Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Manga Realness: "Absolute Boyfriend" by Yuu Watase

I have a humble collection of manga, so this will be a modest series of posts (not really).  Nevertheless, my manga library was a lot larger in the past, but many of the titles that I decided not to venture pass book one (unless it was a one-shot) did not make it during years of moving and rearranging cluttered bookshelves.  In retrospect, I wish I kept many of them because I fume silently at the absence of my copy of Antique Bakery Volume 1.  Did I give it away?  Or did I misplace it in my mess?  It always seems to work that way: you grow out of certain phases then you tumble your way back in.  One year my manga library grows, the next year it’s stagnate, the following year it’s dwindled.  And on it goes.

Nonetheless, there are a few manga series and one-shots that I refuse to separate from.  Some of them I’ve completed and some of them I hold on to in the hopes of one day picking back up to complete.  Naturally, the other singular element that assists with my decision to hold on to a title is the artwork.  

So with all of that said, let’s get into Manga Realness Number One.  By the way these are not ranked; alphabetically arranged with each category, though.  With Sailor Moon completely out of the way (what manga series can beat that?), my first favorite completed manga series is Yuu Watase’s Absolute Boyfriend.

Absolute Boyfriend is about a withdrawn Japanese high school girl (she happens to live alone while her parts work overseas) named, Riiko Izawa, and like many shojo genre girls, Riiko is having romantic problems.  Well, Riiko’s problem is that she can’t seem to have a romantic problem.  Guys that she's interested in are never receptive to her.  When it finally appears that she will remain loveless throughout her school years, a strange set of circumstances, involving her returning a missing cell phone, sets Riiko on the path to finding love.  Or does it?  It is nowhere near as easy to determine.  The missing cell phone belongs to a mysterious stranger who, after listening to Riiko’s romantic woes, offers her a card and CD-ROM that directs her to a website called Kronos Heaven.  It is here that Riiko spends a late school night customizing what appears to be her perfect boyfriend, offered for order by Kronos Heaven.  While she approached much of this as a joke, the next day Riiko receives her wish in the form of the perfect, robotic boyfriend named, Night (he is part of the Nightly Lover android series).  Per the instructions, a kiss is required to activate Night.  With Riiko ready to comply, this is where the fun of the 6 volume manga series begins!

Riiko Izawa
Night is given to Riiko on a trial basis; he must be returned three days after purchase.  The mysterious cell phone stranger reveals this to Riiko during his service-appreciated visit.  The problem is that Riiko wasn’t aware of the statement, and is therefore stuck with Night and a one million dollar (or yen) bill.  With her first payment only days away, Riiko and Night quickly devise ways to earn money, including working in a hostess bar.  Night even disguises himself as a woman to assist Riiko; such a dedicated fellow him be.  Until Riiko is groped by a drunk patron does Night come out of his wig to protect her, subsequently leading to both of their terminations from the bar.  Leaving the bar broke, they run into the mysterious cell phone stranger.  Realizing her struggles, he offers Riiko a deal: the organization will waive her fee if she provides them with data concerning her relationship with Night.  This will assist the company in creating even better boyfriend models for future customers.  Gladly, Riiko agrees.  She is determined to teach Night everything about women.

It all makes for a great set-up, especially when you factor in the antics the two go through to keep their secret, as well as their comedic dialogue.  Other elements that unfold within the series includes the crush Riiko’s neighbor, Soshi, has on her.  This eventually forms a love triangle between the three where Night and Soshi battle it out for Riiko’s attention and affection.  Other characters join in on the adventures, including a miniature version of Night who assists Riiko during a time when Night requires repairs to his cyborg body.  Nevertheless, the main focus of the series revolves around Riiko’s maturity and choice.  With a sudden brew of romantic options, will she choose the robotic boyfriend, Night?  Or will she choose the moody and flawed human character, Soshi?

