[This post is part of my attempted practice this semester of writing a reflection on my teaching each week. This semester, CSUDH, like all the universities in the California State University system are primarily online. I am teaching a freshman seminar (synchronous) and an upper-division interdisciplinary studies course (asynchronous), both on reading Harry Potter and digital fandom. My motivation to do these blogging reflections came out of a summer workshop on supporting first-generation college students and its requirement that we reflect regularly on our teaching practices this semester.]
Do I need a new category for angst?
I’ve had a week that’s made me realize I need to revise the syllabi for both my classes. Although I’ve taught with Slack online before, I’ve only used blogging with students in face-to-face classes. Those classes allow me to do workshops teaching the tool. Instead, my students are trying to learn to use the software via Zoom and screencast videos I’ve made. They’re getting it, but it’s taking more time. Likewise, in my upper-division class, I asked my student groups (they are divided up based on sorting them into the Hogwarts houses) to produce a video presentation for the class. In both cases, the blogging and the presentation they’ve done it, but it’s clearly been a struggle and taken them a week longer than I planned. I don’t mind the extra time or the need to now rework our syllabus — that generally happens when I teach courses for the first time. I even like it because it gives the students a chance to give me input on what they find interesting and important.… 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 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
First off, the weekly review. I did it, it was good and it only took two hours this week so things are improving. I’ve gotten some work done on the book review and in starting to package up my current job so I can hand it off cleanly to my successor in mid-August. Things are getting done in pretty much every area of my life. So that’s good.
Along those lines, I read about a system called ZTD (Zen to Done) on Robert Talbert’s blog as something that he uses to enhance his GTD practice, so of course I went and read the little book. It raised some interesting points about habit formation that I hadn’t considered before and made me think about how I tend to try and change many habits at once only to revert to my old ways when I’m under stress. There’s a lot to unpack there and much good content that I’m still thinking about.
it was the last point in the book, “Find Your Passion Habit” which said that if you make your passion your job then you’ll find doing work easy that I had an issue with. Because I am passionate about my job — both teaching and researching and yet I procrastinate about my writing my research, even though there’s nothing that interests me more than the work I do on Chicana feminist writers and editors. Despite (or perhaps because of this love) sometimes, oftentimes, I struggle when it comes to sitting down and writing my ideas.… Read the rest
Since today is November 9 it’s been a little more than a week since I started my commitment to write 30 minutes a day, every day this month. Not, as I planned, 30 minutes a day first thing — though I did do that 7 of the 9 days, stumbling to my desk with only a cup of coffee and light box between me and the early morning. But for the last two days, having stayed out late at the ASA conference, I’ve slept in meaning I had to write in the evenings. Last night, though I didn’t get home until after 11, and ended up writing until 1am. Today was a little more sane, with my 30 minutes happening in the early evening.
What’s it been like?
First, it’s been liberating. 30 minutes feels like nothing, too little to worry about getting done (and, in the beginning, too little to accomplish anything). On Tuesday, a teaching day, I woke up later than I meant to (sleeping is something of an obsession clearly) and my first thought was “clearly I can’t write this morning.” But then I felt afraid of putting other things before this writing time. So I sat down and did the 30 minutes. It did mean I ended up arriving at school 20 minutes before I had to teach, with my hair still damp, but the writing was done. Each day the writing has gotten done.
Second, doing 30 minutes of work on my manuscript every day has helped keep my job market anxiety in perspective.… 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
Recently I’ve been researching a contemporary refiguring of Aztlán because of the “Aztlan conspiracy” being put about by paranoid nativists.
The Southern Poverty law center writes that the wide propagation of these false theories are led by two hate groups — the California Coalition for Immigration Reform and American Patrol. Though them, Aztlán is being refigured as a racist conspiracy by Chicana/os against all other minority groups. Yet this theory isn’t one held by a few fringe internet groups. It is becoming more and more widely circulated — has even been reported by “mainstream”news papers and in the media in reports by CNN commentator Lou Dobbs.
These groups base their attacks on a misunderstanding / misreading of the “El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan,” the 1969 document adopted at the first Chicano Liberation Youth Conference. The document is a revolutionary one reflecting the spirit of the radical 1960s civil rights movements that the Chicano movement itself came out of. The Plan de Aztlán has always been a unifying myth of the Southwest as being a Chicano/a space, for Chicano/as to lead and govern their own communities, not a call for governmental overthrow. Even at their most radical, most Chicano/a activists worked for social and cultural change on issues like racism, education and housing reform and the anti-war movement, not for political revolution. Even radical Reies Tijerina (his group La Alianza — an alliance of Mexican American and Native American tribal peoples who led an armed courthouse raid in 1967) relied largely on the law and legal documents to pursue property rights.… Read the rest
[In celebration of my dissertation being accepted today by my university’s library, I’m put up its abstract. Don’t worry, I’m probably not going to post the whole thing.]
Title: ”Splitting Aztlán: American Resistance and Chicana Visions of a Radical Utopia”
My dissertation researches American resistance movements, focusing on nineteenth-century Transcendentalism and the Chicano/a movements of the 1960s through 1990s. It is concerned specifically with the emergence of Chicano/a literature from the late nineteenth century through the twentieth century, especially Chicana authorship and editorship as part of a tradition of U.S. resistance literature.
The 1960s was a period of renewed interest in the literature of American Transcendentalist communities, especially the writings of David Henry Thoreau regarding resistance and civil disobedience. This re-reading shaped and informed American civil protest literature of the 1960s, including that of the Chicano Movement. Reverberations connect the two periods in the area of non-violent social protest. Further resonances may be heard now between the nineteenth-century suffrage and abolitionist movements and the 1960s civil rights and anti-war movements, as they questioned the United States’ role as an imperial nation — a role begun with the nineteenth-century policy of Manifest Destiny.
The replication of and discursive focus on nation and universalized communities of men, opened space for women as editors and authors. Chicana writers and editors of the late twentieth century, like the protofeminists of the nineteenth-century suffrage movement, split the single “divine soul” by pointing out the contradictions and flaws in a discourse on the nation which presumes only masculine subjects. … Read the rest
God, I can’t tell you how weird it is to write that. It’s been this guilty millstone around my neck for so long, anytime I’d start to enjoy or work on something I’d think “but shouldn’t I be writing my dissertation?”
And now it’s over. “Splitting Aztlán: American Resistance and Chicana Visions of a Radical Utopia” is in a queue to have her formatting checked over by my university’s editors. Soon she will be on ProQuest, searchable by anyone who cares to look. My days as a student are, at last, numbered.
Ironically, now that my dissertation is turned in, I can’t leave her alone. I’ve made a dozen minute corrections, found typos, glaring errors, whatever. I keep uploading new versions.
Paul tells me that down this path lies madness, something I already know something about. But she calls to me, wanting me to read, re-read and edit. The document is so far from perfect I can hardly stand it.