Extra Credit: The Adventures In World Making Event

The Adventures in World Making event that was held in Old Main 220, showcased eight SUNY Cortland graduate students discussing novels they read and topics on two discussion questions. The first four graduate students were discussing a novel each of them were assigned to. They  talk about how the narrator’s dealt with coming to the United States and the characters experience of a culture shift. Amber Kent, a current graduate student, discussed the novel Nervous Condition by Tsitsi Dangarembga. Tambu, who is the main character of the story, is very poor in a white-dominated part of Africa called Rhodesia. Dangarembga, discusses throughout the book her experiences of the mistreatment of colonialism and oppression from the white colonists in the 1960’s. Amber gave a very brief summary of the novel, but the theme she developed from reading this is, “cultural shapeshifting”. The reason for her coming up with this theme is because Tambu becomes more fixed and established in a mission school she is involved in. Though the mission school has numerous amount of white young woman, she starts to embrace different beliefs from her traditional taught parents. The second graduate student, I didn’t really get her name and couldn’t understand her essay, but her novel she was assigned was Small Island by Andrea Levy. The third graduate student who presented her essay was, Liz. She talked about the novel, The Hickoriss Girl. Liz  talked about how this novel relates to realism and the supernatural. By giving us a deeper analysis of characters Tilly and Jess she showed they that, “they endure powers to open the gates of the superbnatural”.

Brittany, who was the fourth graduate student to present her essay about the book, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She discussed the difference between the African and American culture and how the characters had seen racial differences in different parts of the world. One of the topics that Brittany talks about is how Adichie discusses that there is still a racial hierarchy in Nigerian culture, however, as light-skinned or mixed-race people are considered more attractive. She uses the example of the  people on magazines are those of lighter skin. But when Ifemelu, who is the wife of Obzinie, and Obinze go to America and England respectively, they find that racism is a much more pervasive part of life. These four graduates presented these books in The Adventures in World Making event, to provide the audience of the Coming of Age Story.

Before I left to go to my last class of the day, I heard the presentation of Mike, who is a graduate student with Professor Savonick. For his presentation, he had to write an essay about two discussion questions. The first discussion question was, what does race, class, gender, and language play in equality? The second question was, How does text move us to think about gender and race differently? I didn’t to stay for much of Mike’s presentation, but I got a good portion of his presentation. He talked about the Tangentials and how we as people dismiss them for personal gain. Tangentials are according to Mike, “diverging from a previous course or line”. He link to this to the idea of people can’t really seem to provide equality in race, class, gender, and language because of the tangentials that are rather more favorable. The Adventures in World

Adventures in Worldmaking Extra Credit Opportunity

On April 30th, I attended the Adventures in Worldmaking ExtraCredit event which contained several speeches and essay from graduate students here at SUNY Cortland. The graduate students were from two different classes and they spoke about the worthy had done thus far in the semester. Dr. Kim Stone from the African Bildungrgrsoman had students from her graduate class present books they had read during the semester. The second group to present was from Dr. Savonick’s graduate class Feminist Worldmaking. Each student presented project that they had been working on throughout this semester. 

Dr. Kim Stone’s African Bildungrgrsoman graduate students presented first and they all read papers they had written about a book they read for the class. The books that they read were African coming of age books and this is primarily what African Bildungrgrsoman means. Throughout the presentation, there was pattern in what these books were about and what the course was about. All of the papers focused on the main characters another struggle in life to find their place in life and struggling to cope with their cultures. The characters came from different parts of Africa with different backgrounds but all shared the same conflict. Some of the books that were presented were Nervous Conditions, The Small Island, and Americana. All of the characters int these books shared a common theme of struggle for educational opportunities and finding themselves within their own culture. 

