“Peluda” is a collection of poetry by Melissa Lozada-Oliva that discusses the author’s journey regarding her identity through an overarching theme of hair. Oliva presents her difficult position as a hairy Latina Americana via details stemming from conversations with friends and her culture. In the poet’s introductory poem, “Origin Regimen” we see the common position of Latino’s in America very clearly. Olivia writes:
“before there were legs, bikini lines, eyebrows, upper lips,underarms, forearms, labias, assholes, chins,or the waxing table there were houses & two immigrants who cleaned them (ll 1-4).”
The latter portion, “two immigrants who cleaned them” highlights the reality that many Latinos within the United States hold service or labor jobs. In the same breath Olivia is introducing the stigma around female hair. By naming all these places in which women get waxed, the poet is directing us to analyze why we feel it is so necessary to tame our hair. In her poem, “My Hair Stays on Your Pillow Like a Question Mark” Olivia again presents the issues through intersectionality via the speaker’s conversation with her white friends. She tells us:
Christina García’s novel, The Agüero Sisters follows the lives of sisters Constancia and Reina Agüero, two Cuban women who sit on different ends of the spectrum. Reina is a strong independent electrician and is built like a model, whereas Constancia desires to be taken care of and is much more petite and fair-skinned than her sister. The novel begins with the death of their mother, Blanca Mestre, and flips back and forth from present day to the past. The piece is mostly told by an omniscient third person narrator, but also uses first person narration in chapters narrated by their father, Ignacio Agüero. One of the primary conflicts in the novel is the relationship between the sisters, that of which has been affected by their mother’s domineering presence and their father’s submissive nature. To elaborate, Constancia’s disdain for her mother stems from the fact that Blanca once abandoned Constancia and her father, only to return beaten and pregnant with her sister, Reina. We also see Blanca’s authoritarian presence when she sends Constancia away after Reina is born. Blanca does not like how Constancia acts towards Reina and decides she must go. Ignacio does not argue against this decision. Additional hints at Blanca’s strong will can be seen when Ignacio speaks of her as well. He tells us, “The first time Blanca Mestre walked into my biology class…she sent a shiver through the room. There was something about her presence–quiet,luminescent, distracted — that stirred people, although it did not induce them to get close to her” (Garcia 182).
Above All, A Family Man is a short story by American-Cuban writer, Achy Obejas, that explores the contrasting norms in latino and gay culture. The plot of the piece is fairly simple in that the protagonist, Tommy Drake, and his lover, Rogelio, are on a trip to Sante Fe during which they have an impromptu stop in St. Louis. The essence of this piece instead lies in Tommy’s flashbacks — those of which call on the reader to question whether adhering to social expectations is really worth one’s happiness.
“The Cheater’s Guide To Love” by Junot Díaz, is a short story that shines a light on the position of the Dominican man raised in the United States. Via the protagonist, Yunior, a dark skinned middle aged Professor, Díaz forces us to place ourselves in Yunior’s position with his use of the second person. This is particularly interesting when Yunior engages in immoral acts, namely cheating. The short story begins, “Your girl catches you cheating, (Well, actually she’s your fiancée, but hey, in a bit it so won’t matter) (Díaz 1),” which causes one to feel the anxiety that comes with being labeled an adulterer, even if only for a moment.
Based in 1950’s Paris, Giovanni’s Room is a novel that expresses the realities of requited love, destroyed by social ideologies concerned with man and his sexuality. Told from the viewpoint of the protagonist simply known as David, Giovanni’s Room is centered around the relationship between our narrator, and a beautiful Italian named Giovanni, who he meets at a bar. When David first meets Giovanni, he is battling the ideals of American manhood, and only speaks to him under the guise that he is doing so for the sake of his companion, Jacques. However, as the story progresses, the men begin to enjoy one another and they eventually develop a relationship in the safety of Giovanni’s room. While in Paris with Giovanni, David’s partner, Hella, is off in Spain discovering whether or not she would like to be with David, who does not love her but rather the idea of her. Hella eventually returns to Paris and David’s worlds collide, destroying the peace and joy in both.
One of the most intriguing aspects of this novel is its ability to seek you out in the day. Whether it be over toast and coffee, or in the car ride home while sitting in traffic, the love and agony Baldwin writes into the relationship between these two men, stirs the reader — jolting them with the demand to understand the crushing realities that accompany those living at the edges of an underdeveloped culture. Baldwin showed America the beauty in being gay, before it was ready to accept such a thing. Giovanni’s Room in essence gives one a taste of the biting consequences and insecurities that come with love. Go ahead and pick this classic up, you won’t be disappointed.
