Style Comparisons (3:2)

For this blog assignment I would like you to make some comparisons between Harry Robinson’s writing style in “Coyote Makes a Deal with the King Of England” and King’s style in Green Grass, Running Water. What similarities can you find between the two story-telling voices? Coyote and God are present in both texts, how do they compare in character and voice across the stories?



A note to Erika: I’m sorry that this post totally derailed!

This semester, as I have mentioned in past blog posts, I was able to take a really fascinating course on “hyphenated” contemporary American literature. In other words, the class focused on those American writers who are defined by what their American identity is hyphenated with. This included Asian-American authors, Native American authors, African-American authors and Mexican-American authors.

Each week, my professor selected two novels for us to read, compare, and contrast, usually by authors of similar heritage and backgrounds. During one class, in which we were comparing Ha Jin’s War Trash with Chang-rae Lee’s Native Speaker, someone brought up that though both authors are Asian-American, they wrote about completely different subjects and from completely different perspectives, and thus our comparison was based solely upon their shared ethnic background instead of the content of their work. I think that it is important to keep in mind that, when a majority audience (which UBC, as a school whose largest ethnic group is white, qualifies as) compares two members of the same minority group, much of the comparison stems from their shared ethnic background and not the merit of their work, which is inherently problematic.

With that in mind, I think that there is a lot to compare between Robinson’s “Coyote Makes a Deal with the King of England” and King’s Green Grass, Running Water, but my focus will be on the fragmented nature of both pieces. Robinson’s story is formatted like a poem or speech–there are spaces on the page which the oral reader is forced to mirror in speech, giving the work a natural cadence. Robinson “overuses” conjunctions throughout the text, which make it feel more like a recited tale in the oral tradition than a Westernized written work. Similarly, King’s Green Grass, Running Water, though more traditionally Western in the sense that it is a fully-fledged novel, is also incredibly fragmented. The novel is woven from vignettes, rapidly moving from one facet of a character to the next, creating a whirlwind of imagery from the reader.

An emphasis in this class when discussing both of these works has been on how they are part of an oral tradition and not a written tradition, and so to conclude this blog post, I think this article by Blanca Schorcht is not only completely relevant but completely fascinating. Schorcht criticizes the way that Aboriginal works are analyzed by a Western public:

In reading works written by Aboriginal authors, critics often point to characteristics of written texts that reveal their “origins” in oral tradition. The idea of orality and writing as existing on an evolutionary time line, however, has been complicated by the development of deconstruction and poststructural literary theory. Jacques Derrida, for instance, observes that, because of the underlying grammar of language, anything spoken must always already have been “written.” Speaking must be viewed as a form of writing, according to Derrida, because it follows convention (a grammar) that pre-exists actualized speech. Differences between oral and written traditions, therefore, reveal themselves in complex and intersecting ways, and the two can no longer be seen as mutually exclusive. Yet similarities, or links, between oral and written genres still seem most evident in texts where orally performed stories and narratives have been recorded and then translated into written form. (Schorcht  145-146)

It is important to remember that when analyzing a tradition that we would categorize as “oral”, that these hierarchies between written and spoken word are not so cut and dried. Though both King and Robinson’s texts are meant to be read as well as heard, since they are both released in print form, their fragmented nature and use of colloquialisms reminds the reader of the roots of this oral tradition, but it is important to not let their merit and basis of comparison as talented writers be overshadowed by their shared linguistic and cultural heritage.




King, Thomas. Green Grass Running Water. Toronto: Harper Collins, 1993. Print.

“Chang-rae Lee – The New Yorker.” The New Yorker. Web. 26 June 2015.

Robinson, Harry. “Coyote Makes a Deal with the King Of England.” Living by Stories: a Journey of Landscape and Memory.  64-85.

Schorcht, Blanca. “The Storied World of Harry Robinson: Emerging Dialogues.” BC Studies 135 (2002): 145-62. Print.



