How it went down at this year’s ACTC 2012: “Preparing for and Living in the Real World through Core Texts”

This year’s 18th Annual Associated Core Texts & Courses Conference, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, sponsored by Carthage College, and focusing on the theme: “Liberal Arts Education and the World: Inquiring into, Preparing for, and Living in the Real World through Core Texts” took place 29 March through 1 April at The Hilton Milwaukee City Center Hotel, where I presented with the following panel

“Conrad, Ellison, and Narrative Structure:

Blending Critical Thought and Student Engagement”

Aaron P. Smith, Marian University of Fond du Lac, “Authentic Self-Existence for the Visibly Marginalized;” Lamiaa Youssef, Norfolk State University, “Narrative Lenses and the Journey toward Self-Knowledge;” Justin Ponder, Marian University, “A Walking Personification of the Negative: Listening to Stories in Invisible Man;” Rashaan Meneses, Saint Mary’s College of California, “We’re All ‘Others’ Now: Revisiting Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness in the Age of Post-post-colonialism.”

Chair: Jean-Marie Kauth, Benedictine University

Some of the speakers and panels that caught my attention were the following:

Robert Gurval, Department of Classics, University of California, Los Angeles: “Harmony and Homer on the Pearl River Delta: The Foundations of a New Liberal Arts in China”-

  • China is looking at Western liberal arts colleges to help shape their higher education though instead of calling their undergraduate core curriculum “general education” they’ve opted to use the term “gateway education” to indicate that students are beginning the path to learning
  • self in search of self
  • self as social institutions
  • Liberal Studies as training for life
  • introduce poetry first as foundation to politics, which is the gateway to political and economic theory

From the panel, “The Function of Core Texts and Their Programs,” Nicholas D. Leither, Saint Mary’s College of California, “Skepticism Destroyed Their Paradise: Generative Thinking and and ‘Believing’ in the Text”-

  • argues that students lose innocence in college when they’re taught to become the skeptic
  • more often than not in the classroom creative thinking isn’t valued, nor seeing several POV’s simultaneously
  • Rational thinking limits
  • “When we take a critical approach, we forget to believe.”
  • Critical versus generative, students need to take a leap of faith

From the panel, “Concepts of the Self in East and West,” Yaqun Zhang, Xiamen University “Confucius’ Gentleman Personality and Its Influence on Academic Education”

  • education as a cultural mission
  • educating students to let them know they are part of a a social and civic commitment
  • seeking harmony not sameness
  • having a sense of appropriate conduct

From my own panel on Conrad and Ellison, Aaron P. Smith Marian University of Fond du Lac, “Authentic Self-Existence for the Visibly Marginalized” (concerning Ellison’s Invisible Man)

  • one must have existence to become authentic, meta-alienation
  • alienation requires confrontation
  • those who create new values need an audience to receive

This year’s conference not only emphasized true and vigorous cultural exchange between the U.S. and China since ACTC has been collaborating with Chinese universities to help shape their curriculum, but another important theme emphasized again and again was inter-disciplinary exchange and pairing texts that weren’t so obvious on the surface, but in comparing say Machiavelli to Lao Tzu, professors made profound connections and demonstrated an exchange of ideas and values that spanned time and geography.

Now that we’ve woken from colonial dreams and post-colonial nightmares of imagined communities,what comes after post-colonial theory?

   Heart of Darkness.jpg

Excited and honored to be presenting at the 18th Annual Conference of ACTC: Association for Core Texts and Courses. This year’s theme is “Liberal Arts Education and the World: Inquiring into, Preparing for and Living in the Real World Through Core Texts,” taking place in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Yours truly will be presenting the paper: “We’re All Others Now: Revisiting Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness in the Age of Post-post-colonialism.”

Abstract:

In 1977, Chinua Achebe, through his essay, “An Image of Africa” tried and sentenced Joseph Conrad for being a “bloody racist,” charging that his novel, Heart of Darkness, captured Western imagination at its worst. In light of post-colonial theory, every culture and nation affected by Empire, both colonized and colonizer, was then shackled to a shared and brutal past. Post-colonial theorists like Achebe sought retribution and used discourse as a means of justice. Now that we’ve woken from colonial dreams and post-colonial nightmares of imagined communities, how do we read and critique a text like Conrad’s Heart of Darkness? And, if “multiculturalism has failed,” or if we believe it is possible to “transcend race,” what comes after post-colonial theory?

