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The Zamani Reader (TZR)

A History Blog from an American History Student

Presentations from “HIST 017: History of the United States to 1877” — The American Revolution Within (1775-1783)

Dear readers, today I am following up on my lecture series from HIST 017, “History of the United States to 1877,” with a new PowerPoint presentation. This presentation is called “The American Revolution Within (1775-1785).” It discusses the internal struggles and transformations of the United States at the very moment of its creation. It was originally presented to my class on Thursday, June 23, 2016. As always, I recognize that my lectures are far from perfect and they have several problems. Nonetheless, I hope you will enjoy them and feel welcome to send me any recommendations you may have.

All of the PowerPoint presentations for HIST 017, including this one, were developed from content in the following textbook: Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty!: An American History, Vol. 1, Seagull 4th edition (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2014). I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to Foner for his wonderful work as an historian. Give Me Liberty! is truly an exceptional educational resource and I recommend its use in any History setting, be it a college classroom or otherwise. I would also like to extend my gratitude to everyone at Solano Community College and UC Davis, two institutions that continue to support both my teaching endeavors and my professional education.

Thanks, and enjoy!

The American Revolution Within (1775-1785) — HIST 017 (6-23-16)

Presentations from “HIST 017: History of the United States to 1877” — The American Revolution (1765-1783)

Dear readers, as many of you know, after six years of studying History in college, I officially began my teaching career last fall, 2015, by teaching “HIST 037: Women in American History” at Solano Community College. I am following up on that course this summer by teaching “HIST 017: History of the United States to 1877” at the Vacaville satellite campus of SCC. Today I would like to post the first lecture that I created for that course to The Zamani Reader. As always, I recognize that my lectures are far from perfect and that they have several problems. Nonetheless, I hope that you will enjoy them and feel welcome to send me any recommendations that you may have. This particular lecture is on the lead up to, and the history of, the American Revolution (1765-1783). It was originally delivered to my class on Tuesday, June 21, 2016.

All of the PowerPoint presentations for HIST 017, including this one, were developed from content in the following textbook: Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty!: An American History, Vol. 1, Seagull 4th edition (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2014). I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to Foner for his wonderful work as a historian. Give Me Liberty! is truly an exceptional educational resource and I recommend its use in any History classroom, be it a college course or otherwise. I would also like to extend my gratitude to everyone at SCC, who has supported me in my teaching experience thus far. Thanks, and enjoy!

The American Revolution (1765-1783) — HIST 017 (June 21, 2016)

Presentations from “HIST 037: Women in American History” — African Women and Slavery in the Colonial Era

Dear readers, I am continuing my lecture series with a new presentation called “African Women and Slavery in the Colonial Era.” I have spent the last three weeks working on this presentation, and I am very satisfied with the result. The PowerPoint is broken into three separate parts called 1) Representations, 2) Historical Concepts, and 3) Primary Sources. The first section focuses on displaying imagery of African women in the colonial era, with the goal of juxtaposing racist images with honest portrayals; the second section sets forth some very basic concepts in order to help us understand the historical context of slavery, black women, and the colonial era; and the third section introduces the audience to a few of the types of primary sources that historians use to further explore these experiences.

This presentation was originally created for my HIST 037 class, “Women in American History.” I taught this class last Fall at Solano Community College. More specifically, this presentation was given to my class on Monday, August 31, 2015. Please note that all of the PowerPoint presentations for HIST 037, including this one, were developed from content in the following textbook: Ellen Carol DuBois and Lynn Dumenil,Through Women’s Eyes: An American History with Documents. Boston and New York: Bedford St. Martin’s, 2012. I would like to extend my gratitude to these two authors for their extraordinary work.Through Women’s Eyes is a wonderful educational resource. Second, I would like to extend my gratitude to everyone at SCC who encouraged the development of this course.

Thanks, and enjoy!

African Women and Slavery in the Colonial Era Presentation (8-31-15)

Reflections from a PhD History Student (Part Two) — Why is Graduate School so Hard, Especially in the First Year?