Dr. Savonick’s Feminist Worldmaking students had presented their assignments that they had been working on for the semester. It was very interesting in seeing the graduate work they had been doing and it was a great insight into the future. The first student to present focused on transgentles, followed by a presentation on a collage that a student had made, and the final presentation was an interactive activity where the audience received a sheet with questions and this engaged the audience into the presentation. All of the presentations were very interesting and there was a range in different types ofppoject which made this very interesting. Each student had come up with different issues and topics and expressed thermal in different ways. 

This extra credit opportunity was very interesting and it was a great indicator into what the future holds and a bit of insight into graduate level work. It was most definitely worth the time to go and see these great presentations. It was clear to the audience that these graduate students had truly cared about their work and it was clear that they had put much timed effort into their presentations. 

Graduates Presentations

On April 30th I had attended the extra credit opportunity called Adventures in Worldmaking. This extra credit opportunity was a series of eight different presentations from two different classes of undergraduate students. Each of these undergraduates students had presented on work that they have done throughout the semester. The first group of graduates students from Dr. Kim Stone class “African Bildungsroman” presented on books they had read throughout the semester. The second set of presentations was from Dr. Danica Savonick class “Feminist Worldmaking”. The graduate students from her class had presented on assignments that they had created throughout the year. 

I had took a particular interest in Dr. Danica Savonick class presentations. All of the presentations they had created were very fun and creative. Each student had developed a project based on their own likes and creativeness. The first presentation was about transgentles, the second presentation was a woman who made collages, the third presentation was on Exquisite Corpse and the final presentation was on a well thought out english class that she had created that minced Professor Savonick’s classroom. 

I think the Presentations were well thought out presentations, but two really stood out to me, the collages, and exquisite corpse. The Collages were every person in her class including herself’s manifestos. She had connected herself with all her collages and her classmates to ones identity. She displayed different pictures  on the bored as she went on with her presentation that connected her different manifestos that had allowed her to become the witch she is today. I think this presentation really had stuck out to me because it was very different than the others and it was very sentimental to her. In her collages she had put her dogs hair all over the collages because the week before she had put it all together her dog had got diagnosed with cancer. so I think for her the presentation that she gave on the 30th of April was more than just a presentation. The second presentation that I had loved was on exquisite corpse. This woman had a very interesting, fun activity that she created all by herself. She had created a work sheet for her class that was 7 questions long. You create a narrative or a world that you wanna live in, like what type of government you want and where you want to live. Each student has two minuets for one question and then you pass the paper so that 7 different people create one world. 

This extra credit event was a very unique way to demonstrate what you have worked for and created throughout the whole semester. If gave the graduates the opportunity to present something that was special to them in they own unique way. This was my first presentation I’ve been to here a SUNY cortland and it definitely makes me want to attend more.

Adventures in Worldmaking Extra Credit

I attended the Adventures in Worldmaking extra credit event on April 30th. This event had a group of graduate students from two different English classes in the graduate program speaking about work they have done in the semester thus far. The first group of students that presented were from the African Bildungsroman class with Dr. Kim Stone, and the second group was from the Feminist Worldmaking class with Dr. Danica Savonick. Students from the first class read papers that they had written about different books they had read throughout the semester. The second class presented some of the assignments and presentations they had done throughout the semester. Each person that presented brought something new to the conversation and brought up different topics and points of view.

The first group of students that presented were from the African Bildungsroman class. They each read a paper they had written about one of the books they had read in that class throughout the semester. Some of the books that were presented were Nervous Conditions, The Small Island, and Americana. They explained that African Bildungsroman books are African coming of age books. Each book that was talked about was an African Bildungsroman and had main characters that were confused or struggling to come to terms with their culture and where they stood in life. Some of the characters discussed were mixed race, some not, all from varying countries in Africa. Mostly all the characters traveled to other countries and had to figure out how to live and thrive in these countries. The main theme of these books were all coming to terms with one’s culture, with many secondary themes including education. Many of the books talked about compared the education systems of one country to that of another. I thought the students did a great job presenting their papers and introducing this genre of literature. I had never heard of the African Bildungsroman genre, but listening to the grad students present their papers and analyze these novels sparked an interest in the genre for me. I thought all of the presentations were very professional and all the papers were very well written.