For more info on post-post-colonialism, check out the following source:

Quick Recap of SMC’s Parents & Family Weekend Session “Classroom as Kitchen Table” with a shout out by author Mitali Perkins

On Saturday, October 22, at SMC’s Parent & Family Weekend, “Classes Without Quizzes,” I got to meet 25 parents and family members who were eager “to see Saint Mary’s through their kids’ eyes.” In my session, titled “Classroom as Kitchen Table: Education Through Conversation and Feeding Hungry Minds,” we read aloud Sandra Cisneros’ deceptively simple short short “Eleven.” As always this bittersweet narrative got the packed classroom buzzing and was the perfect inspiration for us to dive into our own childhood memories for a little creative writing exercise of our own. Here’s a quick review from one of the parents I met at the session, author Mitali Perkins:

I’m back from parents’ weekend at Saint Mary’s College of California where we attended classes without quizzes. I, of course, signed up for a writing class taught by Rashaan Meneses, who led us through a brilliant workshop on enhancing voice with detail.

You can read the rest of her recap along with her creative exercise from our class session in her post “Writing the Empty Nest at Parents’ Weekend” at her blog Mitali’s Fire Escape.

Presenting “The Classroom as Kitchen Table” at SMC’s Parent & Family Weekend’s “Classes Without Quizzes”

Along with my fellow SMC colleagues, I’ll be presenting my class without quiz, “The Classroom as Kitchen Table: Education Through Conversation and Feeding Hungry Minds” where we’ll be reading Sandra Cisneros “Eleven” discussing and analyzing the text, and, if there’s time, we’ll do some creative writing of our own. Should be fun!

Parent and Family Weekend 2011

NOTE: Schedule subject to change

Saturday, October 22nd

8:30am                        Parent and Family Check in

9:00 – 10:00am         Breakfast

10:15 – 11:15am      Classes without Quizze- Families take 1hr long classes from
various academic disciplines

11:20am – 12:20pm Student Support Mini Seminars – Staff share ways to support your student                                          regardless of class standing

12:30 – 1:30pm         Lunch

1:30pm                        Day in the Bay – Enjoy your afternoon with your students!

Schedule of Events for ACTC @ SMC, Friday, October 21, 4-9pm

ACTC@SMC is the presentation/discussion in our community of the contributions of SMC faculty at last spring's national conference of the Association for Core Texts and Courses. Each of 8 SMC attendees gave a 15 minute presentation, focused on a core text, at a panel. The authors considered ranged from Sappho to Rousseau to Kafka.

Reprising these presentations at the College has resulted in an engaging, stimulating exchange, with lively discussions ensuing – the sort of fun that attracted us in the first place to this business of professoring . The schedule, subject to minor revision of times, is as follows

date: Friday, October 21

place: Br. Gary York classroom


4:00 first session

6:00 dinner

7:00 second session

9:00 adjournment

Presenters include:
Bob Gardner / Deanne Kruse
Rashaan Meneses on "Engaging First Generation Students with Jean Jacques Rousseau's Discourse on Inequality"
Patrick Downey
Grete Stenersen
Chad Arnold
Br. Ken Cardwell
Ken Parker
Charles Hamaker

ACTC @ SMC and Parent & Family Weekend’s “Classes Without Quizzes”

Two exciting upcoming events for this week include:

Presenting my paper “Engaging First Generation Students with Jean Jacques Rousseau’s ‘Discourse on Inequality’ for ACTC @ SMC, Friday, October 21, 4-9pm, Brother York Arcade at Saint Mary’s College. Paper was originally presented at the 17th Annual ACTC Conference in New Haven, CT, sponsored by Yale University.

Participating in Saturday, October 22, SMC’s  Parent & Family Weekend’s “Classes Without Quizzes” where I’ll engage parents of students with some creative reading & writing that includes an oldie but goodie text, Sandra Cisneros’ “Eleven,” which always makes for great conversation and engaged analysis. Que divertido! I still need a title for my class tho…Oye.