Well, I have officially finished my first year of the PhD History program at UC Davis. To be more precise, I finished my first year a couple of months ago, when I turned in the last of my final exams for Spring Quarter around the second week of June. I meant to write these reflections immediately after finishing the school year, but then I got caught up with other obligations and I was, frankly, pretty tired of writing. I took a job right after school ended, teaching another course at Solano Community College. The new dean of the college called me up and offered me the opportunity to teach a summer course before Davis had ended. Because Davis is on the quarter system, and SCC is on the semester system, that summer class began only one week after my graduate classes finished. In fact, I was planning the summer course at SCC before I had finished my classes at Davis.

Continue reading “Reflections from a PhD History Student (Part Two) — Why is Graduate School so Hard, Especially in the First Year?”

Presentations from “HIST 037: Women in American History” — European American Women in the Colonial Era

Dear readers, as many of you know from my post last week, this summer I have decided to share some of the PowerPoint lectures that I created for the first class I ever taught at Solano Community College (SCC). This class was called “HIST 037: Women in American History,” and I taught it during the Fall of 2015. The following presentation is part of the colonial lecture series. It is about the experiences of European or European-American  women in the colonial era. The presentation focuses mostly on European women in the area that will become the thirteen American colonies on the Atlantic seaboard. It was presented to my HIST 037 class on Wednesday, September 4, 2015.

All of the PowerPoint presentations for HIST 037, including this one, were developed from content in the following textbook: Ellen Carol DuBois and Lynn Dumenil,Through Women’s Eyes: An American History with Documents. Boston and New York: Bedford St. Martin’s, 2012. I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to these two authors for their extraordinary work. Through Women’s Eyes is, indeed, a wonderful educational resource. Second, I would like to extend my gratitude to Rachel Purdie, another adjunct History instructor at SCC who introduced me to this textbook. Thanks, and enjoy!

European Colonial Women Presentation — HIST 37 (9-4-15)

Presentations from “HIST 037: Women in American History” — Native American Women in the Colonial Era

Dear readers, this summer I have decided to share some of the PowerPoint lectures that I created for the first class I ever taught at Solano Community College (SCC). This class was called “HIST 037: Women in American History,” and I taught it during the Fall of 2015. Of course, these lectures are far from perfect, and they have several problems. In this sense, they should be seen as both a source for History education and a source for seeing how I approached the task of making class presentations during my first year as an adjunct History teacher. This summer, I am teaching my second class at SCC, called “HIST 017: History of the United States to 1877,” and I can already see that my style of creating lecture presentations has changed dramatically. In these early PowerPoint presentations, you can see my attempt to make detailed footnotes for both myself and my students at the bottom of each PowerPoint slide. Each of the slides usually consists of a title, a few pictures, and a block of text summarizing the major concepts and providing citations for the images. I do not, however, list out the most important concepts on each of the slides. As you can probably imagine, this was a major point of complaint for some of my students.

All of the PowerPoint presentations for HIST 037, including this one, were developed from content in the following textbook: Ellen Carol DuBois and Lynn Dumenil,Through Women’s Eyes: An American History with Documents. Boston and New York: Bedford St. Martin’s, 2012. I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to these two authors for their extraordinary work. Through Women’s Eyes is, indeed, a wonderful educational resource. Second, I would like to extend my gratitude to Rachel Purdie, another adjunct History instructor at SCC who introduced me to this work. Thanks, and enjoy!

The following PowerPoint presentation is about Native American women in the colonial era, and it was presented to my HIST 037 class on Wednesday, September 2, 2015.

