I Burned You a CD {Part Two}: A Psychopompous Samhain

A second part of the mix CD I made for you is up at TERSE. Journal.



































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#MeToo: Trauma and Identity Formation


“She, my grandmother,
taught me to recognize
the landscape of danger,
the shards of fear,
the impenetrable faces
of women,
audacious in their will to live.”

“1939” by Marjorie Agosín


In J.M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians, The Magistrate dissociates from the violence he inflicts on The Barbarian Girl (his name for her) and we see the multifarious way power takes root in the mind of those who torture under a specific social paradigm. In David Henry Hwang’s M. Butterfly, Song Liling cleverly manipulates the Western bureaucrat Rene Gallimard into divulging government secrets by becoming the colonial subject Gallimard’s culture has told him he should want to dominate. During the trial where Song informs on Gallimard, Song explains “The West has sort of an international rape mentality towards the East…’her mouth says no, but her eyes say yes’…The West thinks of itself as masculine–big guns, big industry, big money, so the East is feminine–weak, delicate, poor, but good at art”(Hwang 82). In Under the Udala Trees, the horrors of war are juxtaposed with the violence of heterotopia, terrorizing the lives of Ijeoma and Anima, two young women in love. These stories interact with the sociopolitical history which is tantamount to the theories of traumatic memory. Trauma, in a postcolonial context, can be determined largely by the attitudes of whole societies, and, since we live in, as bell hooks would say, an “imperialist white-supremacist capi­talist patriarchy,” particularly enacted by those who seek to emulate all of those qualities hooks refers to in her explication, we should consider the trauma that occurs under those circumstances (hooks 17). As she lays out her feminist treatise in Feminism Without Borders, Chandra Mohanty also mentions this: “sexism, racism, misogyny, and heterosexism underlie and fuel social and political institutions of rule and thus often lead to a hatred of women and (supposedly justified) violence. The interwoven processes of sexism, racism, misogyny, and heterosexism are an integral part of our social fabric, wherever in the world we happen to be” (Mohanty 2). Oyèrónkẹ́ Oyěwùmí, in her text, The Invention of Women: Making An African Sense of Western Gender Discourses, explains even the construction of women as a category is a product of colonization, so the trauma created by the subordination of women as a separate or inferior category is closely tied to Western epistemologies (Oyěwùmí 1-7). Or, as Song Liling would say “Only a man knows how a woman should act” (Hwang 62). We must consider how the trauma of subordination or categorization on colonial subjects has had an impact on generations of people throughout history. Though trauma can be individual and interpersonal, the precursors to trauma are social conditions. The identity of a person: their gender, race, class, sexuality is always a factor in whether or not and how they will experience trauma.

This is where theories of trauma and memory to read culture and literature become pertinent. In Western society, trauma, defined openly beginning with Freud as “hysteria” (though he later retracted his findings, molding them instead into a patriarchal hypothesis of suppression) in his “The Aetiology of Hysteria,” then recast by Bertha Pappenheim (famously called Anna O. by Freud in his work) to help women, again redefined by Yealland and Kardiner as related to sociopolitical events and feelings, and again highlighted as a response to both private, domestic terror and public, conflict terror by women’s movement activists of the 70’s to today, where, since 1980, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is a recognized and legitimate therapeutic diagnoses (Herman 17-25). What we have now is an understanding of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Complex Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD). Most have become familiar with the concept of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder’s tie to one particular traumatic event, but not as many are familiar with the relatively new (in terms of clinical validation) term Complex Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (“Post-traumatic Stress Disorder”). The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders defines CPTSD by contextualizing it with the historical positioning mentioned in my above paragraph:

The soldier returning from active duty in a war zone, the child who lives with physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or neglect, the first responder who must deal with human suffering on a daily basis, and the adult who endures domestic abuse all are experiencing trauma. Complex trauma occurs repeatedly and often involves direct harm to the victim. Its effects are cumulative and generally transpire in a specific setting and, frequently, within a particular time frame or within a specific relationship. Going through trauma can make an individual experience intense feelings of guilt, as if they are somehow responsible for the event(s) that are so terrifying to them. This altered sense of shame and painful self-perception is crippling. It can make the person feel isolated and hopeless, and as if they are no longer in charge of themselves. (“Complex PTSD”)

