Illiteracy Weekly Newsletter

…. I wish I’d started this homework assignment earlier instead of 3 hours before it was due… it was A LOT of fun, and I’d love to have put more time and energy into it! I wish the content was better… but I guess it’s funnier if it’s NOT! 😉

If you can’t read the tiny text, no big deal… it’s mostly about articles we had to read for class.

This is what the ‘inspirational’ photo says, in case you can’t read it.  😉
(It’s in the rotation of backgrounds on my laptop)

Identity, Assumptions, and Hope – OH MY!

Identity, Assumptions, and Hope – OH MY!


One of the papers for my fantasy literature class detailing the ways fantasy can offer new perspectives, help people cope with trauma and problems, and encourage critical thinking.


A common thread found in fantasy literature is the transposition of societal issues into fantastical forms to use perspective to better comprehend and process these issues. This transposition distances the reader from reality and abstracts the issues, allowing them to be more easily explained and understood through metaphorical connections.  Contentious and significant issues such as racism, classism, terrorism, power, identity, discrimination and stereotypes can often be explored through fantasy literature parallels and reflections.  Critical thinking concepts and overarching values of humanity can also be presented and investigated to great effect though fantasy. There is no end to the range of societal issues fantasy literature can introduce and examine to reach beneficial comprehension and valuable meaning.

Fantasy is so valuable because it “invokes the possibility of living under different terms and conditions” (Whitley, 2000, p. 175), and “can engage seriously with key issues within contemporary culture” (Whitley, 2000, p. 182).  J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Nancy Farmer’s the House of the Scorpion are both excellent examples of demonstrating engagement with key contemporary cultural issues through living under different conditions.  Each book presents a narrative that challenges basic assumptions about identity, ambiguity, and power dynamics as well as encourages that the reader think more critically about and observe more carefully the interactions and interpretations around them.

Mistaken assumptions or interpretations and engrained stereotypes are present in each of these fantasy books.  In the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry is told that Sirius Black is evil and wants him dead, and he believes it is the truth.  He hears this well-established interpretation from people he trusts and people in power, and they are all wrong.  Assumptions were made and cemented, which led to a flawed communal perception. This radical example of the promotion of misinformation encourages the reader to ask questions and think more critically. An information source may purposefully and knowingly promote a false perception, but a source may just be ignorant of the truth.  Even if a source is trusted, the truth may be vastly different from society’s common perception.

Society’s common perception in Nancy Farmer’s book is one that clones are unintelligent beasts.  Certain viewpoints are taught about clones and identity that are false.  Matt proves many assumptions wrong when he meets people who hold the entrenched negative opinions regarding clones.  His characteristics are inconsistent with their pre-conceived assumptions.  Those in power actively choose to spread these assumptions about clones to take advantage of them.  In Rowling’s book, there are also people in power who knowingly endorse fictitious or deceptive explanations to their own benefit.

Such conscious misinformation emphasizes the inherent ambiguity within the nature of humanity, which becomes tangled and complex in both books.  The characters are often ambiguous and contradictory within both their true and their perceived identities.  The identity can be a fragile thing.  It can be shaped by, or discovered by observing negative assumptions and prejudices.  Matt’s identity was shaped by the negative limited perspectives to which he had access.  Because of the marginalization he experiences, his perspectives are impacted. Being a clone in his world is to be inferior and unclean.  In Harry Potter’s world, some believe that being a muggle, or muggle-born is to be inferior and unclean.  However, appearances can be deceiving, and appearance doesn’t always mean physical appearance, it can also mean identity or perceived identity. Hermione is harassed for her muggle-born status, Hagrid is discriminated against for being a half-giant with a (wrongful) criminal record, and Remus Lupin is treated with unfair prejudice and disgust for being a werewolf.  Humanity is not always simple, nor is it always reflective of outward appearance or commonly-held beliefs about identities.  Rowling’s books force children “to consider characterizations of goodness and badness” (Strimel, 2004, p. 45), and the consequences and implications of these characterizations.  The ambiguity inherent in the characterizations presents another opportunity to think critically about people and events, both real, and imaginary.

