Does Feeling Uncomfortable Make You A Better Reader?

The book Mean by Myriam Gurba is a very raw, real, and funny coming of age story. She uses humor in ways that some people may find uncomfortable and unnecessary, but she is just trying to make light of a situation that was traumatic. I find that the humor helps me not only understand the book, but it helps me to stay engaged and want to keep reading. She has a tendency to make things uncomfortable. I think that is a quality that most books don’t have.

In the blog Off the Beaten Shelf by Mandy Shunnarah she talks about why reading books that make you uncomfortable make you a better reader and person. She gives a lot of great reasons and explanations, but one part of her blog that really stuck out to me was when she said “If we’re not uncomfortable when we learn about injustice, we probably don’t feel called to do anything about it. If we’re not uncomfortable, it’s really easy to look the other way and pretend not to see how society forces people to suffer simply for being who they are and inhabiting the skin they were born in.” I thought this was a really great way to put it. Gurba makes us feel uncomfortable in all the right ways. We are reading about things that we don’t necessarily want to talk about, but we are being exposed to things that matter. Gurba can make us feel uncomfortable about what she is writing about but somehow she makes it funny. Even things that aren’t supposed to be remotely funny. That’s what catches my attention the most. Gurba throws in little comments to bring back your attention all throughout this book. On page 108 she is describing her walk to her mothers work. She says “I crossed the street and sniffed at honeysuckle climbing the fence around the plant nursery. I headed past some weird brown building I assumed offered social services to women- I don’t know why, but the building just gave off an abortion vibe. I crossed the railroad tracks cutting down the middle of the street. An old-timey Coca-Cola bottling plant loomed noirishly behind me.” In this short paragraph she is casually talking about her walk home and then out of nowhere she mentions how the building she is passing gives off abortion vibes. Even though abortion is a tough subject, I found that comical and it pulled me back into the book.

The way Gurba uses her humor and uncomfortableness in this book is what makes it so fun to read. I do often feel uncomfortable while I am reading, but I should feel that way. Most of the topics Gurba is talking about are things that we should not feel okay talking about. That’s why her humor makes it easier to read.

  1. Does Gurba’s uncomfortableness make the book easier to read/understand? Does it make you a better reader or person?
  2. Are you okay with the things that Gurba is talking about and they way she uses humor to lighten the mood?

Katherine Sauro Found Poem

the girl              under my thumb                               the clothes       

  the change                         has come       

  it’s down to me 

the truth                yes      the squirming dog

            it’s alright                                   

    the sweetest

pet in the world                                                   it’s down to me.            change 

has come            take it           do what she’s told                                

  it feels alright 

         her eyes                kept to herself        I can still look at           someone else 

down to me                                             change 

                       has come                                           its alright 

    under my thumb 

I based my found poem on the song “Under My Thumb” by the rolling stones. In this song he is basically saying that he has his girlfriend under his thumb and that she is a “pet.” At one point it says “Her eyes are just kept to herself under my thumb, well I can still look at someone else.” This is a very misogynistic song about a man who is controlling over this women and giving her basically no freedom. 

The reason I made my poem the way I did was because there were so many derogatory terms in the song and I just wanted to add a few because I feel that often when women are in a relationship like this they are silent. Some women don’t stand up for themselves and they stay in a mentally abusive relationship and think that it is normal. For that reason, I used repetition of “its alright”.

Sapphire Reading Extra Credit

I attended Sapphire’s reading on April 4th. Sapphire is the author of popular books like Push and Kid. The book Push was later turned into the film Precious. Her work has been translated into 13 languages and she often talks about race, poverty, and abuse. She read several of her poems and I am going to talk about a few. Before I begin talking about the poems themselves, I wanted to address the way she read the poems. Every poem she read was read in such a passionate way, or sometimes a really funny tone. No matter what the poem, it was evident the mood and tone she was trying to convey just by the way she was reading it.

The first poem I am going to talk about is Speaker of the House. This poem was about a boy who had been sexually assaulted by his former wrestling coach, who later became Speaker of the House. The poem is read from the boys perspective. When she begins this reading, her voice is really loud and stern, which tells me that she is very serious and angry about what happened. One of the lines of the poem that stood out to me was “The last time I was anything, I was with you, now I have nothing, watching you on TV.” This is the boy speaking about how he has nothing in life yet the man who ruined his life is now Speaker of the House and on TV. The boy often speaks of being afraid and nervous. He goes to a job interview and it is revealed to us that he cannot hold a job and he likes to engage in risky behavior like speeding on his motorcycle. During the time that this man, whose name is Dennis Pastor, was this boys wrestling coach, the boy says that he felt like number one because they won the state championship and he felt great to be a part of something. He said the way that Dennis looked at him “froze my blood” and Dennis said “I need you.” The boy reveals that Dennis knew he was gay and took advantage of him. When the boy went to college he was hit, raped, he never used condoms and ended up with HIV and couldn’t get hired for a job. I thought this was a really great poem, as sad and disgusting the situation is, I feel that it is important to bring light to situations like these and not just let them be swept under the rug.

The next poem was called Ode to Thighs. This one was read in a much lighter mood and it was pretty funny. However, it was read pretty fast so I didn’t catch most of it, she repeats that “thighs stay strong” and talks about all the things that her thighs get her through. She starts the poem with her getting on her bike to the YMCA, she cleans on her hands and knees, she cooked and cleaned for everyone. At the end she says “thighs stay strong, thighs are all I have.” I thought this was a really interesting poem because I don’t think I have ever read anything about someones thighs. She isn’t wrong either, thighs really do help you in life and I think the point she is trying to make is that throughout any hardships in life, she has her thighs and she gets through it all. She is also saying that she is a strong woman who doesn’t give up.

The next poem, I didn’t catch the name of and It was read really fast so I also didn’t get much of the poem. The poem is about her life and values and what she has come from. She is from Mississippi and she starts with saying that she doesn’t remember what cotton looks like in a bowl. This poem was a series of things she is “from” or has encountered. The few lines I caught were “from new money fast gone jailhouse, abortions, degrees of light, dark night, talking loud, hearing voices, fur and fires, slavery and Obama.” This is a series of random things, but I found it really interesting because it gives us a small glimpse into her life. The way she ends the poem had the whole room laughing. She says “I say yes ma’am and bye bitch.” I thought this was really funny and honestly kind of badass because that tells me that she is respectful when she needs to be and can really put her foot down and not take anything from anyone.

These were just some of my favorite poems that I heard that day and I am so glad I went. I will definitely be looking into more of her work and I highly suggest her work to everyone.