The joy of reading and writing: Superman and Me”
I enjoyed reading this article. I think reading short articles is usually good for me anyways since I get so easily distracted most nights while I do my reading. I love to read about the different ways that people started to read and what makes them avid readers. I loved the line, “My father loved books, and since I loved my father with an aching devotion, I decided to love books as well.” I have found this to be true in so many cases. If parents love reading and show their children they are active readers their children in most cases also learn the love of reading. It is so powerful to see parents reading for kids. I also really enjoyed how he explained how he learned to dissect what was inside of a book. Figuring out what a paragraph’s purpose was before he know what it was called. Then, comparing the paragraph to his reservation saying, “ Our reservation was a small paragraph within the united states.” It was expecially powerful when he talks about his experience now as a writer and how he returns to the schools on the reservations. He says, “I am trying to save our lives.” I so enjoy people like Sherman who don’t except things for what they are if they don’t agree with them they instead fight to change them for the better.
Wampum as hypertext
I had no idea that Wampum was used by American colonists as their first form of currency, I found that so interesting. I did learn recently however that the Iroquois confederacy influence the democratic thoughts behind our constitution. I had talked about this with my students while we talked about the first Americans and they were so intrigued by this. I also found it interesting reading about how giving a wampum also meant that the recipient accepted the implied message of responsibility. It’s cool how you can trace back who had those connections so long ago. To think that this wampum hypertext is the same thing as what Ted Nelson was working on creating. I feel like our generation and the generations proceeding us feel like we need technology in order to be efficient. However, here we see that the same efficiency was taking place all those years ago. The belts that were made are so interesting with so many things being said by color choice and pattern alone. It was stated, “Like colors are employed in Western visual design to signify certain moods for readers, the color usage of wampum reminds its reader how to organize and read the story woven into material rhetoric. It further explains that in order to accurately retrieve the message that a particular belt is telling you have to be part of the community.
James Blandino – Cultural Rhetoric, 12.2.2014
I found “Map of the Americas” by Qwo-Li Driskill to be a very powerful poem. I usually dismiss poems that make a shape and poems that are centered on a page as being gimmicky, amateurish, and immature. This poem reshaped my perspective. I probably feel this way about poem written in that fashion because of my “traditional” education in English literature. I this poem, the author leads into a stanza that takes the physical shape of the map of the North and South American continents with the line, “Look: my body curled and asleep becomes a map of the Americas.” The next stanza flows physically and verbally from the tundra of northern Canada, down through the narrow “hips” of Central America, through the rainforests, and finally reaching the feet “that reach out to touch Antarctica.” The language and shape work harmoniously together to create a visual and textual display of the Americas. The feminine embodiment of the natural wonders of the American continents is a beautiful metaphor in this poem. The same metaphor employed by European artists depicts the female “America” as helpless, naked, victimized, and savage, while Driskill’s female “America” is strong, wise, and a survivor.
It is interesting that the “map” in the poem is actually “my hair (feminine) spread upon the pillow”. Long beautiful hair is associated with ideal feminine beauty. This is not the first time “America” has taken on a feminine form, lying down, in this course. The image reminds me of the painting of Amerigo Vespucci’s “discovering” of America. Driskill reclaims the popular notion of America as a female to be taken by the colonial powers and gives us the image back in with a native perspective. She gives the female “America” a voice in her poem that is not submissive, passive, or in need of saving/redemption. She writes, “though I may quiver from your tough there is still a war”. She plays upon the common metaphor of sexual conquest between the male (European Colonials) and the female (Native Peoples). The sexual tension is apparent in the lines, “It is not without fear and memories awash in blood that I allow you to slip between my borders, rest in the warm valleys of my sovereign body”. Her version of a feminized “America” demands honor and respect, the same honor and respect given to the Europeans in the Native Americans “feasts and songs”. She feels that “these gifts (given by Native Peoples to the European settlers) could be misconstrued as worship Honor mistaken for surrender.” These lines remind me of the double line wampum belts that were detailed in the piece by Angela M. Haas. These particular wampum belts, “symbolize two paths or two vessels, and though the two parties will travel together side by side, they will do so in their own boat.” Native Peoples were ready to honor the differences between their way of life and that of the European settlers; however, the colonists took this respect as a sign of surrender.
