California Dreamin'

My favorite types of poems are the ones I comprehend and the ones that make me feel the emotions of the speaker. “California Dreamin'” by the Mamas & the Papas checks both of those boxes.

When I was selecting a song for this assignment, I thought about songs that were powerful and emotional. For me, “California Dreamin'” is deeply nostalgic. It reminds me of long family road trips, sitting in the backseat during the long drives to my grandparent’s house.

The song’s lyrics are also nostalgic, with the speaker longing for California on a winter day. The song describes this winter day, explaining that “all the leaves are brown / and the sky is grey.” The imagery of the day depicts the desolate feelings of winter.

The speaker also claims “I’d be safe and warm if I was in L.A.” A California winter is significantly different from the cold and gray winter described previously. Still, the author’s choice to use the word “safe” illustrates that the speaker’s longing for California isn’t just for the warmth of the sunshine state, but rather for the comfort of California and the comfort of home.

The lyrics repeat several times. The simplicity of the lyrics is comforting, echoing the comfortably nostalgic feelings of California that the speaker craves.

Through powerful imagery, diction, and simple lyrics, “California’ Dreaming” shares a deep longing for the comforts of home. The song’s power in making the listener share the feelings of the speaker is what classifies it as more than simply musical entertainment, but poetic art.

Do Ghosts Have a Place in History?

Often, when we look for historical fiction books, we look for stories that seem real. We look for stories that make the past seem vivid and tangible.

I didn’t expect to find this in Beloved. One of the most important elements of Morrison’s novel is Beloved, a ghostly presence who haunts Sethe as a constant reminder of the horrors of slavery. I don’t believe in ghosts, and so I thought that the intangible Beloved would serve as a distraction of the real-life horrors the book touches on.

But Beloved is part of Sethe’s story. By writing about Beloved, Morrison managed to write about Sethe as a person, rather than just writing about her experiences. And in writing about a person, Morrison was able to describe the haunting impacts of those experiences.

Toni Morrison story was one with depth. It doesn’t just help us to understand history — it creates empathy.

Saeed, Nadia, and Assimilation

Though the United States does not have an official national language. Still, according to a Pew study, 70% of people in the U.S. said that speaking English is important for assimilating and being “truly American.”

Nadia seems to have embraced this, and rarely speaks the language of her home country, while Saeed seeks out others who come from a similar background and prays daily.

It seems that Nadia is adjusting more easily than Saeed. Her use of English and disinterest in their birth country is part of assimilating and adjusting to an “American” life. She doesn’t dwell on the past as much as Saeed, and she doesn’t feel the same need to make friends with others from her birth country.

But she still wears her black robes.

At her co-op, her robes identify her as an outsider to the man with a pistol, and even to her co-workers. Despite this, she doesn’t take them off.

Though Nadia and Saeed assimilate and adjust differently, both of them honor their backgrounds and roots.

Existentialism and French Power

In Albert Camus’ 1942 novel, The Stranger, Monsieur Meursault is impartial and indecisive. Little is important to him, he takes most things lightly. He doesn’t care about job promotions, marriage isn’t an important decision, and he doesn’t grieve the death of his own mother.

Despite not really caring about anything, Meursault seemingly has everything. He’s fortunate to have a career and a home. Money doesn’t seem to be an issue for him. He has plenty of friends and neighbors. Until his trial and imprisonment, Meursault is definitely doing okay.

But what allowed for Meursault to be so successful? Maybe it is that he was a Frenchman living in Algeria. In the 1940s in Algeria, tensions were rising between Arab citizens and French pied noirs. These Algerian citizens were treated almost as second class citizens in their homeland, while French people, like Meursault lived lives of privilege.

Meursault likes swimming and days at the beach. He’s fortunate enough to be able to enjoy those things. So it’s interesting that Meursault, an existentialist, rejects systems of power, even though it is a system of French colonial power that allows him the pleasures he enjoys.

Is “Bloodchild” A Love Story?

Octavia Butler’s “Bloodchild” tells of the powerful Tlic, who protect Earthly Terrans in exchange for the use of Terran’s as host animals for their parasitic young. Butler describes her short story as “a love story between two very different beings” — I would call it provocative and disturbing. Gan, a Terran, is supposed to be impregnated with the eggs of T’Gatoi, a powerful Tlic. After seeing a bloody Tlic birth gone wrong, Gan is repulsed. Although he doesn’t want to, he still chooses to let T’Gatoi implant her Tlic eggs into him.

Butler claims that “Bloodchild” is “a dramatic story of a man becoming pregnant as an act of love—choosing pregnancy in spite of as well as because of surrounding difficulties.” But those surrounding difficulties include a system in which Tlic are entitled to the use of Terran bodies. If Gan chose not to be implanted, it would mean that T’Gatoi would use his sister instead.

Gan had little real choice. His decision to be implanted was of reluctant acceptance to a system that stripped him of his bodily autonomy and personal agency, making him a tool for the Tlic.

I believe that loving relationships are healthy and consensual — I’m not sure that I would classify “Bloodchild” as a love story.