Hey everyone, I really appreciate that you follow my blog. I hope you’ve enjoyed its content so far! Recently, I diverged into writing speculative fiction, so I’ve set up another blog where I’ll publish scifi/fantasy related posts. The first post is up and ready for your reading pleasure! Check it out, be sure to follow my new scifi/fantasy blog, and let’s keep having fun! =D
I’m four classes away from my bachelor’s degree in creative writing, and one of my last classes is a 400-level Interdisciplinary Studies course called “Diversity.” For the last four weeks, I’ve dealt with textbook essays, and fellow students, that assert the ubiquitous existence of racism, sexism, and so forth in America, especially as displayed, as if it were innate to their nature, by—you guessed it—white heterosexual males. Racism and sexism exist, of course, but they are not ubiquitous traits, and they are certainly not innate. Yet, despite textbook and student claims agreeing with that, the subtext is clear: “privileged” white heterosexual males and females are racist, sexist, and uncompassionate “oppressors” to everyone else. I have done, and will continue to do, my best to reasonably argue against these broad strokes and call out the textbook authors and some of my fellow students as the racists they are, who support white guilt and all that other nonsense. (I can do this because I’m Costa Rican. Right? Oh, wait, never mind…I guess it actually makes me a “white-washed traitor.” #whatevs.) Recently, though, I felt cornered. The guidelines for our third short paper were as follows:
Trace some of the major contributions of an ethnic or “minority” group to U.S. culture, for example, to music, the arts, dance, or theater. There are many other possibilities! Develop your composition based on an area of interest to you in the arts.
I decided to rebel, a little. I considered kowtowing and completing the assignment as required, but I couldn’t. My mind doesn’t work under compulsion. But I want a decent grade. So I did what I could to be true to my convictions yet fulfill—in some way—the requirements of the assignment. Below is the introduction and conclusion only to my essay (the middle stuff isn’t too relevant to this discussion, but you can read the essay in its entirety here if you want). What do you think? Will I get an A, B, or C on this paper? What grade would you give me if you were the professor? Here we go!
[Intro.] It is inappropriate to require students to focus on artistic achievements based primarily on racial or ethnic considerations. Were I inclined to meet the requirement, further, I would find it difficult. My area of interest is literature, and as I scan my bookshelf, I see that most of the authors whose works I have read and enjoyed are American white males. However, because they are American white males and do not constitute a minority, I cannot mention their excellent contributions to literature. Since my bookshelf contains few writers of other ethnic or racial origins, and since the assignment guidelines encourage me to focus on an area of art that is of interest to me, I will discuss the contributions of the non-white writers and works with which I am familiar; however, I am not familiar with a large enough corpus of any particular race’s or ethnicity’s writers to trace contributions of one group (nor is it necessary for me, or anyone, to be in order to “appreciate diversity”). Therefore, I will briefly discuss a single contribution from three groups with which I am familiar: Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao; Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony; and Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed.
[I go one to discuss each author’s work and analyze it as a positive contribution to US culture, though I spanked Silko’s work a little because it promotes, rather than condemns, cultural divisiveness…but that’s another topic.]
[Conclusion.] Artistic “contributions” should not be judged based on their creators’ races or ethnicities, nor should colleges require students to “trace some of the major contributions of an ethnic or ‘minority’ group to U.S. culture.” Such assignments necessarily instill two subtle assertions: race and ethnicity are important distinctions (which reinforces racism); and majorities should not receive attention (which reinforces antagonism). However, we should recognize the skill and grace of authors who consider questions of race and ethnicity in ways that encourage us to break down these barriers, rather than reinforce them in pseudo-intellectual exercises.
That’s it. I considered adding *drops mic* after the last line, but figured that might not be academically appropriate. So, honestly, what do you think of my response to the essay guidelines? Should we focus on art because of the race of the person who created it, or because of the artist’s skill? What grade would you give me? Thanks for reading!