Presentation on Native American Women in the Colonial Era — HIST 037 (9-2-15)

Children’s Series that Explores the Legends of the Haitian Pirate Henri “Black” Caesar Releases its Second Volume

Dear readers, over the course of my time researching the legends of the Afro-American pirate Black Caesar, I have come across many fascinating projects and interesting people. One of these projects is the children’s book series Tullybeth, written by two sisters from Miami, Florida, named Rachel and Marissa Cossio and with cover art by Jennifer Leiner. The first installment of the series was named Tullybeth, after the title character. It was published in 2013 in both paperback and as an Ebook through Amazon Digital Services. It was Rachel and Marissa’s debut novel. The following blog post describes the plot of these thrilling novels and then offers up some thoughts on why pirates continue to captivate both readers and writers of children’s fiction after centuries in the genre.  Continue reading “Children’s Series that Explores the Legends of the Haitian Pirate Henri “Black” Caesar Releases its Second Volume”

From Chicanismo to Chuy: The Long History of the Chicano Movement in Chicago’s Lower West Side, 1965-2015

Note:  For a PDF version of this graduate research prospectus, which includes all of its appendices, please see the following link: From Chicanismo to Chuy — Recovering the Long History of the Chicano Movement in Chicago’s Lower West Side, 1965-2015

INTRODUCTION:

The Chicago Tribune printed historic news on Tuesday night, February 24, 2015. The Mexican-American politician, Jesús G. “Chuy” García, succeeded in forcing a runoff against his opponent in the previous day’s mayoral election. The runoff, scheduled for Tuesday, April 7, became the first runoff in the history of Chicago mayoral elections. Though García lost that race by 11.4%, he had come closer to obtaining the highest office in the third largest city of the United States than any Latino/a politician before him. The closest comparison had been Gery Chico, who became the first Mexican-American to run for the office of mayor in 2011. Nonetheless, García topped Chico’s vote by 9.6% in the 2015 General Election. He captured majorities in every one of the fourteen wards dominated by “Hispanic” residents except for one: the 13th. More specifically, the 22nd, 12th, and 25th wards roughly corresponded to the Latino/a barrios of Chicago’s Lower West Side. García won these wards by ratios of 80%, 75% and 61% respectively. In part, his strong showing drew upon the fact that Chicago Latinos/as were more influential than they had ever been, at 33% of the city’s population, 19% of its voting-age citizens, and a handful of its elected officials. Yet, in order to fully understand these successes, we must go all the way back to the 1960s and 70s.[1]

García had a long and storied career that culminated in the 2015 runoff. More importantly, that career mirrored larger trends in postwar, Mexican-American activism for Civil Rights. He was born in Mexico in 1956, but he moved to Chicago at the age of nine because his father was a farm laborer in the WWII-era bracero program. When the family settled in the growing Latino/a barrios of the Lower West Side, these areas of the city were quickly filling up with both new migrants and displaced, Spanish-speaking wartime immigrants. García found himself in a rare climate of vigorous Latino/a activism known as the Chicano Movement. Many Latino/a residents in the Lower West Side were uniting under the banner of a new, cultural-nationalist ideology called chicanismo. They were agitating against issues like racism, gang violence, community neglect, immigrant and union rights, poverty, under-education, police brutality, joblessness, and urban renewal. [2]

García witnessed chicanismo activism firsthand. When he was thirteen, for example, over one-hundred Latino/a residents gathered in the street to attend a public meeting of ALAS. During this meeting, those present endorsed a local Mexican-American activist named Arthur Vásquez as the next executive director of Howell House, Pilsen’s settlement house, which had historically been home to the white, Presbyterian Czech immigrants. Vásquez became the house’s first Mexican-American director, and the center was re-christened Casa Aztlán. This name was a symbol of chicanismo that memorialized the ward’s demographic tipping point. One year later, in 1970, the city’s decennial census recorded the Lower West Side’s first ever Latino/a majority. The barrios Little Village/South Lawndale and Pilsen/Heart of Chicago have retained that majority to this day.[3]

Continue reading “From Chicanismo to Chuy: The Long History of the Chicano Movement in Chicago’s Lower West Side, 1965-2015”

Like Two Waves of the Same Flood: Comparing John Trudell’s Lines from a Mined Mind and Sherwin Bitsui’s Flood Song

SHERWIN BITSUI. Flood Song. Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 2009. Pp. 73 $15.00. ISBN: 978-1-55659-308-6.

JOHN TRUDELL. Lines from a Mined Mind. Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing, 2008. Pp. vii, 270. $18.00. ISBN: 9781555916787.

