2.3 Commonalities of Home

Reading this week’s blog posts about home was so enjoyable – this prompt led to so many great stories and memories, and I felt honoured to read them. The blogs were far from descriptions of each person’s childhood house. Rather, most blog seemed reminiscent of a ‘coming-of-age’ narrative of sorts, in which many of the blogs writers came to understand what/who/how/where they feel belonging. Belonging was definitely the word most commonly used throughout the blogs that I read, and it’s perfectly fitting – at the end of the day, it is the feeling of belonging which determines a home, and it was so interesting to read the variety of ways in which that was achieved.

For some people, they did have a physical area which represented home to them – either the walls and rooms of a house, or their childhood town/city, or even a country. However, the descriptions of these places were always intertwined with stories of people, memories and events which accompanied the physical area.

One or two of the blogs that I read associated home with a significant item, song, sound or smell, because of the memories that were attached to that thing. Similar to those who described a physical house, the choice of these items was related to the memories that were attached to them, rather than the thing itself.

A very common description of home in the blogs that I read was people – either a parent/parents, sibling or a significant other. Often this was attached to feelings of love and care, and were often contrasted by moments in which the individual felt isolated, or alone, or unloved. Ultimately, I believe that belonging and feeling at home is always going to be related to people in some way – either through their physical presence, or the memories associated with them.

In contrast, some people described finding a home within oneself. Personally, I find this a difficult concept to understand. For me, home will always be about some form of surroundings – whether people, places or things. I think that being comfortable within oneself, and having that be enough, is a very valuable mindset. However, I do not think that that replaces the need for a ‘home’ of some sort. One blog that I read described how travelling abroad actually solidified his understanding of Canada as his home. I found this interesting because he seemed to be someone who travelled around extensively, and therefore could naturally find home within himself, and yet Canada still held a specific significance for him.

Some people wrote about multiple homes, either through travelling a lot in childhood, or transitioning into adult life. Sometimes those moves were accompanied by a loss of that home-feeling towards a place. Many blogs showed that a person’s idea of home is dynamic, and shifts across different seasons of life. For some, a place that once meant ‘home’ can loose that title.

Lastly, a theme that I noticed, which all of us must come to terms with as Canadian residents, is the fact that our (at least temporary) physical home is on taken land. A part of calling Canada home includes accepting it’s history as our own, and that can be a difficult thing to do in light of the abuses in Canada’s past, particularly towards the First Nations groups who are the original residents of this land. Movements such as Idle No More, and current events such as the Trans mountain pipeline, in which Indigenous voices are still being ignored, make clear that we still have a long road ahead of us in shaping our collective home.

2.6: Questioning the Authenticity of Narratives.

Writing Prompt: “To raise the question of ‘authenticity’ is to challenge not only the narrative but also the ‘truth’ behind Salish ways of knowing “(Carlson 59). Explain why this is so according to Carlson, and explain why it is important to recognize this point.

In Carlson’s article, “Orality and Literacy: The ‘Black and White’ of Salish History”, he describes the importance for Western academics in identifying the historical accuracy of Salish narratives. However, this can be tricky to identify at times, because of this distinction – while Westerners’ assess historical accuracy based on hard evidence, the Salish people determine historical accuracy as it relates to people’s memories of how the narrative was previously told (Carlson, 57). This does not make historical accuracy any less important for the Salish people. One of the reasons historical accuracy is considered so important is because of the ways that a story relates to the spiritual world. When the Salish people tell a story about the past, the Spirits of the historical actors convene (Calson, 58). As well, if they find that their story is being mistold or abused, the Spirits may cause bad things to happen to the teller and the audience. This demonstrates the importance of authentic storytelling for the Salish people. To question the authenticity of their narratives, then, is also to imply a lack of respect towards their ancestors –  by deliberately altering a narrative, you are also knowingly challenging the Spirits.

Further, stories such as those about the transformers and Coyote, which give the history of literacy for the Salish people, are sacred narratives. The tradition of oration is also sacred to the Salish people. By questioning the authenticity of those narratives, you are diminishing the sacredness that those stories hold for the Salish people. Further, as well as removing the sacredness of those narratives, you are also confining the Salish history of literature to a colonial context, which imposes Western history onto the Salish people.

