Discussing “Sonny’s Blues”

Use the comment section for this post to engage in a discussion of James Baldwin’s short story “Sonny’s Blues.”

To see your requirements and parameters for our discussion, see our Reading/Discussing Short Stories guidelines. Strive for a vigorous exchange, including debating differing interpretations, but always strive for mutual recognition of each other, working toward enhancing our collective understanding of the story.

Watch your period’s group presentation on the story and see the DQs below, if you are looking for inspiration.

period 1
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  • A lot of the story takes place with characters on the move, whether this is on the subway, in a taxi, world travel, or walking the streets. What could this constant motion symbolize?
  • Do you think the narrator sees potential in the boys he teaches or only sees their potentially rough futures?
  • After leaving work, the narrator runs into one of Sonny’s old friends. What do you think this interaction symbolizes?
  • There are short references to music scattered throughout the story, what do these inclusions add to the meaning of the story?
  • Do you think that the narrator truly cares for his brother’s well being or is only in his life because of a moral family obligation?

period 2
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  • How does the narrator deal with his suffering?
  • Will Sonny relapse and start using drugs again?
  • If everyone suffers and deals with their suffering individually, then is all expression an expression of suffering?
  • Why do those who grew up in darkness and suffer because of it raise their children in the same darkness?
  • How does Sonny and the narrator’s fraternal relationship affect their interactions and issues?

period 3
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  • What do you think caused Sonny to start using drugs?
  • What does the music being played symbolize at the end of the story?
  • How does Grace dying have an impact on Sonny and the rest of the story?
  • Do you think the story would be different if told from a different perspective?
  • What is the correlation between the drink Sonny receives at the end of the story and his life?

Discussing “Barn Burning”

Use the comment section for this post to engage in a discussion of William Faulkner’s short story “Barn Burning.”

To see your requirements and parameters for our discussion, see our Reading/Discussing Short Stories guidelines. Strive for a vigorous exchange, including debating differing interpretations, but always strive for mutual recognition of each other, working toward enhancing our collective understanding of the story.

Watch your period’s group presentation on the story and see the DQs below, if you are looking for inspiration.

period 1
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  • What’s the significance of the final line in the story?
  • Considering he liked setting fires, why did Abner Snopes build such small fires on regular nights?
  • What was Abner Snopes’ real involvement in the war? What does this mean about him? About his son’s view of him?
  • What does Abner Snopes ruining the de Spains’ rug symbolize?
  • Why does Faulkner continuously compare Abner Snopes to tin?

period 2
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  • Consider the father’s relationship with wealth. His approach to the war seemed to indicate greed and materialism, yet his treatment of de Spain’s carpet points to a resentment of wealth. Do you think the father desires wealth? Why or why not? What other priorities interact with his desire for wealth, or lack therefore?
  • While the battle between “blood” and “law” is one that permeates the entire story, the narrator has a clear shift between taking a beating for his family’s honor in the beginning and betraying his father in the end. What might have caused this shift?
  • Faulkner opens the story with a description of the first court’s smell of cheese, filling the rest of the paragraph and even page with vivid descriptions of food and other sensory images that may seem tangential to the story. What purpose do these sensory descriptions serve?
  • When Colonel Sartoris and his father come across the de Spain’s house, the boy is awestruck and forgets about most everything else. What does this reveal about Colonel Sartoris’s views of the world? His relationship & similarities/differences with his father?

period 3
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  • Why was the son named Colonel Sartoris?
  • Why did Abner Snopes lie about his role in the Civil War?
  • Why did the father believe Colonel Sartoris Snopes would have told the judge? Why does he lie about his intentions even though he was not going to tell the judge what his father did?
  • Why does Colonel Sartoris Snopes decide to run?
  • In the end of “ Barn Burning” does Colonel Sartoris regret his decision to run?