Night.  The robot mate.
Without a doubt, this manga series contains many of the elements that I love in manga.  That's one reason I loved it so much (other than the hilarious plot).  I read the volumes as each English adaptation was released (2006-2007), so it came along as a positive distraction from the mundane life I faced working my ass off to keep up with bills and rent in a city three hours away from home.  I can distinctly remember reading volume three while gassing up my car for a trip to Six Flags (needed that break).  So why was I so invested in the series?  Because Riiko was so terribly unsound when it came to figuring out her love life, and for good reason when you consider she resorted to a robot to try to fulfill that void.  I could relate to her in that aspect--not the robot nonsense.  I knew what it was like to wonder why certain tingling elements revolving around relationships and finding love did not seem to operate correctly in my own life.  I, too, like Riiko, spent a lot of time swallowing down the interest in place of accepting my solidarity.  But at the same time I longed for companionship.  You begin to adapt this armor where you stress to others that connections and relationships are not needed in your life, meanwhile you watch the relationships of others blossom and secretly ask yourself what is so wrong with you.  Now, I wouldn’t dare pay someone to be the “absolute mate”, but I know what it’s like to struggle in finding answers to your questions without endangering the integrity and self-respect that makes up yourself.  Even if those two things are the very things that get in your way.

Check out Absolute Boyfriend Volume 1 on and look out for Doubt!! by Kaneyoshi Izumi.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Alice Walker and Parental Guilt

In the beginning of Alice Walker's “Everyday Use” we are introduced to Mama and her unconditional love for her two daughters, including the rather errant one named, Dee.  It is Dee that Mama is waiting for in the opening line that reads: “I will wait for her in the yard that Maggie and I made so clean and wavy yesterday afternoon.”  With Maggie as the other sister, this is Walker’s way of passing on to the reader that there is a sense of desperation in their expectancy.  The more you read, the more you realize how stressed the character of Mama is for the return of her daughter, Dee.  The opening paragraph further discloses that Mama views her yard as “comfortable” and an “extended living room”; every aspect of her home has to be in place for this return.  You have to ask yourself why?  Why all of the fuss, Mama?  Why are you placing your best efforts into appearing approachable and damn near spotless for your grown child's return home?  Shouldn't it be the other way around?

I believe that this opening illustrates the sense of disconnect within the story itself.  There is an obvious split between the two generations of women as a mother and a daughter.  Could you believe that a mother acknowledges that her child has changed so much that she must break her back to appease the transformation in her offspring?  Where does that come from?  Guilt of some sort?  Or is it simply a way to change and attract her child back to her roots?  Maybe it's a combination of guilt for not maintaining her child as well as her holding unshakable pride in her background.  Therefore, Mama has to polish the house and yard to remind Dee how wonderful home is.  However, at Dee's return, we learn that Dee is of a worldly perspective now.  She considers herself cultured and can easily frown upon the upbringing she tried to shed herself away from by leaving Mama's home.

This is only a quarter of the battle within this short story.  A fraction of all that's available.  Without a doubt Walker's story serves readers themes concerning upholding one's identity through inheritance (Dee returns home to take away an antique heirloom).  It is also a story meant to remind individuals never to lose sight of their background, even as they venture out into new worlds, conversations, and lives that differ from their roots.  So at the conclusion of Dee's visit, Mama expresses the simplicity behind being true to oneself by stating: "…But a real smile, not scared.  After we watched the car dust settle I asked Maggie to bring me a dip of snuff.  And then the two of us sat there just enjoying, until it was time to go in the house and go to bed.”   

Should you find time to read the story, you may find a simple story about a mother’s imperfectly unconditional love for her two adult daughters, Dee and Maggie, worth diving into.  I have to confess that the only thing I've read by Alice Walker besides “Everyday Use” is The Color Purple.  Who hasn't read that, right?  Once I tried reading Now is the Time to Open Your Heart by her and just could not get into the novel.  So I really need to read more of Walker, knowing that she has so much more to offer as an intensely copious author.  Shame on me!

I read “Everyday Use” a few years ago for a class and recently got to thinking about the push-and-pull relationship with my own mother, seeing that Walker's story features mothers and grown children.  As my own mother's eldest child, I used to feel like she treated me differently than my younger sister.  I’m not really sure if it was because I was the oldest, and therefore driven to be hyper responsible.  Or was it because I was a boy when she may have wanted a girl?  Or was it something different altogether?  I can imagine a scenario where she spotted something in me that required extra molding.  Yet... who knows?  Or do I care to truly know?  See, there are always these places we can’t go with family members and friends, places that seem dark, with the potential to cause disruptions to our relationships.  And while the conversation was more or less oblique than directly spoken of, recently my mother has sort of apologized for some of the things she’s done to have made me feel some of the ways I’ve felt growing up.  

