Significance of Bread

I believe “A Conversation About Bread” is personally the best story I’ve read from the short story packet to date. The connection between racial socioeconomic status within the story was tied to a simple essay about bread. In the perspective of someone who is white, most likely your class economically is higher, and I think this leaves whites to question blacks just because they are so engaged with someone that’s “so different” to themselves. This person within the story was the librarian, as whenever one of the children said a big word or even as the time of the conversation grew, she grew more and more engaged with what they were talking about. When the kids were talking about croissants the librarian thought the kids were humorous when in fact croissants are something these kids don’t see often. Blacks constantly carry a double consciousness with them and I feel as if the story exemplifies this especially Brian, who is incredibly cautious because he is a man of color while also being disabled. The huge factor though is that Brian said HE’S MORE AFRAID OF BEING BLACK THEN DISABLED. That really pinpoints the double consciousness these people carry throughout daily life. I thought the story tying an essay about bread to a true issue in modern society was fantastic and it really appealed to me as a reader.

“The worst book I have read”

I have read many different books throughout my life and most have been great. I am someone that understands the difficulty involved in writing one. Very few times have I finished a book and said wow, that was an atrocious read. However, after finishing my last summer reading book I can say for certain that the book I was given was the worst book I have read in my life. Uninformative, uninteresting, dull, redundant, unengaging, full of typos, missing a lot of important information and overall just poorly written.

The book I read was “Kobe Bryant” by Clayton Geoffreys. I was actually very excited to open this book up. Kobe had already passed away and I wanted to learn more about who he was as a person. The book failed to provide any insight on this at all. Rather than keeping the reader engaged with plot twists about his life and what went into some of his greatest games, the book merely listed stat after stat of his performances. Nothing more. It felt as if I was reading the same page over and over again.

The things Nabokov says in Good Readers and Good Writers help to better reiterate what was not happening in this book. Nabokov says “To the storyteller we tun for entertainment, for mental excitement of the simplistic kind, for emotional participation (32).” The entire book was unentertaining. And as much as I hate to say it, there was not even any excitement I felt while reading. Excitement is a necessary component to reading. altogether, I learned that bad books can still make it into schools. If you gave me enough time I could have put together a better book, it was that bad.

The Symbol of Bread

When reading “The Conversation About Bread”, I was struck by an arguably minor detail of the story: Brian’s story that Eldwin was trying to tell. But I wasn’t struck by it in the way you may think. Obviously it’s a very profound aspect of the story that Eldwin realizes he can’t write Brian’s story because it is not his experience, but I thought the writing about the bread specifically in Eldwin’s writing was very interesting. In the story he’s attempting to write he states “We were all like, what’s up with the yellow bread? For it was surely some white folk stuff” (173). I thought it was really interesting how something as simple as bread can reflect someone’s socioeconomic status and how all these boys were in awe at a type of bread. This is similar to “The Lesson”, in the sense that they see a toy at the store, a clown on a bar, and are all baffled by the fact that someone would pay $35 for it. Sylvia states “Thirty-five dollars could buy new bunk beds for Junior and Gretchen’s boy. Thirty-five dollars and the whole household could go visit Grandaddy Nelson in the country” (114). Something that seems so inexpensive and insignificant to one person could mean something so much more to another person who is less financially stable, similar to how something (the bread) could seem like no big deal to one person but can actually reflect their socioeconomic status.

Mutual Recognition: Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

In the novel “Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine” by Gail Honeyman we follow the journey of the 30 year-old Eleanor Oliphant who suffers from multiple mental illnesses due to childhood trauma. Eleanor lives everyday the same. She goes to work, eats, and sleeps. She also tends to think that she is better than anyone who crosses her path because of her cleanliness and organization, even though she lacks basic social skills. When Eleanor meets a new co-worker named Raymond, she is disgusted by his sloppiness and lack of manners (by her standards at least). Despite this, Eleanor and Raymond start to spend time together and Raymond helps Eleanor uncover some mysteries from her past.

Benjamin’s theory of mutual recognition is applicable to Eleanor and Raymond’s relationship because it was completely one-sided in the beginning. Although she spent time with Raymond, Eleanor never saw him as a friend, whereas Raymond treated Eleanor with kindness and respect. Throughout the book, we follow their journey on achieving mutual recognition from Eleanor’s perspective whilst discovering new things about each other. Eleanor never truly accepts Raymond until he pulls her out of her repetitive bubble and that is when their honest and accepting relationship begins.