In each of these books, the impact of the fantastical transposition is amplified due to solid foundations in real issues. Fantasy literature needs to have substantiality to be most effective in exploring society’s problems and possibilities.  The wish-fulfilment that fantasy literature offers “needs to be grounded in something substantial if it is to become fully satisfying” (Whitley, 2000, p. 175). Farmer bases her story on circumstances and prejudices that already exist between differing peoples, and scientific advances that are already happening.  Science fiction such as this presents a unique opportunity to explore the ramifications of future societal issues and problems.  By looking to the hypothetical potential good and bad of the future, it is helpful to “open our minds to all possibilities” (Greenfield, 2003, p. 9).  Rowling also presents a wide range of hypothetical situations and possibilities, as well as utilizes widespread prejudice in which to base her world. In addition, her fantasy is grounded in reality through common mythological, religious, and cultural viewpoints and archetypes that are relatable and familiar.

From terrorism to depression, from identity to religion, fantasy is constantly offering new perspectives and the hope to overcome the perpetration of harmful perspectives, opinions, and stereotypes.  Both Rowling’s and Farmer’s fantasy books emphasize the misleading potential of a limited viewpoint.  Hope exists, and with a little knowledge, creativity, and guidance, perhaps fantasy literature can help lead society into tolerance, acceptance, and open-mindedness.


References

Cohen, Signe. (2016). A postmodern wizard: The religious bricolage of the Harry Potter series In Journal of religion and popular culture.  (pp. 54-66).

Crew, Hilary S. (2004). Not so brave a world: The representation of human cloning in science fiction for young adults, In The lion and the unicorn. (pp. 203-221.)

Farmer, Nancy. (2004). The house of the scorpion. New York: Simon Pulse.

Greenfield, Susan. (2003). The future: What is the problem? In Tomorrow’s people: How 21st century technology is changing the way we think and feel. (pp. 1-9). London: Allen Lane.

Rowling, J.K. (1999). Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New York: Scholastic.

Strimel, Courtney B. (2004). The politics of terror: Rereading Harry Potter,” In Children’s literature in education. (pp. 35-52).

Whitley, D. (2000). Fantasy narratives and growing up. In Eve Bearne and Victor Watson (Eds), Where texts and children meet. (pp. 172-182.) New York: Routledge Press.

Yolen, Jane. (1996). Turtles all the way down.” In Sheila Egoff et al. (Eds) Only connect: Readings on children’s literature. (pp. 164-174). New York: Oxford University Press.

Lists of Love: A Poem

Disclaimer: I wrote this many years ago.  But it’s still pretty accurate and truthful.  I like making lists, and it’s important to focus on the positive in life.  

Lists of Love: A Poem

I love dresses.  I love clothes.  I love buttons, pockets, polka dots, and bows.

I love kindness.  I love good-deeding.  I love curling up ANYWHERE and reading.

I love a good story, and I love books.  I love the food makers – bakers, chefs, and cooks.

 

I love learning and I love knowing.  I love a challenge, opportunities, and growing.

I love adventures and trying new things.  I love it when someone who rarely sings, sings.

I love music.  I love my Uke.  I love harmony more than Leia loved Luke.

 

I love fruit and I love flowers.  I love when the best minutes seem to last for hours.

I love nature.  I love trees.  I love it when people know to say thank you and please.

I love people – Their perspectives and quirks. I especially love them when they don’t act like jerks.

 

I love making people laugh – I love it when they smile.  I love big hugs from those I’ve not seen in a while.

I love silly.  I love fun.  I love laughing with my friends in the sun.

I love sunshine.  I love water.  It’s certain that I love you a great deal more than I oughter.

I love oceans deep.  I love the skies above.  I love many, many things, but mostly I just love.

Ode to Sleep

You’ve gone away and left me
I spend each night alone
Just Waiting and awaiting
for you to come back home.

