“Of Women Born: Courage and Strength to Survive in the Maquiladoras of Reynosa and Río Bravo, Tamaulipas,” by Elvia Rosales Arriola
“Trade liberalization translated into working conditions that for women routinely brought sexual harassment and physical abuse, violence, mandatory pregnancy testing, and denial of the basic human right to organize collectively to demand better wages and treatment.” (681)
“Converging Stereotypes in Racialized Sexual Harassment: Where the Model Minority Meets Suzie Wong,” by Sumi K. Cho
“To deter harassment such as this, the law should acknowledge the particular white male supremacist logic at work.” (677)
“Máscaras, Trenzas, y Greñas: (Un)Masking the Self While (Un)Braiding Latina Stories and Legal Discourse,” by Margaret E. Montoya
“My clothes signified my ambivalence: Perhaps if I dressed like a lawyer, eventually I would acquire more conventional ideas and ideals and fit in with my peers. Or perhaps if I dressed like a lawyer, I could harbor for some future use the disruptive, and, at times, unwelcome thoughts that entered my head.” (661)
“Stealing Away: Black Women, Outlaw Culture, and the Rhetoric of Rights,” by Monica J. Evans
“Outlaw communities show us how a rights discourse could function without consigning us to disconnected, atomistic autonomous spheres.” (655)
“Punishing Drug Addicts Who Have Babies: Women of Color, Equality, and the Right of Privacy” by Dorothy E. Roberts
“It is only by affirming the personhood and equality of poor women of color that the survival of their future generations will be ensured.” (405)
I wanted to write something to cap off the year and share with friends, so thought a list of favorite books would work. Not all these books were released in 2016— new comics releases were where my focus was at—but they’re all works that I not only enjoyed but influenced some new way of thinking or being in the world. . I think articulating that for myself was important, and I hope that if you check one out of these, they can move you to being more of yourself too.
The books are listed in no particular order, and the ones at the end that I didn’t write about are equally loved, but not elaborated on because I wanted to do something else with my day than indulge more feelings on books. (Bonus: a short playlist of sounds I find myself in)
Sphinx by Anné Garréta
I found this book on one of those Instagram accounts that posts awesome photos of books. The cover of the Deep Vellum edition drew me immediately and I marked it on my to-read list. A short novel, Sphinx had a profound impact on me for its unique exploration of intimacy as well as the self-imposed craft restraints under which the book was composed, which you should avoid learning about before reading for full effect. This book was also a favorite for its depiction of Parisian danceclub life from the perspective of someone who doesn’t dig the scene, but is in it day after day. I copied out several passages of this that articulated my own feelings on religion, community, love and kindness. In Garréta, I found a kindred spirit, which makes me excited to read Deep Vellum‘s release of her novel Not One Day also translated by Emma Ramadan whose ‘Translator’s Notes’ at the end of Sphinx provide some thoughtful insight to the work required to translate Garréta’s novel. Along with the Star By My Head, this work helped me better recognize the important work done by these translators and the difficult artistic and ethical choices they make to make these texts accessible to an English-reading audience.
The Sellout by Paul Beatty
This year was really difficult to navigate for a lot of people, including me. However, like others who got to read Paul Beatty’s The Sellout, I got to laugh for good chunks of it. A story of a black man in an Los Angeles county city that no longer exists, Beatty’s novel is one of the most biting satires I’ve read in my short life. However, at no point does this book seem interested in demonizing any particular group and instead takes to tasks all of us for our varying complicities with racism in the United States. Every time I saw someone reading this book around Syracuse, I’d start smiling over a passage I loved like the bus party for a modern-day slave that ends at the beach. Gave a copy of this one to my Dad for Christmas. Here’s hoping he sees what’s so funny about it.
Big Kids by Michael De Forge
A friend told me earlier this year that she had been finding fewer favorite books recently. That’s when I told her about Big Kids, a book I had recently read and adored and another of Michael De Forge’s comic releases made in an ongoing effort to show the rest of the world how limitless his creativity is (at least in my opinion). I bought my copy in a comics store during my first visit to Boston, MA while checking out potential PhD programs, and had my cousin and his then girlfriend/now wife indulge me in the delightful photo here. Initially set in a reality seemingly like our own, the book soon morphs once its main character becomes a tree and realizes that everyone is actually either a tree or twig with only trees knowing about this dichotomy. I first encountered De Forge in The Believer Magazine’s comic section a few years ago, then read his bizzare work Ant Colony. Big Kids expands my love for De Forge with colors that simultaneously sicken and enrapture, and dialogue that captures much of the callousness of adolescence. A tiny book that taught me a lot about managing the scope of a story, blending form with content, and how trees have sex in a pool.
Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay
My amazing poet friend and former housemate Alana Folsom was one of my most valued poetry pushers this past year. Sharing bookshelves with her, I read works from Frank Bidart, Franny Choi, Ada Limon, Ocean Vuong, and Richard Silken, but none made me want to write more than Ross Gay’s Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude. Although like many writers, I entered the medium through poems intended to woo or save me money at Mother’s Day, I left poetry aside for a couple years once I realized I had no idea what I was doing. I still don’t really know what I’m doing now, but reading Gay made me feel better able to be myself on the page. I love life. It’s been very good to me, and Gay showed me how this gratitude for everyday objects and occurrences can be just as vital and authentic a source of inspiration as the tragedy and misery that propels the writing of many others. I read this book on a hike through the Bald Hill area of Corvallis, Oregon on a clear spring afternoon. Alone, I read these poems aloud on trails and got dizzy from the lovesickness I felt for them.
Mind MGMT by Matt Kindt
Mind MGMT has gotten a lot of coverage within comics circles ever since its first issue was released 2012, and I wanted to check it out since then. However, with ongoing comics sometimes I feel incapable of taking the chance to jump on even if the story has only just left the dock. Now collected in 6 beautiful hardcover volumes, I checked them out from the Onondogaga county and Syracuse University library systems throughout the first term of my PhD.
Mind bender gets thrown around a lot to describe works of art that are difficult or complicated to parse through, but Mind MGMT is the first of those sorts for me that becomes increasingly complicated while maintaining total clarity. A tale with telepathy, government conspiracy, and global trotting, Mind MGMT is at its core a story of how individuals can change the world in collaboration with others. It sounds corny, I know, but at the end of this book I wept. Not for sadness, but for having felt empowered by a comic to be a better agent of localized change. A story that transfixed me composed in an art form I love inspired me to try harder to be human. Is there anything more you can want from art?
Unpleasant Design is a book I first heard about on the wonderful 99% Invisible podcast. A book of writings on urban design by a variety of writers of differing expertise (designers, activists, artists, scholars), Unpleasant Design showed me the ways that people shape their material reality (park benches, bus stops, intersections) to make them unpleasant for groups that the public wants to keep at the margins—the homeless, drug users, teenagers, and non-human animals. As a rhetorician interested in aesthetics and environmental sustainability, this book awakened me to the fact that urban design is never neutral, and made me better able to see human intent in the design of cities. I got a new lens to see how persuasion occurs in the world, and to better love a comfortable park bench whose design/designer invites me to sit or lie for hours overlooking a trail and a stream.
Let me Clear My Throat by Elena Passarello
I tell a story sometimes at parties about singing along to the Arctic Monkeys 505 once when driving home from a night out. Curious, I decided to record myself starting on the chorus and played it back once the song was through. What I heard was a nasal whine so unlike what I thought it would be that I decided there to stop singing out loud around others. Years after, I started singing to myself sans recorder—on walks, washing dishes, in the shower, knowing that I would never impress anyone with my voice. That unexplored curiosity about voice made me excited to read Elena Passarello’s Let Me Clear My Throat after meeting her during my time at Oregon State University. Having listened to a recording of her essay ‘Teach Me Tonight’ on Frank Sinatra’s instructional singing book, I knew that Passarello would be able to articulate for me the pure joy of voice through her obsessions with vocal idols throughout the ages. A hilarious book, Passarello’s essays made me want to scream, warble, groan, and enjoy the sounds of others made in love, pain, and mania.
