Core Essay ENGL 111- Rachel Margalit

As a result of my valuable learning experience in English 111, I have deepened my understanding and progressed my knowledge of Jemisin’s literature throughout the semester. Within The Broken Earth Trilogy, I encountered opportunities for self-growth as I was actively learning about the plot development and character analysis. I would definitely say that my thinking has both improved and developed within this class, as I encompassed difficulties in the beginning of the semester that I was able to overcome towards the end. In other words, I did not have much prior experience with science fiction that is intertwined with fantasy elements, which created some original difficulties in navigating the plot. After having ample opportunity to explore the plot and recurring themes, I can confidently say that I gained expertise in comprehending this difficult form of literature, as well as enhancing my analytical skills on this type of subject matter. 

I noticed great improvement in my writing and analysis since the Lithosphere Essay we completed towards the beginning of the semester. In the Lithosphere Essay, I received multiple forms of feedback which suggested that I slow down, as it can make me vulnerable to plagiarism. Furthermore, my feedback allowed me to consider the ways in which speeding through my thoughts can place me at a disadvantage, as I can miss out on opportunities to successfully connect my thoughts directly to the passage. For example, in the Lithosphere Essay, I wrote how Geraldine Heng is “famous for her literary knowledge on social and cultural encounters between worlds.” Although this statement is accurate, I did not provide a source as to where I received this information from, which very well could be a form of plagiarism— this was a learning experience for me, as I ensured that I correctly accredited and cited my sources. Professor McCoy acknowledged  my progress, as I received positive feedback on the Collaborative Exercise that was published to Im(Possibilities). In that feedback, I was told that the ways in which my group embedded the links and practiced in-text attribution made the essay much easier to follow— moreover, it served as a protection against plagiarism. 

Another example from the Lithosphere Essay that created an opportunity for me to slow down was in regards to the spelling of certain words. I consider myself to be a very strong speller and spell-checker, but due to the complex terminology and themes present within this trilogy, I was caught making several foolish spelling mistakes that I have strived to overcome in my other writing passages for this class. For example, in the Lithosphere Essay, I always spelled the word “fulcrum” with a capital “F”— although that is oftentimes correct, it is essential to consider that it is only occasionally capitalized. This level of inconsistency could make readers feel that they are unable to trust the writer, which can damage the reputation and overall quality of my work. Since this mistake, I have worked tirelessly as a writer to ensure that I am accurately spelling and accredding information that I pull from resources. Overall, I believe that the Lithosphere Essay acted as a stepping stone towards progress I was able to achieve in later writing assignments— I thoroughly appreciated the feedback I received from that paper so that I was able to use it to my advantage and enhance my writing style in future works to come. 

In the Collaborative Exercise, I concluded my research by connecting it back to Jemisin and how her storylines relate to the seismic event my group explored. For example, I wrote how “Jemisin’s trilogy often explores systematic issues of oppression, highlighting ways in which such communities struggle when they are impacted by conflict. For example, the novel notes ‘…what is important is that you know it was not all terrible. There was peace in long stretches, between each crisis. A chance to cool and solidify before the grind resumes.”’ (Fifth Season, online pg 263). Jemisin highlights how these horrible effects cause a rift between society and its environment.” This is an example of how my thinking has developed over time, as when I originally tackled the first book, I did not understand the significance of “cooling” and how it is an essential part of a stone eater’s development. Furthermore, just as Professor McCoy brought to my attention with her feedback, we had no idea at the time that Hoa was providing Essun early context for what was truly happening to her. These examples not only highlight how I was exposed to more information as the books progressed, but it also describes the ways in which my thinking altered, changed, and progressed as I was given snippets of this new information. 

In regards to the characters, their motives and personality traits progressed over time, therefore allowing me to deepen my understanding about the interactions between them, as well as the overall plot in general. This not only allowed me to make further connections across all three books, but it also created an opportunity to connect themes and elaborate them during class discussion. For example, we see how in Chapter 2 of The Stone Sky, Nassun kills her father, Jija. This is essential to the plot, as it showed a continuation from where the Obelisk Gate ended off. The readers were able to experience a monumental plot development for Nassun, which created an opportunity to deepen the relationship between Nassun and Jija, as well as the hidden ulterior motives that were not so obvious in the second book of the trilogy. For example, Jemisin perfectly describes how “Nassun [stood] over the body of her father, if one can call a troubled mass of broken jewels a body. She’s swaying a little, light-headed because the wound in her shoulder— where her father has stabbed her— is bleeding profusely (The Stone Sky, pg 30).” This beautifully descriptive moment highlights the painful reality of what Nassun and her father’s relationship turned into; this is the harsh truth that is only uncovered after beginning the second novel, as readers were left in the dark in regards to their relationship in the first Jemisin book. This scene created a vital learning experience, as I was able to witness firsthand how characters in this novel developed over time. This book created many opportunities to witness the growth and development of characters, which is something I do not always see in the types of literature I choose to read.

