Diversity in Literature: Intersections
Literature is a preserved collection of the human experience. It transfers thoughts and ideas into a shareable medium. Literature by nature is diverse, but does it represent the expanse of the human condition? Does it provide a truly collaborative snapshot, or merely the most popular narrative?
We are all humans, and like literature, exist in a variety of forms. We are diverse in race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, culture, socioeconomic status, political beliefs, occupation, etc. Literature helps us understand/comprehend the differences and the connections between us. Literature is at a point of intersection. To expand our minds, we must also expand our exposure to different perspectives.
We at New Plains Student Publishing encourage everyone to have a voice, and are excited to announce a new biweekly diversity blog series: Intersections.
Intersections will feature blogs from alternating diversity themes.
-New Plains Student Publishing
What It Means to Me
Written by Caitlin Carnall
I would be lying if I said I had it figured out from the start, writing that is. For the first couple of years, I was extremely self-critical of my own work and never wanted to share it in fear of judgement from my peers.
During my fourth year on campus at the University of Central Oklahoma, I was in a Young Adult Literature course and we were studying W.E.B. DuBois’s concept of double consciousness. The concept encompasses the idea and struggle of an individual’s identity being split and divided into two or more facets.
It was difficult for me growing up with a Hispanic grandmother who blared Latin tunes during Sunday’s chores, singing every word in Spanish, but not understanding what I was listening to. Not to mention, I would look in the mirror and notice my skin wasn’t as dark as hers, so did I really belong to her ancestry? Or was I just this white girl living in the Mexican neighborhood in Oklahoma City?
When I first began studying the concept of double consciousness, I didn’t recognize that I, myself, was split between three different racial identities: Caucasian, Hispanic, and American Indian. When speaking directly about the effect of my racial identities upon my writing, I rarely talk about and reflect on my American Indian ancestry for the simple fact that I know very little about it. On my mother’s side of the family, my great grandmother’s mother was full-blood Cherokee Indian, but we couldn’t trace back the history far enough to take ownership of our benefits. On my father’s side, I know my grandfather was less than 25% Indian. I reflect most on my Hispanic and Caucasian ancestry in my writing, especially my poetry. The divide between my racial identities add a certain kind of character to my work, where in reality causes me anxiety that I am normally uncomfortable sharing out loud. However, through my writing, I am allowed to express this struggle I encounter with my racial identities without feeling directly judged. My writing truly allows me an outlet for overwhelming emotion, and it gives voice to a diverse individual. The following is my poem, Tough Meat:
Girl, you crazy.
Yeah, gram. You.
Best friend—my fear
Is my best friend.
Hold you close, but at a distance.
Like your skin color, like
the color my skin should be—
Stuck to my finger and stuck to my memory.
Just don’t let anyone catch me
Love you at your worst.
Oh shit, maybe I’m crazy too.
The skip-a-generation bullshit is real.
We got tough meat—as hard as is—
Lithium over easy atop my enchiladas
¿Por favor Abuela?
Over easy brain,
Over cooked heart, impenetrable.
I am crazy, but
We got tough meat—as hard as is—
¿Duele? Swallow pills like Portia
Swallowed fire. Your neuro
home is not a home any longer. You
know the medicine is there in your food, your brain.
I stopped taking my happy pills and
I’ve been searching for the roundness
in light, caramel dermises on the streets.
We got tough meat. Always soft.
Within the piece, I am questioning my identity as a Hispanic female, but also, I am questioning my future mental stability as the grandchild of a woman who suffers from a severe case of bipolar disorder. So, not only do I struggle with a divide in my racial background, but also, I struggle with the fear of my genetic mental state. The personal tear I experience when dealing with such issues is flavorful for my writing.