— Andrea Rodriguez, Blogger.
Andrea Rodriguez’s Bio
Andrea Rodriguez is a senior at Lewis University. Prior to attending Lewis, she completed her associates at the College of DuPage. Rodriguez is studying English Literature in order to pursue a career as an academic librarian. As for her interests, Andrea loves spending time with her family, being in nature, taking care of her plants, writing, cooking, and traveling when she can. Andrea also enjoys exploring unique writing styles. Some of her favorite pieces include The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man by James Weldon Johnson and “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid. In addition to being a fiction/poetry editor for Jet Fuel Review, Rodriguez is the editor-in-chief of Lewis Voices, and the administrative director for Sigma Tau Delta, of which she is also a member.
Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Korean poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong, is a novel that consumes readers with the prickling realities of Asian Americans, and the political issues that brought many to the United States. Hong’s familiarity with the essence of poetry can be felt within the details surrounding mental health issues and racist experiences, both of which Hong attributes to the narrow ideals constituting what and who is American. What I find most endearing about this work is the sarcastic tone that develops when Hong or one of her counterparts are forced to tolerate the ignorance minorities often encounter. These moments call one to understand the parallels between Hong’s life and that of the black comedian, Richard Pryor, who night after night, presented the cringe worthy realities of intersectionality between Black and White America. Hong displays this in her choice to include this joke of Pryors, “ I was a kid until I was eight. Then I became a Negro (Hong 38).”
“One doesn’t lie for the sake of lying; one does not invent merely for the sake of inventing. One does it for a particular purpose and that purpose always is to arrive at some kind of spiritual truth that one can’t discover simply by recording the world as-it-is.” – Tim O’Brien.
Speaking the truth brings an admiration that cannot be coerced from those around us and thus explains why we revere it with such intensity. We are often told by our parents and society to simply tell the truth. They adhere to this standard from the moment we can babble — scolding us any time we fix our mouths to lie. We are shown via communication outlets and within our homes, that there is honor in speaking into the world only what we have been told is proven. However, as we have learned throughout our developments the truth is never exactly the same for everyone. There are those versions of the truth we tell for the sake of those like our children, who are too young to comprehend the gritty details of realities such as war; and then there are those truths that we call memories. In Tim O’Brien’s, “How to Tell a True War Story” excerpt, we venture through a world in which actual events are contrasted against psychological truths that leave us questioning what is real and what is fabricated.
Bestiary: a collection of descriptions or representations of real or imaginary animals.
Last week in my creative writing lecture, my peers and I were assigned, “Bestiary” by Julio Cortazar– A short-fiction that begins with our protagonist, Isabel, being sent by her sister, Inés, and their Mother to the Funes, in order to keep the youngest Fune, Nino, company. Though we are never told how old Isabel is, we know she is old enough to relay what she sees clearly, but also naive enough to believe should she give into Aunt Rema’s demands, she can escape interacting with The Kid. Throughout the piece, we are given a variety of beasts who parallel the subjects in the Funes’ home. Who exactly parallels who, we can never be sure, as Cortazar embeds just enough ambiguity that one can never render their conclusion absolute. However, it’s fun to try.
Upon reading the title of George David Clark’s poem, “Washing Your Feet” my mind involuntarily brought forth images of Pope Francis in thick white linens, bowing his head to kiss the soft skin on soaked feet. This motif of intimacy and purity captured in these reverent moments introduced by the title, do not halt when we enter the poem, but rather continue into the first quatrain — in which the speaker addresses us stating, “Reader, they are dirty, you’ve come so far” ( L 1). The ambiguity presented via “dirty” and “far” is explained later in this stanza, through the descriptions of the filth humanity tends to tread through, and via the reference to the sandals of Jesus, that carried him on his journey through life. However, before Clark provides us with these bouts of concrete images and biblical references, he suspends us in our own truth, asking us to consider where we have come from. Clark does this well by paralleling our sins to the smut we’ve sunk our feet in.
“The first chapter is going to be hard, that’s the point, stick with it.” The Friday lecture before we were due to begin William Faulkner’s The Sound and The Fury (TSATF), my professor warned us of the complex narration provided by Benjy Compson — a 33 year old male, with the mental capacity of a three year old. Heeding his advice, I dove into the four part novel based in post – Civil War Mississippi, and attempted an analysis of Benjy’s, (also known as Maury Compson) narration; I failed. The constant repetition of “he said” and “she said” was exhausting, and the meaning behind why “Caddy smelled like trees” was lost on me (Faulkner 28). I begrudgingly tried again.