Discussing “The Elephant Vanishes”

Use the comment section for this post to engage in a discussion of Haruki Murakami’s short story “The Elephant Vanishes.”

To see your requirements and parameters for our discussion, see our Reading/Discussing Short Stories guidelines. Strive for a vigorous exchange, including debating differing interpretations, but always strive for mutual recognition of each other, working toward enhancing our collective understanding of the story.

Watch your period’s group presentation on the story and see the DQs below, if you are looking for inspiration.

period 1
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period 2
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  • Can we really trust the words of the narrator?
  • What does the relationship between the Elephant and Zookeeper represent?
  • What really happened to the elephant at the end of the story?
  • What happened to the narrator’s “balance” since the elephant’s disappearance?
  • What does the story say about the relationship between balance and unity?

period 3
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  • How does the relationship between the zookeeper and the elephant contribute to the story? And how does their relationship contrast that of the zookeeper and other kids visiting the zoo?
  • How does the narrator’s conversation with the magazine editor woman alienate himself from both her and society?
  • What does the elephant symbolize?
  • The ending is very abrupt and does not solve the problem. Why do you think the author ends the story like this? And how is this a reflection of the narrator’s perspective?
  • What does the elephant represent to the narrator? What does the elephant represent in society?

Discussing “Secret Woman”

Use the comment section for this post to engage in a discussion of Colette’s short story “Secret Woman.”

To see your requirements and parameters for our discussion, see our Reading/Discussing Short Stories guidelines. Strive for a vigorous exchange, including debating differing interpretations, but always strive for mutual recognition of each other, working toward enhancing our collective understanding of the story.

Watch your period’s group presentation on the story and see the DQs below, if you are looking for inspiration.

period 1
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  • What purpose does the continual usage of colors and descriptions of the costumes serve in the story other than just simply describing disguises?
  • Why do you think they both lied to each other?
  • Who do you think is more in the wrong in this situation? The husband or the wife?
  • Do you think the husband’s “decision” on what she’s doing is accurate?
  • Do you think he should’ve told her or continued the one sided secrecy?

period 2
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  • Why do you think Irene said she did not want to go to the opera ball but still ended up going?
  • What do you think Colette is trying to say about Irene when she calls her a “pierrot”?
  • Why do you think that the husband never confronted his wife?
  • Do you think the wife knows that her husband has been spying on her?
  • What are some power relationships in this text?

period 3
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Discussing “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings”

Use the comment section for this post to engage in a discussion of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ short story “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings.”

To see your requirements and parameters for our discussion, see our Reading/Discussing Short Stories guidelines. Strive for a vigorous exchange, including debating differing interpretations, but always strive for mutual recognition of each other, working toward enhancing our collective understanding of the story.

Watch your period’s group presentation on the story and see the DQs below, if you are looking for inspiration.

period 1
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  • In the short story, there are characters who believe that the man with wings is an angel and characters who do not. Do you think the man is an angel?
  • How is this magical world Marques has created reflective of modern society? Is she trying to highlight how people would treat a holy figure if it were present in our world today?
  • When the angel gets the chicken pox, the doctor listens to his heart. What do you think the whistling in his heart and sounds in his kidneys is? Also, chicken pox is usually a sickness kids get, and the angel is a very old man. What does this say about the angel?
  • The man is finally able to fly away at the end of the story. Do you think the family whom he stayed with was more helpful or hurtful? Did they help him recover, or make his recovery time longer?
  • In the story, it is stated that a woman who disobeyed her parents was turned into a spider as punishment. In many cultures, spiders symbolize an increase of awareness. Do you think that Marquez kept this in mind when she decided to turn the woman into a spider? If not, why do you think she chose that specific insect?

period 2
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  • How would the story be different if the Very Old Man had been a Very Little Baby?
  • What impact does the combination of magical and ordinary details have on the reader?
  • In the story why do they choose to include another supernatural creature in a spider person?
  • How did the old man with enormous wings gain enough strength to fly out of the coup?

period 3
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  • What do you think the crabs may symbolize?
  • Do you think that religion had a major influence over the story and the belief among the people in the story?
  • Why do you think that the couple mistreated the angel and had much antipathy towards him?
  • Do you think that the old man with wings was an angel, a literal man who had wings, or something else?
  • Why do you think that the old man with wings leaves at the end of the story? How was he able to flourish after being really run down?

