Thank you for the introduction.
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
Disclosure: I finished my Ph.D, in English in 2011. Since then I’ve worked as a freelance editor, writing consultant and adjunct.
There have been a number of articles lately in Slate and The Chronicle (and elsewhere) expressing regret for the time spent getting a Ph.D., feelings of failure, warnings to others not to go and generally expressing what, to me, reads like a great deal of
entitled exhausted (?) angst. In response, Emory Ph.D. student Tressie McMillan Cottom wrote an excellent blog post on reasons why students of color should look at getting a Ph.D. and the power said degree has in helping one make their way through a white world.
Yes, finishing my dissertation and getting my Ph.D. were the hardest things I’ve ever done. Yes, there were bad times, including moments when I was sick, out of money and (the worst) faced with racism on the part of my fellow graduate students who openly expressed their suspicions that I hadn’t gotten where I was on merit but was a product of affirmative action (which, whatever my merits, I am). But getting to work on my Ph.D., becoming the first in my family to be called “doctor” was and is the greatest privilege of my fortunate life. I got to spend a decade studying literature, mostly Chicana/o literature, which continues to inspire me to tears at its beauty. Along the way I got to teach, advise and edit undergraduate and graduate students. I got to do all this while my sister worked cleaning houses, serving food, doing retail and generally working at whatever she could to get by without health insurance or any security, asking me to recommend books she could read for thirty minutes or so before she goes asleep.… Read the rest
While I was at the MALCS Summer Institute I confided in another attendee that I was nervous about the process of creating course syllabi as I’d never done it before. She, an associate professor of Spanish and all around lovely person, enthused that creating a syllabus was fun, and then told me she sometimes writes them to amuse herself.
With her words in mind, I tried to embrace this as an opportunity rather than something to fear. Sure enough, as I sat through the next talk, thinking about Chicana literature (I knew whatever course I came up with would be one focusing on Chicana/o literature), I came up with the idea of the “Chicana/o Gothic” — a course that would explore canonical and recent Chicana/o text through the dark lens of the gothic.
This is what I’ve come up with so far. I’d love to hear what you think — criticism is helpful. This version of the course is being imagined as one offered for a 10 week quarter. I’ve linked the texts I’ve reviewed to the reviews I’ve blogged.
Bless Me Ultima – Rudolfo Anaya
Calligraphy of the Witch – Alicia Gaspar de Alba
Brides and Sinners in El Chuco – Christine Granados
The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction – Jerrold E. Hogle
The Rain God – Arturo Islas
The Hungry Woman – Cherríe L. Moraga
What You See in the Dark – Manuel Munoz
Demon in the Mirror by by S. Joaquin Rivera
The Hummingbird’s Daughter – Luis Alberto Urea
Gods Go Begging – Alfredo Véa
Is there a Chicana/o Gothic?
… Read the rest