More on Rankine & Diaz

Junot Diaz’s website (info on other writings, appearances, interviews, etc.):

Claudia Rankine bio:

“A Poetry Personal and Political,” (review of Citizen in NYTimes)

“Claudia Rankine’s Citizen” (New Yorker):

On new printings of Citizen, and what changes:

Claudia Rankine – Citizen

The first thing I noticed about how this was written was that it was everyday scenarios that happen to people in real life. I had to reread these sections a couple of times just to make sure that I knew what I was reading.

The scenario that stood out to me the most was the story about the therapist and the patient (18). This is something that happens often to everyone in the world because a lot of the times, a name and a voice don’t match the face. A perfect example is when I thought that Claudia Rankine was a white woman, but I discovered that she was instead Jamaican after reading her bio.

Another scenario that really stood out to me was about the woman whose son didn’t get into college (13). I hate people that think that they have a sense of entitlement when their family went to the same college. Even if they have affirmative action, it doesn’t guarantee that a minority will get into a college just because they’re a minority. Comments like this make me think that as a black young woman, if I did apply to a school that was predominately white for my Master’s degree, would I get in because of my credentials, or just to meet a quota.

The picture of the goat was another thing that stood out to me, not only because it was disturbing, but because it had a picture of a sad black person on it (19). The lamb tends to be a symbol of innocence, but black people are not always innocent because they tend to play the race card when in conflict with white people. Oddly enough, I do feel bad for the white people because just like how all black people are not ghetto, eat fried chicken and drink Kool-Aid, not all white people are racists and have malicious intentions with their actions. It’s just the really racist and hateful ones that mess it up for the whole group.

Overall, there is a struggle on both sides. Do you agree?

More Adrienne Rich Resources

If you’re interested in learning more about Rich, or reading more of her work, the Poetry Foundation’s site has a full biography and bibliography of her work, as well as a few poems we didn’t read:

More poems:

She wrote a number of essays as well–“When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-vision” is on Blackboard. If you want to read more of her poems (many can’t be found online because of copyright), The Fact of a Doorframe is a good place to start, as it collects poems from throughout her career, but I’d be happy to give you more specific recommendations too! (You can find a number of her books in the Baruch library)

“In Camera” by Nawal El Saadawai

Nawal El Saadawi, an Egyptian novelist, is portraying the concept of interdependence in her work “In Camera”, in which she refers to the oppressed woman’s situation within the contemporary Arab-Islamic society. Saadawi tells us the story about Leila Al-Fargani, a young interdependent woman, living in the constrained civilization where she, as all other women, was restricted to participate in political issues, educational learning as well as the labor market. “Her mother always used to say to her: What’s politics got to do with you? You’re not a man. Girls of your age think only about marriage” (1109). The Arabic traditional customs’, in which the male served as the supremacy, rather expected the women to serve “feminine” duties in a form of house- and child care. After expressing her opinions regarding the Presidents norms, which she opposed, Leila is to serve in prison. While imprisoned, Leila becomes the victim of tortures and abuses by groups of men.

Saadawi demonstrates gender discrimination with this story, in which women are relegated to secondary status, and such governmental status quo is still to be found in the current civilization. “Politics is a dirty game which only ineffectual men play” (1109). The patriarchal society questions the power of individuality, and the concern of such gender stereotypes is ignored. The weakened position of women is to be expected, reinforced by, in this case, the Arabic social and cultural norms and therefore, only men had the right to express themselves politically. “Foolishness means that he doesn’t think, that he’s mindless, that he’s an animal. That’s the worst thing you can call an ordinary man. All the more so if he’s a ruler” (1114). The value of women is no more than an expectation of serving as a housewife, and obey and respect her husband. This historical, social concern, yet existing in our contemporary society, is by Saadawai questioning the human rights, and the essential element of freedom in life. The understanding of self is examined, and the concept of interdependence is to characterize this gender discrimination. Such interpretation is clearly demonstrated by Saadawi, who wrote “In Camera” based on her own life experiences from an Arab-Islamic world that “only wanted males”.



Transformation of a family under the influence of Christianity

During the period of Modernism, many authors often use literature to explore the transformations in culture, belief, lifestyle and human experience to the readers. In the story, “Chick’s School Days” written by Chinua Achebe, tells us the background of an African Child’s family in the beginning. This is where the author explores the first transformation about the traditional belief of an African family. The father, Amos insists to marry a woman Osu, who was considered to be the lowest caste in the Igbo class system. According to the passage “In the past an Osu could not raise his shaggy head in the presence of the free-born. He was a slave…to be despised and almost spat on” (828) we see how low the African society valued Osu as a slave. Amos’s mother is a character representing this traditional belief, who strongly opposes their marriage as it would degrade her son. But Chike’s father influenced by the Christian, Mr. Brown, and transformed into a more modernistic person, who doesn’t care about the caste and willing to marry her. Similarly in today’s modern society, people don’t really care about spouse’s last name as a factor of marriage.

