Reflections on a Semester Past

There are very few everyday occurrences that give me as much pleasure as proving someone else wrong. Whether the issue of debate is one of morality, logic, politics, the results of a particular event, nothing pleases me more than to prove my intellectual superiority over another. One could easily realize as much in the somewhat combative nature my writing takes on during assignments. My education before college continuously conditioned me to accept that to successfully prove the superiority of an argument one had to logically prove the inferiority of another. Essentially that if I wanted to be successful in an agreement I had to be right and prove another person’s ideas to be wrong. During these past fourteen weeks, our class discussed the subject and technique of making an effective argument. Through the comparison of works by Gerald Graff and D. Tannen we explored new ideas effective debates and what they should produce. I must say that compared to the various other topics discussed this year that exploration has yielded the most change in my writing than any other.

The work of both Graff and Tannen focuses on the issue of the technique of debate. Graff supports debate as an agreement, an attempt to prove the validity of one position over another. “My own students’ writing seems to improve dramatically when I encourage them to stake out a position in opposition….” Graff explains that all influential academic writing became so because it had something to contest, some other point to win over. That this idea gave his students a clearer purpose in their writing.

I always appreciated having a clear goal in my paper because of the ease it gave me in writing them. I knew the point I was aiming for and the only decision I then had to make was how best to argue that certain point. I grew to be a more combative writer which took away much of the eloquence I would have liked in my work.  A habit I developed in writing was during an essay I would include some personal thought on the subject in parentheses. These comments would usually be sarcastic or an attempt to bring in some humor on a serious subject. I remember early on in the semester Professor Boyd explaining that this type of writing alienates many readers, some of whom without the comment I might have been able to convince.  After I read Graft and Tannen I realized that combativeness takes away from an argument because it causes people to close their minds against what they are reading. In an argument people stop listening to each other and focus only on making their point. Such is the same for writing.

D. Tannen hopes to inspire academics not to simply argue right and wrong, correct v. incorrect, essentially to do away with the Adversary method. Tannen writes about how this method does not lead to the persuasion of an opponent but simply causes them to rethink their strategy of how to prove their theory to be correct. Thus in the end the debate produces next to nothing except a winner and a loser. She wishes to replace this technique with one more resembling the Socratic Method. She advises that the objective of debate is not to prove someone wrong but to convince them of a new way of thought that is more effective.  Tannen finds that if an argument exposes new forms of thought then it has more benefit to the advancement of knowledge in a certain field.

Our discussions in class lead to the conclusion that influential academic work should not necessarily prove a theory or argument invalid but instead improve them by showing new ways of thinking and in the end to attempt to produce new knowledge.  As a class we were challenged to adopt this view of debate into our own work from that point on; that our work should advance our topics of choice by embracing what others have said and expanding upon them with our own. Having explained the way I was conditioned to think about arguments and debate one should easily be able to understand how drastic of a change in thought this would require. At first I didn’t accept this notion of furthering knowledge. I felt that being right in a debate was the ultimate goal. Shortly after these series of class discussions I found myself in a debate with a friend who attends Georgetown University in D.C.  I had said that the purpose of technology was to make life easier and he fired back at me with quotations from Rousseau, Locke , and many other famous philosophers who wrote rather briefly on the subject of scientific advancement (except Rousseau of course). While listening not only did I realize that I was utterly unconvinced but that not a single idea that my friend cited against me was in fact his. His argument brought nothing new to the table. It was in the following hours that I realized the truth in Tannen and that our class had come upon. I wanted my writing to be recognized as excellent academically. In order to fulfill that desire my writing would have to do more than just support a point already made by someone else. I would have to use arguments and ideas from great men in the recent and distant past to further my own.   Graff was right in saying that all influential work needed something to be in conflict with, but it also needs to bring new ideas and information to the reader. Good work needs to not only convince people but advance their way of thought.   Only through meeting these requirements would my work be credited with any importance.

Since that realization, which has developed from that night till this very moment, I have cut out the sarcasm usually found in my earlier papers. I have attempted to focus not on reiterating the work of others but trying to see how their ideas and methods support mine. In essence I can say that my writing style has begun to mature from the combative nature of a teenager to soon resemble the far more sophisticated and eloquent styles of academic work.

