Thursday, April 18, 2013

On Four Transitional Homeland Accounts

Gloria Anzaldua's essay, Atravesando Fronteras, was probably my favorite thing we've read in throughout this course.  The Preface was both clarifying but also made me feel a bit lukewarm as I wondered if Anzaldua felt as though she had to justify or over-explain her identity as "a border women."  I loved to let the essay speak for itself.  But regardless, I found the most important part of the preface to be when she discussed the idea of writing and literature: "Books saved my sanity, knowledge opened the locked places in me and taught me first how to survive and then how to soar."  This reminded me of our last class and our little discussion surrounding the Examen as we pinpointed the act of writing as a state of "home."  The Preface tells me that by writing this collection of essays, Anzaldua achieved a profound sense of home and identity.

In Atravesando Fronteras, Anzaldua confront identity as something that is not simply "The Self," but a shared state that is constantly in some sort of motion or transfer.  She seems to describe identity as the embodiment or the abstract state of ideas transferred from one culture, one life station or position, to another.  She also proposes new, fuller, less narrowed-in definitions for identities, like "masculinity," that adhere to cultural transfer and pull concepts from more than just a dominant source or widely accepted view.

Thomas King's Borderlands seems to really serve an anecdotal purpose.  While the short story may not have been especially brilliant from a literary standpoint, it certainly made a profound point about identity and home.  The part that was very striking to me was the narrator's acceptance of his mother's somewhat extremely frustrating inability to identify as anything other than "Blackfoot."  He does not question nor challenge her, but fully accepts the identity that she puts forth, waiting with remarkable patience as she perseveres to be accepted, literally let past a border, as who she really is.

Gish Jen's Who's Irish takes on the voice of a generation that often doesn't get a voice.  I have only really read stories by the next generation--immigrant children or grandchildren.  Like Anzaldua's narrator, this narrator is straddling borders, but is resilient to not step too far into the American life style.   Throughout her struggle with self-identity, she projects her inner battle onto her granddaughter, Sophie, who is not "a good little Chinese girl," but is in fact "wild."  I believe the best part to be when the narrator thinks about Sophie's "wild" way of expressing love: "Sophie like to grab my hair, a fistful in each hand, and then kiss me smack on the nose.  I never see any other child kiss that way" (15).  She seems to get close to accepting Sophie as a good, yet wild little girl.  The narrator experiences home through Sophie, not always acting perfectly, but then as she sees her tactics were not always the best, she makes a conscious choice to adopt the American/Irish way of using words with swiftness and intention.

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