Introduction:

“Bitter fruit emerges where bitter seed is sown,” sings the native artist John Trudell in one of his 1999 song-poems called “Blue Indians.” “Economic chains all dressed out as reward/Gender race age edged in love and rage/Oppressorman builder keeper of the cage.” In acerbic pieces like this one, listeners can feel the full force of Trudell’s searing and unabashed voice. A radical child of the 1960s and 1970s, and a leading activist of the nation’s Alcatraz-Red Power Movement, he flings his words like sharpened daggers at what he views to be an oppressive and shallow American society—a society that pollutes the minds of its people with the “toxic waste” of consumerism and the “poison” of “fears doubts and insecurity.” In this poem and others, we experience Trudell’s characteristic critique of First World deceit and decadence. His language is biting and direct. There is not much room for ambiguity in lines like “Industrial reservation tyranny stakes its claim” and “Blue Indians emotional siege in a civilized stain.” In fact, many song-poems in his oeuvre, as they appear in his 2008 compilation Lines from a Mined Mind, are unambiguous and impassioned. They feature “political pimps,” “citizen whores,” and “material junkies.” Readers are informed that they are living in a “broken” and “industrially insane” world of “tech no logic slavery.” We are weathering the “oppressor’s brutality” and “surviving genocide because we have to.”[1]

Then there is the poetic work of the native artist Sherwin Bitsui. His groundbreaking book-poem Flood Song was published in 2009, exactly one year after Trudell’s retrospective anthology. Yet the work is strikingly different. The language is much more subtle, nuanced, quiet, intimate, and deeply visual. Scattered across wide savannas of blank, white space are small pools and rivulets of deep imagery. They spread like oases or trickles in a vast desert. Each one draws the reader’s imagination forward, carrying it upon the back of a meandering and powerful current of contemplative visions. There is a “waning lick of moonlight on the dashboard.” Then, we see “A shower of sparks skate across the morning sky;” and, in continuing, we “inhale earth, wind, water/ through the gasoline nozzle/at trail’s end/a flint spear driven into the key switch.” These images are punctuated and fleeting; yet, somehow they form part of a bigger picture. They are like specific, tactile pieces from the fragmented mosaic that is our memory. They are pieces of evidence for an endangered, lived experience. There is a reality embedded in a thought of “a flashing yellow sign,/blinks between charcoal sheets of monsoon rain.” With each deliberate verb, Bitsui somehow manages to conjure an entire world of feeling within his readers. “It is here,” he writes, “that they scoop the granite stones from your chest/snap each rib shut over the highway leading south.”[2]

Continue reading “Like Two Waves of the Same Flood: Comparing John Trudell’s Lines from a Mined Mind and Sherwin Bitsui’s Flood Song”

The Annual UC Davis HIS 203 Presentations are this Thursday

Dear readers, the annual HIS 203 presentations are happening this Thursday from 10:30 in the morning until 4:00 in the afternoon. For those who do not know, HIS 203 is a required class for second-year students in the graduate History Department at UC Davis. HIS 203 is a year-long, article writing workshop. Students in the course work all year long (that is, for fall, winter, and spring quarter) on researching, writing, and then editing an article-length essay on a topic of their choosing. Generally, the essay becomes either a stand-alone article–which the student submits to a peer-reviewed journal for publication–and/or it becomes the basis for the first chapter of their dissertation.

At the end of each year, students in the HIS 203 course show off their finished essays in a conference-style presentation for the rest of the department. This gives other students in the department a chance to see the kind of work that their peers are doing, and it gives the department a chance to celebrate the hard work of its second-year graduate students. The presentation of the 203 paper serves as a milestone for all graduate students. Completion of the class often marks the end of course work and the beginning of preparation for the comprehensive examinations, a series of tests the students will take in their third year.

There is going to be a great group of presentations this Thursday, June 2, in the basement of the Social Sciences and Humanities Building (Room 273). I have attached the conference program to this blog post so that you can see the order of events, the presenters’ names, and each of their paper titles. The second-year students presenting this year are Renzo Aroni, Melanie Peinado, Muhammet Sacmali, Sean Gallagher, Mike Haggerty, Josh Thomas, and Joel Virgen. They will present their papers in a couple of two-hour sessions with lunch scheduled in between. After the presentations are finished, the department will issue an annual award called the Emile G. Scholz Prize for the best HIS 203 paper.

