The Importance of a Narrative

Ever since I was a young girl, I was infatuated with storytelling. I’d beg my parents, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, anyone who I deemed as “old and wise” to tell me a story, a true story. I think the thing that I always searched for in these stories was some type of emotion I didn’t fully understand yet. I would ask my parents, on a smaller scale, how 9/11 impacted them, and at a larger scale, how it impacted their community. This community started at the neighborhood, stretched to their workplaces and dove even further at a nationwide scale. I would ask my grandparents how they individually felt during the Vietnam war and World War 2, and how their community as they knew it changed. I would focus on the emotions in their voice as I asked them to reflect on a really scary time in their lives. A time where they couldn’t see the future and didn’t know how the story would end. I can’t explain it, but there was some part of me as a young girl that was jealous of their experience with pain, loss and uncertainty. I felt as though it gave them depth, caused them to see the world a little differently than my innocent self could. Now, as a young adult, I am beginning to understand the pain they went through, and I regret the jealousy I felt towards them. As a junior in college, I have been asked to undergo an unforeseeable and uncontrollable change due to the global COVID-19 that is traveling faster than the thoughts in my head as I am writing this blog. I am beginning a narrative that I never saw coming, where I was asked to cut my semester short and move back to Long Island with my parents. Where I was asked to leave my friends without a proper goodbye, friends I may never see again. Where I was asked to end my Ultimate Frisbee season before it has even begun, not knowing my last tournament with my team would have been the last. I did not consent to this change. Please excuse my french, but so much shit has hit the fan in the past 4-5 days that I am not really sure if this blog will answer the prompt I was given, but at least my thoughts are on paper (or on your computer screen) and I am connecting with my readers.

Now that my rant (for now) is over, I will attempt to connect what our world is enduring with our class content. In 2008, The United States experienced a housing crisis that asked families to undergo a change that was unforeseeable. Families lost their houses, they were displaced, and lost so much of their lives in the matter of seconds. I was too young to remember what our country went through, what my parents went through, and the pain that they felt. I am now understanding this pain and this uncertainty, and I hope and pray to God that my children and my children’s children never feel this pain. As a class, we were asked to read The Big Short by Michael Lewis and The Turner House by Angela Flournoy. They both tell their reader a narrative of the same story, and I believe that The Turner House sheds light on what was missing from The Big Short. I believe that they work together to fill in the missing puzzle pieces to a narrative that affected so many people’s lives.

After reading my classmate Kaitlyn Papaccio’s blog “Liquidity of Narratives”, she helped me wrap my head around how these two works of literature work together to create a single story. Kaitlyn wrote, “With both narratives working side by side we can see how these narratives are quite similar, despite their scale and it is arguable that without the pairing of these two narratives a well-rounded perspective of the crisis is lost”. I completely agree with Kaitlyn’s statement and will build off of our agreed claim. In class, we agreed that The Big Short was a difficult read due to the lack of prior knowledge on the Housing Crisis and the terminology that went into it. Lewis threw terms at the reader such as “liquidation” and “credit laundering” (pg. 141) that required me to constantly stop reading and start defining. As a class, we compared it to reading a text book that provided the stone cold facts of the 2008 crisis. In fact, I was one of the many that watched the film in order to feel some type of emotional connection. However, I will say that without reading this narrative before reading The Turner House, my personal narrative would be very different. In The Big Short, I was given the cold truth of what went down behind the scenes. We then read a narrative that told us an emotional story of how individuals were affected by the Housing Crisis, and it all seemed to come together. The Turner House makes The Big Short seem more real and more emotional than what Michael Lewis portrays it to be. However, I do think it is important that Lewis wrote a narrative in this textbook style because there is no sugarcoating or dramatizing the events and experiences of those affected. It is important because there is no bias to the words written on the page and Lewis understands that every individual was impacted differently.

