Somehow, I try to review a book that isn’t really a book. Also, I check in with where I’ve been and what’s going on now. I’m also going to be posting more to the blog, since there are a lot of videos I’ve failed to put up here because even just getting videos made has been a struggle. Grad school + working full time is hard, guys. I’m trying.
I’m back with this week’s From the Notebook to discuss the recent change in my reading tastes, and the freak out that is causing in my personal identity. I’ve always been a teen reader, but I haven’t read a teen book since October. WHAT IS HAPPENING?
Thesis Thursdays is a weekly(ish) feature where I rant, love and talk about young adult books I’m reading because I’m conning my college into thinking this is all for academia! Find out more here!
Alright, full disclosure: while this has nothing to do with my thesis, it has everything to do with my future. As you all may know, I’m graduating from Ithaca College in May. As with many grads, I have little money and many loans. As of Tuesday, I also have a (potential) job.
I’ve alluded to this several times over the past year, but now it’s (mostly) official. Taylor and I–yes, your two favorite fighters–are headed off to South Korea together to teach for a year, starting in the fall. We don’t know where yet, but we’re about to get started with our Teaching English as a Foreign Language certificates and background checks and all that fun stuff.
I’ve never been this terrified and yet excited about something. Sure, I went abroad to London and did a lot of traveling there, but … well … they mostly all spoke my language. The culture shock wasn’t terrible. I did okay. It was also only for four months, and I had a bunch of friends as back up and we were going to a university run by my home college. Everything was as safe as can be.
Don’t tell Taylor, but I wouldn’t have agreed to go without him. I’m not THAT brave. But this is an opportunity that I really, really want and have for some time now. I want to be scared. I want the adventure. Sure, there are going to be obstacles along the way that I am NOT going to enjoy, but I welcome them. I don’t want to be safe anymore. I really want to travel, and I also get to teach.
There aren’t many other times in my life were I would get to do this. That’s the main thing that keeps running through my head. It’s the reasoning that reminds me how disappointed I would be in myself if I didn’t take this chance. So. In a few months … here we go.
Oh yeah – I’m still going to be blogging as much as possible. It just may end up being a lot about South Korea.
Hey guys! Technically I got back in on Tuesday, but I spent all of Wednesday trying to get back into school and readjust to this time zone. I have accomplished neither of these things so far, but I’m swimming.
Since I don’t have anything for a Thesis Thursday this week, I thought I’d do some life blogging and show you guys some pictures of where I went. This was not a normal trip out west. Rachel and I–you know, Rachel from the first couple seasons of Bibliomancy for Beginners–went on a road trip.
I have never had so much fun and whil
e having so many moments convinced I was going to die.
Day 1: LA to San Francisco
This day was a beautiful one. Once we got out of the city, we got onto the Pacific Coast Highway and took that up to San Fran. This is NOT the way that your GPS will ever tell you to go. It winds around the edge of the coast–literally, the edge–but it is SO PRETTY. So pretty.
San Francisco itself was kind of annoying, and the place that we were staying wasn’t so great. But we went out that night and found the most delicious Thai food I ever tasted, and Rachel and I decided that things could only go up from there! We were wrong.
I know that I don’t blog as much as I ought to anymore, but hey. That’s life. However, if you’ve been watching our Bibliomancer videos (or just seen Michaela’s great thumbnails for recent episodes) then you know that I missed on regularly scheduled episode on Jorge Luis Borges’ Collected Fictions AND the first of our ten part Nostalgia Junkie special with the Pendragon books. I promised in each of those posts that I would get around to tell you all where I’ve been.
That promised time is now.
I’m going to diverge for a second, though, and give some context for what’s about to follow. As you may or may not know, I am an English and Writing double major at Ithaca College–about to be a senior. This means I have two more semesters before I get spit out into the big, wide world. I always maintained that what I wanted was to be a teacher. Always.
And it had started to seem like a problem.
I have considered that that title sounds rather ominous. It does. Oh well. Soldier on and I don’t think you’ll regret it! (Unless you have issues with either the destruction visited on Native Americans by white settlers or non-Nazi Germans. Those topics are about to independently come up here.)
This week, I’m talking about an essay by William Cronon called “A Place for Stories: Nature, History, and Narrative.” Now, though I’ve found all of the readings so far interesting, I dare say this is one of the ones that I’ve enjoyed the most. Maybe because I understood it. Maybe because it got me thinking. Or both. Both is good.
This long essay is about narrative, why humans use narrative to structure their lives, and how each narrative is really just a choice on what to include and what to exclude (since telling a complete story is impossible)–just to brush over a few topics. I want to focus on that last one–namely the exclusion–for this particular, personal blog post.
