Hello! It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, and it’s been a while since I’ve had free time to do things like blog. I’ve survived yet another semester of teaching in two different places while still working full time (at the mortgage paying job). This looks to be the pace at which I will continue to work indefinitely. It’s been a really rewarding semester.
First, if you know me or read my blog, then you know that this past semester is the first semester I taught the Pinay Literature course at USF, and this was just fabulous. I also taught Filipino American Literature at SFSU. So with this intersecting subject matter, I spent this past semester thoroughly entrenched. A few things I learned:
(1) Having a good number of nursing students in this class fulfilling their literature requirement, I believe I can confidently say that nursing students are some of the calmest/coolest, most methodical and thoughtful students, and the narratives they created this semester are a wonderful reflection of that.
(2) With Pinay narratives, there is so much resonance with students of Latino/a and Chamoru backgrounds. This is something I already knew, but this semester, that resonance became much more pronounced.
(3) Guest Pinay speakers not only rock because their work is solid and the way they present and represent their work is also solid. They rock because they brought something to the students that the students have never had before: actual, living, breathing, practicing Pinay artists in their midst. Pinays with whom my students could interact, and come to view as role models of hard working, strong, articulate, intellectual, and creative Pinays. I am remembering now, that ecstatic, intimidated, awestruck, and inspired OMFG that I felt, when Oscar Campomanes brought Ninotchka Rosca and Jessica Hagedorn into our Postcolonial Literature class at UC Berkeley in the 1990′s. How could he have known that was exactly what I needed, to interact with Pinay authors in order to know what was possible for myself. Maybe he did know.
(4) I am also reaffirmed that literature matters. Literature really matters to people who are just trying their best to figure it all out — their lives, their value systems, their politics, their goals and aspirations. Not only does the existence/presence of the Filipino/a authored literature in which we see ourselves matter; the critical discussions of language and form matter to students. They do want to know what the author is doing with language, the tone, the page, the voice, the perspective. Whether the author is being ironic and/or satirical, literal or figurative, is important to them because they want to understand why certain literary works get under their skin or rub them the wrong way or hit them like a brick.
(5) Dumbing down is not necessary or desired. In fact, it is a disservice to the students, and a cheapening of Filipino/a American Literature, the perfect fodder for naysayers who believe ethnic literature in America is all about pity and not at all about craft and rigor. I challenged my students, so many of them were totally up for the hard work, and I am very pleased to say, they rose to the occasion.
(6) Multiple, even contradicting perspectives and experiences are important to present. There is no singular canned Filipino American experience, and those who tell you there is, well, don’t believe them. Empathy and community happens when folks transgress the borders. This transgression requires hard work (see above). This transgression is crucial because we want more critically thinking and creative, dynamic young people; we don’t want obedient and incurious mini-me’s. Those who want obedient and incurious mini-me’s, well, be wary of them.
I also curated two Pinay Literature events, one in class, and one at Oakland Asian Cultural Center, featuring Tina Bartolome, Aileen Ibardaloza, Lisa Suguitan Melnick, Veronica Montes, Gayle Romasanta, Rina Ayuyang, Vangie Buell, Camille Robles, and both events were very well received. Shouts out to my guest speakers Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales, Jocyl Sacramento, M. Evelina Galang (via Skype), Rashaan Alexis Meneses, Jeannie Barroga, and Nara Denning.
So that was my spring semester in a nutcase. I mean, in a nutshell. Here’s to more of the same, and then some, in the semesters to come. Next semester, I teach Pinay Literature at USF once again, and my rock star in-class Pinay literary event will include Rachelle Cruz, Niki Escobar, Melissa Sipin, and Yael Villafranca. I will also teach MFA Poetry Workshop at Mills College, and a graduate level Narrative Theory and Poetics online course for UT El Paso. In Spring 2013, I will teach my newly redesigned Filipino/a Literature in Diaspora course at USF. I’m confident other opportunities will arise.
Life is good. Now, to summer. More blockbuster movies. More hiking. Travel to New York to see the Bermeo family and to shop, and eat, and shop and eat.