Monday, October 27, 2008

Memoir Metacognition

Lipstick Jihad
For my independent memoir assignment, I chose to make a new book cover for Lipstick Jihad by Azadeh Moaveni. Almost every aspect of the cover was purposely placed on the cover because it has something to do with the memoir.
To begin, I made the cover red because it is the color most often associated with lipstick, which refers to the title. On the red cover, I hand wrote Arabic letters in yellow-gold ink. I wanted to place Arabic letters in the background since most of the story takes place in Iran and writing is such a huge part to Moaveni’s life since she is a journalist. The letters were purposely gold so that they would reflect how rich and intricate the Iranian culture is. The image I included on the cover is of a woman wearing her hijab (head scarf) as demanded by law. The irony, however is that even though the woman is following the rules by covering her head and arms, she is clearly breaking the rules by showing off her legs and red pumps. This alludes to an important theme throughout the story. Moaveni often writes about how so many strict rules lead the Iranian people to break them more. The Iranian people that Moaveni met in Tehran were all so thirsty for sexual contact because it was so forbidden. I thought that the image of the provocative woman would be a good example of the yearning Iranian women have to be free from all the social restrictions that are put on them.
On the back of the cover I placed a photograph of Moaveni since it is her memoir. I also included the line that is on the front of the book because it is probably the best way to describe what Moaveni went through; being Iranian in American and American in Iran. At the bottom I included a bar code to make the cover look realistic as well as the publisher’s information. In my description of the memoir, I made sure to include the word “struggle” In my last sentence since the word ‘jihad’ means struggle. “Lipstick struggle” refers to the daily problems that Iranian people (women specifically) face everyday. I also thought it was important to mention Moaveni’s vivid, mature, and analytical style since it is what makes the memoir so good. Moaveni has the ability to sound mature for such a young age (24) and yet her style is refreshing and easy to read. Overall I looked to the themes of the memoir in order to make the decisions about what to put on my cover.

Massachusetts Poetry Festival

This past weekend Lowell hosted the 2008 Massachusetts Poetry festival. The three day long event, which took place from Friday, Oct. 10 through Sunday, Oct. 12, was filled with poetry readings, art exhibitions, poetry showcases, and more.
Being that the various events throughout the day took place around Lowell, nice weather was important. Luckily, the organizers could not have chosen a more sunny and comfortable autumn day if they had tried. The day seemed perfect for walking around and seeing all that Lowell and the artists there had to offer. Local sandwich shops and coffee shops such as Olive That And More partnered with the poetry festival as they hosted their own open-mic poetry readings. Small crowds came in throughout the day, enjoyed a nice meal and listened to and shared their own writings.
Throughout Saturday, there was a small press fair at the ALL Arts Gallery at 246 Market Street. The press fair, which was curated by Bootstrap Press from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., gave festival goers the chance to meet editors and publishers from various presses and magazines as well as a chance to purchase any of their writings.
While the press fair was going on at the ALL Arts Gallery, there were many other events going on in Lowell throughout the day. One of those events was the poetry readings of Marjorie Agosin and Ed Sanders at the Lowell High School Freshman Academy. Born in Chile, most of Agosin’s poetry revolves around growing up there and all of her poetry is written in Spanish. At the reading, Agosin shared some of her translated works, including “The Obedient Girl”, “The President”, and a poem about a mother remembering her deceased daughter. Agosin’s soft, almost whimpery voice added to the poems’ romantic and nostalgic themes. Read in both English and Spanish, Agosin’s poems about Anne Frank hit a soft spot in the audience’s hearts. After a couple of other poems, the mood changed as Agosin read a humorous poem entitles “I Don’t Do Lunch” which mocked the uptight and proper lunch that often people meet to have as opposed to the freeing and warm hearty dinner most people enjoy. Most of Agosin’s poetry sounded better in its native language, Spanish. It had a lot more flow and vivacity; it got to the point with more passion. Agosin then closed her part with a quote both in English and in Spanish, “No hay otra luz que la que tu imaginas; recordar es reviver.”
With his completely different style, Ed Sanders took the stage next and read from hi book, Poems for New Orleans. The poem “Secret Poverty” told the truth about what poverty means for the people who were affected when hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. Its repetition of the phrase, “Let’s call it (fill in adjective here) poverty…” drove home the reality and seriousness and how the hurricane situation was handled. In a less serious tone, Sanders’ next poem, entitled “Send George Bush to Jail!” was humorous in a subtle way. Not only did the poem include many historical references, but it also included the audience; Sanders kept asking the audience to join in and say the chorus with him, “Send George Bush to jail!” Showing off his other talents, Sanders also played an instrument and sang a song. He concluded with William Blake’s laughing song which consisted of a few words, and as you might guess, lots of laughter. Sanders asked the audience to join in the laughing chorus, which was difficult to do without breaking out into real hysterical laughter. Once the poetry reading was done, many audience members rushed to talk to and take pictures with both Agosin and Sanders; they also had the chance to purchase and have books signed by both authors.
If the entire poetry festival was anything like the few events mentioned, then it was definitely a successful and a talent-filled event.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