I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to read N.K. Jemisin’s trilogy, as her novels highlight many parallels to real world issues by demonstrating inequality and social hierarchy based on the certain traits that individuals carry. By incorporating multiple themes of power, oppression, and hierarchy into this fictional narrative, readers have the opportunity to gain perspective into the deeper meaning of her writing. Across the trilogy, my knowledge of the characters and the deeper meaning behind their stories have allowed me to expand on my thinking as well as practice basic reading skills such as reading comprehension and cross checking. Readers were exposed to a myriad of overarching themes of discrimination and oppression, and as the narratives continued, they were able to dive deeper into the core of what these forms of discrimination truly entailed. Overall, we gained access into how damaging discrimination and hierarchical status can be to society, which created the ability to connect overarching themes throughout the trilogy to real life concepts. 

Seismic Events Collaborative Essay

Group Members: Rachel Margalit, Stella Boothby, Lauren Bromfield, Lily Conroy, Ivan West, Garrett Benson, Emily Rechlin

The Story of The Boxing Day Tsunami

The 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami occurred on December 26th, 2004, when 17 entire countries were impacted by this devastating seismic event that occurred in Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia. One of the deadliest disasters, with a striking magnitude of 9.1, more than 200,000 people’s lives were lost and thousands of homes were destroyed. This is known to be the largest earthquake in history since the year 1960, stretching from a total of 800 miles long and lasting 10 minutes, releasing energy equivalent to several thousand Hiroshima-type atomic bombs. The quake originated in a so-called megathrust fault, where heavy oceanic plates subduct beneath lighter continental plates and this occurs all underwater. After about 20 minutes, the first wave with a speed of 500 mph crashed in and hit the city of Banda Aceh. The wave heights widely varied across the regions based on the location of the source of the earthquake, creating a plethora of negative impacts amongst the areas affected. The Northern Sumatra wave, for example, reached up to 167 feet, causing flooding up to three miles inland. The destruction left behind was unfathomable in both lives lost and physical destruction to these areas. 

A multitude of areas were impacted by this seismic event, including regions all across the Indonesia area. This tsunami was responsible for impacts observed in 17 countries spanning from Asia and Africa. The waves spanned across many countries, including the northeastern coast of Somalia seven hours after the initial earthquake. The image above depicts the aftermath of the tsunami in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where very few buildings survived.

About 1.7 million people were displaced, with a total damage estimated at roughly 13 billion dollars, costing Indonesia alone 6 billion dollars. This impacted a significant population of people, forcing them to relocate and rebuild due to this unexpected event. The effects of this event became so drastic, that the earthquake itself caused a shift in the earth’s mass, changing the planet’s rotation. This event was so powerful, that something as extreme as shifting the Earth’s mass occurred. This can create rising sea levels, melting ice caps, and more extreme seasons, and can impact the earth’s overall rotation. Indonesia lies between the “Pacific Ring of Fire”, where ninety percent of the earthquakes occur — making this the second most active seismic zone. Many people who made their living by fishing lost that source of income; the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) reported how the tsunami affected significant agricultural land. In other words, this seismic event destroyed irrigation canals affecting about 92,000 farms, and over 300,000 people concerning their fishing and agricultural needs. Furthermore, an estimated 62,000 groundwater wells were contaminated by seawater, wastewater, and sewage, rendering them useless.  Not only was agriculture majorly affected, but also “waves and wave-carried debris devastated once-thriving communities, destroying homes, businesses, basic services, critical infrastructure, the environment, livelihoods, and entire economies.” The inundation of saltwater damaged soils, vegetation, and crops. “Together, the earthquake and tsunami changed the landscape of many Indian Ocean coastal communities. Coastal erosion and subsidence caused some shorelines to disappear into the ocean while, in some areas, uplift forced coral reefs to rise above its surface.” This highlights the environmental disparities that occurred from the strength of both the earthquake and tsunami combined. This domino effect caused by the simultaneous destruction created a multitude of issues that continuously got worse throughout the entirety of these seismic events. 

