An excellent interview with Claire Vaye Watkins where she shares some of her literary inspirations (I don’t think anyone else posted this one). This whole website is great if you’re interested in contemporary fiction writers.
I am working through your wonderful final papers and projects this week. Thanks everyone for contributing to make this an unforgettable semester. Don’t forget to add to our list of writers and texts. And, you know, keep reading.
As you work on your final papers, please add any texts or films off the syllabus that you plan to write about to this list and fill in the location, keywords, genre, and publication info. If you’ve mentioned a text in class that I haven’t added, add those too! And feel free to keep building this list with other books, stories, essays, or movies you’ve come across that are relevant to questions about home that we’ve discussed this semester.
Contemporary Literature of the Home List
The characters in this story were affected mostly by the emotional conditions they found themselves in, and not so much the material conditions. It wasn’t specified in the story but they seemed to have a normal or average standard of living with spare time to vacation and visit their parents in another state ( California). They were truly affected by the birth of their son, things that didn’t matter before are now the cause of fights and they are evidently less happy. The emotional conditions they started with do not resemble those they ended with, they started out pretty happy and tolerant of each other, it was the pregnancy what spiced things up and for the sake of their baby started noticing faults in each other. At the end the conditions were so bad that just to avoid conflict and shoe strength they put in danger they very thing all the arguments started for, the safety of their child.
When comparing the emotional and material conditions, the first thing that came to mind was Hushpuppy in “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” In “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” Hushpuppy didn’t seem to be heavily impacted by her material conditions. She had very little, and her house was falling apart, but she still remained pretty optimistic and in positive spirits for the majority of the movie. Her father had a lot of issues and he often took out his frustrations on Hushpuppy, but Hushpuppy herself, did not let her material conditions effect her emotions. This could have been because this life is all that she’s ever known, so in her mind she isn’t lacking anything or at a disadvantage, or it could be because having her father and a supportive community behind her is more important than material things.
I decided to go back to the story of Invierno when considering the relationship between the material and emotional conditions of home, because I saw the material conditions of home in this story to have a great effect on the emotional conditions. In this story, the home of Yunior and his family has just changed, from the Dominican Republic to the United States – a culture very different from what they are accustomed to. The differences between their new and old homes are exacerbated by the fact that Yunior’s father did not allow his family to leave their small apartment. The apartment is cold, dark, and filled with Yunior’s father’s dominating, patriarchal, and rather mean presence. Though the apartment is all they have in America, it seems to be keeping Yunior, Rafa, and their mother as prisoners within their own home. Emotionally, the family becomes more and more unstable, and many times envision leaving again and going back to the Dominican Republic. The material unfamiliarity of their new home leads their emotions on a depressing path. Because Yunior’s father refuses to allow them to go out and become assimilated with the culture (even when Yunior tries to do this, the kids end up moving away), there is no way for the family to help this issue. Back in the Dominican Republic, there was warmth, friends, familiarity and freedom. Thus, their emotions were significantly more positive. In the end, I think it comes to the emotional conditions defining what materially constitutes as home. Because Yunior and especially his mother have positive emotions and happiness associated with their home back in the Dominican Republic, that becomes their true home, not where they live in the United States.
Having images/illustrations in Fun Home significantly altered my experience of reading this story. I found it very interesting, because instead of being told everything about the characters, we are given images that contain visual aspects of the character — how they dress, what they look like, what they do, even what they read. This gave us an opportunity as readers to apply this to what we read and allow it to shape the way we read the story. In a way, Bechdel’s illustrations offer the means by which we can frame what she is telling us. In going through the story, I found my self paying increasing attention to detail when observing the illustrations, because I realized that they told as much of the story, of not more, than the words on the page.
In Yard Man, Jerry’s house often seems symbolic for the state of his relationship with his wife. There are many structural issues with his home, and Jerry often seems reluctant to make the necessary improvements, and continually puts it off. Also, the fact that nature (the snake, the bees, the white animal at the end) keep invading Jerry’s home proves that he himself is incapable of keeping nature out, which results in tension between him and his wife.
I think that material and emotional conditions of the home intertwine. In Winters Bone the unstable home conditions created an unstable family atmosphere. With the father gone, the emotions of the family members were high and left with stress and fear. The home was depicted as a scattered mess that could symbolize the mess of the lives of the people who were living there.
Something that struck me immediately about our very first story was the seeming dichotomy or inverse relationship between emotional self-discovery and social-stability in our main character. As Jerry seems to find out more about himself, his wife seems to become less satisfied with the man she married. It seems that the home he has is falling apart, but at the same time it feels as though his thoughts and feelings are finally coming together in a coherent, though far from joyful, manner. Just a thought.
What struck me the most about fun home was the contrast between the emotional and material conditions within the home. While the home itself was pristine and carefully maintained, each of the characters suffered from some form of emotional malfunction, whether it be a repressed sexuality or emotional neglect. The further restoration of the home only brought about further issues among the family. The father edged closer to his suicide while the mother finally prepared to get a divorce.