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Difference between quality and crap

This blog and the two posts following it are about a subject i find both fascinating and highy underappreciated. The purpose is the examination of those wonderfull objects called jewelry and the gemstones we use to make them. Why jewelry? What possible importance could it play in our world.

Jewelry is so much more than just an assortment of pretty objects to look at and wear. It is an investment, a way of showing status, and an art form.

Jewelry can serve as an excellent way to keep a portion of one’s wealth in a highly portable and untraceable form. Jews during WWII regularly transferred their wealth from paper money to diamonds, gold, and other gemstones so that they could be used for payment instead of valueless paper currancy. Today, if one wanted to leave a large inheritance to someone without the hassle of taxes. They could buy the amount in gemstones, leave it in a safety deposit box, and no one but the heir would know the differance.

But to utilize jewelry in this way, one must be able to tell crap from the good stuff.

 There is a definate difference between what is considered to be good jewelry and and low quality jewelry. This is not a remark on an individual’s taste in design but on the quality of the materials used to make the peices. In each of the pictures are examples of the difference between low quality and high quality. Above we see the Louis Vuitton necklace designed for the casual occasion. Its made of gold and tempered glass with gold in the middle. While it may not suit you personally it is made of excellent materials. Not all people have the same taste but the materials are undoubtably good. Now this kind of peice is not good as an investment because it is a brand name. You will pay a huge markup as opposed to the person who has access to gold and stones on wholesale.

Personally I find signat rings to be extrodinarily tasteful for either gender. They represent either your family history or your affiliation with a group or organization. This one is made of a high carat gold quality and looks quite beautiful. Again this is a personal taste. The reason I like high quality jewelry is because not only does it just look much better but the prices forces me to be far more selective in what I buy. The ownership of such jewelry is a status symbol as well. Almost anyone can buy crappy jewelry but one has to work hard to afford good products. High quality jewelry is a symbol of that work or inheritance.

As for gold itself, we have huge amounts of investment firms that sell gold stocks, mine options, and gold itself to investors. Be warned, do not invest in gold unless you have alot of money that you can afford to have tied up for a significant amount of time. Gold takes years to rise to any real level above the initial investment so you wont see much of a return for a while.

This image shows stainless steel rings that are commonly found across shopping mall stands or in small good stores. No matter if these fit a persons preferance they are indeed crap. They have absolutely no resale value ever, they are made from a synthesized material, and really do look quite cheap. No matter who wears them. They make good gifts for small children or for teenagers that dont really appreciate good quality. My question is this, why would someone waste money on these when they could save up for one or two good and tastefull peices? Having only one or two looks much more elegant than having five of the above shown rings spread across your hands. If you cant afford gold, then a very simular look to these rings can be made in silver. I personally have a silver ring with an image of a bear cast in bronze. It was not expensive and looks much better than the image above.

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Men’s Jewels

 

Ever since the Victorian Era of England, dating from 1837-1901, there has been a dramatic change in the amount of jewels men seem to be allowed to wear. Personally i find the standard to be ridiculous and i will happily wear as many pieces as i find tasteful, but below let me explain the standard.

It is important for men to understand this concept of fashion because like a good suit people judge you on your style. adherence to this will bolster that style and people, most importantly employers will notice. They want to hire people who look good and can impress their clients, so having some nice accessories is in fact useful.

How many men claim to not enjoy jewelry? But how many want a Rolex or a watch like it? Well if you fit that description guess what, you like jewelry. A watch is easily the most important piece for a man. Watches are a definite show of personal style and status. This Rolex cost $24,000 dollars and is easily one of the more tasteful in the collection. Seeing this on someone tells me that they enjoy a classical look and try to avoid the gaudiness rampant in today’s market. Being as I am of a similar taste, I now have a topic with which to connect to another person and form a familiar relationship.

Cufflinks are optional to most, but any man thinking of entering into a high paying position in which a suit is required will need to utilize these. They are the perfect item to add some finish to a good suit. Now these above are not what i would consider to be the most tasteful, however they would add a perfectly good touch to a suit that may not be of the highest quality. Cufflinks add an elegance to a outfitt that people will recognize. There is in fact a saying among the investment houses of Wall Street, “who wants to invest millions with a man who wears buttoned sleeves?”  A very good pair of cufflinks can be found for a more than affordable price at stores such as Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, and any jewelry stores. Guys, these are not items you want to be frugal about, get the best that you can and they will serve you well.

