Showing 201 - 210 of 584 annotations tagged with the keyword "Individuality"

Breath, Eyes, Memory

Danticat, Edwidge

Last Updated: Oct-07-2007
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Sophie, who has lived with her aunt in Haiti for the 12 years since her birth is being sent to live with her mother in New York. She leaves her aunt and grandmother amid a riot at the airport, and arrives in New York to meet her mother and her mother's long-term lover. Her mother has frequent nightmares, related, as it turns out, to the rape that eventuated in the birth of Sophie. Sophie's mother insists that the only road out of poverty is to study hard; she wants Sophie to become a doctor, and jealously oversees her work and protects her virginity, frequently testing her to make sure she has not been sexually active.

Eventually Sophie elopes with a kind musician, Joseph, but finds herself unable to enjoy sex. She returns to Haiti with their baby while he is on tour, and finds refuge among the women who raised her, though they themselves suffer various effects of poverty, alcohol, and violence. Sophie's mother flies to Haiti to be reconciled with her and takes her back to New York where the two women and their partners briefly share peace and kindness. But when Sophie's mother finds she is pregnant, she begins to have the nightmares about rape again, and kills herself. Sophie and the mother's lover fly to Haiti for the burial. Sophie runs away from the gravesite into the fields where her mother was raped, and attacks the cane stalks in fury, frustration, and a final cathartic gesture of self-liberation from a painful past.

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Second Language

Wineberg, Ronna

Last Updated: Sep-25-2007
Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

Summary: All thirteen short stories in this collection draw readers into the quietly compelling lives of disparate and very ordinary characters who function and suffer in unsettling ways. We are like them and not like them, but their circumstances, while sometimes disturbing, are familiar--and strangely magnetic. The opening lines of "The Lapse" illustrate this power of attraction:

I married Joanne during a lapse. A religious lapse. I don't display my beliefs like a gold medallion, though, as many whom I know do. I prefer to observe in private. After all, any intimate relationship belongs only to the entities or people involved. (p. 35)

Who can bypass an invitation to enter into announced intimacies, however private, that must be revealed in a matter of pages. What lapse and who is Joanne?!

"Bad News," centers around Sheila Powers, a psychologist, whose disruptive marital break-up is compounded by her mother's recent diagnosis of cancer and a subsequent flow of memories about her mother, her father, and herself. She is "between worlds...between life zones." (p. 113) Aspects of the future, at least her mother's, may be somewhat predictable, but the complex depths of the past mix with the present to generate sticky threads that belong to the story and to the readers as well who will recognize bits and pieces of their own family lives.

In a fourteen page story with a decidedly off-putting title, "The Encyclopedia," Wineberg zeroes in on Doris who, after a dissolved relationship, decides to sell the thirty volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica-"the macro-edition, the micro-edition and the year books" purchased by the former couple. Not about remote bits of history or dinosaurs, we discover, but a story about separation, a series of lovers, benign conversation with a fellow worker who claims to be similarly tired of men, a possible buyer for the unwanted encyclopedia, a relationship with the married buyer, an end to the relationship, and a decision to keep the books after all. Her life, we might decide, is encyclopedic, a litany of minutiae that does, indeed, provide information about conditions of existence.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

The exquisite young artist, Angélique (Tautou) sends a rose to her lover, the cardiologist Loic Le Garrec (Le Bihan). She is planning a future with him; the only problem is that he is married. But he has promised to leave his wife. Angélique is little troubled that the couple are expecting a baby and when the pregnancy is lost following an accident, she believes the day will be soon.

Her medical student friend, David, worries that she is being used and is appalled by the accumulation of disappointments and slights that Angélique must endure. She falls apart, neglects herself and the home and exotic plants that she has been watching for friends, but when she hears that Loic has been accused of assault by a female patient, she is utterly disbelieving. The patient is found dead and the doctor falls under suspicion.

Rapid rewind, and the movie begins again with the rose, and by repeating a handful of earlier scenes, retells the same events from the perspective of the doctor. He has no idea who is the sender of the rose, and as the flowers, notes, and gifts accumulate he grows more distracted, even angry, and his wife is suspicious.

It emerges that Angélique and Loic have barely ever spoken to each other and that she actually volunteered for house-sitting next door, in order to be close to him. The accident that caused the miscarriage was Angélique’s attempt to kill his wife by running her down with a motor scooter. The patient who charged the doctor with assault was wrongly mistaken by him for the secret admirer; he struck her out of anger and fear. She presses charges against him and pursues him through the courts until she is murdered by Angélique.