Discussing “Bloodchild”

Use the comment section for this post to engage in a discussion of Octavia Butler’s short story “Bloodchild.”

To see your requirements and parameters for our discussion, see our Reading/Discussing Short Stories guidelines. Strive for a vigorous exchange, including debating differing interpretations, but always strive for mutual recognition of each other, working toward enhancing our collective understanding of the story.

Watch your period’s group presentation on the story and see the DQs below, if you are looking for inspiration.

period 1
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  • What binaries are created through the dependence of the Terrans on T’Gatoi? How are they created?
  • What are some parallels you can find between the Preserve and the role of T’Gatoi in their home? What rhetoric does Octavia Butler use to portray these parallels?
  • To what extension is this a story about self-sacrifice and familial bonds?
  • One of the main themes of the story is the interdependence of two very different species. What is an example of a similar interdependence in your own life?
  • On page 28 and 29, Gan responds to T’Gatoi’s statement about protecting terrans by saying,“‘ Not protected,’ I said. ‘Shown. Shown when we’re young kids, and shown more than once.’” To what extent do you agree with Gan’s statement? Can this same sentiment be applied to our education system and how we expose kids to the evils of the world?

period 2
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  • What type of planet do you think they live on? What do you think the land/environment looks like?
  • What would you do if put in the same position as Gan? Would you fufill your “duty” even if you personally did not want to?
  • Would you trust someone who took care of you like Qui, his brother or a someone like T’Gatoi?
  • Have you had a person in your life that is as selfless as Gan and Gan’s mother?
  • How important is family to you?

period 3
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  • How could humans come to be dominated by this species?
  • Why do the aliens have such human personalities and why do some have so much empathy for the humans?
  • Does the mother refusing the eggs imply that she wants to die?
  • Is the preserve the only place where humans are living or do they exist in other parts of this world?

Discussing “Black Box”

Use the comment section for this post to engage in a discussion of Jennifer Egan’s short story “Black Box.”

To see your requirements and parameters for our discussion, see our Reading/Discussing Short Stories guidelines. Strive for a vigorous exchange, including debating differing interpretations, but always strive for mutual recognition of each other, working toward enhancing our collective understanding of the story.

Watch your period’s group presentation on the story and see the DQs below, if you are looking for inspiration.

period 1
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  • Do you think her life went back to normal after she returned?
  • What do you think would have happened if she used one of her devices wrong and her designated mate found out?
  • Do you think she went on this voluntary mission to feel successful like her husband and father?
  • Why do you think she chose now in her life to go be a spy?
  • Do you think there is a secret society of spy beauties?

period 2
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  • What does the author do in the story to ‘defamiliarize’ or create a sense of detachment? What does this potentially say about humanity in relation to either patriarchal society, traumatic experiences, or sacrificing for the greater good?
  • Why do you think the author decided to publish this story in a series of tweets? What influence does this have on her writing and overall comprehension in readers? What about the various illustrations included throughout the story?
  • Do you support the notion that this story is about feminism/female empowerment? Why or why not?
  • This story does not align exactly with the stereotypical ‘sci-fi’ genre. Meaning, while it does feature advanced technology and alternative life situations, it still seems plausible in today’s society. This being said, what do you think the story could be an allegory or symbol of other than patriarchy?
  • What difference does it make that the story is written in second-person narrative? How do you think this contributes to the paradox of the main character being a ‘black box’ and us readers seemingly reading her black box itself?

period 3
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  • How does having the story in second-person perspective affect the theme?
  • Before handing over the recording of her mission she can edit and delete personal thoughts, does she include these personal thoughts intentionally?
  • How far is too far when it comes to patriotism?

