“the many ways in which our individual memories, histories, and stories may intersect with our cultural memories, histories, and stories”

Poet and Professor Barbara Jane Reyes covers the University of San Francisco fiction talk and workshop for her class “Filipino American Arts” in her post “Random: Culture, Commodity, Performance, Production”

…I am also thinking about erasure and invisibility (so, what’s new?). Last week in class, we discussed Lysley Tenorio’s story, “Save the I-Hotel,” which moves back and forth between the 1930’s and 1977, specifically the day of the final evictions of the I-Hotel. The story follows two men, laborers named Fortunado and Vicente, who are I-Hotel residents during that entire time period. We get the kind of care they exhibit toward one another, one helping the other find employment, sharing space however cramped, protecting each other from white male violence, keeping each other company when loneliness and homesickness are consuming, lending a coat to keep the other warm. It’s very tender. How do these things not amount to love, and how is this love never romantic? So that’s that, about erasure and silence; we simply cannot know that 100% of the Manongs were hetero, though we never ever hear about Manongs who were not.

I am also thinking of Rashaan Alexis Meneses’s visit to my class, also last week. She discussed how she came to her story, “Here in the States,” from the anthology Growing Up Filipino II, and her series of stories about immigrant workers in our urban areas (specifically, Los Angeles), what things about their American lives we never know because even though they’re omnipresent, we never ask them to tell us their life stories. She talked about the process of writing these stories and considering an audience who may not have the same cultural knowledge, how much to explain and translate, and how to explain and translate, while balancing what the story needs, at what pace it needs to move, from whose point of view it must be told.

She also conducted a writing workshop for my students, based upon memories, items that always occupy a special or significant place in our memories, and how to go about writing about these things. We started with a list of seven items and from there, did a freewrite engaging all the senses. I like this, the practice of keeping a written inventory of memories to which we can always return as artists. I like how this practice can bring to light the many ways in which our individual memories, histories, and stories may intersect with our cultural memories, histories, and stories. My students had some really great responses, and were, for the most part, quite open about why those items were so important to them, and where they are now in relation to these items. I later on told Rashaan about my mental inventory, and that I always go back to the same memory; all of th.e items on my list pertain to that memory of visiting Papa’s house in Gattaran when I was six…

Read the rest of the post here.

More coverage on the fiction workshop at the University of San Francisco will be forthcoming…

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