Posts by Jazmine Joyner

This is my blog full of my thoughts and work. I want this to be a creative writing outlet for me. Those of you that stumble on this, I hope you like it. Avatar by @Little_Corvus

Expectations Vs. Reality (An Essay from 2015)

 

This is a new series that I am doing where I find old essays I wrote for college, and I am republishing them here. Some of the compositions are rough, some of them are random, but I thought this would be a fun place to publish some edited versions of these old English papers. I hope you enjoy them!

Expectations vs. Reality

The Cinematic vixen ( Marilyn Monroe) and The Hottentot Venus (Saarrtjie Baartman), both women, were sexualized and fetishized before they could even open their mouths. Saarrtjie Baartman is a woman molded and made into a spectacle because of her black skin, her body on display for the masses. Marilyn Monroe is a woman made by the men of Hollywood studio system, they changed her name (Norma Jean) her “look” (i.e., clothing, hair color) and made her into every man’s fantasy. Poets, Jackie Kay and Sharon Olds poems play with society’s expectation of the sexualized female’s physical body and image; and how society reacts to the reality of these women’s humanity.

In Jackie Kay’s poem, Hottentot Venus the men’s sexualization of her body is menacing, “You can see the moulds of my genitals as the Musee de l’Homme—Paris; the rest of me is here now, Natural History Museum, my brains, my wooly hair, my skeleton.” (Kay 2.1490) The men take pieces of her, break her apart and ship her to different corners of the world; Her identity solely based on how they want to perceive her. “Not so long ago people paid handsomely to see my rump, my apron, my non-European genitals. Two Schillings.”(Kay 2.1490) Kay is showing how this woman is seen only as this exhibit, a thing, a body, that they own and pay for so they can poke and prod. Kay depicts that she is more than that, that she wants more “I said the English words I’d heard them say so often. Money. Freedom. My Boer keeper smiled.” (Kay 2.1490) Its heartbreaking this poem, she wants out, but her lack of mastery over the language of her oppressor is taken advantage of like she and her and her body are held captive. The expectations of a sexualized female’s body in Sharon Olds poem The Death of Marilyn Monroe are based on what’s not said. She was no longer a seen as a normal woman at the height of her fame but became a sex icon. What Olds does in her poem is to take all those preconceived notions and images the reader has seen of Monroe, the idolized figure, and turns them on their heads. The men in the poem represent society’s view “The ambulance men touched her cold body, lifted it, heavy as iron,”(Olds 2.1279) When the men touch her, and the reality of the situation hits them, Olds portrays Monroe’s body as the opposite of sexy. It’s dead, heavy, and burdensome. One of the ambulance men moves her hair out of the way; “Moved a caught strand of hair, as if it mattered,” (Olds 2.1279). He is still clinging to the image of her in his head like if he moves that hair back in place, she will become that icon again, that fantasy. The authors of these poems show that the expectations the men held do not quite fit with the reality that they are faced with.

The image vs. reality. What society puts out for the world to see despite what is there, is something both authors, Kay and Olds decide to play with within their poems. “Let them view the buttocks of the Hottentot Venus. My heart inside my cage pounded like a single drum.” (Kay 2.1491) Kay uses the dichotomy of the Hottentot Venus’ image and the reality of the woman, Baartman behind it, who is scared and nervous of the hoards of men waiting to get a piece of her. All while, still reminding the readers of why the men are there, to exoticize her blackness, Kay pushes this imagery by saying her heart ‘pounded like a single drum.’ In Olds poem, the image of Marilyn Monroe is like a ghost that haunts the text. “These men were never the same.” (Olds 2.1279) The men within the poem are dealing with the way they viewed her before and the reality of what she really was. The old adage “Never meet your heroes” always comes to mind, they are disillusioned by her death disturbed even that she, the woman of every man’s dreams, can also die, and that she wasn’t perfect. That in fact, she was an ordinary woman.

