Just a Country Girl: Defining “Rural”

When working on my dissertation: “Southern Voices, Y’all: A Narrative Inquiry of First Generation, Working Class Women Students Originating from the Rural South,” I became aware of the realm of scholarship devoted to rural studies. It was my feeling that women growing up in the South encountered different cultural pressures that may shape their experiences as a college student, but it wasn’t until I started researching this idea that I began to think about what it means to be from the rural South.

Many people have certain images that come to mind when the South is mentioned, and rarely is it metropolises such as Atlanta or Houston. Certainly, these cites are classified as Southern, but for the purposes of my study, I am focusing on those country places.

This is when the idea of rurality comes in. I didn’t even know such a thing existed in the scholarly world. Although country music has idealized rurality since the beginning of the 20th century (“I was country…when country wasn’t cool…” “I’ve gone country…look at those boots” “A country boy can survive”), rural studies has existed for a while now, beginning in Europe when scholars began observing the differences between urban places and their rural counterparts (Brown & Schafft, 2011). In the social science world, “rural” is not just a place, but also a culture. While some might try to focus on social norms in terms of demographic, environment, and economy, more modern scholars acknowledge the culture of rural people as Durkheim’s notion of the rural definition, which he argued were the glue of rural communities: “the affinity of blood, attachment of the same soil, ancestral worship, and community of habits” (Brown & Schafft, 2011).

This makes so much sense to me.

Though my parents weren’t farmers, their parents picked seasonal crops as a means to survive, and their grandparents lived and died by the rain from the sky. Even though they weren’t farmers, our town was know for its main export: chickens.

Loyalty to the land, a common purpose, love of family, patriotism,…these are all things I’ve been taught from the beginning. Idealizing ancestors, even perhaps many who shouldn’t have been, is not so much taught as it was internalized. A community of habits, well, that speaks for itself. Hard work, not taking “handouts,” earning one’s keep, these are all things country people know.

There are some things country people should learn, but in their stubbornness, refuse to acknowledge, like voting against their own self interests.

I’ll address this virtue in a future post. For now, when you think of country, what comes to mind? Those of you who consider yourselves from the country, what about his life do you feel people misunderstand or misconstrue?

Why We Expect So Much More From “Wonder Woman” Than Other Superheroes

I saw the new Wonder Woman: 1984 a few nights ago, and I really liked it. This was surprising to me, because I struggle with liking super hero movies lately. I think I’ve just been worn out from too many Avengers movies. You know, there are the movies featuring ALL the Avengers, then you have at last two to three for each hero. When it’s all said and done, there are now 22 of them. Twenty-two! That’s a lot.

Before everyone has a heart attack, YES I KNOW that Wonder Woman is DC and not Marvel. There is no way I could live in this family and not know this. Even if I managed to remain ignorant within the confines of my home, I couldn’t teach high school for several years and not make the connection. The kids would not let me.

As a girl, I loved the Justice League. Superman was my favorite, probably because it’s one of the first movies I remember seeing in the theater. Christopher Reeve haunted my dreams. SO CUTE. Besides his looks, I loved the villains (Lex Luthor!) and Superman’s general bad-assedness. I mean, HE’S A GOD. Say what you want about Batman being great, but if you strip Bruce Wayne of his money and toys, he’s basically a low-key Mr. Miagi. I would bet on Mr. Miagi winning that battle.

There have been SO many super hero films over the years, and let’s face it: most of them aren’t THAT great. They recycle the same hero’s journey story over and over. They are predicable. The writers sprinkle in humor and a love story to balance it out, but nobody expects anything new or groundbreaking when we see a new movie coming out. Sure, movie fans will wait in line to buy the ticket (pre-Covid days, sigh), and spend the money to buy the merchandise and clothing and special edition copies, even so.

So tell me, why we expect Wonder Woman to be better?

Why does Wonder Woman need to start out above the bar from what we’d expect from the 10,000 Spider Man remakes? Why does she have to be smarter, sexier, more athletic, funnier, more badass than all the others?

It’s simple.

We are STILL sexist.

Bear with me.

Even though Diana Prince (portrayed by Gal Gadot) has a Ph.D. (don’t ask the opinion writer at the Wall Street Journal his opinion on this), and holds a job as the Senior Anthropologist at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., that’s somehow not impressive for us. In comparison, Clark Kent is just a beat reporter, and Peter Parker takes photos for a paper. Barry Allen is a forensic scientist, which means he has some sort of degree, but it’s not a Ph.D. Bruce Wayne has a law degree, so I acknowledge that’s pretty educated, but can we give Dr. Prince her due? She’s not Batgirl, who has been depicted as a dizzy college coed.

DC combines a few myths and legends for Diana’s origin story. She’s Amazon royalty, descended from Ares, the God of War, a tribe of women so hard-core that they sawed off their breasts to accommodate their swords, were rumored to have tattoos, and possibly smoked pot. Diana is also known in Roman mythology, the Goddess of the Hunt, and virgin goddess and protector of women and childbirth. Even though she radiates sexuality, she doesn’t use it for her own gain. She fights Nazis. Come on, y’all. She’s the perfect woman. Psychology Today agrees.

DC makes sure that Kristin Wiig’s character (Cheetah) seems to be the dark mirror reflection of Diana. The name “Barbara Minerva” caught my eye, since I was taught that Minerva was the Roman goddess of several things, including war. She’s a worthy opponent, and a heavy hitter in her own right. She’s not a villain that became so because she accidentally fell in a convenient vat of acid. Her name implies she had a destiny to go bad. She’s not Cat Woman, a laughable campy joke who could barely be called an adversary.

Did you know that in the original Wonder Woman comics, the creator of Wonder Woman, William Moulton Marston, admitted that ““Not a comic book in which Wonder Woman appeared, and hardly a page, lacked a scene of bondage.” Apparently, he didn’t want her to become too powerful and intimidating, so he wanted to keep her in check somehow.

Could it be that we haven’t changed too much, even in 2020? We still expect Diana to be everything to all, and we expect her movie to be head and shoulders above the others, but why?

It seems Wonder Woman has her work cut out for her. She’s taking on the patriarchy and evil as well.

Don’t agree with me? Let me know in the comments!

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.