Another transformation happens to Chike, as a child of a family of five daughters “Chike was brought up in the ways of the while man, which meant to opposite of traditional” (827). Since he got raised differently than the other traditional African kid, he refuses to eat heathen food. Chike was not even fluent in English but he is sent to a Christian school to receive Christian education. The teacher, environment and school greatly influence him in the interest of acquiring the new language. “He liked particularly the sound of English words, even when they conveyed no meaning at all” (830) this detail shows how much he loves English. Therefore, he is not a close-minded African child, he has transformed into an open-minded child who is willing to learn and sing.

The theme transformation also shows up in many other readings that we’ve read in the class. For examples, Lu Xun, “Diary of a Madman”, the madman was surrounded and raised in a feudal society, where he was able to transform himself into a moral person and differs than the cannibalism around him.  The period of Enlightenment is also a transformation in human knowledge, it transforms a person from being ignorant and lack of reason to an intellectual and rational person.

Can you relate the theme transformation to any other readings that we have read?

Achebe’s Big Message in a Short Story

“Chike’s School Days” by Chinua Achebe is one of the shortest stories Inhave ever read. Although, I enjoyed reading it, after my first read, I was clueless as to what the purpose of this story really is because there wasn’t exactly any conflict nor a climax of any sort. After reading it again with detail, I realized that this story does so much more than tell a story of one person. Achebe managed to give so much insight about his culture implicitly. Achebe used a boy named Chike to be the eyes of the readers.

Chike also has two other names, one of them being John. This is one of those examples where Achebe says so much with such little words. Chike also having a common American name, John, showed how modernized his family was. Achebe goes on forward with more detail about the marriage between Chike’s father and mother. They both came from different backgrounds, and although Achebe pointed out that society looked down upon such an action, he managed to give us a very positive feeling about this anecdote, secretly condoning such behavior.

One thing that really stood out to me in this story was the way Chike viewed the American culture, specifically the English language. Even though, he was nowhere near fluent in English “He liked particularly the sound of English Words, even when they conveyed no meaning at all” to him (Achebe 830). This fondness with American culture is something that I can relate to. Growing up in Pakistan, I was the same way. In fact, almost everyone in my grade put the English language on a pedestal. This may seem harmless, but what I came to realize is that worshipping another culture usually leads to looking down on your own. Just like how Woolf didn’t believe men were the cause of gender inequality, but still held them responsible for it because of their instinct for superiority, I believe the same applies when Chike started to fall in love with American culture, and slowly started losing his own cultural values.

“Chike’s School Days” and “Two Sisters”

In “Chike’s School Days”, I believe language, education and upbringing are major themes when one delves into the significance of this piece. From the very start of the story, the reader understands that Chike was the first son born into a family of daughters. It is because of this reason that he was given the name “Obiajulu”, one of three names given at his baptism that means he was either the only child or the only son. It is also important to note that he was raised in the manner of a white man which is interesting being he is Nigerian. However, what is more interesting is the way in which he views his own kind now as he was raised to shun old Nigerian religious and cultural practices. He even goes as far as saying that “we don’t eat heathen food” (pg. 828), as his friends mother offered him something to eat. This resulted in an outrage, as the mother could not believe that this young child had similarities to that of an old white colonist. It is also fascinating to note that his father married a woman of the lowest class in Nigeria. However, as the story continues, Chike finds a love for literature and English words fascinate him even though he doesn’t know what most of them mean. Chike studies the dictionary and quickly picks up on elaborate words such as “periwinkle” (pg. 829) Furthermore, I believe the author moves back and forth in time to show the beauty of his native language as he blends it with the English language. At the end, Chike fantasizes with a song he came up with consisting of random long words. I believe he uses the English language to find an escape from his world into something that relates to him more.

In “Two Sisters” I believe there is a contrast in the way in which the two sisters behave. Mercy is unmarried and materialistic and gets the things she wants from dating older men. However, her sister Connie is married and disapproves with this lifestyle. “They are selfish.” “No, it’s just that women allow them to behave the way they do instead of seizing some freedom themselves” (pg. 997). This shows that Mercy has no problem with this behaviour and a question is raised whether it is ok to use someone in order to get something, even if they are being used themselves. I also believe that there is a fine line between getting manipulated and being the manipulator in this context as they could both be married and know their husband is having affair or date an older man in order to get what they want.

Write Women Back into History, “A Room of One’s Own” by Virginia Woolf

As she opened the window, the narrator sensed that the city, London, “was wholly indifferent”(95), and all the individuals “seemed separate, self-absorbed, on business of their own”(96). But the sight of a couple getting into a cab, which has been mentioned back and forth, suddenly lit up the hope to reconnect this separation.

