a blog so you can keep with him

SBR 4: Through the Eyes of the Judged

Through the Eyes of the Judged is a compilation of autobiographical writings from incarcerated youth who have worked with Evergreen’s “Gateways” program. Gateways is a collaboration between the college and some of the juvenile detention institutions in the area. At its core is the class that is held every year and enrolls both Evergreen students and inmates to work together academically on issues related to social justice and incarceration, which also acts a credit-earner for inmates who can use this to begin attending Evergreen after release. Along with this, Gateways has mentorship programs for Evergreen students to collaborate with some of the younger inmates and provide one-on-one support. In other words, Gateways is amazing, and I think a huge part of what I hope the Evergreen community strives for.

This collection is about a decade old now, and was loaned to me by a friend who is working a similar work to be produced in relation to current inmates and Gateways volunteers and students. While it’s important to resist reducing these people’s lives to each other, many parallels creep up in the reading of these 8 stories. All of the young men (this collection is from only one of the male juvenile prisons) here talk about being lonely as children, going through periods of isolation, abuse, and frustration that ended up surfacing in larger problems ranging from drug and cutting addictions to permanently leaving their parents at 13. What surprised me was how much I was able to see some of the early issues in myself and other friends – I suppose it’s not shocking to think that some children are socially awkward at a young age, but it should be alien that that sets you on a path towards a loss of your childhood and imprisonment. There are several points where my story obviously breaks with many of these men. As they continued to express feelings of loss and a lack of support or guidance (along with a disengagement with unsupportive institutions like church, school, or even family sometimes) I saw how I moved myself into these exact categories more. Through the Eyes of the Judged was a reminder of the privilege I face in being motivated and excited in school, regardless of feelings surrounding loneliness, against the breakdown of any academic motivation on the part of some of these guys.

Again, I don’t want to be reductive. These men are fully individual, and it’s difficult to narrow each story enough to provide a universal solution or even analysis. These are immigrants, residents, drug users, pimps, urban youth, alcoholics, fathers, sons, brothers, popular kids, unpopular kids, hustlers, and young men. Society criminalized them long before they were locked up for many reasons, and Gateways remains exciting to me because of its abilities to connect with inmates in a variety of ways. These are creative, earnest young men who are being engaged through Gateways programs, and in the process describing how this allows them to give value to themselves. Gateways is an organization with varied approaches to inmate empowerment, and the results apparently show – the last stat I heard was that the recidivism rate (% of inmates who, after release, will be arrested and imprisoned again) is reversed from 75% for the larger inmate population to 25% for youth involved in Gateways.

It was important to me to read these stories, and I only wish I had more energy and time to provide more of the support I think Gateways and incarcerated youth deserve.


Filed under: Books, Evergreen

SBR 2: The Inferno

Alright, I’ve missed a day already in updating, but not in reading. So, this morning I’ll be posting SBRs (Spring Break Readings) 2 & 3. Today some friends and I are headed to a cabin for a few days, so I will probably be out of internet access and will emerge Thursday or Friday w/ 3 new SBRs. But first, The Inferno, which is my other assigned reading this break.

The Inferno, by Luz Arce, is an account of her time during Chile’s dictatorship, in transition from acting as a militant leftist during the Allende years to being captured after the coup. Arce, after rape, torture, and threats to her family, chooses to collaborate and provide names, eventually working for both CNI and DINE (secret intelligence and police under the dictatorship in Chile). The Inferno acts as a testimonial to these experiences, and is witness to the fear, brutality, isolation, and degradation Arce experiences. The book is scattered, yet precise – it is set as a series of vignettes, which draw on the scars of memory Arce holds to produce something unnervingly lucid almost twenty years after many of the events.

I’ve emerged from the book in a fair bit of conflict. I know I can’t condone what has occurred (and fortunately it’s not my place to), and yet I don’t know if I can’t see Arce as a culprit. She was a collaborator, an informant, and, eventually, an employee of organizations that sought to disappear, murder, censor and repress Chile. Yes, Arce is someone who has directly experienced the brutality and alienation of these groups, these people, but she also went on to do so herself. I guess, as a reader, I left the book unable to forgive Arce for her actions, yet still sickened and horrified by the situations she found herself confronted with. I am touched most by the moments she is able to find some humanity, whether in her first shower, or in seeing her son again; I rage most as she first sets down to write names on paper.

