Friday, October 24, 2008

A spectacular dish so far

I remember Beth telling me a few weeks ago that I would fall in love with this book. So I looked at the bright cover, the crafty blunt pages and thought, "hmmmm, why not?" And so I began...and she was absolutely right.

To make the García Girls recipe, take 4 cups Little Women, add 1 litre My Big Fat Greek Wedding, a bit of Dominican rum for flavour, and a dash of One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest (just because Sandi's a bit of a nut case and I love Jack Nicolson) :P

What struck me as most interesting about this book is its tendency to be unconventional. The sections will often go chronologically backwards (ie: 1970-1960)...not sure yet whether this is to denote a flashback...but it is a curious feature to say the least! Even the family tree at the beginning of the novel is abnormal. The family members are described as (let's admit it) you would normally describe family members: "The great-great-grandfather who married a Swedish girl", or "the hair-and-nails cousins". This technique makes much more sense after reading the first chapter and seeing that all the aunts are giving "a capsule description of what Yolanda might remember of that relative: the one with the kidney bean swimming pool, the fat one, the one who was an ambassador." (p. 14). I remember that even I have done this to stir a boyfriend's memory who had come to the family party: "Oh, remember Uncle Bruce, the bald one? or Aunt Vicky with the funny laugh?" And that is why I love this book; even though I haven't experienced every situation it brings up, I can still sense its truth.

The novel has an interesting way of telling the stories. I enjoy how, for example, each of the stories about the daughters are subtitled by their different nicknames, depending on the time period, who is telling the story, or what happened to them in the story. I found this to cement the fact that these girls each had troubles handling their identities. Each name they were given denoted each separate segment of themselves.

I find it confusing how the girls will sometimes love their homeland: "Let this [Dominican Republic] turn out to be my home" (page 11), and other times they abhor having to travel back to the Dominican each summer to see their family. I started to think that maybe it's less of 'where' they are that is confusing, and more the fact that there is always a 'question' of where they are: the US or the Dominican? Where do they belong?

I found that I could relate to the sisterhood involved in this novel as I have 2 older sisters and no brothers. I believe that this bond is universal (albeit on different levels) for all sisters. I also believe that the different levels of this bond stem from the life situations the sisters experience together. I wonder if I would've turned out as Sofía did if I'd had one more older sister and we'd all been constantly moved between two worlds.

Feel free to comment on what else you would add to the García Girls recipe!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Still wet behind the ears...

The technique that became most apparent in the second half of Woman Hollering Creek is the intertwining of Spanish and English into one 'Spanglish'. The symbolism of Mexican immigrants living in the US but struggling to find their identity on both sides of the border is not lost in this conglomeration of languages. Cisneros is an expert at laying out Mexican slang within an English monologue...and I'm guessing that this is because that was how language worked for her while growing up. As I read the stories (such as Little Miracles, Kept Promises), I began to wonder what it would be like to not have any background in the spanish language and attept to read those short spanish prayers. Perhaps we get the feeling for who Cisneros's audience really is: Chicanos....the bilingual masses. I feel like she has let me into these secrets just because I have taken the effort to learn spanish and understand her culture. It's almost like she could care less for those people that don't take the time to understand even THAT necesity about her: her language.

I love all the different writing styles that surface in this book. It becomes almost overwhelming to catch onto a different style with every chapter, but it's still all written in that same sassiness that I have come to admire about Cisneros. I found that my least favorite story was Eyes of Zapata. It was full of magical realism, which I love, but something about it having to do with a historical figure made me pop out of that fantasy world of characters that Cisneros had created. And once again, the naive, frail female protagonist who stayed with her famous, cheating husband frustrated me. That opinion aside, considering that Cisneros couldn't have experienced this time period but still achieves such an amazing level of description is an incredible feat.

And finally we see two stories that have some relevance to eachother: Bien Pretty, and Tin Tan Tan. Yet even through this small victory of correlation, I couldn't feel a connection with the protagonist. I felt more connected to the childhood stories than any other section in the book. I have a suspiscion that my adult life experiences are a little more low-key as compared to those of Cisneros and her characters. Final response: this book made me feel very young.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Lucy is real

I feel like I've met Sandra Cisneros. That's the kind of writer she is: reading her books is like reading an extension of her life. I start to wonder, "Did she actually have a friend named Lucy who smelled like corn? Did she hear that story from a friend? Was it all from her imagination?" And finally, I ask myself: "Does it matter?" The writing is just that good.