It is a strange thing to stop and think about the way I think. When I began to write my style assignment, I found it harder than usual because I was not writing in my own style, but in Faulkner’s.
I quickly realized that I had to think long and hard about every word I chose and every sentence I created. In trying to mimic Faulkner’s style, I purposely made my sentences longer and more descriptive. I also took much of Hemmingway’s dialogue and made it into descriptive paragraphs by expanding on the smallest details in his short story. I had to make up a few of my own details about the characters or the setting but tried my hardest to keep in mind the plot and purpose of the story Hemmingway had originally written. In order to make sure that I was keeping true to Faulkner’s style I would go back to Barn Burning to see Faulkner’s style of writing. I also thought about what the class had discussed and had decided was the Faulkner style and what was the Hemingway style, which was important to keep in mind since my peers would be reading and editing my essay.
At times it was difficult to find a way to make Hemmingway’s shorter paragraphs and sentences much longer and more complex. I sat at the computer with a thesaurus so that I could use longer and more mature words since in class one of the critiques that the Hemingway group used against Faulkner was that he was too verbose. It would have been nice for me to have been able to think up longer words on my own but maybe that is something I need to work on. I guess the reason why I found the Faulkner style to be difficult to mimic was because my writing style is not really that mature or complex. I tend to be more straightforward and often use repetition, but rarely do my sentences contain as many commas and semi-colons as Faulkner’s do.
After my peers edited my paper, there was not much to change. There were a couple of minor spelling and grammatical errors that I needed to correct but other than that my peers said I did a pretty good job of reproducing Faulkner’s style. After I had made the corrections suggested to me, I re-read my essay and changed up a few sentences so that the flow of my paragraphs was a little better.
When I had turned in my first draft to my peers, I was honestly not confident in the work I had produced, but after I go the feedback I realized I need to give myself a bit more credit. It felt good to hear from my peers that I had “hit the nail on the head” when trying to copy Faulkner’s style but I still felt I could have improved my essay a bit more; so I did. My biggest strength would be that I managed to turn so much of Hemmingway’s dialogue into chunkier and verbose paragraphs. Another strength was that I managed to take one sentence in Hemmingway’s story and make it a more drawn out and overly descriptive paragraph. My weakness, however, would have to be vocabulary and flow. My beginning could have been stronger; I started out shaky but towards the end of my essay I got the hang out how to write in Faulkner’s style. I learned to trust my judgment a little more. As always, I needed to work on proofreading my work before turning it in. There are a couple of spelling errors that should not have been there. Overall, for my next writing assignment, I will work on developing a wider vocabulary, checking my work, and not taking so much time since on the AP test, we will be timed.