But the doctor knows none of that. When Angélique attempts suicide with gas, he saves her life and she is all the more smitten. Gradually the doctor realizes her real identity and the police link her to the murder. She is sent to a psychiatric hospital.

Years pass. Loic and his wife have two beautiful children. Angélique is finally discharged with reassurance that she will be well as long as she takes her medicine. In the final scene, the caretaker moves a large cupboard to find all the pills that she had been prescribed over four years pasted to the wall in a larger-than-life portrait of Loic.

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The Village Watchman

Williams, Terry Tempest

Last Updated: Aug-14-2007

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This is a short piece, a scant twelve pages, in which Williams remembers Alan, an uncle who had mental deficits. During his breech birth, Alan’s brain was starved of oxygen. In the dominant American culture, Alan is called “retarded, handicapped, mentally disabled or challenged.” Williams concludes, “We see them for who they are not, rather than for who they are.” (p. 29) The title of the work refers to an Alaskan totem pole figure whose expression reminds her of Alan. In Tlingit culture, there’s a story of a kidnapped boy who lived with the Salmon People. When he returned twenty years later, he was seen as a holy man, not an “abnormal.”

To the young Terry Tempest, Alan demonstrated enthusiasm and spontaneity, for example bowling with reckless glee, regardless of where the ball went. When she asked him how he was feeling, he said, “very happy and very sad,” explaining that “both require each other’s company.” (p. 31) She liked his direct answers, those of a person we sometimes call a wise fool. Later, he lived in a “training school,” a joyless, ugly, and smelly place where abnormal children in Utah were sent and warehoused. Suffering from epilepsy, he wore a football helmet to protect him from sudden falls.

At age 22, Alan made the choice to be baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Williams describes the ceremony and how the family supported him through it (including yet another violent epileptic episode). When Alan died at age 28, Williams was 18. Looking at the totem pole, she remembers Alan, seeing him for who he truly was.

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Becoming Chloe

Hyde, Catherine

Last Updated: Aug-10-2007
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Jordy, 17, gay, abused by his parents, has taken refuge in a New York basement from where, one night, he witnesses the brutal gang rape of a young 18-year-old. After his shouted threats scare off the attackers, the girl slips through the window into what turn out to be shared quarters. The two begin to take care of each other; she insists on his getting treatment for head wounds at a public clinic (where care is distiinctly substandard) and he becomes guardian to this young woman whose history of abuse has left her in a curious state of social alienation and innocence about what is normal. The story becomes a kind of vision quest when, faced with "Chloe's" (a name she gives herself by way of starting over) inclination to put herself in harm's way, and to flirt with suicide, Jordy decides to prove to her that the world is more beautiful than it is threatening and ugly.

They acquire an old truck and embark on a cross-country journey that becomes a picaresque series of encounters, most of them with helpful, kind people, one notably disastrous, with three young men who threaten Chloe and land Jordy in the hospital after a fight. The trip terminates in Big Sur on the California coast where Chloe's dream of riding horses on the beach is fulfilled with most of Jordy's remaining cash. The pilgrimage leaves them with a sense of hope which each of them communicates to the New York therapist who briefly helped them, in letters that end the book.

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Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

Author Diedrich investigates ("treats") mid-late 20th century memoirs about illness (illness narratives) from an interdisciplinary perspective drawing on the disciplines of literature, social sciences, and philosophy. Her analysis uses the theoretical frameworks of poststructuralism, phenomenology, and psychoanalysis to consider "what sort of subject is formed in the practice of writing . . . illness narratives," the kind of knowledges articulated by such writing, whether and how such writing can transform "expert medical knowledges," how language operates in these memoirs, and "what sort of ethics emerges out of such scenes of loss and the attempts to capture them in writing" (viii).

The book is divided into Introduction, five chapters on specific memoirs, and Conclusion. Chapter 1, "Patients and Biopower: Disciplined Bodies, Regularized Populations, and Subjugated Knowledges," draws on Foucault's theory of power to discuss two mid-20th-century memoirs of institutionalization for tuberculosis. Betty McDonald's the Plague and I is compared with Madonna Swan: A Lakota Woman's Story. Dividing practices and regularization are shown to serve different functions in these two incarcerations, figurative in the case of Betty McDonald, and literal in the case of Madonna Swan.