If you happen to be in the neighborhood of UC Davis on Thursday, I hope you will come by the SS&H Building and watch what are certain to be some great presentations.

HIS 203 Conference Program Photo 2

HIS 203 Conference Program (5-31-2016)

Review Essay on the Gulf South Published with the Journal of Florida Studies

Dear readers, last summer I was looking for some more opportunities to publish in the field of Florida History, and so I reached out with a cover letter to a publication that I came across online called Journal of Florida Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal of the Idea and Place that is Florida. In the following weeks, Casey Blanton, the Editor in Chief of the journal, responded with an opportunity for me to publish a book review of the historian F. Todd Smith’s new work, Louisiana and the Gulf South Frontier, published in 2014 by Louisiana State University Press. I agreed and, after about eight months time, that review was published in early April in the second part of a two-part issue based on the iconic, early American naturalist William Bartram (1739-1823). The issue is called Travel and Travels, taking its name from the shortened title of Bartram’s most famous work. The full title is Travels through North & South Carolina, East & West Florida, the Cherokee Country, the Extensive Territories of the Muscogulges, or Creek Confederacy, and the Country of the Chactaws, Containing an Account of the Soil and Natural Productions of Those Regions, Together with Observations on the Manners of the Indians. The book was originally printed in Philadelphia by James and Johnson in 1791, and it detailed Bartram’s travels among American Indian peoples in the US South between the years 1773 and 1777. Here is an image of the title page to the second edition:

Bartram Image

During my initial correspondence with Casey, she told me that the Journal of Florida Studies favors more lengthy book reviews, in contrast to the 700-word reviews that are the bread-and-butter of hard-copy academic journals. The Journal of Florida Studies is, after all, an online publication; and the online platform is known for giving both editors and writers more freedom to compose longer, in-depth pieces. As a result, I took my time in this book review, and I wrote 12 pages. Of course, I wanted to evaluate Smith’s new work, Louisiana and the Gulf South Frontier, but I also wanted to use that work as a sounding board for some discussions of a few larger concepts that he addresses. In particular, these concepts are the theoretical framework of “New Frontier History” and the geographical region of the “Gulf South.” I am curious about both of these terms and how they will be received by historians, teachers, and students going forward. Smith’s new work is both an historical synthesis and a case study. As such, it is an ideal work for examining the implementation of these two ideas. Overall, the book is an attempt to construct a New Frontier History of the Gulf South region–an area that is loosely defined as the region of the present-day US South that border on the Gulf of Mexico–during the early-modern era.

Louisiana and the Gulf South Frontier (2014)

I have included a link to my review of Louisiana below, as well as links to the current issue of the Journal of Florida Studies. For those readers who are interested in Florida History, or in getting ideas for how to create their own online journal, FJS is a great resource. Unlike most academic journals today, JFS is truly interdisciplinary. The editors have managed to mix rigorous academic research with poetry, fiction, photography, and other digital arts to create a one-of-a-kind, peer-reviewed journal that explores all aspects of Florida as both an idea and a place. As they say on their website, “JFS is an outgrowth of the Center for Interdisciplinary Writing and Research (CIWR) at Daytona State College in Daytona Beach, Florida.” The journal is “dedicated to the study and appreciation of Florida.”

In closing, I would like to thank Casey Blanton and everyone else at JFS for allowing me to write a book review for their publication. I would also like to thank the historian F. Todd Smith for his hard work in researching and writing Louisiana. Enjoy!