I miss our days together, 
and our nights as well.
Each day I am without you
Is a day akin to hell.

I miss the way you made me feel;
You kept me safe and warm.
And I could conquer any mountain
With you to calm my storm.

You always left me brimming
With the strength to labor on.
The way you clung to me in mornings,
Anchored me past dawn.

You’re no longer here beside me –
I miss your soft caress
I mostly miss your company:
Without you, I’m a mess.

I’m Excited To Do Homework? School Can Be Fun!

Well, I DID IT!!!  

I completed the first class of my graduate certificate program in Children’s Literature!!!

It was called “The Art of the Picturebook,” and I never knew that school could be so interesting and fun!!  I’ve enjoyed some classes throughout my college career, but none so much as this! I was actually excited to do homework! WHUUUUT!?? weird…  I never really felt like I fit in in any of the other classes or programs I took in the past.  I guess I just needed to find the right program.  And books have always been important to me.  And now I can explore that further! Yaaaaayyyy!!!

http://www.worldcampus.psu.edu/degrees-and-certificates/childrens-literature-certificate/overview

This is how I feel about this program!

Fol-De-Rol and Fiddle Dee Dee

The Final Writing Assignment

(For this class anyway…)

FIRST PARAGRAPH:

“Fol-de-rol and fiddle dee dee and fiddley faddley foddle
all the wishes in the world are poppy cock and twoddle.
Fol-de-rol and fiddle dee dee and fiddley faddley foodle
all the dreamers in the world are dizzy in the noodle.”

This is what the sensible people of the world say, according to Cinderella’s fairy godmother in the Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s musical in a song they sing together about Cinderella’s wish to go to the ball.  But together, they discover by the end of the song, that “impossible” can be changed to “it’s possible” with creativity, imagination, hard work, and someone who loves you to help.  Like Cinderella and her fairy godmother, I am learning and exploring how to grant my own wish of forging a career doing what I love: writing, being creative, and helping others.  I don’t yet know what that career will be exactly, but every day I am making choices to steer myself down the path to get there.  And I plan to use every tool and asset I have to help shape my wish out of the supplies I have.  And with a little help, and a little magic, I know I will get to the ball!

SUMMARY:

Turning the impossible to the possible is a process – one that requires many things.  It requires creativity and imagination.  Every day, I am thinking and brainstorming, searching for different ways to achieve my goals.  I am on the lookout for new opportunities to embrace that will keep me moving forward, eyes focused on the path ahead. It requires commitment, dedication and hard work. Sometimes the path is thorny, or blocked by a tree.  I continue to apply my imagination to identify creative and efficient solutions to remove such obstacles.  It requires bravery, and it requires stepping out of your comfort zone.  There is a certain degree of anxiety about the uncertainty of where the path leads, but you can’t turn back. It also requires help and support. Not all of us have a fairy godmother to turn our everyday objects into the perfect materials to achieve our dreams.  But we do have people who love us. Asking for help is scary and hard, but it is something I plan on practicing. Most of all, it requires hope, and I plan on keeping that hope alive, nurturing it, and seeing it bloom and grow into something even more beautiful.

“But the world is full of zanies and fools who don’t believe in sensible rules
and won’t believe what sensible people say..
and because these daft and dewey eyed dopes keep building up impossible
hopes impossible things are happening every day!”

A Gem By Any Other Name

A Gem By Any Other Name

(Yet another writing assignment)


I didn’t know his name.  But he knew mine.  It was written in clear, bold letters on the hard, plastic nametag that adorned my green apron.

He knew my name, but he wanted to change it.

“Isn’t Emerald a boy’s name?” he asked.

I was used to strange reactions to my rare and somewhat unusual name, so I laughed.  I didn’t choose my name, but I’ve learned to love it.