Chapter 2, "Politicizing Patienthood: Ideas, Experience and Affect," draws on Foucault's approach to the subject and on his discussion of "practices of the self" in contrasting Audre Lorde's The Cancer Journals with Susan Sontag's Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors (see annotations). Diedrich also brings into her analysis Eve Sedgwick's theory of queer performativity and Sedgwick's own illness narrative, White Glasses. Diedrich views all of these as counter narratives to the clinical medical narrative of illness but she shows how they differ in stance.

Chapter 3, "Stories For and against the Self: Breast Cancer Narratives from the United States and Britain" looks at "the arts of being ill" as they are represented in two cultures, two "conceptions of the self in these countries at a particular historical moment" (61). The narratives discussed are Sandra Butler and Barbara Rosenblum's narrative, Cancer in Two Voices and Ruth Picardie's Before I Say Goodbye (see annotations). Diedrich associates Cancer in Two Voices with an American notion of self-improvement and Before I Say Goodbye with a British "emphasis on the cultivation of an ironic self" (55). The author works in this chapter with Freud's idea of the uncanny, Benedict Anderson's concept of "imagined political communities" and Elaine Scarry's discussion of pain, language, and the unmaking of the self.

Chapter 4, "Becoming-Patient: Negotiating Healing, Desire, and Belonging in Doctors' Narratives," treats Oliver Sacks's illness narrative, A Leg to Stand On, Abraham Verghese's autobiographical My Own Country: A Doctor's Story of a Town and Its People in the Age of AIDS, and Rafael Campo's book of essays, The Poetry of Healing (see annotations). Here Diedrich considers "the possibility that doctors, especially AIDS doctors, might become patients through desiring-and writing-productions" (83) and she utilizes the rhizome model of Deleuze and Guattari to make her case. She discusses how Verghese and Campo are each both cultural insiders and outsiders and how they each "bring the body into language through their writing" (88).

Chapter 5, "Between Two Deaths: Practices of Witnessing," focuses primarily on Paul Monette's writing about the loss of his partner to AIDS, and on John Oliver Bayley's books about the loss of his wife, Iris Murdoch, to Alzheimer's, and her ultimate death (see annotations in this database). In this chapter Diedrich invokes Lacan's concept of the real and his formulation of "the ethical possibility of being between two deaths" (117). She draws also on trauma theory and the work of Kelly Oliver, a contemporary feminist philosopher who has written on witnessing.

Finally, in her "Conclusion: Toward an Ethics of Failure," Diedrich returns to Elaine Scarry's "phenomenological discussion of the experience of pain" and brings in Jean-François Lyotard's concept of incommensurability and his suggestion between the two poles of what is seemingly incommensurable one might search, in Diedrich's words, for "new rules for forming and linking phrases between . . . subject positions" (150). In that context she analyzes physician Atul Gawande's discussion of medical uncertainty and error in his book, Complications (see annotation) and philosopher Gillian Rose's book, Love' s Work. Diedrich concludes that the basic incommensurability between doctor and patient can be a starting point for a new ethics, an ethics of failure and risk "because by taking such risks [of failure, of relations], we open up the possibility of new routes, new treatments: in and between art, medicine, philosophy, and politics" (166).

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The Foreshadowing

Sedgwick, Marcus

Last Updated: Jun-07-2007
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

It is 1915. Sasha, only daughter of a renowned English doctor, longs to be a nurse, as her brother, Thomas, longs to be a doctor. Their father is opposed to both objectives: he thinks Thomas should sign up to "do his bit" in the war effort like his older brother, Edgar, rather than go to medical school, and he doesn't think Sasha could handle the gore of wartime medicine. He is also concerned because on a few occasions, Sasha has let slip that she has accurate premonitions of people's deaths. The first of these came when she was five. She has learned since then not to speak of this "gift" to anyone in her family, for fear of losing credibility, but keeps with her a book of Greek myths, in which the story of Cassandra helps her to validate her sense of her own gift/curse.

Sasha does persuade her father to let her try her hand in the hospital as a VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachments)--a minimally trained caregiver--but gets herself thrown out when it is found out that she has been commuincating with a shellshocked patient and also that she foresees patients' deaths. The people around her are afraid of her powers. So she runs away to the front, looking for her brother, Thomas, who keeps appearing in a dream with a bullet whizzing toward him.

An eccentric young soldier who works as a courier appears to have a gift similar to her own. He goes AWOL with her to the place near the Somme where her brother's unit is fighting. When she finally locates Thomas, he is determined to return to the fighting, but, as she understands what mass slaughter is afoot, she shoots him herself to wound him, so he can't return. This surprise ending works to cap the various questions the book raises about how desperate times call for desperate measures.

