Monday, April 30, 2007

Spoken Beats

The spoken word poem is, to be accurate, the revival of a very old tradition.  Although stated right at the beginning of the book, it is possible that this thought can be easily forgotten when you begin to delve into the actual works found in the book itself.  That idea, that forgetting of the tradition that comes with spoken word, would be a horrible idea.  It is all to easy in reading poetry to forget that poems were born for ease of memorization, and it is the flow, beat, wordplay and rhtyhm that is so often praised (or defamed) in modern music that gives poetry, good poetry, its power.
When reading these poems silently, off the page, when hearing them off of the recordings, when reading them outloud to yourself, all three are a different experience.
The very first poem of the collection, "Poem for the Root Doctor of Rock and Roll", is a prime example of this quality.  Although the collections audio cd has no reading of this poem, it is a magnificent (if extended) bit of rhythm and word-play, opening up with a deluge of slang and poignient visual metaphor, using these same metaphors in more and more refined sense as 'rock and roll' goes from its original progenator, to its more commonly known and accepted practitioners, such as Elvis.
In contrast, and in perhapse a far more impressive display, if again lengthy, is Regie Gibson's 'funknawlegy'.  The poem finds and keeps a fairly steady beat, accelerating and decelerating in the hands of a master of spoken word, using repatition to keep the entire poem from spiralling out of control, and to tie together sundry concepts into a single, unified effort.  In short, these poems each exemplify the reasons spoken word was, and is, such a strong force in poetry; reasons that should prevent spoken poetry from being allowed to, once again, go quietly into the night.

Belatedly kinky

The poems from the reading 'Kinky' were as interesting for their variety and frank discussion and analysis of various cultural elements.  From racial issues touched on through the sundry 'Ethnic Barbie' poems, to the more subtle, aesthetic or political elements that the poems often found need to touch on.
For example, the poem where Barbie is a space alien (the name of which I cannot recall, and my copy of the text has apparently returned to its own planet to report its findings.), there is a strong element of the absurd in the poem - who in their right minds would possibly believe the story that Barbie is in fact an alien invader.  Yet the poem, through that absurdity, touches on an element that is running rampant throughout modern America; the government, and the people at large, find more and more absurd accusations and perceived threats, when the most elementary arguments could easily show that the problem is vastly overstated - if anyone were inclined to listen, or gain the proper awareness of the issues at hand.
Yet in that same poem, in its closing lines, the problem becomes a two-way street.  No longer are those making accusations the only ones who are ill-informed, but also those who argue in the defense of a given 'threat' are improperly informed, the information that they are familiar with being restricted solely to the information necessary to defend their points rather than all the information necessary to make an informed decision.  In the end, neither side's claim makes any sense.

Monday, April 23, 2007


I really like this book of poems and using Barbie's lack of feeling both physically and emotionally to tackle different issues women fake. I think my favorite was Kinky and maybe Hispanic Barbie. The idea of sext bettween two feelingless things like Barbie and Ken and that desperate attempt for connection was so truthful to me and so hilarious. I also really got into the one's talking about Barbie's depiction of Race in general because it's so true that there is no racial differentiation other than skin colour. Barbie tried to recognize different racial backgrounds but it always heinously failed.

There's a Mold for Everybody

When we first started reading Kinky I remembered how the Barbies at my house always used to fight. My parents would get frustrated with the doll limbs and heads that they would find flung everywhere around the house. As long as we didn’t make a mess, though, my parents encouraged us to play in whatever way we wanted. They thought that gladiator battles or dress up were equally appropriate for either gender, and let us choose our toys and what we would do with them. I always felt like I had sort of dodged a bullet that hit a lot of other girls. I didn’t feel the need to be blond or girly and I was happy about that.
When I read “Hispanic Barbie”, however, I remembered a Mexican Barbie that someone had bought as a gift for me when I was little. I think the idea was to make me proud of my heritage. For some reason this Barbie never took part in the gladiator battles that all the other Barbies did. She still sits on my dresser back at home, black hair perfectly in place, white, red and green dress arranged prettily around her, green eyes and bright red lips smiling up at me whenever I look in the mirror in my room back at home. I started remembering vague thoughts that I used to have when I’d glance at Mexican Barbie, and then look at myself in the mirror before going out “I wish my lips were that red” or “if only my eyes were a little greener”. I think one my favorite lines in the whole book is, “Girls, like some grown men, like a variety, as long as it’s pretty”.
By creating Barbies that girls of different ethnicities can relate to, they aren’t helping girls to be more accepting of themselves, they’re saying that there is a mold that you should be fitting into, no matter what your skin color. Girls want a toy that they can at least somewhat relate to, and Mattel has done a good job of making such a variety that there is something for everybody. What I love about Kinky is that the Barbie we relate to is a Barbie with feelings, and insecurities and life crises. We don’t relate to her skin color, or the fact that she plays soccer too! We relate to frustrations with societal pressures and rather than being unable to relate to the tiny waist and big boobs we’ll never have, we are unable to relate to fingers that are stuck together and an inability to move or speak. What Barbie doesn’t have makes us appreciate that we aren’t Barbie.


I know a lot of girls who grew up on Barbie. My little sister used to put Barbie in her pink convertible and then push it down the stairs screaming, “CAR CRASH!” in pure glee. She would put the leather clothes of her Elvis doll on Barbie and put the hot pink leggings that were meant for Barbie on Elvis. I don’t really think that she thought anything of it past, “this looks funny.” My first girlfriend my sophomore year of high school used to play with Barbies too. She would cut their hair and take pictures of them in explicit poses. I don’t really think she meant anything political by it. She was high most of the time and was kind of lame. I don’t really think she thought anything of it past, “this looks funny.”
Anyway, Kinky is a pretty heavily charged book of poetry based on the idea that Barbie creates a false and unrealistic ideal for the children she is marketed at. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s seriously fucked up how skinny Barbie is. And, her feet do belong in 12th century China. Maybe it’s because I’m a male, but I think that most of the little kids who play with Barbie don’t really notice. And a lot of little girls, at least from what I’ve seen, just like to fuck her up. Which is pretty cool I guess. And, going off what Jared said, I think that it would be pretty sweet if Barbie did heroin. Or just had veins. But then I guess my sister's car crashes would have been kind of bloody. That would have freaked me out. Damn.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Piercy, Lifshin, Gallo-Dunn,Piercy, Lifshin, Gallo-Dunn,Piercy, Lifshin, Gallo-Dunn,Piercy, Lifshin, Gallo-Dunn,Piercy, Lifshin, Gallo-Dunn,Piercy, Li

I never wanted to be my GI Joe Duke, but I'm pretty sure my next door neighbor did.
John told me once when we were kids that he wanted to be a soldier when he grew up, so that he could "kill people and come back a hero" and people would love him. I remember asking him honestly if he could ever actually shoot someone and kill them. I must have been acting out my confusion loudly in his front yard, either that or he talked over his blood lust with his father later that night in such a way as to make me seem like it was my idea to take our Nerf guns to the next level on the city, because the next morning I got a stern talking to. I was walking to the bus stop and John's dad met up with me before I got there. I remember him telling me I was a sick boy. He said, "Have you ever shot a deer? Do you have any fuckin' idea what it is to actually take a life? You've gotta be messed up, man- messed up in the head to think it's cool to kill somebody." I didn't say anything. John Senior was right and I wasn't about to argue. I kicked a soda can and hoped that he had the same talk with his own son.
(1) I think that it is great that Barbie doesn't have any sort of external genitalia. I like that her fingers are stuck together. I say no nipples are good nipples. R.D. Laing's kids knew where babies came from before the age when I could tie my shoes without help. Whatever that means is that this anatomical-incorrectness makes kids ask questions, and that's important whether they are answered or not. These questions show that there is a perceived distinction between reality and plastic.
(2) I'm glad Barbie hasn't the veins for heroin.
(3) I think we have to flesh out the ways in which children develop morals before we jump to blowing up FAO and installing V-Chips in peoples adrenal glands. I've seen elementary school kids purposely cut themselves with safety scissors during arts and crafts. My little cousin used to think that every beverage someone older than her drank was a beer.
(4) Give your kids some toys and play with them.
(3 con.) I don't know. The child's mind has so few frames for reference, is constantly being bombarded with new stimuli and opinions that they assume are correct, and all in all they're just pleasure seeking freaks like us all. It's too much to say that less than everything all at once is the culprit of influence.
(5) I don't even know what I'm getting at most of the time.
(6) I Love You.
"It’s a conspiracy!" Carbo says as he hunches over and wags his finger in the air, pointing at nothing or no one in particular.
... It seems believable. A conspiracy directed to not only to control the minds of women but of the men who perceive and interact with women, reinforcing these very specific and unrealistic ideals of femininity. But where does it start? Who is really in on it? And really, does it matter to the individual woman or man?
We are influenced by everything we encounter. And once we become adults (or at least able to make some of our own decisions) we subject ourselves to what we want to influence us. I want to be an astronaut, so I will expose myself to the stars, the universe, and the feeling of weightlessness. One day maybe these things will shape me into a being that is capable of leaving our oxygen shell, or maybe I will just spend the rest of my life smoking pot, lying in empty fields at night and listening to pink floyd– not such a bad existence even without my dream of all dreams. But if were to expose myself to the intentions of these conspirators then yes! of course I would be warped into a woman that feels that her self-image is inadequate and that her mind is unimportant. I am fortunate. Because I have no need for this exposure or for the consideration of the ideas proposed by these conspirators, who I am sure are more numerous than I can imagine.
So what of all the others who are not dreaming to be astronauts, but to be classy ladies, wanted and adored by men. How can they avoid such exposure when it is the dominant perception of such qualities? I suppose the only answer is that they cannot. In fact no one can completely avoid such conspiracies. But we can all add this point of view to our repertoire in a way that does not conflict with the conceptions that we have ourselves. In other words, acknowledge these types perceptions but do not incorporate them into the filters that we view the ourselves and the world with. Easier said than done.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

the tide is high, and we're moving on

My recollection of playing with Barbie was that I tried to make her look like Debra Harry from Blondie. I got in trouble for cutting her hair into a very cool punk rock shag and drawing on fancy eyeliner with a blue ballpoint pen. My mom didn't have a lot of money to spare on toys, so I was stuck with my Blondie Barbie until I got too old to play with her, but that was okay. I still like Blondie. But that's beside the point...