Expectations are funny, they have a way of always leading to disappointment, whether it be disappointment in the crushing truth of said expectation as it was in Olds poem The Death of Marilyn Monroe or the disappointment of when your expectations become a reality like in Jackie Kay’s Hottentot Venus. In Olds poem, they’re broken by the idea that she was in fact human. Just a normal flawed woman. “Their lives took a turn—one had nightmares, strange pains, impotence, depression.” (Olds 2.1279) Seeing her dead body was something that physically wrecked them. The change in so radically different from what they envisioned, rocks them to their very core to the point where they are physically affected. Olds humanizes her by showing her in this vulnerable state. Her previous iconography no longer something important, death makes her like every woman these men know. “One found himself standing at night in the doorway, to a room of sleep, listening to a woman breathing, just an ordinary woman—breathing.” (Olds 2.1279) The sudden awareness of the humanity in women, the fact that Olds is showing an awakening to these men’s psyche’s that maybe there was more to Marilyn than sex. In Hottentot Venus, that realization never comes for the men depicted. They reject any notion that she is any more than what they need her for. “Some things I will never forget no matter how I am divided up: the look on the white lady’s face when she poked her parasol into my privates.” (Kay 2.1490) There is no hesitation to violate her, the white lady sees no problem with her actions whatsoever, the poem goes on; “Her gloved hands. Her small stone eyes. Her English squeal of surprise at my size.”(Kay 2.1490) She lets out a “squeal”, the image of the word “squeal” provokes the thought of delight and astonishment, the White lady takes pleasure in what she is doing. Baartman isn’t ever seen as a woman in this poem. Or even as a human being by the people that come to view her. She is treated worse than an animal, her humanity rejected and treated as if it never existed. Kay, the author, lets the audience see the real her she gives Baartman a voice in which we can see her as she really is. “I was wearing a thin skin coloured dress. Hottentot Venus. Don’t miss the Hottentot. Now, what name have I got? Sarah Bateman. Like a English woman. A great actress.” (Kay 2.1491)

In both poems Hottentot Venus by Jackie Kay and The Death of Marilyn Monroe by Sharon Olds the authors play with society’s expectation of the sexualized female’s physical body, and image; and the reaction of society to these women’s real humanity. In the case of Olds, she takes the death of a sex icon and ignites life to her humanity within the men that handle her remains. While Kay shows the humanity of Baartman through the inhumane things that she is put through. Both women depicted in these poems are fetishized and are seen as nothing more than what their bodies have to offer. But the authors gave them back their humanity with their words.

Vampires and Women: Octavia Butler and the Literary Canon (An Essay from 2015)

This is a new series that I am doing where I find old essays I wrote for college, and I am republishing them here. Some of the compositions are rough, some of them are random, but I thought this would be a fun place to publish some edited versions of these old English papers. I hope you enjoy them!

 

Vampires and Women

Octavia Butler’s novel Fledgling, written in 2005 was a force to be reckoned with. Butler, who is an acclaimed Black female writer in the science fiction and fantasy genre, wrote the first of what would have been a trilogy though she had died in 2006 before she could finish the last two novels. Fledgling is about a Black female vampire named Shori who wakes up alone in the woods, with no memory of who she is or what she is. Throughout this book, she is tasked with rediscovering her roots and making connections with forgotten family members along the way. Butler’s novel Fledgling and the short story Bloodchild should be included the canon of Women’s Literature because it deals with the complex issues of love, sexuality, and friendship within the literary veil of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

Octavia Butler is a Hugo, and Nebula Award-winning author. She became one of the first African-American women to gain fame within the genre of science fiction. Gilbert and Guber, writers of The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women stated; “According to many feminist and African American scholars, Octavia Butler transformed science fiction conventions by grappling with the racial and ecological problems that today confront all human beings.”(Gilbert, Guber 1307) Not only did she tackle the robust ideas of race and religion, but also her writing deals with the views of love, sexuality, and friendship heavily.

The theme of love is prominent throughout this book. In many of Butler’s works, her depiction of love tends to be on the unconventional side. Renee/Shori’s (the protagonist in the novel Fledgling) relationship with Wright is the perfect example of the theme. Wright finds her walking on the side of the road, and immediately Shori/Renee feels drawn to him.

