A Thought On Masculinity in America

I wrote this as a response for a fellowship application (that I didn’t end up getting). There have been more revelations exposed about Diaz in the past week. His abuse of women breaks my heart because when I found his books, he showed me a space in literature that I didn’t know existed. I will post that update later.
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I read two essays/articles with connected themes that I would recommend to a friend, author Junot Diaz’s “The Legacy of Childhood Trauma,” published in The New Yorker and The New York Times, “Who’s A Good Boy?” I often think about how difficult it is to perform masculinity. It’s so fragile, delicate, unruly, mandated, broken and, solid–all at the same time. Yet, all clothing and colors can be seen as feminine, to a degree. Women before me had to fight for it to be this way, for my liberation and I thank the Katherine Hepburns of society.
Diaz’s essay is triggered by his lack of acknowledgement of a fan at a book signing who clearly felt invisible but could see themselves in Diaz’s work. This fan, who Diaz names “X”, found the confidence to ask Diaz if he has ever been sexually assaulted. Part of the essay is an apology to X. The other part is Diaz revealing his own trauma, that he has never shared with anyone besides a therapist,  of being raped at eight years old by a trusted adult, trying to kill himself at eighteen, and the destructive behavior that followed his assault. By demystifying and exploring the consequences that suppressing his assault had done, he exposed what elements of his novels and short stories were biographical. I have always the details of Drown, for example, to be so specific, he must have breathed those experiences in some capacity.
This essay implicitly explores how masculinity is imprisoning. He felt he could tell no one about his experience. His rapist silenced him and he felt there was nowhere else to turn. In African-American and Hispanic communities, mental health issues are a shadow that can be answer by prayer or ignorance and, sexual assault is something you bury in your closet to hide your shame. I wonder how many years of destructive behavior Diaz could have been spared if the adults in his life knew how to communicate with him so he could feel that his experiences and voice are valid. The New York Times article discusses how to communicate with boys and make them feel like the line of communication is open with you. In a world where boys are constantly being told to sit down, be quiet, or be medicated, this is important. A sample and developmental age used in the article is eight. The same age Diaz was repeatedly raped. The same age as my nephew who I wonder if, he has ever felt silenced. We as a society need to learn how to talk to boys so they can become the freely expressive, productive, feminist members of society we so desperately want them to be.

Top 100 Movies/Films (A Working List)

(In no particular order)

  1. The Exterminating Angel
  2. 20th Century Women
  3. Dogtooth
  4. Frida
  5. Rushmore
  6. Family Plot
  7. Repulsion
  8. Good Will Hunting
  9. Moonlight
  10. Sling Blade
  11. Being John Malkovich
  12. A Place Beyond the Pines
  13. Eyes Without a Face
  14. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  15. Get Out
  16. Just Friends
  17. 500 Days of Summer
  18. Bend It Like Beckham
  19. Legally Blonde
  20. The Lobster
  21. Dog Day Afternoon
  22. Mustang
  23. Bowling for Columbine
  24. Hidden Figures
  25. Million Dollar Baby
  26. Water
  27. Wonder Woman
  28. Jackie Brown
  29. The Outsiders
  30. Sicario
  31. Garden State
  32. 50 First Dates
  33. Moonrise Kingdom
  34. Doubt
  35. Inception
  36. The Truman Show
  37. Gook
  38. Up in the Air
  39. The Heathers
  40. Pariah
  41. A Clockwork Orange
  42. Juno
  43. Perks of Being a Wallflower
  44. St. Vincent
  45. The Witch
  46. The Breakfast Club
  47. Gran Torino
  48. Boyhood
  49. The Eyes of My Mother
  50. Clueless
  51. Toy Story 3
  52. Elf
  53. Into the Wild
  54. Gone Girl
  55. Hairspray
  56. Kramer vs. Kramer
  57. Awakenings
  58. Erin Brokovich
  59. Role Models
  60. Brave
  61. Wild
  62. Ordinary People (1980)
  63. Kill Bill Vol. I & Vol. II
  64. Mulholland Drive
  65. The Spectacular Now
  66. Arsenic and Old Lace
  67. Sabrina
  68. Trading Places
  69. Patch Adams
  70. The Jerk
  71. Blue Velvet
  72. Ex Machina
  73. Rain Man
  74. Unforgiven (1992)
  75. First Wives Club
  76. Girlhood
  77. Zootopia
  78. Beginners
  79. Uptown Girls
  80. Tangled
  81. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
  82. Call Me By Your Name
  83. Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri
  84. Hereditary
  85. Interview With A Vampire
  86. The Handmaiden
  87. Annihilation
  88. Shoplifters
  89. Happy as Lazzaro
  90. Nightcrawler

91-100 to be determined

August is Here

I had a list of screenplays and plays I wanted to write this summer. I wrote some that weren’t on there, I wrote some that weren’t on there and hated them. Right now I am trying to figure out if I like writing more than directing or directing more than writing. It seems that one cannot exist without the other. I do not mind directing other people’s plays or scripts but I do mind other people directing mine.

In the fall, I will be directing a short film called Headspace. It is about a member of a secret society of feminist assassins ordered to kill her boyfriend.

I am excited and I want it to be great.