Excerpt from “Recap on ‘The Places We Call Home’ Literary Event at Eastwind Books of Berkeley

"The Places We Call Home" at Eastwind Books of Berkeley, September 29, 2011

Here’s a sample of what went down at Eastwind Books of Berkeley on Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thanks to Veronica Montes, Bea & Harvey, Eastwind Books managers, who organized the event taking place Thursday, September 29, 2011, which kicked off the International Filipino Book Festival, where Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, Oscar Bermeo, Veronica Montes, Barbara Jane Reyes, Sunny Vergara Jr. and myself read to a packed house.

Bea had a pot of adobo to greet everyone, and the reading commenced with Oscar Bermeo reading from his chapbooks Anywhere Avenue, Palimpsest, Heaven Below and To the Break of Dawn. Some lines that struck bone include the following:

…those born near the sea carry a sense of salt…

born near the Pacific Ocean

…mother and aunt clean the ocean harvest…

the Atlantic tried to wash its taste out of me

For a full report, check out Ruelle Electrique’s post here.

SAVE THE DATE: Thursday, September 29, 7-9pm at Eastwind Books, Berkeley

September 29 not only happens to be my birthday, but this year Eastwind Books in Berkeley kicks off the Fil Am International Book Festival with a literary extravaganza:

“THE PLACES WE CALL HOME”

 a literary event in celebration of the upcoming Filipino American International Book Festival

 at Eastwind Books, Berkeley, Thursday, September 29, 7-9 pm,

So come out and celebrate!

Authors and Poets reading will include:

Oscar Bermeo was born in Ecuador and raised in the Bronx. He is the author of the poetry chapbooks Anywhere Avenue, Palimpsest, Heaven Below and To the Break of Dawn.

Cecilia Manguerra Brainard is the award-winning author of eight books, including the internationally-acclaimed novel When the Rainbow Goddess Wept, Magdalena, and Vigan and Other Stories.

Rashaan Alexis Meneses earned her MFA from Saint Mary’s College of California’s Creative Writing Program, where she was named a 2005-2006 Jacob K. Javits Fellow and awarded the Sor Juana Ines de La Cruz Scholarship for Excellence in Fiction.

Veronica Montes
is the co-author of Angelica’s Daughters, as well as a short story writer whose work has appeared in Bamboo Ridge, Growing Up Filipino, and Philippine Speculative Fiction 5.

Barbara Jane Reyes is a recipient of the James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets and the author of Diwata, which was recently noted as a finalist for the California Book Award.

Benito M. Vergara, Jr. was born and raised in the Philippines. He is the author of Displaying Filipinos: Photography and Colonialism in Early 20th-Century Philippines and Pinoy Capital: The Filipino Nation in Daly City.

For more information about the October 1 to October 2, 2011 Filipino American International Book Festival visit http://www.filbookfest.info/

If you love literature, like supporting local authors and independent booksellers, and fancy celebrating my commencement into this world, please mark you calendars.

photo

Post Keynote Speech Write-up for Saint Mary’s College APASA Graduation Celebration

APASA Graduates

On Saturday, May 14, I had the honor and pleasure of delivering the keynote speech for the Asian Pacific American Student Associaion Graduation Celebration at Saint Mary’s College. Upon arrival, Hagerty Lounge was transformed into an elegant venue dressed in gold and purple with red and white table cloths laid out in the back for some fine dining that would take place after the speeches and ceremonies. An undergrad named Craig, immediately welcomed me and got me situated. Organized by Joan Iva C. Fawcett, the Director of the Intercultural Center, which sponsored the event, the celebration opened with an address from Jef Aquino, the MC. Alex Carbonel, a talented musician, singer, and basketball player performed throughout the celebration, and her beautiful music really added to the ceremony.

Trying to hold my own, I gave my speech, included below. Three awards were soon presented: the Student Scholar Award, the Student Leader Award, and the Dean Grace Cardenas-Tolentino Award then Brother Camillus Chavez gave the candle blessing, after which all attendees were invited to taste some delicious dishes from James Na and Jim Fawcett’s catering company as well as listen to the beautiful ukulele played by Eileen Lindley, a former student of mine.