The Sound of Stories (2:6)

1] In his article, “Godzilla vs. Post-Colonial,” King discusses Robinson’s collection of stories. King explains that while the stories are written in English, “the patterns, metaphors, structures as well as the themes and characters come primarily from oral literature.” More than this, Robinson, he says “develops what we might want to call an oral syntax that defeats reader’s efforts to read the stories silently to themselves, a syntax that encourages readers to read aloud” and in so doing, “recreating at once the storyteller and the performance” (186). Read “Coyote Makes a Deal with King of England”, in Living by Stories. Read it silently, read it out loud, read it to a friend, and have a friend read it to you. See if you can discover how this oral syntax works to shape meaning for the story by shaping your reading and listening of the story. Write a blog about this reading/listening experience that provides references to the story.


I thought that this blog prompt was particularly interesting. I don’t know much about oral syntax, but it did remind me about an experience with poetry that I had in class a few years ago. The class was exploring slam poetry, and we were given a printed out poem to read: a version of Neil Hilborn’s OCD. 

We read it as a class and discussed how the poem seemed–most people said it was nice, but the general consensus was that the poem, though sometimes eloquent, was nothing special. Then, my instructor had us watch a video of Hilborn performing his piece, and asked us what we thought of it. We all agreed that the piece came alive in its intended oral medium, and concluded that slam poetry is distinct from regular poetry because of how it is supposed to be processed.

When I first read Robinson’s piece silently, I wasn’t too impressed. While he had some really interesting lines, most of them fell flat in my reading and felt really repetitive. I didn’t get caught up in the language, and wasn’t engaged by the storyline. Reading it out loud and to my friend didn’t really have a better effect–I am not great at reading out loud, and I definitely didn’t do Robinson’s work justice.

The friend who I read the piece to is from a town in Georgia, and as such, she has a pretty thick Southern US accent. She (very graciously) agreed to read Robsion’s piece back to me, and the experience completely changed. What I found repetitive in my reading of the piece now became lyrical. I was able to appreciate the alliteration within the piece, as it was much more obvious when heard than it was when read silently.

What was the most interesting for me about this experience was the contrast between hearing it read out loud and reading it out loud myself. I wasn’t sure why there was such a difference in my appreciation of the piece–after all, I heard it both times, and my reading, though clumsy, wasn’t too different from my friends, so what exactly altered my appreciation of Robinson’s work? After rereading it a few times, I realized it’s because, when hearing it be read by someone else, I was able to forget that the piece was written at all. I got to hear it in its intended form, instead of it being translated into something more “accessible”, but ultimately far less powerful.



Button Poetry. Neil Hilborn – “OCD”. 2013. Youtube. Web. 19 June 2015.

“The City of Statesboro.” Home. Web. 19 June 2015.


Assumptions (2:4)

Response to: We began this unit by discussing assumptions and differences that we carry into our class. In “First Contact as Spiritual Performance,” Lutz makes an assumption about his readers (Lutz, “First Contact” 32). He asks us to begin with the assumption that comprehending the performances of the Indigenous participants is “one of the most obvious difficulties.” He explains that this is so because “one must of necessity enter a world that is distant in time and alien in culture, attempting to perceive indigenous performance through their eyes as well as those of the Europeans.” Here, Lutz is assuming either that his readers belong to the European tradition, or he is assuming that it is more difficult for a European to understand Indigenous performances – than the other way around. What do you make of this reading? Am I being fair when I point to this assumption? If so, is Lutz being fair when he makes this assumption? (Paterson)

Lutz’s article makes two basic assumptions about the readers of his work. The first assumption is that the reader finds Indigenous cultures “distant in time and alien in culture” (Lutz 32), and that understanding these cultures is a challenge that can be met, but “only partially” (Lutz 32). The second assumption Lutz makes in this article is that all of his readers come from a European cultural background, and in particular, that none of his readers could come from the “distant world” of Indigenous peoples and cultures.

Because Lutz is an academic, and because his work is accessible through the University of Victoria’s online platform, he is certainly aware that the main audience for his literature is comprised of other individuals in the field of academe, of a which a large percentage are university students. By stating that Indigenous cultures are hard to understand for the European reader, he assumes firstly that his academic audience is of exclusively European heritage, and, by extension, that no one of Indigenous heritage is a part of the academic community.

