Today is the first day of #scholarstrike. I did teach my freshman Harry Potter course today, but it met at 8:30 AM, before the strike officially started, and we devoted the class to issues of race in the books and films, especially to the “what if” proposition of how their reading of the novels would have changed if, instead of Emma Watson, a Black actress had been cast as Hermione.
This was always going to be a difficult semester. The national and global situations are terrible and produce anxiety every day when I read the paper. My teaching is all online this term, as is almost all of the teaching in the CSU system. I’m teaching a course that’s all freshmen for the first time at CSUDH. And both of my classes are on Harry Potter.
That last one needs some explaining as I’ve taught Harry Potter before. However, this is the first class I’ve taught on the series since J.K. Rowling has started tweeting and writing anti-transgender social media posts. It’s hard because I don’t know that I would have proposed these courses if she’d written these things a year ago. I’m getting around it by highlighting the pushback from her fans. This isn’t a stretch of the content as both my freshman and upper-division courses are structured to focus on the Potterverse fandom and digital fan creations.
Harry Potter aside, the main reason this is a hard semester is that my own state right now is one of grief.… Read the rest
I’m writing this as I sit next to my mom. She’s dying — no more treatment for her cancer is possible. All I can do is sit with her, sometimes help her drink something or take pain medication. It’s hard to even imagine my family’s world without her in it. It’s hard even now to accept that she can’t be my first phone call anymore, that she can’t talk on the phone to my sister who is unable to be here because of COVID. As recently as May 2019 when I fell in my university’s parking lot, my mom’s number was the one I called first for help finding a dentist who could see me right away. Of course she knew one. All my life, in every crisis, she has helped me find solutions, been embarrassingly proud of my smallest successes, and made light of even the worst of my failures, always taking it as given that I’d start over and try again. So much of what I know I know because of her. So much of who I am is because of her.
I’ve thought a lot over the past week. I had to have emergency abdominal surgery last week and was in the hospital alone for four days. I used the time to reflect on my job, my family, and my friends. One of the wonderful things about the way Chicana feminist scholarship has worked for me is that the scholars I work with are among my closest friends.… Read the rest
I opened this blog today and realized I haven’t blogged here in 2020. That’s a bit slow even for me. My excuse is probably everyone’s excuse. This year, which is just a month more than half over, has felt longer than most decades. The current political situation, the global pandemic, changes to our lives due to the pandemic. Me needing emergency surgery last week and having to jump out of my academic responsibilities at a moment’s notice and spend four days in the hospital (complete with needing to be moved due to a COVID case on my floor). And, hardest of all, my mother’s cancer worsening so that this month we had to begin hospice care for her. Writing an occasional Tweet has felt like all I could handle. But here I am blogging today.
The first thing I want to note is the incredible generosity of my students. I held off opening my Spring 2020 evals, finally biting the bullet and doing it. Their understanding of the disruption we’d experienced and appreciation of the various ways I tried to keep in touch with them moved me deeply. So many of them are “frontline” workers, coping with having children and elders to care for through all of this, trying to keep everybody safe and fed. That they found space in all that for compassion for me was deeply moving.
For this Fall (and I’m guessing likely this Spring) almost all California State University classes are online. To help faculty with this move to online-only courses, I’ve become one of my college’s teaching fellows working with online instruction.… Read the rest
I’ve been meaning to write a blog post about my teaching this fall since sometime in June. Looking at my poor site, I realize I haven’t posted anything since January and we’re almost halfway through September. I may be taking slow blogging to a new level.
Too much has happened to try and write a post about it. I’m going to just jump in and talk about this semester.
I spent a lot of this past summer recovering from a fall I took the week before graduation. The short version is I stepped on a rock in a university parking lot, sprained my ankle and planted my face (and unfortunately front teeth) in the asphalt. I’m mostly recovered, but am still doing physical therapy and will be having laser treatments (!!!) to remover an “asphalt tattoo” from my upper lip. Worker’s comp paperwork is no joke.
But I also spent the summer thinking a lot about my classes for this fall. I’m teaching an online class on US ethnic literature, a face-to-face Saturday class on US ethnic film, both of which I’ve taught before. And, the first Harry Potter class, called “The Worlds of Harry Potter” to be offered at CSUDH.
The Harry Potter class is a new thing for me, not only because I’ve never taught it before, but because I’m teaching the material to students who, for the most part, already know and love it, in fact, may know it better than I do. They’re also students who are, in all but one case, taking a class outside their major, purely as an elective that fulfills no GE requirements.… Read the rest
2018 was my first full year in a tenure-track job. I think I’ve finally gotten out of the job search mindset, though I’m going to MLA again this year to give a paper, so maybe not so much as I should.
A huge number of things happened this year, most of them positive. But the biggest thing wasn’t about me. And it generally wasn’t positive. In late November 2017 my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer and given two to three months to live. In January she started chemotherapy and an experimental drug trial. At Thanksgiving 2018, we “celebrated” a year since her diagnosis. The drugs are working in that they’re keeping her alive and shrinking the tumors. Going with her to her weekly chemo sessions has taught me a few things. First is that the people who work in oncology are pretty much endlessly compassionate in the care they provide. And the second is that chemotherapy sucks. Really sucks. Those Monday chemo sessions and my mom’s reaction to her treatment have been the most significant thing in my life this year and have been the lens through which I experience everything else. I’ve appreciated every hour I’ve had with her and my dad. The best thing about my job (which has a hell of a lot of best things) is that it’s in Los Angeles and affords me the flexibility to be there for her doctor appointments and infusions. This is a privilege that neither my brother or sister have and I am super grateful.… Read the rest
Being selected to give this plenary here at the Ford Conference is a huge honor. Receiving the Ford Predissertation Fellowship was a turning point in my academic life. The community of Fellows and what I learned from them is the reason I stayed in graduate school and why I have my current position.
