I was introduced to the work of Augusto Boal by a woman whom I admire greatly. She is a gardener, a writer, an activist, and a performer. She spent tiI was introduced to the work of Augusto Boal by a woman whom I admire greatly. She is a gardener, a writer, an activist, and a performer. She spent time in Brazil studying Theatre of the Oppressed techniques with landless workers there, and now has brought the techniques and skills she learned there back to the States, where she conducts workshops in the practice, among other things.
As an ESOL and writing teacher, I don't always make room in my syllabi for my political work. Many would suggest that I should leave those things at home; the classroom is for skills and content. However, the more I reflect on my convictions and beliefs, the more I come to consider radical practice a fundamental part of what I do, what I should do, what I aspire to do. I have recently been running up against this notion of "practice" - is it really "practice" when it is a way of life? It seems to me that practice, then, is something deeper. It becomes more like a "way," when we think of a "way" as a "Tao." It is one of the paths one can walk - either we walk that path, or we walk another, but we do not pick and choose when to be on it and when to get off, depending on the hat we wear. We simply stay on the path.
In any case, I think that radical practice - a radical path - for a teacher in my position means truly considering my students - in my case, students often considered "at-risk": immigrants, refugees, single parents, first-generation college students, minorities, individuals recently released from prison, workers without jobs - as humans, as valued, reflective, intelligent individuals with interests and a great capacity to teach and learn from one another. It means recognizing their various challenges, and celebrating and supporting their strengths. It also means trying new things.
The techniques outlined in Games for Actors and Non-Actors transformed my understanding of how to relate to a group of people. I have tried several of the games in my classes, and have had nothing but outstanding positive results, ranging from puzzled introspection leading to insight, to shrieking delight and the mad joy of freedom that comes from doing some that feels both very new and very, very natural. I am grateful for the constant reminder that, as a teacher, I must always continue to learn....more
Jaime Hernandez' work has been part of my consciousness ever since my brain emerged from childhood. I think if I had paid more attention to Love and RJaime Hernandez' work has been part of my consciousness ever since my brain emerged from childhood. I think if I had paid more attention to Love and Rockets when I was in my teens, I would have become a very different person. I loved it, of course, but always refused to latch on to the weird yearning it ignited in me, probably for fear of where it would take me. Now, as a woman in my thirties who reads things like Hopey Glass while sitting on the couch in her jammies, trying to ignore a football game, I realize exactly how powerful his illustration and storytelling is, and how he can - with a single panel - refresh my entire take on what constitutes beauty and sex and relationships.
The book is divided between two characters: I far prefer the Hopey stories to the more melodramatic Ray's, but both convey a rich subtext and create an incredibly believable, familiar cast of people. Readers who were devoted to the Locas characters from Love and Rockets(Latinas from the L.A. punk scene) will be spending time with old friends....more
Ah, Murakami. My first challenge in writing this review is finding one of my esoteric little cyber-shelves on which to place this. Poetry? Almost. LifeAh, Murakami. My first challenge in writing this review is finding one of my esoteric little cyber-shelves on which to place this. Poetry? Almost. Life-changing? Hardly. I hesitate over "arty-art-art" and skip it over in exchange for "heart-breaking," which is almost true. How to categorize his works?
Just like The Wind-up Bird Chronicles, a number of themes (re)emerge in the lovely, poignant, lucid-sleepwalk that is Kafka on the Shore: an efficient, neatly dressed young man of indeterminate sexuality acting as assistant to a mysterious and elegant middle-aged woman; lost cats; people having sex together only in dreams; accidental clairvoyance; deep, dark wells. This is the stuff Haruki Murakami's dreams are made of.
"Riveting" seems like a word best left to courtroom dramas and spy fiction, not to surrealist tales of precocious 15-year-old runaways and libraries, yet Murakami's mastery of fiction is so complete, the most abstract and vaporous of events becomes seat-of-the-pants storytelling in his hands. Credit should go, too, to his translator, Jay Rubin, who turns the endless cultural references of his subject into flawless English phrase without missing a beat, making Japan seem as natural and accessible as the reader's own thoughts.
While I don't share the fanatical interest his work often inspires in readers, I find his realities are quickly becoming one of my favorite vacation sites. He is in complete control, which is more than I can say for most writers of fiction - and his reveries incite longing in the most unexpected ways....more
In a stellar (and readable) example of interdisciplinary historical research, Davis lays bare the skeleton underlying many of the popular conceptionsIn a stellar (and readable) example of interdisciplinary historical research, Davis lays bare the skeleton underlying many of the popular conceptions regarding the nature of the "Third World" and its economies. Drawing from sources as diverse as scientific accounts of El Nino and La Nina cycles at the turn of the last century, missionary writings, accountancy notes, travelers' journals, newspaper clippings, and other exhaustive primary and secondary works, Davis describes how the British empire, along with other colonial forces, took advantage of periods of what would have been survivable drought in India, China, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Brazil, and used the circumstances of need to crush the local structures of governance and food-sharing networks and create a horror show of poverty, disease, and the starvation deaths of millions upon millions of people, while simultaneously setting the stage for a further century of economic privation and authoritarian control....more
This text should be required reading for participation in the planetary exchange of resources; i.e. breathing, drinking, eating, excreting.
What LynasThis text should be required reading for participation in the planetary exchange of resources; i.e. breathing, drinking, eating, excreting.