A Clean Well Lighted Place: Faulkner Style

A Clean Well Lighted Place: Faulkner Style
The moon was out, the clock read three a.m., and every soul had departed from the café except for the elderly gentleman who sat beneath the shade created by the leaves of the tree that blocked the light emanating from the filthy and old fashioned electric light fixture that hung from the ceiling. During the hours when the sun shone, the streets were overflowing with dust but as the time passed and day became night, the dew that formed made the dust settle; the elderly gentleman settled into the chair at the café and genuinely enjoyed it for he was deaf and during the night was the only time when he could sense true quiet really was. The two waiters working in the café that night knew that the elderly gentleman was somewhat intoxicated; he had been ordering brandy after brandy since the afternoon, becoming sloppier and more relaxed with each sip of the cool honey-colored liquid in the small glass. Although he was an excellent client, coming in regularly and never disturbing the other patrons, the two waiters knew that they could not let him become too drunk for he would end up leaving without paying his bill. The two waiters watched the elderly gentleman closely; eyeing the way he slouched in his chair, the glassy look in his eye, the way his words were beginning to become slurred each time he ordered more alcohol, and that reserved, almost lonely and forgotten look on his face. “Last week he tried to commit suicide,” one waiter said. The two men then began a quick conversation about the elderly gentleman’s attempted suicide. Back and forth they discussed the possible reasons why an elderly gentleman of his position would have the desire to end his own life. Possibly, the reason was the elderly gentleman’s lack of wealth, but the idea was quickly thrown out as the two waiters noticed the elderly gentleman’s newly polished brown leather shoes, which were each tied in a perfectly neat bow, the chain which connected to his golden watch with the family emblem engraved on it (most likely a family heirloom passed down from father to son to grandson and so on) and of course his lavishly detailed fall coat with the fur lining.
The two waiters sat at the round wooden table, whose polish was gone and legs were scratched from years of wear and tear. The table was up against the pale green floral wallpapered wall that led to the large wooden doors of the entrance and as the two men sat there, they would glance at the small and well kept terrace with its empty and clean tables all ready for tomorrow’s clients where the elderly gentleman sat forlornly at the small table beneath the shadow of the yellow, orange, and red leaves that were beginning to fall from the large oak tree that swayed back and forth slightly in the late autumn wind. Outside a petit almost mouse-like girl wearing a long pink pleated skirt with a silk trim and a white knit sweater walked with a flower in her hand; she was shielded from the cold as she walked in the arms of her tall and protective soldier friend in his uniform. The soldier’s brass number set on his collar shone as it reflected the light that came from the street lamp above.
“The guard will pick him up,” one waiter said.
“What does it matter if he gets what he’s after?”
“He had better get off the street now. The guard will get him. They went by five minutes ago.”
The elderly gentleman in the shadow suddenly began tapping on the silver saucer with the empty brandy glass causing the younger waiter to walk over, ask the elderly gentleman what he needed and then try to convince him to not have another brandy for at the point he was nearly inebriated. Realizing that the elderly gentleman could not be convinced, the young waiter stomped his way to the counter, mumbling that the old hag should have killed himself by now, brought back the brandy and poured it out for the old man while telling him that he should have completed the deed last week instead of still living and ultimately being a burden on the café. The elderly gentleman had no way of hearing, but the older waiter did, and this comment made him think, really think, and eventually realize that he empathized with the elderly gentleman. As the waiter sat staring at the elderly gentleman’s wrinkly and leathery hand tremble as it picked up the brandy glass and brought it to his mouth, he began to feel his own hands and face, simultaneously realizing that he is on his way to being old. The young walked back to the kitchen, leaving the elderly gentleman sipping his brandy and the older waiter thinking.
“Thank you,” said the elderly gentleman with a warm, poignant smile.

