The Novel Embodiment of Jazz Music

For some reason I’m normally tempted to skip the foreword of novels. Perhaps I just want to get right into the story. Perhaps I think Roman numeral pages don’t really count. But I did read the one in Jazz and I’m glad I did because as I’ve been reading I’ve had Morrison’s introductory words in the back of my head, shaping how I read it. I don’t know everything about jazz music but Morrison explains how she’s used it in her novel. She says jazz music is primarily about “invention. Improvisation, originality, change,” and that “rather than be about those characteristic, the novel would seek to become them,” (xx). I made a blog post about Morrison’s use of structure in a Mercy, and her brilliant use of it in Jazz, though a somewhat different, is catching my attention yet again. She said herself in the foreword, “I had written novels in which structure was designed to enhance meaning; here the structure would equal meaning” (xix). So I knew even before starting the book that Morrison would be doing some cool jazz-like things with her structure, and I am not disappointed. Continue reading “The Novel Embodiment of Jazz Music”

To Thwart Close Reading

*As a disclaimer, this is not a fully analytical post. In a 400 level college class and the intelligent discourse that comes along with that, I wasn’t sure where to put these thoughts, so I decided to use the blog space, but perhaps even here isn’t the right place.*

When we were discussing the epigraph for Jazz, Dr. McCoy said that she believes the lines can’t be reconciled and that maybe as readers we need to think about beauty. That resonated with me, because as an English major obviously I love analyzing texts: their meanings, reader interpretations vs. authorial intentions, and literary elements. As an future teacher, I love helping others come to their own conclusions about texts as well.


I believe that often in college classes, students fall into two categories. Either they are so stressed by other classes that they skim through reading just trying to finish the assigned pages even if it means losing sleep, sanity, or both. The opposite of that is the students who become obsessed finding the underlying meaning of every sentence, word, and sound. And that’s not a bad thing- we have to go deeper into texts than we have ever attempted before because that’s why people take literature classes in college. I believe that there is a quality of beauty in literature that sometimes get ignored, or rather overlooked.

Continue reading “To Thwart Close Reading”

On Beauty

On Wednesday, Dr. Beth prompted us to think on beauty this week. The sentence was scarce complete when I thought of Zadie Smith’s On Beauty. Both Smith’s novel and Toni Morrison’s Jazz actually have quite a bit in common. Love and marriage, race, and social class are all present in both novels. However, as this is my first time reading Jazz and I’m not quite sure what awaits deeper in the novel, I will not presume to know if their takeaways are similar. For now, though, I can point out the surface similarities (while trying not to spoil any of Smith’s novel for those of you who have not read it) and recommend On Beauty to anyone looking for their next read. Continue reading “On Beauty”

Some More Historical Significance

While searching through the beginning chapters of Jazz for historically significant references , I came across a couple that were not mentioned in class. The first is the “armistice” that is referred to while the narrator is describing the veterans on Seventh Avenue. This is a reference to the Armistice of 11 November 1918 which took place between the Allies and the Germans during the first World War. This agreement stopped the fighting on the Western Front, which was the battleground of WWI. I find this significant because it pushes me to do research on the roles that African-Americans played in the war and how their lives were impacted both during and after it was over.

Another reference that stands out to me is found when Violet is talking (or thinking) about Dorcas. She mentions a school named Wadleigh. I looked it up and it turns out that Wadleigh, an institution still standing today, was the first public school for girls established in NYC.

These significant references make me feel like nothing in Morrison’s texts should be looked over. Her texts are very informative.

Central argument/understanding of inclusion of sexualities in television

Researching the history of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual (LGB) inclusion in television and movies has unearthed an interesting history. In particular, The Production Code of 1930 also called the Hays Code, made it voluntary for the exclusion of LGB characters. Specifically, the document said “Sex Perversion or any inference to it is forbidden”. This seemed a subtle way for people who considered same gender romantic relationships as deviant, to exclude the perspectives in their works. Though the guidelines were specifically made for movies, the same rules were adhered to when it came to television production. Fortunately, these restrictions have not been strictly adhered to since the 1960s, but the ideals behind them are still perpetuated.