After this tragic event occurred, several forms of artwork emerged from this seismic event, creating a beautiful remembrance of the hardships faced by those who were affected. In memory of the lives lost and the tragedy of this event, many memorial statues were made to recognize the people affected. In addition, floating vessels were designed for a competition entry for public artwork in Norway to commemorate the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. The hollow vessels raise awareness of time, nature, and tidal movement by floating at high tide and staying supported above the sea during low tide. Another piece of artwork that has emerged from this seismic event is the memorial commemorating the 2004 tsunami. The copper-colored sculpture symbolizes the height and color of the massive waves. The time on the clock is stopped before 8 am. , the moment when the earthquake struck that unleashed the tsunami. Furthermore, The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall paid tribute to the people who died in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami at the opening of a memorial in London’s Natural History Museum. This piece served as a memory of 155 British citizens who died during this tsunami, all names of the victims are engraved on the floor.

There have also been a few movies that have come from this event. A movie entitled “The Impossible” is based on the true story of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami and has been critically acclaimed. It depicts a family’s experience of fighting to survive while watching all of the destruction. Lastly, we found a memorial that was put in place to commemorate the 2004 Tsunami in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. The memorial consists of a fishing boat that crashed on top of a house during the storm. Visitors can climb a ramp to the roof and also walk underneath where it’s wedged between two dwellings. The boat provided a refuge for 56 survivors. In addition to the movie, there was a series of narrative scrolls from a village of painters from West Bengal. According to the website Indigo Arts, the scrolls “graphically depict the terrible events of the tsunami of December 26, 2004. Organized by the Asian Heritage Foundation in India, the scrolls were produced and marketed as a means of fundraising for tsunami relief”. It is important for these communities to recognize and use art as a way to express and commemorate the experiences through the lens of the families affected by this period of adversity. 

Jemisin’s trilogy often explores themes of catastrophe and rebuilding of society. The 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami represent a real-life example of a devastating event that caused widespread disaster, destruction, and loss of life. By examining how society was able to rebuild and respond to this tsunami, we can also gain insight into the themes that are also present in Jemisin’s work. Natural disasters like the 2004 tsunami also explore how marginalized communities are disproportionately affected by such events, as they do not have the resources to rebuild and respond to such tragedies. Similarly, Jemisin’s trilogy often explores systematic issues of oppression, highlighting ways in which such communities struggle when they are impacted by conflict. For example, the novel notes “…what is important is that you know it was not all terrible. There was peace in long stretches, between each crisis. A chance to cool and solidify before the grind resumes.” (Fifth Season, online 263). Jemisin highlights how these horrible effects cause a rift between society and its environment. However, it also forces individuals to join together to rebuild what has been taken from them. The tsunami of December 26, 2004, is an example of this, as it raised awareness in coastal communities around the world about the threat posed by tsunamis. This collaboration of society led to significant advances in tsunami detection, forecasting, warning, and preparedness. Following the 2004 tsunami, there were significant efforts made to provide aid and resources to the community that lost so much. These efforts aimed to address the immediate needs of survivors attempting to provide aid for long-term recovery. Jemisin’s work also explores themes of reparative justice and collective healing following societal traumas and injustices. Despite the devastation, both the real-world disaster and the fictional narrative emphasize resilience and finding hope after chaos. Communities come together to rebuild and recover, showcasing the strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity. The survivors of the 2004 tsunami faced immense challenges in rebuilding their lives and communities. Similarly, characters in Jemisin’s trilogy must navigate a harsh and unforgiving world, showcasing themes of resilience, adaptation, and survival against overwhelming odds. 

Lithosphere Essay ENGL 111- The Fifth Season

The Fifth Season, a novel written by N.K. Jemisin, explores many themes of systemic oppression and discrimination throughout its course. The overarching concept of systemic inequity refers to “systemic inequalities are specific policies, standards, and practices, as well as attitudes and prejudices combined to create institutionalized and even structural problems of inequality in the society (Alliances for Africa; definition from mini collaboration).” The Fifth Season illustrates many parallels to real world issues by highlighting inequality and social hierarchy based on certain traits individuals carry. Throughout this novel, we experienced orogenes, who possessed the ability to manipulate and control geological forces. As a direct result of the power held by these individuals, they become subjected to face structural and systemic inequalities throughout their journey in the novel. Within this fantasy world, The Fifth Season skillfully incorporates themes of power, systemic oppression, discrimination, and injustice.

