On The Sun Always Rises and Writing About Real People

Some interesting facts about The Sun Also Rises:In the book Everybody Behaves Badly: The True Story Behind Hemingway’s Masterpiece The Sun Also Rises, Blume notes that Hemingway’s novel, published in 1926, was based on ACTUAL people and events. He even went so far as to tell them to their faces, “Hey, I’m writing a book…and you’re in it.” (This is my paraphrase. Hemingway’s actual words were probably filled with obscenities and slurred by drunkenness…haha). He did say, “I’m going to tear these two bastards apart.”

He certainly did.

The people depicted in the novel were said to have never recovered from the hits on their reputations. The book was banned several times because of the gore and sexuality…basically, Hemingway’s experiences in everyday life.

clef.https://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2016/05/the-true-story-of-the-booze-bullfights-and-brawls-that-inspired-ernest-hemingways-the-sun-also-risesA new book by Lesley M. M. Blume recounts the scandalous trip to Pamplona that inspired Jake Barnes, Lady Brett Ashley, Robert Cohn, and the characters from literature’s greatest roman à clef.

The Shining Podcast

My podcast interview with Konner and Michael from the KMP Vault!

The Shining Podcast

Covid Virtual Book Club: Little Fires Everywhere and the Danger of Privilege

 

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When I began reading Little Fires Everywhere, I noticed the notion of privilege is difficult to ignore. The Richardsons ARE privilege, and so much so that it actually becomes harmful to those around them. In fact, I would argue that their privilege is a direct contributor to the misaligned relationship between Elena and Izzy, which as we know leads to the destruction of not only their family, but Mia’s family as well.

Much is made of Izzy’s not being wanted by Elena, and the not-so-subtle blaming of Izzy for Elena’s fizzled journalism career. While it’s true that Elena did not plan to have a fourth child, and that there is some definite resentment wherein Elena sometimes feels she was a rising star, with the possibility of becoming famous and successful, the TV show does not discuss is the fact that Izzy was premature and sickly at birth, which caused Elena to be extremely worried for her well-being well after she should have been “in the clear.” Contrary to the movie, neither Izzy NOR Mia were lesbians. Izzy’s inability to fit in with her peers or within the family dynamic had nothing to do with her hiding this secret.

The book details the early years of Izzy and Elena in a way the movie skims over. The doctors warned Elena that Izzy might have health problems for the rest of her life, and Elena never quite forgot those words. Though the doom and gloom prediction never materialized, Elena saw problems around every corner. If Izzy tripped, Elena immediately assumed it was because Izzy had poor motor coordination. A family of lesser means would have just accepted this and moved on, but because the Richardsons had money to burn, Elena tried to “fix” Izzy by enrolling her in dance. She never explained to Izzy why she felt it was necessary, and never asked Izzy if she WANTED to be in dance. It was a dance recital, NOT a concert, that Izzy chose to act out with the “Not your puppet” inscription across her forehead.

It is my feeling that the crux of the conflict of Elena and Izzy’s relationship rests not on Izzy being unwanted or stunting out Elena’s career, but rather Elena’s constant searching for perceived imperfections is a direct contributor to the explosive ending of the novel.

Covid Virtual Book Club Selection: Little Fires Everywhere Annotation Guide

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Okay everyone!
Get your markers ready! Annotation is the best way to enjoy a book! I suggest making your own legend in the front of your book if it’s a paperback. If you are using a Kindle version, you can still highlight and make notes!
No, this is not required! I’m not taking a grade! Haha
When beginning Little Fires, here are some themes in which to search:
  1. Mother-daughter relationships. This is a huge one! When a mother feels her relationship with her daughter threatened, the plot heats up!
  2. Assimilation. The unspoken (and many times, spoken loudly!) idea that by moving into a country or space you must adopt the rules and customs of the native people. When assimilation is expected, but not engaged, conflict occurs.
  3.  Racial privilege and wealth privilege. How the wealthy view others (and how races view one another) is a strong theme throughout LFE.
  4. Missed opportunities and life choices. Every choice creates a chain that leads to a new link and its eventual consequences.
      5. The search for home. Is home a place? A person? A thing?
      6. Identity. Which identities do we choose, and which are assigned? Can a person move from an assigned identity if its given to them by someone given power over them in some way? What conflict occurs if an assigned identity is rejected? People in power over others include: parents over children, those who hold wealth over those who do not, people in political offices over citizens, majority over minority.
 
Want to join the Covid Virtual Book Club? Find us on Facebook!
 