There is now an understanding of “collective trauma” and “intergenerational trauma” where the experiences of ancestors transcend their timeline and enter into present life. Sociologist Sue Coyle defines this phenomenon as it is relevant for social workers and emphasizes “multiple generations of families can transmit the damage of trauma throughout the years”(Coyle). She makes the distinction between intergenerational trauma and collective or historical trauma by defining intergenerational trauma as affecting one family and adds “While each generation of that family may experience its own form of trauma, the first experience can be traced back decades”(Coyle). Coyle is clear that even your great grandparents’ trauma can affect you in myriad ways. Going on to describe historical or collective trauma, Coyle notes they are similar to intergenerational trauma but are on a “communal scale” (Coyle). To use specific examples, Coyle cites “slavery, the experiences of the American Indians after European colonization, and the Holocaust,” though she says historical and collective trauma are certainly not limited to these horrific experiences (Coyle).

Marjorie Agosín, in her edited volume Inhabiting Memory: Essays on Human Rights in the Americas, presents us with the theoretical concepts of trauma as spanning across generations of cultural groups who have experienced similar traumas such as forced exile, torture, rape, war, and genocide. Agosín, while introducing the volume, emphasizes traumatic memories and the act of remembering or forgetting has huge implications for histories of societies: “Memory is not always arbitrary or objective; that is precisely why the act of remembering represents a peculiar way of humanizing history”(xi). She adds, “Courageous citizens refuse to forget and today, in the midst of ‘democratic’ regimes in these countries, families of the disappeared continue to demand the truth and whereabouts of their loved ones”(xiii). Agosín is of course speaking of the tangibly lost, disappeared, but I also argue we must think of those who are presently with us yet unable to function in society as it is constructed precisely because of their trauma. For instance, Joy DeGruy mentions this in her text Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing, a text intended to promote questioning and healing among African Americans whose ancestors survived chattel slavery, when she poignantly writes:

These cycles of oppression leave scars on the victims and victors alike, scars that embed themselves in our collective psyches, and are passed down through generations, robbing us of our humanity. For who can be fully human under the weight of oppression that condemns them to a life of torment, robs them of a future, and saps their free will? Moreover, who can become truly human when they gain so much from the pain and suffering of those whom they oppress and/or take advantage of?(DeGruy 6)

DeGruy also discusses the continual re-traumatization when people do not believe your trauma and ask you to “explain” it to them, as if they are receptive to empathizing with the experience. She notes:

African Americans are repeatedly asked to reveal ‘proof’ of the realities of racism to skeptical white people. They reluctantly explain the countless incidents of discrimination and even assaults directed at them and those they love. More often than not, the response of the questioner is denial and disbelief. The black person, having reopened wounds, is left frustrated and reinjured. (DeGruy 21)

Consider this also takes place within the novel Waiting for the Barbarians when The Magistrate makes a spectacle of the wounds of The Barbarian Girl, repeatedly asking about what happened to her out in the prison yard. Though she initially refuses to share with him, eventually she does only volunteering the information after he annoys her by sharing a hunting story and adding, “Never before have I had the feeling of not living my own life on my own terms”(Coetzee 45). The Barbarian Girl then shares her story of torture as if to say: shut up, you are talking about privileged choices while I was disabled through the actions of others I had no control over–you are, right now, not letting me live on my own terms every day. After she shares he trauma, The Magistrate treats the story as a fascination or entertainment and asks her to go on saying,”What do you feel towards the men who did this?” to which she responds “I am tired of talking”(Coetzee 47). The Magistrates attitude toward The Barbarian Girl is comparable to the beliefs of Rene Gallimard in M. Butterfly when, at the very end of the play, he says:

I have a vision. Of the Orient. That deep within its almond eyes, there are still women. Women willing to sacrifice themselves for the love of a man. Even a man whose love is completely without worth. (Hwang 92)

The Magistrate is continually and analogously obtuse that The Barbarian Girl is a person at all; he is unable to imagine a multidimensional person who, when not plucked out of their original environment, is nuanced and interesting, the effects of which are harmful and retraumatizing.