“I surprised myself completely by instantly wanting to go home with him. I went around to the passenger side of his car and opened the door.”(Butler 8) This moment isn’t quite loving yet but an infatuation a longing. Shori/Renee is a vampire, she is a woman alone, small, and has lost all of her memory. But in her the initial contact with Wright she holds power. Shori/Renee has agency of herself and knows that she has the power to control the situation. She sees Wright and her infatuation is determined and based on her extreme hunger. But after she feeds, she feels a deeper connection; “He tasted wonderful, and he fed me without trying to escape or to hurt me. I licked the bite until it stopped bleeding. I wished I could make it heal, wished I could repay him by healing him.”(Butler 12) Similarly in Octavia Butler’s short story Bloodchild while unconventional, love plays a major role in that text. The story that takes place in a colony on another planet. We follow a family who is dealing with the struggles of cohabitation with another alien race called the Tlic. Gan, a boy chosen to be a carrier of T’Gatoi’s young. “‘Yes.’ I leaned my forehead against her. She was cool velvet, deceptively soft. ‘And to keep you for myself,’ I said. It was so. I didn’t understand it, but it was so. She made a hum or contentment.”( Butler 2.1320) In both the short story and the novel, there are examples of complex relationships. Relationships that aren’t easily defined, Butler, use the genre of science fiction and Fantasy to manufacture relationships that on the surface seem strange and “inhuman” but show a complexity of love that transcends into something relatable to the reader.

In Fledging the theme of sexuality oozes through. Nothing goes hand and hand with vampires more than sexuality. In the novel, Shori/Renee has to have what they call symbiotes to survive. Symbionts are what vampire’s call the humans that they choose to be in their, family and they feed on them to survive. They need around three or four to make sure they have a healthy rotation (pun intended), to not bring any harm to their humans. The act of taking blood is depicted as a very sexual experience. When Shori/Renee first meets Wright (her first symbiont), they immediately participate in the ritual. “A moment later, I bit hard into the side of his neck. He convulsed, and I held on to him. He writhed under me, not struggling but holding me as I took more of his blood. I took enough blood to satisfy me…He sighed and held me, leaning back in his seat and letting me lean against him.”(Butler 12) The act of taking blood can be a metaphor for women being able to partake in sexual fulfillment and not be ashamed. She says she is “satisfied,” Butler uses that word to bring emphasis to her fulfillment.

The relationship between Shori/Renee and her symbionts is one she gives full agency to them. In the case of Celia and Brook (two of her new symbionts) who both were apart of Shori/Renee’s father’s, and brother’s family, who were both murdered. Because the bond between a Symbiont and their Ina (Vampire) is for life, (they are physically bound to one another) Shori/Renee gives them a choice on whether to join them or not. “‘If you know any other Ina, and you would prefer to got to them, you should do it now, while you can,’”(Butler 108)

Butler gives all her female characters agency in their relationships. She has Shori/Renee present the offer, instead of having her bite the two girls without their consent. The relationship between the Symbionts and their Ina (vampire) isn’t just one based on sexuality alone. Octavia is sure to show the development of trust and friendship throughout the novel, depicting a loving relationship between all members of Shori/Renee’s surrogate family. That isn’t often seen in literature between male and female characters. Shori/Renee’s family is one made up of Wright (male), Celia(Female), Brook (female), and Joel (male). Butler uses this odd family dynamic to show the difficulties of human relationships and especially the challenge of friendship between genders. “I glanced at Brook, feeling almost angry with her. ‘Ask me questions when you want to know things. Tell me whatever you believe I should know. Complain whenever you want to complain. But don’t talk to other people when you mean your words for me, and speak the truth.’ She shrugged. ‘All right.’”(Butler 122) Butler shows the hard part of relationships, especially new ones. They doubt Shori’s strength and ability to protect them. In this, she lays out the rules for Brook and doesn’t shy away from saying the hard stuff. But after this rough patch, Butler shows the friendship and trust beginning to grow. “ ‘ I didn’t ask what you knew. I asked whether you believe that I or my people murdered my families?’ He glanced back at his fathers and brothers. ‘I don’t. I don’t even believe you could have.’

