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Is "Show Don't Tell" a Universal Truth or a Colonial Relic? | Literary Hub
"In his essay “The Storyteller” (1936), cultural critic Walter Benjamin mourns the death of oral and communal storytelling, taken over in modern history by the novel, the “birthplace of the solitary reader,” and information technology with a rise in capitalism. Yet, what Benjamin posits as the organic evolution of oral, communal practices of storytelling into modern modes of storytelling, consumed by a reader in “privacy,” is in fact, the understanding of a Western history of storytelling as a universal one. As Maggie Awadalla and Paul March-Russell suggest in the introduction to their anthology The Postcolonial Short Story (2012), many non-Western countries did not transition “organically” from oral to written storytelling with a rise in capitalism. For many formerly or currently colonized spaces like South Asia, Africa, Caribbean, American South and Native America, there has always existed a rich, vibrant tradition of oral storytelling, one that was marginalized, often violently, through an imposition of an allegedly modern, white Western language and culture. In their study, Postcolonial Studies: The Key Concepts (1998), Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin defend “orality” not as a cultural precondition that morphed into a more advanced written culture, but orality as a counterpart to writing, where both co-exist, complement and transform each other constantly. This coexistence of oral and written modes of storytelling continues to thrive in postcolonial spaces, including those of Asia and Africa.

In her now-canonical essay “Characteristics of Negro Expression” (1934), Zora Neale Hurston makes a strong case for the use of vernacular—especially dialect and rhythm—in Black writing. In his story collection, Creole Folktales (1988) and equally canonical co-authored essay, “In Praise of Creoleness” (1989), Patrick Chamoiseau offers a manifesto for Caribbean storytelling that aims to free itself of French colonial gaze by transforming Martinican-French literature through a militant use of Creole. And while not through cultural theories or essays, contemporary writers like Salman Rushdie, Vikram Chandra, Roxane Gay, Junot Díaz, and Edwidge Danticat, among others, bring a strong, self-conscious vernacular in their stories. Their fiction questions not only an allegedly mainstream Euro-American storytelling marked by narrative brevity and an economy of words, as lauded by Edgar Allan Poe, John Barth and Francine Prose in their critical writing, but also the dominance of visuality in many fiction writing workshops with their show-don’t-tell credo, bolstered by our cinematic and digital age with its preference for images over sounds."



"James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Sandra Cisneros, Gish Jen, Tiphanie Yanique, ZZ Packer, Rajesh Parameswaran—the list of contemporary writing affirming oral and aural alternatives over a sight-based focus of storytelling is long. And I haven’t even gotten started with poetry-in-color, including an aesthetic legacy of rhythm in writing spawned by Papa Césaire and the Négritude movement. What I’ve explored above is a brief sampler on a multifaceted use of orality that challenges the boundaries of a more standard Euro-American literary English with its emphasis on brevity, clarity, and good grammar. In playing persistently with language, sounds and syntax, multiethnic fiction does not shy away from “writing in scenes,” however, it does dethrone the reign of eyesight to stress the importance of other senses in fiction, and hearing in particular.

That said, the use of vernacular or dialect is far from unique to non-Western writers writing within or outside the West. Time and again, major writers across the world have challenged the status quo of a hegemonic language by using the vernacular in different ways. I’m thinking here of Shakespeare and Louis-Ferdinand Celine’s linguistic innovation within English and French respectively, and of pioneering poets like Kabir who used the vernacular in Bhakti poetry to challenge the rule of Sanskrit in medieval South Asian literature.

And yet, the examples of multiethnic fiction I’ve shared above have all been published in the last couple of decades, following complex literary and historic changes that include mid-20th century’s wave of decolonization that swept the “third world,” the Civil Rights Movement in the US, the institutionalization of Ethnic Studies in the American Academy, and the literary canon wars that followed. This recent, layered, global history has led to a higher visibility of non-white, non-Western voices in the Western metropolitan publication scenes of New York, London and Paris. The content within contemporary multiethnic fiction often talks of identity, home and displacement; they ask questions like who has power and voice and who gets marginalized or silenced, these ideas fleshed out obsessively in stories through plot, theme, form, language, or a combination.

Orality within fiction that is deliberately engaging with power dynamics between the West and non-West—as evident in the title of Rushdie’s story collection East, West—thus becomes more than just a stylistic device or virtuosity with craft. The shift in sensory focus within multiethnic fiction from images to sounds holds a mirror to our contemporary, complex literary history, guiding the reader further to ways in which these stories maybe constructed, read, or deconstructed. Orality here becomes a political stance, an ideological move reminding the reader over and again that what we consume as universal in story craft, literary history, or aesthetic taste is anything but universal."
orality  oraltradition  visual  via:vruba  2018  storytelling  walterbenjamin  culture  tradition  namratapoddar  globalsouth  maggieawadalla  paulmarch-russell  billashcroft  garethgriffiths  helentiffin  vernacular  zoranealehurston  creole  creoleness  folktales  writing  salmanrushdie  vikramchandra  junotdíaz  edwidgedanticat  edgarallanpoe  johnbarth  fancineprose  criticalwriting  howwewrite  literacy  multiliteracies  dialect  rhythm  patrickchamoiseau  caribbean  africa  asia  colonialism  english  alicewalker  imperialism  gishjen  jamesbaldwin  tonimorrison  tiphanieyanique  zzpacker  showdon'ttell  sandracisneros  roxanegay  ajeshparameswaran  négritude  papacésaire  haiti  aural  oral  sight  brevity  clarity  grammar  fiction  aimécésaire  martinique  léopoldsédarsenghor  léondamas  postcolonialism  louis-ferdinandceline  latinamerica  indigenous  canon 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Harvest of Empire – Harvest of Empire
[Available on YouTube, for now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyncOYTZfHE ]

[See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvest_of_Empire:_A_History_of_Latinos_in_America ]

"The Untold Story of Latinos in America

“We are all Americans of the New World, and our most dangerous enemies 
are not each other, but the great wall of ignorance between us.”
Juan González, Harvest of Empire

At a time of heated and divisive debate over immigration, Onyx Films is proud to present Harvest of Empire, a feature-length documentary that reveals the direct connection between the long history of U.S. intervention in Latin America and the immigration crisis we face today.