5 Ways How to Help Your Kid Survive Virtual Learning

 

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Remember the good old days of paper portfolios? Hahahaha

Who would have foreseen the entire nation home bound and schools shut down for the foreseeable future? NOBODY. Yet, here we are! Social media is on fire with teachers, parents, and kids stressing out. It’s new to everyone … and some sources say it may be the new normal for at least a while…maybe longer.

If you are a parent at home, trying to balance work and helping your kids keep up with their assignments, I feel for you. Maybe you are an essential worker and you’re leaving your older kids home while you work long shifts, and just praying they are doing what they are supposed to.

I hate to tell you this–but they might not be.

As a teacher, I’d love to take you out for a cup of coffee and chat about your kid’s progress (or perhaps lack thereof), but since we can’t do that, we’ll just have a virtual cup of coffee here. If you don’t mind, can I bend your ear for just a minute? It won’t be long! We are both busy, and I know your time is valuable. I’ve narrowed this list down to five things I think you should know to keep your kid on track.

1. Please don’t get angry if I call you to tell you that your kid is not turning in work. I am mandated to do this. The last thing I want is for your kid to fall through the cracks and lose even more learning. If you don’t want to be called, just say so. I’ll make a note, but please–don’t shoot the messenger. You’re not the only parent I’ve called today. There’s a list every day. Your kid may or may not respond to a zero in the grade book, but sometimes they do respond if Mom checks up on them. This won’t work unless everyone is on board, on one team.

2. Help your kid to set a routine. I teach high school seniors, and I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve called to check on a kid at 3:00 in the afternoon and they are still in bed. Then there are panicked emails at 2:00 a.m. Guess who’s not answering these emails at 2:00 a.m.? Yours truly!

Of course, it won’t be easy to start this now if your kid has had very little structure in place up until this point. None of this is easy! This is all a brave new world and we are all just figuring it out as we go! However, if you can help your kid to say, get up by noon, shower, eat, and begin assignments a few hours later, the routine might help. Think of this as practicing for college. They won’t have anyone to help them then, either, so if they get used to a routine now, it will only help them in the future. Younger kids need even more structure, and thrive on routine. Transitioning to school at home will go more smoothly if they know what to expect.

3. Expect there to be hiccoughs. Assignments might be late. Assignments might not post the way I thought they would. There might be lapses in communication on both sides. I promise to be patient with you and your kid, so please be patient with me.

4. Do check in with your kid daily. Ask to see what they’ve finished. Ask to see what’s due. Have them log in to the learning platform to show you what they see. Don’t take their word for it that everything is done! Hold them accountable.

5. Reach out to me! I want your kid to succeed. I’m doing my best here, too. I know you have so much to do–maybe you’re working from home, or maybe you suddenly have a houseful of kids trying to navigate online school. Maybe your Internet is slow, and maybe your kids are sharing a computer. I can help if you tell me! Administrators have worked around the clock to navigate these issues and we do have solutions, but if we don’t know there’s a problem, we can’t step in.

If you call me or email me, and I don’t respond within 24 hours, please try again before complaining to my boss.  I may have missed your email. If this happens I am truly sorry. I am literally receiving hundreds of emails a day, and I do my best to keep up. I also unplug in the evenings and weekends. Please allow me this time to recharge.

This won’t be forever, but for now, it is our new normal. Let’s work together to get through this. I want the best for your kid, and I know you do, too.

Now, let’s have another cup of coffee. This is my second pot, and I’m not sure if the store will have my creamer, so it might just be black tomorrow. We all must sacrifice! Now, to check those emails.

 

 

One Day: After Covid-19

One day, you will tell you grandchildren how you stayed inside to keep others safe. How you waited to go to the grocery store so that others who were older and at more risk could shop with less fear. How you prayed for people you never met, and ached to hold those you loved.
You’ll talk about the empty shelves at the grocery store. You’ll remember how many lost their jobs, or watched their business dwindle to nothing.
One day, somewhere in the future when this day seems unreal, tinged in black and white, happening in someone else’s reality, you’ll look back and remember how you taught other people’s children from your living room, since you had no other choice. How you created lessons without books or supplies, and tried to support scared kids who didn’t even belong to you, not by blood. Except they did belong to you, because their names on your roll made them your responsibility and therefore you made them your priority. Even though there was no playbook, no rules, and those in charge were scrambling as much as you were to create policy from thin air, doing their best to comfort and direct their staff in an unprecedented time of chaos.
But you made it work, didn’t you?