Elaine Scarry discusses how civilization is the embodiment of people in proximity to each other and how during war civilization’s representatives “unmake” the body as a deconstructive sacrifice, hollowing themselves out “To Die” for their country (Scarry 121-122). To juxtapose, in the domestic sphere, women in violent relationships sacrifice themselves for the good of the relationship, family, or gender role. We see this sacrifice, both in war and the home, in Under the Udala Trees as Ijeoma and Amina make such sacrifices in the violence that is, for them, the forced heteronormativity of their society. Trauma is something that happens when people are forced to forget their humanity, their proclivity to feel and choose. This is palpable in a story where the girls’ minds are colonized with religious prescriptiveness and social dread. Whether public or private war, subjects are permanently scarred and those spheres of public and private are equally impactful and related to each other. Agosín explains:

Memory is also linked to what connects and identifies us, such as the language we speak. The ways we perceive and retrieve memory in order to approach the past is an extension of our bodies and ourselves. Memory envelopes everything, especially in those societies that have so often been denied their own humanity by abusing their dignity. (Agosín xix)

Good, Good, Hyde and Pinto’s Postcolonial Disorders, where mental illness is considered in relation to past and current imperialist political events, also explores traumatic phenomenon outside of European myopia. They do this by explicating subjectivity and “necessarily address ‘disorders’–the intertwined personal and social disorders associated with rampant globalization, neoliberal economic policies, and postcolonial politics; and whether read as pathologies, modes of suffering, the domain of the imaginary, or as forms of repression, disordered subjectivity provides entree to exploring dimensions of contemporary social life…” (Good 2). The authors emphasize “a reexamination of thinking on race, ethnicity, and culture” and their “relevance for psychiatry,” in particular “historical or multigenerational trauma” or “historical unresolved grief” and how it impacts subsequent generations of postcolonial subjects” (Good 5). It is important to be aware that focusing on “disorders” proper can reify the need for “humane intervention,” key words which allow colonial disruption and further traumatization, so in Postcolonial Disorders the authors make clear this is not yet another way to objectify historically colonial subjects (Good 8-11). They continue to define their mission and explain: “a benefit of linking ‘disorders’ to ‘subjectivity’ is the potential for increasing understanding of the lived experiences of persons caught up in complex, threatening, and uncertain conditions of the contemporary world. Such a linking provides a focus on the historical genealogy of normative conceptions associated with order and disorder, rationality and pathology, and brings analytic attention to everyday lives and routine practices instantiated in complex institutions” (Good 11). It’s vital that while we wish to have a more equal society we don’t continue to infantilize people by objectifying their experiences and removing agency, capitulating the power large systems like institutions, governments, and nations possess. In other words, it’s not enough to stop the analysis at: people have no power. It’s important to use this information to understand why people make certain decisions every day, to see them as actors within, against, or teetering on the line of traditions and boundaries that we can trace, and to also recognize they are full people with complex lives, not just a diagnoses or cultural stereotype. Freud first formulated his ideas about trauma by listening to women, but because of professional pressure he chose to forget what he heard to make his findings socially acceptable. When listening to the experiences of others it is important not to change what they are saying to suit our own needs. As Agosín exclaims in Inhabiting Memory: “Hopefully the exploration of memory will lead us to a world where the right to remember and the act of remembering are essential elements to human rights!” (Agosín xx)



Works Cited


Agosín, Marjorie, ed.  Inhabiting Memory: Essays on Memory and Human Rights in the

Americas. Wings Press, 2011. Print.

Agosín, Marjorie. At the Threshold of Memory: A Bilingual Critical Anthology of New

and Selected Poems. White Pine Press, 2003. Print.

Coetzee, J.M. Waiting for the Barbarians. Penguin, 2010. Print.

“Complex PTSD.” The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders. 23 June 2017.


Coyle, Sue. “Intergenerational Trauma–Legacies of Loss.” Social Work Today, Vol. 14 No.

3 May/June 2014. Web.

DeGruy, Joy. Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and

Healing. Uptone, 2002. Kindle.