After re-reading what I have so far, I see that I am writing backwards as to what the prompt asks, ” Does The Turner House shed light on what was missing from The Big Short‘s story telling? If so, how? If not, how not? So what? Who cares? “. I need to slow down. I think I am saying that The Big Short sheds light on The Turner House, and there is something so interesting about that because it was not intended and it was unforeseeable. I want to say that they shed light on each other and it is not a one way street. We need both a story that is unbiased and gives the facts and a story that tells an emotional rollercoaster of individuals impacted by these events. We need both because as a reader who does not remember the Housing Crisis taking place, I want to know WHY these events happened (through The Big Short) and I need to now HOW these events impacted families (Through The Turner House).

Angela Flournoy’s work makes the events that happen in The Big Short seem more real. She manages to show the reader how families were impacted financially, physically and mentally. In my opinion, The Big Short lacks or downplays the physical and mental components and focuses mainly on the financial aspects that were impacted. In this way, The Turner House sheds a light on the missing puzzle pieces to the narrative. Flournoy talks about really deep things such as addiction and the struggle with sobriety. The 2008 Housing Crisis caused many people to fall into old habits and self sabotaging routines that affected their lives and their families greatly. These two works of literature allow us to create a deeper understanding of a single event that can’t be told by one perspective or point of view.

When I was first learning about the world wars, it was from personal accounts from family members that were filled with emotion and personal perspectives. I then relearned the world wars in grade school and high school. I tried to keep my grandparents stories separate from the text books stories and my teachers stories. I finally realized that that was impossible. Instead of forcing ourselves to separate these narratives, we should combine them to create a story filled with facts and personal events and emotions. Through The Big Short, we have the data and the statistics. Through The Turner House, we have the emotions and the personal accounts. Together, we have a beautiful narrative that includes truth, pain, and uncertainty. Something that our world is going through right now and something that we will once again come out of stronger than ever before.

History Repeats Itself

In my Expulsion and the Housing Crisis Course, Dr. McCoy asked our class to play close attention to certain terms while reading, watching, and listening to Shakespeare’s King Lear. These terms are liquid(ity) and swap(ping) and how they do or don’t engage with the concept of expulsion in the play.

After reading, listening, and watching to King Lear in its entirety, the plot reminded me of a show on Netflix that I recently watched, Son’s of Anarchy. *Spoiler Alert*. In Son’s of Anarchy, all the characters in the end of the show all die due to hatred, corruptness, bribery, and ultimately expulsion. According to Merriam Webster, expulsion means “the act of expelling the state of being expelled”. Basically, it is the act of denying someone membership or a sense of belonging into a group or organization. In Son’s of Anarchy, there were a lot of viewers who expressed their disappointment and unsatisfied emotions at the end of the show. We discussed in class how King Lear left us unsatisfied by killing a majority of the cast. This has made me realize how Shakespeare’s work is seen in so many modern films and literature and it represents how concepts like liquidity, swapping and expulsion repeats itself.

I will first begin by discussing how liquid(ity) is seen in King Lear and how it correlates with expulsion. Other than thinking of liquidity as flowing freely like water, Investopedia defines it using a financial lens; “Liquidity describes the degree to which an asset or security can be quickly bought or sold in the market at a price reflecting its intrinsic value”. Basically, liquidity discusses how one can distribute money among their assets. In King Lear, Lear distributes his land to his three daughters, Cordelia (the youngest of the daughters), Goneril (the ruthless older daughter), and Regan (the middle daughter). In exchange of this liquidity, King Lear requests his daughters to tell the room how much they love their father- the one who speaks the best will receive the biggest portion of the kingdom. When reading Olivia Davis’ The Endless Shifts of Power, Olivia discusses how in Act 1 Scene 1, Cordelia tells her father, “Unhappy as I am, I cannot heave my heart into my mouth”. Here, Cordelia refuses to succumb to her fathers request which leads the her being expelled from the family dynamic and receives none of the assets.

