Saturday, August 29, 2009

Thirty-six is the Year of Pretty

One of the things I realized on sabbatical (because while from the outside it looked like I didn't actually take a break, my sabbatical was in fact incredibly restful and provided ample opportunity for reflection) is that one of the reasons I felt like such a drudge is that I often looked like a drudge. Now, many will probably disagree (Brian continues to make all the right noises about how cute I always am, just as a good husband should), but that's hardly the point. I felt dumpy and really not-cute. So I got a kicky haircut that I really like and decided that 36 (my current age) is the year of pretty, which basically means getting dressed in the morning as if other people can actually see me.

The result? Since I've been back at work full-time (a week now), people continue to remark on my new look--my hair is cute, my earrings are adorable, I look nice generally. I usually respond with a smile and say, "Thank you. 36 is the year of pretty." What I'm actually thinking is, "What kind of hell did I look like before?" or "It's going to be really sad when I go back to being too tired to comb my hair in the morning."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

This Is Not My First Day on the Mommy Job...

...and yet, this morning found me on the playground of Cate's preschool *weeping.* I told Brian he would just have to quit school and go back home to taking care of her full time. We had to sit in the observation room until I was composed enough to be able to go to class.

Frances is in fourth grade and this is Cate's second year of preschool, so I've got a few first days of school under my belt. The weepiness this morning was quite unexpected and I am at a loss to explain it, though it does seem to go along with my general irrational emotional responses to all things Cate-related (that's a post for another day).

Cate, in typical Cate fashion, was completely unconcerned with my tears. As soon as she saw her teacher and she ran and gave her a hug and then turned around, hugged my leg, said a quick dismissive "bye," and walked away. Which really didn't help matters at all.

Here's hoping I get through tomorrow without feeling like an emotional mess.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Teaching the Comic Book

Let me start off by saying the while I generally do for living what I trained in graduate school to do (I am, in fact, a college professor and a literary critic), there are many aspects of my job I never imagined in grad school. I never imagined that I'd be director of an African American Studies program (that was never really on my list of career goals), yet here I am. I fancy myself a scholar of the African American novel, yet I've yet to publish on the African American novel--a book of Octavia Butler's interviews, a book on the critical reception of Baldwin, an article on an intellectual crisis during the Harlem Renaissance, another on a comic book, but nothing on the African American novel.

And this semester I find myself, for the second time, teaching a course on the graphic novel. Today was the first day of class and I woke up in a panic feeling wildly unqualified to teach a course about comic books. Sure, I'm on the comics sholars listserv and have been absorbing comics theory and criticism for the last three or so years. Yes, I've been reading all the articles on comics I can find in journals and books. Yes, I read tons and tons of comic books. But still...I'm a scholar of the African American novel! To top it all off, because the course is big (40+ people), I'm teaching in one of our lecture rooms. There's a stage! I taught on a stage today, which totally exacerbated my anxieties about people looking at me while I'm teaching. (Yes, I know people are looking at me. I like to pretend they aren't though, which is rather difficult when you're standing on a stage.) So I'm standing on a stage, using Powerpoint (which, as a general rule, I detest), and feeling sick to my stomach because I feel like a big geeky fraud, when this exchange happens:

Very intense female student, clearly a lover of comics: Is there any reason why we aren't reading Maus?

Me, thinking, oh no I've been found out: Well, since even people who don't read comics, and I assume that most of the people in this class don't read comics, have been introduced to Maus in high school or some other arena, I thought we'd read other things together. I think it would be a better use of our time to look at things people haven't read before.

Girl: And people haven't read Dark Knight Returns?

Me, thinking I hear a hostile tone, but actually that's probably just in my head: Well, in my experience, even big fans of Batman and Superman haven't actually read a Batman or Superman comic. Of the many times I've taught DKR in various courses, I've run into very few students who have actually read it.

Girl: Well okay.

At this point the interrogation is over, though there were other questions about why there are no Marvel books on the syllabus and why I've never been to Comic-Con and whether their friend can draw their mini-comic. It was a very stressful 75 minutes.

Tomorrow I'm teaching comp and Intro to African American lit, both courses I could teach in my sleep at this point. But all I can think about is how not to make a fool of myself the next time I'm in the graphic novel course.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Breastfeeding Revisited

At the risk of courting the ire that accompanied my last breastfeeding post (if you want to get a whole bunch of hateful, angry comments on your blog, just suggest that breastfeeding may not be all it's cracked up to be), I'm linking to this *great* piece by Hannah Rosin in the April 2009 issue of The Atlantic. I found the piece through a discussion on She Writes about taboo subjects in writing about motherhood and someone suggested that we aren't allowed to talk about how the notion that breastfeeding is the cure-all for whatever ails you is kind of bullshit.

Here's the intro to the piece. Go read it.

In certain overachieving circles, breast-feeding is no longer a choice—it’s a no-exceptions requirement, the ultimate badge of responsible parenting. Yet the actual health benefits of breast-feeding are surprisingly thin, far thinner than most popular literature indicates. Is breast-feeding right for every family? Or is it this generation’s vacuum cleaner—an instrument of misery that mostly just keeps women down?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Black Writers Rock

Two noteworthy posts in the world of black publishing today.

First, Carleen Brice over at White Readers Meet Black Writers has a new store open at Cafe Press with really cool t-shirts, mugs, and bags. Claudia calls Brice a latter-day Georgia Douglas Johnson, and I tend to agree.

Also, Verb Noire, an independent publisher dedicated to, among other things, publishing stories by and about people of color, has a new call for submissions. They're looking for retellings of fairy tales and folk stories that feature people of color or that come from non-Eurocentric traditions. Check them out.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Questions Plaguing Me This Morning

1. Where does one buy a boy's tie for a 9 year old girl that is both fashionable and school appropriate?

2. Does being vegan really mean giving up butter and cheese? That seems like torture. (Especially after seeing Julie and Julia last night with Alison and watching people having near orgasmic reactions to butter.*)

3. Why isn't erotica aimed at black female audiences better written? I applaud Zane for trying to fulfill each and every erotic literature wish black women seem to have, but man, does she need a good editor.

*As in our last trip to our local arty movie theater, Alison and I scanned the crowd to see if I were indeed, again, as usual, the only black person in the room. In fact, we spotted one other black woman, someone Alison knew. Which, I think, says, something about Alison.