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Kira Kira

Kadohata, Cynthia

Last Updated: Jun-07-2007
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Katie Takeshima, the narrator of this coming-of-age novel, moved with her immigrant family from Iowa to Georgia when she was in kindergarten. As her parents work long hours in a poultry processing plant with other exploited non-union immigrant workers, she and her older sister Lynn, and her little brother, Sammy, enjoy a loving and fairly free childhood. Lynn is Katie's primary teacher. Among her most important lessons is to see everything around her as "kira kira"--a Japanese word meaning something like "glittering"--moving and alive. When Lynn sickens and then dies of lymphoma, Katie has to do some fast growing up, and in her mourning develops a sharper sense of the glittering, mysterious presence of spirit and life in a world full of prejudice, poverty, and loss.

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Angel's Choice

Baratz-Logsted, Lauren

Last Updated: May-30-2007
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

In her senior year of high school, having uncharacteristically drunk too much at a party, Angel Hansen consents to be taken home by a boy she normally doesn’t care much about, and ends up having sex with him. Two months later, with the help of her best friend, Karin, she takes a pregnancy test, finds it is positive, and visits an abortion clinic. Karin, who has had an abortion, is ready to support her in complete secrecy. Tim, the father, is horrified, but consents to pay for the procedure. At the last minute, however, and without being able to explain her reasoning to either of them, Angel decides not to go through with the abortion.

In the ensuing months, she endures her parents’ disappointment, her friends’ distancing, and the loss of a number of hopes, including the Yale education she was expecting. In the course of those months, however, she also finds new levels of relationship evolving with parents, grandparents, and the few friends who decide to engage with her on new terms, including Danny Stanton, a friend she’d grown up with, and had recently come to love in new (but, she thought, hopeless) ways. To her great surprise, Danny asks to accompany her to Lamaze classes, and, after taking her to the prom in her ninth month, sees her through the baby’s birth. The story, told in the first person in the form of journal entries, chronicles a young woman’s process of maturing through the consequences of a mistake into acceptance of responsibility for choices, even one she can’t fully account for.

One interesting scene records a conversation between Angel and Karin where Karin admits that her weeks-long estrangement comes from a feeling that Angel’s choice to keep the baby implies a judgment of her for terminating her own earlier pregnancy. Angel makes it clear that she respects their differences, fosters no judgment, and can’t even fully articulate why she felt strongly about needing to make a different choice, but feels clear and sure about her own.

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Because She's My Friend

Sirof, Harriet

Last Updated: May-29-2007
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Serving as a summer hospital volunteer, fifteen-year-old Teri d'Angelo meets Valerie Ross, a girl her age who has damaged a nerve in a fall, and lost the use of one leg. Valerie's anguish over her partial paralysis takes the form of anger; she manages to keep most of those who try to help her at a distance. But Teri finds her intriguing, and Valerie's condition evokes a kind of sympathy and interest in her that overcomes even the patient's most strenuous rebuffs. Gradually, and with much caution on Valerie's part, they become friends. Valerie finds herself welcomed into Teri's large, warm Italian-American family. Teri's compassion for Valerie grows as she recognizes her loneliness; Valerie's parents are divorced, her father rarely visits, and her mother keeps up a hectic work schedule.
      
Teri also benefits in ways she didn't expect from the friendship; Valerie's bravery, even when masked with anger, inspires her to speak up more clearly on her own behalf, to ask for what she needs, and even to circulate a petition at school when she feels she has been discriminated against in the judging of a science project.
     
When Valerie is taken to a "sanitarium"-a mental health facility-for depression and apparently psychosomatic involvement of her good leg in the paralysis, Teri visits her patiently, despite Valerie's apparent lack of interest. But finally, when she watches Valerie rejecting the grandmother who traveled from England to see her, she acts in uncharacteristic anger, and in the shock of the moment, Valerie stands up, proving to herself and others that her good leg does, infact, function.  It is a turning point in her healing.

In an interesting twist, the book ends with the girls drifting apart.  They are, indeed, very different. Valerie is planning to attend City College in engineering. Valerie is going to live with her grandmother in England and attend Oxford University, hoping later to become a writer. In a final phone call, two years after Valerie's accident, the girls part with some affection and gratitude on both sides, but also with an acceptance of the fact that their friendship may have been for a season. They gave each other important gifts, and now life is taking them in very different directions. 

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