Lessons

Lessons come in many forms, ranging from the mundane to the epiphanizing. But what sort of lessons were taught in Toni Bambara’s short story “The Lesson”? What lessons would be expected from a story about children from 1970’s Harlem and a neighbor who’s enthusiastic about teaching them. The answer may resonate with some, as it is one of economic disparity.

Bambara’s story involves the narrator, Sylvia, and her groups of friends as they have a typical summer day. Much to their chagrin, their neighbor Miss Moore, wants to teach them a lesson, as she always does. She tells them about the importance of money and how they don’t have much of it. She then hails a taxi to take them from Harlem, at the time a poverty-stricken area of Manhattan, to Fifth Avenue, a world famous shopping district. Arriving at a toy store, the kids are baffled at the prices of the toys displayed; a microscope for $480, and a sailboat for $1400 strike them with their high cost. They wonder how anyone could afford such goods. In their neighborhood, $1400 could feed a family for a year. In this nieghborhood, it can get one high-quality toy. Sylvia then eyes a clown toy, this time only $35. She then imagines a scenaio where she asks her mom for the toy. Her mother goes on a tyrade, stating that the $35 could be used to pay off rent or buy a new bed. When the kids return home, Miss Moore asks them what they learned. Sugar, in a speech that the other kids blow off, states that this nation is not much of a democracy if everyone doesn’t have an equal chance at wealth. The kids then go off and play, as if the lesson never happened.

However, the lesson they learned has impacted their understanding of the world. Harlem is a historically black neighborhood in Upper Manhattan. At the time this story was written and from the writer’s life there, Harlem was in poverty and riddled with crime; it was a neighborhood that few wanted to live in. By making Sylvia and her friends go to Fifth Avenue, Miss Moore shows the ugly truth behind wealth disparity. Despite the fact that both area are on the same island, the amount of wealth they have is drastically different. For one area, $1000 can pay for many months of living. In the other, it can pay for one commodity. The kids are shown first hand how different their lives, and for things they cannot change.

Manley Pointer is a Very Smart Kim

The fake bible salesman who goes by Manley Pointer in Good Country People shows a lot of similarities to Kim, Brian’s stalker ex-girlfriend, in  A Conversation About Bread. To begin, Pointer is a little bit of a stalker himself. He has gathered information about the Hopewell family somehow. He even tells Mrs. Hopewell “you’re a good woman. Friends have told me” (4). Like Kim, Manley seems to have been stalking this family to learn information about them to manipulate Hulga. This is seen when he talks about having a heart condition and only a few years to live. He only lies about this because it gives him something in common with Hulga, who is in that exact situation. Another more important similarity is the fact that they were only interested in Brian and Hulga because of their disabilities. This is seen when at the end Manley reveals himself and mentions “One time I got a woman’s glass eye this way” (9). This shows that like Kim, Manley is interested in people with disabilities only because of their disabilities. Even worse, he connects the objects that they need to help them function by stealing from them. So while Kim was a stalker, Manley is a stalker and a thief.

What this all shows about Manely and Kim is that their characters are not able to mutually recognize other people. They both push the power dynamic of ABLE/disabled because they do not see those different from them as equals. As a result of seeing Hulga and Brian as less than them they do awful things like stalking and theft of things that they need. These two characters serve as examples of what not to do. If Kim and Manely had the ability to mutually recognize others these stories would be very different.