Extended Book Review of F. Todd Smith’s Louisiana and the Gulf South Frontier

The Journal of Florida Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal of the Idea and Place that is Florida, Volume 1, Issue 5, “Travel and Travels, Part 2” (2016)

Educational Yet Uninspired

The Sensuality of Sustenance: The Embodiment of Food, Life, and Sex in Natalia Toledo’s Black Flower

Citation: NATALIA TOLEDO, “A Hand in the Bush Makes Sweet Work in the Kitchen.” In The Black Flower and Other Zapotec Poems. Trans. from the Spanish and the Isthmus Zapotec by Clare Sullivan. Los Angeles: Phoneme Media, 2015. Pp. xi, 244. $16.00. Paperback. ISBN: 978-1-939419-46-0.

Image credit: The designs of Natalia Toledo’s poems on amate paper that are featured as images in this post were designed by Mexico City Lit.

Introduction:

“You open your legs wide,” writes Natalia Toledo, “when you sit down in the hammock/so that the chocolate chili of your man/may enter your calabash.” In select poems like this one, “Chocolate Chili Pepper,” Toledo puts the erotic dimensions of her poetry on full display. She constructs intimate pieces that are short and sweet, and descend into palpable meaning like water falling over cliff sides. Throughout, she scatters poignant comparisons between food and sex like rocks on the falls, throwing them into the water’s path to create a confusing and entangled fall of sensuality and sustenance. The reader is left like many subjects of these poems, feeling both hungry and aroused. They crave food and they desire orgasm. Most importantly, they question the very idea of artificial boundaries between two of the most primal activities of human life. One is the ritual crafting of food that resurrects life in its subsequent consumption; the other is the intimate crafting of actual people that reproduces life through the cycle of sex, cooking in the womb, and then birth.[1]

The following essay is a short piece that explores select themes from one section of Natalia Toledo’s Black Flower, a translated compilation of her poetry from 2015. The essay begins with a biographical section on Toledo which is intended to provide context for those who have not heard of her work. The essay will then discuss the interwoven themes of food, life, and sex in her section of poems, “A Hand in the Bush Makes Sweet Work in the Kitchen.” Meanwhile, it will draw upon language from the “Embodiments” track of the Performance Studies discipline. The discipline describes this track in one of its statements by writing that it “deals with questions of representation and documentation of bodies in performance that will encompass not only artist/practitioners but also those working in discursive fields such as literature and languages.” The language of the track also refers to the interaction of “bodies in space” and “bodies in motion.” In the sections of Black Flower relevant to this essay, we will explore how Toledo uses the vehicle of her native language and the themes of food, life, and sex to explore the body as a physical site of sensuality and sustenance, as well as the idea of the “body in motion” as it creates and sustains life.[2]

Continue reading “The Sensuality of Sustenance: The Embodiment of Food, Life, and Sex in Natalia Toledo’s Black Flower”

Overview of Brown in the Windy City by Lilia Fernández

Lilia Fernández. Brown in the Windy City: Mexicans and Puerto Ricans in Postwar Chicago. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012. Pp. xii, 392. $30.00. Paperback. ISBN: 9780226244280.*

About the Author:

Lilia Fernández is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at Ohio State University. She obtained her PhD in Ethnic Studies from the University of California at San Diego in 2005. Brown in the Windy City (henceforth, BWC) is her revised dissertation and first book; the project was originally called “Latina/o Migration and Community Formation in Postwar Chicago: Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Gender, and Politics, 1945-1975;” and her committee chairs were Ramón A. Gutiérrez and Vicki L. Ruiz. Lastly, Fernández is a native Chicagoan who grew up at least partly in one of the areas that is the subject of her study, the Lower West Side neighborhood of Pilsen.

Overview:

BWC is the first intertwined history of Puerto Rican and Mexican-American immigrant communities in postwar Chicago, from roughly 1942 to 1975. The work contextualizes the migration, community formation, racialization, and social activism of these groups during a tumultuous period of Chicago’s history. Overall, Fernández offers an intimate look into how two Spanish-speaking ethnic groups built their identities in a shared climate of racism, housing discrimination, deindustrialization, urban blight, gentrification, dislocation, urban renewal, and activism in a major, postwar American city.

Continue reading “Overview of Brown in the Windy City by Lilia Fernández”

Becoming Traditional in the Contemporary New: A Relational Analysis of Two Native Authors

JOY HARJO. How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems, 1975 – 2002. New York: W.W. Norton, 2002. Pp. xxviii, 242. $17.95. Hardback. ISBN: 978-0-393-32534-8.

