Summer 2017

Hello!

It’s been a while. It always surprises me how tougher graduate school gets. I just finished my preliminary doctoral examinations (six weeks of pure hell, three (two-page length) questions, 80 pages worth of essays, and zero relaxation time). Alas, I am done with the writing portion and am anxiously waiting for my oral defense. Summer this year, like many other years, will consist on taking in Madison: more kickball, yoga, sunset viewings, reading for fun, beer tasting, research, writing my dissertation proposal, academic meetings, and knowing that my Summers here are limited.

I cannot wait to see what my next adventure will look like. Right now my life revolves around my dissertation, my research, and self care. Until next time!IMG_3631.jpg

The Problem with Latinx Representation

Last year, I got really into Jane the Virgin. It was originally a Venezuelan telenovela, Juana la virgen, that my mother never really watched, but my grandmother (Mami) really loved. Mami would rave about it all the time about how Mauricio (Rafael’s Venezuelan counterpart) and Juana were meant to be together. I, quite honestly, was never intrigued by any telenovela…Juana la virgen was no exception to that.

However, when I gave Jane the Virgin a chance, I fell in love. Jane the Virgin is truly a brilliant TV show with amazing writers. The TV series stars Jane, a young celibate college student, on her way to big and better things. She lives with her Catholic Abuela Alba, played by Ivonne Coll, who taught her about the importance of waiting until marriage.

What truly interests me about the show is how incredible its depiction of Latinx culture is. They make fun of the ridiculousness behind telenovela plotlines through Rogelio without unknowingly alienating the audience. Plenty of heritage speakers applauded the TV show’s daring move to have Abuela speaking Spanish basically all the time. Nonetheless, I have a problem with certain aspects of the show…as nothing can truly be perfect.

For instance, Ivonne Coll is a Puerto Rican actress playing a Venezuelan woman. Yes, Abuela is Venezuelan and that’s pretty amazing, but her Spanish dialect should be Venezuelan. From its pilot, I was able to quickly identity Coll’s accent and swift use of Puerto Rican colloquialisms i.e. bizcocho (cake), hombre, no! (No way!), etc…

Hollywood has gotten away with this many, many times. In the Netflix original series, Narcos, the main character, Pablo Escobar, is played by a Brazilian man….a Brazilian man, Warner Moura. This would not be such a big deal except for the fact that he keeps his Brazilian accent while he’s interpreting the role of a Colombian man. What makes matters worse is the fact that they hired Paulina Gaitán (Mexican), Luis Guzmán (Puerto Rican), and André Mattos (Brazilian) to play Colombians and they all speak in their respective dialects.

In the case of Jane the Virgin, I understand that the showrunners wanted to write a storyline specifically designated for immigration laws in the United States meaning Ivonne Coll would not have been able to play a Puerto Rican…because, you know, Puerto Ricans are not immigrants. Still, they should have had Coll do a Venezuelan accent or reduce the number of colloquialisms that do not correspond to the Venezuelan dialect. It is truly disturbing to see the flashback scenes with a younger Alba who distinctly speaks in a Central American dialect in contrast to Alba’s lively Caribbean Spanish.

How would you feel, as an English speaker, to have a British man play an American man while he spoke in the typical Brit dialect?

I want Hollywood to break the Latinx amalgamation that exists in the United States of America.  We are Latinxs, yes, but we all have our obvious differences. We are Cuban, Venezuelan, Puerto Rican, Mexican, Colombian, Chilean, and we are proud of our heritage. We’re more than Latinxs. We are strong and lively people. We love to be represented onscreen. We just want more.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

As one of many millenials, I grew up with Harry Potter. It was the first book I picked out for myself in a bookstore. It was an old-looking, worn translation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal). As an eager seven year old, I was happy to hear that there was a magical world out there that I was ready to discover. I became obsessed with the books. I asked for boxed sets for Christmas next to a bunch of young adult books. I was happy and it was my entryway to “harder” literature. Soon thereafter, I was reading Jane Austen, Emily Brontë, Shakespeare plays, and Golden Age Spanish novels as a young teenage girl. However, Hogwarts always had a place in my heart.  I went to midnight releases (much to my parents’ dismay) at Borders, I watched the movies and I reread the books over and over again. It was magical.