Lovely Hearts Book Club Recommendations- June

1. Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

264 pages

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Underrated and under-read. As a writer, the originality of Kindred is inspiring. Dana, a twenty-six year old African-American woman, lives with her white husband, Kevin, in 1976. While she is unpacking, she time travels back to the early 1800’s, where she saves a young boy, Rufus, from drowning. Throughout the novel, Rufus calls her back to save him through his adulthood. The problem is she doesn’t know how to return to 1976 so she must adjust to the ways of the antebellum South, sometimes being the dehumanized companion and protector of her ancestor Rufus for months at a time.

As a black woman, Dana’s experiences are traumatizing. How often am I subject to similar conditions as my ancestors? Being forced to submit as a slave when you have been granted the opportunities of education (a college education in Dana’s case), making a living wage, family members not being sold or bred, choosing your own profession, and marrying a white man——while living amongst your ancestors is humbling. That could have been me if I were born 200 years earlier. This novel brought up the question, “Why them (my ancestors) and not me?”

This novel features one of the only black female leads in science fiction I have come across. As someone who gets nightmares after watching the voyage sequence in Amistad and took years to finish 12 Years A Slave, I recommend this novel as food for thought and the imagination.

2. Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut

331 pages

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Vonnegut creates satirical but thought-provoking worlds within this book of short stories. My favorites are “The Foster Portfolio,” “Miss Temptation,” “Next Door,” “Tom Edison’s Shaggy Dog,” “Long Walk to Forever,” “Welcome to the Monkey House,” and “Who Am I This Time. ” In “Who Am I This Time,” he writes of an actor who has become a fabric of the community theater in town. In “The Foster Portfolio,” he writes of a man who keeps his life simple in order to maintain another secret life. Vonnegut writes about people we immediately recognize from our own family, friend group, and community.

 

3. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

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325 pages

A white woman’s dystopia. The “feminist” issues of the novel primarily deal with female oppression and reproductive rights. Stripping women of mothering their own children so they can breed for their masters has happened in American slavery and colonized countries. Society will know true dystopia when those who feel protected from laws inflected against “other” are subject to what has been going on to the colonized for years.

A particularly intriguing character for me is Serena Joy. She used to be the ultimate conservative. She was rich and could afford to preach about staying home and a woman’s duty—a lifestyle she didn’t have to live. Now that she is forced to do that duty and stay in the house, she is miserable. It is almost like what she was preaching was never something she had to actually do. Sounds like some politicians? Atwood has created the ultimate dystopia for women, women in general. But the character of Serena Joy specifically reminds me of politicians and people who make wide-sweeping statements in hope to encourage others to change their lives to live to the speaker’s ideal.

I finished this book in ten hours. The delightfully sweeping structure of weaving between flashbacks of Offred’s life before, her grooming to be a Handmaid, and of her life now is torturous but successful. I have yet to see the Hulu series but I can’t wait to experience the story in another medium. Atwood’s world is probable in the same way reading 1984 or Fahrenheit 451 in 2017 feels like a harbinger in what seems to be a predetermined regression of our society.

4. The Effect by Lucy Prebble

101 pages

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How big of a chance is falling in love? In this play, two young volunteers, Corinne and Tristan agree to test a trial psychological trial drug. The administrators hope this drug will be a progressive anti-depressant. Corinne is a cynical young woman and Tristan is a loving, free-spirited young man that uses these trials as a source of income. While showing Corinne the ropes, they fall in love. But too many questions arise. Is the drug responsible for their romance? Are one of them on the placebo? This play made me wonder if the circumstances, questions, and concerns raised would be any different if Corinne and Tristan weren’t inside this facility.

5. All My Sons by Arthur Miller

84 pages

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This is my favorite Arthur Miller play. It takes place during WWII and revolves around a family whose oldest son has been MIA for years. The mother, Kate, still clings onto hope that he’ll return. The younger son, Chris, is marrying his presumably dead brother’s fiancée, Ann. The father, Joe, has manufactured and sold faulty airplane parts to the United States Armed Forces…and has yet to suffer any consequences for doing so. This play is about figuring out the balance and fine line between how loyal you can be to your own family without corrupting your own integrity. I would love to see this play produced with adjustments made to reflect the United States current involvement in the Middle East.

6. The Reader by Bernard Schlink

Translated by Carol Brown Janeway

215 pages

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An emotional rollercoaster.

This book will make you feel:

mad,

sad,

hopeless,

helpless,

and

empathize someone with questionable morals.

This book will remind you that history is made of movements. Movements are empowered by propaganda and propaganda doesn’t always let people know why the movement needs soldiers.

In Germany, a fifteen year old boy, Michael, develops a sexual and romantic relationship with a woman twice his age and the impact of their relationship tests the limits of his empathy for the rest of his life.

Ranking Code: Loved, Liked, Not Sure How I Finished It

 

Books I Read Summer 2016

If you are curious of my taste level or what kind of books I enjoy, here are the books I read last summer. Keep in mind, I don’t finish every book I pick up. All the books on this list I read front to back and loved (and for some, I at least a few times questioned) the journey.

  1. Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton
  2. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
  3. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  4. Not That Kind Of Girl by Lena Dunham
  5. This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz
  6. Drown by Junot Diaz
  7. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
  8. Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
  9. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
  10. What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell
  11. Pen & Ink: Tattoos and the Stories Behind Them by Wendy MacNaughton and Isaac Fitzgerald
  12. I Suck At Girls by Justin Halpern
  13. Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein
  14. Girls and Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape by Peggy Orenstein
  15. Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
  16. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
  17. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
  18. On Writing by Stephen King
  19. Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin
  20. Disgruntled by Asali Solomon

Ranking Code: Loved, Liked, Not Sure How I Finished It