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?

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”.

“What’s Free?”

I chose to write about Meek Mills song “What’s Free” where Rick Ross and Jay-Z are also featured. Throughout the song, Mill and the other artists talk about the inequalities that African Americans have been through and are still exposed to today. I chose this song because Meek Mill is an artist that brings up issues in society that are in dire need of attention. He fights for what he believes in, and inspires change. He has been through so much inequality and racism in his life that he calls it to attention through his music for all to hear. In a time period where rap music is more popular than ever, Meek Mill calls attention to important topics where many other rappers only talk about drugs and girls.

Meek Mill said almost exactly a year ago when he was released from prison, “Although I’m blessed to have the resources to fight this unjust situation, I understand that many people of color across the country don’t have that luxury and I plan to use my platform to shine a light on those issues.” That is exactly what he has done. He has called to attention the injustices African Americans endure in America today. As he continues to gain more exposure with his platform and his music, the more change he is igniting.


Real Life

[This found poem is written in white font on a black background, as a metaphor that just because things may seem dark and deceitful at first glance, the truth can still be found]

For my found poem, I took an example from my personal life that evoked anger and confusion, as well as sadness. Social media can be a positive thing, or a negative thing, depending on who is using it and for what purpose. A trend that is fairly new to Instagram, is the creation of fake Instagram accounts, or “Finstagrams”. Usually these accounts are private accounts that users make, where they can go to rant, post funny or maybe inappropriate photographs and captions that they otherwise wouldn’t want to be on their normal, public Instagram profile. This specific example comes from the Finstagram account that belongs to my former best friend. Normally, posts about consuming alcohol, rants about school, or funny captions that may not make sense to post on her normal profile is what made up this account. However, after a bit of a hard time in our friendship, she turned to this fake Instagram to vent, rather than to me. 

            While this post is something that I can now laugh at and roll my eyes over, to some, posts as such are not as easy to get over. Cyberbullying is defined as “bullying that takes place over digital devices such as cell phones, computers, and tablets, which includes, but is not limited to, SMS and text message, social media, forum, online gaming, any other app that allows people to view, participate and share content” by the National Crime Prevention Center. Cyberbullying is still a strong form of bullying, considered to be a growing problem, and when students are asked to indicate which social media platforms they experienced cyberbullying on, 42% of students chose Instagram. 

            I chose this caption, that was full of hurtful lies and deceit, put on the internet for anyone to see, because it helped portray my feelings towards the situation as well. While it was untruthful from her side, an attempt for me to look like a villain and her to look like a victim, in reality, it was the other way around. That’s how cyberbullying works; lies and rumors and targeting occurs to make others feel inferior. Luckily, I was able to recognize that while for my former best friend, these words were fleeting and fake, for me, I could personally relate to many of the things she said. While this is a very personal example, I am willing to share it, to draw attention to a bigger picture; posting hurtful and deceitful posts on any social media platform is a serious offense and ultimately not worth it. 

Racism in Soccer

The article I chose for my found poem is one on racism in soccer. As we know, racism is present throughout the entire world and does not seem to be going away any time soon. Throughout my life I had played soccer and this is why I gravitated towards this article. Racism in soccer is very prevalent and is happening all of the time. Kevin-Prince Boatang is a professional soccer player who has battled with racism throughout his career. It is really disturbing that professional athletes and people all over the world are being called disgusting names and having racial chants being shouted at them. The article explains how even though the league had admitted to the presence of racial chants and prejudice, there was no action towards those people because there had only been ten people reported and it was not noticeable during the game. The referee said he did not hear the chants which allows the the league to dismiss any sanctions against these cruel and cold hearted people. The league is allowing these racist comments to be made without sanctions and this is a terrible thing to see in modern day. Everyone knows this is happening because this has been happening forever but it just gets hidden and never fixed.