The Beginning of Utter Confusion
On the first day of our English class and I was very excited to delve into the trilogy series we were required to purchase. Surprisingly, although it was only the syllabus day, I came out of class thinkING about the ways in which it was structured.
For starters, Dr. McCoy imposed this question to the crowd:
“What is your favorite rock?”
This question brought upon many confusing faces in the crowd. We were unsure as to why we were being asked a geological question in an English class environment. Few minutes later, we were broken up into groups and began a very unusual dialogue in an English class environment.
Some of my group members said they really liked igneous rocks due to its form of molten rock material while others loved the prestige a diamond had to offer. Some, even went as far as naming specific rocks such as the Blue Slate rock since it is composed of clay minerals and is a type of metamorphic rock. To my surprise, my group members were really intrigued into this question and were deeply analyzing their thoughts when answering this very generic yet complex question. When it was my turn to speak, I was speechless as I had never thought about such a question before. Fortunately, I was reminded of the term “sedimentary rock” from my 8th grade Earth Science class and chose that as my answer. But, as my peers spoke about other types of rocks, I was amazed as how many beautiful rocks come from nature.
For example, someone mentioned that they loved the shape, color, and overall form of an “obsidian rock.” When I researched it, I instantly thought, “man that’s such a cool rock, should’ve chosen that one!”
The shine that this rock has to offer is extremely illuminant. Though a dark base, there are different colors that speak about the rock’s origins. From a light brown coat base to moon blue to white silver strikes, I would consider that this rock is definitely a precious jewel.
Now, after our discussion and about 18 different rocks written on the board, we asked ourselves, “so what? What does this have to do with English?” Little did we know that that question was one that was not going to be answered on the first day, nor the second, nor the third, but bit by bit by analyzing and examining the text with our real world connections.
After class, I went back to my dorm and revisited the course description. “Hmm.. weird” I thought. There was no description about geography in the description, but I thought I’d give it a shot. Now, from there on, my goal was to discover why we started off the class with “what is your favorite rock?” and why the course was titled, “Blackness, Love and Justice.”
Since the first day, I have been able to critically think about the connections between the imposed question, and Jemisin’s writing. In The Fifth Season, apocalyptic events are inevitable and the cataclysms which are named “seasons” are natural disasters that attempt to wipe out the “stillness” (a supercontinent). On page 11, we were introduced to the cataclysm that occurred in the Tirimo. It states, “At the northernmost end of this valley is devastation: shattered trees, tumbled rock faces, a hanging pall of dust that has not dissipated in the still, sulfur-tinged air. Where the initial shock wave hit, nothing remains standing: it was the sort of shake that jolts everything to pieces and rattles those pieces into pebbles” (Jemisin 11). Though this piece of text was hard to dissect at the beginning due to the relevance of its context to the narrative of Essun, I now find this text to be an introductory example of the geology used in this book. The beginning of the book also gave the reader an inside glimpse as to the destroying earthquakes that occur recurrently in their civilization.
So, Earthquakes + Destruction + The Fifth Season + Geological Setting in Book= Dr. McCoy’s origin of the question, “what is your favorite rock?”
Now, in figuring out why Dr. McCoy asked us that question, I was curious as to the origin of an earthquake and how science portrays it, versus how Jemisin depicts natural disasters in the books. According to Michigan Technological University’s website, “earthquakes are usually caused when rock underground suddenly breaks along a fault.” The definition seemed basic, but I wanted to further question the newfound information by asking, “what type of rock is underground?” I quickly researched the answer to my question and found myself reading a National Geographic article online. In the article, it stated, “Extremely common in the Earth’s crust, igneous rocks are volcanic and form from molten material. They include not only lava spewed from volcanoes, but also rocks like granite, which are formed by magma that solidifies far underground.”
So, within my few minutes of conducting research and with no prior knowledge of geology, I discovered that earthquakes are caused when the rock we have underground, typically igneous rocks formed from volcanic molten material, break along a fault. In doing this research, I noticed that some of the rocks my classmates brought up on the first day were related to earthquakes including igneous and granite rocks.
In The Fifth Season, Jemisin depicts natural disasters by introducing a “man” in the prologue that causes an earthquake on purpose. On page 7, it states, “so he reaches deep and takes hold of the humming tapping bustling reverberating rippling vastness of the city, and the quieter bedrock beneath it, and the roiling churn of heat and pressure beneath that.” This text implicitly alludes to the process of an earthquake, relating to the breaking of rocks formed from magma underground. Later in the text, it states, “He holds it. He is not alone. The earth is with him. Then he breaks it.” In this line, it is evident that this individual has taken power away from civilization and has caused an earthquake, striking the lives of many. Lastly, on page 7, it also states, “the people of the Stillness live in a perpetual state of disaster preparedness. They’ve built walls and dug wells and put away food, and they can easily last five, ten, even twenty-five years in a world without sun.” In comparison to our society, the people in the Stillness have overcome many natural disasters and have found a way to be prepared for upcoming events. However, we, are sometimes struck with earthquakes and natural disaster without evident warnings and can’t be as prepared as they are.
And, unfortunately we do not have Orogenes- those who are born with the innate ability to control catastrophic geological events- in our society (which will be explored further in my next blog post).