..I've searched and searched for news that Elaine Bartlett has returned to prison, as Jessica brought up. Happily, I've found nothing to suggest that that has happened. Given that Dovetta was passionate about Elaine's story being hers, this gives me a little ounce of hope that she will make it out for good, too. Dovetta's impending release hung over our small group conversation today. We said it would be hard. We knew that it would be almost impossible. She will have to stay away from her husband of 21 years, a drug dealer, and her 6 kids, who also dabble in drugs. She will have to make meetings, find work, find herself, keep herself, follow her dreams. She wants to counsel addicts, write a book, stay clean, never come back. I assured Dovetta that I would be one of her first readers and that I hoped to read her book with another class of incarcerated women one day. The smile she gave me after hearing that single-handedly convinced me that I wanted, NEEDED to continue this work next semester. But now that I'm back home and I've lost sight of Dovetta, I've lost sight of my hope for her, too. We've been taught to blame the institution, the forces that be, that keep these women down. And in fact, we've made it our goal to teach them that, too. But does this way of thinking make it harder for us to hope, too? I can't keep out the doubt. The doubt that says Dovetta won't make it because of the forces pushing against her.
1) "Most of the students stared at the form without writing. The prospect of fitting their complicated lives into all these boxes seemed to overwhelm them" (190).
2) "Elaine walked out the door. Weeks later, looking back on this day, she would have trouble explaining exactly why she had decided to leave. Maybe just because she could. After so many years of being trapped in prison, she did not ever want to feel trapped again" (201).
3) Each newspaper article in which she was quoted sent a message back to Bedford Hills. It didn't matter if only one or two people read it. Word would get around. Everyone would hear that Elaine Bartlett was thriving" (263).
The other day, I went in to do my internal interview for a big scholarship I'm applying to. For some background, this scholarship is for people interested in public service fields, and I want to be a social worker in the Navy. As expected, I was asked right off the bat "why the military?" and more specifically, why I wanted to be IN the military rather than just work WITH the military.
The answer for me was an easy one: how many times does a person get the opportunity to be a real part of the group that they want to "help"? I feel like I do good work when I go and mentor at Belmont every monday, and I know my mentee really responds to me, but the reality is that I can never be a low-income African-American boy from the city. This is not an identity I share. I know that my inability to relate to him on this most fundamental level means that I can never really be the most effective mentor. I'm missing that level of empathy, and I don't know exactly what he needs. The military represents an opportunity, though. Finally I can avoid the trap that is professional imperialism and serve the population of the military because not only do I know the unique stressors and challenges they face, but because I face them, too.
Of course, this would have been the answer I'd have given in a perfect world, or with interviews whose goal was not to push my thinking. So instead my answer went something more like: "...want to try and avoid stepping into a population and doing my best to help the way I think is ri---"
..I think I can articulate a little better what exactly frustrates me so much about the intense religiosity of our group.
But first thing's first. I was actually really touched by Alicia's prophecy -- both the content and her delivery. Something that struck me in particular was he warning of the distractions that would soon try and derail us from our paths and the responses we should give" "I am doing great work, I cannot come." I often get caught in this cycle of reading about other people (especially college students) and all they've accomplished in their lives. I've effectively convinced myself out of thinking I even have a shot of receiving the Truman, a scholarship I've been working towards for almost a year. But something about Alicia's words boosted me out of that ditch I'd been slipping into. I don't know what it was, and it doesn't seem right to approach her prophecy with an analytical lens at this point, but it worked, so thank you, Alicia.
Here are some images that represent our project. The first portion is what we showed during our final presentation.
Collaborators (AKA Book Buyin' Bitches): Hayley, Julia and Jacky
Developing and carrying out a final project that revolved around a subject which interested us felt like a perfect way to culminate our experience and learning together this semester. As one who has depended on books for various reasons for most of my life and never had to question my own literacy, the idea of Books Behind Bars in its effort to both raise consciousness about issues surrounding literacy, privilege and social distance as well as money to buy books for incarcerated women felt particularly close to home. While it was a topic that was personal to me, I saw much potential in BBB in that it had the ability to reach across and off campus, affecting both Bryn Mawr students and the larger population of incarcerated women that we had grown close to. Additionally, our consciousness-raising efforts were particularly far reaching in that our fliers were distributed across campus and thus hopefully engaged even those who were not in attendance of our final presentation. Although it may be impossible to determine how individuals reacted to our thought-provoking marketing techniques, I see the monetary success of our collection (we raised over $165!) as an indication that people not only noticed the flyers but thought about what they meant and why the issues they raised are important.
In my memo, I chose to anaylze the structure of our Vision class and how its complicated layers which served to humanize the incarcerated population paralleled my journey in answering the question: "why should we care?"
My main Sunday post is here in response to Chandrea's but I just wanted to throw something extra out there. My friend, who is a student consultant one of the college's search committee for new professors, was shocked to find out that Linda-Susan, who has a position on the same committee, is a nun. I was intrigued that this fact had never come up in the many conversations they'd had together. After telling my friend about the topic of our discussion on Thursday, I asked if Linda-Susan seemed especially contemplative to her. This came out of Linda-Susan's answer to my question that the Sisters at her monastary take strides to bring contemplation and contemplative conversations into places that they don't seem to exist. While of course this was probably not something that could be exeptionally visible to my friend, she did say something interesting in that Linda-Susan often "played devil's advocate" during their discussions. So now I'm wondering -- what place does pushing back have in contemplation? Where does disagreement fit in? By playing devil's advocate does Linda-Susan attempt to prompt her colleagues into deeper contempation over a subject?
I realized that by including my paper via attachment (because of picture issues), I wasn't creating a searchable document. So here it is in the best form I could get. The first picture is cut off on the side for some reason. Please follow links to see whole picture.
Maid in Silence: The Hidden History of Bryn Mawr’s Housekeepers
Close the Gaps
Eva’s Man by Gayl Jones chronicles the hectic, fractured life of Eva Medina Canada, whose existence has been tormented by sexual and emotional violence since girlhood. In a haunting, tangible parallel to the chaos of Eva’s experience, the novel’s narrative becomes increasingly more broken as the story progresses – eventually unraveling into a continuous narrative stream with little distinction between memory and reality. Jones’ masterful mirroring of content with form serves to draw readers in and engage them in a psychological state of chaos and confusion, not dissimilar from that of Eva’s emotional turmoil. By creating this twin experience, Jones effectively closes the social gap between readers and the story’s protagonist thus sustaining the ability for a deeper, more generative connection with the novel and its presentation of the female experience.
As a connoisseur of crime-based reality television shows like Dateline and 20/20, it was not difficult to understand what drew me to Eva’s Man. Beyond just the enticing content, however, the novel’s structure allows for readers to truly feel as though they are within the story. My loss of direction and feeling of confusion were productive in that they served to parallel the downward spiral of Eva’s emotional state as witnessed through her hectic story-telling and grim outcome of incarceration. In this way, the act of reading Eva’s Man provided an experience that allowed me to engage more deeply with the content.