Based on the groundbreaking book by award-winning journalist and Democracy Now! Co-host Juan González, Harvest of Empire takes an unflinching look at the role that U.S. economic and military interests played in triggering an unprecedented wave of migration that is transforming our nation’s cultural and economic landscape.

From the wars for territorial expansion that gave the U.S. control of Puerto Rico, Cuba and more than half of Mexico, to the covert operations that imposed oppressive military regimes in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador, Harvest of Empire unveils a moving human story that is largely unknown to the great majority of citizens in the U.S.

As Juan González says at the beginning of the film “They never teach us in school that the huge Latino presence here is a direct result of our own government’s actions in Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America over many decades — actions that forced millions from that region to leave their homeland and journey north.”

Harvest of Empire provides a rare and powerful glimpse into the enormous sacrifices and rarely-noted triumphs of our nation’s growing Latino community. The film features present day immigrant stories, rarely seen archival material, as well as interviews with such respected figures as Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Rigoberta Menchú, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Junot Díaz, Mexican historian Dr. Lorenzo Meyer, journalists María Hinojosa and Geraldo Rivera, Grammy award-winning singer Luis Enrique, and poet Martín Espada."
film  documentary  us  history  immigration  latinamerica  puertorico  mexico  guatemala  honduras  juangonzález  cuba  nicaragua  elsalvador  rigobertamenchú  jessejackson  anthonyromero  junotdíaz  lorenzomeyer  maríahinojosa  geraldorivera  2011  martínespada  luisenrique  dominicanrepublic  latinos  imperialism  politics  policy  foreignpolicy  braceros  wwii  ww2  civilrights  race  racism  migration  communism  redscare  centralamerica  caribbean  colonialism  socialism  capitalism  fidelcastro  rafaeltrujillo  spanish-americanwar  inequality  exploitation  sugar  cotton  revolution  resistance  fulgenciobatista  dictatorships  oppression  deportation  texas  california  newmexico  arizona  mexican-americanwar  nevada  colorado  florida  nyc  óscarromero  harrytruman  democracy  jacoboárbenz  unitedfruitcompany  eisenhower  cia  intervention  maya  ethniccleansing  land  ownership  civilwar  iran-contraaffair  ronaldreagan  sandinistas  contras  war  bayofpigs  refugees  marielboatlift  1980  jimmycarter  language  spanish  español  miami  joaquínbalaguer  hectortruji 
july 2018 by robertogreco
Aftermath: Sixteen Writers on Trump’s America - The New Yorker
"RADICAL HOPE
By Junot Díaz

Querida Q.:

I hope that you are feeling, if not precisely better, then at least not so demoralized. On Wednesday, after he won, you reached out to me, seeking advice, solidarity. You wrote, My two little sisters called me weeping this morning. I had nothing to give them. I felt bereft. What now? Keep telling the truth from an ever-shrinking corner? Give up?

I answered immediately, because you are my hermana, because it hurt me to hear you in such distress. I offered some consoling words, but the truth was I didn’t know what to say. To you, to my godchildren, who all year had been having nightmares that their parents would be deported, to myself.

I thought about your e-mail all day, Q., and I thought about you during my evening class. My students looked rocked. A few spoke about how frightened and betrayed they felt. Two of them wept. No easy task to take in the fact that half the voters—neighbors, friends, family—were willing to elect, to the nation’s highest office, a toxic misogynist, a racial demagogue who wants to make America great by destroying the civil-rights gains of the past fifty years.

What now? you asked. And that was my students’ question, too. What now? I answered them as poorly as I answered you, I fear. And so I sit here now in the middle of the night, in an attempt to try again.

So what now? Well, first and foremost, we need to feel. We need to connect courageously with the rejection, the fear, the vulnerability that Trump’s victory has inflicted on us, without turning away or numbing ourselves or lapsing into cynicism. We need to bear witness to what we have lost: our safety, our sense of belonging, our vision of our country. We need to mourn all these injuries fully, so that they do not drag us into despair, so repair will be possible.

And while we’re doing the hard, necessary work of mourning, we should avail ourselves of the old formations that have seen us through darkness. We organize. We form solidarities. And, yes: we fight. To be heard. To be safe. To be free.

For those of us who have been in the fight, the prospect of more fighting, after so cruel a setback, will seem impossible. At moments like these, it is easy for even a matatana to feel that she can’t go on. But I believe that, once the shock settles, faith and energy will return. Because let’s be real: we always knew this shit wasn’t going to be easy. Colonial power, patriarchal power, capitalist power must always and everywhere be battled, because they never, ever quit. We have to keep fighting, because otherwise there will be no future—all will be consumed. Those of us whose ancestors were owned and bred like animals know that future all too well, because it is, in part, our past. And we know that by fighting, against all odds, we who had nothing, not even our real names, transformed the universe. Our ancestors did this with very little, and we who have more must do the same. This is the joyous destiny of our people—to bury the arc of the moral universe so deep in justice that it will never be undone.

But all the fighting in the world will not help us if we do not also hope. What I’m trying to cultivate is not blind optimism but what the philosopher Jonathan Lear calls radical hope. “What makes this hope radical,” Lear writes, “is that it is directed toward a future goodness that transcends the current ability to understand what it is.” Radical hope is not so much something you have but something you practice; it demands flexibility, openness, and what Lear describes as “imaginative excellence.” Radical hope is our best weapon against despair, even when despair seems justifiable; it makes the survival of the end of your world possible. Only radical hope could have imagined people like us into existence. And I believe that it will help us create a better, more loving future.

I could say more, but I’ve already imposed enough, Q.: Time to face this hard new world, to return to the great shining work of our people. Darkness, after all, is breaking, a new day has come.