Like the majority of women, I occasionally feel victimized by the media's fascist beauty standards. My appreciation for Denise Duhamel's book stems from her portrayal of Barbie as a fellow victim, not the victimizer. It has become de rigueur for women, even feminist women, to lambaste thin women for simply being skinny, when they are actually under the same or similar pressures as the rest of us. Who hasn't heard (or even said), “I HATE her! She's so thin!” Perhaps she was just born that way and is filled with other insecurities. Maybe she doesn't like her slender frame and longs to be curvier. Maybe her thinness is the result of an eating disorder or obsessive exercising. Thin women are not the enemy. Judging them for their size makes it okay for men or society to judge women by their size. Fighting against other women detracts focus from the real problem.

I think it is important for women to view other women as comrades in arms instead of enemies, and by portraying the ever-perfect Barbie as a victim of impossibly idealistic beauty standards, Duhamel draws appropriate attention to the source of the victimization, which includes the media and the fashion industry, and encourages us all (no matter the size) to work together to change those standards.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

No one knows for sure what she's talking about

My response will be slightly different than the others.
I went through the whole book of poems and selected my favorite lines. After that, I mixed the lines around to make a somewhat cohesive poem. hoorah!

Although a grown doll,
the soft spot at the top of her skull
still hasn't closed.
No one knows
for sure exactly what Barbie is talking about.
Yet we sense she picks her
the way she picks her

It is a complicated issue,
Barbie's signature trait of forgoing bra or panties,
whether she's out raking leaves or hostessing a formal party.
From the other room,
she overhears a human
telling her friend that women
make Barbie-feet just before orgasm
The only time Barbie used a sanitary napkin,
it was as a makeshift mattress.
She once held a junior size Tampax
as a whiffle-ball bat.

In the Hereafter, Barbies don't possess telltale
big boobs or teeny accent-mark-feet.
Instead, they resemble white
flashlights enveloped in dry ice.
The kindly Sister explains that if this indeed
is Barbie's calling she will never be able to go naked again
As hollow as the Tin Man,
she was ashamed about her absent heart.

Our impulse (is) to destroy
what is whole,
to coddle and love
what we have injured.
We can all look the same, as we jump into
a vat of anesthesia and knives
When the surgeons slices off her nipples to
put in the silicone implants, they decided to
leave the milk-outlets off because, after this,
the nerve endings would be dead.
(He) dipped
her legs in a full bottle of Johnson's Baby Oil
"Lick your lips,"
he kept saying
forgetting Barbie didn't have a tongue.
Her sassy lips refuse to part, making
her the perfect keeper of secrets. No one
(would) trace
this malaise
to Afterlife Barbie, her beatific blank-
ness; her commandments living in synthetic anima-

"Why don't you try running over something small?"
coaxed GI Joe, who sat naked behind the leg
of a human's living room chair.
They decide to exchange heads.

Barbie squeezes the small opening under her chin
over (his) bulging
neck sock. His wide jaw line jostles atop
his girlfriend's body, loosely, like one
of those nodding novelty dogs
their personality quirks rubbing against the cosmos.
Sometimes, they were chafed.

She loves him because he knows nothing--
a mere fashion accessory to Barbie's crimes.
Math class is tough, says Teen talk Barbie,
not quite exasperated, but certainly resigned

Monday, April 16, 2007

I played with cabbage patch dolls.

You know, I never really got too into Barbie. Cabbage Patch dolls, those fat weeble wobble little people, and a wide array of stuffed animals were more my things. But reading Kinky still struck a chord within me. That's because it wasn't just about the toy. It was about womanhood and the stereotypes and discrimination women face daily. It was about the right to sexual freedom. And the sadness that has stemmed from racism ( ie, native american barbie, hispanic barbie, etc). And honestly, I appreciated that. It was silly, sure. But it was also empowering. Why shouldn't Barbie be allowed to join the military? And if her and Ken want to switch heads and feel all ooey gooey about each other, more power to them. I think the use of inanimate objects to challenge the labels placed on women, on human beings in general, was a wise choice. And to choose an inanimate object which also functions as the pinnacle of girlhood by representing the "perfection" of womanhood was/is, in my opinion, absolutely brilliant. Because by showing the "perfection" of womanhood in these different lights, by showing the inconsistencies and struggles Barbie faces, is, on a smaller level, deconstructing womanhood as we have been raised to know it.
I think my favorite poems were the ones on race because they not only brought up the issue of racism on a general level, but they also brought up the issue of being a woman of color. I have found one of the hardest parts of being raised in the All-American-Blonde-Hair-Blue-Eyed society we live in is the pressure ethnic girls have to be more "white," from Abercombie and Fitch with their jeans that won't fit over a Hispanic girl's hips to the constant bombardment of television commercials for long silky hair that flows that African-American girls can't naturally have. But the black Barbie is made just like white Barbie, just with darker skin. And the same for Hispanic Barbie. And Native American Barbie, she doesn't even really exist. And when you take a step back, away from the poems and the other issues they point out, and honestly think about how all the Barbies look exactly alike just with different shades of skin, it makes you think, are they really trying to convey diversity or something more along the lines of creepy indistinguishability?

dear barbie: kill your gods

The poems in Kinky were not quite what I expected. Judging from the cover (even though one must never do that, if adages are to be believed), with its bubblegum skinned Barbie of Venus of Willendorf proportions, the book would be full of bitter, acidic jabs at Barbie's very existence, blaming her for eating disorders, general feminine malaise, irresponsible energy use, and World War III.

The opposite isn't quite true - there's a definite criticism of what Barbie means in our culture. However, I think Duhamel's tone of examining Barbie as a victim too is interesting. She's not the enemy, she too is vulnerable to the culture that has developed around her. Poor Barbie has been constructed without basic human body parts and this frustrates her; she is frustrated by her inability to join the army and her perpetually-bent feet give her trouble. She is another example of the problems women face in society, not the cause. Her status as a mirror is especially apparent with the poems about the various 'ethnic Barbies' - Hispanic Barbie is hard to find; there's only one Native American Barbie left. The overwhelming majority of white Barbies is a reflection of our own culture's ignorance of non-white members and our latent racism, expressed even in our choice of toys.

I find this refreshing. It's nice to mess around with expectations every now and again. And it's true; Barbie's not the villain. She never asked to be made out of nonbiodegradable plastic (yeah, like what the hell is that all about?); she never asked to be constructed to impossible proportions. Possibly an atheist metaphor could be drawn out of all of this, but that's not really my forte.

Seriously, though, Barbie living through nuclear holocaust? On top of being assigned the sketchy status of impossible feminine ideal (Botticelli, eat your heart out)? Curse you, Ruth Handler. Curse you.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Kinky - a criticism of conformity

Ideals and values always seem to be very dangerous, very discussable issues probably because noone really knows which are good and bad, which are positive and which are negative. The reason is as simple as it is frightening: our sense of good and bad is also only derived from indoctrinated values, morals and ideals. That makes it hard for us to control the ideals with which we influence our younger generation. With all the new media children today are influenced by society in many different ways. Among others, movie and music stars tell our children the perfect way to look, to think, to live for example.
In her book "Kinky" Denise Duhamel shows how strongly even the toy industry takes part in the indoctrination of our young ones with certain ideals by taking a close look at the number one traditional famous toy for girls, the Barbie. With many poems written from the perspective of the barbie, Duhamel criticises how Barbie only represents a certain class, a certain too conservative ideal that should be overcome and changed in these times. Barbie is this white, blond, blue-eyed girl with a waist about the size of her neck and only concerned with her looks. Through Barbie little girls are indirectly told at a very young age that these are the ideals they have to follow in life. This is what a woman has to look like.
Duhamel criticises in a sarcastic, half sad, half ironic voice how race is evidently still an issue, how there is no Puerto Rican, no Chinese, no Native American Barbie and if there is, it is not even half as popular as the original one. Girls are indirectly told they have to have long hair, even long blond hair. Sure we do want our children to know that eating healthy and not being overweight is important to enhance the quality of their life but Barbie's ridiculously skinny waist is unachievable for most normal girls thus indirectly contributing to the increase in anorexic girls. What is worse, instead of fighting these implications, the industry picks up on this trend by producing jeans for anorexic stars like Nicole Richie and advertising an disease as fashionable.
Instead of making a point that we live in a multi-cultural community today and that diversity should be desired, Barbie is a symbol for a conservative unchanging view on life, in which your race determines your status, in which women are merely men's accessories and in which we embrace ultimate conformity.
Barbie is just a symbol but so many of us can relate to it, so many girls have played with one, so many boys have either done the same or at least have broken one in half to annoy their sister. It is a toy everyone of us can describe, everyone could draw. Everyone has that same picture of a Barbie in mind. That is what makes it such a strong symbol, such a great tool for Duhamel's criticism and that also shows us as readers how much we ourselves have already been indoctrinated with the wrong or at least with a very selective view on life.

