Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Left Hand of Darkness: Round One

So after reading the first section of this book I was, needless to say, REALLY confused. There were times where I just powered through the text and just read, and eventually I somewhat understood what was going on... Hopefully. I am one of those people who hats highlighting and writing in books (because I feel like they look like this picture) , however, there were a few times when I was reading this book when I was like "holy banana's this is really smart!" So, that being said, I was going to talk about them...

On page 70 Genly is talking to the Foretellers about foretelling and they say:
"The unknown... the unforetold, the unproven, that is what life is based on. Ignorance is the ground of thought. Unproof is the ground of action. If it were proven that there is no God there would be no religion... But also if it were proven that there is a God, there would be no religion...Tell me, Genry, what is known? What is sure, predictable, inevitable--the one certain thing you know concerning your future, and mine?"
"That we shall die."
"Yes. There's really only one question that can be answered, Genry, and we already know the answer... The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next."
When I was done reading that I was like WOW. There are so many aspects of this passage that are true. Whether you are religious or not, you believe in something. Whether it be love, a god, hope, whatever. But what if there was no reason to have faith in ANYTHING? What if we were given the answers to everything? We knew the day that we were going to die, the day we were going to get married and who we were getting married to. We knew how many children we would have, we knew what they would be like, etc. How would our life be different without the mystery of what is coming next?

I related this more to faith, because I am religious. (I am really going to attempt not to preach at you but attempt rather to relate it to faith) I think about the faith that people put in God. They believe that he exists, they believe that he can perform miracles, they believe that he came down to Earth and walked among people (depending on your religion of course). People have that much faith in something that they can not physically see. How would they feel if they knew definitively that God existed or not? 

In some ways I think that part of the appeal of religion is the mystery. People can say that they know for sure God is up there, but do they really? There is always that mystery of having spent an entire lifetime devoted to somethign that isn't there. And that is faith. What would our lives be without faith? If we did not have faith that someday we would find the person that we would love and would love us in return, how different would our lives be?

I remember back to when I was a child and I used to play with my friends and we would all sit around and talk about what it would be like to be married one day. If we knew that we were for sure getting married, and who we were getting married to, there would be no mystery in life. There would be no hardships on one hand, but there would also be no excitement. Life would be a series of events and actions that we went through just to get the the next thing. One of the reasons that I think the Foretellers are so vague in this book is because they was life to have mystery. They do not want life to be "ruined".

And on the Mystery note... I must share this =)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Of Monsters and Men: Toxic Masculinity and the Twenty-First Century Vampire in the Twilight Saga by Tracy L. Bealer

So right now I am working on my research symposium stuff and am currently reading a book called "Bringing Light to Twilight-Perspectives on the Pop Culture Phenomenon". There are quite a few articles in this book that I really really want to write about but there is one that really stuck out to me. It is called "Of Monsters and Men: Toxic Masculinity and the Twenty-First Century Vampire in the Twilight Saga" by Tracy L. Bealer.

Usually when people talk about Twilight, especially from the view of someone who is pro-women, it is always to criticize Bella. Always to talk about how Bella is weak, boy crazy, and ridiculous. But I have never really thought of the book from the view point of Edward. Usually the main love interest in a book is very hyper masculine and has very little femininity to him. On the surface Edward has all of the characteristics. He is strong, he is unemotional, and he is always up for saving the damsel in distress. However, when looking beyond just the surface emotions, there is quite a bit more.

The author talks about Edward finding Bella too interesting to stay away from. I think this is a good example of why Edward is not SO masculine. Because of the way the book is written (I believe) people always talk about how Bella is obsessed with Edward and can survive no other way. But there is no indication given in the book that Edward does not also feel the same way. In fact, there are quite a few instance that Edward is in love with Bella just as much as she is with him. But is it okay in our society for a guy to declare their love in an emotional way? I really do not think so. There are quite a few guys who go out of their way to make emotional guys feel inadequate and like less than a man. However, girls do the same thing. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard a guy say "she told me I was too nice and that she wanted a man." What? We want men to be more emotional and wear their heart on their sleeve, and when they do we are the first people to blast them for not "being a man". In one of my Sociology classes we had a talk about ballroom dancing. There were some women in the class who said that if they knew a guy who was a ballroom dancer that they would assume he was gay. WHY? What is hotter then a guy breaking out into a waltz. Any guy can stand there while you grind on him and stimulate sex, but it takes a real man to know how to tango =) Anyways, I think that when it comes to showing emotion Edward is an amazing example of what a guy should be. He is open with Bella about his emotions.