Geraldine Heng, famous for her literary knowledge on social and cultural encounters between worlds, perfectly illustrates the concept of a world where people manipulate others in ways that can racialize or group individuals (course epigraph). She describes how race is not something that everybody inorganically has in them. Heng believes race is constructed through culture; it is a process done to people and for people by institutions. In other terms, she details how if you are on the receiving end of power and privileges, some may say race is done for you and not to you. According to Heng, it is a management system to hand out power and privileges to some people, and take it away for others (course epigraph). This perfectly corresponds to the material seen within The Fifth Season, as the readers are exposed to groups of people who have power and privileges, such as orogenes, and others who do not. In other words, Heng’s quote works to emphasize the hierarchical order that was created in this particular society in order to manage individuals’ differences. 

As explored through the concepts of orogenes, the fulcrum, and social stratification, the readers are able to get a more in depth image of these systemic inequalities prevalent within the text. The orogenes, despite having the power to control seismic activities, are marginalized and feared by the society they live in. An example from the novel shows the ways in which it was almost seen as a joke that orogenes would ever be able to create laws and hold figurative power. “We could try letting orogenes run things.” She almost laughs. “That would last for about ten minutes before every Guardian in the Stillness shows up to lynch us, with half the continent in tow to watch and cheer (Jemisin, pg 124; concept from mini-collaboration)”. This passage vividly illustrates the prevalent discrimination and animosity directed towards orogenes throughout the novel. Furthermore, there is an emphasis on the distinct treatment of orogenes, such as restrictions on their choice of drink. This illustrates the unfair expectations and responsibilities placed upon this group— “orogenes aren’t supposed to drink. Ever. The power to move mountains plus inebriation equals disaster waiting to happen (Jemisin, pg 148; concept from mini-collaboration).” Something such as not allowing a certain group of individuals to make their own decisions is a result of systemic or institutionalized discrimination, fostering an environment that hinders equal opportunities and undermines fundamental human rights. 

As seen in The Fifth Season, the fulcrum is an institution that trains orogenes, as well as controls their powers to manipulate geological forces. The fulcrum as a whole plays a significant role in the narrative, as it explores themes of power, control, and oppression. Jemisin portrays the fulcrum as a training facility in which the orogenes are taught to focus and control their gift of being an orogeny. This concept highlights how the fulcrum functions as a restraint that prevents the orogenes from using their power as a means of destruction. Once an orogene enters the fulcrum, they are immediately stripped of their power and their humanity. This idea is prominent in Damaya’s experience at the Fulcrum in which she learns quite quickly that “Friends do not exist. The Fulcrum is not a school. Grits are not children. Orogenes are not people. Weapons have no need of friends (Jemisin, pg 297).” This quote also highlights the social hierarchy present within the readings, as the readers are given the opportunity to explore which groups of people are given rights depending on their status throughout the novel. Hierarchy is almost seen as inevitable, and each society grapples with its own share of traits that make others in power (concept from mini collaboration). Another example which highlights the hierarchical status seen within the Fifth Season is detailed through the grits. There are ten different rings that orogenes can receive based on how well they control their powers; ten ring orogenes are considered to be the most powerful in this society, as their treatment is based on the ring value that they hold. We see how Alabaster holds ten rings, placing him at a large advantage of power throughout The Fifth Season. “For the other grits—and that’s what she is now, an unimportant bit of rock ready to be polished into usefulness, or at least to help grind other, better rocks (Jemison, pg 191).” This shows the power of the rings that one can obtain throughout the novel, placing them at an advantage in society. 

Overall, N.K. Jemisin creates a fictional narrative which highlights real world concepts and ideas. The Fifth Season highlights many parallels to real world issues by demonstrating inequality and social hierarchy based on the certain traits that individuals carry. By incorporating multiple themes of power, oppression, and hierarchy into this fictional narrative, readers gain perspective through the orogenes. Just as orogenes are deemed as inferior to non-orogenes in order to maintain the societal order, real world parallels can be drawn to the concept of racism, whereas certain individuals are granted more power— inadvertently contributing to structural racism. Although it may not be intentional, structural racism continuously occurs as a direct result of the desire to keep and maintain order in a society. These explored themes and concepts created a beautiful plot that the readers were able to immerse themselves into throughout the entirety of this science fiction novel.