To get a better sense of liquidity, I will now discuss how this concept repeats itself in Son’s of Anarchy as well. In this Netflix show, the main character Jax Teller eventually marries an outsider of the biker gang, Dr. Tara Knowles. In the beginning of the show, Tara is notorious for not succumbing to the requests of the gang and refusing their offers and assets. Even though Tara and Jax are in a relationship, they refuse her membership in the gang leading to her expulsion. We clearly see how denying liquidity will lead to that individual being expelled from the community.

Swapping is another term and concept seen throughout King Lear. In class, we discussed that swapping means “taking part in exchange of/ borrowing”. According to Merriam Webster, swap is defined as “an act, instance, or process of exchanging one thing for another”. We see this concept of swapping in King Lear when Lear gives his power over the kingdom to his daughters in exchange for love and gratitude. However, as we know, Cordelia refuses this power which leads to her expulsion over the kingdom and in her father’s heart. To stay consistent, I will like to give my readers another example of swapping represented in Son’s of Anarchy. Within the show, we constantly see an exchange of power within the biker gang and how it creates chaos in the gang dynamic. There are points in the show where Clay, Jax Teller’s step father, refuses to swap his power over to Jax, who should be the leader due to the death of his birth father. Eventually, this leads to Jax being expelled from the gang a variety of times because he refuses to succumb to Clay’s leadership creating chaos in the gang.

It is very interesting to see how Shakespeare’s work of literature has played a role in a variety of modern films and literature. Concepts like liquidity, swapping, and expulsion can be taken literally or figuratively, but they drive the plot of any story or film. The most interesting thing about Shakespeare’s ideas manifesting itself into modern works is how we can easily predict the ending, yet are always surprised, disappointed and left unsatisfied.

Use Your Voice…It Matters

This semester, I truly feel as though I have grown as a student and an overall member of society. Professor McCoy’s class is more than what the course description says. We read the incredible works of African-American Literature and by using these works McCoy teaches us how to be better and humane citizens, urging us to use our voice, be activists and stand up for what we think is right. By having us write blog posts, McCoy has given us the opportunity to have a voice, spread awareness, call out issues in society, and demonstrate our thought processes and respond to each other’s deeper questions. This class has lit a spark inside me and set me on a new path, a path where my voice and language is the most powerful tool I have.

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Faith and Doubt

Growing up in a Greek Orthodox home, religion was and has been a huge part of my life. We did the typical things you would expect of a religious family; go to church every Sunday followed by a brunch with the family,  pray at night, take communion, kiss the icons and drink holy water. I was never encouraged to ask questions, I just did it all. However, like every middle school adolescent, we are built to ask questions about everything. Thankfully, my parents let me ask these questions but never really provided me with answers; now I know it’s because there really aren’t answers, just faith. At 20 years old, my religion is still a huge part of my identity- although I’d like to stress that it isn’t my only identity. It has and always will bring me a sense of comfort, safety and remind me of home. Although I consider religion to be an important part of my life, questions have and always will circulate.

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How Do Institutions Fail You?

Throughout the semester, we talked about how institutions fail us, whether it is related to academia or something on a larger scale. This concept came up again on Friday as we were discussing as a group what our favorite quote from Big Machine was. Personally, I had said that my favorite quote was “AND YET, no matter how earthshaking a moment is, there’s that minute right afterward when you return to the unconcerned world” (page 246). The reason I had chosen this quote was that as a college student, my world can feel like its collapsing with every poor grade, overcommitment, and constant pressure to succeed. However, things always seem to pan out, and if it doesn’t, life isn’t over and we return to reality….failure is inevitable and we must keep moving forward. As we went around the seminar circle I formed a liking for a quote that Courtney Statt had delivered to the class as her favorite from Big Machine, “The dread you feel when institutions fail you” (page 290). I fell in love with this quote at that moment, it was like love at first sight. I began to think about our discussion earlier this semester when we discussed how much we trust our institution to take care of us, and I decided to turn to my peers for more input on this discussion.

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Bloodchild vs. Big Machine

 

After Friday’s class, I left with so many questions…just like the rest of you. One thing that I left with was how similar Big Machine by Victor LaValle has become to Bloodchild by Octavia Butler. When we read Bloodchild earlier this semester, I was left with so many questions about our society, and the same questions are beginning to rise in Big Machine as well. I am unsure if Octavia was an inspiration for Victor, but I would like to believe so.