I understand that apart from the question of conformity there are other issues displayed, criticised or brought to attention in Duhamel's poems, for example the treatment of the Native Americans in "Native American Barbie" or gender roles and the differences between the sexes but I chose to discuss the question of conformity as it appeared to me to be the predominant issue in the book and because it struck me the most. On a personal note, Denise Duhamel has in one night become one of my favorite poets. I thought her poems very open, very easy to relate to but at the same time deep in meaning, sad, sarcastic, ironic, witty and honest.

A New Barbie Perspective

As I read through Kinky, I realize that my childhood was consumed by playing with a doll that was marketed to be unlike me and my experiences in every way. My favorite doll, Barbie, contributed to body image problems in America (me) and I had no idea. I think back to how none of my barbies were ethnic. Not a one. All blonde hair and identical, with the exception of my University of Miami cheerleader Barbie - who happened to be Hispanic and therefore tan, brown haired, and purple eyed. This collection of poems speaks to the girl inside who never understood the implications of her miniature play dates and the misconceptions about the use of my Barbie.

The poems are slightly disturbing to a girl who played with Barbie until she was 14. Rummaging around the box looking for the other tiny purple shoe. As the pages reveal titles like Hippie Barbie and Black Barbie History, they reflect not only Barbie's inner-thoughts, but societal thoughts I didn't know existed. Barbie, who is mocked in these poems for her so-called American Lifestyle and her supposed similarity to little girls' dreams everywhere, relates to me know more than ever. In Kinky, Barbie is more a real person than a character. She is an actual reflection of insecurties and dreams that all American girls and even woman have. This collection urges me to go back to the large pink box filled with tiny clothes and naked plastic, and play with Barbie from a whole new perspective.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Thoughts on Kinky

This collection of poems would be so fun to make into an actual line of dysfunctionally realistic Barbie dolls. Codependent Barbie comes with an abusive boyfriend and enough makeup to cover a black eye; Neurotic Barbie comes with unnecessary meds and therapy bills; Fat Barbie comes with cake and mascara that won’t run down her cheeks when she cries herself to sleep at night.

The poems in this book never feel gimmicky, even though it would be easy to do with such strict criteria. There are just too many things to do with Barbie, so many ways to warp the image that the idea never becomes stale. Some of the poems take Barbie and actualize her, making the doll conform better to reality and making human flesh into that plastic ideal, no matter what shape or color it is. That is a way to use the Barbie phenomenon to empower and justify women instead of insulting and demeaning them. On the other hand, you have poems that criticize Barbie for being an ideal, since she is so deficient and fake, and using her to discuss feminist and political issues, as in the title poem.

In “Kinky,” Barbie and Ken have a problem that no human couple ever has, mainly being bits unyielding plastic and lacking genitalia all together. And yet, they end up encountering all kinds of relatable dilemmas: wanting to be someone else in bed, having to try crazy, degenerate positions to feel anything at all, and the ever-presence of a lurking gender/sexuality crisis in Ken (in men).

Barbie and Ken are representatives of humans (even if they are unrealistic) and as such serve as an excellent metaphor through which to discuss anything tough, be it gender, race, politics, sex, or sexy and racy gender politics, which is exactly what this collections does.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Thursday, March 15, 2007

[4] Hardly Garbage Art

[1] I think that the most basic problem readers of poetry have is relational. I feel that if something doesn't speak to me, if I cannot draw even some vague connection with whatever recounted history in front of me, especially if I can't relate and I've heard the same yarn over and over, I simply tune out. For example, I have no real problem with tampons, I mean, they don't really make me feel one way or the other. Also, I have very little relational history to the struggle of the Black (Panthers) Rights Movement, and the urban struggle of the black man. I'm about as black as much as I am a woman. I guess that I do have my particualr feelings about racism and menstruation, and there is a certian element of classism from the viewpint of men vs. women and blacks/ black women, but I do not deign to be a literate crusader. I respect the vigor of the oppressed writer, whether they are oppressed by middle-class white men like me, or from a bunch of cotton and a piece of string, I just don't get it, becuase it's not me.

[2] Hell Pig, that's something I get. I cannot count the number if times I was grounded and had my car keys taken away when I was in high school for coming home late. Curfew was the thing in my household, and for the most part I was punished fairly, but being a dumb kid is a part of growin' up. I too was the one that had to call the movie short. Before I had a car, I too was the one who had to make everyone drop everything to bring the kid home. I wish I did have some sort of fear of being late though, my own Hell Pig. All I had was the notion that I could have more fun in the now, and deal with being grounded either way. [My parents had the particular genuis idea to help me get home on time by saying, "Your curfew is 11, but if you come home AT 11 you're late." So if I was on time, I was in trouble.] So, right on Amiee N! Here's to all the kill joys and anti-punctuals.
[As a side note I'm probably showing up to this class right now and late.]

[3] I do not understand why the black men and women depicted in the cartoons section are drawn in the typical 1940's-ape-like-political-cartoon-D.W. Griffith-is-a-damn-visionary sort of way. These people should appear in such a way as o counter the sterotype, not abide by its rules. Where's the passive strength? Where's the dignity?

[4] John, by the grace of God, king of England, lord of Ireland, duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and count of Anjou, to the archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, barons, justiciars, foresters, sheriffs, stewards, servants, and to all his bailiffs and faithful subjects, greeting. Know that we, out of reverence for God and for the salvation of our soul and those of all our ancestors and heirs, for the honour of God and the exaltation of holy church, and for the reform of our realm, on the advice of our venerable fathers, Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury, primate of all England and cardinal of the holy Roman church, Henry archbishop of Dublin, William of London, Peter of Winchester, Jocelyn of Bath and Glastonbury, Hugh of Lincoln, Walter of Worcester, William of Coventry and Benedict of Rochester, bishops, of master Pandulf, subdeacon and member of the household of the lord pope, of brother Aymeric, master of the order of Knights Templar in England, and of the noble men William Marshal earl of Pembroke, William earl of Salisbury, William earl of Warenne, William earl of Arundel, Alan of Galloway constable of Scotland, Warin fitz Gerold, Peter fitz Herbert, Hubert de Burgh seneschal of Poitou, Hugh de Neville, Matthew fitz Herbert, Thomas Basset, Alan Basset, Philip de Aubeney, Robert of Ropsley, John Marshal, John fitz Hugh, and others, our faithful subjects:

[1] In the first place have granted to God, and by this our present charter confirmed for us and our heirs for ever that the English church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished and its liberties unimpaired; and it is our will that it be thus observed; which is evident from the fact that, before the quarrel between us and our barons began, we willingly and spontaneously granted and by our charter confirmed the freedom of elections which is reckoned most important and very essential to the English church, and obtained confirmation of it from the lord pope Innocent III; the which we will observe and we wish our heirs to observe it in good faith for ever. We have also granted to all free men of our kingdom, for ourselves and our heirs for ever, all the liberties written below, to be had and held by them and their heirs of us and our heirs.

[2] If any of our earls or barons or others holding of us in chief by knight service dies, and at his death his heir be of full age and owe relief he shall have his inheritance on payment of the old relief, namely the heir or heirs of an earl £100 for a whole earl's barony, the heir or heirs of a baron £100 for a whole barony, the heir or heirs of a knight 100s, at most, for a whole knight's fee; and he who owes less shall give less according to the ancient usage of fiefs.

[3] If, however, the heir of any such be under age and a ward, he shall have his inheritance when he comes of age without paying relief and without making fine.

[4] The guardian of the land of such an heir who is under age shall take from the land of the heir no more than reasonable revenues, reasonable customary dues and reasonable services and that without destruction and waste of men or goods; and if we commit the wardship of the land of any such to a sheriff, or to any other who is answerable to us for its revenues, and he destroys or wastes what he has wardship of, we will take compensation from him and the land shall be committed to two lawful and discreet men of that fief, who shall be answerable for the revenues to us or to him to whom we have assigned them; and if we give or sell to anyone the wardship of any such land and he causes destruction or waste therein, he shall lose that wardship, and it shall be transferred to two lawful and discreet men of that fief, who shall similarly be answerable to us as is aforesaid.

[5] Moreover, so long as he has the wardship of the land, the guardian shall keep in repair the houses, parks, preserves, ponds, mills and other things pertaining to the land out of the revenues from it; and he shall restore to the heir when he comes of age his land fully stocked with ploughs and the means of husbandry according to what the season of husbandry requires and the revenues of the land can reasonably bear.

[6] Heirs shall be married without disparagement, yet so that before the marriage is contracted those nearest in blood to the heir shall have notice.

[7] A widow shall have her marriage portion and inheritance forthwith and without difficulty after the death of her husband; nor shall she pay anything to have her dower or her marriage portion or the inheritance which she and her husband held on the day of her husband's death; and she may remain in her husband's house for forty days after his death, within which time her dower shall be assigned to her.

[8] No widow shall be forced to marry so long as she wishes to live without a husband, provided that she gives security not to marry without our consent if she holds of us, or without the consent of her lord of whom she holds, if she holds of another.