One of the issues with narrative is that, as Cronon says, “it inevitably sanctions some voices while silencing others” (1350). For his example, he uses the lives of Native Americans in most of the tales about life in the Great Plains around the time of the Dust Bowl. Such stories of pioneers and free land could only be written, of course, if they obscured “the conquest that traded one people’s freedom for another’s” (1352). One of my classmates brought up that, although we are taught about this in schools, what we are taught does not directly link the actions of the white settlers to the destruction visited on the Native Americans. In this, schools deliberately forgo narrative in order to leave these events as unconnected as possible.
The problem with these kinds of narratives is that they can create their own power, since they draw on stories we’re already familiar with. The erasure of the Native American-white settler connection has been ingrained in our society for so long, it’s almost unnoticeable unless you choose to be consciously aware of it. Certain stories have a certain power that “not even the historian as author entirely controls them” (1352).
My professor asked us all at the end of class what similar narratives we told–or did not tell–in our lives that we cut or mangled in order to tell something better. You could think of embarrassing memories you want to forget, the story of the fight with your sibling where you leave out how mean you were in return–those are simple examples. For me, though, it’s the story of my grandfather’s life.
I don’t remember running into this so much before college, but the last three years … woo boy. When we talk about heritage, I state proudly that my grandparents are German–right off the boat German. They both worked really hard to achieve a dream that my family still keeps alive today in the form of a 25 acre resort and retreat. I love them both very much, though my grandfather is now dead. So I say it, and don’t think a lot about it. Almost every time I’ve said this, someone in the vicinity of me has said something to the effect of “Well, I’m Jewish.”
Usually it’s said like a joke, but I don’t find it funny. I tend to omit that my grandparents
came over right after World War II ended, but people know enough of history to guess. The funny thing is that I have nothing to hide. Yes, my grandfather navigated a bomb sweeper in the English Channel during the war. He was trying to escape to America at the war’s start when Nazi officers put a gun to his head and convinced him otherwise. My grandmother was a nurse, constantly being bombed by Allied troops. Both of them were so disgusted with the war that they left and never looked back, and when my grandfather was awarded the Iron Cross (kind of like the Purple Heart), he refused to accept it and instead left it to the German government. He spent his final years writing a handwritten novel about how Hitler screwed up Germany.
This is the first time I’ve ever put that in writing. It’s one of the few times I’ve ever said it. It is a narrative that I never tell, because I can’t start it without someone applying a better known narrative on top because they think they know what I’m going to say. German grandparents who are not Jews mean Nazis. Make another incinerator joke, I’ve heard them all. I honestly can’t tell which of us this is supposed to be more offensive to. Also, the irony is, these interactions are always happening between two people who weren’t there–these are not own our personal life stories.
I’ve gotten better at tackling these encounters, and they’ve become less frequent, but mostly because I don’t talk about it anymore. I introduce myself and leave people to infer whatever they want about my heritage. I tell other people I’m related to the captain of the Mayflower (it’s true, on my mom’s side) because that’s easier. The World War II connection is apparently calm enough to make jokes of, but not enough to completely erase the “othering” of the Germans of the time, who were all made into an enemy we needed to fight.
Now before anyone gets freaked out, I’m not saying that World War II was wrong or something or that I don’t like Jews or … whatever. I’m only saying that I have a story I can’t tell, because people assume the ending before I’ve finished the beginning. They hear my name and apply to me a narrative that is out of the control of either of us.
My favorite quote of the entire piece is Cronon’s assertion that “we tell stories with each other and against each other in order to speak to each other” (1373-1374). Well, here’s my foray into the field. It’s not a scholarly work or a vast study of behavior. Just me, personally, telling you a story–one I refuse not to tell this time.
One thing that you know going into my college’s semester abroad program – well, know but don’t really know – is that you have to find your own apartment. I say that you know, but not really, because you are told that it’s stressful and are told that it’s crazy and yet you really don’t understand the meaning of all those words in context until you do it.
The first problem is that no one in London wants to let to students only stay for four months, and leaving right before Christmas. The second is that they want to charge more than my group was willing to pay. The third is that with any kind of group of people, what you’re looking for is always going to be different.
I’m proud of my group of sticking it out and working together. It was a rough couple of days. Some groups didn’t make it. Some groups ended up paying a crazy amount of money. (The conversion right now is almost two American dollars to one British pound.)
We ended up finding a place, for all our troubles. It’s tiny and it’s nowhere near as fancy as all the other flats I’ve seen. But you know what? I can pay for it. I can pay the rent and also eat and travel and maybe buy a few more pairs of shoes. What it doesn’t have in space it makes up for in the bit of relief it gives my budgeting.
Better yet, the one thing I’m not worried about is my group killing each other in the small space. At least we have got that going for us.
Plus, we like our arts and crafts. These white walls won’t stay that way for long. Most importantly, it’s ours. No more moving big bags around and living out of suitcases.
We have a London home.