‘Then stop scaring my symbionts. If you have questions, ask them.’

‘You’re a child,’ one of the older men said. ‘And the two women with you are not your symbionts.’

I looked at him with disgust. He had already heard me answer this. I repeated the answer exactly: ‘They were my father’s and my brother Stefan’s. They’re with me now.’”(Butler 145) Butler uses the line “They are with me now.” Twice in the text, Shori/Renee takes ownership and then claims them as her family, friends, and lovers. At this moment in the story, she truly accepts her matriarchal role in this mismatched family.

In the short story, Bloodchild friendship is depicted as between characters as something strained. In the world she creates, friendship doesn’t thrive due to the circumstances of colonial life. “One of my earliest memories is of my mother stretched alongside T’Gatoi, talking about things I could not understand. Picking me up from the floor and laughing as she sat me on one of T’Gatoi’s segments. She ate her share of eggs then. I wondered when she had stopped, and why.”(Butler 2.1308) This failed friendship, and the burgeoning one in the novel shows how Butler’s writing seeks to introduce readers to the idea that there isn’t just one side to personal relationships. But several levels that can’t be defined by pure emotions. Both Fledgling and BloodChild show this dynamic of love and family in its genuinely complex form.

Octavia Butler’s novel Fledgling and short story Bloodchild should be in the Women’s Literary canon, because of what the texts add to the literary canon in regards to the themes of love, sexuality, and friendship. Butler uses science fiction and fantasy to show the complexities of life through a fantastical lens. Her use of unique relationships and her new handling of would be stereotypes; Is what makes her a writer that should not only be included in the canon of this survey class but also in the broader canon of Literature.

Works Cited

Butler, Octavia. “Bloodchild.” The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women – The Traditions in English: Early Twentieth Century Through Contemporary. Ed. Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar. Vol. 2. New York: W.W. Norton, 2007. 1307-320. Print.

Butler, Octavia E. Fledgling. New York: Seven Stories, 2005. Print.

M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar. Vol. 2. New York: W.W. Norton, 2007. 57-65. Print.

Ramblings of a ‘Rioded’ Mind

Avatar by @little_Corvus

Writing is so incredibly hard. Most days I don’t feel like I can do it well at all. It used to be something that I could do without much effort or thought. I could just string together a few sentences, and it would sound brilliant.  Or at least I thought it was brilliant. Now that I think about it though it was all probably crap. Oh! That right there, that self-deprecating thing I just did, that is a significant thing about writing that I hate. I end up thinking everything I write is total crap. Shit, I think this is crap. But it is just a blog post, so I shouldn’t be so hard on myself.

These last two weeks have been my hardest writing weeks this year. I got so behind on assignments, the weather just wouldn’t make up its damn mind, so my body decided to be an asshole and stop functioning. Then it seemed that everyone died in one week and I had to deal with all of that and my obligations. We finally get to this week, and everything seemed peachy, then I got strep throat, so I ended up in the ER for 9 hours drugged out of my minded and pumped up on steroids that I am still feeling now.  My chronically ill life tends to catch up with my professional life but never this catastrophically.  I think it is because I have never been this busy before.  I always wondered how do you become a working freelance writer if you are constantly sick? I don’t know many people who pull it off.

I worry I am one of those people who can’t quite keep up with the riggers that come along with this job. The deadlines, interviews, events, and coming up with a unique enough pitch that someone will want to publish. There is no other job that I can possibly do other than that of a writer. It’s really all I am good at and all that I am physically able to do, even though lately that seems to be contrary to the facts.

I think working with editors and fighting to get paid is something that takes the fun out of work at times. I should have to chase people down to pay me what I am owed and yet that is also apart of this freelance gig cause sometimes people will opt out of sending you the cash you were promised.

But instead of me complaining about how bogus freelancing can be I will talk about my absences from my own blog. I spend a ton of time writing for other magazines and websites that I have neglected my own space. That and I decided once I recovered from the two spine surgeries that I had, I would jump back into writing with such intensity that I haven’t had time until now to look at my site. But I am back, and I will try and write more here, and be more proactive on all my platforms.