This was a happy, tear-filled event, which I am very grateful to have shared, and I hope to attend more since these students are so wonderfully inspiring.

Here’s the keynote speech, a tribute to my family, speaking of inspiration:

APASA 2011 Graduation Ceremony Speech

Thirteen years ago, I sat in uncomfortable folding seats, just like you. Tipsy from excitement, thrilled to be sharing this moment of arrival with family and friends, eager to finally be an independent adult. With all frankness, I don’t remember the graduation speeches. I couldn’t tell you which prominent speaker said what, but I remember feeling like I could catch air and fly. I also distinctly remember hitting ground after graduation and crashing into the reality of life after college. There were the student loans, the string of jobs to pay the rent. I floundered between careers and learned more about what I didn’t want to do rather than coming to some instant grand destiny. Life after college was a process of elimination. Messy and confusing. What kept me sane, tethered to my dreams, and confident in my sense of self were my friends from college and my family.

https://i0.wp.com/www.rtspecialties.com/tobar/conex1/hedy4.jpg
Hedy Lamarr

Every once in a while, like today, we get to step back and survey what we’ve accomplished, celebrate the distance we’ve covered, and chart the new heights we hope to achieve. We are always arriving. In 1947, a newly married Filipino bride and groom, my grandparents, arrived in the U.S for the first time. Traveling by ship, they crossed the Pacific from Leyte, Philippines. You’ve probably heard similar tales such as theirs. Between the bride and groom they had two ten-dollar bills to serve as a nest egg for their new life in the States. The young woman carried a smile that could rival sunlight. She admired the ideals and beauty America stood for so much that she decided she wanted to be just as pretty and fair as the Hollywood actress, Hedy Lemarr. So my grandma got it in her head to turn her dark Pilipina skin to lily-white just. She basked on the rocks next to the river where she washed and dried her family’s laundry, thinking she could bleach herself the same way her brothers’ shirts and sisters’ linens were whitened in the heat of the sun. When she got home, she found herself darker than the earth she walked on. She learned an early lesson to just be yourself.

My grandpa had been encouraged at age eleven by his mother to make a living in the States. She told him that if he ever wanted to be someone he had to go to America because the tiny island of Limisawa didn’t offer the same opportunities he would find in the States. And, after she died, he went to California, all alone, at sixteen-years old to discover himself and a world that he’d make his home.

After serving in the Navy during World War II, he returned to the Philippines to marry his sweetheart and they sailed back to California. On their journey they met another Filipino who had no money but hefted a load of responsibility and promises that he also made to his family back home. This fellow Pinoy, asked my grandparents, if they could lend him some money, and my grandpa, being the overly generous soul he was gave the man one of his ten-dollar bills. Of course, grandma was furious. “Why did you do that?” she asked.

“Don’t worry, dear, we’ll be all right,” he answered.

Felipe & Ramona Napala, my maternal grandparents

My grandpa always knew whatever adversity he and my grandma would face they’d succeed. He hadn’t the smallest doubt that they’d find their way and be able to share their fortune, so he always took great lengths to help others. I look to each of you today, and I see you doing the same. You’re honoring community and family, supporting your brothers and sisters who journey into the unknown alongside you. I know that by your commitment to APASA, you each have stayed true to who you are and where you’ve come from.

With no safety net aside for their love for each other, my grandparents embarked on one of the scariest endeavors we could ever take, daring to make their way in a new country, living a foreign life among strangers. Imagine if they had Facebook, Twitter, or Skype to keep them connected to home and to warn them of the dangers they might come across.

Today you have so many tools and means to keep you informed and stay linked to your family and friends. My grandparents had only the relationships they’d make along the way and the ambitions their families inspired within them. Still, you’re every bit the pioneers my grandparents were. They, like you, embraced a new world, unsure of the next step or the step that would follow after the first one. Faith, hard work, and commitment  to family, friends, and their heritage kept their nerves steeled, helped them grit their teeth, and hold fast to their dreams. I have every confidence you’ll be doing the same on your journey.