[9] Neither we nor our bailiffs will seize for any debt any land or rent, so long as the chattels of the debtor are sufficient to repay the debt; nor will those who have gone surety for the debtor be distrained so long as the principal debtor is himself able to pay the debt; and if the principal debtor fails to pay the debt, having nothing wherewith to pay it, then shall the sureties answer for the debt; and they shall, if they wish, have the lands and rents of the debtor until they are reimbursed for the debt which they have paid for him, unless the principal debtor can show that he has discharged his obligation in the matter to the said sureties.

[10] If anyone who has borrowed from the Jews any sum, great or small, dies before it is repaid, the debt shall not bear interest as long as the heir is under age, of whomsoever he holds; and if the debt falls into our hands, we will not take anything except the principal mentioned in the bond.

[11] And if anyone dies indebted to the Jews, his wife shall have her dower and pay nothing of that debt; and if the dead man leaves children who are under age, they shall be provided with necessaries befitting the holding of the deceased; and the debt shall be paid out of the residue, reserving, however, service due to lords of the land; debts owing to others than Jews shall be dealt with in like manner.

[12] No scutage or aid shall be imposed in our kingdom unless by common counsel of our kingdom, except for ransoming our person, for making our eldest son a knight, and for once marrying our eldest daughter, and for these only a reasonable aid shall be levied. Be it done in like manner concerning aids from the city of London.

[13] And the city of London shall have all its ancient liberties and free customs as well by land as by water. Furthermore, we will and grant that all other cities, boroughs, towns, and ports shall have all their liberties and free customs.

[14] And to obtain the common counsel of the kingdom about the assessing of an aid (except in the three cases aforesaid) or of a scutage, we will cause to be summoned the archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls and greater barons, individually by our letters--and, in addition, we will cause to be summoned generally through our sheriffs and bailiffs all those holding of us in chief--for a fixed date, namely, after the expiry of at least forty days, and to a fixed place; and in all letters of such summons we will specify the reason for the summons. And when the summons has thus been made, the business shall proceed on the day appointed, according to the counsel of those present, though not all have come who were summoned.

[15] We will not in future grant any one the right to take an aid from his free men, except for ransoming his person, for making his eldest son a knight and for once marrying his eldest daughter, and for these only a reasonable aid shall be levied.

[16] No one shall be compelled to do greater service for a knight's fee or for any other free holding than is due from it.

[17] Common pleas shall not follow our court, but shall be held in some fixed place.

[18] Recognitions of novel disseisin, of mort d'ancester, and of darrein presentment, shall not be held elsewhere than in the counties to which they relate, and in this manner--we, or, if we should be out of the realm, our chief justiciar, will send two justices through each county four times a year, who, with four knights of each county chosen by the county, shall hold the said assizes in the county and on the day and in the place of meeting of the county court.

[19] And if the said assizes cannot all be held on the day of the county court, there shall stay behind as many of the knights and freeholders who were present at the county court on that day as are necessary for the sufficient making of judgments, according to the amount of business to be done.

[20] A free man shall not be amerced for a trivial offence except in accordance with the degree of the offence, and for a grave offence he shall be amerced in accordance with its gravity, yet saving his way of living; and a merchant in the same way, saving his stock-in-trade; and a villein shall be amerced in the same way, saving his means of livelihood--if they have fallen into our mercy: and none of the aforesaid amercements shall be imposed except by the oath of good men of the neighbourhood.

[21] Earls and barons shall not be amerced except by their peers, and only in accordance with the degree of the offence.

[22] No clerk shall be amerced in respect of his lay holding except after the manner of the others aforesaid and not according to the amount of his ecclesiastical benefice.

[23] No vill or individual shall be compelled to make bridges at river banks, except those who from of old are legally bound to do so.

[24] No sheriff, constable, coroners, or others of our bailiffs, shall hold pleas of our crown.

[25] All counties, hundreds, wapentakes and trithings shall be at the old rents without any additional payment, exept our demesne manors.

[26] If anyone holding a lay fief of us dies and our sheriff or bailiff shows our letters patent of summons for a debt that the deceased owed us, it shall be lawful for our sheriff or bailiff to attach and make a list of chattels of the deceased found upon the lay fief to the value of that debt under the supervision of law-worthy men, provided that none of the chattels shall be removed until the debt which is manifest has been paid to us in full; and the residue shall be left to the executors for carrying out the will of the deceased. And if nothing is owing to us from him, all the chattels shall accrue to the deceased, saving to his wife and children their reasonable shares.

[27] If any free man dies without leaving a will, his chattels shall be distributed by his nearest kinsfolk and friends under the supervision of the church, saving to every one the debts which the deceased owed him.

[28] No constable or other bailiff of ours shall take anyone's corn or other chattels unless he pays on the spot in cash for them or can delay payment by arrangement with the seller.

[29] No constable shall compel any knight to give money instead of castle-guard if he is willing to do the guard himself or through another good man, if for some good reason he cannot do it himself; and if we lead or send him on military service, he shall be excused guard in proportion to the time that because of us he has been on service.

[30] No sheriff, or bailiff of ours, or anyone else shall take the horses or carts of any free man for transport work save with the agreement of that freeman.

[31] Neither we nor our bailiffs will take, for castles or other works of ours, timber which is not ours, except with the agreement of him whose timber it is.

[32] We will not hold for more than a year and a day the lands of those convicted of felony, and then the lands shall be handed over to the lords of the fiefs.

[33] Henceforth all fish-weirs shall be cleared completely from the Thames and the Medway and throughout all England, except along the sea coast.

[34] The writ called Praecipe shall not in future be issued to anyone in respect of any holding whereby a free man may lose his court.

[35] Let there be one measure for wine throughout our kingdom, and one measure for ale, and one measure for corn, namely "the London quarter"; and one width for cloths whether dyed, russet or halberget, namely two ells within the selvedges. Let it be the same with weights as with measures.

[36] Nothing shall be given or taken in future for the writ of inquisition of life or limbs: instead it shall be granted free of charge and not refused.

[37] If anyone holds of us by fee-farm, by socage, or by burgage, and holds land of another by knight service, we will not, by reason of that fee-farm, socage, or burgage, have the wardship of his heir or of land of his that is of the fief of the other; nor will we have custody of the fee-farm, socage, or burgage, unless such fee-farm owes knight service. We will not have custody of anyone's heir or land which he holds of another by knight service by reason of any petty serjeanty which he holds of us by the service of rendering to us knives or arrows or the like.

[38] No bailiff shall in future put anyone to trial upon his own bare word, without reliable witnesses produced for this purpose.

[39] No free man shall be arrested or imprisoned or disseised or outlawed or exiled or in any way victimised, neither will we attack him or send anyone to attack him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.

[40] To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay right or justice.

[41] All merchants shall be able to go out of and come into England safely and securely and stay and travel throughout England, as well by land as by water, for buying and selling by the ancient and right customs free from all evil tolls, except in time of war and if they are of the land that is at war with us. And if such are found in our land at the beginning of a war, they shall be attached, without injury to their persons or goods, until we, or our chief justiciar, know how merchants of our land are treated who were found in the land at war with us when war broke out, and if ours are safe there, the others shall be safe in our land.

[42] It shall be lawful in future for anyone, without prejudicing the allegiance due to us, to leave our kingdom and return safely and securely by land and water, save, in the public interest, for a short period in time of war--except for those imprisoned or outlawed in accordance with the law of the kingdom and natives of a land that is at war with us and merchants (who shall be treated as aforesaid).

[43] If anyone who holds of some escheat such as the honour of Wallingford, Nottingham, Boulogne, Lancaster, or of other escheats which are in our hands and are baronies dies, his heir shall give no other relief and do no other service to us than he would have done to the baron if that barony had been in the baron's hands; and we will hold it in the same manner in which the baron held it.

[44] Men who live outside the forest need not henceforth come before our justices of the forest upon a general summons, unless they are impleaded or are sureties for any person or persons who are attached for forest offences.

[45] We will not make justices, constables, sheriffs or bailiffs save of such as know the law of the kingdom and mean to observe it well.

[46] All barons who have founded abbeys for which they have charters of the kings of England or ancient tenure shall have the custody of them during vacancies, as they ought to have.

[47] All forests that have been made forest in our time shall be immediately disafforested; and so be it done with riverbanks that have been made preserves by us in our time.

[48] All evil customs connected with forests and warrens, foresters and warreners, sheriffs and their officials, riverbanks and their wardens shall immediately be inquired into in each county by twelve sworn knights of the same county who are to be chosen by good men of the same county, and within forty days of the completion of the inquiry shall be utterly abolished by them so as never to be restored, provided that we, or our justiciar if we are not in England, know of it first.

[49] We will immediately return all hostages and charters given to us by Englishmen, as security for peace or faithful service.

[50] We will remove completely from office the relations of Gerard de Athée so that in future they shall have no office in England, namely Engelard de Cigogné, Peter and Guy and Andrew de Chanceaux, Guy de Cigogné, Geoffrey de Martigny and his brothers, Philip Marc and his brothers and his nephew Geoffrey, and all their following.

[51] As soon as peace is restored, we will remove from the kingdom all foreign knights, cross-bowmen, serjeants, and mercenaries, who have come with horses and arms to the detriment of the kingdom.