Love, J "
junotdíaz  hope  resistance  radicalism  2016  courage  elections  donaldtrump  radicalhope 
december 2016 by robertogreco
Ursula Le Guin Has Earned a Rare Honor. Just Don’t Call Her a Sci-Fi Writer. - The New York Times
"The speech, and her outrage, went viral. “A writer in her mid-80s simply has less to lose,” she said. “An author in midcareer who defies the hegemony of Google and Amazon, and names their immoral or unfair practices as such, takes an immediate risk of vengeance from them and of enmity from fellow writers who are cozy with them. I’m taking the same risks, but what the hell. My work is out there — visible, existent.”

Many younger writers cite Ms. Le Guin as an inspiration, including David Mitchell and Neil Gaiman. In an email, Junot Díaz talked about “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas,” Ms. Le Guin’s parable about a society whose happy existence depends on keeping one small child locked away in misery. Most citizens of Omelas accept that deal. A few do not.

“That story is both a call and a practice for Le Guin,” Mr. Diaz said. “She has spent all these decades trying to chart a path for those who wish to walk away from Omelas — also known as the horror of our civilization.”

“The Complete Orsinia” is Ms. Le Guin in a quieter key. “The editorial challenge of the Library of America is to strike a balance,” said Max Rudin, the library’s publisher. “On the one hand to publish writers and works that are indisputably part of the American canon, and on the other hand to publish books that stretch people’s imagination of what great American writing is.”

In the introduction, she quotes from a 1975 notebook in which she wrote that much of her work was concerned with one central notion: “True pilgrimage consists in coming home.” The hero of “Malafrena” must leave his provincial farm only to find it again.

“There’s a difference between the circle and the spiral,” Ms. Le Guin said. “We say the Earth has a circular orbit around the sun, but of course it doesn’t. You never come back to the same place, you just come back to the same point on the spiral. That image is very deep in my thinking.”

“Orsinia” has another spiral: As Ms. Le Guin’s works are being put in the canon, she has largely stopped writing. “The fiction isn’t coming. You can’t get water from a dry well.” She still writes poetry, which is a consolation.

There remains that other big legacy-cementing possibility. Last year, Ms. Le Guin was given Nobel odds of 25-1. Her conclusion: “All I have to do in the next 25 years is outlive the other 24 writers.”"
ursulaleguin  2016  sciencefiction  scifi  literature  fiction  writing  historicalfiction  recognition  junotdíaz  nailgaiman  davidmitchell  gender  genre  dondelillo 
september 2016 by robertogreco
Junot Diaz & Hilton Als Talk Masculinity, Science Fiction, And Writing As An Act Of Defiance | Literary Hub
"JD: I’m not jumping to some conclusion about some abstract culture. You and I come from backgrounds where people were echo chambers for a lot of the cultural, racial sort of defaults. People would say wild things explicitly, and I thought it would be such a lame thing if my characters weren’t half as frank as my uncles.

HA: Like one of the tías grabbing one of the characters’ balls by way of introduction.

JD: I’ve gotten emails about that from dudes I know, who say, “Dude, my aunts grab my balls, too.”

HA: It takes a village.

JD: It takes five genders to raise this particularly malevolent form of masculinity that we tend to produce so efficiently. You could take two people, who look identical in skin color, and my mom can distinguish them at the molecular level, and say, “That motherfucker’s lighter.” All the vocabulary we’ve lost in America to talk about race is omnipresent in the Caribbean. We’ve lost so many words to talk about race, we don’t even have a conversation about it, we have lost it. Yet, in the Caribbean, there are more than twelve words that I can come up with to describe people’s skin color, at least in the neighborhood where I grew up in. In some ways I think that is useful, because it helps when it comes time to approach the question of privilege. People don’t claim amnesia. Some can think my uncles are super-backwards because they didn’t go to Ivy League schools, but they don’t cop to any of that ridiculous liberal amnesia. The sort of thing that translates into statements like, “Oh, it’s not race, it’s class.” I think you can’t have class without race. It’s called colonialism. Some people come right off the bat and say, a guy is ignorant. My uncles would never make those claims, but rather say it’s about black people. But I find that level of frankness, even if it’s considered regressive and messed up, a better starting point than the constant illusion of the sort of liberal moment that we have."



"JD: I think for most straight men, the problem is not that we don’t have women worthy of us, the problem is that we have women ten times more worthy than us. But coming back to your question, in general, whenever I read about people of color as artists I think it is so overly simplified. We tend to be reduced to the cultural element. Like somebody will trot out a Spanish word to describe our thing . . . How many reviews have I got where a non-Spanish-speaking person will put out a Spanish word to attempt to describe what I do? It’s like watching people who can’t dance salsa trying to do it. Or we’ll be reduced to simplistic visions that say that in these works of art, this artist is talking about this crucial moment, or about the problem of race. They’ll use these terms that mean nothing, because they don’t want to approach what exactly a person is getting at in their work. If white artists were discussed along racial terms as often as people of color, we would be a better country. I never see a white dancer discussing how their whiteness impacts their dance. The first question out of an interviewer’s mind when they talk to a white artist is never if they have experienced racism. But as an artist, I must say it’s incredible the amount of times these questions come up, and when they ask me, I’m always ready to ask back, “Have you been racist lately?” Now, one of the best things about art, as anyone who’s studied a Victorian text knows, is that the future comes faster than we imagine, and there is a future coming up, of young artists and young critics and young scholars, who are thinking in ways that make the current conversations about our art look incredibly reductive."



"HA: You touch upon this idea of what’s coming up and we’ve had several conversations about time travel. You’ve said that one of the reasons why you loved science fiction by people like Octavia Butler and Samuel Delany is because they were talking about time travel, and that literally you have gone from a slave culture to talking to hundreds of people at the Strand Bookstore. How does that happen? Being one or two generations away from the characters in your books, who are living below subsistence level, how does that affect you as Junot?

JD: And how do you narrate it? I always think of that question. I’ll sit at the Christmas table next to my grandmother, who basically grew up in a proto-medieval—comes from an almost slavery background in the Dominican Republic, working as a tenant farmer, in a terrifying kind of subsistence. I’m squinting at her with one eye, and then I’m squinting at my little brother, who’s U.S.-born, a Marine combat veteran, who sounds like someone turned the TV to the Fox channel and broke the dial. And I’m thinking, how do we create a self that takes both of those people in?