You’ve navigated some deep and choppy waters in the different classes you’ve taken at Saint Mary’s, and the different activities you’ve participated in. I’m thinking now of Collegiate Seminar which has given you the rare opportunity to reflect honestly and deeply about some of life’s most important ideas. Rarely will you get a chance to just sit and discuss some of our most muddiest concerns.

At the same time that you’re drawing upon your college education as a foundation for what’s ahead be sure to also remember the stories, experiences, and advice that your family and friends have shared. Think of all the challenges your grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins, and parents have faced to help you get where you are now. Keep learning and shaping your own wisdom, which rests on the wisdom of your loved ones. Honor their words and memories.

Delivering the keynote speech, can you tell my hands are shaking?

I’ll leave you with a couple life’s lessons and you can do with them as you will. Firstly, try with all your might to avoid debt or try not to get into any more debt. Credit cards are bad. Stay away. I learned that the hard way. Don’t be me.

Secondly, stay hungry and keep your thirst for knowledge and experience. Read everyday of your life. Always be inquisitive. Try to see the world from someone else’s eyes and walk in their shoes.

Thirdly, and lastly, keep engaged and connected to your communities. Don’t forget about us here at Saint Mary’s because we’ll miss you and we want to chart your success. Stay close to family and friends as you scale your ambitions and make your way in this world. Keep your communities close to heart because each of you inspire us.

Let’s take a moment to thank and congratulate one another for arriving here, celebrating all that we have accomplished and wishing only success and good fortune for what’s to come. Today is your day, and I wish you many successes. Peace and blessings!

Wishing all the grads many successes!

Big thanks to APASA for including me in such a grand event!

All photos, except the pic of Hedy Lamarr, are courtesy of PJ Sanders.

Revving up for the APASA Keynote Graduation Speech at Saint Mary’s College

Honored to be delivering the keynote speech at Saint Mary’s College of California’s for the following ceremony:

Asian Pacific American Graduate Celebration
Saturday, May 14th
2-4 p.m.
Hagerty Lounge (Please note the change in location; it was originally scheduled in LeFevre Theater.)

Here’s a taste of the speech, an excerpt from an essay written in response to a call for Fil-Am literature:

“Barbie’s Gotta Work”

Unlike my mother who grew up in an old Army barrack tacked to the dusty farmlands of the San Joaquin Valley or my father who sometimes had to sleep in the chicken coop because his family’s house off of Franklin Boulevard in Sacramento was over-crowded with six other siblings, not only did I enjoy a spacious suburban room of my own, but I also had full governship of a pink and white miniature estate. At four feet, the Barbie Townhouse towered over my seven-year old frame. First released in 1975, my three-story edition boasted a blush bedroom suite with a lace canopied bed and matching pink armoire on the top floor. The second level living room afforded Barbie and her friends a cozy space to converse and enjoy tea while lounging on white wicker furniture. On the bottom floor, Barbie hosted small dinner parties and cooked in a cramped kitchen that lacked a stove, an oven, and a sink but offered instead a mini-refrigerator. The townhouse also featured a canary-colored pull-string elevator, which ended up stalling dramatic storylines. Between unspooling the pulley and positioning Barbie just right so her limbs wouldn’t catch as she was towed between floors, she eventually bypassed the elevator, so she could continue her arguments or flirtations uninterrupted.

***

Inspiration for this particular essay was partly borne out of that plastic pink dream we call Barbie. Before I fell hopelessly in love with Louise Erdrich’s tales or stumbled trying to follow the footsteps of Woolf, I wove stories and created characters using the most pink and most traditional of mainstream narrative tools.

Image from Celebrity Baby Blog

The Barbie Townhouse circa 1970’s release was my cardboard and plastic play-stage where I could re-enact and revise plot-lines from One Life To Live and All My Children with an ethnic twist. Instead of Barbie as the lead her friend, Island Fun Miko, was lady of the house and the center of all my Barbie narratives.

Image from Jemboy’s World

“Tropical Island Fun with Barbie and Miko” January 26, 2009

The Barbie Travel Agent Set was a surprise gift from Santa who, ironically, had designs to usher and initiate me into Third Wave Feminism:

Image from The Henry Ford Museum, “Happy 50th Birthday, Barbie!” March 2009