[52] If anyone has been disseised of or kept out of his lands, castles, franchises or his right by us without the legal judgment of his peers, we will immediately restore them to him: and if a dispute arises over this, then let it be decided by the judgment of the twenty-five barons who are mentioned below in the clause for securing the peace: for all the things, however, which anyone has been disseised or kept out of without the lawful judgment of his peers by king Henry, our father, or by king Richard, our brother, which we have in our hand or are held by others, to whom we are bound to warrant them, we will have the usual period of respite of crusaders, excepting those things about which a plea was started or an inquest made by our command before we took the cross; when however we return from our pilgrimage, or if by any chance we do not go on it, we will at once do full justice therein.

[53] We will have the same respite, and in the same manner, in the doing of justice in the matter of the disafforesting or retaining of the forests which Henry our father or Richard our brother afforested, and in the matter of the wardship of lands which are of the fief of another, wardships of which sort we have hitherto had by reason of a fief which anyone held of us by knight service, and in the matter of abbeys founded on the fief of another, not on a fief of our own, in which the lord of the fief claims he has a right; and when we have returned, or if we do not set out on our pilgrimage, we will at once do full justice to those who complain of these things.

[54] No one shall be arrested or imprisoned upon the appeal of a woman for the death of anyone except her husband.

[55] All fines made with us unjustly and against the law of the land, and all amercements imposed unjustly and against the law of the land, shall be entirely remitted, or else let them be settled by the judgment of the twenty-five barons who are mentioned below in the clause for securing the peace, or by the judgment of the majority of the same, along with the aforesaid Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury, if he can be present, and such others as he may wish to associate with himself for this purpose, and if he cannot be present the business shall nevertheless proceed without him, provided that if any one or more of the aforesaid twenty-five barons are in a like suit, they shall be removed from the judgment of the case in question, and others chosen, sworn and put in their place by the rest of the same twenty-five for this case only.

[56] If we have disseised or kept out Welshmen from lands or liberties or other things without the legal judgment of their peers in England or in Wales, they shall be immediately restored to them; and if a dispute arises over this, then let it be decided in the March by the judgment of their peers--for holdings in England according to the law of England, for holdings in Wales according to the law of Wales, and for holdings in the March according to the law of the March. Welshmen shall do the same to us and ours.

[57] For all the things, however, which any Welshman was disseised of or kept out of without the lawful judgment of his peers by king Henry, our father, or king Richard, our brother, which we have in our hand or which are held by others, to whom we are bound to warrant them, we will have the usual period of respite of crusaders, excepting those things about which a plea was started or an inquest made by our command before we took the cross; when however we return, or if by any chance we do not set out on our pilgrimage, we will at once do full justice to them in accordance with the laws of the Welsh and the foresaid regions.

[58] We will give back at once the son of Llywelyn and all the hostages from Wales and the charters that were handed over to us as security for peace.

[59] We will act toward Alexander, king of the Scots, concerning the return of his sisters and hostages and concerning his franchises and his right in the same manner in which we act towards our other barons of England, unless it ought to be otherwise by the charters which we have from William his father, formerly king of the Scots, and this shall be determined by the judgment of his peers in our court.

[60] All these aforesaid customs and liberties which we have granted to be observed in our kingdom as far as it pertains to us towards our men, all of our kingdom, clerks as well as laymen, shall observe as far as it pertains to them towards their men.

[61] Since, moreover, for God and the betterment of our kingdom and for the better allaying of the discord that has arisen between us and our barons we have granted all these things aforesaid, wishing them to enjoy the use of them unimpaired and unshaken for ever, we give and grant them the under-written security, namely, that the barons shall choose any twenty-five barons of the kingdom they wish, who must with all their might observe, hold and cause to be observed, the peace and liberties which we have granted and confirmed to them by this present charter of ours, so that if we, or our justiciar, or our bailiffs or any one of our servants offend in any way against anyone or transgress any of the articles of the peace or the security and the offence be notified to four of the aforesaid twenty-five barons, those four barons shall come to us, or to our justiciar if we are out of the kingdom, and, laying the transgression before us, shall petition us to have that transgression corrected without delay. And if we do not correct the transgression, or if we are out of the kingdom, if our justiciar does not correct it, within forty days, reckoning from the time it was brought to our notice or to that of our justiciar if we were out of the kingdom, the aforesaid four barons shall refer that case to the rest of the twenty-five barons and those twenty-five barons together with the community of the whole land shall distrain and distress us in every way they can, namely, by seizing castles, lands, possessions, and in such other ways as they can, saving our person and the persons of our queen and our children, until, in their opinion, amends have been made; and when amends have been made, they shall obey us as they did before. And let anyone in the land who wishes take an oath to obey the orders of the said twenty-five barons for the execution of all the aforesaid matters, and with them to distress us as much as he can, and we publicly and freely give anyone leave to take the oath who wishes to take it and we will never prohibit anyone from taking it. Indeed, all those in the land who are unwilling of themselves and of their own accord to take an oath to the twenty-five barons to help them to distrain and distress us, we will make them take the oath as aforesaid at our command. And if any of the twenty-five barons dies or leaves the country or is in any other way prevented from carrying out the things aforesaid, the rest of the aforesaid twenty-five barons shall choose as they think fit another one in his place, and he shall take the oath like the rest. In all matters the execution of which is committed to these twenty-five barons, if it should happen that these twenty-five are present yet disagree among themselves about anything, or if some of those summoned will not or cannot be present, that shall be held as fixed and established which the majority of those present ordained or commanded, exactly as if all the twenty-five had consented to it; and the said twenty-five shall swear that they will faithfully observe all the things aforesaid and will do all they can to get them observed. And we will procure nothing from anyone, either personally or through anyone else, whereby any of these concessions and liberties might be revoked or diminished; and if any such thing is procured, let it be void and null, and we will never use it either personally or through another.

[62] And we have fully remitted and pardoned to everyone all the ill-will, indignation and rancour that have arisen between us and our men, clergy and laity, from the time of the quarrel. Furthermore, we have fully remitted to all, clergy and laity, and as far as pertains to us have completely forgiven, all trespasses occasioned by the same quarrel between Easter in the sixteenth year of our reign and the restoration of peace. And, besides, we have caused to be made for them letters testimonial patent of the lord Stephen archbishop of Canterbury, of the lord Henry archbishop of Dublin and of the aforementioned bishops and of master Pandulf about this security and the aforementioned concessions.

[63] Wherefore we wish and firmly enjoin that the English church shall be free, and that the men in our kingdom shall have and hold all the aforesaid liberties, rights and concessions well and peacefully, freely and quietly, fully and completely, for themselves and their heirs from us and our heirs, in all matters and in all places for ever, as is aforesaid. An oath, moreover, has been taken, as well on our part as on the part of the barons, that all these things aforesaid shall be observed in good faith and without evil disposition. Witness the above-mentioned and many others. Given by our hand in the meadow which is called Runnymede between Windsor and Staines on the fifteenth day of June, in the seventeenth year of our reign.

Understanding behavior and perspective

Paisley Rekdal describes a series of very interesting visuals and comparisons in "a crash of rhinos." After dissecting this poem for a while, the message that I interpreted from it was based on the evolutionary need that we have developed for love. The poem talks about sameness and anonymity. To be loved by someone is to eliminate this anonymity by becoming significant in the perceptions of another. The poem switches from depictions of animals herded in fear to a description of a couple grunting with love. I think that Rekdal is trying to relate the emotions that we so passionately feel when we are in love to the instinctual survival mechanisms of other animals. I am not sure what the significance of the two quarters in poem was, except maybe an allusion to magic and the show is performed by persons in love. The general behaviors that are associated with love happen naturally and instinctually between people, and the purpose of such behaviors are rarely analyzed aside from the need for reproduction. I believe that Rekdal is very accurate when comparing such instinctual tendencies of survival and safety as the "scared cows shoved ass to ass" to the behaviors that we exhibit when we are in love. I believe the reasons are largely the same: to not only be protected, but to be part of something that validates the individuality of a person or animal.
In the graphics, I particularly related with the cartoons that showed the white balding psychiatrists counseling confused and defensive black men. One showed a psychiatrist with his foot rested on the man being counseled, while asking him " Why is it that you don’t think you get any respect?" The other showed the white balding psychiatrist convincing his patient, who is armed with many weapons to "lower his psychological defenses." These cartoons show the ridiculousness of the psychiatrist trying to alleviate the psychological turmoil of the confused and defensive black man, who has most likely experienced situations that the psychiatrist has no knowledge or wisdom of. In one of the cartoons the psychiatrist has a diploma posted on his wall for his psychological degree. Does this make him qualified to understand the mental turmoil of the oppressed man? Could he possibly have valuable insight into the other man’s situation? I really am not sure whether a degree in psychology gives someone the power to understand such a different perspective. It seems that counseling of this sort could potentially leave a man feeling even more helpless than before.

Poems Poems Poems

Wow so the theme of alot of these poems was sex sex sex. I thought they were all pretty... interesting but I think the ones I liked the most were the Boris and Natasha ones. They made me laugh and were putting out some interesting messages out there. I liked the whole Boris Dahlink thing he did, adding those accents in there and the line "I want to be scribbled all over you," in Natasha in a Mellow Mood. The best thing though was Boris's response it was so cute and romantic even though it was sad because in the end Boris chose mother Russia over his lady. I don't know. I still dug it. It's just so cute. I can't wait until we read the next poetry book we have. There is some Beau Sia in there and that really makes me happy!

rapper balladeers, tampons, and Shanghai bok choy

There's an interesting modern conception of poetry - it needs to be expressive and truthful, even if that makes the reader uncomfortable. In decades past the point of poetry was to tell stories in a lyric and beautiful way - I can't think of any of the Romantics writing about phone sex and tampons. In some of the poems in Humor Me, though, these two conceptions reach a sort of compromise - I am specifically thinking of Allison Joseph's "Ballade for the Missing Beat." Joseph writes her poem in a traditional style, with a strict form with a history of being used for descriptions of lovely things. Joseph, however, uses the form to speak about a distinctly modern movement: rap. Admittedly I am inexperienced with much of rap, but nothing I have ever heard has been in the form of a ballade. Joseph uses the form to lament the loss of "those rapping stars of yesteryear," the artists who ushered in the rap movement and perhaps lent it a sort of balladry. By using the form of the ballade, Joseph is lending a sense of establilshed credibility to a modern form, and placing beauty in a place where we may not be used to seeing it.

