Happy Juneteenth, everyone!

I have to admit, I didn’t know about this part of history until I was an adult. Like, in the last five years. Same goes for the Tulsa Race Massacre, which I had to see dramatized in Watchmen in order for it to hit home. I’m embarrassed about that.

It feels weird wishing others to be happy on this day. Especially to those whose enslaved ancestors suffered firsthand. While it is a celebration of freedom, so much oppression and pain are connected to that. But I do hope Black people will be able to find happiness.

On days surrounding today and the anniversary of George Floyd’s death, resources for learning about Black History flood my social media. I’m so very grateful for that. I use those resources throughout the year to find ways to take real action, to turn abstractions and intellectual exercise into practice and heart for my fellow human beings. I’m learning not to be performative. I’m learning to listen better to know better, so that I can do better.

It’s still a work in progress. I hope we all can help each other.


Back when I was blogging regularly in NYC, I kept a notebook or journal to jot down my ideas wherever I was. I’d sit in a coffee shop or a park and observe my surroundings and write down any write-worthy thoughts that came to mind. I’d go to a small cafe that had live music and write while the scheduled gig performed. The energy of the city and finding my love for writing fueled the process. I started blogging back in 2003, and I’d often post more than once, most days.

I’ve fallen out of practice writing my ideas down. An idea pops into my head, I make a mental note to write about it when I blog, but when it’s time to write, I have completely forgotten what the idea was. And now I’m blogging about this lapse of memory. I mean, it’s a natural thing to forget, especially if I don’t write to remember. That’s a huge reason I started blogging to begin with.

This is my personal history. An artifact for those after me to get to know who I am. Or was. They’ll observe some sort of evolution, as people tend to change some things over their lives. The core stays core for the most part, but opinions, attitudes, perspectives transform with experience. I’d be embarrassed if I read many past entries and noticed how much has changed. Maybe not embarrassed. I don’t know. Surprised? Disappointed? Maybe. Impressed? Proud? Also maybe, but leaning toward Yes.

A few years ago a friend sent me a little notebook for keeping ideas to remember. We supported each other’s desires and passion for writing. I currently use that notebook to keep track of reeds that I’ve broken in–which ones are good, better, best. But I can also write my thoughts in it. Which is what I should do. So that I don’t have to keep writing about unremembering things.

I Absolutely Had to Post This

Consider your Christmas shopping when watching the (fake) commercial below. (Thanks, Brian, via Alyssa Milano via Brainpicker.)

Or maybe just order one of these for yourself or a literate loved one:

Jane Austen
Edgar Allan Poe
Charles Dickens
Oscar Wilde
William Shakespeare

Vodpod videos no longer available.


Footage of Bastille Day

Regardez ces images et savez: Vive la France! And don’t forget to click “more” for the rest of the story. Also, if you hover over the photos, you’ll get their titles in addition to the captions below them.

We start our journey in the early evening, as the prisoners are settling into their nocturnal routines.

We first find ourselves a few miles north of the Bastille, making sure our presence as the French is known throughout the province. Fiction catches our eye.

We remember the days of the Revolution we're about to start.

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I Don’t Care If I Get A B in the Class

Tonight was the last of my final exams. As we turned in the tests, the professor returned papers we turned in a couple of weeks ago. Here’s a comment he wrote on mine:


This is a cool paper – very perceptive, very well written. Original, analytic. I like it a lot and wonder if you’d be interested in revising and submitting it to the journal [A Journal]. Let me know and I can offer you further feedback as you revise.

Then he goes on and tells me why the paper got an A- instead of an A, which is because I totally ignored/overlooked the instructions on the assignment sheet about what the conclusion is supposed to be like. Oops.

Anyway, I’m gonna go through with this and get published.

I can’t believe this.

What a great way to end my first semester back.

Ego Boost, the Sequel

This is what I had to read for my history class this semester. Yeah, the one where I’m getting the B.

I just returned from that class. It was every Wednesday from 5:10pm to 7:40pm, and except for the very first class that I missed because my best friend’s wedding was more important, I’ve been to every lecture.

We read Postmodern and Multicultural writers for today’s assignment. We talked about Thomas Pynchon, Raymond Carver, Toni Morrison and Gloria Anzaldúa.

That bunch of students are among the most articulate and thoroughly thoughtful I’ve ever been honored to be in the same room with.

The professor is excellent, and he encourages dialogue and moderates debates. The class is so intellectually stimulating and intimidating at the same time.

Anyway, we got to the part of the classtime today where we focused on Toni Morrison. I wanted to be able to comment, because she’s one of my favorite authors, and seriously, she blows my mind and I can’t recommend her strongly enough.

The piece we discussed has racially ambiguous main characters. It is set in and around New York City.

So, there’s my first comment: With the names of surrounding towns in the NYC area, I tried figuring out the characters’ race, because we know some towns to have a certain economic status, and that status we typically ascribe to race. The professor responded with his fascination of the microcommunities and vast diversity of New York City.

That comment came out more clearly than I expected. Most of the time it’s “ga-ga, goo-goo.”

Regarding multicultural literature, the trope of the “usable past” describes parts of history that relate to us but cannot recover, so we use what we can recover and make the rest of it up for our own benefit, so we can feel we have heritage. The characters in the Morrison piece are a good example of this concept.