“No,” I replied, with a puzzled grin, only a little uncomfortably. Did he think I was a boy? My uniform was standardized regardless of gender, and my visor concealed most of my long hair, but I didn’t think I looked like a boy. Did I? My confusion bubbled up exponentially.  Why would he ask that?  What an odd thing to ask.  I’m a girl.  My name is Emerald. Emerald is a girl’s name.

I pushed aside my uneasiness and continued to assist him with a friendly smile.

I thought that was the end of it, but then he came to his unpleasant conclusion.

He told me he would call me “Emmy” instead. He didn’t ask.  He told.

“No,” I replied, still polite, but somewhat taken aback. Only those select few people very close to me called me by a nickname.  To hear those private syllables directed to me by a complete stranger was strange and jarring.  It felt wrong. I was confused. I felt that my personal rights had been infringed upon.  Surely he understood that a nickname is a sign of familiarity, of intimacy. I had never even seen this man before and he expected to be allowed to bastardize my name?  To reduce and minimize it, and therefore me, to fit his own personal inclination.  He didn’t have that right, did he?

Brashly, he nodded. “I’m going to call you Emmy,” he reiterated, regardless of my gentle protestation.

Had he not heard me? I had said no. I didn’t want him to call me Emmy.  He was old, maybe he had bad hearing? I stayed firm.

“I would really prefer you didn’t.  My name is Emerald.” I was still smiling, albeit more hesitantly, but inside I felt violated.  Customer service policy as well as common courtesy required that I treat this man with respect and kindness, so I did.  He followed no rules, written or socially implied.  No one required that he treat me with the same respect and kindness.

The truth was that it should have been my decision. It is my decision.  He was rude and he was wrong to insist on calling me a name that I didn’t feel comfortable with. I could have insisted on calling him a name he wasn’t comfortable with. Inconsiderate jerk, maybe? Or stupidhead mcfartface? How would he have felt then? Instead, I told him, I didn’t ask him, again not to call me Emmy, finished helping him, and he complained about me to my manager. He complained because I wasn’t okay with him disregarding my feelings and making me uncomfortable.

I didn’t know his name.  But I knew him. And I know I will meet him again in some other incarnation.  But I also know that I was right.  I am right.  It isn’t okay for anyone to call you a name you are not comfortable with.  And some things are more important than following a grocery store code of conduct.

Love deez grlllz

 

Brainy Trainers

Another Writing Assignment


Looking for a personal trainer? You’re in luck – you’ve found one!

Are you ready to stretch yourself every day farther than you’ve ever gone before? Are you ready to increase and expand your proficiency and dexterity? Are you ready to tone, condition, and build strength you didn’t know you had!? I can teach you to do all of that, and more!

The regimen I provide is varied – you’ll never get bored! It also easily adapts to fit the needs of any lifestyle. you already have the basic skills I can build on to help transform you into a strong, fast, confident champion! I focus on strength, flexibility, toning, cardio, and diet.

A diverse set of exercises is the ideal way to build up your stamina. Heavy lifting is important, but you can’t do that alone. You need a balance of a variety of drills and training in order to maximize your success! And, naturally, a planned and nutritious diet is key to your improvement. What you eat affects everything – your energy, actions, and results.

My program doesn’t focus on performance, but should that appeal to you, this program is a great foundation for high achievement. In addition, I can provide you with the basis to continue your own, personalized training program. I simply build on what you are already doing.

It’s my job to motivate and support my client. If you’re not confident about your abilities, my development system can easily change that! No sweat!

Although I may not be technically certified in the most typical way, and I only currently have one client, I am extremely experienced. Right now, I’m both the trainer and the trainee. Every day I perform innumerable complex exercises to train the most important muscle: my brain.

The Reliable Rubber Band

Yet another random assignment for my writing class.

Spoiler – it’s about… ***rubber bands!***:

such fun.