Carlson’s point is that we must be respectful when questioning the authenticity of Salish narratives by our own Western measures. This is important in the larger, historical context, in which colonialists and non-natives have repeatedly imposed their own ways of knowing onto Indigenous groups, and dismissed Indigenous knowledge. In the past, First Nation’s oral history has been regarded as unreliable. In the historically famous Delgamuukw vs. British Columbia court case (par. 9) which argued whether or not First Nations groups had occupied Canada for thousands of years, the Gitksan and Wet’suwet’en’s people provided their oral history as evidence, and were dismissed and told they were a “people without culture” who had “no written language”. Indigenous history has been questioned and belittled in the past, and it is important when looking at the authenticity of narratives such as the Salish history of literacy, that a relationship similar to the colonial one is not recreated. In this court case, what the First Nations people believed to be true was not considered authentic enough to stand as legal proof, because it did not conform to Western ways of knowing. If we must continue questioning authenticity, then we must learn to shift our view to accommodate various ways of knowing, potentially with “different measures of historical accuracy and different definitions of what constitutes an historical actor, as Carlson suggests (60).

References

Carlson, Keith Thor. “Orality and Literacy: The ‘Black and White’ of Salish History.” Orality & Literacy: Reflectins Across Disciplines. 43-72. Print

Delgamuukw v. British Columbia [1997] 3 S.C.R. 1010, par. 13

Erin Hanson. “Oral Traditions” First Nations and Indigenous studies. Indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca

“I’m not meant to live alone, turn this house into a home”

Prompt: Write a short story (600 – 1000 words max) that describes your sense of home and the values and stories that you use to connect yourself to your home

 

A few weeks ago, my brother and I swapped rooms. He had recently moved back into our family home in Fort Langley, and since I currently live on campus at UBC, my old room wasn’t being used too frequently. My parents thought it might be nice for him to get a bit of a “fresh start”, following some life events, and a brand new room was a good way to do that.

He cleared out all his furniture, bought a new duvet and got woodworking – he’s incredibly handy, and quickly built a desk, shelving unit and a window seat. He now has a new room, detached from some of the harder memories that accompanied the last one. As for me, I also have a new room, painted a colour I don’t prefer, and without the nostalgic hominess of my previous abode.

When I went home this past weekend, my dad told me that what I needed was to put up a few picture frames, in order to make it personalized, and a bit less like a guest room. I guess what I’m trying to describe here is the process of “turning a house into a home”. For me, this new room felt detached – it did not hold any significant memories, I had spent very little time there, and it just felt unfamiliar.

I’ve never considered space to be an important aspect of the word ‘home’. For me, what has always felt like home is relationships, the kind where you take a big, deep breath and relax, and don’t stress about what to say or how to act. My home in Fort Langley has always been one of those places for me – where I can come home from a busy week of University homework stress and socializing, and just unwind. But some of my close friendships that I’ve made here at UBC also feel like a comforting home as well. So has my Aunt and Uncle’s house, in the Okanagan, and my church here in Vancouver. As a Christian, coming into community with other Christians has also been a comforting experience. It’s about being known and understood, and cared for. And being able to let your guard down.

The importance of spaces, such as my bedroom in Fort Langley, is when they accompany those relationships and memories. Putting up pictures of me doing activities I love, or including objects such as a vase that I made in pottery with my friend, or a book that my mom lent me, are what turn a random, furnished room into something that feels like home. However, this still needs to be accompanied by loving people, and that feeling of safeness, where I can come home from a tiring day and lose the tension in my shoulders as I kick off my shoes.

Taken from Pinterest.

I think that much of my understanding of home has been shaped by my parents – they have emphasized to me that humans are really meant to live in community, though this is incredibly rare today, and that everyone, at the least, needs significant human interaction. In our current society, isolation is everywhere. But meaning, and a sense of home, is found in human interaction and community. One thing that I have always been fascinated with is communal life. I remember looking at pictures taken from National Geographic, which I was able to pull up here, of a commune in the states. I also used to love reading about the way that ‘hippie’ communes functioned in the 60s to 80s (I have attached a popular photo that I used to love, which romanticizes the ‘hippie commune’ lifestyle). As well, I used to read some Amish fiction when I was younger, fascinated with people who lived simply and on the land, and whose homes revolved around community. I probably romanticized all of those examples in my head, but there was a reason that I was so drawn to these stories and ways of living – I think they exemplify what a home is meant to be. In essence, it is about being known, and feeling safe, and finding significance.

 

References

Vandross, Luther. “A House is Not a Home”. Never Too Much, Genius. Retrieved from https://genius.com/Luther-vandross-a-house-is-not-a-home-lyrics

Amish Fiction. Christianbook. Retrieved from https://www.christianbook.com/page/fiction/amish

Rice, Sarah & Alexandrah Genova. “An intimate look inside a modern American commune”. National Geographic, July 25. 2017. Retrieved from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/photography/proof/2017/07/commune-farm-sustainability-mineral-virginia/

The Potential for Blogging as a Literary Medium in our Modern, Digital World

With the technological advancements of our modern world, the public sphere, which was once largely confined to a geographical area, has expanded to become transnational. The internet has allowed for individuals from all over the globe to share their stories and personal experiences, in a larger sphere outside the context of their culture, class or nation. With this shift, there have been changes in the way literature is obtained, shared and read.