HA: You’ve catapulted yourself, through artistry, into another realm, so how do you physically and emotionally take it?

JD: It’s really helpful to assemble selves not always deploying realism. Realism cannot account for my little brother and my grandmother, but Octavia Butler’s science fiction can. Samuel Delany’s generic experiments can explain them. I read his book and that range is present, not only present, but what is unbearable about trying to hold the two together in one place. So it helps not to have realism as the only paradigm to really understand yourself.

HA: Is the story “Monstro” a move towards a surrealism that explains things better?

JD: I wouldn’t say it’s an advance. It’s more a trying to see what would it look like if I was more explicit about not using realism. With Oscar Wao I obscured how little the genre of realism is deployed in the novel. I sort of hid it. Someone can read Oscar Wao and be convinced it’s a realistic novel, with a couple eruptions. Now I wanted to see if it’s possible to get similar effects without obscuring the pedigree. I felt like Oscar Wao was like an octoroon cousin of yours, who doesn’t pass for white, but won’t deny it when people treat him real well. I wanted to take the drag off, and see what happens."



"JD: I always did fiction and I always wanted to write. When you’re young, if you’re aware of your parents’ infidelities, your cosmology starts with this concept that your parents are real big liars. My cosmology begins with this constant deception. So of course I wanted to write about deceivers, people who were wearing masks, and for this purpose fiction felt more useful. As a kid I was that literal, thinking I lived in fiction, so let me write it. It started there, and it seems it’s going to end there. I was always terrible with essays, whether they are confessional or critical, because in that form the whole thing can’t be a lie. My idea for an essay would be to write about a book that’s never been written, or to draw a completely ridiculous conclusion, and then when somebody checks the footnotes . . . I think in fiction, I can lie on multiple levels, which is always what my family felt like. I felt at home.

HA: That essay sounds Borgesian. But looking at your first collection, were there stories that were just a sort of working out before you got Drown?

JD: Certainly, I had so many absurd stories. I still hadn’t mapped out what it meant to be living in central New Jersey. We were one of the first Dominican families in the area and we grew up around a predominantly African-American community, with some poor whites, most of them Irish immigrants. I couldn’t figure out how to scale a family that existed in this really dense Dominican world at home. I had siblings who were black, who didn’t look like me, who weren’t, like, Terrorism Act bait. They looked African-American and I couldn’t figure out a way to scale it. I was reading so many New York writers describing the Latino experience in a really urban setting that my first stories sounded like I was living in NYC, which is a very different world.

HA: Who were you reading?

JD: People like Edward Rivera, who wrote Family Installments, probably one of the greatest memoirs. If you want to know how I wrote my first book, read that, because I just completely copied that book. I also read some of the most classic folks, such as Nicholasa Mohr—even though she was writing about Paterson, it still had a much more urban edge—or Piri Thomas. In my first thirty or forty pieces of writing, a character was always robbing a bodega. It was so stupid. I was an embarrassment to myself. I started out writing film scripts, and before, you know, I jumped to fiction, but even then, I wanted to do a kind of film scripts. So my first few years I was doing scripts, and those were even worse than anything anyone can imagine."



"
HA: One of the things that beats beautifully in Drown and all your work goes back to this idea that if you’re an artist, the hardest thing to survive is the people you come from. And the people that you come from are the stories that you tell. Often. Can you tell us a little bit about your family reaction?

JD: That is a really honest question and recognition. Most of my friends had to protect their parents and the rest of us from their ambitions. A childhood like mine meant that you could not openly air your ambitions to people because it would have been an enormous threat. When I think about it, I guess my family’s situation was always a heartbreaker, regardless how my career turned out. The family dynamic internalized all the craziness of growing up as an immigrant. Immigration is difficult as it is, but the worst way to take it on the chin is to turn it against each other.

HA: Right.

JD: It’s weird, my immediate family gets together almost never, and when we get together, it’s always like a heartbreaker. There’s all this kind of awful stuff: who’s not talking to whom, how some brothers live in California, as far away from the family as possible. And I’ll be honest, I think my family barely … [more]
junotdíaz  hiltonals  2016  sciencefiction  scifi  race  racism  sexuality  masculinity  gender  octaviabudlet  samueldelany  edwardrivera  nicholasamohr  pirithomas  families  immigration  gabrielgarcíamárquez  dominicanrepublic  power  oscarwao  narrativevoice  shuyaohno 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Female heroes are even more important for boys than girls - Quartz
"But the sad fact is engaging with female characters has long been optional for boys, who are specifically discouraged—by society at large if not by their own parents—from seeking out material designed “for girls.” And the female characters they do see in mainstream entertainment are more likely to be sidekicks and love interests (not to mention outnumbered by male characters three to one). Arwen stuck out to me because she shared my gender. And yet in a series full of hobbits, wizards, and warriors, I doubt she made much of an impression on those not specifically looking to see themselves represented onscreen.

And that’s what’s so cool about Rey, Katniss, and Supergirl: It’s impossible to ignore them. They are female protagonists in properties that boys are encouraged—expected, even—to watch. For the first time young boys are being asked to empathize with female leads the way girls have long been expected to empathize with male ones. After all, I may have loved Hermione, but I spent 3,000 plus pages inside Harry’s head.

And studies have shown that media has a concrete impact on how we relate to people who are different than us. As author Junot Díaz puts it, women have “spent their whole life being taught that men have a subjectivity.” Now we’re finally teaching boys a similar lesson by introducing them to female leads who are strong, smart, flawed, emotionally complex, and able to fight their own battles.

In other words, we’re raising a generation of boys who think that watching a show about a female superhero is no big deal. And that is a pretty deal in itself."
gender  fiction  boys  2016  heroes  empathy  junotdíaz  subjectivity 
march 2016 by robertogreco
In Hokkaido, the Ultimate Japanese Snow Country | Travel + Leisure
"Hokkaido’s wintriness is overwhelming in its scale and dizzying in its mille-feuille complexity. I stare, speechless, at the rolling drifts of Siberian snow, at the towering alps in the distance, and at the endless primeval spruce forest that covers them. Lake Shikotsu is before us, a caldera lake blue as an eye, surrounded by three volcanoes and enveloped by a haze of frozen, archaic trees. This land is a true song of fire and ice. In the days before the Japanese arrived, when it was only Ainu, it was also wolf country, howls rising over the mountains. We’re in Deep Hokkaido now, as deep as you can get when you’re in a heated, immaculately appointed cab.