I was thinking of using this space to start reviewing some music and doing some fun side work that I don’t get to do for the sites that I have been writing for. But that all depends if I can work out my schedule in a way that gives me time to rest and time to work in equal amounts. Cause with ME/CFS and Fibro resting is honestly the only thing that keeps my brain-fog at bay.  But I am sure none of you want to hear about that nonsense. I talk about it at length in so many articles and blog post that I feel like my disabilities are becoming something that completely defines me, and that isn’t what I want. They are a significant part of my life but not the controlling factor of everything.

Anyways what I wanted to talk about was how hard a time I have been having with writing and the disillusionment I have been feeling about the industry, but it all just meandered everywhere and ended nowhere. So I think that’s all the writing I can do tonight. Talk to you guys soon.

 

 

Me the night before my second spine surgery.

Shit Happens…

So I have had two spine surgeries within three months and I have been bed ridden six months out of this year I think.  I had been growing my hair out and I was even able to install faux locs, which looked so good. But the stress and the incredible, agonizing pain I was in made my Fibro flare up, which flared up the subsequent tactile allodynia, and made having hair hurt again. I couldn’t be in that much pain that I couldn’t control and then have the head pain which I could control. So I shaved my head again. So I’m back to being bald and lovely.

The Black Bibliophile Podcast Logo.

The Black Bibliophile Podcast Logo.

The cabin fever is intense at times. I haven’t been able to sit up for more than 3 minutes for six months. I lack the money to purchase a proper chair. I have been reading and trying to keep up with The Black Bibliophile Podcast. Which can be daunting at times because of all the formatting and research. My last two episodes have been me just talking about books and throwing my segments to the wind. I think this next episode I’ll try to get back to formatting as usual. I wanted to get back to writing also. I haven’t written a creative story in so long.

I have just been writing articles and think pieces. Which is fun but I want to get back to the science fiction stories I was so good at writing. Or at least thought I was good at. I finally finished my first zine it’s called The Cosmic Egg. It’s got all the poetry, short stories, and personal essays I’ve written in the past five years all in one 32 page booklet. I wanted to put it all together so I can move on from those stories and start new ones. It marks the end of one life and me starting another.

The Cosmic Egg Zine.

The Cosmic Egg Zine.

Financially we have hit a wall. The store is struggling because of the construction next door. This new building not only blocks the view of our apartment but it completely obscures the view of our shop from the street. So we have less foot traffic in the store. We wanted to move the location of the store but all our efforts were thwarted. We are young and so is our business. Many retail store front owners do not want to lease us their space.

So we might have to close for a month or so to find a new location for the store and to move into a new place ourselves.  It’s a lot.  All I can do is lay here and try to heal. I’m three weeks out of surgery. I can walk to the bathroom, walk up one flight of stairs (Slowly) and I can brush my teeth.  So it might be awhile until I can actually manage to help my business and household.

The world doesn’t stop. I can’t even attempt to describe my feelings on 45 and the chaos he is inciting. I’m just tired.

So look out for more zines and short stories. I’m going to try and keep the blog posts coming and keep anyone who cares updated on my life.

I Probably Need To Want Something Else…

I’m in pain but I am afraid to text the one friend who gets it cause I always text her about it. The emotional labor I constantly ask for has been building as my pain gets worst. So I don’t text her.

I want to ask my partner to make me something to eat cause it hurts to move but I know he has to watch the store, and he works full time. I don’t want to burden him more with my illness.

I want to post on twitter that this is the worst pain I’ve ever been in and that I don’t think I can take it. But I don’t want to be that girl that constantly whines on the internet about her chronic illness.

It’s not a good look.

I spend 21 hours a day alone in my room. I don’t see anyone, or talk to anyone. It could go like this for weeks, and sometimes it does.

The only human interaction I get is right before my partner and I go to bed.  We talk a little and then he has to sleep cause he has work in the morning.