What Lynas has provided here is a comprehensive summary of international research on climate change and carbon emissions from a variety of perspectives and methodologies. The result is a harrowing projection of the kinds of shifts in ecosystems around the world - water tables, weather patterns, food production, biodiversity, ocean acidity - that are likely to occur if the average temperature of the earth goes up by as much as 6 degrees C. In each successive chapter, degree by degree, Lynas walks the reader through the gradual changes humanity can expect to experience, based upon a combination of state-of-the-art computer modeling, statistical probabilities, current observable trends, and historical precedence. The end result walks a fine line between igniting profound motivation for change and tripping the wire of paralytic despair.
A major criticism I have of the work is that, in all but the sketchiest senses, Lynas fails to make the connections between the emissions/warming circumstances and the sociopolitical systems that have precipitated them. Only once or twice does he point directly to global capitalism and consumption at both the industrial and individual levels, and then to predict that - at the point of societal collapse - popular political theory may shift to point blame where it is "deserved." His intention is only to provide an accessible reference for the scientific research as it exists - a moral choice that, given the severity of the circumstances he describes, seems to me cowardly and untenable. Nonetheless, an important book....more
This is one of those odd little books that I struggle to find the right label for on my virtual "shelves." Somewhere between the lines, when you add tThis is one of those odd little books that I struggle to find the right label for on my virtual "shelves." Somewhere between the lines, when you add together your in- and out-boxes of "children's," "heart-breaking," "poetry," and "women-gender," what mysteries those flimsy titles may or may not contain, you run into something like this: sweet, savory, often bitter morsels of young life, vignettes of Chicago - though no Chicago known to me - memories stacked one inside the other until they fit into other people's stories, each a page and a half, images so similar to ones of my own, they begin to blur.
This book has been on my mental shelf for years. Bits and pieces, shreds, chapters have turned up in creative writing prompts, English classes, brainstorms, and poetry slams, but I never managed to sit down and read the whole thing. When I did, it took one sitting. A ravenous, juicy hour and a half. It made me want to wear yellow high heels and drink papaya juice out of a can.
This copy was sent to me by my mother-in-law, an avid reader and member of book groups in her native Chicago. The mayor apparently picks a novel a year and the whole city takes it up like a royal fairy-tale decree: classes and chatrooms and coffee houses and community colleges buzz with it, its discussion, its implications. (As an aside - I wonder if the mayor really picks it, or if its some gem of a side job shuffled off to an eager intern underling, an English major whose dreams of artistry were long since stuffed into a cheap attache case and crammed under the filing cabinet. I hope that's the case. What a darling superpower: picking the city's books.)
Cisneros speaks softly and in anthems - her language never full of itself or its own mission, always real, always more like the awkward voice of diaries than the polished drone of "lit-rih-chuh" - yet in so doing, her voice carries high and clear and far over the heads of her imitators and peers....more
I met Molly Gloss when I was in high school in Eastern Oregon, the setting for her beautiful novel, The Jump-off Creek. She was a local hero for the sI met Molly Gloss when I was in high school in Eastern Oregon, the setting for her beautiful novel, The Jump-off Creek. She was a local hero for the simple reason that she wrote about our world, our hills, our familiar tamarack forests and sagebrush, our quiet people and the lives they lead. In a state best known for Portland and the accessibility of natural wonder to the urban I-5 corridor, it was a refreshing bit of acknowledgment to see real - published! - art showing an interest in and sensitivity to the rural eastern expanse of the state.
Not to wax too nostalgic: I didn't like growing up there. To me, the hills were beautiful, boring boundaries carefully dividing my sheltered little town from the weird, varied world I knew existed outside the valley. People were mean, and small-minded, and often simple and hateful. I was mocked until I got too strange, and then I was just feared; stupid, superficial things like purple hair and noserings became metaphysical symbols of all that the down-home culture despised, and they made damn sure I knew it.
It is odd, then, that a book like this should come along - a tender, honest portrait of a small community in Eastern Oregon, not directly inside the valley where I lived, but near by a county or two, which in rural terms means practically the same place - and completely break my heart. Never have I had so much longing for a thing I never loved.
First of all, don't judge a book by its cover. No, really. Never in a thousand years would I have chosen to read something with a golden sunset and a girl-on-horseback silhouette. Hell, I even try to avoid anything with the word "heart" in the title, unless it's closely followed by "darkness." If you can't get past it, I recommend wrapping the book in a plain brown wrapper and pushing on through, because if you don't, you will miss one of the more interesting examinations of small-town life, and with it, a young female hero demonstrating perfectly that role models don't need to be princesses, warriors, or ravishingly beautiful to be strong and, more importantly, real....more
Shaun Tan's ingenious, occasionally koan-like stories are the intellectual playthings of his incredible artwork. Beasts and wonderlands mesh strangelyShaun Tan's ingenious, occasionally koan-like stories are the intellectual playthings of his incredible artwork. Beasts and wonderlands mesh strangely with parking lots, suburbs, and next-door neighbors, bringing familiar magic to everyday life.
His drawings return fantastic and fabulous to their original senses; filled with the kind of wonder that borders right on the edge of fear, humor that teeters on the silly, Tan's most recent collection of stories is a picture book for grown-ups (okay, maybe children can read it, too).
(I have to admit - I was, for some reason, startled to discover that this author is a man; for some reason, I'd imagined a female hand in the creatures and lands that cross his pages.)...more