Thursday, March 27, 2008

last blog (of the third marking period)

So I finished Like Water for Chocolate. I know I praised magical realism in my previous blog, but now I'm not so sure. It's nothing against the style, because I did enjoy that, but I guess it was the way Esquivel used it. The death of certain characters (I won't mention who in case you want to read it) were a little bit on the ridiculous side. However, other than that I really enjoyed this novel. The next book I am reading (after I complete a project for this one) is Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I wanted switch it up and read a novel by a male author, but due to the lack of time, I chose what looked like the shortest book. This book like In the Time of the Butterflies and Like Water for Chocolate is written by a female author. Herland takes feminism to an exteme. Instead of presenting feminism in a normal setting, Gilman creates a setting dominated by women where there are no wars (according to Wikipedia). However, I find a peaceful society with only women highly unlikely. When one first hears of the society full of women, they might think, there are no comparable example in today's society. However, look at reality t.v. shows such as America's Next Top Model.

There is more drama than you can ask for in a house full of females; these girls fight, yell, and scream with each other and they're just competing for a modeling job, I'm having a hard time imagining that there is peace when they are all trying to run a country. But I guess the point of the novel is to illustrate female-empowerment. And this I agree with. Women can do just as good as a job as any man. It shouldn't matter if someone is a man or woman, it should matter if they are qualified for the task at hand. I hope that Gilman can realistically explain how this society functions and I hope to see this sociey suceed.

**paris countdown-20 days**

Monday, March 17, 2008

"ghetto of magical realism"

The literary style of Like Water for Chocolate, magical realism, is one that we rarely encounter at Pascack Hills. The only other book that I can relate to is summer reading for freshman year english, which was Pete Hamill's Snow In August. I'll let do the summary. "In 1940s Brooklyn, friendship between an 11-year-old Irish Catholic boy and an elderly Jewish rabbi might seem as unlikely as, well, snow in August. But the relationship between young Michael Devlin and Rabbi Judah Hirsch is only one of the many miracles large and small contained in Pete Hamill's novel...Interlaced with Hamill's realistic descriptions of violence and fear are scenes of remarkable poignancy...(and) Michael's introduction into the mystical world of the Cabbala and the book's miraculous ending."

When reading criticism in The New York Times, I saw that many critics "in the United States...often consigned (this genre) to the "charming but aren't we moderns above it" ghetto of magical realism" (O'Neill 1993). I gathered from that statement that critics look down on this genre; as a result, many great books in this genre go unnoticed, which is why they get skipped over here at Pascack Hills too. However, I happen to like this style and would be interested in reading more; I think it is a breath of fresh air. The "magic" keeps the reading light, and gets the ideas, emotions, and feelings across more accurately. Wikipedia describes magical realism as "combining the external factors of human existence with the internal ones: it is a fusion between scientific physical reality and psychological human reality; it incorporates aspects of human existence such as thoughts, emotions, dreams, cultural mythologies and imagination. Through this amalgamation, magic realism can be more exact in depicting human reality." I agree with this, instead of having to infer the characters' feelings, they are played out in this mystical fashion that personifies their emotions very obviously.

In Like Water for Chocolate there are many examples of this already, even though I'm only half way through. When Tita, the main character, cooks for her family, she pours her emotions into the food and when anyone eats that meal, they are immediately overcome with whatever Tita's emotions were when she prepared the meal. When preparing wedding cake for her sister's wedding, she was extremely distraught and depressed because she was the one truly in love with her soon to be brother-in-law. Once the wedding guests ate the cake, they became violently ill, vomiting everywhere. Now, this obviously would not happen; just because the chef is depressed while making the food does not mean the consumers of the meal would be depressed, but it serves as a great metaphor of Tita's distress. Laura Esquivel cleverly and seemlessly weaves together the symbolisms of Tita's emotions into her greatest passion, cooking.

** Paris Countdown - 25 days! **
As spring break gets nearer, the more excited I get! I'm going to Paris with A.P. Studio Arts ( and the A.P. French class). I'm a little worried because I don't know any French, but I am very excited to go and take lots of pictures. I found this blog called Paris Daily Photo. The title is self-explanatory; everyday the author posts a picture of Paris. I keep checking back to get a little preview of what's to come.