Mutual Recognition and Being an Ally

The Black Lives Matter movement has been in the spotlight the last couple of months, after the murder of George Floyd. It has sparked waves of activism as seen through the protests and sharing of information on social media platforms that work to battle police brutality and the systemic racism that our country was built upon. It has also served as a time to remind white people of their privilege and how they can acknowledge that privilege to be ally to the black community.

There are many characteristics that come to mind when we talk about being an ally; empathy, support, decentering yourself, and listening. Most of these qualities are required to be a good ally. However, I am going to take an anti-empathy stance.

Empathy is the ability to understand someone else’s feelings, understand their situation. In the context of the Black Lives Matter movement, the white population can not possibly understand what it is like to be Black in America. We can educate ourselves, listen to Black voices, and support Black-owned businesses, but we will never truly be able to empathize.

Jessica Benjamin, a psychoanalyst, coined the term mutual recognition. Mutual recognition is recognizing the humanity in another person while they recognize your humanity. Your individualism feeds off of these interactions with others. The theory of mutual recognition can be used to explain how to be a good ally, without claiming to understand.

Recognition does not require understanding. Recognition requires accepting the humanity of the movement and listening to the voices that lead it. We, as white people, are able to check our privilege while recognizing the trauma that Black bodies have faced and are continue to face in our country. We show our support by applying Benjamin’s theory, to view the Black Lives Matter movement as a living, breathing, human demand for change.

Summer Reading – Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis – A Discussion of Michael Lewis and Salomon Brothers.

Since the beginning of high school, I have had an interest in finance and economics, mainly because my parents are both analysts, and as I have taken more classes to explore the field of finance, I have found that I too, am hoping to start a career in finance. As a prospective finance major and hopeful analyst, my father gave me a few books to explore individual careers in finance. The first of which was “Liar’s Poker,” a semi-autobiography detailing Michael Lewis’ rise on Wall Street as an bond trader at Salomon Brothers.

The book begins with the chairman of Salomon Brothers, John Gutfreund, and a bond trader, John Meriwether, playing a mind game called liar’s poker, in which they bet on the serial numbers of a dollar bill. While it may appear that the two men are just playing a game, the very core of Liar’s Poker, reading other people, is central to a career on Wall Street.

Michael Lewis ends up landing a job at Salomon Brothers, and is put into their rigorous, one year training program where he is to learn about bond trading. After the training, Michael becomes a bond trader, and throughout the next ten-ish years, Salomon changes CEOs multiple times, with two of them ending up in jail (they’re kind of like Illinois), and eventually, Salomon becomes the target for a hostile takeover by Drexel Burnham. Further, the economy crashed in 1987, and while Salomon had to cut most of its employees, Lewis was instead rewarded with a large bonus, and Salomon continued to operate. The book finishes with Lewis quitting his job because he feels his pay should reflect the amount of good he does for society, and he doesn’t think he deserves his salary because selling bonds doesn’t do all that much for society.

The Belles: How social media can affect self esteem.

In the novel, The Belles, Dhonielle Clayton explored the way that people viewed themselves through the world of the belles. Since the world needed the belles to help correct their physical flaws, the belles were constantly covered in the news. The news in this world, however, was not factual news. The news was all gossip and rumors. “Lady Francesca Carnigan, of House Helie, rumored to have a beauty addiction. Queen might lift sailing restrictions, opening kingdom to trade. Some hair textures don’t catch the beauty- lantern light” (44). This newspaper is very similar to the way that social media works today. Many times, social and beauty standards are assumed from what famous people post online. This newspaper is exposing that about our society with these rumors and trends that nobody could ever keep up with. So the underlying message of the story is to just be yourself, and do what makes you feel beautiful, not what others think.

The Lurking White Woman

In the short story, “A Conversation About Bread” Eldwin has to complete an assignment for class, which includes writing a story based off a story of what Brian (Eldwin’s classmate) gives. Brian grew up in Jackson, Mississippi and Eldwin writes his story on Brian’s Southern experience. We are given a glimpse of the story Eldwin writes and Brian thinks that it is a bit stereotypical and compares Eldwin to a white anthropologist.

Throughout the story, we catch glimpses a white woman near them reacting to their conversation. The white woman appears to be listening intently and reacting to the different stories that Brian recounts. Near the end of the story, we are told that the white woman took out, “a little notebook with a pink cat on the cover” (Thompson 181). The story then closes describing the white woman and stating that, “She may have been an anthropologist too” (Thompson 183).

I believe that the lurking white woman represents what Brian wants Eldwin to avoid in his writing. He does not want for piece of writing to be stereotypical and depict all black people as one being or one characteristic. Brian wants to show how there are cultural differences and different types of black people.