Speaking on Love & Labor for Barbara Jane Reyes’ class “Filipina Lives and Voices in Literature” at USF

Thanks to professor and poet Barbara Jane Reyes and the sponsorship of the Yuchengco Philippine Studies Program and Asian Studies Program, I was able to guest lecture for Reyes’ Spring 2012 course “YPSP 195-01/ANST 195-02: Filipina Lives and Voices in Literature” at the University of San Francisco on Tuesday, April 3, 2012. Before my presentation, sixteen savvy students read my short personal essay “Barbie’s Gotta Work,” published in Doveglion. The essay was included in the course’s unit on “Work and Domesticity.”

Reyes recently discussed this very same class and its inception in her recent post on the Poetry Foundation’s Harriet The Blog:

One day, I’d casually asked our program chair whether he was interested in an all Filipina/Pinay (Filipino women) literature course, and he said, yes, draft a syllabus, and we’ll get it approved by the curriculum committee. It was approved. It was quickly filled. This is the first semester I am teaching the course, and I’m still in disbelief. All Pinay Literature. I always think, wow, where was this class when I was young, and when I needed it most. It seems a lot of people have been asking this question too, as I have been asked by more people than I can count, for my syllabus and reading lists. So, in this space, I will be talking a bit about some of the items from my syllabus, in the hopes that it will prompt readers further.

Read entire post here.

For my guest lecture, after giving a brief power point presentation, featuring pictures of my family, my maternal and paternal grandparents at work and at play in their youth, the students asked challenging questions about the superficiality of Barbie and how that was complicated in the essay and what it was like to be a professor of color. Another student broached the gap between generations, wondering how to relate with family members who might not share the same  educational experiences. This brought on the idea of exploring the roots that hold us together and the stories family members share no matter where their paths in life take them.

We discussed looking at life and literature through a prism of lenses, much like looking through a kaleidoscope; we can shift the angles. We also talked about family memories that shape who we are. Some of the students shared their own experiences, remembering the work of their mothers, fathers, and grandparents.

Below is a sneak peek at the writing exercise students worked on, sifting through their past and their parents’ and grandparents’ pasts to uncover half-forgotten memories concerning love and labor, two themes that I keep coming back to with my own writing.

Love & Labor Writing Exercise

  • How do your parents and/or grandparents use their body at work?
  • How did work define your parents and/or grandparents?
  • What sense of self and purpose did they find through their labor?
  • Describe one of your parents or grandparents at work: What is the setting? What are their hands doing? Explain the actions of the body and mind.
  • How are they interacting with their setting? With other people at work?
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4 Replies to “Speaking on Love & Labor for Barbara Jane Reyes’ class “Filipina Lives and Voices in Literature” at USF”

  1. It’s nice to see someone taking work seriously as a literature subject. I feel all too often it’s ignored or just forms a background to other things like relationships. Considering how much time we spend working and how it affects the rest of our lives, this seems to me a bit unbalanced.

    1. Thanks so much for reading E A M! Love and labor has been a literary obsession for me, which is probably why I keep coming back to Charles Dickens. (I just watched the recent TV adaptation of Edwin Drood and was blown away and have currently been tripping after Sarah Waters). Its amazing how urgent the issues of class and labor still are since the Victorian times. Class and labor, labor and class. Such is the stuff of life across the pond and through time. Thanks again for stopping by the salon!

      1. I like Dickens too, but it’s a long time since I read any of his books. One thing that has always fascinated me about his work is how well it adapts to TV and to film. I once read a short biography, which described him as a child acting out adventures and getting his friends to join in. I sometimes think it’s a great pity he didn’t write plays.

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