Many of the poems are uncomfrotable or even painful to read - particularly "wishes for sons." Instead of being a loving mesage from a mother, it is a bitter wish that they understand the pains of their mothers and sisters. Lucille Clifton does not seem to give any motivation for such an acidic bequest, but there is a hint in the last stanza of a sense of universality - "let them think they have accepted/arrogance in the universe," let them become resigned to the superiority others may hold due to their condition, but Clifton also suggests sympathy with the last two lines: there may perhaps be those who understand. The same subject is addressed, although in a very different tone, in the graphic story "Draining Like a Dead Chicken." Clifton's poem never directly referenced the act of menstruation, only what its symptoms can be, but Erika Lopez is far more explicit. She too is angry at tampons (which is completely understandable) and tries to accustom herself to her menstruation by accepting it as a part of her womanhood. I read this aloud to a friend of mine and when we got to the line "I love you, vaginal blood, and I am not ashamed of you," we both burst out laughing. There's the humor I was looking for, I guess - and yet I think we both wish we didn't always feel so bitchy about our periods. The problem addressed both by real women and by "Draining Like a Dead Chicken" is the unavailability of compromise between two extremes: either you submit to the "corporate guys" and buy tampons and pads and feel uncomfortable, or you get down with your woman self, use sea sponges, squat over your houseplants, and feel pretty silly. A graphic story is a fun, lighthearted way to approach the issue, though, and I appreciated that I could relate to it.

The use of illustrations to convey a political or social message, particularly when the illustrations are marked as "cartoons," can make for some very interesting observations. The visual depiction of a situation, attached to a snappy one-liner of dialogue, has a different effect on the reader than it would were it perhaps included in a story. Keeping to the theme of the anthology, most of the cartoons addressed issues of race, although some didn't seem to be really applicable - for example, an ascetic sitting next to a skeleton and conceding defeat. Most of them, though, were blatant depictions of presuemd racial problems. Obviously as a white person I will react to these differently from a person of color, but I still managed to identify with one: a line of students in a college cafeteria, with two black students discussing the menu. The dishes of the week are of international origin: pizza, "Shanghai" bok choy, ham, black-eyed peas and grits, and burritos. "That's as close as this university gets to multiculturalism," one student says to the other. I laughed because I could see that in my own college: we are a predominately racially homogenized campus, and cafeteria food is always fodder for humor - particularly ours (oh, how I shudder when it's lo mein day). However, thinking about the deeper meaning of the cartoon also made me think about how I could apply its other messages to my school. A multicultural menu is a particularly superficial way to demonstrate perceived diversity; it really has no importance at all. For a school to ever seriously consider having internationally inspired dishes as a marker of cultural acceptance is completely absurd, and it makes one wonder: evidently, this is an important way in which the school wants to be viewed - why not make more of an effort outside the cafeteria?

Feminine Expression In Poetry

Poetry can become a way for the feminine mind to express its resentment and weariness of the binds that society place on it. Three such poems follow this venue; "wishes for sons", "Role Models", and "Natasha in a Mellow Mood". All three tackle the positions and roles women are forced into by society and how a woman's personal view conflicts with that of society's. Each poem heightens the woman's personal response to such traditional but somehow stifling and unfair conventions by examining them within the context of a male's perspective of the situations discussed in the poems. This demonstrates how society's perspective more favorably supports the masculine over the feminine and demeans the feminine in various manners and also attacks this trope by examining how it works against the feminine individual to show how it is unfair.

In "wishes for sons" this is achieved by applying the woman's plight to her son's future. A mother, generic not specific, wishes for her sons to experience all that she has had to face in order to illustrate, in a manner that supports empathy rather than the lesser sympathy, the annoying and often time embarrassing circumstances a woman can face because of her bodily functions. This wish is not so much to curse men with a similar fate but to raise sympathy and awareness for what women suffer in uncomfortable situations that men don't have to deal with. This is supported in the fact that each circumstance listed deals with social situations rather than general conditions women face such as cramping, pregnancy, etc. The wishes are centered around how inconvenient it is to be female at particular moments rather than how repulsive the entire condition is. Also, because the poem has to specific sender (no named author) nor no specific receivers, the wishes seem to be directed to a wider male audience than one mother and her sons. All men are supposed to take away from this a consideration for just what women have to face everyday with these small inconveniences for being female and perhaps to be a little more sympathetic for it. In other words this could be a response to that oh so annoying phrase, "Oh, it's just that time of the month so she's just being a witch."

"Role Models" approaches the same matter in a different manner by challenging the conventions of who are deemed worthy role models. By having the male listener in the poem react in a manner that suggests he's humoring the author but seems to doubt his decision demonstrates yet again, as in "wishes for sons", the way that society seems to demean the feminine position by, in a way, smiling and nodding its head while pretending to listen. This poem argues for the validity of a strong feminine role model who can challenge a girl to test her limits. Superman or Spiderman can't do this for a young girl because there is too great a gulf placed between boys and girls even at a young age so that the masculine is something treated as almost alien to the feminine. Boys go fishing, girls play house. How can the macho Superman teach Sally to respect herself when he is so different from anything she can possibly become in the future? Wonder Woman is the girl's hero because she is something familiar. So way should it be strange the author describes her as her hero? The further demeaning nature of the author's father's comments about Wonder Woman further stresses how society overlooks a woman's real values for the superficial attractions of the body. The author makes this point and urges that women can make great role models just as easily as men. Even the fact that she challenges Supergirl and Bionic Woman in their standing because they delineate from men stresses just how greatly the masculine infringes on the feminine with regard to directing how it is perceived and produced. However, she does include them as role models because, in the end, they too teach her how to support herself and learn to fly even within the structure of the masculine as a societal framework (i.e. the masculine superhero giving rise to the feminine counterpart).

Lastly, "Natasha in a Mellow Mood" approaches this matter by taking a pop culture icon and fleshing her out with personality and depth. This poem attacks a few different boundaries by considering both sex and culture but here I focus on the feminine concerns rather than cultural though both have a strong statement within the poem. Natasha is something trope, like the Barbie doll, and her form as governed by the cartoonist is developed by pop culture's view of women. Natasha as a person seeks to escape this two dimensional existence to be fleshed out in reality by breaking all conventions as a cartoon figure for children and as a cultural pun for the American cartoonist. This break between the fake female that has been shaped by pop culture and the real feminine that is described by passion and desire is illustrated by the actual vision of washing the ink from Natasha's hair coming nude out of the bath and escaping all expression in drawing that no cartoonist would dare attempt in the passionate embraces of physical love. This brings the two-dimensional figure to a three dimensional environment and suggests that the real woman cannot be captured by any artist or cartoonist willing to conform to the mandates of society. Natasha wants to become a real woman not constructed by rigid boundaries such as pen lines or cheesy, fake accents.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

on periods and prejudice

I interpret Lucille Clifton's "Wishes for Sons" as a metaphor; it is more like "Wishes for Men," since all men are sons. Her poem seems less like a tender sentiment than a resigned one, as in, she is tired of discrimination and violence toward women, but recognizes that there is likely no end to it. If men had the same anatomy as women and the same experiences as women, they might be less likely to discriminate, hurt, and assign outmoded gender roles to them, but it's not going to happen.

Erika Lopez's story isn't so much about criticising some women's boycott of the tampon industry as describing the (if you will) sticky predicament that women find themselves in--support a greedy industry that holds the almight bloody dollar higher than real concern for women's wellbeing (tampons are made with rayon and cotton, which contain dioxins and pesticides, and they're too expensive), or use a method that is less convenient, less accepted, and sometimes probably seems ridiculous (e.g., applique-ing a gold mandala on your handmade maxi-pad). She presents neither option as appealing. The speaker might be proud of herself for trying an alternative method of flow control (when she washes out her sea sponge tampons in the public bathroom sink) but not ready to face the criticism of other women for taking the path less traveled (so she jams the door closed with her foot). Lopez recognizes the inner voice that reminds people that there is a little bit of hypocrisy in every action they take to "make a difference" (and that includes me. I think everyone hears that voice sometimes).

"A Selection of Cartoons" by Eric Johnson is humorous and thought-provoking, but it also elicited the feeling that I am incredibly naive and will never understand what it is like to be a person of color. I mean, I understand why something is funny, but the realization that some of the situations that the black character finds himself in are based on real-life situations is sobering. I laugh, but I cringe, too, and I recognize that the reason I'm cringing is because I've never had to deal with anything like this, and then that makes me realize the extent of "white privilege," knowing that I'll never have to worry about someone assuming I'm from the ghetto or using me as a footstool. It seems that Johnson, like Lopez, recognizes that social activists are also guilty on occasion of hypocrisy, particularly in the cartoons about the black maid and the black janitor. The most humorous one, to me, is of the guy on the phone saying he's the one with the corsage instead of "I'm the only black guy in the room." I find it ironic because many white people automatically qualify people of color when it is unnecessary, e.g., "This black guy I work with told me about a great restaurant." I believe Johnson's comics probably provide a cathartic release for him, evoke a knowing chuckle from people of color, and, hopefully, make everyone take a look inside to check themselves.