In her estimation it had a lot to do with what she was dealing with herself during the time of my youth.  In any regard, Walker’s short story nudged at my thoughts and I dug up a little in the notes I wrote on it for myself to share and discover answers to any of my own looming questions.  The biggest answer is that we are who we are.  Our parents and their parents and their parents make us, whether we respond one way or the other to their degrees of generational child rearing.  And when we grow to blame and resent our parents for their attempts, we sometimes ignore the guilt that they suffer with.  Many times our parents are only working with what they have, and not just physically speaking.  We all do the best that we can with the tools and understanding that we were given, even our mothers and fathers.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Manga Realness: Introduction

The reason I read manga... why of course her.
Manga.  Who does not love them?  Well, let’s be honest – many do not.  It gets its share of criticism, that‘s for sure.  Some may consider it senseless reading, much in the vein of criticism that Western comics sometimes receive.  Though I would wager much less brutally delivered when you consider how the label “graphic novel” provides an opportunity to garner a little more respect.  In any regard, manga is sometimes brushed off as immature reading material; cartoony and childish.  However, like any other form of creative entertainment, that may be true in some small part, but certainly not as a whole.  Then there is that stigma that those who read manga are automatically classified as a "weeaboo", or those obsessed with Japanese/Asian culture, particularly through the lens of an anime and manga obsession.  That is a whole different kettle of fish, though.  One that I don’t care to tread on, really.   

Nonetheless, many of the negative attitudes manga  inspires are culturally based in my opinion.  In the East it is not unusual or strange for an individual--other than a child--to become engagedin reading manga.  Besides, certain manga series span over ten years, maintaining the loyalty of its readers as they grow with the material.  Furthermore, authors/artists and publishers are aware of the demographics that read manga, allowing them to hit their receptive targets.  With that said, manga is various and vastly produced to support all types of readerships in whichever flavor he or she enjoys.  I would even say that reading manga in the East is a lifestyle.  Entire cafes in Japan (and I believe a few in America) are dedicated to supplying coffee alongside a library of free manga titles for public reading.  Sounds good for those days when a person wants to wind down after school or work.     I love manga, and have most certainly been reading them for years.  

However, I don’t consider myself super knowledgeable about the variety of titles, or the industry itself.  I've slacked somewhere between high school and now, missing all those friends who I used to share my excitement about them for.  Speaking of which, back then you had to order manga through Viz and The Right Stuf catalogs.  

But in terms of the enthusiast scale, I'm probably a solid 6.  And I'll share why.     

One: I read them moderately or in bursts; some years my spending is slow, and some are fast.  Depends on how behind I am after discovering a series, or what new release I'm waiting on.      

Two: I am extremely particular about what I want to read.  I need certain ingredients.  Usually involving a female lead who kicks some kind of ass.      

Three: The industry is so rapid-growing and expansive that I can’talways keep up with releases and development news.  And I no longer have a tight circle of like-minded friends to keep me aware.  I go to Barnes & Nobles and walk out empty-handed because there is too much to choose from.      

Four: I sometimes hate spending money on them and speeding right through the book in one afternoon; must control my reading pace.     

Five: I’m not one to dilly-dally between which is superior between the English and Japanese.  Of course the Japanese is superior, but because I can’tread Japanese fluently, I don’t want to go to forums (for discussion purposes) and be discouraged by readers downplaying a particular manga’s English counterpart.  Translation discrepancies will always apply.  The same goes for anime.  With the exception of Linda Ballantye (Sailor Moon’s English voice actress from episodes 83-159) and Emilie-Claire Barlow (Sailor Mars and Venus’ second English voice actress), will I ever argue English voice actors.  Aside from those two, I hardly muse over English anime voice actors' performances.  But yes, they were that terrible to me!    

Moving back to the subject of manga    

Neither of my “shortcomings“ to reading manga changes my love of the artwork, cultural portholes they provide, and entertaining drama found in each serialized volume.  Oh, and the comedy and magic.  So here--in a series of posts--I want to take the time to reveal my favorite mangas that I’ve read in the past twelve years.  Separated into four parts, I want to discuss the finished series, unfinished series, one-shots and what I am currently invested in reading.    

First I should make everyone aware of the genres I read in and why.    

Shoujo is the manga genre targeted toward girls, but of course I don’t care.  I read this genre because I want it all in my manga experience.  I want the romance, the school crushes, and the torrent melodrama--to a degree.  I tagged this genre next to the Magical Girl subgenre.  Should her magic and transformation costume be super fierce, I am down for whatever consists of a plot.    