So no, we are not on break. We rarely are on break.
One day, when history remembers us, it will talk about health care workers who put their lives at risk even more than usual. Health care workers who were not even given the most basic protection, and were sometimes even mocked for asking, yet were called to take care of patient after patient, knowing full well each point of contact could mean they themselves would be infected—and, even worse, bring this life-sucking virus into the recesses of their own safe space, their home. Yet still they showed up for work.


When history remembers the government’s response, dangerously slow and contradictory, its talking heads trying to convince the American people that the steady uptick of spreading cases is fine, just fine, as the map of our country becomes one giant red spot, it won’t be kind.
But we who were here will remember.

Students Ask Female Professors for More Favors than Males

https://www.bustle.com/p/students-ask-female-professors-for-more-favors-than-male-ones-according-to-a-new-study-7782697

Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images News/Getty Image

Letter to My Daughter on Her Wedding Day

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My dearest girl,

It seems like only yesterday, I tucked you into bed, having let you watch The Lion King for the millionth time. You always asked to be folded “like a burrito,” and you giggled especially loudly when I would make the tortilla extra tightly (we called it “extra cheese”). You snuggled your Simba, (Nala, too, but she was not your favorite) and I would kiss your forehead, wishing you sweet dreams.

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I remember.

Even further back, I remember your first steps. You weren’t even nine months old, and you stood right up and took off like a shot. You were always so independent, even when you were a baby.

Now, you stand before me, a beautiful young woman, smart and funny, and you are getting married! In the blink of an eye, it seems, you will wear that beautiful white gown, and you will stand next to your beloved, and you both will promise to be one another’s everything. And you will mean it.shoes

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Know this, dear one.

The rains will come.

The cold wind will rattle your windows, and it will seem your very foundation will crumble.

Hold fast.

Hold fast to one another, and let the storm rage, and stand.

Link your arms, and hold your palms out, screaming at the elements, and stand.

Do not let the thunder shake your resolve.

When the rains come, remember this moment, when you stood on the cliff, the wind in your hair, trembling at the excitement of it all.

Remember the look in his eyes when he said, “I do.”

Remember your first kiss, the first time he held you, the first time you thought you were breaking up, but didn’t.

Remember how he stood, awkward and nervous, in the living room, waiting for the right moment to propose.

Remember always, and stand.

Remember your hope and dreams and all the fights and making up.

Remember always, and stand.

Don’t be afraid, dear one. The storm will pass. The sun will rise, and the winds will calm.

Remember all this, and stand.

All the hope I have, I give to you, that your marriage will be forever. That you will find comfort in one another when the world offers only coldness. That you will hold fast to one another, and love. That, thirty and forty and fifty years from now, after your hair turns white and your life unfolds before you like sky blue mountaintops, days upon days that add up to a life. And what a life it will be!

Dear one, I am here, and I am your biggest cheerleader.
My heart is full.

“Man on Fire” Documentary: One Man’s Final Atonement for Racism in a Sundown Town

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Last night was the third time in the past few  weeks I have heard the term “Sundown Town.”

The first time I heard the term was when my mother told me the town in which I grew up, Springdale, Arkansas, used to be referred to in this way. She said when she grew up in the 1950s-60s, there was a sign at the city limits that warned black people to not be caught there after dark. She never quite told me what exactly would happen, but my imagination filled in the rest. Mostly, I mused, it was probably just an urban legend. My mother is known for her storytelling.

Watching “Man on Fire” brought it all back to the forefront of my memory.

When I attended Springdale High School in 1987, it was pretty much an all white school. There may have been some Hispanic students, perhaps, but probably at least 95% of us were white kids. I do remember the day we had a black student enroll. It was all anyone talked about. It’s been a while, you understand, but I do remember one thing clearly: the student didn’t stay. Nobody was really surprised. There were whispers of KKK involvement. I don’t know if this is true or not.

Our nearby rival, Fayetteville High School, had a larger black population. One night, before the Springdale/Fayetteville game, somebody broke into their football stadium and hung a dummy, lynching style. The message was clear. I remember feeling horrified and sickened.

My parents taught by example, by commentary and racist remarks,  that we should be afraid of black people, mistrustful. Otherwise hard-working people who loved Arkansas and their neighbors, racism was their Achilles’ heel. They could not move past their own backgrounds. I grew up hearing racist jokes (black people, Mexican people, Asian people…really anyone who wasn’t white) on a regular basis.  In every joke, the white man was the only smart one, the hero.

Springdale has come a long way. It is now a rich, multicultural town. Thankfully, it has changed enough that other races have moved in and settled, and it has become so diverse. I still follow friends who are teachers at Springdale High School, and they cannot keep from gushing about how much they love their students… all their students. Some of my defining influences are teachers from this school. Being a part of the Springdale High School Band changed my self-image and directly impacted who I am (and who my children are) today. As a result of being a part of the Springdale Band Program, both my daughters are middle school/high school band/choir directors.