On poetry and graphics....

How I dream about the words that Lucille Clifton writes. I have many times cursed at the stupid, inconsiderate male who happens to cross my path on a bad day. I usually don’t feel bad for the exact reasons Clifton mentions. Wishes for sons, is a feminist anthem, in it’s own right. While the subject matter is less than hostile, it carries a sense of determination and bite. I felt empowered just reading it. Even though it relays negative images, the overall message expresses a sense of power and magic in being a woman.
Of course, Erika Lopez, is more than familiar with the female anatomy – as her graphic story portrays. I laughed the whole way through, maybe in an attempt to keep from crying and agreeing. Amusing that all of women’s troubles can be simplified to the blood that runs from between your legs. It also never occurred to me, that tampons were a capitalist invention. Or that cats could talk. Her images in the story are perfect in their context and assist in generating humor from the story.
On a completely separate subject, I loved the comic on page 17. The comic was mostly hilarious because it reminded me so much of New College, and Marriot. The lack of cultures and ethnicities, other than upper-middle class white kid, astounds me. Don’t get me wrong I’m a middle class white kid, but it still makes me dumbfounded when I think about the lack of multicultural diversity on campus. Of course, Ham Center really does try to mix it up with all those burritos, nachos, and egg rolls.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Commentary on graphics and poetry (Okay, focuses on the graphics)

Several things jumped out at me throughout the reading of the graphics section of Humor Me. And possibly the most prevalent among them was the (occasional) sense of the absurd that ran through the comics, used to sometimes gloss over a very weighty meaning. The first comic, for example, focuses in on an African American man who is on the phone. The caption, that “I’m wearing a corsage so you’ll know me.”, carries at first a sense of ridiculous humor. Of all the reasons for this man, from the images the only non-white man in the room, to be immediately recognizable, a corsage is not the first on the list. Underneath this apparent absurdity is an accusation, however. The deep accusation that the only way an African American can get into this sort of gathering is still in the position of a ‘servant’ one of the caterer’s employees or something similar to that, as opposed to being one of the corsage-wearing guests.
A similar implication, with far less subtlety involved, comes with the image of a man jumping onto a firefighter safety net. The man, again African American, is shortly to be surrounded by for men in the white hoods of the Ku Klux Klan. The accusation of preferential treatment by firefighters, and extension police and medical personnel, for white folks in comparison to those of color is potent.
In a more relaxed setting, a white psychologist meets with an African American man. The comic draws immediate tension between image and caption, as the psychologist rests his feet upon his patient, while question why he believes that he gets no respect from those around him. The parallel here is deep and powerful, as the calls for respect and truly equal action from the African American population still go unheeded, as portions of the city that have African Americans as the majority of their citizens often go underfunded and cared for in comparison. Yet when the accusation is made, it is often smoothly deflected or ignored by the ‘powers that be’, even as the situation is made worse, (such as when the psychologist asks why he believes he gets no respect, while he contributes to this belief by using his client as an hassock.

response to poetry and graphic section of humor me

I liked the poem “a crash of rhinos” by Paisley Rekdal. I think it dealt with the concept of sex and desolation in an interesting way. By relating human relationships to animal interactions, Rekdal creates a world where humans are on a hopeless quest for happiness and helpless to determine their fates. Everyone is lonely and lost, futilely searching for meaning in relationships that inherently have no meaning and seeking out bodily satisfaction that is unable to fulfill their spiritual needs. I like the way the poem addresses the reader throughout the poem with lines like “this is how you got here”, making the reader the main character of the poem.

I thought the cartoon with the police staking out a black panther exhibit at the zoo was funny because it was ridiculous. The graphic story at the end of the graphic section was strange. It told all these things that the author did to feel empowered as a woman and to not be shameful of her period. I was a little confused as to the point of the story though. The speaker’s empowerment is a bit ridiculous and is unable to completely free her and in fact it inhibits her in some ways. For example she writes “I walked around my apartment carrying a spider plant between my legs, and singing made up songs about Germaine Greer to classical music written by extremely dead men”. It is clear that she in unable to free herself of the constraints of her (male) society by refusing to buy tampons. The end of the story emphasizes this because she says she is spending the money she saved on therapy bills and she in unable to find lasting peace or happiness.


The thing that really impresses me when reading any kind of literature is not the wit, or wordplay, or ingenuity, but the humanity that goes into it. For that reason "wishes for sons" was one of my favorite poems. What I interpret in the poem is not cruelty, which, one might get as a first impression, but the desire of a mother to give her sons strength as she understands it. I see a mother who loves her sons so much that she wishes she could have them experience the kind of cramps that make you double over, so that they understand a little better. The agony and humiliation of your period surprising you. The terror of a late period and the immensity of the relief when it finally comes. Those kindsof things are all things men miss in their life. They live in a kind of protective comfort of never having to worry in that way, and for a mother to wish that knowledge as a loving "understand me" gesture, is simply beautiful. Also, female gynos are evil to women...

I did however find quite a few of the cartoons to be horribly clever. The first one, "I'm wearing a corsage so you'll know me" the only black man in the room full of businessmen. It's funny, and yet tender in that he is the one who seems ignorant of his situation, though one would assume he should be the most aware. He is the "token" black male. I like the illustration of the firefighters because it speaks of discrimination by authority figures who should be there to protect everyone regardless. I was also pleased to see that they addressed discrimination against black women, even by black men, such as teh Black Panther cleaner, and the man who "brings his work home" despite his wife's "request." It is terrible how women are so overlooked in race talks.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Black Native American Panther Son of Boris and Natasha

Reading the personification of two humorous cartoon characters from a childhood show was unexpected. Who ever takes the time to think about the personal lives of cartoons? We never think about what happens after the artist abandons his/her pen. At least they can have a private life. No journalist from the National Enquirer would think about publishing a fabricated story on cartoons. It would, amazingly, be too beyond belief for an adult, American audience. In this way they are lucky. However, when and if Boris and Natasha want to file for divorce, I would like to see them try to convince a judge of their case.

On a more serious note, this poem stood out most to me because it exposed the underlying ideology behind a popular cartoon. As a child I did not know that the Americans and Russians were enemies; that the Russians were fighting for the ideology of communism, or what communism was. The cartoon for me was not about the US always triumphing against elusive Russian spies. Instead, simply, this cartoon was about a dumb Moose and a smart Squirrel who always seemed to escape the wrath of a couple of comical, menacing, angry people with funny accents. Making connections like these are some of the most exciting experiences of growing up.

An appealing cartoon was the one where the researcher is in a jail cell saying, “gee, I bet your glad to be out of the ghetto!” to a black inmate. Unfortunately, these sorts of occurrences can put the social sciences in a potentially negative light. Such statements are leftovers from a (relatively recent) despicable history of racism and bigotry in these fields. Not to say that these fields are not still attempting to dig themselves out of such holes.

The Black Panther cartoon with the maid is interesting. It is demonstrating, from what I understand that although these men are fighting for a freedom from oppression, they are themselves contributing to the oppression of black women. The Native Son cartoon is also humorous, because obviously this book on “black anger” sold very well.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Poems, cartoons and a graphic story

As there are quite a number of poems in the book, I decided that instead of commenting on all of them, I will rather point out one or two that have especially caught my interest:

I liked Lucille Clifton's poem "wishes for sons"quite a lot. Most men tend to take a mother's love for granted. In fact, that's probably what most children do or at least start out doing. However, most sons usually do that with an unconciuous arrogance because they cannot and will never have to understand what a sacrifice it is on a woman's part to be pregnant, to give birth. Just how much, embaressment, pain and emotions are involved. Daughters - as future moms - tend to develop a kind of closer understanding of the matter. I like the poem because it displays the toughts many mothers have at least once in their life when confronted with their sons' blind arrogance of their sacrifice - be it a stupid joke about PMS or just the simple question "What's for dinner today?"

Allison Joseph has made me laugh and made me love her for her poem "In Praise of the Penis". Although a guy, I think this poem is amazing in the way how it describes women's opinion about our little lovestick . How we men often try to draw attention to the little thing, how we make it sound so much more than it really is, how we are so insecure about it sometimes and, however, last but not least, also how women find this ridiculous but love it at the same time. Furthermore, the rhythm is kind of catchy, the words sometimes similar making the reading smooth and fast, sometimes (when describing the penis for example or in the last line) hard, accented and different, slowing down the reading, accentuating parts.

When I first read Tim Seibles' "Natasha in a Mellow Mood" and "Boris by Candlelight", I did not know who these characters were. However, the structure of the poems struck me as very interesting - this statement and reply theme. So I looked up who they are and the lines fell into place. I found it very interesting how the author takes cartoon characters and gives them more of a personality than they usually have. After all, that is what most children do when they watch cartoons. They envision what the heroes do after the episode, where they live, come up with their own stories about them and play in the garden with an invisible Superman. When we grow older, our parents have usually told us a thousand times that that's just TV and so we stop imagining these things. The interesting twist in Seibles' poems was for me that he takes this kind of childish game but uses an adult background of feelings and experience when he lets the characters come to life.