Then there is the Slice of Life genre.  I didn’t know this genre had a name until I tried to explain to an ex-coworker what I liked to read as I searched for new titles.  Slice of Life usually contains exactly what it sounds--a slice of life.  This genre of manga features stories surrounding a character’s everyday life in Japan.  Her woes and triumphs.  Her achievements and failures.  Nothing supernatural or paranormal.  Just… life…    

Lastly, I do like Yaoi.  However, I like the tasteful YaoiYaoi is another name for “Boys Love” manga.  Perhaps a peek into some gratuitous Yaoi is okay, but I usually only complete manga in this genre if there is a strong love story involve.  It is such a strong requirement.  So in essence, I skip the strictly Romance genre to get my romantic fix in this genre.  Necessary to explain why?   

Like anyone else, I also like to mix and match genres.  Therefore, I like a little horror, paranormal, supernatural, and mystery.  I would probably stay away from sci-fi and mecha, though.  They both give me headaches.   Finally, I must get this out of the way…
With that said,be on the lookout for post one of my favorite finished manga series.  All recommendations from here on out are so welcomed so that I can get back up to speed

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Writing a Paper?

I don’t really like writing papers all too much.  I’m not that much of a fan of the procedures and technical structures (I may actually be lying because I love learning about writing).  Maybe if the subject matter is fun then my efforts in writing a good paper would be stronger.  Should I be allowed to just write what I think, it would not be so bad of a process.  However, even just writing your thoughts about a subject requires some level of research.  So I suppose you can't escape needing supportive material to back your claims/ideas.

School is starting next week for many, and since this blog touches a little on writing, I wanted to share a part of my process of researching for a paper.  At least for me these ideas alleviated the anxiety I used to face with a paper approaching its due date.

But first… if you have a paper to write, don’t wait until the night before it’s due to write it...  

Working on a paper, I make sure that I am clear about the source material I am working around.  This way I know specifically what I am searching for.  Once I wrote a paper on Foeby J. M. Coetzee.  Of course that book is teeming with subjects worth exploring. Therefore, I had to be specific about what I wanted to propose in my paper, unless asked otherwise by my instructor.  Usually that involves completing and understanding the source material (Foe) to the best of my abilities first.  Then I can create and focus specifically on the areas I want to draw my thesis statement from (“Interracial Dating and Feminism in Foe”).  I keep notes of the material I want to use from the source (quotes, etc.), dividing each branching related subject to be disturbed throughout the paper to support my thesis.  Examples would be character studies for Susan and Friday, race relations, sexism, and so forth.

Now I have a clear list of focus topics related to the novel that I've gathered to support my thesis.  

From here I do a general search on the areas I want to cover in the paper so that I can define them clearly.  I ask myself “what are feminism, sexism, and race relations?”  Once I have the basic definitions of what I want to put in the paper, I start my other search for readers' feedback.  I start with Google because I want to find other readers' point of view and reviews on the material I will be writing about.  If I find something useful I save it to help craft the tone of my own paper.  Or, unless it is scholarly or peer reviewed, I hold on to it as “focus” material (meant to keep me on track) never to be used or quoted in the paper.  

When I have a clear definition of the issues I will use to support my thesis, I then move into searching for scholarly sources that relate both the issues (sexism, race, etc.) with the source material (Foe).  So if I want to find feminism presented in Foe, I will use search engines such as Google Scholar, Project MUSE, or JSTOR, to find online journals and articles that will be useful as scholarly references.  I further search through something that is called the ISI Web of Knowledge, which links source materials.  Most of these search engines are provided exclusively through schools or by other means.  Nevertheless, this is mainly how I conduct online research, particularly when it comes to writing papers.


1.  Understand my source material first -- Foe

2.  Develop my thesis and name my topics

3.  Define my topics

4.  Review readers' feedback on the source and my topics to shape the tone of the paper

5.  Nail and support my research with peer reviews and scholarly sources

Hope this helps you like it used to help me.  Like anything in life, it's just a matter of breaking things down into smaller bites.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tao and Oneness

To change my scenery a bit, I took my laptop notebook to a window door.  From my position on the floor, legs tucked over a dark green fleece blanket, I see that our grass needs cutting in all its sound greenery.  There’s also that tree stump created last winter.  It hosts a small cluster of mushrooms where a butterfly currently keeps dipping on and off.  The two weeks worth of recyclables are parked at the curb, the bin and the plastic trash can filled with empty bottles of zero calorie drinks, 20oz water bottles, and Kashi cereal boxes.  A FedEx truck just raced by, and I wish there was something for me to receive as I sit writing, continuing to find ways to bring comfort to this thing called life.