IND AFF- Setting

In Fay Weldon’s IND AFF, the setting of the story essential to conveying the theme about how just stopping to think for a moment in time can lead one to make decisions or come to conclusions that can be life-changing. While in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, the narrator and her professor/lover are at the spot where Princip shot and assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, ultimately instigating World War I. Analyzing the setting of the assassination and what was going through Princip’s mind as well as being in the setting herself, leads the narrator to come to her own conclusion about her love life. In IND AFF, Weldon’s parallel development of the setting both in Princip’s time as well as in the narrator’s time is inextricably linked to expressing the idea of how stopping to think for a moment in time can ultimately result in life-altering conclusions.
From the very beginning it is evident that Weldon’s use of setting is important to better understanding the atmosphere of the story. The narrator starts off by commenting that, “This is a sad story. It has to be. It rained in Sarajevo, and we expected fine weather,” (201). This passage is interesting and important for a couple of reasons. The fact that the narrator describes the story as “sad” is ironic since although a break-up may seem sad, it is actually a moment of enlightenment for the young student who later asks herself, “What was I doing with a man with thinning hair?” (206). The rain in the setting symbolizes not only the gloom in the atmosphere but also the change that is going to come. The persistent rain throughout the vacation washes away the affair that the student and professor once shared. The images of it “raining forever” and “black clouds” come up more throughout the story. In the beginning the narrator sees the rain as a bad since it is putting a damper on the vacation and impedes Peter from seeing Princip’s footprints well. Eventually, however, the narrator admits that, “that was how I fell out of love with my professor, in Sarajevo, a city to which I am grateful to this day, though I never got to see very much of it, because of the rain,” (206). The reader can conclude that if the weather had been any different (sunny for example), the couple would have gone about their site-seeing and the student would not have come to the conclusion that when she said, “‘I love you’…automatically, [she] was finally aware of how much [she] lied,” (206).
Also important to conveying the theme is how Weldon develops the setting during the student’s time and Princip’s time in a parallel way in order to compare the two events. Both the assassination and the break-up happen in Sarajevo, Bosnia during the summer. Both events involve a single person making a decision that will affect others; Princip’s assassination of Ferdinand leads to WWI and the student’s realization that she does not love Peter leads to the termination of their relationship). Interestingly and humorously at the same time, for both events it is important to remember not to “forget his wife: everyone forgets his wife,” (201). This of course, refers to the archduchess who was also assassinated as well as Peter’s wife, on whom “it was raining..too, back in Cambridge,” (202). Another similarity that connects Princip and the student is their age; Princip was nineteen when he assassinates Ferdinand and the student is also young when she breaks up with the professor. One final connection refers back to the title of the story; the student thought that she had an inordinate affection for Peter while Princip has an “inordinate affection fro his country,” (206). Ultimately, the act of analyzing Princip’s footsteps and actions helps the student come to her own conclusion about her relationship with Peter. Peter was having difficulty seeing the footprints and kept complaining but to the student, “they were clear enough to me,” (203). When discussing the assassination at the restaurant with Peter, the student feels she has to hold back for fear of being, “outflanked I debated the point,” (203). The student eventually realizes that she is not in love with her professor and decides to leave.
Had it not been for Weldon’s development of the setting at the beginning of and throughout the story, the message of the need to sometimes stop and just realize what is going on, would not have been conveyed. Weldon’s use of Sarajevo, its historical context and Princip’s interesting connection to the student ultimately leads to the student coming to an epiphany of her own. As the narrator looks back at her summer in Sarajevo, the “wisdom of [her] intent” is confirmed because she realizes she made the right choice. Not only does the narrator reflect on her own decision that day but she also concludes by offering her enlightened thoughts on Princip by saying that “If only he’d hung on a bit, there in Sarajevo, that June day, he might have come to his senses. People do, sometimes quite quickly,” (207).

