216 Chapters
Medium 9780253018571

One More Nation Bound in Freedom

IU Press Journals Indiana University Press ePub

THE TITLE OF this piece is partly lifted from the first stanza of the Nigerian national anthem. The unintended irony in the phrase is a demonstration of Nigeria’s dalliance with contrasting philosophies and a generic, if simplified, explanation for the emergence of anti-LGBT legislation in the country, despite the absence of any public crisis on the issue.

Nigeria has always suffered from an overdose of ironic circumstances: this is evident from its inception as a geopolitical amalgamation of two distinct sociopolitical administrations—now bound in freedom—to the current international perception of Nigerians as a resourceful yet not-quite-trustworthy people. This irony permeates every stratum of Nigerian psychology, creating contrasting influences and generating continuous tension between the energetic developmental resources available to the country and the negative fallouts from its historical—traditional, colonial, and national—biases, finally culminating in a social stasis—an orbital lock, you may say—that has left Nigeria at a sociopolitical maturity level no higher than that which it possessed on October 1, 1960, when it gained its independence.

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Medium 9780253001795

1. Dreaded Non-Identities of Night: Night and Shadows in Chicana/o Cultural Production

DeGuzmán, María Indiana University Press ePub

How do you make the invisible visible? You take it away.

—Lila Rodriguez in A Day Without a Mexican

The Nighttime of a Day without a Mexican

Of the more than fifty million Latina/os currently within the continental borders of the United States, Mexican Americans have had a long borderlands history—defined by military battles and treaties in the name of U.S. national expansion, by laws, and by daily discriminatory practices—of being treated as the other Americans, los otros americanos. They became aliens in their own land with the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that officially concluded the Mexican-American War and in the years subsequent to that treaty, which involved an Anglo landgrab of previously Mexican areas. In 1971, Chicano attorney, writer, and political activist Oscar “Zeta” Acosta pointedly summed up the situation:

The American government took our country away from us in 1848, when the government of Mexico sold us out. They sold not only the land, but they basically sold us as slaves in the sense that our labor and our land was [sic] being expropriated. The governments never gave us a choice about whether to be American citizens. One night we were Mexican and the next day we were American. This historical relationship is the most important part of the present day relationships, but it’s totally ignored or unknown or rejected by the Anglo society. [emphasis mine]1

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IU Press Journals Indiana University Press ePub

for Peter

That sky’s largeness and generosity reminded me of how pitiful I can feel on islands, where one’s ideas about the place amount to so much sentimental or ideological bullshit.

I AM WRITING this some time after standing at the edge of the bay for the first time. The bay’s edge runs parallel to the water, from east to west in a not-at-all-straight line. For students of master prints and drawings, a line occurring in nature is the original mark or beginning, inspiring artists ranging from DaVinci to Picasso and one or two hundred others, to wonder how to approximate that line’s naturalness on the page, in an artificial medium, just as I am trying to use another artificial medium—prose—to describe what I see: the water’s edge, little white pebbles embedded in light brown sand at the lip, sand that turns brown and then browner as baby waves wash up and over a little sandy beach like the one I stood on this evening. There was a moon, not full and not at all poetical; on the surface of the water, a small craft hobbled back and forth on the black bay water, like a legless man rocking back and forth on an expanse of black. I could not find irony in anything I saw. There was a bit of moon in the night sky. It killed me. That sky’s largeness and generosity reminded me of how pitiful I can feel on islands, where one’s ideas about the place amount to so much sentimental or ideological bullshit next to shoeless island dwellers with rust-colored heels tramping through pig shit putting pigs to bed, or other island dwellers sitting, legs spread, on a concrete step leading to a little tin-roofed house, a house with one or two rooms and black people coupling and talking their coupling in a bedroom in that house, maybe under a window crammed with stars. I like it here. I stay on this island on weekends, when I visit a friend who lives here, a friend I love like no other. It’s far north of the island my family came from originally, which is smaller, mean, and turned in on itself, like an evil-smelling root. Looking down at the black wavelets in the black night bay—the patterns were visible to me because of that piece of moon—I could not help but think of lines—lines made in nature, and then lines on a canvas or in a drawing, and how those lines were not really very different from lines of writing brought together to describe sensations such as the love I feel on this island with its bay, and my friend, whom I love like no other.

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Medium 9780253011992

2. From the Pages of Brivnshtelers

Alice Nakhimovsky Indiana University Press ePub

The twin themes of mobility and modernity are ubiquitous in brivnshtelers published at the turn of the twentieth century. Young men and some young women travel to the big city for education or work, encounter its temptations, and suffer from loneliness and homesickness for their friends and family. While the city is presented in both negative and positive terms—it is a threat to the maintenance of Jewish tradition, but also the locus of economic and educational opportunity—the shtetl is not a preferred alternative. Those who have moved away from small towns may have a nostalgic memory or two, but they are quick to point out the lack of vitality and opportunity that drove them to leave home.

An early manifestation of modern thinking appears in a satirical letter from the earliest brivnshteler published in the Russian Empire. Letters 1–2 (“A German Jew Writes to a Polish Jew Asking for the Hand of His Daughter for His Son”) mock Polish Jews for being backward. The Polish father rejects a good match for his daughter with a German Jew because of superstition (the in-laws have the same first names) and his fear about his daughter having to dress in more modern clothing.

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Medium 9780253000958

A Road into Chaos and Old Night

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

When I first read a handful of his essays in college, I didn’t much care for Ralph Waldo Emerson. He seemed too high-flown, too cocksure, too earnest. I couldn’t imagine he had ever sweated or doubted. His sentences rang with a magisterial certainty that I could never muster. In the library, his portrait gazed from the wall with a superior air; his name was carved in stone alongside the names of other literary immortals. More like an angel than a man, he seemed to float above the messy Earth where I labored in confusion. He rarely told stories, rarely framed arguments, rarely focused on any creature or place, but instead he piled one oracular statement atop another like a heap of jewels, each one hard and polished and cold.

While resisting Emerson, I fell under the spell of another citizen of Concord, Henry David Thoreau, who was agreeably cranky and earthy. Here was a man who rode rivers, climbed mountains, ambled through forests, and told of his journeys in wide-awake narratives, as I aspired to do. He built a cabin with his own hands, hoed beans, baked bread, and chopped wood. Thoreau kept his feet on the ground, his eyes and ears alert to the homely world—ants fighting on a stump, mud thawing on a railroad bank, men building a bridge, skunk cabbage perfuming a swamp. He led an outdoor life, keeping his distance from the gossipy town. He stood up against slavery, protested the Mexican war, went to jail for refusing to pay the poll tax, and wrote prose that seemed to me as wild as the loons he chased across Walden Pond.

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