Sherman Alexie’s autobiographical work on his own literacy and culture gave me some new ideas on my own writing for this course on my early experiences with language. We are what we read. I think I read On the Road, by Jack Kerouac at too young. That aside, the ideas in the Alexi piece about expectations resonated with me. He writes, “We were Indian children who were expected to be stupid. Most lived up to these expectations inside the classroom but subverted them on the outside. They struggled with basic reading in school but could remember how to sing a few dozen powwow songs . . . we were expected to fail in the non-Indian world. Those who failed were ceremonially accepted by other Indians and appropriately pitied by non-Indians.” I will pay closer attention to what I “expect” from people in my life from now on. I will always expect the best of my students, my coworkers, my wife, my family, and my friends. Sherman Alexi is an anomaly in that he refused to live up to the expectations of the society that raised him. Most of us behave in a way that is expected of us, so it is important to expect greatness from those around us. My students at the community college are speechless when they bring me an A on a paper and I say, “I’m not surprised. I knew you had it in you.” I play it off as not a big deal, “Of course you got the A. You are a hard worker. I wouldn’t expect anything less.”
It was a nice experience to read the Sherman Alexie text “The Joy of Reading and Writing: Superman and Me”. He depicts a very clear reality in groups that are socially excluded: self-exclusion and he states that “we were Indian children who were expected to be stupid… most lived up to those expectations” (1). Minority group members tend to exclude themselves by accepting the connotations spread by the dominant groups. It was interesting to see that the other Native American students were accepting and going along with the expectations of the non-Indians, even though they had shown that they could do any of the tasks requested at school. Alexie tells us about a boy, which is himself, that loved books and allowed these books to broaden his horizons and created in him a sense of achievement that he perused and fulfilled. He refused to go along with the non-Indians expectations.
In “Wampum as Hypertext: An American Indian Intellectual Tradition of Multimedia Theory and Practice”, Angela M. Haas brings the example of wampum belts as evidence of hypertext technologies, which show that the origin of hypertext is not as it is declared by Western investigators. The wampum belts and their message were used to teach and pass on information which shows the relevance that Native American have regarding the use of technology and also show that the intellectuality in the Native American community was widely used. She claims that:
American Indians as the first known skilled multimedia workers and intellectuals in the Americas.2 Thus wampum has the potential to re-vision the intellectual history of technology, hypertext, and multimedia studies, and thereby American Indian studies -- and such a re-visioning calls for a responsibility to digital and visual rhetorical sovereignty. (p. 79)
The fact that Native American knowledge and intellectuality can be seen in various aspects of social, educational, and professional domain is a great step towards the acceptance, acknowledgement and embracing of Native American culture.
HW # 12
Haas, Angela. “Wampum as Hypertext”
I found Haas’ article to be very interesting; the concept of considering or investigating the history and overall background of specific objects and technology prior to using it. Before reading this article, I never really knew the origins of “hypertext”. I mean, I knew prior to reading that hypertext was a way to link information, but its background and how it was invented was something I never really considered. In this article, Haas explains how Native American culture has been developing hypertextual uses over the years, before programmers established databases with point-and-click links which provide further information. As a mother and a grandmother, I am always wondering how electronic toys are made, especially if there are any small parts that can come off and cause harm. This article, demonstrated to me the importance of examining the technological objects origin and its background. This is important research that needs to be done before I purchase the new “technology” for my family.
Alexie, Sherman. “Superman and Me”
I really enjoyed this piece. The author, Sherman Alexie is attempting to engage young Indian scholars to read. I thoroughly enjoyed his autobiographical tale explaining how he himself learned to read. His comprehension of the English language as “paragraphs” and then extension of his theory to the world around him when he stated, “our reservation was a small paragraph within the United States”, highlighted his views of being a small part of the nation’s populous. By viewing the world in this way, Alexie is exposing the world as one entity with various cultures and ethnic views under its umbrella. I especially enjoyed his thoughts about his relatives when he stated “inside our house, each family member existed as a separate paragraph but still had genetics and common experiences to link us”(1). As an English Language Arts teacher, it was interesting to us sentence structure and apply that concept to the real world. When writing I find I use an outline to keep structure and organization, in Alexie’s view, he used that same format but applied it to his world. Overall, very appealing concept.