I was a little hesitant to sit before my neighborhood with my notebook, seeing that a couple of years ago our neighborhood was hit by a group of teens breaking into homes.  Unfortunately, I became a victim of said teens when they got into my new, used car and took the non-operational stereo out.  It recently came to my attention that they have long been caught.  Two of them found themselves on the receiving end of a bullet fired from strapped homeowners in another area of the city.  The two survived their karmic twists.

So why am I sharing all this?  Why am I bringing up my lawn, a butterfly, recycling, and thieves?  Because I find it the appropriate time to look back and discuss the Tao’s second chapter/verse through the translation of Derek Lin and Dr. Wayne Dyer’s interpretations.  It is here that we acknowledge some of the good and the bad in life, and how it is kind of unnecessary to gnaw on their differences when they both come and arrive from the same source.

Derek Lin’s translation goes as:

When the world knows beauty as beauty, ugliness arises
When it knows good as good, evil arises
Thus being and non-being produce each other
Difficult and easy bring about each other
Long and short reveal each other
High and low support each other
Music and voice harmonize each other
Front and back follow each other
Therefore the sages:
Manage the work of detached actions
Conduct the teaching of no words
They work with myriad things but do not control
They create but do not possess
They act but do not presume
They succeed but do not dwell on success
It is because they do not dwell on success
That it never goes away

Wayne Dyer's read as:

Under heave all can see beauty as beauty,
only because there is ugliness.
All can know good only because there is evil.

Being and nonbeing produce each other.
The difficult is born in the easy.
Long is defined by short, the high by the low.
Before and after go along with each other.

So the sage lives openly with apparent duality
and paradoxical unity.
The sage can act without effort
and teach without words.
Nurturing things without possessing them,
he works, but not for rewards;
he competes, but not for results.

When the work is done, it is forgotten.
That is why it lasts forever.

What can we say is the meaning behind this verse?  Of course it depends on your personal interpretation.  However, I got the sense that it coincides with the expression that “everything is everything” or “it is what it is.”  I believe the key terms between both verses are “each other”, “duality", "unity", and "success."  So how inspiring the better person can be to acknowledge the parallels we see daily in life and nature, and accept them equality.

And because I tend to over think, I must go on...  

A single thing, concept, idea, or existence can’t be labeled or called such without the recognition of its opposite--even by its opposite.  Dyer points out an example in this chapter where he asks the question: “Has it ever occurred to you that beauty depends on something being identified as ugly?”  With that said, the idea of beauty has also fashioned the idea of ugly, just like life can generate the idea of death.  Good can conjure up the meaning of evil.  Male knows of female.  It is almost like saying we/life live in a grayness where we/life possess even the things we sometimes reject or judge unfairly.  According to the Tao, or my thinking/seeking, these possessions are all necessary in their oneness.

I think we as humans may be the only animals that place focus on these differences.  Seriously, like Dyer says, “the daffodil doesn't think that the daisy is prettier or uglier than it is.”  Why would it when--as a plant--it simply just is?  Nevertheless, we do the opposite of it every day to other people, and in view of some of their circumstances.  We’re all guilty, and I can be honest in saying that I don’t know how I can reach such a state of perceiving.  Especially in a time where I am so busy trying to change my life as thoughts rush pass me while I speed along.

But I think one of the keys here is to live and respond with good intent toward others.  This allows comfort within yourself that you don’t necessarily have to justify yourself to no one.  Half the time not even to yourself.  What you like is what you like.  Who you are is who you are.  All you can do at the end of the day is do good and be.  So why waste so much time fighting those who do the same?

A complicated mess, but thank you so much for reading. (^.^)


Dyer, Wayne W. Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao.  Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, 2007.

Lin, Derek. "Accurate Translation of the Tao Te Ching." Accurate Translation of the Tao Te Ching. N.p. .

