’s strange how two unconnected authors could both write about the same thing in similar and yet different ways. Another part of the book where I noticed Gurba talking about ghosts was right in the beginning, with the story of the girl, Sophia, who was raped and killed. She starts the book with the story of this girl, and then continues to bring her up throughout, such as in the part when she talks about realizing that she partied with her friends on the spot where Sophia would later die. I think it is very interesting to think of the ways ghosts affected the lives of both these authors and how they utilize them in their stories.

  5. Hi Michael, I liked your blog post. In the interest of your first question, I do think that an authors personal experiences play an important role in their description of ghosts. In Gurba’s instance, on page 84 of the book, she writes “I put my face near her dying face…Her face reminded me of my Mom’s. It gad good bone structure and a nose that was a natural work of art” (Gurba, 84). Gurba gives this haunting image of a a dying face, practically a ghostly figure, but instead of talking about the gruesome details in this dying moment, she compares the face to her mother’s. A person interactions and past experiences prove to show that they describe ghosts in different lights because of how Gurba compares her mother to the ghostly figure of Hannah. If Gurba had a different relationship with her mother, this might not have been the case and Gurba could’ve possibly talked about how gruesome and disturbing the scene actually was.

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