The cartoons and the graphic story:
It was nice skimming through the cartoons. Probably the one that struck me most was the one with the white publisher telling the black writer that his book about black anger won't sell not realising that he himself is probably the very reason for that.
I take the graphic story as a satire on the notion of some women that they can stop pollution by using recycable self-made tampons taking these women's behaviour a little to the extreme. The reason why I think it is a satire and not an appreciation of that movement is that the poem displays a few hidden criticisms. For example, the woman in the story says she "was proud as I [she] rinsed them in public sinks, jamming my [her] foot against the bathroom door". Well, if she was so very proud of it, then there would be no need to hide it. In fact, you would want to show people, to let them know. Also, the resignation on the last page in my opinion holds the message, that in this world, that approach to environmentalism is unrealistic. It to some extent ridicules the practise, making fun of the "tampon boykott cash".

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Monday, February 26, 2007

Some Short stories

Alexie's Assimilation showed how the prejudice in society could affect a marriage between the common American couple. Mary Lynn was feeling a case of boredom with her "white" husband. She felt it was safe. This is a result of the social stereotypes of the different races in a society. Mary Lynn feels that if she were to sleep with a man of different race that is looked down upon it would make some part of her life or her self more exciting. The fact that she likes that an Indian man has scars on his stomach shows that she is trying to fulfill her stereotype of an Indian man as being dangerous. This danger that Mary Lynn seeks is a false way of overcoming the problems with her and her marriage. Her problem being that she is bored. Her husband, Jeremiah, feels committed to marriage and not to Mary Lynn. This is also a result of the social pressures that is placed on marriage. Both Mary Lynn and Jeremiah are so afraid of breaking social conventions than just being happy whether with each other or on their own. They are so caught up on keeping a marriage and family together because society says that is what is most important. It leaves them no room to love each other as individuals until the very end of the story.
The short story, Pyramid, I found interesting. It had strong imagery and left me guessing what the story meant. It seems like a scholar is doing some research on ancient Mayan markings in a pyramid. However, the character that seems to be an archeologist spray paints words that you find in a subway station on the precious pyramid. He refers to this as his “work”, which gives it more meaning than just graffiti. He has a purpose that is not clear in the story, but it’s more than just a prank. He wants some theory of his to be proven which means this could be for other researches to look at and for the main character to observe their reactions. The story is humorous in a way, but strange because there is little explanation. The Glass Eye also had a dark humor to it. The character Folio seems to be a recluse that plays with his eye a lot and doesn’t get out much since he was so amazed to see a woman in a bikini. The glass eye he had before the new eye allowed him to see what he wanted. He wanted to see the woman as thin and attractive. Once the woman gave him a new eye and he tried it out he saw the woman as fat. It is unknown whether the new eye showed reality or if he was just a madman.
I felt sympathy for the character in I Know What You Did Last Summer. She struggled with her love of poetry and her own works. The setting was during the grunge era in music and she was on tour with very famous bands during that time. She was pressured to succeed with her poetry and with her desire to have a good summer. She finds that people don’t appreciate the art of poetry anymore or at least in the places she goes. She was placed in a “corner” near the bathroom to read her poetry and people were just yelling rude things at her. She notices the annoyance of young teens at the time and is bothered by their ignorance. She points out how the different classes dress how they think the lower class teens dress, but yet the lower class population doesn’t even dress that way because they would be seen as dangerous. She notices that poetry of her time has become cliché and stereotypical over her summer. This makes her shift her goals to making good burritos at a stand. She becomes bored with society, poetry, and even making burritos at the end. This shows the boredom with meeting the expectations that society pressures people to be and accept as what’s ‘in’ at the time.

I'm assuming you're all interested in what I thought...

I enjoyed all the fiction stories from Humor Me for their terrible sense of reality. Each story was grounded in an all too real social conflict. The threat of a failing marriage, the emptiness of untried potential and ambition, the fulfillment of pseudo-Oedipal desires, all pulsing under the surface with racial, sex-related, and class prejudices that make each character feel the pressure of their particular situation all the more. Nelson's Run is fascinating because of the conflict that never arrises. If the father had realized what his son was up to, you can easily imagine him flying off the handle and disowning Nelson or grinning broadly and giving Nelson a slap on the back. Deciding which reaction was more likely put the story in two lights after I read it.

Despite the "realness" of each piece, they tend to end in a rather happy ending or at least an ending that ties everything neatly into a knot of satisfaction. Nelson never has to deal with his father's discovery, Mary Lynn and Jerimiah forgive each other without really needing to confess, Art sets off in the direction of a new life with his memories in tow, and Juan gets the best deal out of all of them. You'd think he'd be engaged in constant self-conflict with the lie he is living with such a kind family and the betrayal he commits towards the family he left behind. However, Juan does exactly what everyone would proclaim to do in his situation. When watching a movie or reading a book and the character comes to these sort of crossroads where he can have considerable comfort with the sacrifice of shame or self-loathing, most audiences chide the character for his decision to behave honorably and go through hell to keep the esteem of the family still in Mexico. Juan does not disappoint the audience with yet another show of chivalry--he lives the double life to the fullest and supposedly lives "happily ever after."

Now, of course, there are few pieces that don't portray any sort of standard. Ray Gonzalez's 5 short fictions are all very symbolic. When taken at face value, they're all darkly humorous, but when looking deeper you get a meaning behind the madness--which is the case with most madness. Jalepeno Contest's events and outcome can be easily applied to any competitive situation, especially pointless ones that gain nothing but fleeting fame or glory.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Hurmor Me assignment

The humor in this anthology seemed to me to be a hard-won and toughened humor, the kind of humor that come out of ironic adversity and a will to make the best of things. My favorite is probably “Nelson’s Run”, just because it’s so well written and told from such an interesting perspective. I think it’s really interesting to look at a person through the lens of where they come from and what influence them when they were impressionable. Family is intrinsically tied up in race and heritage for the obvious reason that you family is where those identities come from. There is something to be said for genealogy when examining any individual.

I also really like “Godoy Lives” because it had the theme of recreation (and creepily enough, reanimation) and of gaining a new life entirely separate from the previous one. I liked that it combined one death with another life, creating a new family link in a way that isn’t explored in “Nelson’s Run”, a family of influence, a chosen family as opposed to the family you can’t help but have.

These stories didn’t have me laughing out loud, but humor did linger in a sense of tireless optimism, the kind of attitude that says “c’est la vie” when something bad happens, and allows people to get on better because of it.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Ambiguity and Rezervation

What is striking about Sherman Alexie's Assimilation is the subtle ambiguity as to the race of the main character Mary Lynn. She is identified as an "Indian" early on in the story, but with the overuse of the supposedly politically correct "Native American" distinction in a particularly American culture, one is almost immediately drawn to assume Mary Lynn's familial lineage stretches to India. The initial images and details of womanhood and sexual frustration, and all therein that is wrapped up in self-identity, quite easily overpower the references to Sitting Bull and Crow Fair, etc. Moreover, the common lay-reader would likely struggle with the term "Cour d'Alene" and perhaps at least recognizing the French roots, would likely miss the historical context of the French Jesuits and fur traders that engaged with early native peoples, notably the Huron, in the Upper Midwest Americas and Canada.
What is more, is that we dismiss the word "indigenous", when Mary describes her sought lover, as meaning someone born in India - indigenous to India, and from this we interpret either, first, that Mary Lynn is not a "full-blood" Indian, or that she has ethnically mixed parents. Also we may tend to think the name Mary Lynn as being quite American, fitting of choice for a family immigrating to America or for a first child born in America (despite the present trend of reviving ethnically-identifying names). It seems reasonable that, judging from the title and implied time period based on Mary's apparent age, that her parents would choose a name for her that would help with her ethnic acclamation, especially if we again infer that she is light-skinned because of her parents' different ethnicities. It is our American-cowboys-and-savages mindset that assumes that if Mary were a squaw her name would be something more like Mary Gentle Pheasant.
It is not until Mary explicitly begins talking about growing up on the "rez" and listening to powwow CD's that we realize, Oh she's that kind of Indian. However, we're still not sure, because we're immediately confronted with the image of the man she is vying for working in a local coffee shop. Now we've got ourselves thinking, first about sex, then whether or not this guy owns the shop, and sooner or later we're on to wondering about all the 711's in Montana, and why we're so racist. It is racist, but I've had hundreds of cups of coffee all over the U.S. and I've never seen a Native American behind the counter. Also, I've been to a lot of different counters all over the U.S. and I've seen, met, and personally know a fair number of Indian's and Pakistani's who work behind them. (Essentially, I am as racist as my previous experiences allow.)
The things is, all people learn about Sitting Bull in eighth grade history. A bunch of people have read Zane Grey and like his stories about the rugged west whether or not they understand the implications of manifest destiny on indigenous peoples. We also don't know how long it took her to find the first Indian man "she could find." I don't know how hard it is to find a Native American in Montana as compared to finding a person from the country of India. The location itself adds to the ambiguity. If the story was set in a major metropolitan city for instance, one can assume that it would have been harder to find a Native American than and Indian or someone you could confuse with an Indian as is common with generalities.
All in all, the story is meant to highlight the distinctions of race at certain intervals, it is not a glaring racial expose and not meant to be. It's a story of the struggle between love, sex, family and success set against a racial backdrop, and Alexie does well to keep the reader unsure, while focussing on the consequences and conflicts of, and inherit in, Mary Lynn's racial identity from the outset.