When I first heard about the Harry Potter play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, I was a little confused. I thought JK Rowling had stated that she would no longer enter this fantastic world of wizardry that she herself had created. Nonetheless, I was excited. It was Harry Potter, after all…my own personal magical door to literature.

I personally did not attend the Midnight Release. Perhaps a former, younger version of myself might have enjoyed it, but I did not feel up for it. Still, my boyfriend was gifted a copy and I started reading next to him.

It is a shame to say that this book read like fan fiction…and not even good fan fiction. In fact, very bad fan fiction. I understand that the Harry Potter series and Cursed Child were written in two different mediums (fiction and theater, respectively), but still. Cursed Child still belongs in the Harry Potter universe and it makes no sense.

*Spoilers Ahead*

Here’s a list of complaints/observations:

  1. Hermione turns into a bitter woman because she didn’t end up with Ron Weasley.

Seriously? Seriously? Hermione: the SPEW advocate, the strong female role in the entire series let her whole life be controlled about whether or not she ended up with a Weasley? I call bullshit. #Feminism

2. Rose’s life matters, but Ron’s and Parvati’s kid doesn’t?

Flawed Logic.

3. Voldemort had sex with Bellatrix?

I’m sorry, but how can a man who split his soul into seven freaking pieces be able to, you know, provide his essence?? Delphi was made basically from one human wizard and one weird freaky nonhuman subspecies. This does not and will never make sense to me.

4. The future depends on the life of Cedric Diggory

…really? The most boring dude in the history of the world? It all depended on that one event at the Triwizard Tournament? I’m sorry. I don’t buy it.

5. How does this fit into the HP Universe?

I truly don’t know. I want to try and make sense of it in order to appreciate it better, but I didn’t need more. Harry Potter was a beautiful part of my life, but I would rather read ten different books about other things that happened in the world. I don’t need Harry’s scar to hurt again and I don’t need another skewed, backwards tale.

Hope

A couple of days ago, I wrote a post about Fear….of being afraid of bigotry, racism, and sexism. And, today, I have no words or strength left.

Yesterday, I voted in the US Presidential Elections hoping for the best. I also did not just vote for myself. I voted for my family: my mom, my dad, my little sister. I voted for immigrants all across the United States. I voted for my fellow Latinxs. I voted for women…and, most importantly, I voted for the United States of America.

I voted for these things, but mostly I voted against hatred, white supremacy, and misogyny. Most people will not understand what I mean by this. Most friends will disregard my fear, my tears, and my disgust for our current decision. This, like most things, breaks my heart.

But, in times of despair and hardship, I have always learned that hope is my silver lining. Hope that hearts will change, that minds will act consciously and thoughtfully, and that love will reign. I know it may seem naïve, but I have nothing left to give.

I refuse to dwell on fear, on hatred, on brokenness. I will hope, not just now, but forever.

Autumn 2016

The end of Summer came rather abruptly. At one point, I was working two jobs, working on my Prelims Reading List and then suddenly, I was back in school.

Do you remember that Summer List I made? I am incredibly happy to say that I did all of those things and I feel very lucky that I had the opportunity to accomplish them.

Life, in general, has been good, but tough to manage and balance.  I’m in the middle of the process of finishing coursework, taking the preliminary doctoral examinations, teaching two brand new courses, presenting a paper at a German and Dutch Studies  conference (0.0 I know) and trying to keep up with life’s demands. Nonetheless, I always find joy in spending time with friends: laughing, reading, long walks.

Here are some pictures of the beautiful moments I have shared with friends and loved ones over the past few months:

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I love my life. However, this chapter of my life can be challenging sometimes even though it’s good and fun. Sometimes I don’t even want it to end, but all things do come to an end.

All I want is to savor the moment. Breathe. Enjoy.

Fear

Because of my crazy schedule (two teaching positions, an hourly position, full course load, prelims prep, conferences, and life!), I have been unable to update the blog as much as I would have liked to. I do have a lot of unfinished drafts saved up, but I wanted to write and post something meaningful…at least to me.

Today, when I was on the phone with my mom, she asked me: “If you could time travel, would you go back in time or travel to the future?”

Without hesitation, I said: “The future.”

Part of this is because I feel that as a woman of color, the past would be a dreadful place to live in. I cannot even bear to think about not being able to sit wherever I want on the bus, date the person I am currently dating or do basic things such as living by myself in a faraway Midwestern city, or vote.