Recently, my friend Marjay Hignite, one of those teachers I spoke of, wrote a response to a highly controversial happening (so controversial Buzzfeed picked it up and ran with it) at SHS, and she mentioned the term “Sundown Town.” Just reading those two words brought it all back. The racial tensions posed daily in a small Arkansas town is not something easily forgotten.

The second time I heard the term “Sundown Town” was at the movies last weekend. My husband and I went to see Green Book. I highly recommend it. I may show clips of it to my own students when I introduce the Jim Crow laws during my “Fences” unit next time.

The last time I heard “Sundown Town” was in a brand new documentary that debuted on PBS last night, called “Man on Fire.” 

“Man on Fire”, recently debuting on PBS, chronicles the journey of Reverend Charles Moore, who ended his life by kneeling in a Dollar Store parking lot, dousing himself with gasoline, and setting himself on fire. A complex and deeply religious man, Rev. Moore is portrayed as a bold civil rights advocate in a tiny east Texan town where many couldn’t quite understand the need. Using personal correspondence Rev. Moore left behind, “Man on Fire” explores Buddhist notions of self-immolation as a form of protest. The film alternates between personal interviews from friends and family, local clergy, citizens,  and witnesses to the tragedy and a creative reenactment of Rev. Moore’s last few hours. The camera shots are simultaneously disturbing and bordering on voyeuristic, as well as hauntingly beautiful.

My friend, James Chase Sanchez, PhD., produced the film, and his personal connection to Grand Saline and the events that transpired in the town, is evident with each scene. I met Dr. Sanchez in graduate school where we were both trying to just survive our literature courses and working on our master’s degrees. We drank lukewarm coffee at the Writing Center where we tutored, and I frequently heard him talk about his childhood in Grand Saline, both the joy and the heartache.

His work with cultural rhetorics and race theory is not only fascinating, but could not be more relevant in our current times. Watching “Man on Fire” seemed akin to viewing a close friend’s newborn baby: magical and poignant. I felt privileged to witness this culmination of years of painstaking research combined with naked beauty and authenticity. “Man on Fire” doesn’t tell you what to think, it simply shows you the kaleidoscope of theories and viewpoints the citizens of Grand Saline hold about Reverend Moore’s suicide, and lets you decide. In an era where race dynamics are seen in the daily headlines, this film digs deeply into the fabric of Southern racism, painfully exposing racism at its ugly roots.

If you haven’t seen “Man on Fire,” I urge you to take a look. It truly is a life-changing film. Dr. Sanchez, Chase, I am so proud to know you, and I will always remember you with a frosty mug of beer, bullshitting about rhetoric.

Again, well done, friend!

 

Blessed are Those Who Aren’t #Blessed

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Be careful, friends.

We are entering the #blessed season.

Social media will be flooded with happy family pictures: adorable cherubic children opening presents with big red bows… golden brown turkeys with impossible holiday spreads–enough food to feed a third world country… kissing couples… tiny tots with their eyes all aglow.

All followed by the ridiculous #blessed.

Don’t get me wrong. I love seeing your “Baby’s First Christmas” ornaments. Your “Grandma’s Gingerbread Cookie” recipes. Your fireplace pics.

But please, please—don’t do the #blessed thing.

Why? Am I a Grinch? Do I hate the holidays? AM I A CHRISTIAN AT ALL?

I’m thrilled that you just found out you’re pregnant with your second baby… that you were just promoted… that you made that offer on your dream house and will have the title by Christmas Day. Truly, I am.

But leave off the #blessed.

Why?

You may not know this, but someone reading your post just received divorce papers.

Just learned their house will be foreclosed upon.

Miscarried baby #4.

Learned that they have cancer.

Here is my point:

If you are blessed by God, then what are they?

Jf we agree that some people are chosen by God to receive his blessings, the good things, then the other side of the coin is that others, who are suffering, for whatever reason, are not the target of God’s blessings. That they are undeserving. That they … are less, somehow. That they are forgotten by God Himself, or worse…they deserve their pain.

It’s not wrong to thank God for good things. This is not what I’m implying.

But let’s just practice a bit of compassion and avoid the hashtag, in honor of those who are suffering.

It’s a really simple way to love our friends, and to exhibit the compassion the holidays encourage. You never know what people are experiencing unless they choose to share.

Blessed are those who are not #blessed.