Judgement in “A Conversation about Bread”

“A Conversation about Bread” by Nafissa Thompson-Spires highlights the struggles of what it’s like being a POC while attending universities attended by mostly white people. The short story follows Brian and Eldwin as they interview as part of a project. During this interview, it becomes clear just how out of place the men sometimes feel, stating that they are constantly being watched and frequently being asked questions. Brian, who is in a wheelchair, states he is “more self conscious about his black maleness than his disability” (177). He says that he is constantly judged for his action just because of his skin color, just like his mother was while in college. Although the two men attend prestigious universities, they are still being treated differently, which just shows how prevalent racism is in the US. This short story brought attention to the every day things other people don’t have to think about, such as the “white gaze” (181).

A Lesson

ain’t nobody gonna beat me at nuthin.

The way that Miss Moore feels the need to separate herself from the community rubs Sylvia the wrong way. It doesn’t help that the lessons that Miss Moore teaches don’t make the most sense to Sylvia, so her constant nonsensical blabber surrounding topics that Sylvia doesn’t even care about makes her even less likable. Sylvia says, ” she’s boring us silly about what things cost and what our parents make and how much goes for rent and how money ain’t divided up right in this country” (4). Even though Sylvia doesn’t like Miss Moore, it is clear that all of the children gain some perspective at the toy store. At the end of the story, Sugar reveals what she has learned from their adventure. She says, “You know Miss Moore, I don’t think all of us here put together eat in a year what that sailboat costs”(49). Sugar’s revelation can help the reader further understand the conflict between Sylvia and Miss Moore. The issue is that one educated person, one teacher, cannot undo the systematic oppression and economic disparity stacked up against these kids. Sylvia doesn’t like Miss Moore because Sylvia is not trying to decode the system but just trying to live in it. Sylvia’s greatest weakness is her lack of desire to think critically about things that don’t interest her. Miss Moore pushes Sylvia out of her comfort zone and asks her questions that she can’t answer. However, Sylvia begins to understand she is being slighted by the world around her. At the end of the story, Sylvia says, ” to think this day though… ain’t nobody gonna beat me at nuthin”(56). Revealing that Miss Moore’s lesson worked, Sylvia understands more about her place in their society and she wants to do something about it.

A Conversation About “White Gaze” and Careers

In the short story “A Conversation About Bread” by Nafissa Thompson-Spires, the concept of people’s perceptions of stories is brought up and analyzed. The theory of the “white gaze” that applies to story telling or living with a roommate.

People bring their own subconscious opinions to everything in life. For instance, when Brian’s mom’s roommates was taking pictures of Brian’s mom out of the shower, “the girl was sending the pictures home to her family, like, look at this elephant I saw at the watering hole or this native with a disk in her lip” (179), she was bringing herself into the narrative and making comparisons (racist comparisons).

Similar to the white woman in the library overhearing their conversation about their short story who was “now very interested in their conversation” (181) and was “impressed by [Brian’s] use of the word ‘monolith'” (176) because she had some preconceived notion about how a black person should talk.

More people in the field of anthropology need to come from different backgrounds and be able to “ignore the white gaze until it no longer came to mind. Then, ‘and only then’… ‘black people can be free from all the double consciousness bull” (181). Diversifying different career fields will allow for different perspectives and new ideas that wouldn’t be brought up otherwise.

Fascinating or Creepy

The story “A Conversation about Bread” by Nafissa Thompson Spires, is a story about two boys that were assigned to complete a writing assignment. Eldwin has to write a story about an interesting moment from Brian’s life. As we follow Eldwin through the many revisions and edits to his writing, Brian shows the reader his interesting point of view on storytelling.