The topic of my talk today is mentoring. Specifically, how mentoring and being mentored are a source of academic joy. Are what makes our success worthwhile. We don’t use words like “joy,” “generosity,” or “kindness” very often in academic circles, instead favoring words like “rigor” as though they can’t all be connected. I know mentoring and the giving of kindness and generosity have been more important to my life as a scholar than any course, archive, or theory. It is my experience with mentoring that has taught me the most. I know the importance of mentoring because of spending six years on the job market, and five as contingent faculty.
During those years I was an adjunct lecturer, I taught at four colleges and universities for seven different departments. One of the chairs I worked for, Chicana feminist scholar Dr. Karen Mary Davalos, (I say her name here because giving credit is important) mentored me on the job market. Over those years, with her support, I applied for more than 200 jobs across the US and internationally. I had more than 20 interviews, and several campus visits. Five years sounds like a long time and it was.… Read the rest
The MALCS 2018 Summer Institute at the University of Texas El Paso is over. I’m sitting in the lobby of the Hilton next to the campus waiting in the blissful air conditioning for my shuttle to the airport. I’m tired and will be glad to be home. But I also am so sorry this year’s institute is over.
Most years I attend 4-5 conferences and/or institutes. In 2018 I will have attended MLA (Modern Language Association), NACCS (National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies), MALCS (Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social), Ford Fellow Conference, and ASA (American Studies Association). All of them are important to me and I attended or tried to attend as an adjunct faculty member, despite having to pay all costs myself. Now that I’m tenure-track my university will pay travel and hotel for two conferences a year where I’m giving a paper. Of all of them though, the one I look forward to most is MALCS. This year since the conference was in Texas and I wasn’t giving a paper, I was happy to self-fund.
MALCS is different from the other conferences in several ways. It’s held on a different or college university campus each year. It’s for community activists as well as academics. And it’s by and for Chicana, Latina, and Indigenous women and gender non-binary people. If you haven’t experienced it, I can’t fully explain what it’s like to walk into a space and see rooms full of women who look like me. Representation isn’t everything and it isn’t utopia.… Read the rest
One of the things I didn’t know when I became an academic is that as one I would write something, it would be accepted, and then it would be months, or more often, years before the work was published. I also didn’t understand that submitting work for publication is a process, that it will be edited, come back to me, revised, sent back and that this process could repeat multiple times.
Being edited is hard for me. Like many academics, especially women of color, I carry with me a huge amount of impostor syndrome, generally believing I’ve gotten this far by somehow tricking a lot of very smart people into thinking I’m smart too. So when I get feedback on my writing, my first impulse is to believe this is the moment — I’ve finally been found out. That’s only my first reaction though. After I take a deep breath and read over editor comments I tend to think things like: “Wow, I’m so glad they caught this” or “They’re right, this could be clearer/longer/shorter, etc.” Good editing and good peer review is a gift from one scholar to another.
I’ve been fortunate in my editors and peer reviewers. With some, there’s been a feminist ethos of editorship that’s been focused on encouraging writing with constructive criticism delivered in a supportive manner. With others, it’s been an open peer review process where I’ve worked with the reviewer to revise something until we both agree it’s ready for publication. In all cases, the editors (including ones where my has been rejected) have been kind people who edit with generosity.… Read the rest
I left Facebook in January, deactivating my account, and then deleted it entirely two weeks ago, a process that’s finally complete. I feel relieved to be gone.
This is not because I don’t care about the people I know there, many of whom I know in other spaces like Twitter or face-to-face. I had a rule I would only be friends with a person I’d be happy to meet for a cup of coffee. My friends and family generally had politics I agreed with and lead interesting lives and are a pleasure to interact with. But nonetheless, however much time I spent there, it was never a space I felt entirely comfortable.
I don’t think this was because I was unnerved by the vast data harvesting of our lives that FB does, although, seen through the lens of Cambridge Analytica it is unnerving. I’m aware that Twitter, which I feel fine with, is busy gathering data too. My unease with Facebook was a combination of things.
First, I’m not a picture-oriented person. I was a late adopter of Facebook for this reason. I like reading much more than looking or watching. Facebook’s focus is on images and so it appeals to me less than a text-base space like Twitter or blogs.
Also, generally speaking I don’t like using products where I’m not the customer. I like being able to call / write and complain when something isn’t working or when it behaves badly and have my problems listened to. This is not just because I want my concerns taken seriously but because putting energy into writing is work, pleasurable work, but work.… Read the rest
What we can do instead of gaslighting by telling adjuncts ‘it was ever thus.’
As those of you who’ve been reading along (all 5 of you) know, I received my Ph.D. from USC’s English department in spring 2011. This past fall 2017 I started a tenure track job in interdisciplinary studies at California State University Dominguez Hills, my dream job, teaching a student population I love in my home city of Los Angeles. Between 2011 and 2017 I was an adjunct at Los Angeles area colleges and universities.
Because I got a tenure track job, at a place where I’d been contingent faculty, a friend suggested I write a blog post or even CHE article on getting hired from part-time adjunct into a full-time tenure track position. I demurred, in part because I think contingent faculty who want to move to the tenure track are far too likely to blame themselves and feel like they’re failing. I don’t want to contribute to that by enumerating the things I did or tried to do to stay in the job market as if doing those things is a path to success. I have my job because I was lottery-level lucky.
Here’s a few of the ways I had a lot of luck. First, I finished my Ph.D. in English in Los Angeles. Los Angeles has a large number of colleges and universities that don’t have their own Ph.D. students. This means it’s not that hard to break into the adjunct pool and it’s possible to get enough work across universities to keep body and soul together.… Read the rest