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What Wall Are You On?

Leaving home and being forced to play the game of college, I have noticed a lot about my peers and the campus as a whole. The other day, I was having a friendly discussion about the role media plays on our lives; it shapes us to be the perfect mold society wants us to be, based on a course available here, Comn 215, Mass Media and Society. Not only are our physical appearances molded, but our attitudes, actions, and reactions are shaped. I personally think I as an individual am being shaped by media, no matter how hard I resist it. A simple example: I watch HGTV a lot… like I am obsessed with it. More recently, I have been watching Queer Eye– if you don’t know what this show is, hit up Netflix after reading my blog post. Basically, Queer Eye is meant to teach an individual how to present themselves, how to become a member of society, how to design their home, and how to have a healthy lifestyle. Personally, these shows have shown me how to design my home, and of course, I listen because it seems to be the “best” way out there. Although Queer Eye is a positive way to get someone who is essentially “lost in life” back on the right track, they are pushing social norms onto them. They are telling the individual what is appropriate to fit into society, while also telling them to be their “true self”. How is someone supposed to be made over from the inside out, and still expected to be themselves? The individuals on the show are essentially being altered to fit into society instead of being an outcast, but at the same time, they are building their self-confidence and overall feeling of self-worth, which is definitely a positive. Where is the line of building self-confidence but changing who you are to be more accepted? They push the individual to be their “true self” but change everything about them to fit in. I haven’t truly figured it out yet…not sure if I ever will…

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Bam! Distracted!

As I approach the end of the semester, I feel myself becoming overwhelmed with all the things we have due. As the sun comes out and the warmth surrounds us, it is so difficult to stay focused and push through. Today in McCoy’s class, we briefly discussed all the outside forces that can distract us and cause us to procrastinate. I thought this was interesting because distractions and disturbances surrounded us throughout the class, and I was paying careful attention to them. Continue reading “Bam! Distracted!”

Half Glass Full…or Half Glass Empty?

The concept of recursion has been an ongoing theme in Dr. McCoy’s class. We are consistently going back, cross checking, and returning from where we came from. The first couple weeks of this class, I truly didn’t understand this process. I would say to myself, “Ok, never going to read that again”. However, I did not appreciate the work as much as I should have, and the more I return to our earlier work from the beginning of the semester, the more questions I have and want to be answered.

Sitting in my Foundations of Creative Writing class this past week, we were engaged in a class workshop where we critique each others work. One of my classmates wrote a poem about war and toyed with the word “creature”, ” The townspeople cry up to the metal creatures of the sky”, comparing airplanes in war as these “metal creatures of death”. Instantly, this word brought be back, almost like a “That’s So Raven” moment. I found myself sitting in McCoy’s class again, sweating from the over heated Welles room, watching the snowflakes fall, dreading having to walk in the cold. I started to remember our class discussion of creatures in “Bloodchild”, the power-hungry “creatures”….or are they? I eventually tuned back into class but went straight to our blog posts, digging for Toby’s post, “What Makes a Creature?”. I remember reading it and thinking “Ok, cool”, unaware that his post would inspire me months later. Recursion is real! Continue reading “Half Glass Full…or Half Glass Empty?”

Dealing With Expectations

When I first started to write this blog post, I began with “I have been struggling…” and immediately hated how that sounded. As a student and future teacher, I have decided to never use the word “struggling” when describing work performance again. Instead, I want to say “need more support with”.  The reason I say that “I need more support with” is because I believe I need more support with vocalizing myself and my ideas. This past week, we were working on a collaborative blog post and I realized that I focus way to much on the expectations of my professor and peers rather than taking the time to just speak my mind and the ideas I have. However, for the split second that I did forget about the expectations of others, I voiced my opinion and my group members built upon what I had to contribute, which is always a great feeling. Continue reading “Dealing With Expectations”