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Multicultural'ing Through Manga

Okay, so there are a multitude of avenues people can explore to bond themselves with members of different cultures/ethnicities. I am one of those people who wish he could take them all. I mean, everyday we see people finding ways to learn from other people with all discrepancies aside. So I write this in the wake of watching cultural expressions/performances via foreign television shows, wishing for the opportunity to once again trade ideas with someone foreign to my cultural background. I am almost anxious for the opportunity.  Seeking a fresh connection outside of my past memories.

I suppose food is an obvious choice for cultural exploration because it allows easy access for people to share and discuss the variety in their taste.  It also enables a glimpse into cultural traditions and unique dish-making techniques. Sharing literature is another tool of cultural discovery.  It opens the doors of communication, comprehension, and acknowledgement of differences that could equate to similarities. A given to sharing cultures is building relationships and connections.  Healthy relationships with people can transcendent just about any barrier when we put work into it. So to do so with someone of another culture not only awakens awareness in each person involved, but it also builds community. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve always wanted to live next to people who have something external to teach the internalness of me.

When I was in high school I learned much of this firsthand from a girl who became a good friend of mine for a short period. She was a foreign student from China named, Amy. Now, I had many American friends from Asianic backgrounds, so there never was a blockage of language. Despite the thick language barrier I had with Amy, I learned to connect with her through books and comics. While she was not necessarily shy, she was not forward in seeking friendships either. In other words she would smile at you, but you would have to come to her. 

When I found her reading a manga (though manga is Japanese for “comic“, her version was translated to Chinese which would be better defined as manhua), I was generally curious about the writing, pictures, and content. She shared them with me.  I found myself intimated by the Chinese characters, regardless of being moderately proficient at reading Japanese Hiragana and Katakana. Chinese characters just seemed too compound; difficult and hard. The strokes appeared far more bulky and indecipherable in print than the Japanese I was familiar with, which mainly came out of children's books should that count for something. Nevertheless, Amy and I found ourselves friends as she best explained Chinese characters to me, while I shared my longhand short stories tucked within my binder in return. 

We saw each other in home economics, which almost always offered us free time. So each day became a matter of me explaining some of the intricacies behind the English alphabet system, and its grammatical structure, as an extra help to her schoolwork concerns. Meanwhile, Amy taught me about Chinese language (or Mandarin) in the most basic, simplified way that she could for my thick skull to register. She opened me up to researching the four pitch tones associated with her language as part of our dialect exchanges.

Our friendship continued to grow through the exchanging of language. She would hastily “read” my Japanese-language books (as well as my English-written short stories) that I received from the public library, and I would borrow her manhua and Chinese-language novels. We became good friends, her sharing doughnut with red bean paste snacks while I shared with her my less than exotic Doritos. When our classes changed the following year we met at the school library to continue our friendship, but we slowly lost touch as our high school years progressed.  Then at some point, she graduated before my class.  Her memories and little lessons still stay inside of me. I mean, this was the girl who introduced me to the manhua version of Naoko Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon.

There were many factors that played into my friendship with Amy, the foreigner student. Despite our cultural and ethnic differences, one of those factors was a conscious decision to explore our differences through our common interests. We removed any set of bias thoughts to do so, aware that there is something to be learned from both ends.  Call me exhausted or jaded with my present environment, but nothing would give me more pleasure than to experience something as special as that again.  Which is reason number 107 as to why I wanted to start a blog.  Much love, people.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Book/Manga Chat 1

Why of course Towel & Cornbread is a blog about books, manga, and the various methods I like to share concerning self-help.  So to tie those in, I’ve posted my recent book chat video.  Inside I discuss books by Gloria Naylor and Laurell K Hamilton (who I should do a blog post on because of my love-hate relationship for her Anita Blake series).  I touch a little on Naoko Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon English reissue of volume 12, as well as some bonus material from the depths of my general interest.

The Men of Brewster Place - Gloria Naylor
Linden Hills - Gloria Naylor
Mama Day - Gloria Naylor
Bailey’s CafĂ© - Gloria Naylor
Affliction - Laurell K. Hamilton
Sailor Moon 12 - Naoko Takeuchi
Time and Eternity - NIS America
Songversation - India.Arie

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Canon American Literature? Or Not?