The tie pin is the most optional part of the standard as i call it and should only be worn to fine occasions with a particular tie. Should one be called upon to attend some high society event and decide to wear a plain color tie (a tie with a very simple design or only one color) a tie pin will add some vibrance to it, making you far more noticeable. That is the point of good business, networking and being known in a positive light.l

The point of all this is not to be gaudy and thus be distasteful but to show some elegance. Such a display, especially amongst the higher income clientage, will be noticed and much appreciated. Remember in business the goal is the sale and so as a requirement your clients will be superficial and materialistic. You must show an appreciation for good things in order to succeed.

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Estate Pieces of the Smithsonian

Marilyn Monroe put it best when she sang “diamonds are a girls best friend”. But the greatest of jewelry cannot be restricted to just the common look of a clear diamond. Look at these examples of the finest gemstones whose arrangment shows the greatest creativity and the opulent nature of the times in which they were purchased. Proof of their extreme quality lies in their present resting place, the minerals and gemstone’s gallery at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.           Why were they given such prominent display? Many would consider these peices to be gaudy and simply an example of the waste commited by the top one percent of wealthy individuals across the world. What importance could they or even jewelry itself play in our world?

Jewels are and the items themselves are representitive of an art form. Much like the paintings of Monet, the sculptures of Ronin, the architexture of Davinci and Michalengilo they are prized for the skill needed for their formation and the quality of the gems themselves. Other than use by some as a display for their wealth and success there are far more practical uses for gemstones but that is for another post. Let us look at these examples displayed. Where did they come from and what are their stories? Who could even wear them in this day and age?

The Cartier-made emerald and diamond necklace has a total of 75 gems placed in a white gold was made for a member of the Indian chancellory in 1928. The recorded price was a little over two hundred thousand dollars American. Though the necklace is now considered priceless due to its sustained prominent placement, if a simular bit were placed on auction the price fetched would be expected to reach well above three millon dollars. Though this necklace is obviously meant for a woman of elegance, but emeralds were much more often worn by men. Considered a powerfull color, men would wear them usually on rings or on tie pins. Should anyone have a loved one born in may and this amount in readily acceptable cash, what a present it would make.

, This ruby ring is a much more modern peice, commissioned and made by Harry Winston in the 1950’s. The name of the person who commissioned it was not available, but given the time the most likely answer is either the wife of some tycoon or a Hollywood scarlet.  Rubies are some of the most artifically enhanced gemstones on the market, most having been treated with flame therapy to brighten the color or vibrance of the red. What an unfortunate task to tell grandma that the ruby bracelet, necklace, or ring was not a completely natural one. Personally I find rubies to be the most beautiful of all gemstones, partially because they are my birthstone, but also because of the intense color that can be brought out from it. Unlike other gemstones whose enhancement processes usually result in its distruction. If some one was to wear such a ring, it would be undoubtly be seen from across a room. That is the ultimate goal of jewelry, to make other people notice their prominence.

ruby

In this image we find the most famous gemstone that you can find in the Smithsonian. The Blue Hope Diamond. With perfect clarity and a size of 45.5 carats it’s color is the deepest blue diamond ever found. Its immense beauty has been the property of several prominent figures of high society. The Hope Diamond gained its name because of its recent owner Henry Thomas Hope who passed it on to his decendents until its purchase and donation by Harry Winston. The legend that it has a curse attached to it because of the fates of its owners I find a bit rediculous but ill admit does add some appeal and height to its fame. The fact is that it is a beautiful gem that is now considered a national treasure.

So who should wear this and when? There are very few occasions when such peices would be appropriate and even fewer who can afford them. People typically wore these to high society events such as charity balls, award ceremonies, inagauration ceremonies, governors balls, and other such occasions. They are peices that are meant to show not only someone’s wealth but in some mindframes the importance and respect for the occasion.

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Beginnings of Essay

This essay will explore the concepts of ugliness, both physical and mental, laid out by Toni Morrison in her novel The Bluest Eye. Based on my initial read of the book, I feel as if what makes someone ugly, in the mind of Toni Morrison, is much more than the simple color of their skin or any disfigurement that he or she might be forced to endure. What makes a person ugly in this story must run much deeper. Through close examination of the texts and character dialogue I hope to gain a better understanding of those deeper qualities which would make a person in this African American community ugly.  

