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 about embodiment 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 — my intentional lack of separation between my personal and professional lives. 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
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
I’m planning a party for myself to celebrate finishing my Ph.D. I decided to do it because my family and friends have been so important to me the past few years and I want to celebrate with them rather than, for example, having a really nice dinner with Paul and my parents.
A friend generously offered her house as a hosting location and I was off on a party-planning To Do list. Invitations, announcements had to be sent, inventory taken, shopping lists made, table and linen rental plans. Because of my years in residential life, I’ve planned a lot of parties (though usually with the university’s money). Everything is getting done. Except , as of a week ago, I stopped being as able to plan and get things done. Why?
As I sat in therapy yesterday, rattling off the things I had yet to do, I realized why. I feel self-conscious and selfish about planning a party for myself. Given that I don’t have a job after August, it feels self-indulgent to spend money on a party rather than saving it for the rainy days that might be around the corner. My friends didn’t have parties when they finished, and they finished long before me. Part of me feels I don’t deserve this.
But having said all that, I’m going back to some comments made by a more senior scholar about marking milestones. He didn’t walk in his graduation, didn’t mark his milestones until his wife planned a party for him to celebrate his tenure decision. … Read the rest
I should be working on my philosophy of teaching (yes, I’m applying for jobs), but I had to take a moment and write about tortillas. Corn tortillas especially, though flour ones have their place.
One reason I feel so strongly about them is that I’m allergic to yeast. Extremely allergic. Even a slice of bread (or a glass of wine — wine is full of yeast) and I’m breaking out in painful eczema rashes on my arms, face and neck. Wheat flour produces a similar though less severe reaction. You’d think this would cause me to avoid bread altogether but what can I say? I crave carbs.
But what makes my allergy bearable are tortillas. I know I need to learn to make fresh corn ones myself. If I can get my hands on fresh tortillas, my desire for any other bread is almost nil. Fresh tortillas are hard to come by in Santa Monica though. I don’t get to East Los Angeles often enough.
But the reason I’m writing this is that I woke up thinking about the best corn tortillas I ever had in my life. About ten years ago I was in Barrio Logan researching Chicano Park. The murals were amazing — if you have a chance to see them you should — but what I remember most about that day was stopping at an old fashioned tortillaria because walking past, my dad and I could smell corn.
Being my parents’ first child has always been a large part of my identity. I am their mixed daughter; the result of a 1960s high school romance between an eastside Chicano boy and westside Anglo-Catholic girl. I attended Catholic school from first grade until college — Catholicism formed the bulk of my my cultural identity through out my childhood.
My parents, whose racial divide had brought them social discomfort in the 1960s and 1970s, including difficulties renting and buying homes in parts of Los Angeles, did their best to shelter my sister, brother and me from the worst of their experiences. I knew I was Chicana and identified as such, but my identification didn’t mean anything more to me than my mother’s distant identity of “Irish.” When my teachers commented on my speaking and writing in perfect English, I didn’t recognize the loaded compliment in their words. Later, when I struggled in high school Spanish (as did both my siblings and most of my cousins), I never considered why the Spanish language was so hard for me, why when my bilingual father helped me, my accent was somehow considered “wrong” and “too Mexican.” It would be years before I realized my struggle with Spanish was, in part, due to an ingrained distrust of the Mexican side of myself.
Then, coming onto UCLA’s campus as an undergraduate in the late 1980s, my Chicana identity became much more of an issue. Attracted to Left student politics, I first joined, or tried to join, the campus MEChA organization.… Read the rest