This assumption, whether or not it was intentional, feeds into a long line of  othering Indigenous peoples. Othering is “the process of casting a group, an individual, or an object into the role of the ‘other’ and establishing one’s own identity through opposition to and, frequently, vilification of this Other” (Gabriel). By calling the cultures of Indigenous peoples “alien”, and using vague descriptors such as “the Natives” (Lutz 32), “Indigenous peoples on the northwest coast” (Lutz 35) and “[west coast] native and stranger” (Lutz 42), painting the many different subsets of culture that layer into the Indigenous experience into a one-dimensional group, and furthers to other Indigenous peoples by not differentiating them to his assumed Eurocentric audience.

Unfortunately, though Lutz’s assumption that his reader is not of Aboriginal descent is inherently problematic, it is rooted in fact. According to a study at the University of British Columbia, out of the Aboriginal students who graduated from British Columbia high schools between 2002 and 2006, only  16% transitioned to a British Columbia university, as compared to 37% of their non-Aboriginal peers. Furthermore, only 2% of UBC’s 2013 undergraduate population identified as Aboriginal, whereas 5.4% of British Columbia residents identified as Aboriginal according to a National Household Survey from the same year.

This disparity between the general Aboriginal population and the Aboriginal population in places of higher education is rooted in Canada’s systemically racist society, which can be traced back to the residential school systems and the “first contact” that Lutz’s article describes. Ultimately, this systemic disadvantage is reflected in a variety of aspects of Canada’s culture, from university enrollment to the assumption that to be an academic, you’ve got to be white.



“Infoline Blog: Aboriginal Population.” BC Stats. BC Stats, 16 Sept. 2013. Web. 12 June 2015.

Farrar, David. University of British Columbia 2013 Annual Report on Enrolment: Vancouver Campus. Vancouver: U of British Columbia, 2013. Print.

Gabriel, Yiannis. “The Other and Othering: A Short Introduction.” Yiannis Gabriel. 9 Sept. 2012. Web. 12 June 2015.

Lutz, John. “First Contact as a Spiritual Performance: Aboriginal — Non-Aboriginal Encounters on the North American West Coast.” Myth and Memory: Rethinking Stories of Indigenous-European Contact. Ed. Lutz. Vancouver: U of British Columbia P, 2007. 30-45. Print.



Responses to “Home” (2:3)

I really enjoyed this assignment—both writing what home means to me and reading what home means to my classmates. I think that it is a great way to get to know other students (which is especially useful, given that an online blogging course doesn’t really aid to the whole “socializing in class” thing) and to reflect on our own lives outside of school.

With that in mind, I was surprised as to how similar everyone’s views on home were. I don’t mean that in a “everyone comes from the same place” sort of way. Everyone thought about their home differently: some students, like Whitney Millar, wrote about the places they’ve lived and how exactly one goes about making a temporary house into a home. Other students didn’t focus as much on the places that comprise a home, but the people, and I thought that Jamie King’s tribute to Harry, a technical director at a farm in the Okanagan, was especially powerful and very well done.

Some students, such as Charmaine Li, blended this experience and found a middle ground. Charmaine’s blog post talked about the idea of home and how it relates to others; in her case, she discussed the experience of living on the traditional and unceded homeland of the Musqueam people and how it shaped her sense of “home”.

While these three blogs, and the countless others that I browsed, all approached the topic of “home” in their own unique ways, as one would expect people from vastly different backgrounds and lives to do, there was a thread of similar sentiment that stitched all of our works together: home is not necessarily a physical space, but instead is comprised of the people and memories that make it feel familiar and comforting. The knowledge that no matter where you go, you can find a sense of home, is ultimately a driving force in why humanity evades stasis. I think this blog assignment was a great reminder that even though everyone operates in different ways and lives their own unique experience, we all have some of the same basic wirings below the surface.