She went into deep meditation about the maintaining of the continuity of mind, which sets brain in a normal, comfortable state. The sight, again, reminded her of the possibility of cooperation of 2 sexes in the human mind, “in order to get complete satisfaction and happiness”(98).  She agreed with what Coleridge said, “a great mind is androgynous”(98) and held the opinion that, to write greats work that could be resonant, impediment-free, creative and undivided, the writer had to respect both the masculine side and female side in his/her mind. However just like women writers through history had unfortunately filled a lot of their fiction with bias and bitterness, she found that modern men were doing the same. She took down a novel by Mr.A , which was well thought by the views. However, the excessive appearance of “I” to assert the writer purely as a man, exactly represented how sex-conscious their age was at that moment. While women in history feared their inferiority, modern men were afraid of loss of their superiority because of suffrage. She felt bored about the novel, because “there seemed to be some obstacles, some impediment of Mr.A’s mind”(100). For if everyone’s mind is at peace and continuity towards different sexes and allow them to be either man or woman, they wouldn’t feel offended by maleness or femaleness, and they wouldn’t need to write books explaining or even denigrating women. As a result, she regarded women’s reading works of this kind in their age as a mistake, since women couldn’t find what resonated with their mind and “the emotion with which these books are permeated is to a woman incomprehensible”(102).

She denied to present the comparative values of the sexes of the writers, because she thought that putting values on human beings is quite impossible and unfeasible. Further more, she thought that it was wrong for any writer to give their way to judgments, reviews, subject values put over their head and encouraged writers to write naturally what was in their mind. As she said, “praise and blame alike mean nothing” and for writers “to submit to the to the decrees of the measures the most servile of attitudes”(106). So as long as one is writing what he/she wants, and “whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say”(106).

Similar to the first 3 chapters, she emphasized the importance of material things in the life of a writer again. She insisted that “it was necessary to have five hundred pounds a year and a room with a lock if you are to write fiction or poetry”(105), because “intellectual freedom depends upon material things”.  The reason why women had less intellectual freedom was that women had always been poor from the beginning of time. Again, she mentioned the sister of Shakespeare, as the tragedy of intellectual genius of women, who still “lives in you and in me, and in many other women who are not here tonight, for they are washing up the dishes and putting the children to bed”(113). But this time, she was encouraging women to strive for a chance of life for the sister of Shakespeare, or even all of the forgotten women by  getting educated and “going about the businesses in life”(112) without excuseIt means that women, to prove their necessity in the society, shouldn’t simply stick to taking care of children and doing chores, curtaining themselves behind men, but should discover any sort of importance. A kind of importance, like a play by Shakespeare, like shaking an empire or leading an army in a battle, can help them to write themselves back into history.

Man-womanly and Woman-manly,“A Room of One’s Own” by Virginia Woolf

In chapter six of “A Room of One’s Own” by Virginia Woolf, states that “Perhaps a mind that is purely masculine cannot create, any more than a mind that is purely feminine, I thought. But it would be well to test what one meant by man-womanly, and conversely by woman-manly”(98.)Woolf tried to illustrate that if writers want to create a good writing, he or she need to be looking at other different point of view which is either man or woman side. Similarly as previous chapters, instead of blame on man blindly,Woolf give out a fair point that both man and woman should think man-womanly or woman-manly in order to make permanent literature.


Why do writers should put their sex aside and then write? Woolf mentions that “is that it is fatal for any one who writes to think of their sex. It is fatal to be a man or woman pure and simple” (104) and “ And fatal is no figure of speech; for anything written with that conscious bias is doomed to dealth”(104). Woolf wants to show that man and woman should be equal treated. She think that those writing works with bias are not permanent. Works with purely man view may cater to society of that centuries. However, “ Brilliant and effective powerful and masterly, as it may appear for a day or two, it must wither at nightfall; it cannot grow in the minds of others”(104). This means that writer should forget about gender and set he or she in a equal balance of thinking in order to have chance to produce masterpieces. As Woolf also mentions that “ There must be freedom and there must be peace”(104) which says that without emotion and bias on sex when work on writing, those will be amazing and shock.


In chapter six, Virginia Woolf states the importance of having money and a own room again. “that it is necessary to have five hundred a year and a room with a lock on the door if you are to write fiction or poetry”(105). What factor can affect woman’s writing? In Woolf’ s point of view, it is doubtless and no question about the importance of material and space. Woolf says that “ it is far more important at the moment to know how much money women had and how many rooms than to theories about their capacity”(105). If women lack of wealth, then she has to make money for living. It’s very difficult and tough for woman to make money during that centuries. When making living, woman have to give up their times for writing. Also, because of poverty, woman have to endure invisible pressure such as integrate others. As the time passes, the desire of writing from woman may just disappeared.


“I should implore you to remember your responsibilities, to be higher, more spiritual; I should remind you how much depends upon you ,and what an influence you can exert upon the future”(110). In my opinion, the despise of man on woman is according to their education itself which is not right and equal on sex. That is the reason why I think Woolf didn’t blame on man from the entire text. Woolf wants to wake woman up. She want woman be ware of their one responsibilities. Only when woman realize to put passion on writing, bear all difficulties and not blame on chance, time or money, then they will succeed. Shakespeare’s sister will reborn, because literature never fall in to death. Do you think it is also woman responsibilities to higher and change their future?