Death permeates everything in The Inferno. My hope is that in writing and exhuming this past, Arce is able to publicly confront the atmosphere of death in Chile under Pinochet.

Filed under: Books, Evergreen

SBR 1: Death and the Maiden

Death and the Maiden begins my Spring Break Reading personal challenge of finishing a book a day, and writing a short piece about it to go on here.

Death and the Maiden, by Ariel Dorfman, is, to start with, part of my assigned reading over the break for my class “Literature and the Cultural Politics of Democracy in Chile and Brazil”. The play is set in an unnamed country (though presumably Chile) during a transition out of a long period of military dictatorship (in Chile, Augusto Pinochet) towards the first democratically elected president (Patricio Aylwin) in decades. The president has pushed for a commission to produce a report (the Rettig Report) “to investigate human rights violations that ended in death or the presumption of death”. There are three characters – a judge, Gerardo, assigned to the commission, his wife Paulina, who experienced kidnapping, torture, and rape under the regime (none of which fall under the domain of the commission), and Roberto, a doctor who is potentially the primary rapist and torturer of Paulina. The play follows an intense night and day the three share, with several unnerving turns.

I think there is much to compare and discuss here in relation to the other work of Dorfman’s we’re working with, Widows. Both are concerned with gaps, silences, and truth under dictatorship. The fortunate step Death and the Maiden is able to take Widows never can is to present all of its characters – there is a distinction Dorfman’s work makes between disappearance and torture, and the memories and tensions that these acts produce.

I’m sorry that these comments are fairly brief and initial. But hey, when you’re reading 9 books and trying to relax, developing an essay doesn’t sound like the most exciting thing, sorry. Next up on the list is my other reading for LCPD, Luz Arce’s The Inferno, which is already raising difficult questions for me.

Filed under: Books, Evergreen

Artemisia Drank The Ashes of Mausolus

This is the second close-reading for the quarter. Sorry that it’s been about two weeks since I’ve written this, but I’m finally uploading it now. This is a piece concerning Pía Barros’ story, Artemisia.

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Filed under: Books, Evergreen

A festa

Hello all! Included is my first paper for Literature and the Cultural Politics of Democracy, a close reading assignment. We were reading The Celebration (A Festa) by Îvan Angelo, a book centered around late ’60s Minas Gerais. I’ll be back on here in a few days to post the essay from this week (talking about a short story by Pía Barros) and also to get around to a wrap-up post of last year’s reading so I can start the 2010 linked list of books in the sidebar.


There is an interest in institutionality (e.g. the city, the state, the property) and its dialogues/formation through social networks that Ângelo explores in The Celebration. Explored here are nations in microcosm, the nation as personal identities.

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Filed under: Books, Evergreen

¿Qué tal?

A little bit over a week later, and I haven’t made as much progress as i’d like to with school – strange how things seem to move out of focus when you’re not physically with them. Instead my books have been physically away from me and I’ve been getting all sorts of things done, with family and friends; prepping thoughtful labored gifts, reconnecting over divergent paths in art, and saying goodbye to the many people of Austin whom i might not see until this time next year.

prepping for a school time away has somehow become less big than looking at a summer away from here; maybe it’s that i’ll be finding a place to live or that i’ll be using Oly as a base for travel (to Detroit! and not Austin. Or it might simply be that a year is quite a bit longer when there’s no way to segment it down and say “it’ll be fine, i’ll see you in three months”. we’re speaking about 52 weeks now, instead of 8, maybe 20. it also makes honest in chrono- and psycho- sense what geographically was already becoming apparent to many: i’m moving away from Austin, and that’s something that even seeing many of my austinite friends and family in a year won’t shake; there’s a permanent change coming that i’m terrified that i’m actually capable of and ready for. i won’t be an austinite returning at the end of 2010, most likely. i’ll be a friend and a relative, yes, but i’ll also be a visitor, have lost my local eyes and connections.

lots of questions arise out of this prophecy i give myself. will it come to pass? will i be an olympian by then? who will i be in a year? but, there’s time for all of these to answer themselves. for now, i have some books to talk about in a week at school, a plane ticket to meet, and some people to give very large hugs to in the next few days.

Filed under: Evergreen, Startup

Recharged – Go Go Go!

And we’ve reached the end of a quarter – Today, I, for the first time in over 3 months, did not have anything pressing to do when I woke up. Naturally, things’ll get done this break, but damn it all, I plan to make Austin a vacation as well.