Just as I’m about to speak, a red fox steps out onto the road, an exclamation of color against the drifts. It gives us a single indifferent glance before gliding back into the trees. Like Shimamura in Yasunari Kawabata’s novel Snow Country, I feel my chest rise at the inexpressible beauty of it.

***

The abiding irony of Hokkaido is that the very natural qualities that make it so irresistible to outsiders are what have historically protected the island from them in the first place. For thousands of years this remote, inhospitable land was Ainu and Ainu only. An indigenous people with lighter skin and hairier bodies than the Japanese, the Ainu created an animist civilization that embodied the Japanese ideal of living close to nature, of managing to be, as Bashō wrote, “friends with the four seasons”—which you’d think might have given them a pass when they finally came into contact with the expanding Japanese in the 1300s.

Alas, it did not. As the Japanese pushed northward into Hokkaido, their incursions brought trade, alcoholism, and warfare, and slowly pushed the Ainu out of the southern parts of the island. But the Japanese colonization of Hokkaido only really took off in the 1870s, when Meiji officials began to fear that Russia might seize the island. So the Meiji government countered a possible invasion with a real one. Thousands of settlers, many of them disenfranchised samurai, were funneled north, enticed by tax amnesties and land grants. Whole pioneer settlements were wiped out by weather, disease, and crop failure—yet the government, which needed all the natural resources it could lay its hands on to fuel its modernization, did not relent. Eventually, Hokkaido was conquered.

For the Ainu, it was the End—about as close to apocalypse as you can experience and still be around to talk about it. On top of grabbing all the land, the Japanese pursued a policy of enforced assimilation, depriving the Ainu of their names, their language, their culture, even their tattoos. The Ainu were prohibited from fishing salmon—which would be like prohibiting the Japanese from farming rice. Many were forced to toil in slavelike conditions in mines and in—wait for it—the conqueror’s fisheries. (If you want to know where the Japanese imperial programs for Korea, Taiwan, and China began, look no further than Hokkaido.) To make matters all the more horrible, the Japanese government refused even to recognize the Ainu as indigenous people until Ainu activism helped overturn that madness—in 2008. Discrimination against them remains rampant.

And yet, despite everything, the Ainu are still in Hokkaido, making their world. In the past few decades there has been a marked resurgence of pride in Ainu tradition. Young activists have taken up where their elders left off, and the Ainu language, long on the brink of extinction, is experiencing a minor revival. Artists such as Oki Kanno and Mina Sakai of the music group Imeruat are testaments to the survivance of Ainu culture.

The Ainu are Hokkaido, and everywhere you look on the island you will find traces of them. But if you’re a traveler and you want to see Ainu up close, chances are you’ll end up doing what we do. You’ll loop down to the coastal town of Shiraoi, and there on the shore of Lake Poroto you’ll find the Porotokotan Ainu Culture Village. With replicas of traditional thatched houses (chise), a not uninteresting museum, and, best of all, honest-to-goodness Ainu, Porotokotan is indigenous cultural tourism at its most textbook."



"From what I see, Niseko is less a contact zone where cultures meet and more an exclusion zone where all the challenges that make travel in Japan so rewarding—the language barrier; the mystifying cultural differences; the constant burden of being an other in a society that prides itself on its homogeneity; the local people themselves in all their diversity—are blocked out.

It’s not just me, either. Even the resident gaijin joke about Niseko’s strange circumscription. As Joe, our English waiter at the Niseko Supply Co., explains to us, when the international crowd has to venture out from Niseko, they say they’re going to Japan.

No offense to anyone, but I didn’t come to Japan to hang out in a gaijin-safe area—I could do that back in Boston for free. And I’m afraid the memory of the Ainu isn’t helping—left me in no mood for invasions of any sort. Even though I’m as much an invader as anyone.

The lesson here might be that if you’re coming to Niseko, try not to first visit the Ainu.

In spring the Shinkansen will arrive in Hokkaido, and with it, the future. Perhaps, as some predict, nothing will really change, and towns like Shiraoi will continue to wither, their young people fleeing en masse to Sapporo, Tokyo, and beyond. Perhaps the future will be the Niseko Invasion writ large over the entire island. I suspect there are folks who would love to see something like that happen. Better Niseko than a corpse like Shiraoi, they would argue.

When I contemplate that possible future, I think of the Hokkaido wolf, now extinct, and I think of the Hokkaido bear in his cage, and I think of the Hokkaido fox I saw on the road, who looked at us like we were nothing.

I think of Takahashi with the flakes in his hair.

And, of course, I think of the Ainu.

What will the future bring Hokkaido? Wolf, bear, fox? I know what I want and I know what I fear, but of the future, to misquote Thomas Mann: I cannot know and you cannot tell me.

Let the future bring what it will; for the present I’ll stick with Sapporo, with its fresh-to-death swagger and its legendary ramens. And I’ll stick with the Hokkaido of Snow Country, not only because it is true and beautiful and precious but because maybe one day me and some version of that titanic bear I saw at the airport might meet. Hopefully she won’t try to eat me.

After another coffee at the Niseko Supply Co. I say to the girls, “Shall we?” La Bachatera asks for the bill before I finish speaking.

We call Ohtaka, and lucky for us he’s free for the day, so he scoops us up and that’s it for Niseko. We’ll end our trip where most people head first from Sapporo: in Otaru, with its famous glassware and its picturesque canal. A historic port, it survives on day-tripping tourists from Sapporo, but at night it turns into another corpse.

We’ll arrive at night.

But that’s still in the future. In the present we have a lot of road to cover. I still have hope for one last bear.

We head back into Snow Country. Ohtaka is telling us about his time in the Self-Defense Force and about his two sons, both, predictably, in Sapporo. La Bachatera is translating happily and Ms. Marvel is busy with the Otaru section of our guidebook. Mount Tengu. The Herring Mansion. The Music Box Museum. I can’t stop myself from turning around to catch one last glimpse of Mount Yotei, which the Ainu believed was the first place created on our world. To see it in that light, against that blue sky, just about takes your heart out.