Good, Mary-Jo DelVecchio, Sandra Teresa Hyde, Sarah Pinto and Byron J. Good.

Postcolonial Disorders. University of California Press, 2006. Print.

Herman, Judith Lewis. Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence–from Domestic

Abuse to Political Terror. Basic Books, 2015. Kindle.

hooks, bell. The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love. Atria Books, 2004.

Hwang, David Henry. M. Butterfly. Plume, 1993. Kindle.

Mohanty, Chandra. Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity.

Duke University Press, 2003. Print.

Okparanta, Chinelo. Under the Udala Trees. Mariner Books, 2015. Print.

Oyěwùmí, Oyèrónkẹ́. The Invention of Women: Making an African Sense of Western Gender Discourses. University of Minnesota Press, 1997. Kindle.

“Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Web.

Scarry, Elaine. The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World. Oxford

University Press, 1987. Kindle.


Photo by author

I Burned You a CD {Part ONE}: Growing

This month for TERSE. I created a multimedia piece in the style of mix CDs people used to make for others. It may be for departed people from my life or myself. Maybe it’s for you, reader. Enjoy.


Insert I

Insert II

Que seguimos rompiendo aquí
Esta fiesta no tiene fin
Botellas para arriba, si
Los tengo bailando, rompiendo y yo sigo aquí

Insert III

Insert IV

I’m in the first row on your show, in the first row👊

On the First Floor Power show

Your vibrato’s like vulnerable leaves,

You do it crazy, that’s how you talk to me

Insert V

Insert VI

Insert IX

The only living proof I got

                                                                                       Is just the sand that I was made of

Got tired building it up

                              I found…

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This Week in Pedagogy: What is Intersectional Feminism? {for beginners}

Screenshot 2017-08-13 at 2.07.47 PM
Image of a fractal.

Lesson Plan: What is Intersectional Feminist Theory?

A project for Dr. Veronica Watson’s seminar Exploring Feminist Activism in the Age of #BlackLivesMatter, this lesson was written as part of a 3 day plan for undergraduate composition but can be modified for a high school classroom. This is a basic introduction.

Rationale: “Intersectionality” has become a buzzword in the feminist community. Without understanding the full scope of intersectional feminism, many white feminists end up merely tokenizing Black women, “including” them, without focusing on concerns that would truly make an equitable world for women and femmes of color.

As students will rely on Kimberle Crenshaw for a portion of the definition and ways to apply intersectional theory, I will lean on her articulation of the impetus to undergo the project of intersectionality:

But to say that a category such as race or gender is socially constructed is not to say that category has no significance in our world. On the contrary, a large and continuing project for subordinated people–and indeed, one of the projects for which postmodern theories have been very helpful–is thinking about the way power has clustered around certain categories and is exercised against others. This project attempts to unveil the processes of subordination and the various ways those processes are experienced by people who are subordinated and people who are privileged by them. (1296-1297)

This 3-day lesson will provide about 25 English Composition II (freshmen in literature-based partner course to English Composition I) students with:

  • A definition of intersectionality
  • The scope of intersectional praxis
  • An opportunity to experiment with intersectional analysis

At the end of this lesson, students will begin to understand the complex feminisms that make up the feminist movement. They will also be able to deploy an intersectional analysis in order to analyze literature and culture.

Assigned Readings (In-class handouts to take home):

Patricia Hill Collins, “Toward An Afrocentric Feminist Epistemology” from Black Feminist Thought (1991)

Kimberle Crenshaw, “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color” from Stanford Law Review (1991)

Day One

Students will arrive to class having read the two articles assigned in the previous session (ideally over the course of a weekend). I will have a presentation prepared on the tenents of each article to review what students should have gleaned from each article, allowing a few minutes for students to share insights and ask questions.

My presentation will cover the key concepts of each reading:

-Highlighting differences (immigrant status, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class)

-”Multiple Levels of Domination”(highlighted by Collins):

“People experience and resist oppression on three levels: the level of personal biography; the group or community level of the cultural context created by race, class, and gender; and the systemic level of social institutions” (227).

