Tuesday, November 20, 2007

More Books

After reading Suite Francaise, it took me a while to get into another book. Once I finally got into Feminist Theory by bell hooks, however, I wondered why it had taken me so long. It was written in the early '80s. so some of the issues she addressed have since been discussed in many other places including Women, Race and Class. I know we discussed them in my gender studies classes as well. I don't think that the marginalization of black or working class women in feminism as been completely solved, but progress has been made in the past twenty years and their perspective is looked at and considered, and at least in class, we also studied the flaws in early feminism - the focus was still more on white women, but I don't think it's as bad as when hooks wrote this book and white women also understand their own flaws more now. Her writing was accessible, and she even calls for theorists to write theory in a way that is approachable to non-academics - after all, if no one can understand what they are saying, why would any common person want to agree with them or join the feminist movement? However, she clearly states that this is not to be confused with anti-intellectualism. She also discussed a certain Catch 22: in the fight against racism, for example, it is necessary for whites to also be involved because they are the ones who have the power, and for something to change, they need to acknowledge that and be willing to give it up. However, the annoying thing that can happen is that a white person has to say it for it to gain any real acceptance. Hooks mentioned an article Adrienne Rich had written that reflected many ideas previously already stated by black women and other women of color but when Rich wrote them down, they were embraced as if new and also accepted. Just because to fight racism whites are needed, doesn't mean they should be required to validate ideas or opinions (or men with feminism) - the ideas should be able to stand for themselves.

I had to read Black Like Me twice - once in high school, and once in college. In the four or five years in between reading it, I had done a lot with feminist theory and taken quite a few literature classes so I had a very different perspective on it. The book caused an uproar because it exposed racism in the South (the author just chose the South - he could have found it in the North as well), and he had good intentions. What it boils down to, though, is that it wasn't enough for blacks to say they were racially oppressed - a white person had to come in and confirm it for other whites to believe it.

After bell hooks. I read the novel Kindred by Octavia Butler (apparently she's one of the first and most important black sci-fi writers though this novel isn't sci-fi). In one of my English classes, I read Reconstructing Dixie to support some arguments in a paper. One of McPherson's examples was the novel Kindred. The plot and her description sounded fascinating, but I promptly forgot the author and the title of the novel after finishing Reconstructing Dixie, and whenever I remembered that I'd wanted to look for the author, I was nowhere near the book. Well, a few weeks ago, I was browsing the U of I catalog, and looking at the reading requirements for some of the classes (I needed some ideas), and one class happened to have a novel by Octavia Butler. I recognized the name, went to Amazon, and voila, Kindred. Once it got here, I finished it one day. The main character, Dana, is from 1976 Los Angeles, and at the onset of the novel, she discovers that whenever her white ancestor Rufus, a slave owner, is in mortal danger, he has the power to summon her to the past (ranging from around 1805 to 1825 - not exact dates), and she can only return to the present when she herself is in mortal danger. In the novel, Butler manages to take a look at slavery, how it affected people, the different ways people were complicit, and what exactly it took to keep people subordinated. Many of the characters eventually figure out that Dana is from the future so she doesn't exactly have to go around pretending to be anyone or anything else but she still has to adjust in her interactions with people, especially whites, to avoid more trouble. I loved the book; it was a neat idea, and since Butler doesn't go into explaining the time travel too much, it doesn't really distract from the characters or the plot. Of course, now, it's once again taking me a while to get into my new book, because I enjoyed this one so much.

Fortunately, I also just got My So-Called Life in the mail, so I might use that to transition. Claire Danes used to be my favorite actress because of that show (I saw it when I was about thirteen - it was also around the time of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet) and I really wanted that hair color though I never had the guts to do it. They finally re-released the DVDs just in time for the holidays. I hope it's as good as I remember. The DVD includes an episode guide with a few essays from fans, including Joss Whedon, who is a creative genius. He created Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly, all of which I own (which is actually a sore topic right now, but that's for a later post, once my comics finally get here).

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