It could be assumed that because of the limitations such rules reinforced, strategic characterization was used to portray LGB characters. Specifically, this is called queer coding. This is where creators hint that a character is queer*. This is a heavily used strategy especially among villainous characters in works. In an article by Samantha Allen*, Allen noted how Disney as a media enterprise has created villains that represent otherness in American society. In turn, many of the villains are queer coded as a means of comedy and a warning for children to not behave the way villains do and to be wary of those who do behave or look similarly. So either viewers do not see LGB characters or they see them as bad people. Furthermore, the reach Disney has with young children and their families illustrates how effective media can be in people’s formative years as a means of learning morals and empathy for instance. If children who are viewers and the few who grow up to be creators of their own media works, have these ideas as the foundations about LGB people, they will just continue perpetuate potentially harmful stereotypes.

Recently many works have counteracted the tradition of negative representations of LGB characters by including more dynamic LGB subjects. In turn we now have more engaging LGB characters of which some are even heroes. The reactions to the inclusion of lesbian relationships in popular shows just reinforces how impactful positive inclusion can be. For instance, the reaction to the lesbian characters Nomi and Amanita from the Netflix original series Sense8. Though their relationship is just one aspect of each of their dynamic and intersecting identities, them as a couple expressing their intense love throughout the show has garnered much appreciation from fans. Their fondness was shown through articles, fan based works* and blog posts. In addition to that, other television series have created such a following for their woman loving characters (wlw)* characters that they have popular songs dedicated to them.

Creators of similarly inclusive works weigh in on how their own works have helped them in understanding/coming to terms with various identities and on their effects on viewers. Creator of Steven Universe; Rebecca Sugar has noted how affective her work can be on young viewers. Sugar said in an interview, “you can’t wait until kids have grown up to let them know that queer people exist… If you wait to tell queer youth that it matters how they feel or that they are even a person, then it’s going to be too late!”. In her work for Cartoon Network, Sugar portrays the subtleties of the romantic and platonic relationships women can have with each other. Her work is especially significant because of the audience it draws being an animated work. Some think portraying gay and lesbian issues to children is inappropriate because people think they have to explain how gay and lesbian people have sex with each other. This idea is ridiculous because a child does not need such explanations to understand relationships. Just like they do not need to know that to enjoy any Disney film for instance when they portray heterosexual romances. Sugar realized how important it is to see these portrayals as young children so that it creates a foundation of understanding and inclusion.

Other creators share Sugar’s sentiments about the importance of showing positive portrayals of wlw in children’s media. Bryan Konietzko and Mike DiMartino, producers of Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra (LoK) show this well in the relationship between Korra and Asami in LoK. In response to negative reception of the final episode DiMartino wrote “we did it for all our queer friends, family, and colleagues. It is long overdue that our media (including children’s media) stops treating non-heterosexual people as nonexistent, or as something merely to be mocked”. In LoK’s finale, Korra and Asami shared an intimate look as they left for the spirit world. To clarify, that is not a euphemism for them dying, the shows canon includes the spirit world as a destination one can visit. Anyway, the reception from viewers who liked the shows finale were filled with resounding praise to the writers and animators for their work. The development of Korra and Asami’s relationship exemplifies how growth and change can be positive. It is essential that young children understand that these stages are not to be feared (especially young people discovering aspects of their sexuality).

As more creators include these perspectives in their works (whole and dynamic LGB characters, not just plot points) the more reflective it will be of actual people’s real lives. Thus providing esteem for people (when seeing themselves reflected in media), understanding for others and finally a step forward in unlearning prejudices we all hold that were reinforced by harmful representations.


*Queer: I use this word not only as a part of the definition of the tactics used but as a word to be more inclusive of identities. But I understand the history of the words usage and I’m sorry if it offensive to someone (sorry again).

*Samantha Allen article: Allen talks about how Ursula from The Little Mermaid is relevant and important to lesbians, so it’s worth a read.

*WLW (women loving women): I use this to be inclusive of bisexual women. But I understand everyone deserves their own space. Also, I’m not sure if the creators have specifically said the orientation of the characters but they have said that the characters are/have been in romantic relationships with other female characters.



How to Feel About Prisons

I wanted to start a conversation about prisons in the United States. But first, I’d like to start with a little anecdote. A couple years ago my older brother used to hang around the wrong group of people. We live in the hood in Brooklyn and so part of this meant dealing with the culture of the hood. One day, my brother was hanging out with these kids on the train, skipping train cars, which is illegal, and got targeted by the cops. Under the impression that the friends my brother was with were carrying weed, he started running away from the cops. After tripping, a cop finally caught hold of him. Quietly, he said that my brother was lucky he hadn’t put “three rounds in his back.” Continue reading “How to Feel About Prisons”

On Single Stories and The Sabotage of American Education

After watching Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk about the dangers of the single story, and reading Hannah’s blogpost, I can’t help but think of the education profession in this country.  My mother’s a fourth grade teacher, so I know how teachers and education as a whole is under siege by the right wing of this nation.  After reading Hannah’s blogpost, I can finally signify why the modern Republican party is at war with our teachers, and is out to destroy education, such as Scott Walker defunding the University of Wisconsin public university sysem.