The second group of graduate students that presented were from the Feminist Worldmaking class. Each student presented something different based on an assignment they had to do for class. There were two presentations that really stood out to me. The first was a woman who read what she called her manifesto, and showed her collage images. She brought in a collage of words to pass around, had a collage at the front of the room, and clicked through pictures of her collages on the screen. While she flipped through the pictures, she read her manifesto allowed which had to do with why she was a type of witch. She connected her collages and making collages to one’s identity. Her entire presentation was very relaxing and pleasing to listen to. The second presentation that stood out to me was a woman who presented an exquisite corpse exercise she had designed for their class to do. Each person in the class answered different questions in relation to making a new fantasy world for a novel, however students were unable to see the answers before them after a certain point. Each student created different aspects of the world like location, government, and technology all without seeing the answers that came before them. The presenter read some of the final worlds that they had come up with in their class and they were incredibly creative and imaginative. I thought this activity was extremely creative and interesting and made me want to try this out with friends and see what we could come up with. I really enjoyed this idea of creating a world by only having control over one part of it. It created some very interesting worlds. I thought all of the presentations from this class were very interesting and creative.

The Adventure in Worldmaking event is one of my favorite extra credit events I have been to. Each presenter talked about something different and added something new to the conversation. Every presenter kept my interest and made me think about things I hadn’t thought of before. This event introduced me to a new genre of literature and many new ideas about identity and worldmaking. I thought all of the graduate students did a great job presenting and really showcased the classes and their work well. I learned a lot from this event and I’m very glad I went.

Effects of Rape

Being sexually assaulted can have a very significant impact on one’s physical, emotional, and social well-being. What outsiders of the assault tend to focus on is the physical aspect of the assault and usually neglect the emotional and social aspects, which go hand in hand. After being assaulted it’s very common for survivors to engage in self-blame, much like what Myriam Gurba did in the book Mean. And it is also very common for that blame to bleed into every aspect of the survivor’s life. Gurba presents evidence of both of these things in great detail throughout the book.

As seen in Mean, Myriam Gurba shows multiple examples of how her experience caused her to develop post-traumatic stress disorder. Before telling her traumatic story that she tries to hoard, she tell us that PTSD is the only mental illness you can be given through someone else’s violent actions. Some actions that were committed consisted of, the man who gave her gay cousins aids, and her grandfather who gave her grandmother aids are a different “mean” she explains. She states, “I’m mean, but I am not so mean that I’ve ever raped anyone. I’ve never grabbed a strange woman, pulled down her underpants, shoved my face into her pussy, and inhaled. That’s a special kind of mean” ( Mean, 109). Mentally, Gurban loses all the trust in majority of men she meets after her experience with the rapist. One of the examples that shows this, is when she is at the grocery store with her mother. “He was approaching me. Besides the whole grain loaves, he paused. His hand reached for the hot dog buns. It squeezed. I came back to my body almost as immediately as I’d left it when I realized the shopper was not him”  (125). Her mind quickly changed the face of the man into the man who raped her. Post-traumatic stress disorder to her was composed of an “advanced set of art skills”, that made all men be seen as the same (125). Each one of the aisles that she walked past while shopping gave her fear of seeing the man yet again. Post-traumatic omnipresence, caused for features and apparel such as a curve bald head, a sharp grin, a bright white T-shirt, tightly laced Nikes and a five o’clock shave to trigger her to think about the rapist.