There seems to be a recurring motif in the story of a white woman creepily watching and observing people of color. There is the white woman who takes notes while they are writing, there is stalker Kim, and there is the lady that went to college with Brian’s mom. I believe this was done intentionally. Throughout the short story, Brian seems to get mad at Eldwin when he writes about his life, because he believes that the way Eldwin is writing, is almost as if he is “fetishizing” people of color in order to make the story more “interesting” for the reader. This idea of white people “fetishizing” stories of people of color is present in many stories today and can actually come off as creepy or distancing. This is also demonstrated when Brian tells Eldwin about his mom’s roommate in college. Brian says “So she could catch her in her ‘natural state.’ The girl was sending the pictures home to her family, like, look at this elephant I saw at the watering hole or this native with a disc in her lip”(179). In these instances, this extreme fascination makes the person being observed feel uncomfortable and “exotic”. This is demonstrated again when Brian says  that “ both men felt like unicorns in their grad program” and that “ he was more self-conscious about his black maleness than his disability”(177). I find this interesting because I have never noticed this before. After reading this story I realized that many of the pieces of literature that I have read in the past fit this exact idea. I believe that we should strive to make stories interesting and appealing to the reader, without singling out races different from our own as “exotic”.

A Conversation about Cinema, Race, and Bread

In Nafissa Thompson-Spires’ short story “A Conversation About Bread,” a ‘meta narrative’ calls attention to the complexity of storytelling regarding race, culture, and socioeconomic disparities. It questions the function and implications of academic cultural studies by chronicling an interview between two anthropology grad students who are working on an ethnography project.

One can’t help but become painfully sensitive to their own interpretation of the short story, which is later extended to our broader relationship with stories and storytelling. This questioning of storytelling, immediately made me think of film and cinema.

When Eldwin, one of the anthropology students, reflects on the complexity of storytelling; he asks himself the following important question.

Didn’t every story provide a narrow representation at best and fetishize somebody at worst?

Thompson-Spires, Nafissa. “A Conversation About Bread.” Heads of the Colored People, p.183.

This immediately brought to mind a film analysis video essay I watched on one of my favorite directors, Sofia Coppola. You can watch the video essay here.

Although skepticism of Coppola’s privileged and narrow narrative had surfaced for a while, her 2017 film The Beguiled was the recipient of the most controversy. Consistent with Coppola’s hallmark style, the film was chock-full of painteresque tableaux featuring a group of southern women portrayed by Kirsten Dunst (as always), Elle Fanning, and Nicole Kidman. Shockingly (or maybe not so shockingly), in Coppola’s rendition of Thomas Cullinan’s 1966 Civil War Era novel, the two characters of color (a black slave, and a biracial character) are void from the plot entirely. This directorial decision sparked passionate debates and criticism, drawing attention to Coppola’s privilege and blindness to the diversity of femininity.

According to Eldwin’s philosophy, wouldn’t Coppola’s decision to omit Black characters from her film be better than portraying them problematically?

I feel as if a stereotypical, tokenized, and flat addition of black characters to accompany the white leads or to promote a narrative of white saviorism could be far worse than the narrow view Coppola offered. Read this article about Viola Davis and The Help.

It is hardest to question the things we love and cherish the most, but as a Chinese American girl coming of age – I can’t help but feeling subordinate to this limited, warped portrayal of the delicacies of female adolescence. How could someone who looked like me, or my friends ever exist in this universe of long gazes out of passing windows or the effluvia of the Lisbon sisters’ bedroom paired with melancholically eerie soundtracks by the French band, Air. Would anyone other than a Kirsten Dunst archetype ruin the aesthetic and dreaminess of these films centered around this angelic pinnacles of Eurocentric beauty? Simultaneously, Coppola has been one of the most successful female directors, and has carved out a space for the rawness of female adolescence that was previously nonexistent in mainstream Hollywood. Her attention to feminine aesthetics and detail has often been criticized as superfluous; interestingly enough male directors who do the same, such as Wes Anderson, are often praised for being unique and artistic. Her films have played a critical role in my coming of age, and serve as constant artistic inspirations. Yet her choice to prioritize the privileged, white female narratives in times of historical urgency is questionable. Not only that, but I feel as lonesome as her delicately shielded protagonists when I am led to believe that artistry and beauty is defined by characters such as these. As my own coping mechanism, I have attempted to build this world around myself and for my friends in a way that feels authentic. The ruffles, the longing emptiness, the way the light reflects through the lawns of a suburban neighborhood – it all is translated through my own mind to somehow redefine these stories starring girls like me.