-Understanding socialized tropes (threatening black male sexuality, “cult of true [white] womanhood,” hypersexualized and “sassy” black woman, lazy poor person, conflation of immigrant intelligence with ability to speak English, only two genders, heteronormative reinforcement, pervasive ableist discourse)

-There are multiple forms of oppression certain people can face based on the different categories

-Walk through of the 2 Live Crew case (as cited in Crenshaw)

-Discuss women’s shelter failures for women of color (as discussed in Crenshaw)

-”Matrix of Domination” (as defined by Collins, pg. 229)

Final question for students, framed with quote by Collins:

“Although most individuals have little difficulty identifying their own victimization within some major system of oppression–whether it be by race, social class, religion, physical ability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, age or gender–they typically fail to see how their thoughts and actions uphold someone else’s subordination. Thus white feminists routinely point with confidence at their own oppression as women but resist seeing how much their white skin privileges them” (229).

Student activity: Write down on a fresh sheet of paper what your privileges are. Just by being in this classroom, you are being introduced to the world of educational privilege. What other privileges, earned and unearned, do you possess? For instance: I have educational privilege, my body is abled, I am white, I am cis-gender.

Evaluation Methods: I will not collect these papers, they are merely for student self-reflexivity, but I will be sure the students are completing them by walking around the room to observe student participation. I will also informally evaluate students’ participation and eye their annotations within the assigned texts to determine whether they have read the material.


Day Two

Having learned principles of intersectional feminist theory, students will be asked to think about current events through an intersectional lens. I will model an intersectional analysis of two news stories. The first story I will be prepared to do mostly on my own, citing Collins and Crenshaw, so students will become comfortable in their learning environment.

To get us started I will use the O.J. Simpson Murder trial. My reasoning for this is there has been quite a bit of critical prose written since the trial, specifically Birth of a Nation’hood: Gaze, Script, and Spectacle in the O.J. Simpson Case edited by Toni Morrison (and featuring an essay by Crenshaw); a major network show, The People Vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (which the students may have watched in their free time, it’s fairly popular); and the 8 hour long docuseries O.J.: Made in America by Ezra Edleman.

For the second selected story, the murder of Korryn Gaines, I will ask for more class participation, leaning on students to do the analysis along with me. Students will join me in a computer lab, or, if access is restricted, I will have students use laptops or phones to view articles on the Korryn Gaines murder. This discussion has the potential to bring out discriminatory attitudes related to race, ableism, gender, authority, policing, social class, and the carceral state.

Toward the end of the class session, I will tell students to break up into groups because they will have an intersectional analysis of a new story assignment. After they have split up, I will pass out their group assignments.

Evaluation Method: Student participation in discussion.

Homework/Group Project: As this will be a class of about 20 students, I will have students break up into groups of 4 and will assign them a story that has potential for intersectional analysis. However, I want students to focus on only ONE oppressive category. When the groups present, I will ask the entire class to assist the group in completing the analysis of the event and making it intersectional.

Here are the options:

Marissa Alexander Trialfocus: gender

Bill Cosby Rape Trial-focus: race

Dakota Access Pipeline Protests-focus: colonialism

Nabra Hassanen Murder-focus: immigrant status

Michael Brown Murder-focus: social class

Marsha P. Johnson Murder-focus: gender and sexuality


Day Three

This will be a day of group presentations. Students will come prepared with their intersectional feminist analysis of a news story and will have approx. 15 minutes to present.

Evaluation Methods: I will be checking group projects for the following considerations informally (which I will articulate to students prior to their compilation of the project) just so this is a more directed activity. 

What type of oppressions can we locate within the story (Biographical? Cultural context? Systemic/social institutions? All?)

How did the story unfold? (pertinent background information)

Are there any critical writings on the subject in the academic style? (where?)

The peer-observers will also be accountable for each presentation:

Each group is only required to locate one form of oppression in the story: what are the other kinds?

I will be checking for participation from the whole class.

To close: I will cite Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist: “Can’t we all admit we are privileged in some way?”And ask students to understand their privileges. If we all take our specific privileges seriously we will likely be critical of the ways we participate in the oppression of others.

