Archive for ‘Musings’

Porqué Mi Retórica (cont.)

By js, 24 April, 2008, No Comment

(this is a response to a message about my previous post)

As a child, I was fair-skinned, freckled, and blonde. My appearance always afforded me privileges. To a large extent, I have always had the choice of “passing” as white.

Even now when I walk into a classroom, my students assume that I cannot speak Spanish. Most are surprised when they learn that I am fluent.

I think my retreat into books functioned on many levels. I was pretty introverted as a child so they gave me an excuse to not “come out and play.” I was also able to choose my own companions rather than face four very physical boys who could easily gang-up on me. As I grew older, though, my reasons for choosing “to always be in school” (as my mom would say)became more complex. Because as I got older, I became very aware of the differences in expectations and opportunities for women inside and outside my culture.

My mother and father also realized this and they allowed me (I can recognize that now)to take advantage of the choices that I had by supporting my focus on academic education. Even though my father expected my mother to fulfill the very traditional role of wife and mother (my mother never worked outside the home nor ever learned to drive), he did not expect that I would fulfill that traditional role someday. Even now that I am a wife and mother, he supports my professional and intellectual endeavors as equally worthy of my time and energy.

I don’t remember ever having to correct anyone’s stereotype. I did, though, spend most of my life in South Texas and the only travelling my family did was into Mexico to visit extended family. When I lived in the North East, though, I was very conscious of not erasing my ethnicity. For example, I refused to anglicize the pronunciation of Spanish words especially my last name.

I think you are right that no writing tool is inherently better. My interest is in learning how to use digital tools from different perspectives rather than only as an end-user. I believe that if I don’t take it upon myself to learn what other capabilities the tools may have, then I am always at the mercy of the designer and the choices that he (and I choose this consciously since this field is still mostly white and male-dominated) has already made for me.

Mis Histórias

By js, 24 April, 2008, No Comment

In thinking about the narratives that have affected the way I view life, I have to consider both the narratives of my parents as they grew up. Those narratives directly lead to the ways that they have functioned as parents and knowing their narratives helps me to understand many of the choices they have made as parents.

My father grew up in a ranch in Mexico. His stories are what I would call “boy in the woods” stories. He talks about going swimming, ditching his chore duties to go hunting birds, going out at night during a full moon to hunt rabbits. He talks fondly of his mother and the food she would cook for him and his siblings. He never says this, but his stories show that he was never aware that he had anything but a “normal” childhood. The only traumatic experience was suffering from rheumatic fever when he was a young boy and living too far from town to get medical help. My father’s narratives, though, do not deal with hardship or deprivation which he was most likely unaware of because of his age.

My mother, on the other hand, had a much tougher childhood. My grandfather moved to the U.S. when she was quite young and was an absent father (to put it mildly) most of her life. She lived in (what can only be described as) a shanty town and went without shoes most of her early childhood. She, like many others, was forced to work to help support her family right after finishing primary school. When she was 16, she ran away from home. Her narrative is more of an escape narrative which includes deprivation, abuse, months of planning, a dangerous trekk “al norte,” and kind strangers who helped along the way until she reached her destination.

These narratives helped me to understand that my father’s goal was to be the traditional “provider” so that our basic needs would be met. My mother’s goal was to keep the family together so that we didn’t grow up without parents. She wanted to allow us to concentrate on preparing for the future rather than struggling for daily survival.

Porqué Mi Retórica

By js, 24 April, 2008, No Comment

My concept of who I am as a rhetor stems from my first memories with language.

I grew up with four brothers so at an early age I retreated into the worlds which books offered me. Those stories (all traditional stories included in the canon) showed me the possibilities from which I could choose to form my identity, possibilities which were very different from what I saw around me in my own very traditional Mexican family and community.

My resistance to tradition, especially my feminism, stems from these early experiences. For example, since I knew education was important in my family, I used my parents incorrect concept of what was required of me in school to resist the “female” duties I had at home. So, I always brought home more homework (I was usually weeks ahead in homework) or reading (I would check out two books a day so I could read into the night), and I got involved in after school activities. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that by exempting myself from those duties, I was participating in the “oppression” of the only female left in the house, my mother.

My concept of myself as a rhetor, then, always includes a negotiation between what is expected, what I want, and how my choices will affect others. I feel an obligation, not only to resist ways in which others define me, but also to help articulate the perspectives which I think are ignored.

My love of language also included a love of writing. I started keeping a diary when I was very young. I would write poems and songs and daily happenings. Writing was personal and private, something that I could retreat to just like I could with reading.

My first memory of relishing an immersion in academic discourse involves writing a research paper. I’m sitting cross-legged on the floor, notecards scattered around me. I can remember the physical act of laying the notecards on the floor, moving them from place to place, organizing them by topic, and seeing the ideas gain coherence right in front of my eyes. (I have to admit, though, that no other research paper has taken on the same surreal and pleasurable nature.) This experience taught me that I can control and manipulate language even when it seems foreign and disconnected.

When I started teaching after college, the two fiction classes I had taken earned me the priviledge of directing the newspaper and yearbook organizations (I did this for four years). While trying to teach students about journalism, I taught myself the importance of design and images, with text as the complement, to construct stories about others.

It was only recently that I have become even more aware of the self-construction of identity via my use of digital technologies. The first class I took at Tech required me to create a blog. Even though the technical task was easy and my choices in design were limited (I used Blogger), I still had to make certain choices which were going to reflect on me: the colors and layout of the blog, the title, the description, my picture, and my introduction.

I followed the blog with a website in which I could post my activities as a teacher, administrator, scholar, and mother. I had to negotiate between demonstrating my technical skills in my design of the site or using someone else’s more sophisticated design for my own purposes, and thus hide my novice status. For several projects, I have had to choose between the representation of myself via the content versus the design.

Currently, I am negotiating between constructing my identity by rhetorically using the tools that others have designed or learning to design the tools as part of my self-construction. I am grappling with the following questions:

–how does my use of certain tools affect others?
–how do predesigned tools limit my rhetorical choices?
–what affordances do predesigned tools provide?
–how can learning to design tools expand or limit my rhetorical choices?

Finding the Chicanos

By js, 24 April, 2008, No Comment

In all honesty, this blog is about me NOT working in isolation. I was for a long time, but I just found a community which I did not know existed.

I probably should have had more faith. At least I can say that I regained it.

Shopper Discriminated for Speaking Spanish

By js, 25 March, 2008, No Comment

What a beginning!

By js, 12 March, 2008, No Comment

Today started out looking greener and brighter, thus, the need for this blog. More to come…