Everyday Use: Characterization

Narrated through the eyes of Mama, Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use” tells the story of Mama and her two grown up daughters through the passage of time. The characters Dee and Maggie are developed in completely opposing ways, not only as a symbol of their personalities but also as a symbol for their motives behind keeping their heritage alive. Mama’s view of each daughter remains consistent throughout the story until the point at which a family treasure is being claimed by each daughter. In “Everyday Use”, Walker contrasts between a superficial and a genuine way of expressing and celebrating one’s heritage by juxtaposing the motivations and personalities of Maggie and Dee Johnson as their mother realizes her daughters’ growing independence and differing views on preserving their traditions.
Throughout the story, Dee is portrayed by her mother as the golden child but beneath that perfect facade Walker reveals Dee’s superficial motives for expressing her heritage as she develops Dee’s character. As Dee comes back home to visit her mother, Mama flashes back to when her daughters were young and recalls that Dee had a few friends, “Furtive boys in pink shirts hanging about on washday after school. Nervous girls who never laughed. Impressed with her they worshiped the well-tuned phrase, the cute shape, the scalding humor that erupted like bubbles in lye.” The passage indicates that the boys liked her and the girls were intimidated by Dee’s looks and personality. A deeper look into Dee’s personality is showed to the reader as the narrator remembers that, “Dee wanted nice things. A yellow organdy dress to wear to her graduation from high school; black pumps to match a green suit she’d made from an old suit somebody gave me. She was determined to stare down any disaster in her efforts.” This passage clearly alludes to how materialistic and superficial Dee can be, especially once she comes back home to visit and asks Mama for the family quilt. Dee’s style has changed, she greats the family in Swahili, and she even asks to be called Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo. Dee’s explanation for her new name is that she, “couldn’t bear it any longer being named after the people who oppress me.” The truth, however, is that the name Dee has been in the family for many generations. The situation becomes interesting when Dee asks for the quilt which was made by Big Dee (her grandmother) because she wants to hang them to preserve their heritage. How can Dee be legitimately interested in preserving the family heritage when she is not even proud of carrying on the family name?
In contrast to her thoughts about Dee, Mama describes Maggie in a pitiful way but ultimately learns that her daughter is a genuine person. Right away the reader is let know how Mama feels about Maggie as she comments on how, “Maggie will be nervous until after her sister goes; she will stand hopelessly in corners, homely and ashamed of the burn scars down her arms and legs, eyeing her sister with a mixture of envy and aw. She thinks her sister has held life always in the palm of one hand, that ‘no’ is a word the world never learned to say to her.” It is clear that Maggie has always lived in the shadow of her sister and that Mama pities Maggie especially when Mama says, “Have you seems a lame animal, perhaps a dog run over by some careless person rich enough to own a car, sidle up to someone who is ignorant enough to be kind to him? That is the way my Maggie walks.” Maggie is portrayed as quiet, slow, shy, and does not say much other than “uhnnnh” throughout the story. Only until the end does Maggie speak up and say, “‘She can have them Mama,’ like somebody used to never winning anything, or having anything reserved for her. ‘I can ‘member Grandma Dee without the quilts.’” At this point it is made clear that Maggie is brighter than she is described to be. Not only that, but she is giving towards Dee and can keep the memory of her grandmother and other traditions without greedily taking the quilts for herself. Maggie’s purpose for keeping the quilts would be completely selfish and sincere, unlike her sister’s artistic and superficial purpose.
Walker’s purpose to contrast superficial and genuine reasons for expressing heritage would not have been clear had it not been for the realization that Mama goes through towards the end of the story. Dee takes the quilts as if “they already belonged to her” and explains that “Maggie can’t appreciate these quilts! She’d probably be backward enough to put them to everyday use.” At that moment, Mama realizes that Dee does not really care about the family heirloom but instead just wants to hang the quilts for the superficial reason of looking like she is genuinely concerned with preserving her roots. It all becomes more clear to Mama when she recalls how she “had offered Dee (Wangero) a quilt when she went away to college. Then she had told [her] they were old-fashioned, out of style.” Evidently Dee only becomes interested in her heritage once she changes to this new Wangero person. The most ironic part is when “Miss Wangero” criticizes Mama for not understanding her heritage. At this point, Mama’s realization about each of her daughter’s natures and what it means to truly celebrate one’s heritage plays an important role in expressing the author’s purpose.
Walker’s purpose could not have been effectively conveyed had it not been for the way she developed Dee’s and Maggie’s character. Each daughter is vastly different and is seen in that way through their mother’s eyes only until the point when Mama understands that each daughter goes beyond the perfect or pitiful way she has always seen them. It is neither about which daughter is more beautiful or outgoing, nor is it about the quilt itself, but instead it is about who’s motives for keeping the family memory alive is more genuine.