The critical role white female fragility plays in systems of oppression is undeniable. At times, it can arguably be the most oppressive and influential when it comes to the marginalization of womxn of color. Womxn is intentionally spelled with an “x” in order to awknowlege trans and non-binary womxn (who undoubtedly have no place in Coppola’s worlds), and to avoid the sexism associated with man and men. Read this interesting essay on the power of white female fragility over womxn of color.

The solution that the video and I both come to is that Hollywood needs to make more space for womxn of color, instead of tasking Coppola with representing all womxn. As we learn through Thompson-Spires’ characters, the readers are just as responsible as the writers when it comes to highlighting the stories of marginalized people. As an audience, how can we learn to compensate for the finite representation we are given? How can we do so without fetishizing or tokenizing a group that is culturally different from our own? That is a question without a clean and simple answer that we must revisit throughout our lives.

kirsten dunst as Marie Antoinette – if it's hip, it's here

Bread

In his essay “Canon Fodder” written for The Washington Post, Viet Nguyen discusses race in terms of the exclusive and predominantly white literary canon taught in curricula. He concludes his writing by saying, “the culture that produced the canonical greats also produced mass slavery and colonization that killed millions. Both Shakespeare and slaughter are part of Western civilization. Can we recognize both these faces of the West? Not if we read only Shakespeare.” (38) The attention he draws to the binary between the WHITE writer and not necessarily white reader (as literary audiences are arguably one of the most diverse populations out there) is also applicable to the binary central to the story “Conversation About Bread” in which Eldwin and Brian are anthropology majors discussing the implications and expectations that go along with being either a black writer or black reader. At one point, Brian asks, “Like why would you want to tell this story about a bunch of black Southern guys discovering bread anyway? What purposed does it serve unless it’s to show yourself as somehow better than them?” (92) Theirs is a tricky line to traipse as too much attention to a specific story like this could present as a patronizing piece of writing. However, ignoring little details in favor of coming across as less ‘superior’ risks ignorance and insensitivity. Thus, it is vital to strike a balance between the two.

It is also important to note that just as there is diversity between cultures and races, there is diversity between the individuals in every culture and race. Additionally, the common binary oppositions the mind is often drawn to are not any more prevalent than those that are more complex, crossing the dividing lines between people that make one group the ‘other’. For example, in the short story, there are several instances in which the binary of WHITE/black is noted (i.e. the white woman in the library). While this is the expected and easiest to observe, there is also a binary between the two men as one is a black writer and the other a black reader. It can even be shown that there is a binary between the men as both black readers and writers versus the white canon under which they are learning. So essentially, the argument could be made that even Brian and Eldwin are looking at themselves and the bread story through a ‘white’ lens.

The Lesson Learned in The Lesson

The “Lesson”, by Toni Cade Bambara, is a short story about a young black girl named Sylvia, who goes on a field trip with her class. Ms. Moore, the teacher of the class, takes the students to a toy store. The customers in the store are mostly white and the students are all shocked by how expensive the toys are. One toy that the students were looking at was a “hand crafted sailboat of fiberglass at one thousand on hundred ninety-five dollars.” The students were so surprised by this high price because their families would never be able to afford something of this price. They thought about how the same amount of money could buy some families food for a whole year, whereas wealthy white families are able to spend such a significant amount of money on a single toy. This was very profound because it emphasized the economic gap between white people and minority groups and the unfairness in society.

Observing A Conversation About Bread

“A Conversation About Bread”, by Nafissa Thomson-Spires, is a short story about Brian and Eldwin, two black men who are studying anthropology and discussing powerful stories from their lives. Brian and Eldwin, are described as feeling like “unicorns” in their grad program. Comparing the men to a unicorn was very significant because it emphasizes that the men feel so out of place in their school of white students, that they are comparing themselves to a rare mythical creature.