And then it too disappears."
hokkaido  japan  2015  junotdíaz  ainu  history  thomasmann  nature  colonialism  indigeneity 
december 2015 by robertogreco
A conversation with President David Skorton and Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Díaz MFA '95 - CornellCast
"Each year, the Olin Lecture brings to campus an internationally prominent speaker to address a topic relevant to higher education and the current world situation. Junot Díaz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and creative writing professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)."

[Great chat with Junot Díaz (is there any other kind?) and I especially love the part towards the end in response to a prompt from the audience about social action.

“There is no more important mandate to anyone living in a society than civic engagement. Civic engagement is just what's owed. There is no person, poor or rich, who does not take more out of this country than what they put back in. No one. There is no one so afflicted that doesn't owe this nation a debt. Civic engagement is how we begin to pay the interest on that debt. And, part of civic engagement is looking for places that we think that we can improve and trying to improve it. It is just something that has been lost for a long time, something that I think isn't valued enough. I think that what you are doing is incredibly important under the most fundamental level of what it means to be alive in a civic society. To give back, to attempt to engage yourself in that way is absolutely essential.

The thing is that we live in a society that has spent the last thirty or forty years promulgating, convincing people that the only thing that matters is you and how much money you have made. A perverse neoliberal individualism that has collapsed a lot of what we would call our civic communities. People aren't just bowling alone, gang. People are also not engaged in civic society the way they used to. They've got us all mad at each other, whether we're Republican or Democrats because that is a way to convince people that this is civic engagement. Partisan politics is not civic engagement. We think it's civic engagement, but it's not. And I think the nature of civic engagement is that in a country like ours, in a moment like ours, it is going to be very hard to convince people to go against the pied piper music of individualism and neoliberal profit-making and to think more seriously about what our community requires and what is owed of all of us. And I think that the nature of this work, is that you are going to find that it is going to be difficult to engage large movements of people. And that despite this, what you do is utterly invaluable.

My sense of this is that you've got to constantly model, you've got to constantly reach out, and you've got to everything you cant that when you're home, or wherever you settle, to go to every damn school and get every teacher who is an ally and let you make a presentation. And try to get allied teachers to come and visit your project so that at least the young people are exposed and given some modeling. And it is the same thing. How many people are at home looking for things to do? And, again, I don't know what community you are in or what kind of space, but if you can sort of figure out a place where there is a lot of traffic that you could present and model your work, you can begin to slowly pull people in. Will it be a lot? No. Will it be as much as you need? Perhaps. Will it be transformational and save individual lives through that engagement and through that reaffirmation of the most important values of our civic society? Absolutely. Being an artist in some ways is no different than being someone who wants to make this country better. there is very little money in it, especially if done correctly.

You know, there is little acclaim and respect. And in fact, there is very few signs that what you're doing is working. And yet, without your presence, what remains is not worth calling a society. Nothing is more a faith-based initiative than the kind of work you're doing. But I would argue, trying to get into the schools, trying to get into the places where a lot of adults flow through who don't have that kind of training or don't have that kind of literacy, and tying to kind of increase the exposure, that is what tends to work best in this battle. And I leave you with this: whether you're someone who is trying to do the work this young sister is doing or you're a teacher trying to convince their students that reading is good, in this battle, it is hand to hand. If you can transform one life, you've given more than most of us can dream. And, that life may do the work the future needs to make the future that we all dreamed possible. And therefore you must stick with it.”

See 1:02:29 for that.]
junotdíaz  art  activism  writing  race  2015  via:javierarbona  howwewrite  whywewrite  experience  socialjustice  us  education  highered  highereducation  inclusion  inclusivity  diversity  immigrants  immigration  elitism  politics  struggle  mfas  hardship  gratitude  civics  citizenship  engagement  migration  bilingualism  language  accents  rutgers  cornell  stigma  latinos  patriarchy  capitalism  publicadministration  socialaction  society  movements  storytelling  neoliberalism  individualism  money  wealth  inequality  transformation  modeling  lcproject  openstudioproject  inlcusivity 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Why We Don't Italicize Spanish - YouTube
[See also: http://killingdenouement.tumblr.com/post/91126268644/i-dont-explain-cultural-things-with-italics-or

""I don’t explain cultural things, with italics or with exclamation or with side bars or asides. I was aggressive about that because I had so many negative models, so many Latinos and black writers who are writing to white audiences, who are not writing to their own people. If you are not writing to your own people, I’m disturbed because of what that says to your relationship to the community you are in one way or another indebted to. You are only there to loot them of ideas, and words, and images so that you can coon them to the dominant group. That disturbs me tremendously." —Junot Díaz, with Diógenes Céspedes and Silvio Torres-Saillant (1996)

this is why we stopped using italics-to-connote-foreignness at THE STATE. junot diaz is why we do a lot of things."

and

http://blog.pshares.org/index.php/the-borderlands-of-language-using-italics-for-foreign-words-part-i/

"Junot Díaz once told me that he writes for his six best friends and the rest of the world. This was a few summers ago in a VONA fiction workshop in San Francisco. We had been discussing the meaty issue of how much to explain in our short stories and novels. For example, would the reader understand the meaning of chiltepe without having to look it up? How much did I gain from including details that may feel welcoming to some, alienating to others? I wondered if I should italicize certain words, and by that I meant words in Spanish.

Junot answered my questions with a question: “Who is your audience?”

My audience? Other than the folks sitting around that rectangular table, I didn’t have an audience. This was the first short story I had ever written, save for three failed attempts at stories that were really scenes in an undergraduate fiction course. It was 2006. All of us seated at the table were writers of color. All of us had confronted the barbed wire fence in our writing—italics. When was it appropriate to use them? By using italics were we signaling to readers—foreign word alert, foreign word alert? Were we pushing some readers out? Which readers? Or, was the use of italics actually helpful to all readers?