Another reason that I think that Edward is not so hypermasculine is that he is constantly showing his weakness to Bella. Obviously he is a vampire so his weakness is blood. However, he is open with Bella about this weakness rather than hiding it from her. In many situations guys are told that if you have a weakness that it is considered less manly to show it. Why else would guys NEVER go to the doctor? I think it is interesting to look at the fact that Edward is open and honest with Bella about his weaknesses and insecurities because it is good for guys to see that you can be a guy and have weaknesses. Imagine that!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

This is the first book that I have specifically read for my research symposium, and to be honest it was like watching a scary movie. Which I discovered when I had to finish it before the semester started and I read it before bed. 

That being said, it was surprisingly interesting. The beginning of the book was kinda slow, but as I kept reading it got more and more interesting. The author uses actual pictures that "artists" find at rummage sales and flea markets and put in their displays. The pictures really make the book. They are basically sideshow pictures that are suuuuuuuuuuper creepy!

I am doing a presentation on current trends in children literature. Because this is such a popular book that is getting a ton of attention right now, this is one of the books that I read. 
One issue that I want to address in my presentation is that some childrens literature has gotten to a point where it is somewhat inappropriate for children.... that being said, this book is WAY too creepy for children.

When I first saw these pictures I thought they were creepy. Keep in mind that these books are written for "young adults" but I would say the story is more for 10/12 year old's after reading it. While it is a GOOD story, there are these bad creepy black monsters that chase peculiar children around trying to brutally murder them. Age appropriate? Not in my opinion... Now I am not by any means saying that children should read books like "The Babysitter's Club" and "Hardy Boys" until they are 18. However, these books are for younger kids. I do not care what kids learn from video games, R rated movies, and shows on television. Just because they have access to creepier, scarier things doesn't diminish the fact that this book is DARK. 

In the first few chapters of the book, Jacob, the main character, talks about his life as a 16 year old boy. He describes hating his job, and the fact that his life is quite boring. He also describes his close relationship with his grandfather who has wild stories, that are presumably fictional. I am going to try REALLY hard not to ruin this book, so if I do not succeed in that attempt I apologize. For a reason unbeknown to YOU (but I know haha!) Jacob runs across these children who are quite PECULIAR! They have weird traits about them, some of them are things that you would normally see in series like X-Men, but then some of them are just super creepy and weird. 

Through out the book Jacob is basically trying to avoid having a mental breakdown, something that I know 10/12 year old's sometimes experience, although, seriously? Come on... One of the main characters in the book is the psychiatrist! There are many situations in today's world where I feel children are thrust into situations that are far beyond their age, and this is an example in the book. People who have barely reached puberty do NOT need to be reading about mental breakdowns. That being said, I do like some aspects of Jacob. He is constantly feeling like he does not fit in, and is confused about what he wants to do in his life. I think this is something that is good for young kids to read about. Many of them are stuck between childhood and being a teenager and really have no clue where they belong.
I suppose there are situations where children can relate to feeling peculiar, although, I doubt it was because of things like walking on the ceiling, raising people from the dead, and seeing what can only be described adequately as demons....

What happen to the peculiar children that has super powers?!?!?! When I grew up children were fighting evil but it was much more animated and cartoonish... 

I never thought Wolverine, the Rescue Rangers, or Darwing Duck would come walking through my door to SCARE me before bedtime! I looked up to these super hero's (as unrealistic as they were) and I cheered for the bad guy that did not look nearly as creepy and scary as the GOOD GUYS in this book!

Another thing that was touched on in this book was an enormous amount of violence. Obviously if you read any young adult novels lately you would see that violence has become a HUGE trend in these books. Example: Hunger Games. Love the books, but CRAZY violent. In this book, people are brutally murdered. They are shoved into a ice freezer to be preserved until the authorities come (somewhat mob style...). They are brought back to life by a heart that is not inside their body, and they beg to be killed again because they cannot handle the pain that they are feeling over from the way they initially died. I know that kids have always been exposed to violence, I know that my parents were much more okay with me seeing violence then they were with my brothers and I seeing a sex scene in a movie. However, these situations, in my opinion, are NOT appropriate for children.