As far as characters go, Pecola will be the prime subject of my investigation. Her desire to resemble either Shirley Temple or Mary Jane, two advertising and movie characters of the 1920’s both with blond hair and blue eyes, is the result of severe insecurities arousing from both abuse at home and the label of ugliness put upon her by the gossip, jibes, and actions of the people around her. Why was Pecola worthy of such treatment? In a time when being white was to be considered of a superior race, it seemed to be the consensus among blacks that the lighter skin tone one had, the more beautiful he or she was. Pecola was born with very dark skin even for an African American. Thus she was not only treated sub-standardly by the white [people within her immediate surroundings but also carried a stigma through the black community. Two prime examples of both are when she goes to buy candy at a store and her treatment by the character Geraldine.

What makes Pecola ugly in the minds of her neighbors is not just the color of her skin. Their image of her is also a reflection on their opinion on the actions of her family. The home she is forced to live in is one where abuse and violence are both prevalent elements. Her mother Pauline and her father Cholly are regularly seen fighting (not just verbally) and engaging in sexual intercourse with no mind to what their children might witness. Their continuous neglect of the children’s needs is worsened when they do pay attention and beat Pecola and her brother for any misdeed (though this form of abuse was much more common). Cholly himself eventually raped Pecola and impregnated her with his child. By those around them, the entire family is considered to be an ugly one. This is not due just to the collective physical darkness of the members but their actions. Pecola carries her family’s shame around like a mark along with her pregnancy. The failure of the people around her to understand the circumstances of her life lead to this misconception of her ugliness. Surprisingly the only people who do understand and who do not consider Pecola ugly are Claudia, Frieda, and the three whores who live above Pecola.

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Pauline vs. Geraldine

The mother is one of the most influencial figures in a person’s life. In the chapters we have read as a class, two particular mothers have stood out among the rest of the characters. Pauline (Pecola’s mother) and Geraldine (Junior’s mother, introduced on page 110) are two women who, in the society shown in this novel, seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum with regard to the way they live their lives and the enviroment in which they raise their children. Though both are equally abusive and both treat Pecola and Junior with an extreme amount of neglect, the actuall physical lives they have formed around them are almost totally opposite, as is their affect on their kids.

Pualine, along with Cholly, has created what could easily  be described as a home in the midst of chaos. She seems to have an established routine of engaging in violent fights with Cholly, in front of the children, along with showing no discretion regarding the more intimate activities of married life. The utter negelect with which she treats Pecola is revealed when Pecola, Claudia, and Frieda travel to the house on the lake where Pauline works to attempt to procure wiskey from her. While there Pecola accidentally knocks over a fresh and very hot pie, the juice burning her legs and ruining her clothes. Pauline immediately attends to the small white girl (child of her employer), which is throughly understandable. What is not is the fact that she does not pay any attention to Pecola’s injuries and makes her walk home. The effect of this negligance is that Pecola has become deeply introverted and depressed.

Geraldine is also an incredibly neglectful mother to Junior. She treats him witht he regard one would treat an unwanted pet, or as a chore that required repitition and daily care. She is in no way emotionally available for her son, having taken an extreme stoic approach to her life. This stoic tendency is her main difference from Pauline. Geraldine’s life has been constructed to be as close to without error or emotion as one human can make. She keeps an incredibly orderly home, well painted, well gardened. She does provide for her family’s physical needs ie food, clean clothing ect… But the effor to maintain such perfection requires her to bury any emotion she should reserve at the very least for her son. She seemly cannot even enjoy the intimate moments with her husband. Junior’s reaction to this is to show his anger through acts of violence, namely throwing a cat at Pecola and then throwing it at a radiator, nearly killing it.

Both mothers and the enviroment they have created with which to raise their kids, have caused serious harm to both Pecola and Junior. Though on the outside they seem to be complete opposites they are united by the distruction of Pecola and Junior’s childhoods.