For Junot, if his six best friends understood what asqueroso meant, then there was no need to italicize the word. As for the rest of the world? Well, the rest of the world could get the word’s meaning from context, or they could look it up. He knew what he was doing. After all, if a writer from the majority culture uses specific terminology from polo or tennis, the reader is expected to look it up. He wanted to flip this and change the identity of the privileged reader. So he would never explain what a platano was, much less a morena. You’ll notice I did italicize these words in Spanish. More on that later."]
danieljoséolder  language  spanish  español  bilingualism  spanglish  formatting  italics  writing  communication  grammar  rules  junotdíaz  jenniferdeleon 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Junot Diaz - Art, Race and Capitalism - YouTube
"Despite what we think, we're more isolated and atomized than ever before. […] The fact is that most poor people are more segregated and isolated than they've ever been. […] There's something really bewildering about the fact that we feel so rhizomatically interconnected to people, but we've never been more isolated. Classes no longer come into contact with each other in any way that's meaningful. I look at my mom and people are like “oh, she's that old generation.” My mom had more interclass contact than the average person has today. Because these great barriers — what we would call the networked society in which we live — hadn't been put into place yet. Think about how much public space my mother inhabited where she was going to encounter people from different cultures and different classes every day. There's almost no public space left at all. And any public space that we have is so patrolled and under so much surveillance and has been schematized and culturalized in certain ways that we're not really coming into contact with anyone who isn't like us. […] You basically encounter people in your network. So that if you are of a certain class, that's who you're encountering in the village. If you come from a certain educational background or from a certain privilege, that's who you're encountering in Williamsburg, these quote-unquote diverse spaces."

[via: http://botpoet.tumblr.com/post/103750710570/you-gotta-remember-and-im-sure-you-do-the

quoting these lines: “You gotta remember, and I’m sure you do, the forces that are arrayed against anyone trying to alter this sort of hammerlock on the human imagination. There are trillions of dollars out there demotivating people from imagining that a better tomorrow is possible. Utopian impulses and utopian horizons have been completely disfigured and everybody now is fluent in dystopia, you know. My young people’s vocabulary… their fluency is in dystopic futures. When young people think about the future, they don’t think about a better tomorrow, they think about horrors and end of the worlds and things or worse. Well, do you really think the lack of utopic imagination doesn’t play into demotivating people from imagining a transformation in the society?”]
junotdíaz  capitalism  race  class  segregation  dystopia  utopia  hope  faith  humans  2013  humanism  writing  literature  immigration  life  living  classism  activism  ows  occupywallstreet  punk  hiphop  compassion  identity  failure  guilt  imperfection  politics  self  work  labor  courage  howtobehuman  forgiveness  future  oppression  privilege  society  change  changemaking  futures  schools  education  business  funding  policy  resistance  subversion  radicalpedagogy  burnout  teaching  howweteach  systemschange  survival  self-care  masculinity  therapy  cultureofcare  neolithic  optimism  inventingthefuture  humanconstructs  civilization  evolution  networkedsociety  transcontextualism  paradigmshifts  transcontextualization 
november 2014 by robertogreco
If you stand up for Palestine in America, ‘you’re the devil,’ Junot Diaz says
"Yeah. The Brooklyn Book Festival and speaking in solidarity with Palestinians… What’s weird is I’m one of these old school activists. Before I was a writer I was an activist. Super boring! I’m kind of still an activist. Not kind of, I still am. It’s really like the identity my friends knew me before I was any kind of writer. Again guys, it’s sort of strange but I grew up in the 80’s in Central New Jersey and every single kind of colonial settler colonist calamity was present in my community. So get who my friends were, right! My friends were an Irish immigrant kid, the only white kid in our community, the only one, and hard core Irish Catholic republican. His family was not republican as you guys think, republican in the Irish terms. His family used to pass the hat around in church to raise money for the IRA…. This was the 80s, you guys, they would get up and be like, British occupation, 22 Irish were killed, let’s throw money in and the hat would go round…

My other friend was an Egyptian kid whose family extended into Palestine, and throughout all the 80’s, while everybody else was like watching like John Hughes movies, this kid had me on point on Palestine. This kid was “like this and like that and like this and like that.”

And then of course this was at the height of the apartheid movement. So all of my African American friends, well I should say, two of them, not all of them, two of them had parents who were part of that whole leftwing, you know, fucking pro-ANC, anti-apartheid movement. So I’m in this poor community and this is all just getting beamed into my head.

So by the time I was in college, I could give you chapter and verse on anti-Zionist projects. And look guys, you know– for many people it’s like a really tough issue. It’s like, we’ve kind of gotten deranged so that there are certain areas we can’t discuss. And of course the situation in Palestine is never– is like an utter taboo in this country. You know, it is an utter taboo. It’s like our ideas of terrorism, our ideas of Arabs, are over-saturated with the most negative, weirdly-perverse racist ideologies. I mean I can’t even turn on the news for five seconds without hearing the most fucked-up racist shit about Arabs or Muslims that would never pass muster if we were talking about any other group. And so in that kind of atmosphere it’s just a shouting match. You know if you’re like, I think the occupation of fucking Palestine is fucked up on 40 different levels, people are like, you’re the devil, we’re going to fucking drive you out of MIT, we’re going to get your tenure taken away, we’re going to destroy you.

I mean that’s like literally the reality. Where you can say almost anything else. You could be like, ‘I hate humans.’ … Bien. Bien. [unintelligble/Spanish/laughter]

I mean, I’m sorry guys, just forget it, I mean just as a basic human being, on the basic, basic level: If you are occupying other people’s shit, guess what, you are fucked up. [Wild applause] That’s that. I mean, that’s that. and that’s a tough thing for people to stomach, man. Because we live in a country that’s currently occupying people’s fucking land. [Applause] Like, god forbid, Americans are so deranged about Palestine because Americans are thinking, like yo, if we give up here, these fucking Indians are going to want their shit back. Well maybe they should get their shit back. Since 90 percent of us don’t own anything, I dont’ know how much it would hurt us. But whatever."
junotdíaz  2014  israel  palestine  academia  policy  politics 
october 2014 by robertogreco
"Life is going to present to you a series of... - Noteworthy and Not
"Life is going to present to you a series of transformations. And the point of education should be to transform you. To teach you how to be transformed so you can ride the waves as they come. But today, the point of education is not education. It’s accreditation. The more accreditation you have, the more money you make. That’s the instrumental logic of neoliberalism. And this instrumental logic comes wrapped in an envelope of fear. And my Ivy League, my MIT students are the same. All I feel coming off of my students is fear. That if you slip up in school, if you get one bad grade, if you make one fucking mistake, the great train of wealth will leave you behind. And that’s the logic of accreditation. If you’re at Yale, you’re in the smartest 1% in the world. […] And the brightest students in the world are learning in fear. I feel it rolling off of you in waves. But you can’t learn when you’re afraid. You cannot be transformed when you are afraid."

