Sunday Post: After TYCA

The Sunday Post hosted by the Caffeinated Reader is an opportunity to share with the blogging community what bookish things are happening in our world. So what have I been doing?

Reading | My reading is pretty much the same as last week as I spent all week prepping for my conference presentation. So, still wishy-washying my way through Miss Timmins’ School for Girls, savoring The Miniaturist, and avoiding Descartes’ Meditations.

jordanpetersonListening |I just started listening to the Jordan B. Peterson podcast, and I am loving it. Dr. Peterson is a clinical psychologist and a professor at the University of Toronto. His podcast includes interviews and recordings of his lectures on wide-ranging topics which are absolutely fascinating. I aspire to be as intellectual and entertaining as he is as a professor.

Blogging |Last week, I posted reviews of Stephen King’s The Gunslinger and Susan Cain’s Quiet. This week I have reviews going up for V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic series and Jean Kwok’s Girl in Translation.

Doing | I was at the Two-Year College Association Midwest Conference for English teachers, geeking out on awesome sessions and presenting on my college’s hybrid project. And eating. I was definitely eating.

Loving | The last few days of summer…Well, actually I live in Illinois, so we’ve got patches of 80 degree weather here and there for a month yet; still, there’s no guarantees these days.

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Wishing and Working | Will someone please grade all my papers for me? Please. Pretty please.

 

 

Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo”

barracoonZora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God strikes me as such a seminal and important work in so many ways: the use of black vernacular, the portrayal of female autonomy, the portrayal of black female autonomy at that, her insistence on writing a story without politicizing, and so on. I fell in love with this story and then I fell in love with Hurston, so when I saw that Barracoon was finally being published, I ordered a copy immediately.

In Barracoon, Hurston interviews Cudjo Lewis and 86 year old man who came to America on the Clotilda, a slave ship operating after the slave trade was outlawed. The ship, and hence Cudjo and the other Africans on the ship, is generally believed to be the very last slaver to cross the Atlantic. When Hurston began her interview with Cudjo, he was the last living survivor of the crossing. Three-months later she had his story.

And it is heart-wrenching. Cudjo speaks with Hurston, tells her his stories, in a way highly reminiscent of traditional oral storytelling with multiple short tales interspersed with lore and asides. He moves from his life in Africa when he was a child through the attack on his village that led to his capture, fascinating tales that really highlight the oft-played-down fact that Cudjo’s life did not begin as an American slave; he was forcibly taken from his life and thrown into another. The story moves on to his imprisonment and subsequent “selection” by American slavers, across the Middle Passage and on to his enslavement in America, his eventual settling in Africatown, and the tragedies of his life while free.

I listen to Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast Revisionist History, and in one episode he analyzes why country music is so much sadder than rock music. His answer: specificity. Gladwell argues: “I think the thing that pushes us over the top into tears is details. We cry when melancholy collides with specificity.” And I can’t help but agree. Hearing about Cudjo’s life, the details that make a life story real and personal, is so much more powerful than objective histories and rolls of numbers.

And Hurston ups the ante of specificity with a strong infusion of concrete details of her own. She places the reader on Cudjo’s porch, eating watermelon and peaches with the two of them. And she ups the ante with authenticity. Like in Their Eyes Were Watching God, Hurston captures Cudjo’s own dialect, his own personal and cultural way of speaking. Apparently when Hurston originally wanted to publish this story, she was told she would have to translate the work into the common (aka white) vernacular. She refused.

If you haven’t read Barracoon yet, buy it now. If you haven’t read Hurston yet, what are you waiting for?

Happy 4th of July!

I hope those of you who celebrate this day have a fantastic time ….. and that no one gets a firecracker to the face. That’s no good. For anyone.

Here’s my and the kids’ post-workout, heading to the pool, group selfie. (Is there a word for group selfie?)

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My Unfinished Intellectuality

2016-08-27 08.32.26Hello and welcome to my blog! I am Trisha, a professor at a community college teaching a variety of composition, literature, film, and creative writing courses. Lucky for me my job feeds my passion as I am a true bibliophile obsessed with reading, reviewing, logging, discussing, organizing, smelling, and touching books. No tasting though. That’s just strange. ​

I love learning about damn near everything and that is why I titled my blog Unfinished Intellectual. While I have spent much of my life in the pursuit of knowledge – I have a BA, two MAs, and an online teaching certificate – I still feel entirely unfinished and unlearned. We have the whole world of knowledge open to us through books, school, experience, and each other, and my goal with this blog is to continually learn and grow and share with all of you.

I previously blogged at eclectic/eccentric, but after having my first child, my blogging fell by the wayside. The arrival of my second child and my choice to pursue another Masters degree meant my attempts to get back into blogging were doomed to fail. I may, from time to time, pull posts from there especially as I re-read previously reviewed books. Now that my kids are out of diapers – one is in school, one is a year shy of schooling – and I have completed my degree, I am ready to start reading and writing and cooking and teaching and doing more of what makes me me. And I am ready to learn and share with all of you.

I hope you will read and learn and comment so that I can also learn from you!