Another aspect I thought was interesting in the essay was the author’s theory that learning would “save his life”. As a parent and grandparent, I agree that it is important to have books in the home to engage young minds. Honestly, I think Alexie’s father was awesome for buying books and filling the bookshelf in his home, especially because the author, “lived on a combination of irregular paychecks, hope, fear and government surplus food”(1). Alexie is adamant his goal in learning to read was to “save himself”, to feed the intellectual necessity he craved. In turn, Alexie’s study allowed him to move beyond the expected ‘Indian boy’ role predetermined by his culture. Not only did he eventually become an author, but he continues his journey of educating by sharing with other young Indian children the value in reading and learning. As Alexie states, “I am trying to save them”, he is attempting to show others that destiny and ones role in life is not predetermined as culture dictates, but can be decided by the individual. Overall, Sherman Alexie has evolved to become his own form of a rhetorical SuperMan!
Wampum as Hypertext by Angela Haas is an attempt of claiming Hypertext as something “created” by the indigenous. Hass says that the Western tries to take credit for the creation of the Hypertexts, which in her point of view is not accurate. The indigenous use Hypertexts through the Wampum, with different colors, each reminds them of their culture and heritage, as well as those who were lost and those who survived. The author intended to show the controversy about where did the Hypertext and multimedia start (with the Western claiming to have started the hypertext but the author reminds that the American Indian community used wampum belts as hypertextual technologies, where they would pass on the knowledge and traditions to the generations to come). The wampum were even used as a form of currency in the colonial times in America and even “…influenced the democratic thought that led to the Constitution of the Unite States.” (p. 81). Through the Wampums the indigenous could revisit their past and incorporate within them their culture and manneirisms; “…wampum embodies memory, as it extends human memories of inherited knowledge via interconnected, nonlinear designs…” (p.81). Indians have always been hypertextuals, it was their technology, not as phancy as todays’ technology, but technology nonetheless.
The set of poems by Qwo Driskill entitled Walking with Ghost is a hymn to the lost ones. Driskill, in a profound way, with the poem Map of the Americas tries to remember those who were lost, most of them killed, and how they are missed. She uses a very simple and yet warmful words, as if he is the one being portrayed within these poems. In her poems she tries to portray the America, its indigenous people, as civilized, honored, and “beautiful”, which was not the way the Europeans for example saw the indigenous.
The Joy of Reading and Writing by Sherman Alexie is an autobiography where Sherman tells us his childhood experience with the first book he read. Through Sherman’s life story we can see that the first thing we have ever read will be with us forever and will not let us forget the experience and fantasies it triggered, and in his case, the Superman book taught him how to read. Even though they were poor, his father always tried to have as much books as possible inside their house. Sherman shows us that the environment in which we are exposed most of the time defines the way we will see the world or our tastes. He makes an analogy between different paragraphs within a text and his family, who were separated but were connected by their common experiences. He then talks about his school experience as an Indian boy who already knew how to read, and that this was something extraordinary. Because he was a smart Indian boy, he was ridiculed by his classmates, since he was expected to be stupid just by being an Indian. This shows that no one is born with a scrip they have to follow, or who they have to be, we make our own script, we make our own destiny; “As Indian children, we were expected to fail…I refused to fail.” (p.2).
This is it, the final reader response. Well, not for me exactly. I still have to make up another response essay. For everyone else this is the last response essay, and I feel odd writing that, in part because I don’t believe in endings per say. You might find it odd that I decided to place emphasis on the idea of the final response essay or the idea of endings. But, thanks to Sherman Alexie I can justify my decision. In his piece about learning how to read, Sherman Alexie recounted his exposure to a Superman comic at the age of three. Superman has always been seen as a symbol of American values, but he is also an alien therefore, making him the ultimate outsider. Superman is different because he is not human, even though he has to carry on the American ideals. Modern comic book writers have especially been interested in this idea: Superman as the ultimate outsider.