Works Cited

Alexander, Scott and Larry Karaszewski, developers. The People Vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. FX, 2016.

Collins, Patricia Hill. Black Feminist Thought. Hyman, 1990.

Crenshaw, Kimberle. “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color.” Stanford Law Review, Vol. 43, No. 6 (Jul., 1991), pp. 1241-1299.

Edelman, Ezra, director. O.J. Simpson: Made in America. ESPN Films, 2016.

Morrison, Toni, editor. Birth of a Nation’hood: Gaze, Script, and Spectacle in the O.J. Simpson Case. Pantheon, 1997.

Playing ‘Exquisite Corpse’ By Myself

Writing I did for TERSE. Journal this month on identity in the style of the surrealist game “Exquisite Corpse.”


20170724_154258 Photo by author

    “And it kills me, the word sorry. As if something like music

should be forgiven. He nuzzles into the wood like a lover,

  inhales, and at the first slow stroke, the crescendo

     seeps through our skin like warm water, we

who have nothing but destinations, who dream of light

   but descend into the mouths of tunnels, searching.”

from Ocean Vuong’s “Song on the Subway”

“I am trying to check my habits of seeing, to counter them for the sake of a greater freshness. I am trying to be unfamiliar with what I’m doing.”

Susan Sontag, As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964-1980

“Well let’s think for a moment. What type of orange are you?” Our professor asks us.

On a Thursday night we discuss how to teach metaphor in our Poetry and Pedagogy class. We are reading Pablo Neruda’s The Book of Questions

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This Week in Pedagogy: How to Become a Writer


Week Six

This week’s reading emphasized finding your voice in creative and academic contexts. Lorrie Moore’s “How to Become a Writer” was our inroad to perspective–she became famous for her use of second person point of view. I always enjoy reflections from people on this writing perspective; it can be enlightening for students to shift into second person. I used this piece by Moore as a model when I wrote “How to Be an Adjunct” for The Chronicle of Higher Education.


When discussing perspective I thought “That’s Me Trying” on William Shatner’s spoken word album Has Been illustrated genuine self-reflexivity in writing; are we honest about how we see ourselves? In the case of Shatner, he looks at his ability to father with severity: he knows he hasn’t been a “good” father. It haunts him.

I shared with my class that I read “That’s Me Trying” at a poetry event once and many people were moved to tears. Not because of anything I “did”–it was a straight reading, nothing fancy. The content is that of the unlikable protagonist. Not many admit to being a “dead beat dad” yet we know there are fathers who leave their families, sometimes to the detriment of their children.

When I read the piece I also introduced it as one close to me: one of the only good memories I have of spending time with my father is that we watched Star Trek together. So for William Shatner to create this song, essentially the anthem of the absent dad, seemed felicitous.

When I introduced the poem at the reading I remember saying that it’s easy to be angry at the people who wound us, much more difficult to enter the situation from a point of empathy. Listening to “That’s Me Trying” is an example of someone’s writerly voice and life experiences opening up a path to empathetic communication. The audience at the poetry reading was moved maybe because they were able to heal their anger in some way, just as I did when I forgave my father.



For Thursday’s warm-up we examined an art object, Picasso’s 1937 “The Weeping Woman.” Students pointed out the commentary on anxiety during the Spanish Civil War and remarked how the sharp edges contained violent undertones and how the colors were reminicent of a corpse.

Overall, this week was a reflection on developing authorial voice and the impact it can have on readers.

More than a Grab Bag Candy Game: Citing Social Capital

In my column for TERSE. this month I discuss privilege, failure, and the myth of meritocracy.


Candy on human canvas: from “Wosit All About” by James Ostrer

“Did I tell you my mother, she never did stop dancing?”

“Yes. You told me. And mine, she never got well.”

Roberta lifted her hands from the tabletop and covered her face with her palms.