Then, I thought about my current situation in 2016. While I have the privilege be a 21st century educated woman with multiple advanced degrees, the opportunity to date whomever I want, the chance to live by myself,  my life has so many, many limitations.

As a woman of color, I am afraid…

…afraid to walk down the streets by myself fearing the fact that I could be followed home by a strange man…

…afraid to find a job in the future where I will be paid equally to my male coworkers…

…afraid to be turned away when I vote this Tuesday because of X excuse about my identification…because of how I look

…afraid to tear up in a class when someone unknowingly asks me Where are you from? You just look so exotic

I am afraid to be an American who does not fit the build of an American because I am not white. I am afraid to be a woman who has to put up with misogynistic and racist comments because, if I speak up, people will be offended.

Who are we anymore? Why have the thoughts and feelings of Others, specially minorities have been so disregarded and unimportant for so long? When will we finally stop?

As a minority, an American born in the United States, but nonetheless, a minority, I want to speak up against all of this hate and fear and gruesome comments made against others. Let us stop this hatred. Let us stand together and truly say:

 Never AgainNie wieder. Plus jamais. Nunca más. Nunca mais.

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Learning Ancient Greek like a Two-Year-Old

love studying Ancient Greek by myself. I sit down, read up on grammar and do translation exercises over and over again until I feel like I learned something. However, sometimes this independent study setup can be daunting so I try to make it as fun as I can.

For instance, I have a lot of interesting mnemonic (from the AG, μνημονικός mnemonikos) devices for the alphabet.

Disclaimer: The boyfriend who is a dead languages expert does not approve of my learning methods, but he laughs every time he sees this list!

*Ahem*

1.ω-> omega looks like a butt. 

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It does though!!!

2.The dative declension ending for masculine and neuter nouns is -ῷ aka butt with squiggly line OR butt with a tail.

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3. Ancient Greek also has Ψ/ψ -> psī, which I call King Triton’s fork.

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4. I fondly call phi (φ) lollipop.

giphy3 5. My favorites though are ζ->zēta and ξ-> xī, which I like to call twirly line and super twirly line respectively. However, I can barely write it correctly so I end up making  both letters extra twirly.

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And these are just a few examples of the things I do to entertain myself while I learn (yet another) dead language. I’ll keep you posted on my progress which is terribly slow, but one day I’ll be able to read Plato (a girl can dream).

*All gifs are from giphy.

The Neapolitan Novels

After finishing most Murakami books, I felt like I needed a change of pace and decided to delve into the NY Times bestseller list and, per usual, it sucks. I finally read the novel a billion people had recommended, Fates and Furies, and was severely disappointed by its writing, lack of originality, and plot. The writer herself went to school in Madison and I was very much looking forward to getting to know her work. Nonetheless, Fates and Furies left a bad taste in my mouth.

I had been hearing about Elena Ferrante for a while now and still had not read anything by her…then I requested My Brilliant Friend from the local public library. As you may have noticed, I am incredibly picky and, frankly,  rather snobbish about books. I usually favor classic books and pretty much dismiss contemporary options unless I’m impressed by an intrinsic narrative (aka Murakami).

However, this book is brilliant. Sure, it’s a translation (I have some reading knowledge of Italian, but that takes me forever), but it is so complex and honest. I cannot wait to start the next two books. Ferrante has an amazing writing style. Her story is poignant, classic, and timeless. I completely recommend her for a great read before the Summer ends!

Expectations vs Reality

A month ago, I was flying back from Washington DC to Chicago O’Hare. After spending an extra hour on the plane, I started to notice that we were flying in a line, meaning we had been flying around in circles for a while. I had already been in a bad mood for various pesky travel inconveniences and did not want to imagine the worst. Please let us land soon, I kept thinking.

Suddenly, the pilot states: “I’m sure only frequent flyers have noticed, but we have been flying around in circles for an hour. Apparently, there’s bad weather in Chicago and we might not be able to land. Folks, there’s no one more excited about landing to Chicago than me. We’ll keep flying for a while, but if we don’t get the yes; we’ll have to land in Indianapolis to refuel. Sorry, folks.”