Maybe it is because of my thesis’ investigation into the nature of solitude, maybe it is my understanding of a gay man and how that makes me an outsider to many, but Superman along with other super heroes (I’m more of a Batman guy) have always held a place of great interest in my mind. Not going into the sexuality aspect of Batman, but just the idea of feeling alone, different, out of the mainstream, these speak to me. I did not learn how to read through comic books, but comic books are a part of what I read. The idea of feeling different though, I can understand to an extent what Sherman Alexie is talking about when he writes “If he'd been anything but an Indian boy living on the reservation, he might have been called a prodigy. But he is an Indian boy living on the reservation and is simply an oddity” (2). Even after his accomplishments of learning to read at such a young age, there still is the belief that instead of being considered a prodigy, he is instead considered an oddity. How much of an outsider do you have to be not to have your own accomplishments recognized, because they do not fit in with other’s preconceived notions about how you should be? It is awful that some are unable or even unwilling to see beyond their own prejudices.
In one Superman story I read, which for sake of sanity I will not even tempt to summarize, Superman has to do battle with a cosmic vampire that is draining the life force of the universe. After defeating the menace and before traveling back to his own dimension, Superman marks his own gravestone with the words “To be continued” Not the end, but to be continued. And now I return back to my original statement about endings and final essays. There are no endings. Superman did not believe in them, he saw that life and stories will always continue. And that is what I am taking away from this class. We may say our goodbyes, but is it the end? What I learn in class will continue throughout my life: a greater sense of awareness of others who are different than me, but still deserve that recognition of their own humanity. I close now with a quote from Levinas: “For others, in spite of myself, from myself.”
The Joy of Reading and Writing: Superman and Me piece is incredibly inspirational. Even before he began to talk about his journey, he says he learned to read with a Superman comic book. I love that. It is actually one of the suggestions I made to my (ELL) case study in another class to improve his reading skills. While reading, I could imagine his house filled with books everywhere. This image made me smile because it was obvious how much of an impact the existence of these many books had on both him and his father. I absolutely love the line, “My father loved books, and since I loved my father with an aching devotion, I decided to love books as well.” I can relate to this because I wanted to be my mom so bad growing up. I always related to my dad because we were both weird, had similar humors, and the fact that I loved sports connected us… but I didn’t want to be my dad, I wanted to be my mom, so I wanted to love everything that she did. Alexie was just a kid, whose love for his father led to a personal love in reading, and I think a lot of us have passions that stem from the love of our parents. I admire Alexie for his drive to be successful and be the smart Indian that he is—he refused to be stupid. I like that he read books because he believed that it would help to save his life, which it did. The last line really stood out to me; “I am smart. I am arrogant. I am lucky. I am trying to save our lives.” Alexie is a prodigy that is for sure… he is also a talented writer who did what was “beyond Indians”, but was not selfish in this but rather was selfless because he didn’t give up on his people and continues to visit schools to empower the kids who are also trying to save their lives.
The Map of the Americas poem is very powerful for so many reasons. The imagery itself is incredible; you can picture everything as you read Driskill’s words. The first stanza begins with “I wish” which immediately lets the reader know that what is to come isn’t a reality for the speaker. The idea of transcending history in double helixes on wings that they built themselves is sad but beautiful. Honestly, that could have been a poem in itself; it’s so simple yet so powerful. Immediately afterwards we read the actuality of it all, none which is heartwarming. It felt extremely personal, that, in that moment I saw America through Driskill’s eyes; I can’t imagine having to look at daily, the reason why your people aren’t here. Stylistically, I think it is incredible that Driskoll made part of his poem look like the map of North and South America. Not only does it look great but the words within are so powerful and you can’t help but read it with some anger or power in your voice. The last lines gave me chills: “Honor this/I walk out of genocide to touch you.”
I really enjoyed the poem, What You Must Do as well. Again, the imagery is really great. I imagine someone pulling words from their bones, muscles, and blood. It really emphasizes that the words within are a part of you and are made up of you. Sometimes, these words need to be pulled out vs. effortlessly occurring. When the speaker says, “Breathe,” those words come to live/existence. It was interesting that the word “offer” was used, when saying “offer them your flesh” because they won’t take anything less. You would think that the word give would be used since there really is no choice in the matter. Again, the imagery appears when the speaker says to “Run with your words to the top of a cliff” and then to let go. I read this as the speaker saying that this is the last time you can speak your mind, who you are and the words that you are made up of, because they are coming in the morning and taking it all away.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.