—Junot Díaz, speaking at Yale
junotdíaz  education  accreditation  credentials  credentialism  2013  neoliberalism  efar  risktaking  risk  learning  transformation  unschooling  deschooling  schooliness 
november 2013 by robertogreco
R.I.P. Chinua Achebe | Okayafrica.
"He was the complete artist–complex nuanced vexing inventive and dauntingly furiously courageous. For this writer from the african diaspora, he was a profound influence. I remember the first time I read him–it was like an awakening." — Junot Diaz (via e-mail)

"Let no one be fooled by the fact that we may write in English, for we intend to do unheard of things with it."—Chinua Achebe.

RIP. “Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter." - Chinua Achebe

"He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart." ― Chinua Achebe

“If you don't like someone's story, write your own.” ― Chinua Achebe

Here is a lovely quote from a commencement speech Dr. Achebe gave at the New School in 1991: “The power of creation is there in all its magnificence in the myths and legends of the world. I think the life of the world is worth your effort.” — Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah
chinuaachebe  2013  junotdíaz  tejucole  femikuti  quotes  writing  literature  influence  colonialism  decolonization  storytelling 
march 2013 by robertogreco
George Saunders Has Written the Best Book You’ll Read This Year - NYTimes.com
"You could call this desire — to really have that awareness, to be as open as possible, all the time, to beauty and cruelty and stupid human fallibility and unexpected grace — the George Saunders Experiment."

“He’s such a generous spirit, you’d be embarrassed to behave in a small way around him.”

“There’s no one who has a better eye for the absurd and dehumanizing parameters of our current culture of capital. But then the other side is how the cool rigor of his fiction is counterbalanced by this enormous compassion. Just how capacious his moral vision is sometimes gets lost, because few people cut as hard or deep as Saunders does.”

"the process of trying to say something, of working through craft issues and the worldview issues and the ego issues—all of this is character-building, and, God forbid, everything we do should have concrete career results. I’ve seen time and time again the way that the process of trying to say something dignifies and improves a person."

""...I don’t really think the humanist verities are quite enough. Because that would be crazy if they were. It would be so weird if we knew just as much as we needed to know to answer all the questions of the universe. Wouldn’t that be freaky? Whereas the probability is high that there is a vast reality that we have no way to perceive, that’s actually bearing down on us now and influencing everything. The idea of saying, ‘Well, we can’t see it, therefore we don’t need to see it,’ seems really weird to me.”"
struggle  progress  suicide  davidfosterwallace  canon  understanding  kindness  living  life  thinking  open  openminded  dignity  character  integrity  ideals  morality  humans  human  fallibility  aynrand  capitalism  careerism  compassion  junotdíaz  humanism  writing  economics  empathy  georgesaunders  2012  wisdom  storytelling 
january 2013 by robertogreco
Junot Diaz - Bookworm on KCRW
"Junot Diaz Drown (Riverhead) Diaz' stories render the young-immigrant experience in harsh, unforgettable rhythms. Here Diaz discusses the art of telling the truth."
bookworm  storytelling  truthtelling  truth  junotdíaz  interviews  tolisten  via:robinsonmeyer  1996 
october 2012 by robertogreco
Junot Diaz - Bookworm on KCRW
"This wide-ranging yet intimate conversation explores many difficult subjects: sex addiction, cultural difference, the Dominican diaspora, dictatorship, new ways of thinking about the function of literature, and the necessity that we leave the isolation of our self-made cocoons."
tolisten  thebriedwondrouslifeofoscarwao  oscarwao  interviews  books  michaelsilverblatt  2007  culturaldifference  culture  communities  community  literature  self-madecocoons  bookworm  junotdíaz  via:robinsonmeyer  reading 
october 2012 by robertogreco
Junot Diaz: This Is How You Lose Her - Bookworm on KCRW
"Our master of seductive street-slang discusses seduction and its relation to fiction. Can a writer seduce you?  Does Junot Díaz feel guilt about his persuasive and tempting approach? Find out, as he describes what he calls "the shock of representation.""
tolisten  via:robinsonmeyer  thisishowyouloseher  representation  literature  fiction  2012  interviews  bookworm  junotdíaz  michaelsilverblatt 
october 2012 by robertogreco
Sam Anderson on When the Meganovel Shrank - The 00's Issue -- New York Magazine
"What new species of books, then, have proved themselves fit to survive in the attentional ecosystem of the aughts? What kind of novel, if any, can appeal to readers who read with 34 nested browser tabs open simultaneously on their frontal lobes? And, for that matter, what kind of novel gets written by novelists who spend increasing chunks of their own time reading words off screens?"
2000s  bestof  literature  writing  media  books  culture  fiction  newmedia  reading  attention  technology  robertobolaño  googlebooks  samanderson  davidmitchell  michaelchabon  davidfosterwallace  infinitejest  postmodernism  daveeggers  junotdíaz  toread  00s 
december 2009 by robertogreco
'Wondrous Life' Explores Multinationality : NPR
"Novelist Junot Diaz's first novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao explores the complexities of living in two cultures at once. Set in both the United States and in the Dominican Republic, the novel follows the story of Oscar Wao in prose that frequently mixes Spanish and English in the same sentence."
culture  literature  ethnicity  latinos  multinationality  junotdíaz  toread  geek  nerds  thirdculture 
december 2009 by robertogreco

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