The Republican party has been taken over a single story.  One about fearing minorities because of their difference to the average white American.  Hannah discussed how easy to perpetrate fear is, and how unfounded it is, and I see that fear here.  I watched this single story begin when Mitch McConnel declared in 2010 that he would make Obama a one term presidency, and proceeded to vilify and obstruct our President like no other President had dealt with.  This single story about fearing minorities has grown into a novel where the hard right wingers are the only patriots and minorities and other political ‘dissidents’ like liberals are out to destroy America.  Social politics dominate the party, and economic conservatives and moderate conservatives are being left by the wayside with accusations of RINO for not buying into the single story.  The culmination of this single story is the emergence of the Donald Trump to head the Republican Party.  His flaws would end any other person’s campaign, but I see that his base is deep in their single story where everyone not their political cult is out to destroy America.  So deep that they will follow him without question because he speaks to their fear.

To give statistics: people who haven’t reached high school or college diplomas are more likely to vote Republican.  That’s not stereotype, that’s statistical fact.  As Hannah said, our children are impressionable, and can be shaped by their education.  Education familiarizes children with the very differences the modern Republicans fear, and they come to respect our differences..  The Republican party in recent years has watched its base shrink as the older generation dies off and our generation, with our generally superior education, has risen into voting age.  Their solution has been to purge our educational system and dumb down our schools, in the hopes that more children will grow up not understanding, and fearing difference that the modern Republican Party has made its enemy.  Even worse, Republicans are attempting to redirect public school students to charter schools, which are public money funded, yet run by corporations, and are no better than public schools.  Without good education, their single story of fear and hatred will be passed onto our children, and our next generation will be ruined.  This is a deliberate choice by Republican leaders.

Given the political makeup of SUNY Geneseo, I’m preaching to the choir, but I must state that the Republicans are believing in a single story about fear and hatred of difference.  The Republican Party is destroying our schools to commit their sins of ignorance on our children.

“Expectations” for Morrison’s Novel “Jazz”

Okay, I wanted to make a post before I started reading Jazz. It has taken slightly longer to write than I thought it would and most of that time was spent on making it coherent. I want to try and talk about “expectations” for Toni Morrison’s novel. I put the word “expectations” into scare quotes because I want to make it clear that I am referring to the definition, “A strong belief that something will happen or be the case” and not “A belief that someone will or should achieve something” (my italics). This post is going to be about some things that I think might happen in the book, not plot wise (by which I mean I’m not going to talk about the plot, but the ideas I’m going to present could still manifest in the plot), but more along the lines of the novel’s form and structure. It’s probably even more accurate to say that I’m not going to talk about thing that I believe are going to happen, but things that I’m going to pay specific attention to throughout my reading. I’ve never read the book before, so I’m drawing these “expectations” from the Morrison books we have read so far, some scholarly articles I’ve read for Dr. McCoy in the past, and my very limited understanding of Jazz Music. Continue reading ““Expectations” for Morrison’s Novel “Jazz””

The Single Story of the “Flawless” Feminist Icon

I must say that this timing is rather uncanny, given our class’s recent discussion of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “The Danger of a Single Story,” but just yesterday, Dutch paper De Volkskrant published an interview with the feminist icon. In this interview, Adichie responds to the media coverage she has experienced since the release of Beyoncé’s “Flawless,” and her desire to separate her own work from that of Beyoncé. She makes it clear that she respects Beyoncé as both an artist, and a fellow feminist icon, but would prefer that the public appreciated her work as its own entity–a pretty reasonable request, coming from a novelist already famous prior to being featured by another high-profile artist.  Continue reading “The Single Story of the “Flawless” Feminist Icon”

The Danger of the Single Story in Today’s Society

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk about the danger of the single story never fails to leave me moved. So much of what she says is relevant in today’s society.

Adichie explained how her experiences as a child showed how vulnerable and impressionable children are in the face of the “single story.” It made me wonder how many parents, specifically in the U.S., are unaware of the impact they have on their children– not only impacting them with their own words, but the kinds of media they expose them to. Continue reading “The Danger of the Single Story in Today’s Society”