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Essay #2

Michael Scaldini                                                                                            03/27/2011

The Symbiotic Relationship Between Writing and Identity

There are six billion people on this Earth; what sets one person apart, making him or her unique among all others in existence? It is a person’s identity, the qualities, traits, and passions that he or she chooses to show the world. The desire to be unique and to have an effect on our surroundings is universal. While many people forge their identities through their interactions with other people, authors have the privileged ability to be recognized by their work. Whether academic or commercial, the importance of a piece’s individuality is vital to its appreciation. Thus in an author’s quest to create something original and ground breaking, the relationship between writing and identity becomes symbiotic. In theory a writer who is true to his identity can recognize topics and stories with which he shares a deep personal connection, and thus the quality of his work becomes superior. If this is true then writing also allows the author to actually develop his or her identity. If an author is unhappy with the way he or she is identified, writing provides a valuable tool for its transformation. Tobias Wolff and bell hooks are two autobiographers who have shared the stories of their struggles with identity and have demonstrated the intricacies of this relationship.

            Choosing what qualities and aspects of one’s inner self to show the world is a difficult and ongoing task.  The autobiography is an effective tool, not for creating one’s identity, but for discovering a person’s natural one. What I mean by natural identity is who people actually are. The completely authentic parts of a human’s inner being. When someone attempts to write the story of his life, the first essential task is the organization of the memories he wishes to share. This is also the most difficult task. Memories fade over time and are often tainted by personal fantasy. As both Wolff and hooks admit, discerning reality from fiction is challenging. “Each year, a memory seemed less and less clear. I wanted not to lose the vividness, the recall and felt an urgent need to begin the work and complete it.” (hooks p.120). Our memories are essential to who we are, and which ones we share make up part of our identity. In order to write an authentic memoir the memories an author uses obviously have to be accurate. Writing helps preserve those memories so that they are harder to lose. Like the bread crumbs in Hansel and Gretel, entries in a journal or the passages of an autobiography give the author a path to follow. This path leads to one’s natural identity or can simply serve as a reminder of who someone was in the past. This would have been especially useful to Wolff as a child who was constantly changing his identity.

            Tobias Wolff’s memoir “This Boy’s Life” is special because a central theme of the book is the clarification that he is a very good liar. Thus he can avoid having to be completely accurate in his retelling because the reader expects a certain level of fantasy in every memory. Wolff gave many examples of how as a child he would fib so as to either avoid trouble (wow, how shocking that a child would lie) or to assume the identity of another person. In Chapter two of the book, Tobias shares a memory of when he attended confession for the first time. Being unable to think of anything to confess to, he lied and said that he was guilty of theft from his father and of spreading gossip. These were the exact same transgressions that his teacher, Sister James, had told him she was guilty of as a little girl (21-23). By using the same story Wolff temporarily assumed Sister James’s identity. He did this because he was so unsure of his own that he felt the need to borrow from someone else. The book is filled with other examples of this same behavior. I believe that when Wolff finished writing and when readers finish reading, a fundamental element of Wolff’s identity is revealed. He is a story teller.

            People are always changing how they wish to be seen and what they wish to show as they grow and adopt new morals or gain a better understanding of the ones they already possess.  Sometimes all we need to transform our being is the removal of the strong barrier that blocks our path. In her book, “Talking Back, Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black”, bell hooks shares with her readers the inspirations for writing her autobiography detailing the experiences of growing up black in a southern state during the decades of civil and racial strife. Though one purpose was certainly to educate her readers about a time in this country when people were most certainly not all equal she also admits that “Telling the story of my growing up years was intimately connected with the longing to kill the self I was without really having to die. I wanted to kill the self in writing. Once that self was gone…I could more easily become the me of me (p. 119).” hooks used her autobiography to alleviate the crippling pain of her childhood memories which made up so much of who she was and who she did not want to be. The absence of the pain was what bell hooks needed in order to become the proud southern woman she wanted to be. In this example, writing played a simple role, the equivalent of taking ibuprofen so as to allow one to press on in their work. However the simplicity only further demonstrates writings power. Writing does not have to be complicated in order to help facilitate a change in ourselves, though I am certain that hooks faced considerable difficulties with her autobiography (given the nature). For those who are not professional writers, entries in a personal journal can serve the same purpose as bell’s memoirs. Other times transformations are far more dramatic.

            Hooks demonstrates the most extreme form of personal transformation in her very name. bell hooks is the pen name used by Gloria Watkins (b. 1952). The fact that the written word gives the writer the power to totally change their name, a thing held sacred by cultures and religions dating from the ancient Egyptians, the Native Americans, and to present day Zionists, and totally become a new person is astounding. To their readers, authors can not only create stories that entertain, educate and inspire, but also a whole new person without having to replace themselves. bell hooks, while fictional, is an extension of Gloria Watkins. Hooks writes the books and Gloria gets to live her life, in a sense.