LEANNE HOWE. Evidence of Red: Poems and Prose. Cambridge: Salt Publishing, 2005. Pp. 101. £9.99. Hardback. ISBN: 9781844710621.

In her poem “Song For The Deer and Myself to Return On,” of the compilation How We Became Human, Joy Harjo (Muscogee Creek) narrates the story of a Native American person who is living “in a house near downtown Denver.” This character invokes a traditional, Native American hunting song in order to call deer into the house. When these animals arrive, as surely they do, they “wondered at finding themselves” crammed together in this strange and very modern setting. After their initial bewilderment subsided, the deer and the narrator came together and tried to “figure out a song…to get all of us back.” Because, although both parties had gathered together in this urban environment, neither of them actually wanted to remain there. Both the deer and the narrator desired to return to a more “traditional” space, perhaps the space of their ancestral hunting grounds, where they had once lived alongside one another, long before the city of Denver had ever existed. Similarly, in the piece “The Unknown Woman,” from LeAnne Howe’s (Choctaw) book of poems, Evidence of Red, a narrator who is identified only as “The Spirit” regrets that “Copper masks made by my children appear in the Field Museum’s case. They rest in the future—from the past.”[1]

Continue reading “Becoming Traditional in the Contemporary New: A Relational Analysis of Two Native Authors”

Misunderstanding and Unity in LeAnne Howe’s “The Red Wars”

LEANNE HOWE. Evidence of Red: Poems and Prose. Cambridge: Salt Publishing, 2005. Pp. 101. £9.99. Hardback. ISBN: 9781844710621.

LeAnne Howe’s poem “The Red Wars” is a first-person narration of an anonymous indigenous woman’s encounters with three other Native Americans. Perhaps the piece is autobiographical, and so the narrator is also Howe. This conclusion is possible because both the narrator and Howe are identified as Choctaw Indians and the piece is written in a first-person perspective. The work is also a personal reflection, with the narrator looking back on three specific moments in her youth when she encountered other Native American peoples. It describes the narrator’s attempts to read the bodies and behaviors of these other Natives and come to an understanding of who they are and how they are all related. The structure of the poem is broken up into three parts, and each part represents an individual encounter marked by a different, unique personality. The first encounter occurs in Oklahoma with a Sioux Native named Thunderhawk. The second occurs in Texas with California Red Wing, a native man who is part Dakota and part Navajo. The third encounter also occurs in Texas with a Cherokee man named Jim or Jack.[1]

Continue reading “Misunderstanding and Unity in LeAnne Howe’s “The Red Wars””

Review of Robert Darnton’s The Great Cat Massacre

ROBERT DARNTON. The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History. New York: Basic Books, 1984. Pp. xix, 320. $17.99. Paperback. ISBN: 0-465-02700-8.

The Great Cat Massacre is the fourth and the most popular scholarly book written by the American cultural historian, academic librarian, and specialist of eighteenth-century France, Robert Darnton (b. 1939). The book is a neat compilation of six, chapter-length case-studies that Darnton calls “Episodes.” Each of these episodes uses a specific primary source as a point of departure for exploring the cultural landscape of Ancien Régime France between 1697 and 1784. The book is considered an example of how scholars can apply an anthropological methodology to existing source material. In this sense, Darnton is most concerned with looking at old documents in new ways—treating them as physical artifacts that serve as windows to foreign cultures, otherwise known as mentalités. As Darnton shows, this task requires a detailed contextual analysis of a given subject, alongside an acute reading of the particular source that has chosen as its representative. In the early 1980s, this process exemplified an emerging historical tradition that was—and indeed still is—known as Cultural History.  For this reason, Cat Massacre (either in whole or just its title chapter) is regularly assigned in both undergraduate and graduate Historiography classes across the country. Over thirty years later, the work is still an exemplar of Cultural History.

Continue reading “Review of Robert Darnton’s The Great Cat Massacre”

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