This was one of my favorite classes this semester. I enjoyed almost every read in this class. All except for the Martí readings, even though they helped my Spanish comprehension. A lot of the readings differed in their over all context but had a common underlying theme. That is, for lack of a better word, integration into American/Canadian society. It was interesting to see the progression of this from the Civil War era and then finally end up in modern Vancouver. The outline of the readings could have been a little more fragmented. Maybe starting from Rodriguez’s book first then ending the course with Y no se lo tragó la tierra. Instead of having a chronologically ordered reading list, just to fit with the writing styles of the authors. Just a thought. But, the movie was a nice change of pace. For me, the movie helped me visualize and get a better grasp on y no se lo tragó la tierra. Even though the movie had almost no correlation to the book.
This literature class was a nice change from all of my other literature classes. I liked the contemporariness of most of the books, instead of reading about Victorian era British literature or American gothic literature. I still like those classes but for this class the contemporariness gave me a familiar feel to the books. I’ve spent half of my life living in San Diego and the other half in the suburbs of Seattle and these books gave me a little insight to the hardships that Chicanos are braving. Great class, I’m looking forward to the complement to this one next semester.
I know this is a day late, however it is term paper season for me. But I digress. This was the quickest read for me this whole term. Having the book set in a very familiar surrounding kept me immersed while I was reading. I found myself trying to picture exactly which areas she was recalling and imagining what they would have looked like back in the late 70s or 80s. This helped me deal with the confusion of who was narrating half the time. I was confused as to who was speaking most of the time, but Rodriguez leaves big hints as to who is narrating. However, the book tied all the ends together in the closing chapter. I thought the use of opening and closing the book with letters written from the characters seemed to give the book a sense of coming together in a full circle.
Cooking seemed to be a big topic. It seemed to me to portray that it reminds the characters of the importance of their upbringing. Cooking entails that when you cook you activate all of your senses. The activation of these senses bring back memories and reminders of who you are. Cooking "native dishes" is a physical reminder for the characters. "Imagine that I even learned how to make empanadas! You know that I never made them while I lived in Chile, but here I had to learn and not only that, I had to learn how to make five hundred at a time!" (159). I found this to be a notable quote because it made me realize that I never realized how much I missed traditional home cooking and that I under appreciated it when it was being made for me.
This book had an interesting approach. Starting from adulthood back to childhood was a compelling take on character development. She gives the reader a taste of who these women seem to be, and the proceeds to deconstruct and give insight in their whole life. Using this technique seemed fitting because it made the book feel like a jig-saw puzzle. Alvarez would finish a chapter on one of the girls and then completely switch gears and focus on another girl, which to me, added to the puzzle. Because each girl is completely different, I had to read each chapter a little differently to complete the picture that Alvarez was painting for each character. Then she would switch back to the other girl she was previously describing. Subsequently, she would then switch eras forcing me to put together what I knew about these girls to try and build an overall picture of how they came to be. Her style and fluidity is what impressed me in her delivery. This technique shows that she is thoroughly involved with each character and every page has meaning and is there for a purpose I felt. Having said this,I felt as if Alvarez focused mostly on describing Yolanda during most of the book. To me Yolanda seemed to be the most engaging character. To me Alvarez was more revealing into the complexity of Yolanda when she was describing her failed relationships. Possibly because she emits herself through that character. The book seemed to wimper out towards the end. Alvarez started the book off with so much velocity that at some point it had to slow down. But the last chapter "the drum" tied everything together while simultaneously leaving a lot of loose ends for the reader to figure out.
I found myself breezing through the first half of this book wanting to read more. This book so far has been the most intriguing for me. It is a step in a completely different direction in what we have been reading. The last couple readings have been good, but have seemed to me to be somewhat similar in their underlying themes; that is, assimilation. This book deals with assimilation but in a different manner than the other readings. The intense "papi" in the reading pushes his daughters into soaking up American culture while simultaneously keeping apart of their culture. This is a very tough thing to do for these girls. For example Yolanda recalls her first love and loss from University and the frustrations that come from it.
"I saw what a cold, lonely life awaited me in this country. I would never find someone who would understand my peculiar mix of Catholicism and agnosticism, Hispanic and American styles" (Alvarez,98). I thought this was a good summation of the book so far. Each chapter adds a little insight as to how Alvarez defines how culture and identity should be looked at. From what I can pull out so far is that there can be many different identities for one group of people. E.g. being Chicano can entail many different things to different people of that group. There isn’t one set of guidelines for being apart of a certain ethnicity. I find this to be intriguing because the father in this book seems to be encouraging yet detracting his daughters from investigating their own identities. The family itself is a quite obvious mixture of old and new. The two parents being representative of old ideals while the four girls represent the new integration. Alvarez though does make her characters a little too predictive, by making the first born leaning towards the conservative side while the youngest to be the rebel. Great read so far I’m looking forward to the second half.