Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Unique Position of Borderlands

--“Borders,” Thomas King
As the narrator of the story and his mother sit beneath the evening stars and she recounts the folk tales told to her by her grandmother, I was struck with a heartbreaking understanding of the disintegration of the collective of identity of the Native American community. It seems like King uses his characters to illustrate the disconnect between each passing generation and the traditions that are lost between parent and child. There is the narrator’s mother who passionately identifies her Blackfoot tradition, followed by his older sister Laetitia who rejects her Blackfoot culture in favor of the “excitement” of her father’s American tradition and Salt Lake City, and, finally, the narrator himself who naïvely disregards his mother’s attempt to pass on the folk stories “as if she expected [him] to remember each one” (King 144).

--“Preface,” Gloria Anzaldua
I was fascinated by Anzaldua’s description of her borderland identity in her preface.
Much like Jasmine, she acknowledges that change is synonymous with pain, but it can also generate positivity. Despite conflicting facets of a borderland community, she notes such a community’s unique ability to not only unite these conflictions, but also personalize them. Similar to the argument made by Rushdie in “Imaginary Homelands,” she celebrates a borderland individual’s ability to experience “an exhilaration in being a participant in the further evolution of humankind, in being “worked on” (Anzaldua).

--“La conciencia de la mestiza/ Towards a New Consciousness,” Gloria Anzaldua
Throughout this essay Anzaldua stresses the unique leadership position the mestiza woman has in generating social change, but I was particularly impressed her final reiteration of this point when she returns to her hometown along the border of Mexico and Texas. Referring to the roses kept by her mother, grandmother, and many of her forewomen she says, “the chicano and chicana have always taken care of growing things in the land” (Anzaldua 113). This symbolic message emphasizes the importance of her role not only in her community, but also the world. Thus, the chicana/mestiza has always fostered agricultural growth, but in today’s world she has the opportunity to implement something far more profound: the realization of social equality.

--“Who’s Irish?” Gish Jen
From this article, I was most struck the concept of teaching people, not only children, how to “use their words.” The narrator is a strong, independent, capable woman whose determination has brought her financial and personal security. However, her strict … her traditional sense of duty isolates her from her daughter, granddaughter, and in-laws. Furthermore, her obsession with exterior image (Sophie’s ‘brown’ skin, John’s depression/unemployment, etc.) leads to her neglect of her interior: of her emotions. Consequently, she can not comprehend why she needs to discipline Sophie “with words,” and she in unable to understand American words such as ‘supportive’ and ‘creative.’ Yet, I don’t hold her responsible for her rigidity, for she never has the opportunity to learn the power of words until John’s mother refers her to as a “permanent resident” Jen 15). The moment she understands compassion and acceptance demonstrated towards her by Bess is the same moment when she realizes the significance of “using one’s words.” 

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