I’m searching for something. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know where I’ll find it.  I don’t even know how to find it.  I just don’t know. Sometimes I will unconsciously go to the junk drawer when I’m looking for anything at all.  I’m looking for a book that won’t even fit in the drawer, yet I still gravitate toward the drawer. I’m looking for my cat.  How would he even get in there?  Something inside the drawer is calling me to reevaluate and redefine my quest.  I am hesitant to open the drawer itself.  Is it worth it?  What if what I think I want or need isn’t even in there?  But I discard my hesitation and pull open the drawer – sometimes with ease, sometimes with a struggle, sometimes carefully, and sometimes in a hurry.

Inside, the drawer is a refuge.  It’s a treasure chest of haphazard miscellany.  It’s a delightfully unexpected estate sale bargain you happen upon randomly one late Sunday afternoon.  Despite all of these, there is one consistency.

I can always find a rubber band in there.

Sometimes the rubber band is buried beneath an assorted plethora of other small and seemingly helpful, yet ultimately insignificant objects.  Sometimes it’s caught in the corner and stubbornly refuses to even consider coming to my aid.  And sometimes it’s right on top – front and center and eager to spring to assistance.  I swear they’re inside stretching and shoving and jumping and rearranging themselves whenever the drawer is abandoned and shut up tight.

Sometimes the rubber band is new and springy, full of excited exuberance. Sometimes it’s old and brittle and reluctant to leave the comfortable sameness of the drawer. And most often, the rubber band is somewhere between these two extremes.  Thin, but resilient and durable.  Or thick and tough, but somewhat lacking in its supple elasticity.

Their appearance is rarely a direct reflection of their usefulness, but then appearances rarely are.  Big, thick rubber bands have their uses.  So do tiny, slender ones. And every combination in between has the potential to facilitate some sort of discovery or creative solution.  Despite their visible stains, or the fact that they have already been used tenfold, they endure in their obliging and practical support.  If I select the wrong one for the task at hand, they will quickly let me know. And there is always a backup rubber band – a patiently waiting friend ready to help me try again or look at my problem from a different perspective.

I don’t know how they get in there.  I can never distinctly remember putting a rubber band in the drawer.  They just appear.  They seem to know that I will need them someday.  I will need their versatile durability and their flexible strength. I will need their constancy and keen enthusiasm.  I will need a rubber band.

You never know when you’ll need them, but they’re always there.  Watching and waiting- inconspicuous in the dark, yet consistently inspiring in their own, faithful and uncomplaining way.

It’s like Where’s Waldo, but for rubber bands!

Mary was Fed Up with Bob…

Another assignment for one of my writing classes:

Mary was fed up with Bob and didn’t quite know how to deal with it.

It had been for some time now that she had realized she wasn’t happy.  Her feelings had changed.  She used to be content with him.  But then, time had passed, and he just wasn’t the same man from before.  He seemed somehow less than he had been, just a dim reflection of the man she had first met.  She was disappointed.  In him, and in herself.  Now she just felt empty, even slightly ill around him. Something was missing.

Mary shook her head slowly as she gazed down at Bob as he reclined in the usual chair.  He seemed so peaceful.  And why not? He didn’t know how hollow and alone she felt.  “Had it all been for nothing?” she wondered.   She caressed his face tenderly and tucked a lonely, graying hair behind his ear.  If only he would open his eyes, then maybe, just maybe things could change.  They could change together. Work things out, give it another go.  She could be less demanding, couldn’t she?  Take less of him?  He could make her feel that way again, couldn’t he? That special way she had only ever felt with him, and only at the beginning- completely full of abundance and love?  He had been the missing part of her, once.  But maybe no one person could ever be enough.

She took her hand away and pondered her situation.  Maybe it was too late. The magic was gone, but why?  Why had his sweetness faded? When had her hunger for him dwindled away into detachment, and then revulsion?  Where was that flavor, that zest, that delicious satisfaction?  His essence seemed to saturate the air. Once, that had been an invigorating comfort, but now… she  didn’t think she could stomach much more.  Mary sighed. It was time to move on. There just wasn’t any room left for him in her life.  Or in her belly.  She was still hungry, but it was time to find someone new to eat.