When she took them away she really was crying. ‘Oh shit, Twyla. Shit, shit, shit. What the hell happened to Maggie?”

from “Recitatif” by Toni Morrison

In my English Composition II course this spring a student gave an exceptional presentation on Queer Theory citing J. Jack Halberstam’s Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal. They discussed precarity relating to queer people, something I wanted to prod when we got to Q&A. A problematic moment arose, for me, when my student, to support Halberstam’s thesis about Lady Gaga being the beacon of queer fluidity and new conceptions of the individual, said “Lady Gaga…

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The Phantoms of Culpability

Here is my column this month on TERSE. Journal. I discuss the coming culture of transparency, eeriness of photographic memories, making mistakes, and being wrong.


“The sensation of the eerie occurs when there is something present where there should be nothing, or there is nothing present when there should be something….In the case of the failure of absence, the question concerns the particular nature of the agent at work. We know that Stonehenge has been erected, so the questions of whether there was an agent behind its construction or not does not arise; what we have to reckon with are the traces of a departed agent whose purposes are unknown.” Mark Fisher, The Weird and the Eerie


Your DropBox is closing in 30 days unless you take action.


“The internet does not have room for my 300 pictures,” I joked to everyone and no one on the internet as I shared a screen shot of DropBox’s threatening automatic e-mail to Twitter.

Last year the laptop I used for 4 years died during the…

View original post 1,248 more words

Processing Karma

I’ve been posting more frequently at TERSE. Journal, the new publication I’m working on. Check out my writing on memory, karma, and ancestry. You may appreciate the other writers too–I know I do.


The author 10 years in the past.

Processual learning, in classrooms and in life, emphasizes the intricate and unfolding manner of transformation. Karmic lessons are not always fully carried out in this life; we may only know one piece of a lesson we are supposed to learn now. That lesson needn’t exist in a linear frame. When you look up at the stars to notice how they are ordered, you won’t see a straight line or set of instructions, but we know we are made of the materials of stars. We are scattered, dynamic people.

In my post “Transfiguration,” I discussed cultural memory because, as I delve deeper into secular spirituality, I wonder: “Who was I in previous lives?” Some maintain we stay within our family lineage, believing we are one of our ancestors.

Maybe you were your great great grandfather or grandmother, a great aunt.

I once…

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This Week in Pedagogy: Moving Beyond Pain


Week Five

This week students learned to read against the grain as we analyzed bell hooks’ “Moving Beyond Pain” for our main reading.

It was a week packed with new vocabulary, explorations of misogyny and misogynoir, and Lemonade.

“Don’t you all find it clever hooks used the word ‘BEYond’ in her article about Beyoncé? Get it?” I love wordplay and risk being corny.


Since we are moving along in our course about research (and argument), I had students give me the lecture about who our featured writer is this week. Students did their research and explained why hooks selected her name and writes it in lowercase letters, how prolific a career hooks has had so far, and hooks’ career arc spanning over 40 years.

Our reading was hooks’ analysis of Beyoncé’s most recent album, Lemonade, so we also looked at one of her pioneering music videos from the album: “Formation.”

Students weighed in during our class: was hooks too hard on Beyoncé? Do people, not just hooks, put undue pressure on Beyoncé, one person (though a remarkable one), to do all the work of social change? There were mixed responses, and I was overall pleased at how critical students were. We had numerous microdiscussions within the lecture, and one of the most lively was the representation of women in popular media.

Visual Art: Lorna Simpson, “Waterbearer”


For our first warm-up, students analyzed Lorna Simpson’s 1986 piece, “Waterbearer,” which got them thinking about Afrocentrism and Afrofuturism, some of the themes in Beyoncé’s work. Holding the past while existing in the present, bearing weight, and the pain of being silenced or purposely misunderstood were brought up in our discussion.

Song: Erykah Badu, “Bag Lady”

We also examined Erykah Badu’s “Bag Lady,” a piece filled with symbolism, in small groups. Students were eager to analyze the lyrics in Badu’s piece, I find this group enjoys the socio-spiritual aspects of art. I encouraged them to also see the socio-political aspects of Badu as well. One of my students pointed out Badu has influenced a lot of other artists and led them towards new stylistic choices modeled after her body of work.

When it came to discussing women, one of the questions, especially concerning women of color was: “Can they ever do anything ‘right’ in the eyes of the public?” How broad, but when you consider the large role of misogyny and misogynoir, it’s helpful to wonder broadly.