After you have heard me complain about this book quite a bit, I probably should say some good things. I really actually enjoyed the book, surprising from all my complaints I know.... I thought that it was really interesting, and the fact that I was scared to read it before bed just shows how vivid the descriptions were in the book. I liked the fact that when there was a hard thing to explain (like the child with the head on a dog body) that there was a picture to show me what he was talking about. I have never seen a book that used actual pictures, which is what he did. Obviously they were altered and these were more than likely optical allusions... but still! So... if you are looking for a new book, that is very different and a page turner, this is one i would recommend!

BTW: I do not own the rights to any of these pictures... and thank God SOPA did not go through =)

"Bloodchild" by Octavia Butler

YAY! So I am required to write a blog for one of my classes on what I am reading in class. Since I am doing a reading project in addition to that, I figured I probably should blog ANYWAYS. So. 

Okay, first story we read in my Sci-Fi (a term that apparently is quite offensive to "S.F." Snobs) Women's Lit class is "Bloodchild" by Octavia Butler.

SUPER weird story! At the end of the story I felt like I had bugs crawling through my skin and it just made me cringe. Anyways! The story is basically about how humans have traveled to another world (because earth has been destroyed... so conveniently!) and have become people who carry alien's babies. The main person of the story is Gan, who is a boy on the verge of "manhood". He is chosen by one of the aliens (I pictured a overgrown centipede in my head during this entire story because the author is constantly referring to the multiple legs) to be the human who carries their child. In the story he witnesses a "birth" gone wrong on another human male and becomes scared. Gan and his alien fight like they are high school lovers and eventually she ends up injecting him immediately after their fight, much like a high school relationship.... Get in a fight? That's ok! Let's make babies!


I found this story extremely interesting because of the way that the birth of the aliens are described. The only examples in the story of humans who are carrying the aliens young are those of men, and at one point there is a man who is basically being eaten alive by his alien/lover's young. He is pretty much cut open while an alien digs around his organs to find the babies... yeah... gross....

So Gan gets scared after seeing the horrific account of a birth gone bad and doesn't know if he wants to do it. But then there is the issue of whether he REALLY has a choice or not. This seemed to me to be EXTREMELY similar to the way that women in our society seem to be portrayed... sometimes.

When women give birth it is VERY graphic. There is blood and goo and guts and bleh. So, that being said, we (or me and other women) still choose to have children more than choosing not to have children. When the situation is straight out explained is gross and sounds like it hurts immensely. When looking at a baby, even a newborn, it's amazing to think that they came out of a hole that could not have POSSIBLY produced it... yet... it did. In this story Gan doesn't know if he wants to go through the experience and the pain, and the alien just says "ok, I will go elsewhere". But as women of this time/age/pick a word, if we chose not to have children we are constantly badgered. Quickly after marriage young couples are bombarded with the question of when they are going to have kids and start a family. If a woman chooses not to have a child, people are immediately wondering WHY. So do we really have a choice? Yes, technically, no one can force us to carry a child. However, if we chose to be nontraditional that is constantly thrown in our face, even by just using the term nontraditional! In the story Gan is basically an alien baby incubator, is that not how women have also been portrayed as and are still portrayed as sometimes?

That being said, I am ALL for being a mother and a even housewife. I am getting married in May and plan on start popping kids out right away, which kind of makes my argument seem silly. However, I have made that choice. I have friends who are in their 30's who are married and have CHOSEN not to have children. They enjoy traveling and independence and spending their money that they work hard for every day on themselves. That being said, I have heard numerous times people ask them why they are being so selfish. "So many people are out there who want to have kids and can't and you are just deciding not to". This statement makes me SO mad! If there is a man who is like "nope I am not having kids" it is PERFECTLY fine and acceptable. Women, however, obviously have something wrong with them if they chose to take this route.

I suppose my frustrations that this short story bring up is the fact that at the end of the day in many ways, we are a slave to childbirth. Let me be clear... I am not saying that having children is bad. I am saying that being EXPECTED to have children is bad. When I have kids I want them to know that they were my choice, not my requirement.