I’ll conclude this with the quotes that resonate with me from each of the blogs. Thank you to the three bloggers I was able to read and respond to!

-“When it comes to my personal ideas of home, there is a sense of shared experience that creates a space rather than a permanence of location” (King “Home. Yes, we are home”)

-“I’d like to think that as long as you’re free to roam the wooded trails and breathe the ocean breeze, you are home” (Li, “A Home with Many Adventures”)

-“For me, coming home is about the rediscovery of the familiar, while not feeling at home is about being uncomfortable and unfamiliar” (Millar, “Let Me Come Home”)



King, Jamie. “Home. Yes, we are home.” English 470A: Oh, Canada. UBC Blogs. 05 June 2015. Web.08 June 2015.

Li, Charmaine. “A Home with Many Adventures.” Canadian Yarns and Storytelling Threads. UBC Blogs. 05 June 2015. Web. 06 June 2015.

Millar, Whitney. “Let Me Come Home.” Whitney ENGL 470 Experience. UBC Blogs. 05 June 2015. Web. 08 June 2015.


Home is where I want to be, but I guess I’m already there (2:2)

I’m not the biggest Talking Heads fan, but that lyric has always resonated with me when I think about the idea of ‘home’, and I thought it would be a fitting song to share with this post (also, truth be told, the song’s been stuck in my head for days and I hope that by sharing it I can finally be free of its catchy new wave chorus).  I always feel conflicted about the sense of being home, because my idea of ‘home’ is constantly in motion. Whenever I’m at school in Vancouver, for example, I feel homesick for where I grew up, but the second I’m back for summer break, I’m equally homesick for the life I’ve made in British Columbia–rinse and repeat every time I return in September or leave after winter term.

I’m not sure why I feel this way; it isn’t as if I’ve moved around a lot. I lived in a handful of houses before coming to Vancouver for university, and have come home to four individual residences in three separate countries in the years since I started at UBC. Some of these places have been wonderful to live in, and some have been less than homey in the traditional sense, but I’ve found my place in each of them, and there’s always a sense of loss when I lock my door for the last time. Compared to some people I know, I’m nomadic, but since most of my close friends move house nearly yearly, I’ve always thought of myself as someone who stays still for an adequate amount of time. I suppose my sense of home is less static or concrete than someone who has lived in the same house all of their life, but I don’t think the change of locale factors heavily in my difficulty with pinning down what home means to me.

I think for me, home is less of a physical space than it is a collection of fragments and memories that assemble themselves into a cohesive whole. You can’t carry a place with you, and as much as I wanted to slip my childhood home into my pocket and take it away when we moved, it still stands in the woods where I left it, and I can return to it in memory alone. It is with this in mind that I, subconsciously or otherwise, have constructed a sense of home out of those less tangible things. Home is the smell of my sister’s vanilla perfume, my father blasting NPR as he gets ready for work in the morning. Home is turning past Reykjavíksgatan after a night out with friends and knowing that my bed is only a five-minute walk away. Home is riding the 41 down Marine Drive, hearing the sound of the rain at the window, looking out at the section of Pacific Spirit Park where the highway has no lights and you can feel alone, for once, in the city. Home is listening to music from my childhood. Home is the rare Denver snow day, baking bread with my mother and marathoning Harry Potter movies. Home is driving to the cemetery on important dates and carefully cleaning off graves. Home is potluck dinners with my roommates, curling on the couch to watch classic movies, leaving notes for one another to find throughout the day. Home is driving down Colfax Avenue and seeing my city loom across the horizon, always softer than I remember it. Home is realizing what you miss once you’ve left it, and equally still it is knowing that in some way, you can always come back.



Talking Heads. This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody). 1983. YouTube. Web. 04 June 2015.

Fabianll. Flogsta SCREAM, the real stuff. 2008. YouTube. Web. 04 June 2015.

Mitchell, Joni. A Case of You. 1971. YouTube. Web. 04 June 2015.

“Denver, Colorado.” Map. Google Maps. Google, October 2014. Web. 04 June 2015.