Update, 8/14/15: The professor, Dr. Underwood, gave the paper 100% credit, saying, “A superb essay that takes Diversity paper assignments to task. Excellent critical acumen and fascinating examples. A joy to read!” I smiled, took a deep breath, and thought, Good. Maybe there is hope for college curricula. =)
In life, don’t just leave your things lying around. Someone might get them, chew them up, and even bury them.
These questions were originally posted (for me) by Lizzy at MyLittleBookBlog, a delightful blog full of wit and inspiration!
Author you’ve read the most books from: Orson Scott Card. I don’t know how it happened, it just did. I guess this way: while in the Marine Corps I had some time on my hands and decided to read a book I’d seen on the shelves for many years–meaning it had earned a lasting appeal: Ender’s Game. Read it, loved it, saw there were sequels–and a parallel novel, Ender’s Shadow!–had to follow it up. Suddenly I’d read 7 Card books. More Ender and Shadow books were published–so I read those, too! Then prequels started getting published, and bam! Then one of my favorite philosophers, Leonard Peikoff, answered a question on his podcast about his favorite book: Enchantment by Orson Scott Card! So I read it, thought it was masterful! That turned me on to Card’s fantasy, which led me to his Mithermages novels. Then I decided to start writing, professionally. Card impressed me–clear writing, gripping characters, intriguing storytelling techniques–and what did I find? How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy by Orson Scott Card. What else? Characters & Viewpoint by Card! Wow–didn’t realize til now, but I guess I’ve read about two dozen of his novels–and yeah, and a short story collection of his I found!–by now!
Best Sequel Ever: J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. That was when Hogwarts and its characters were at their magical best! Plot-driven, action-packed, just a beautiful ride!
Currently Reading: The Gate Thief by Orson Scott Card; Wild Seed by Octavia Butler (a novel Card recommended in one of his writing books!).
Drink of Choice While Reading: Hot cup of coffee with a bit of cream and a touch of sugar.
E-reader or Physical Book? Physical book. End of story!
Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated In High School: Hermione Granger (assuming she looks like Emma Watson). I have just the right amount of smarts to keep up with her, bravado to catch her eye in the first place, and stupidity to keep her smiling. Don’t know that it would have lasted, but I’m sure we’d have had a good 6-month run…before she finally dumped me. 😉
Glad You Gave This Book A Chance: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. It was assigned reading in high school and I never finished it–didn’t care to wade through dialects and didn’t understand (or rather wasn’t interested in) all the sociopolitical themes. Later, in my 20s, I gave it another go and determined to finish it. Incredibly well done, especially that long but important ending!
Hidden Gem Book: The Color of Distance by Amy Thomson. I was in the scifi section looking for a new book to read and found it. It’s a scifi, for sure–but I truly think anyone can appreciate it. It’s much deeper than you’d expect. The heroine is an astronaut marooned on a distant world. She encounters aliens–gentle, empathetic creatures whose skins change color to reflect both language and emotion simultaneously. They live in the world’s exotic rain forests, with vast but hidden communities enriched by a delicate culture of courtesy, intellect, and fear of change. She has to learn to communicate with them. It transforms her spiritually and psychologically. It was well-written and just dreamy. I was astounded. Thomson wrote a sequel that wasn’t so good, and I haven’t seen anything from her since, nor have I found The Color of Distance on bookshelves anymore. But I honestly implore you: find it, read it, you’ll love it.
Important Moment in your Reading Life: If I can stretch my answer a bit, this was a LONG moment… I worked security for 2 1/2 years, night shift
. It required very little attention; really I just needed to physically be present to get paid. My fellow guards slept or watched asinine movies ALL the time. Me? I read for hours. Specifically, I made the Barnes & Noble Classics section my reading list. I tore through 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Three Musketeers, O Pioneers!, The Jungle Book, Peter Pan, Tarzan of the Apes, Crime and Punishment, The Awakening and Selected Short Stories, The Count of Monte Cristo, on and on and on! I also read all of Ayn Rand’s nonfiction books, like Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal and Philosophy: Who Needs It. Those two years changed my life. I’m the writer I am today because of all that I absorbed!