            On page 213 of Tobias Wolff’s memoir, he describes how he too attempted to undergo a rather extreme transformation. Instead of changing his name, Wolff attempted, and succeeded, in forging school transcripts and teacher recommendations with the desire to gain admission to a private academy. Where he failed is in the adoption of this new identity. He was unable to keep up with the rigorous demands of the academy and eventually withdrew. Despite this, Wolff joins hooks in demonstrating the power of writing to aid in the change of one’s identity. The writing wasn’t academic nor was it what many would consider conventional literature i.e. books, magazines, similar publications, but it was still writing. The forms of a transcript and the autobiography still contained the same ability as a catalyst for transformation.

            So far in the essay, I have focused on the benefits that writing brings to the disc0very or forging of one’s identity. But for such a relationship to be defined as symbiotic there must be a mutual benefit for each party. Thus I must now address the question of how identity benefits the written word. Fortunately for any reading this, the answer is much more direct than the previous. Looking back to the first paragraph I stated that in theory a writer who is true to his identity can recognize topics and stories with which he shares a deep personal connection, and thus the quality of his work becomes superior. Consider this, if hook’s book  about growing up black and southern in the 1950’s and 1960’s was instead a work of historical academia writing by a white male born in upstate New York in 1977, would readers have the same emotional reaction which helped them appreciate the pain bell hooks went through and added to the book’s success? Personally I would be to distracted by the irony of a white man writing such a story to even open to page one. Hooks knew exactly how it felt to grow up then and thus is far more qualified to write such a book.  

            Readers respond to authenticity even in fiction. A person who sits in their basement watching science fiction television shows will easily be able to write a better story about intergalactic battles then the history buff that spends his time looking over documents detailing the rise of Pope Urban the fifth.  Given that Wolff wrote about his childhood being full of little cons and lies, I’ll bet that if he wrote a heist thriller about a con artist it would be very good because he knows how con artists think. In order to be a great writer, one must share some passion or other relationship with the subject. Such a writer will be better equipped to add his or her own unique edge to their work. If he or she does I promise that the reader will respond favorably.

As the saying goes “one hand washes the other.” Writing and identity form a beautiful and mutually beneficial relationship between them. Writing provides a tool for those holding the pen to find their true identity or change it and, when ready, to expose it to the world. Those holding the pens can embrace their identity and trust it to guide them towards the topics on which to explore. Tobias Wolff and bell hooks demonstrate this relationship’s power and are shining examples of the success that both identity and writing bring to each other and more importantly to you.

Bibliography

Hooks, Bell. “Writing Autobiography.” Dreams and Inward Journeys New York:  Longman , Ed. Marjorie Ford and John Ford 1988

Wolff, Tobias. This Boy’s Life  New York. Grove Press 1989

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Essay Draft

There are six billion people on this Earth; what sets one person apart, making him or her unique among all others in existance? It is a person’s identity,the qualities, traits, and passions that he or she chooses to show the world. The desire to be unique and to have an effect on our surroundings is universal. While many people forge their identities through their interactions with other people, authors have the privaledged ability to be recognized by their work. Whether acedemic or commercial, the importance of a peice’s individuality is vital to its appreciation. Thus in an author’s quest to create something origional and ground breaking, the relationship between writing and identity becomes symbiotic. In thoery a writer who is true to his identity can recognize topics and stories with which he shares a deep personal connection, and thus the quality of his work becomes superior. If this is true then writing also allows the author to actually develope his or her identity. If an author is unhappy with the way he or she is identified, writing provides a valuable tool for its transformation.

Choosing what qualities and aspects of one’s inner self to show the world is a difficult and ongoing task.  People are always changing how they wish to be seen and what they wish to show as they grow and adopt new morals or gain a better understanding of the ones they already posses.  In her book, “Talking Back, Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black”, author bell hooks shares with her readers the inspirations for writing her autobiography detailing the experiances of growing up black in a southern state during the decades of civil and racial strife. Though one purpose was certainly to educate her readers about a time in this country when people were most certainly not all equal she also admitts that “Telling the story of my growing up years was intimately connected with the longing to kill the slef I was without really having to die. I wanted to kill the self in writing. Once that self was gone…I could more easily become the me of me.” hooks used her autobiography to alliviate the crippling pain of her childhood memories which made up so much of who she was and who she did not want to be, the absence of which removed the barriers between her and the identity that she wanted to assume. Sometimes all we need to transform our being is the removal of the strong barrier that blocks our path. Other times transformations are far more dramatic.