An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler
The Star By My Head: Poets from Sweden edited by Malena Mörling
Someone Please Have Sex With Me by Gina Wynbrandt
A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid
The Vision by Tom King (Writer), Gabriel Hernandez Walta (Illustrator), Jordie Bellaire (Colorist), Mike del Mundo (Cover Artist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer)
Comics, Manga, and Graphic Novels: A History of Graphic Narratives by Robert Petersen
A Reflection on Jonathan Alexander and Jacqueline Rhodes’s On Multimodality: New Media in Compostion Studies
Increasingly, I’m finding that much of compositional scholarship has evoked a response from me akin to ‘duh.’ After remembering moving past the fact that this feeling is often informed by my tendency to adopt the role of know-it-all-young-scholar-who-actually-knows-nothing asshole, I realized this time that perhaps the asshole in me was recognizing something productive to consider, that the generational gap between me and older instructors has left me better able to perhaps not teach new modalities but recognize the infectivity of them or be less entranced by their newness. I am the product of my own generation, likely within the range of student video composers’ discussed in chapter 2 ‘Direct to Video: Rewriting the Literacy Narrative’ of Jonathan Alexander and Jacqueline Rhodes’s On Multimodality New Media in Composition Studies, and like those people as a writing instructor in my first year, I learned quickly that the way me and my colleagues were working to use non-alphabetic composing platforms was laughable at best. Therefore when Alexander and Rhodes state that they “may be arguing for a reconceptualization of composition studies that questions its most basic assumptions about what kinds of communicative practices should be privileged and what kinds of rhetorical affordances should be taught as we work with students to create rich, multimodal and multi mediated compositions,” (22-23) I was on board already, looking up from my own table where I’ve been doing that sort of reconceptualizing to answer “totally, let’s do it.’ Continue reading “Another Way to Fight Patriarchy”
Trains blare their horns louder in the mornings than in the evenings. At least that’s what it sounded like the two time I lived next to train tracks in two different American cities. The first time was at some on-campus apartment housing in Houston where trains passed throughout the day, sometimes up to six. A few years later, I lived directly next to the main train tracks in Corvallis, a small Oregon town. Here the train passed four times a day, once around 6 am, then at 2 pm, later at around 7 pm and again at about 10 pm. I knew this because the bar next to our house served $1 shots whenever the train passed, and on particularly tough days we’d sprint over in whatever we were wearing and down some tequila before heading back home and resuming whatever miserable conversation we were having at the time. The train also became my running partner if I timed it right. I’d emerge from the house in time with the whistle signaling its approach and run alongside the conductor’s car for the three blocks before the sidewalk ended and they continued along their journey. I’d try to maintain that pace for the next 3 miles, hurtling across 3 lane streets at times. I start with all this because although we are temporally distant from the time of swing’s emergence, I recognized in reading Joel Dinerstein’s Swinging the Machine that the train still has managed to allow for some of my actions, dips into spontaneous drunkenness and increased running speeds. Continue reading
Reflection on Scripts, Grooves and Writing Machines: Representing Technology in the Edison Era by Lisa Gitelman
Despite the way humans keep fucking up, I’m a firm believer that we can still course correct. In my opinion, what can help us get to a place where such work is possible is by admitting that for the most part we have dedicated our gift as a species for technological innovation to mostly fit within a capitalist system. I thought this throughout my reading of the first half of Lisa Gitelman’s Scripts, Grooves and Writing Machines: Representing Technology in the Edison Era as I made my way through chapters that argue against the contemporary opinion that the internet and related digital technologies will be the key to facilitating greater democratic access to information and discourse, showing how those opinions have precedent in similar late 19th century conversations about Edison’s phonographs.
Response to Sean Zdenek’s [Reading] [Sounds]
If Sean Zdenek sought for his book to make us all more thoughtful about the rhetorical power of captioning, he succeeded in converting me at least. One idea mentioned early on in Zdenek’s text is that captioning seems to have as its target audience the broadcast companies that ensure they’re made available to fulfill a legal requirement. As a result of a focus on this audience, captions regularly fail to provide hard-of-hearing or deaf viewers with a means to access the aural world of video, especially in the case of non-speech sounds. I decided to assess whether a few recently released movie trailers for mega budget genre films spent any of the money in their marketing campaign in order to create accessible content for deaf and hard-of-hearing fans on the Youtube versions of the trailer.