Just Finished: Earth Afire by Orson Scot Card.
Kinds of Books You Won’t Read: Pretentious books, books that “insist upon themselves”: Ulysses by Joyce (worst book in history), Catch 22 (just dumb), The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald (hardly great, super overrated), and most of Vonnegut’s stuff (dude, you’re not as profound as you think). Also religious fiction. I’m not religious.
Longest Book You’ve Read: Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. It’s nearly 100,000 words longer than War and Peace (and far better)!
Major book hangover because of: The Woman in the Wall by Patrice Kindl. Oh my goodness… I found this book at random in a youth library. It’s about an incredibly shy 7-year-old girl who retreats into the walls of her house. She crawls through them and makes them her home. You watch her as she watches people, and tragically begins to grow too big: breasts on her chest, longer legs and arms. I was a young teen, but I just fell in love with her as she got older (about my age then by the time the book was over). Literally, I closed the book when it was finished and kind of cried because I loved that girl. Took me a long time to get over it. I’m still not really…
Number of Bookcases You Own: Sorry, this will have to be number of big-ass boxes filled with books I’ve read in my garage: about 20+.
One Book You Have Read Multiple Times: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. Read it twice. Listened to the audiobook twice. And I’ll be reading it again. But to be fair, the book I’ve read most times is…Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. Read it once, listened to it on audiobook at least 9 times.
Preferred Place To Read: In my white palm-tree patterned chair (doesn’t match the living room) with my feet propped up on my ’70s-style foot cushion (ugliest item in the house–and will never be thrown out as long as I draw breath!).
Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read: “Howard Roark laughed.” Opening paragraph from Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. The book’s entire plot and theme are contained in those three words. Genius.
Reading Regret: Not sure how to interpret this, but…I regret reading The Great Gatsby. Waste of my life. But if I hadn’t read it I’d still want to read it just to read it. So, it worked out.
Series You Started And Need To Finish (all books are out in series): Hunger Games. But it’s a painstaking journey…Suzanne Collins is a poor writer, her world creation is week, and her themes are unclear. It’s taken me two weeks to read 1 1/2 chapters of Catching Fire. In a few years, maybe I’ll read it all the way through. Why am I reading them? Well, because the movies themselves are actually awesome! (The director did what Collins failed to do: make it real.) And if a movie has a book, I feel compelled to read the book.
Three of your All-Time Favorite Books:
- The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
- Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
- Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Unapologetic Fanboy for: Harry Potter. Rowling’s writing leaves things to be desired, but her imagination makes up for it troves!
Very Excited For This Release More Than All The Others: Earth Awakens by Orson Scott Card in paperback! I’ve read the first two prequels, now I’m waiting for the final sequel-prequel!
Worst Bookish Habit: Most of my books are in boxes, not on shelves. ='(
X Marks The Spot: Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book: Can we guess I’d dig down in a box and find Candide by Voltaire?
Your latest book purchase: The Gate Thief by Orson Scott Card. The second Mithermages novel–it’s getting gooooood!
ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY late): Earth Afire by Orson Scott Card. Aliens are attacking earth and the hero of the original book that this is the prequel of must stop them! OMG!
Thanks for reading! If you answer these questions, leave a link in the comments to your post and I’ll check it out! =)
“It’s just Facebook” is a defense used by people too childish to be responsible for their own behavior. Facebook is a social environment like any other, with courtesies expected like any other, where self-restraint and self-awareness are still virtues for personal conduct. An “FB friend” who used this defense after a mocking comment couldn’t believe I “threw away a childhood friendship” for it. I had told him his comment wasn’t appropriate, then I “unfriended” him after his “lol whatever, get over it” response (verbatim). First, I wasn’t too interested in that friendship anyway, which is why it didn’t last beyond 9th grade and why I’m not too sad just now. And second, threw away a childhood friendship?? Dang, bro, IT’S JUST FACEBOOK!
“[One should] regard language as a tool of honor, always to be used as if one were under oath — an oath of allegiance to reality.” -Ayn Rand