An incredibly  profound example of writing’s power to transform lies in bell hooks very name. bell hooks is the  pen name used by Gloria Watkins (b. 1952). The fact that the written word gives the writer the power to totally change their name, a thing held sacred by cultures and religions dateing from the ancient Eygptians, the Native Americans, and to present day Zionists, and totally become a new person is astounding. But strictly as authors Hooks and Wolff can only appreciate this ability as it relates to what many would consider convenitional literature i.e books, magazines, and simular publications.  This power goes beyond literature, society sees it every day. Drivers licenses, passports, birth certificates people changing their last name due to marriage, people being given new identification by the government, all things created to identify us and all validated by words on different canvases.

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Questions?

Does my paper keep you as a reader interested or are you bored when reading it?

Does the paper have a clear logical flow?

Are my comparisons clear and correct?

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First Draft on Paper

Sara Gruen wrote in her novel Water For Elephants that “life is the most spectacular show on Earth”.  I completely agree that all life is spectacular because living thing on the planet is somehow, even if only at a microscopic level, different from any other being which means that we all have something unique to contribute to this world’s experience. I’ve always loved life, having been and continue to be quite curious and adventurous. I assume this desire to enjoy all the pleasures this lovely blue planet offers is the reason for my equal love of reading. Books, magazines, shows, all of them tell stories of lives that I loved reading because to me they were windows to a world I could not otherwise see during my own day to-day experiences. They fueled my imagination, allowing me to form a concept of what I wanted my life to look like.

No other book did more to help me shape that concept than “Postcards From No Man’s Land” by Aidan Chambers, a truly wonderful book about a young man named Jacob Todd who travels to Amsterdam in order to visit his grandfather’s grave, who died during the Battle of Arnhem WWII. During his visit the people he meets and the stories he hears about his grandfather shake him to the core and force him to face questions about love, his life, and his desires for his future. Aidan Chambers, much like Wolff and Graff, centers his story on a boy who is both an outcast from his own home and a self made social outcast. Jacob has a terrible relationship with his father and his sister, he is unsure of him self and is somewhat introverted ( much like Jack Wolff from This Boy’s Life). He only comes out of his shell when he meets a series of characters who are  a) willing to take the time to be nice to a foreign stranger and b) to make him comfortable enough in a strange city to open up to them. As he learns more and more about his grandfather and some of the terrible things that happen in war that affect his family even now, he learns how to treat the past with due respect but also how to not allow history to harm him. Compare that type of lesson to the article we read in class by bell hook. Both her and Chambers want to show and teach people that past mistakes must be accepted and lessons must be learned, but injuries don’t have to last months or even years, they last as long as an individual lets them.

When I read this novel I was fifteen, recently kicked out of Dreyfoos School for the Arts, working at a crappy restaurant earning no money, and was not looking forward to going to my local high school which was populated by people who I mostly hated from middle school. I was picked on and had no real confidence in myself, in fact I felt like a downright failure. The first time I read the book I thought it an amazing one due to the describtions of Amsterdamn and the people who Jacob Todd met. All the characters seemed amazing I will admit I was jealous of anyone who had met such people. The story sparked within me a desire to travel, to see and meet people from all over the world. I needed to break out of my shell and start applying myself in school so I could get a good job and be able to afford all the travel that I wanted.

It took me several more reads over the last three years to understand all the rest of the lessons I spelled out above and many more that are contained within the books pages. Not allowing my past to hurt or hold me back from future asspirations is by far the most difficult and one that I am still learning today. But I have improved in so many other ways: I have an amazing job at a bar that will always have a place for me as long as the present ownership remains, I have taken road trips completely encircling the country and have on my travels met some pretty interesting and amazing people. I’ve fell in and out of love and continue to do so =), and now am at a well respected college learning things I couldn’t really learn anywhere else. The desire to do all this while maintained through the encouragement of family, friends and mentors, was born from Aidan Chambers book. And now whether on train, plane, or boat where-ever I travel I always keep this book close by.

 

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