People usually relate what makes American Literature American to authors such as Hemingway, Faulkner, and Fitzgerald (to name a small few). These are the authors persistently taught in American schools, analyzed in American colleges, and referred to as sources of inspiration to up-and-coming American writers. These authors are more than likely viewed as the “essence” of American literature because they contain sharp expressions of what it means to be American (though I believe that's individual-based) and to have the freedom to purse a destiny with pride.  Hemingway often wrote of soldiers, faith, and what it means to be honest.  Faulkner wrote about America’s south and the importance of individuals maintaining his or her memories during times of change.  So one could even state that American classics usually impressed a sense of patriotism, instilled by characters that are normally Caucasian.

So then is there really a such thing as American Literature canon? I believe literary canon refers to literature that distinctly represents a period of time in American history. Therefore, this literature becomes a critical educational tool, especially when it unveils candid examples of civil discord within certain American ethnic groups.  However, whereas American literature undoubtedly consists of diversity, there are many who consider the classics (Faulkner, Hemingway, Fitzgerald) as sole literary canon writers. Because these “canons” are frequently taught in schools and upheld to represent American literature, it can reflect in society in two fashions: bias and suppression of detailed history. Unless taught specifically within a certain curriculum, students are probably less likely to become exposed to examples of Holocaust survivors residing, within their inner struggle, on American soil. Furthermore, African-American literature, featuring the exploitation of slavery leading into the civil right wars, is a teaching tool sometimes glossed upon.  You can call it a blank theory of mine, but it wasn't until college that literary diversity was bumped up to the level of necessary and encouraged.  Therefore, much of the fore mentioned information is taught in history books, but because of that it lacks the emotion and honest engagement that literature provides. It is seen as facts and not so much needed stories. 

In many respects, ethnic authors have to “beat” Americans’ view of canon literature so that the ethnic perspective within this idea of canon literature can be told clearly.  Examples may be disapproval of exposing Latino-American‘s poor treatment in America, or quieting Japanese-Americans from revealing the atrocities of living in an internment camp during World War II while German and Italian-Americans were not. Ethnic writers also have the challenge of not creating misunderstandings between groups and history.  Additional challenges are finding only niche readerships, and failing underneath mainstream literature. However, these writers must maintain the honesty of their material, considering the biggest challenge is consciously representing the ethnic groups in which their cultural background resides. 

With that said, ethnic writers define literature by remaining honest to their experience. While the canon of traditional American literature defines the representations/reflections of a specific time, ethnic writers must also define him or herself within literature by using the same canon approach from an opposite viewpoint. In turn, this enlightens the scope of past (as well as changing) American events.  It's sort of like you can't read about the Civil War from Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage without following up reading slave narratives, such as Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Each are canon representations of their time periods and American history. Because American is a country that inspires ethnic diversity, it must respect that diversity in its teachings of canon literature.  Or what have you.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Seven Months of Contentment

As many people know I absolutely love Korea dramas and this is my new favorite actor, Jeong Kyeo Woon. He is currently playing in the drama Wonderful Mama, which is a drug to your soul kind of TV show that we all have. Get your HuluPlus and Drama Fever accounts running, people!

Okay, okay. So this has absolutely no purpose other than to be exactly where it is in this moment to postmark the start of my eighth month of doing blog posts. I went from only doing one post a month to having multiples in the months of June and July. The muse was just kicking at me to express (read, write and paint) every little thing that came to me. Plus, it is just fun sharing my thoughts where I once kept them to myself, or to those who sought my advice. Really, it’s all been great and I have lists and drafts ready for takeoff.
The picture may simply signify my content (isn’t that his expression?) of these seven months, making Towel & Cornbread halfway to becoming a year old. I did not know where I was going to start; I just knew I had to do so.  Speaking of which, I’ve had some questions as to what the name Towel & Cornbread meant.  They are names based off characters that I created years ago in my high school years (see June‘s “Do You”post).  While that is still true, I also recall a story I wrote and sent to literary agencies some years ago.  I’ll admit that it was not good material.  Whose is?  Anyhow, there was one agent who made a subtly ugly comment about my choice in character names.  I was aware of this possiblity, but I sent the story out anyway.  I was glad to get the letter because only now--in this moment--I truly see that Towel & Cornbread is about accepting your quirky individuality and sticking with it.  It’s about taking that acceptance and still managing to show up to life with it pinned to you like a badge stating: Damnit! I am here and you will hear me!

So everyone. Keep believing in yourself and creating spaces where you can show up to your life. 

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