For this micro case study analysis, I limited myself to only Youtube as a platform due their auto-captioning technology providing at the very least a default option for these studios. I then did a general search in Youtube for ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 trailer’; ‘Assassin’s Creed trailer’; ‘Logan trailer;’ and ‘Doctor Strange trailer.’ Logan and Assassin’s Creed’s trailers were both uploaded by the official 20th Century Fox account, and the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Doctor Strange trailers were uploaded by the official Marvel Entertainment account. Additionally, each trailer was also uploaded by Movieclips Trailers, an account owned and managed by the ticket-selling company Fandango. Each video also had additional uploads by miscellaneous users that for the most part reposted the trailer as shown by Movieclips Trailers or the film studio accounts. Continue reading “When You Can’t Hear Heroes”
I can see Belize in water emerging from fountains around Syracuse campus; how its varied brilliance and pressure compare to the waves of the Caribbean Sea, considering whether its temperature would lead to coral bleaching, or its pH to fish species’ extinction. Without the use of a passport, I am always crossing borders, my mind boarding and deplaning from Philip Goldson airport with a pace that leaves me harried much of the time, and yet I keep returning through increasingly circuitous routes to a case study in the form of a nation that is my home country but no longer my home. Sometimes I am concerned that this national filter makes me less able to be a proper scholar since I am able to stare at anything long enough that my sight connects the object back to a country that I am trying to maintain central to my life, a country wherein I rarely felt like a suitable citizen.
For me, objectivity is always out of reach (and I think for most too), but I think with an understanding of the futility of objectivity, comes the benefit of empathy and self-identification with potentially any exhibit under study. Identifying my own country’s difficulty with maintaining nationhood, I was disturbed by much of the history of the Samaritans in Jim Ridolfo’s Digital Samaritans. The way that the Samaritans have struggled since the late Ottoman period reflects much of the struggle occurring in global South countries like Belize where a people’s conditions and way of being are largely determined by more politically and economically powerful cultures and nations that view these relatively smaller communities as groups that must remold themselves at any given instant to suit whoever the current winning side is. Continue reading “Live from Belize with the Samaritans!!!”
Finding nothing of ourselves
there was nothing about us at all
—Olive Senior, “Colonial Girls School”
In the house I currently live in with four other dudes, there are two white boards on which we leave written notes to each other. On the smaller, there is a short note I wrote in my scrawl last week listing foods my roommates should feel free to eat, and within that are two other notes written by one of my roommates, offering Snickers he had bought yesterday. What strikes me about these notes are the poor quality of both of our handwriting despite the drastically different identities my roommate and I inhabit. Other than being cisgenedered heterosexual men, my roommate and I have led very divergent lives. I grew up in an upper middle class Mestisx family in Belize and he, a white man, grew up in a working poor neighborhood in upstate New York. I have been in school forever whereas my roommate finished high school and then immediately started working in a series of factory jobs. And despite the fact that I put pen to paper everyday whereas my roommate does manual labor with glass and machinery all day, my penmanship has seemingly not benefited from all the previously described privileges nor the regularity of my practice, according to any of the measures described in Tamara Plakins Thornton’s Handwriting In America: A Cultural History. This led me to reflect on the period in which I took penmanship classes as a means of trying to situate myself into another conversation about United States history.
Reading Response to Elizabeth Eisenstein’s The Printing Press As An Agent of Change
Throughout all these readings, one through-line for me has been human’s ability to make technologies invisible, to make revolutionary artifacts and systems of knowing mere wallpaper in front of which we create other technologies. Elizabeth Eisenstein’s text The Printing Press As An Agent of Change contains a deluge of information that overwhelmed me in its thoroughness and curiosity about the many ways that the introduction of the printing press changed the world, or did it? See, one of the aspects of Einstein’s text I was most impressed by is her lack of allegiance to any narrative about how the printing press changed the world.
In general, Eisenstein’s text claims the history of the printing press’ impact on society is difficult to determine because it impacted areas so unevenly and at different rates that it is difficult to isolate what was owing to the press’ invention at any particular point in time. Biased by their varying fields of interests, Eisenstein states that scholars have tended to oversimplify printing’s history and flatten out the response of people to create particular narratives. Repeatedly through the first two chapters she notes trending changes that have occurred in the wake of print’s creation only to find several exceptions to those trends. Despite the difficulties in finding a clear narrative though, Einstein states that by paying attention to the communication revolution enacted by print, we can better recognize the motives of people rather than ascribe them to whatever reasons are laying around. Continue reading “How Did We Lose A Revolution?”