Blogs are a really unique phenomenon that have accompanied the growth of digital literature, in which anyone with access to a computer can share their writing. No longer is a publisher a barrier for anyone wishing for their work to enter the public sphere. This has led to an excess of literature and stories, with much more amateur or even factually incorrect literature available. Therefore, discretion is required when sorting through the plethora of blogs found on the internet, on any given topic.

Blogs and other similar digital platforms allow for information outside of the mainstream media to be widely shared. Mark Thwaite, from The Guardian, appreciates that blogging creates the possibility for community-building. This community is hopefully able to move away from the mainstream media.  The blogging world has the potential to become a commune for “amateur literary essayists”, all supporting each other and sharing each others work. However, Thwaite states that, with the genesis of Twitter, that potential was never optimized. Twitter links have become the new and accessible way for people to quickly update themselves on current events – it requires a short attention span, and minimal effort, which both conform to the preferences of our media-using world today. However, these links often reflect only the mainstream media, according to Thwaite, meaning that smaller stories, or unpopular/beginning writers may not receive any attention.

The hyperlink is another outcome of the digital literature movement, and hyperlinks are used frequently in blogs and similar literature forms, making them a sort of equivalent to the scholarly source cited in a scholarly article. It allows writers to pay tribute to the writings and ideas of other authors, and to point their readers towards reading those texts. There is power in the hands of the writer, to point their readers towards quality material. As well, this is another opportunity for a writer to focus their readers on literature and stories outside the bounds of mainstream media. Relating this to our course, this means that Canadian issues which maybe aren’t receiving public attention on news networks, can be broadcasted through popular blogs. The hyperlink aids political conversations by drawing readers to the original sources, such as interviews, debates or speeches, giving the reader more information on the topic. As well, a study has found that when news stories use hyperlinks, it increased the perceived news credibility. Since blogs do not require citations, it can be easy for information to be misconstrued. By including hyperlinks, there is a greater insurance that the information is accurate.

Citations

Borah, Porismita. “The Hyperlinked World: A look at how the interactions of new frames and hyperlinks influence news credibility and willingness to seek information.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 19, 576-590. 2014. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/jcc4.12060

Thwaite, Mark. “What became of literary blogging?” The Guardian, June 9. 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2014/jun/09/literary-blogging-twitter

Welcome

Hi, and welcome to my course blog for English 470: Canadian Literary Genres.

My name is Rachel, and I am a 4th year student at the University of British Columbia, studying English and Special Education. I also currently work three days a week as a Nanny, taking care of a three year old boy. After completing my undergrad, I plan to obtain my PDP and become an Elementary school teacher. I was born and raised in British Columbia, about an hour away from UBC in Fort Langley. The picture I have included in this post is of me, enjoying my very favourite aspect of living in Canada – being able to ski in the mountains

Although I was born and raised here in Canada, I did not have a lot of knowledge growing up about Indigenous history, or about Canada’s current relationship with Indigenous groups. Since coming to UBC, my understanding has grown and I have come to appreciate what it means to live and study on traditional, ancestral and unceded Musqueam territory. That being said, living in a larger city like Vancouver, it can be easy to ignore many of the issues which affect Indigenous people in our country. For example, currently there is much controversy regarding the Trans Mountain pipeline. This pipeline crosses over 500 km of Indigenous land, and not only disrupts the lives of the communities living on that land, but also puts them at risk of potential oil spills, which can poison their water and the creatures living in it. While there is some controversy, there are many First Nations individuals who feel that consent from the communities living on that land was never given. As a Vancouverite, I live in the southern part of B.C. and am therefore not directly affected by issues such as these – it is largely Northern communities who will experience the detrimental effects of the Pipeline. This can make it easy to ignore these issues, but I understand that it is my job as a Canadian citizen to educate myself on these relevant topics.

As well, as someone who wishes to one day work in an elementary school, I feel that taking a course such as this one will be very beneficial. English 470 looks at Canadian literature from a historical perspective, and takes into consideration colonial and Indigenous experiences. I hope that I will gain from this course a new way of viewing literature, and that I will be able to use the information that I have learned from this course to ensure that, when I teach in a classroom, the students I teach will have a better understanding of Indigenous history and Canada’s current relations than I did when I grew up.

 

Works Cited

Barrera, Jorge. “Trudeau apologizes for First Nation consultation failures on Trans Mountain pipeline.” CBC News, CBC, 4 Dec. 2018, https://www.cbc.ca/news/indigenous/trudeau-afn-pipeline-1.4932663

UBC Life Team. “What is a land acknowledgement?” 30 Aug. 2019, http://students.ubc.ca/ubclife/what-land-acknowledgement