Not only did the effects of rape cause for Gurba’s mental state to manipulate her in seeing the man who raped her in every man she sees, but it conducts her brain to develop guilt and shame about what had been done to her. In the matter of guilt, she reminisces on what happens after she was raped. After seeing the news and recalling dates around Thanksgiving, the fall, and December; she comes to the idea that she could’ve stopped him. She states, “If I’d chased him into the alley, caught up to gim, taken off my shoe, and beaten him with it like Mom taught me you’re suppose to do with cockroaches” (139). She believes that even in doing this and dying is better than living with the guilt that she has. Though invisible, it still bears down on her that if she had done something to him maybe he wouldn’t have followed, harassed, and beaten women. When it comes to being shameful about her experience of being raped, she reflects it on her future. She feels this feeling of shame comes when she thinking about the rapist getting caught and she will have to testify against in him in court. She conveys this shame and self-blame on her desires of becoming a lawyer for her small town. She states, “Let’s say they remembered me as the girl who took the witness stand and cried when she described getting grabbed and having things put where they don’t belong” (140). She is ashamed that in the future that the level of respect from her co-workers in the courtroom wouldn’t ever be given. She believes she would always be known as the girl who was raped and they girl who never fought back.

In the midst of all of this, Gurba is still experiencing the worst of her PTSD symptoms. It doesn’t seem like she is going to get out of it anytime soon, maybe even get worse. She keeps hallucinating about the rapist being around her, each time she is by herself. The affects of rape can damage any person who has experienced it. With Gurba’s style of writing and dark humor we can not only witness her experience very clear, but what she suffered with as well.

Discussion Questions:

After addressing the nurse about the situation that has happen and given the response the nurse gave, what should Gurba actually do about with what she has experience?

On the page 109, in your own words, what does Gurba mean about a person having a special kind of “mean” ?

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.

https://www.offthebeatenshelf.com/blog/uncomfortable-part-3

  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?

It’s Okay to Laugh: Use of Dark Humor in Mean

Meanis the true crime, memoir, and coming of age story of Myriam Gurba. So far in the book, Gurba has talked about topics such as sexual assault, being queer and mixed race, and her childhood. Gurba’s style of writing makes the reader feel as though she is there speaking right to us. Her incredible attention to detail and intelligent use of storytelling is welcoming even though some of the stories told can be hard for some people to read. They could be triggering, or just uncomfortable for some. But, Gurba tells these stories in a way that the reader feels good about reading them. One of the ways she does this so well is through the use of dark humor. 

When starting to see how Gurba uses dark humor perfectly, I started to think; why is dark humor actually funny? In the article Awfully Funny, Eric Jaffe discusses the reason why people are able to see them as funny. Jaffe consults a study conducted by Peter McGraw of the University of Colorado, he states “McGraw and colleagues attempt to answer that question in two recent papers published in Psychological Science. The researchers propose an explanation of humor called the “benign-violation theory.” The theory is grounded in the idea that people are amused by moral violations — threats to their normal worldviews, for instance, or disparaging statements — but only so long as those violations are harmless. When the tone of the threat is playful, or the setting safe, a violation that might otherwise elicit sadness or fear instead leads to laughter.” Basically, this theory says that dark humor is funny when used in the right situations and timing. The article goes on to talk about how it all depends on the individual hearing the joke as well. Everyone has different experiences, so even if the joke is executed perfectly, someone could still find it unfunny and in bad taste. In the study, McGraw states “The role that psychological distance plays is as a moderator of the degree to which something is wrong and the degree to which something is okay.” 

            Gurba is able to make jokes about her stories because they happened when she was younger and has had time to grow a distance from these experiences. If someone were to make a joke to about sexual molestation a week after the person was molested, the reaction would be very different than if someone made a joke ten years after the fact. Gurba is able to take these dark topics, and tell them in a way that is serious, but also adds some comic relief so it is not all doom and gloom. 

Gurba, Myriam. Mean. Coffee House Press, 2017.

Jaffe, Eric. “Awfully Funny.” Association for Psychological Science, www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/awfully-funny.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you enjoy Gurba’s use of dark humor? Do you have a dark sense of humor? How has this effected the way you read Mean?
  2. Could this use of humor draw people away from reading the book? Or could it help people read more about hard topics?

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.