While the men were speaking, a white woman in the room was listening in on their conversation and at one point even took out a notebook as if she was studying them. This was so profound because Brian and Eldwin, who were studying experiences from their lives, were simultaneously being studied themselves by a white woman. At the end of the story it is stated that “She may have been an anthropologist too.” This statement changes the whole presence of the woman from just a nosy woman eavesdropping, to anthropologists studying the men. This woman perfectly displays why Brian and Eldwin felt so different and out of place because they are just doing completely normal things but to the white woman they are so unique and different that she had to stop and observe them.

“Parasite” and “The Lesson”: Is Society Really a Democracy?

A couple months back, I watched the film Parasite. The director, Bong Joon-ho, constitutes a story about a poor family living in South Korea that try to climb the social ladder by leeching onto the Park family — getting their taste of wealth. (This movie is a masterpiece and I highly recommend you watch it if you haven’t).

This film, I’ve noticed, has a lot of parallels with the short story, “The Lesson”. Though I can’t think of a scene in Parasite in particular, the ideologies in “The Lesson” are akin. Throughout the film, there is a common theme of poverty and the inequality between the rich and the poor. The Kim family were destitute basement dwellers who worked just as hard if not more than the Park family, but the Kims were still low income. The Kims worry about money, the extravagant Parks worry about poor people’s unpleasant smell. Similarly, the eight children in “The Lesson” go on a short trip, arranged by Miss Moore, outside of their oppressed community which leads them to encounter items they have never seen, items that are far beyond their economic means. Miss Moore wanted the children to realize that wealth is unfairly and unequally distributed. At the end of the short story, Miss Moore asks the children what kind of society it is in which some people can spend more on a toy than others have to spend on food and housing. Sugar replied, “…this is not much of a democracy if you ask me. Equal chance to pursue happiness means an equal crack at the dough, don’t it?” (115). Sugar believes that it’s not a democracy because some people do not have an equal opportunity to earn money. There are people, both in Parasite and “The Lesson”, that don’t have to worry about the almighty dollar. Both pieces unveil that there was no “equal crack at the dough,” ultimately concluding that both societies are not a democracy.

In the Barn

Joy (Hulga) has an artificial leg and when Pointer takes her on an adventure it turns south. Pointer entices her into a romantic session that ends up in the loft of a Ban on Hugla’s farm. Pointer keeps questioning her about her fake leg and continues to ask for her to take it off so he can see what it looks like. When Hugla takes off her leg and Pointer will not give it back she begins to yell at him and demand her leg back since she can not move without it. Eventually Pointer gets up and leaves the barn stranding Hugla in the Barn by herself with no way to get around. Pointer is a fake bible seller and really steals necessities away from his “clients”.

When doing something for the sole purpose of stealing valuable items, why do you steal artificial limbs and fake eyes? I personally think that their are way more valuable items in a house than a customized artificial piece of the body for one specific person. What do you think Pointer’s reason behind this kind of robbery and cruel acts is?

“Good Country People” or not so much

I read the story the ” Good Country People” by Flannery O’Connor and I thought the story was good but the characters were so weird. For example Mrs.Hopewell was supposed to be this kind women but she was so mean to her daughter. She would say things like ” If you can’t come pleasantly, I don’t want you at all”(2), when she would try to walk with her mom. Mrs.Hopewell also had so many negative thoughts about her daughter and the most shocking one was that she had not come into realization that her daughter only had one leg. Even though the accident was over twenty years ago and you would think that Hulga would not have realized it but it was actually the mom. Also I think Mrs. Hopewell is super fake in a way. Like she not that fond of Mrs. Freedman but she still kept her in the house. Another example of her being fake was her blaming her daughter for not having a bible because she was try to get out of talking to Manley. I just felt like she did not have to lie on her daughter and she could have came up with a better excuse.