So, for my second, which was also my last comment of the semester for this class, because it was the last time we would formally meet, I related the idea to another trope from earlier in the semester. I said something like how the story makes me think of the nonrecoverable past as the “anti-frontier,” and the usable past is comparable to “imagined communities” in that it is an attempt to become part of a community we can’t access. So the professor responded saying he can follow the thought of “imagined communities” but could I talk more (and when he began that part of the sentence I looked down at my notebook and started to laugh, because I honestly hadn’t thought further on the idea) about the “anti-frontier.” Without pause, I clarified that the frontier is where we haven’t been, and the past is where we came from so it’s the anti-frontier, and the term was my trying to articulate the thought.

Then he said, “That sounds really smart. I’m going to write that down.”

The class giggled. I blushed. Then he wrote it in blue pen in the margin of his notes.

Not a bad last comment, for getting a B and all.

He concluded the lecture with a rousing speech about how he’s never had a brighter English 293 class. He’s enjoyed the dialogue throughout the semester. He encouraged us to go and do great things by being critics or writers, or just by continuing to have wonderful ideas. I felt a little heat in my throat  and my eyes well.

It was a truly amazing class.

My Professor Wrote Back

School is amazing, people.

In response to the email I sent last week:

Thanks, May, for this context. The shifting demographics of NYC are fascinating. And as one of the cities billions of outsiders, I’m always intrigued at how sprawling it is and yet how people familiar with NYC are familiar with the shifts in the demographics and meanings of individual blocks. [His wife] and I visited the city in 2007 for a week but would love to spend a longer time there at some point. (We attended church at the Harlem chapel, so added to the stream of white non-evangelical worshippers…)

To answer your question, or try: Langston Hughes described a “vogue” in “Negro writing.” Many white patrons and audiences of the time found “the Negro” fascinating, largely because of the perceived primitivism that African American culture offered, and this was manifest in cabarets in Harlem that didn’t shy away from jungle themes etc. So, a lot of Harlem Renaissance writing was supported, among white people, by this vogue, which isn’t exactly the resonant with what a lot of black artists were hoping for. So a lot of scholars have painted the Harlem Renaissance as a “failure.” These scholars also emphasize that all the black copyrights didn’t result in civil rights. But it seems to me that if we think about it in a more long-term way, the Harlem Renaissance writers had their works anthologized, and that has done quite a lot to help validate the culture, even after the Renaissance’s end. Today, I think, studying the Harlem Renaissance in a class like our would be as important as studying high modernism, and that’s an impressive climb up through the rungs of literary history.

So Many Choices

I have a paper to write for history class. Well, all my classes, except for French. We have to come up with 4-6 pages of original thought on any of the readings.

This assignment asks you to return to one of the texts we have read during the semester and to analyze it in a sustained and detailed way. You should return to one (and only one) of the assigned readings with the intention of asking and answering a question that we were not able to pursue in class. Again, the intention here is not to repeat what we’ve discussed in class but to combine your knowledge of the American literary-historical narrative with your skills as an astute interpreter of literary texts. This combination of background knowledge and interpretive skill should permit you to make an original argument about one of the texts we’ve discussed.

Let’s see if I can narrow it down…

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I Sent One of My Professors This Email Tonight

I meant to speak up earlier about the total area Harlem covers. It’s actually shifted down (south) about 10 blocks, and it doesn’t quite go up to the northern tip, but only to 168th Street, if that far. Maybe even just to the 150s. North of that is a strong Dominican Republic presence as well as an Orthodox Jewish community (Yeshiva University is at 181st Street). This area is called Washington Heights, and this is where I lived most of my time in NYC.

The relatively new Harlem LDS chapel (almost 5 years old) is located at 127th Street and Lenox Avenue. It houses two wards. A lot of young (and white) LDS families who attend grad schools (mostly Columbia) integrate into these congregations, and it seems … odd how this wave of non-black, non-evangelical worshipers occupies the heart of Harlem for at least three hours every week.

Concerning the petition of civil rights through copyright, how immediately and readily accepted were the works of the Harlem Renaissance? Was it only through the High Modernists’ advocacy and sponsors’ endorsement of “primitive” culture that the literature spread? Were they the only ones who could realistically effect change? There are those who’d read African American literature because it has academic and moral value, and there are those who would/n’t read it because it’s African American. Did the literature only reach other High Modernists and scholars at the time and then later spread to other audiences?


I really like my history class, people. I just wish there was something more I could do about this B. C’est la vie. Or, c’est la B.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Puns make me laugh. Even stupid ones.

History Class Reading

Last night I read a piece by Carlos Bulosan. The anthology containing his work states he’s the first and most important Filipino-American writer. The excerpt came from his book, On Becoming Filipino.

I wish I could describe his voice in my head as I read. I wonder if others heard the accents from the dialogue, as well as the narrative. I wonder if they could feel the longing for the two main characters – who lived along the West Coast in the WWII era – to become American.

It’s not that I internalized the piece; it’s that the piece exhumed and awoke something already within me, gently poking to make sure it’s still alive.

Reading that excerpt sort of messed with my head. I’m still trying to process it all.