A Quote and a Mission

“Maybe there is more to a person than a body and a mind. Maybe something else figures into the mix— not a soul, exactly, but a spirit that hints you might one day be greater, stronger than you are now. A promise; a potential.”

― Jodi Picoult, Keeping Faith

 

I think Jodi Picoult’s mission statement of her novel was to perhaps enlighten readers on a topic that they may not know of. In the town where I am from every single family goes to church on Sundays. But I know that it would be naive to believe that the general population also does. I think Jodi Picoult was maybe trying to educate the general public about religion without being “in your face” about it. She told a fiction story of a young girl coming face to face with God and her experience with it. For me, it strengthened what I already knew and really gave me chills. For others, it might’ve been their first time reading about religion, or maybe it might’ve their first time considering it as a real thing. Either way, Jodi Picoult was able to use her popularity and credibility as an author to relay her message to the audience.

 

If you are already religious, I think you would definitely enjoy this book. If you are not religious but are open to the idea or are spiritual at all, I think you should consider reading this book to learn more.

Dismantling the Power Paradigm of the Academy’s Patriarchy

First, I just want to say that I really enjoyed this article – it was well researched, thought out, and most importantly, interesting.

Of particular interest to me was when he talks about how women may actually have been the genesis of the novel.  It’s such an interesting point to make. He rationalizes this claim by explaining that men were traditionally the ones to receive educations in rhetoric at schools and universities, while women, if they went to school at all, were taught subjects conducive to running an effective home or business.  So, when women start coming to the academy, they bring a completely new perspective to language and particularly writing – they’ve not been trained in traditional rhetoric, and thus it doesn’t hold as much importance for them, which is why the novel starts to rise as a legitimate form of writing; it allows for more freedom of form. You can still kind of see the echoes of this today, in that many popular or well known authors of novels are females: JK Rowling, Jodi Picoult, Barbara Kingsolver, Audrey Niffenegger, Suzanne Collins, and (*cringe*) Stephenie Meyer. Obviously, if Ong’s argument is true, then women have given to humanity a great artform.

Twilight
Twlight, a "book" by "writer" Stephenie Meyer. (Source: twilightsaga.wikia.com)

So then, it’s curious to me as to why academic institutions still favor a fairly patriarchal view on writing; non-academic writing still seems to be thought of as somehow “less” in an university setting.  In my peer tutoring seminar, we’re learning about different approaches to writing as well as how to tutor writing. We recently read an essay that applied Feminist critical theory to the idea of writing, which aims to equalize the role of tutor and the student; the practice attempts to dismantle the power hierarchy present in the traditional student/teacher paradigm, which the academy perpetuates by often times forcing students to learn “good” writing by making them conform to the abstract standard of an “ideal text” as imagined by academia. Since this “ideal text” is often a traditionally academic paper, filled with classical rhetoric, and since rhetoric is a subject that was created by men, for use by men, this ideal text is inherently patriarchal; it makes the writer conform to invisible, “acceptable” standards envisioned by men and only men years and years ago.

Ong’s text got me thinking about writing a lot more about what writing is, and more specifically, what “good” writing is.  Is it this generally agreed upon standard, or can it be something more?  Why is it so difficult to break away from the academic form instilled in writers from the time they’re taught to write? Why can’t fiction be just as effective a mode for delivering an argument? Why did I just make fun of Stephenie Meyer, if in fact, she may have written a very good piece of writing, and I’m just not seeing it fromt he correct perspective (this pains me to write, fellow writing minors; I just need you all to know that)? I’m not sure I have any answers to any of these questions, but the article definitely got me thinking about them.

 

Spilling Your Heart Out in Words

I chose Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper and Kerry Cohen’s Loose Girl. Both of these pieces of writing are excellently written and intellectually engaging, and for that reason, I would like to emulate both.

I’ll start with My Sister’s Keeper. Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you I do not like to read, unless it’s a woman’s magazine or lively blog post. Whenever I was assigned summer readings in high school, I would literally jump up and down screaming in excitement each time I finished a book. But my mom and sister would not stop raving about My Sister’s Keeper, so I decided to give it a shot.

Once I started reading the book, I could not put it down. This book’s controversial topic and unique writing style was so engaging. I selected My Sister’s Keeper because it is one of the only fiction books I have enjoyed reading so much. Picoult’s words jump off the page and put you at the center of the action. This is what I strive for when I write. To me, without emotion and personality, there is no need for words. When I read something, I like to feel the truth, the sincerity, the passion behind a subject and Picoult does an amazing job of this.

Each chapter of the book is written from a different character’s point of view and is also printed in a different font. It helps the reader distinguish who’s saying and feeling what and when these words and emotions come out. I would love to write a book that expresses such a challenging topic in a style and tone that engages readers like me. There are so many unexpected twists and turns in the book; it’s no surprise it was turned into a movie.

Now on to Loose Girl. You may question the credibility of a book with that title, but believe me when I tell you it was one of the most engaging, powerful books I’ve ever read. It’s a personal memoir of Kerry Cohen’s struggle with promiscuity and addiction to male attention. I read it after seeing recommendations on a blog I follow and write for.

Loose Girl is very detailed and descriptive from the very start of the book. Instead of slowly opening up as a writer and expressing herself more and more as the personal memoir progresses, Cohen leaves nothing to the imagination from page one. I selected this piece because it reveals what the author is thinking and feeling. It’s very personal, and at the same time, easy to relate to. This is the kind of writing I plan to do.

“The unforgettable memoir of one young woman who desperately wanted to matter, Loose Girl will speak to countless others with its compassion, understanding, and love.”

By being so honest and engaging, Cohen gives a great message to women and girls. The vulnerable topic of Loose Girl is almost blinded by Cohen’s strength as a writer. I hope to someday write about touchy subjects in a way that portrays confidence so my readers may learn and grow from their inner struggles.

I admire these writers for spilling out their hearts in words.