Also, I have time to publish and reflect on a number of things from over the quarter, and what’s coming in the near future. My winter readings shaping up to be enjoyable: a mix of school (Chilean and Brasilian history, with a Donoso novel in for the mix; this course is looking fantastic), comics (Comics Journal issues, Sam’s Strip, The Photographer and Asterios Polyp), and hopefully some headway into the always intimidating “to-read” stacks that tower at home for me.

Music? Oh yes, music.

Akwaaba Sem Transporte, Zombies For Money, Buraka Som Sistema… basically a very large kuduro kick, with all sorts of things taking me home.

And this post is all a buildup to something else: here’s a draft (possibly the final one I’ll touch) of the manuscript I produced over the quarter. I’ll leave the commentary to the work itself.

Poem & Errata

Filed under: Books, Evergreen, Music

A Draft

I believe I have a draft of the manuscript finished. Here’s my working cover. More about the manuscript at a later point – I’m kinda very tired of it right now.

Filed under: Books, Evergreen, Photos

How to Be Busy, How to Stay Busy

It is now the middle of Week 7 of fall quarter at Evergreen, and I haven’t written anything directly reflective since before I got on a plane towards Olympia. How has this happened? What changed this quarter, compared to the spring?

Well, to begin, I believe a little thing called summer occurred – I didn’t hold myself to any sort of posting (or writing) schedule over those three months, and this blog’s scant activity reflected that. I suspect this related to the reality of who I felt that I’m writing this for: My family, who’s away, but I know would like to know what I’ve been able to find rewarding in both my education and my life, and (hopefully) many friends of mine. When I was living again with my family (knock that group off the list of “not knowing what I’m up to”, in other words), and when many of my pals were at a far remove, I somehow managed to forget them as an audience, perhaps because I was no longer seeing them daily. I’m sorry, folks. I’ve had some experiences recently that have illustrated to me how out of touch I’ve been with many of my close friends: I’m sorry I didn’t know until I was two weeks late, E, and I’m very happy for you J, and B.

But most of all, this quarter’s revealed how easy it is to lose contact with myself – something that I think reflective writing like this really does alleviate, and something I feel I wasn’t practicing enough of.  The largest appeal Evergreen has always had for me is its honesty, in some pockets of it as an institution, that everything that’s active in your life affects and contributes to your learning; something I almost tried to forget this quarter. Y’see, I’ve been busy. Really busy. So busy, I spent several weeks straight waking up, getting in one mindset for class, jumping out of it for the Geoduck Union, jumping out of that for the Writing Center, jumping out of that for a Slightly West (more on what these terms even mean at a later point) meeting, and slinking on home to essentially change bikes and develop a manuscript for an hour or two, and at some point eating and sleeping. The easiest coping mechanism for all this was to pretend, somehow, that these activities could be separate, merely because the people I saw at these different places and contexts didn’t show up elsewhere! I had taken myself out any awareness, or equation; in the process of doing so, I also took out my effectiveness, my energy, and my education. I was defeated, deteriorating, and delirious instead.

It took a few different things to jar me out of this rut, which I won’t go into right now. The importance of the matter is – this past weekend, I feel that I had an opportunity (which I took) to become re-centered, empowered in my learning; this change of feeling is going to require some reevaluation and change on my part for the coming quarter, and year, though. Think of this as my drafting out of possible New Year’s Resolutions, if you feel so obliged.

  1. I will not be in Logopoesis next quarter.
  2. I will be studying a language next quarter – Linguistic study gestures most closely at what I feel my aims in college are at this juncture.
  3. I will reevaluate commitments as they continue to develop – I am not tied down to anything, any longer than it is healthy for myself. An important feature of this is active reflection – I will post here frequently.
  4. My education is, and will continue to be, informed by a sense of the society and communities it is shaping and unveiling for me.
  5. Long lasting relationship- and community-building can surmount individual challenges.
  6. My life can have synergy. I can be renewed in heterogeneous efforts by finding the points of intersection.

But really, why must I talk so? It’s already been done in comics

Filed under: Books, Evergreen, Startup

September 19, 2009

It’s a later date than when I last posted here – a combination of my lack of summer break discipline, and a lack of breaking summer news has kept me from writing much at all; this, fortunately, did not bleed into other habits, and I did manage to feel productive at the end of this three-month venture back to Austin.

So, what all did I do, you might ask? Good question!

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Filed under: Books, Evergreen, Music

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