I spend most of my day on my phone looking for a distraction from the pain. Or reading a book if the screen is too bright that day.

No one told me being sick was so lonely.  No one brought up that I would have to watch other people live their lives from a cell phone screen.

They never talk about it.

I feel like as the years go by and the more disabled and cut off from the world I become I just start to feel helpless.

I haven’t had sex in over a month. My partner is too tired. He’s gotten off in that time tho. even if I am in pain I still try to keep him “satisfied”. But I have to go on wanting. The only time I’m not in pain or aware of the shittiness that is my body is when I am having sex. Something to do with chemicals and adrenaline and science. For how ever long it lasts I get relief, and to feel like I am wanted.

Why is it ok for me to go on wanting?

I wish he could help me cope with my illness. I want there to be more hours in a day so we could spend time together.

I guess I want a lot of things. I want the pain to stop, I want my short term memory/memory to come back, I want to be able to walk without pain, I want to run my business, I want to not be jealous of all the people on my social media feeds. I want my partner to help take care of me more, and share the burden of my illness. I want to be more independent, I wish my surgery was successful.

I want to be able to say all these things and not feel like a burden.

There’s so much more I want to say, but to talk about my illness and symptoms would be to talk forever. There is literally no end to how each disease affects each individual part of my body.

I am an amalgamation of wants and wishes can’t be properly voiced.

Where Have I Been?

I am exhausted, overweight, and in so much pain I can’t see straight (that last part might be because of my rising blood pressure tho).

I haven’t written anything on this blog in months. This was supposed to be the place where I would air my brain out and let it roam free with fanciful tales, and fun like thoughts about my daily, whatever.  Instead, it has been dead for awhile now, for that I apologize. I have yet to master the art of time management, and with my short term memory loss, it’s almost impossible to do anything unless I write it down.

I need to buy a planner. If I can remember too.

I started two new podcasts. One where I review books called The Black Bibliophile and another where I just talk about random stuff called Babbling Into The Void. I’ll leave links on the site. Both are really fun to do I just need to come up with a better schedule cause this week I fucked up and forgot to record.

I really should go get that damn planner.

So I am writing now. In about a week I’ll be going to San Diego Comic-Con and will be participating in two panels. One, I co-created and the other I was invited to a part of. It’s pretty exciting because just a year ago I was attending this con as a fan and now I am going as a professional. Not only will I be on panels but I will be covering SDCC for Women Write About Comics too. It’s going to be really hectic. Not to mention making sure the shop is set up before we go. But I am also very excited.

Speaking of the shop, Visionary Comics is doing well. We are business-ing as usual and trying to plan more events. It’s hard when it’s just the two of us. Nestor has the full-time job and I am chronically Ill so most of the time I feel like crap. So we are pushing through to try and make the shop more successful. We have some things coming up we are really excited about. They are building this retail store front right in front of our business. So that sucks, we wanted to move but Realtors in Riverside are difficult. So now with this new towering building looming over us, it’s a constant reminder that we really need to find a new home for the store.

I think I will try and put up a new blog piece to this site once a week. So look out for that. I might even throw something new up here this week just for shits and gigs. Okay, I should go I have spent way too much time as it is on this site when I should really be doing more store stuff.

Later.

Jaz

 

 

 

Tall Grass

The wind calls out from under

That never-ending blue sky.

the

Tall thistles sway back and fourth.

The dry tan of their bodies reflecting the bright sun into our eyes,

I lay underneath the telephone poles and wires, buried out there in the tall weeds.

The electromagnetic waves most likely eating my brain. I dream of far away oceans of static.

buzzing swells, pulsating white black dots.

I see wisps of fluff crawl across the sky. My fuzzy ocean dreams fade, and I dream of Stars.

Far reaches of space, black and starry-eyed I swim through dark matter.

It clings to me like a baby clings to its mother. We dance, we spin, nebulas kiss my cheeks as I twirl by.

Comets light my way.

Mermaid moons and me in the tall grass.

Waiting to be set free.

Let the worms eat me, let the soil have its fill. Let the stars drink me in.

All want me.