Friday, March 14, 2008

I am a butterfly and you wouldn't let me die

"Las Mariposas" was the underground nickname of the Mirabal sisters during the revolution. Whether or not the codename was given by chance, it serves as an appropriate metaphor for the girls. The first thing I associate butterflies with is metamorphosis. Through the course of In the Time of the Butterflies we watch the girls blossom from little girls to leaders of an underground revolution. Each girl had their unique voyage and a turning point where they come to acknowledge their calling. Minerva changed the earliest of the girls, realizing she was unsatisfied with "El Jefe" while still in school. The others followed as Trujillo struck closer to home with every blow. The last of the girls to change was Dede. She did not realize her role in the revolution until, unfortunately, her sisters died. Then she realized she was to be their voice from the grave, the last of the beloved butterflies. Watching the girls grow made me really sympathize with them even more. They began as four normal young girls growing up in the Dominican Republic and transformed into much more.

The title of the post is from Something Corporate's Me and the Moon; you can see more of those lyrics on my song post.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Latin-American Women Writers

Latin-American female authors wrote both Like Water for Chocolate and In the Time of the Butterflies. “These writers are women and they concentrate on the experiences and relationships of women in Latin America, thereby providing a rich field in which to discuss the issues of gender, race, and class” says Myriam Yvonne Jehenson, author of Latin American Women Writers.
In the Time of the Butterflies is no exception; it provides many opportunities to discuss gender. The fight for women equality is a major theme in In the Time of the Butterflies as the Mirabal sisters fought against Trujillo. The Mirabal sister's biggest problem always seem to be men. Take a look at Kristen's blog titled Ugh, men. Kristen describes their rebellion; "The girls have defied the men around them left and right. Minerva, the spunky one, even took it to the level of slapping the blessed cheek of Trujillo when he made a pass at her on the dance floor". The girls are expected to act a certain way that the men dictate for them. After reading various summaries, this seems to be the case in my next book, Like Water for Chocolate. The main character, a female, is forbidden to marry because of society's expectations.

Another stereotypical view of women in Latin American, is that they are solely for household chores, such as caring for the children and cooking. From the title it's obvious that cooking is a major theme of Like Water for Chocolate. In Jehenson’s book about Latin-American female authors, she says “women are reappropriating household metaphors to revalorize them for serious critical purposes". She continues to name other works by influential writers, "Rosario Castellanos employs this technique in "Lección de cocina" ("Cooking Lesson") in Album de familia (1971; Family Album). An excellent collection of feminist writings bears the title El sartén por el mango: encuentro de escritoras latinoamericanas (1985; The Frying Pan by the Handle: Meeting of Latin-American Women Writers). Debra Castillo Talking Back: Toward a Latin-American Feminist Literary Criticism ( 1992) begins and ends with culinary and household metaphors. Cooking is the central trope of Laura Esquivel's best-selling book and even more successful movie, "Como agua para chocolate" ("Like Water For Chocolate").”
How will Esquivel make this cooking metaphor her own and how will it relate to the novel? I'll have to wait to find out as I start to read.

Laura Esquivel
author of Like Water for Chocolate

Julie Alvarez
author of In the Time of the Butterflies

Monday, March 3, 2008

banjos and books

This weekend (not counting Friday) was an amazing weekend. Saturday I went to School of Rock in South Hackensack to see the Higher

Seth of the Higher

and Sherwood together for the second time. The Higher was ten times better than when I saw them in July. They choose most of my favorite songs and also covered Low by FloRida and Bye Bye Bye by NSYNC. Then , to make the evening better, I found out while I was there that I’m getting a puppy! He's a Wheaton terrier and we're going to name him Bailey. I'm very excited.
Sunday, I went to Bowery Ballroom in the city to see Lauren’s cousins band The Postelles. Surpris
ingly, they were very good. We stayed to see another really good band, Illinois (picture below). And yeah, he really plays the banjo.

Unfortunately, now it's Monday and time for another week of school, which means another blog.

The next book I decided to read is Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel. This will be the second book I’m reading, and it is also the second book I’m reading by a Latin-American female. So, I thought I’d do research a little more about Latin-American literature that might help my understanding of In the Time of the Butterflies and Like Water for Chocolate. That blog will come later this week.