It was interesting how the book was sectioned into three stages of life: childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. My favorite story from the childhood section has to be 'Eleven'. I've actually taken to reading the first few paragraphs of this story to friends and family because I love it that much! As I read it to them, I notice small smiles appearing around the corners of their lips, and I know that this story is affecting them the same as it did's bringing them back. Yah, sometimes I feel like I'm three and sometimes I feel like I'm twenty-three, but it's funny to think that I am every age in between. And it's true that I don't feel my age until about half way through that year. It really has to grow on you first, until you are almost the next year. The ideas of Cisneros blow me's stuff you don't think about, but you know is a Seinfeld show.

I was shocked by the stories in the short adolescent section. The ideas aren't knew to me, but let's just say I didn't see them coming. The same with the adult section...I just wanted to reach into the book and shake some sense into these characters!!! What was interesting was that these protagonists are all chicanas, but their stories are so universal that you can apply them to anyone. Cisnero's brings the experiences to life. To me, Lucy is real.

I'm curious about how this book affected the guys in our class. It is really harsh with some of its male stereotypes and it's all for women making a better life for themselves (although it's rare when the characters actually do!) Did you men in the class feel the same way that I felt about the book?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Thoughts on the class so far...

Looking back at our curriculum thus far, I can't believe that we've only read from THREE authors! I feel like there has been much more information passed around than having to do with just a handful of literary works!

I have to agree with a few of the posts I've just read and say that I really enjoy the course. Aside from the content, I find the classroom atmosphere relaxed and friendly....exactly what I'm looking for when I am asked to give my thoughts in Spanish! I have also enjoyed reading about Chicanos and their experiences, be them recent or from a century ago. The authors that we have read allow us to relate to their stories. I am not an immigrant (although I don't REALLY know what being a 'Canadian''s kind of the old 'mixing pot'-mosaic analogy for me), but after reading these stories I understood a few of the tribulations and triumphs that belong to these chicanos.

It was also a breath of fresh air to watch 'The Salt of the Earth'. I'm sure that we all inwardly groaned when we saw the black and white and heard the crappy sound quality of the DVD, but the movie turned out to be better than expected. I found that it connected very well with the racial and gender issues also found in Who Would Have Thought It?; however, this heroin decided to do something drastic and dramatic about her situation. Perhaps this shows how the times have changed even between the book's publication and the movie's release.

I've already read the book (Cisneros) for our Wikipedia project and I hope that everyone will enjoy it as much as I did. I thought that it was better than any one of our first three readings!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

No había perdido nada...

I was a little confused by the ending to this book, so I looked into a little internet research on Tomás Rivera to see if his lifestory could shed some light on the conclusion. As one could have assumed, Rivera was the son of migrant workers living in Texas and he would often accompany them to the fields. This accounts for the basis of '...y no se lo traigo la tierra' being about the different Mexican workers that come in and out of a little boy's life. Our faithful
Wikipedia stated that the story is a Faulknerian stream-of-consciousness novella. This is blatantly obvious, what with all the fragmented thoughts and stories that are pouring out of this novel.

I was confused...and that was only at the best of times. I enjoy novels and movies that have a timeframe which jumps around and the audience has to be engaged in the story in order to understand the plot. But this book has almost proved too much. He does begin to tie things together at the end. You see that the 'viejo' hiding under the house is the missing link between all the stories. This confused me a bit seeing as the primary first-person narrator has been a young boy. Perhaps in comparison to the kids that found the stow-away, he was a 'viejo', or maybe this description is abstract in that after all the stories he has told, after those that he has been a part of, the boy is now a man. The owner of the house comments that '[Él e]stá perdiendo los años.' (p. 114). This parallels the opening line of the book: 'Aquel año se le perdió.' (p. 7). I enjoyed how the story came full circle in this sense. He states that after the woman says that he is losing his years, he feels content. He realizes that 'en realidad no había perdido nada. Había encontrado. Encontrado y reencontrar y juntar.' (p. 114). He's putting the pieces together; the thoughts and reality of the people in his life. The narrator is remembering these people and events with compassion, as he says that if he had arms big enough, he would hug every one of them (p. 113). It appears that he has gone insane as a result of what is happening in his life. At the end, he climbs a tree and imagines someone there with him. He waves so that the other person sees that he knows he's there (p. 115). This is a similar depiction to the book's beginning where the narrator hears voices but there is never anyone there. Perhaps now he has conquered his paranoia and accepted his own reality for what it is. I would hope that these tales in this book are not the result of Rivera's own experience; but the possibility, however bleak, is there.