Oh no. My heart started beating faster. I was exhausted. I had just spent a week helping a friend with her wedding and just wanted to land in Chicago so I could spend a relaxing week away from Madison with my significant other.

Alas! The pilot made the final call to land in Indianapolis.

My boyfriend, who had been waiting for hours at the airport inside a tiny car (he’s pretty big and tall), must have been surprised when he saw my text: “Hey, I’m in Indianapolis.” Our plans had been entirely changed.

You must be thinking what’s the point of this story? Well, sometimes we have a series of expectations about how our lives will turn out. This travel incident is but a mere example of how our plans can be immediately turned around.

You’ll definitely feel as if you’re flying around in circles going nowhere…desperate to find your way home. Or you might feel lost in an unknown place…waiting to feel at home.

Either way we have to accept that our reality will most likely not align with our expectations. What matters is how we learn to deal with these situations.

Sometimes we may not handle it in a mature way.

Sometimes we’ll feel distraught and discouraged.

Sometimes we’ll fall apart.

And that’s okay.

The important part is how you pick yourself up from these disappointments: adjust, rethink, reanalyze. Then, we’ll realize that it wasn’t important at all. It was for the best. You pick up your bags, put them in the trunk of the car and drive off into the sunset.

Obsessed with Murakami

Last Spring Break, I read 8 novels: three of which were written by Haruki Murakami and two of them I fell in love with. I hope to continue my romance with Murakami this Summer as I explore new worlds, genuine stories, and uncanny narratives.

I had previously read Murakami, but just novellas (The Strange Library) and a short story (TV People). I liked him fine, but did not realize that there was still a whole new world left to explore.

Below are my short reviews or takes on the novels I have read by him lately.

1. After Dark

I started with After Dark and was initially very underwhelmed. It was a story about a girl who read books and drank coffee at Denny’s… of course, afterwards an unimaginable story breaks in, but the writing fell flat for me. The characters were unlikeable and the plot was not as interesting as I expected it to be.

2. The Colorless Life of Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

I fell head over heels with this brilliant novel. This book consumed me from beginning to end so much that I stayed up until 3:00 am once to continue reading it. Murakami wrote a genuine, intelligent story about a relatively young man and the way with which he needed to deal with his past in order to move on with his life. It was an incredible mystery and love story (and not a boy meets girl type of love story). The characters all had their moment to shine and connect with our colorless protagonist. This is definitely a Murakami must-read! 

3. Norwegian Wood

I was a little hesitant to read this novel because (a) I had just finished The Colorless Life of Tsukuri Tazaki and did not want to be disappointed,(b) it’s one of Murakami’s most read novels, and (c) I’m always wary to read something named after a Beatles song. Nonetheless, as soon as I started reading, it I was unable to stop myself. Murakami, yet again, writes an intelligent, beautiful story about genuine people and their lives. I understand why this novel is so popular! It is amazing!

4. A Wild Sheep Chase

I was curious about this one because Murakami seems to be obsessed with sheep! He writes about the Sheep Man in The Strange Library and there are definitely a ton of sheep here. However, I was quite disappointed by it. I did not really enjoy this detectiveesque tale. Still, it was an interesting book.

Extra Reviews:

5. The Strange Library

I read this one in a Media Fictions course last semester. We learned how writing is a form of media itself and how much the materiality of a book (i.e. the way it is presented to you) affected the way we read it. This version of The Strange Library was genuinely interesting. We have a four fold book and half of the story is told alongside strange images. It also looks like a library book that you’ve taken out, which makes it even more compelling. It was a very interesting experiment, but alas…I did not love the story. Sheep Alert: you will see the Sheep Man here.

6. “TV People”

Ah…the weird surreal story that led me to the Murakami pathway. I taught this story in a Literature course at the university. It’s basically a very short read with a lot of weird things happening at the same time only to come to a very foreign, drawn out conclusion. Still…you crave more after you have finished.

Verdict: While I do love Murakami, I think his best stories are about broken people in this world. I have a hard time understanding the surreal worlds that he submerges the readers in. I believe that he thrives when he writes what he knows and when he doesn’t we still have a fantastic story that is somehow missing something. I would just say keep on reading Murakami because you never know what you might stumble into. Because of that, my love affair with Murakami continues…

I have also just acquired 8 more of his books so I will let you know how I feel about them afterwards.

OH…and he loves cats!