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Towards Day 13 (T, 10/21): All over creating

Anne Dalke's picture

Allie selected the scene: in the grove overlooking the athletic fields...

I. coursekeeping

Emily to select scene for Thursday; Allie to post re: today

welcome back! any relevant stories from break...?

this week we'll continue reading/discussing Ozeki's novel-->
for Thursday, come having read Parts IV-V (pp. 169-309).

your 7th web event is due this Friday-->the first stage in a 2-week project:
you will be taking initial steps towards a paper
about the relationship between identity and the environment
(the topic of this course! we need to get to the environment!)

we'll be expecting a really rough draft,
lots of quotes and some writing towards a shape, an argument...

to prepare for this, come to class with @ least three passages you have selected,
and are ready to share, from All Over Creation, that interest you, and that
speak to this relationship (identity shaped by environment? environment re-shaped
identity? the possibility of environmental activism?);
we will put you in small writing groups (drawn from both sections),
to help one another brainstorm  a possible shape/structure/argument for your papers,
based on and growing from those selections

in doing so, we're building on what happened the week before break;
we were really happy with the set of papers you wrote, reading one another's postings;
if you haven't looked @ these, you should:
Grace wrote about Sydney's post,
Sydney wrote about Emily's,
both Emily and Allie used 'The Unknown';
Rose used Hadiyyah,
Selena used Marjorie,
Weilla used both Emily and Marjorie,
and Weilla's posting about "limiting play" was
used by Hadiyyah, Marjorie, Nayanthi, Rina and Virushi...
you all really helped one another out--
in both directions: jumpstarting each other's thinking,
and re-reading one another's initial thoughts--
very exciting to see the synergy!

II. for today, we asked you to read the first 1/3 of Ruth Ozeki's novel, All Over Creation (to p. 168), 
and to post your initial reactions on line; they pretty much lumped into two categories:

there was a group on the complexity of Yumi’s character--and our judgments of it:
It’s hard to accept all of Yumi’s traits…though… I think that the books portrays just how hard it is to change our own identities and traits for the sake of our loved ones. No matter how aware Yumi is that her dark history is replaying, she struggles to find the strength to transform into someone new in order to avoid being hurt yet again.

Weilla: Yumi is a character with strong personalities. At first, I really do not like her: rebellious, ran away from parents, impatient, selfish, etc. Then I realized…maybe the fault is not all on her…Yumi is the character who goes against the social norms. when people are judging her, they should think of her bravery that they do not have.

Aquato: I had assumed that I was going to like Yumi…However, the Yumi that came is much different than what I expected. I thought that she was going to have had her life figured out, but honestly? …it's interesting to note the differences [with Cass]….

Changing9: The parts of the book which are from Cass's perspective offer the reader a very intuitive understanding of changing identities, and how sometimes even if you change your external appearance, the same insecurities and worries that plagued you before could continue to affect you. 

wwu2: I admire Yumi’s bold characteristics. She dare to challenge the authority (her parents), to run away from home, to do what she wants regardless of what other people think. In the meantime, I also question her behavior. Is this right to abandon her parents? How much did she sacrifice to be independent? Did she feel regretful of losing the time with her parents?

there was another group about  the complexity of the book’s design/format (and our reaction to that:
Rokojo: I enjoyed watching the story unfold from many different perspectives.

Winterprincess: Ozeki gives each character a voice and they each have their own perspective. This allows readers to look at situations from different angles…

Leigh Alexander: Ozeki's complex style of narration and non-linier story line really builds interest for me…Her unique use of non-chronological vignettes is impressive to study as both a writing technique and a mode of engaging the reader, making him or her desire to hear more.

wwu2: I love the way the book is formatting. It switches around the narrators and shows the audience different feelings of each characters. Therefore, I understand the story more thoroughly and clearer.

I’m working on it:  I like books with multiple narrators and finding the connections within the multiple story lines. For example when we were first introduced to frankies story line i was confused and…my mind was blown when they had the letter from the Fullers.

Reading All Over Creation rids of the urge to judge because there are so many cicumstances at stake. Just when you begin to develop an opinion whether it's positive or negative, the lens from another character adds more to base your ultimate judgement on which still isn't concrete because there is so much to consider….It allows expanision on the idea of the domino affect.  Suddenly this book is not just about the humans, it's literally about everything they come in contact with.


Jody's class:

there was a group on the complexity of Yumi’s character--and our judgments of it:
WhoAmI: I like the fact that although Yummi was over the top, she remained true to her self. She wanted and demanded attention since she was younger and continued throughout her life in the same manner.

Green:  I felt strongly against Yumi through the book. I, personally was not happy with how she "took care" of her family and how she was so naive. But, once the point of veiw was Yumi's I finally understood and accepted the way she acted.

The Unknown:  The characters see Yumi’s decision to sleep with her teacher, Elliot, as wrong, ignorant, immoral, and sinful, but that is not how I interpreted her relationship with Elliot. I think she was attracted to him because he was intelligent, had a nuanced perspective, and gave her a new insight into the world.

Sherry:  I think Yumi is a woman who is dare to love and hate when she wrote the letter “I hate you” to her parents after neither of them attended her graduation ceremony. However, she does lacks responsibility and actually she is not living as freely as she thinks.

Aclark1: Yumi breaks the barriers and redefines the limits. But, sometimes, there are limits for a good reason. Don’t bring too much attention to you. That’s not the way to be.

there was another group about  the complexity of the book’s design/format (and our reaction to that:
mpatnyEach character seems to have an important background that is completely developed. I really love how the book changes perspectives so often. It makes me feel like I can actually get the full feel of each of the characters in their own voices and it does not seem like an outsider is describing them.

Bgenaro:  The numerous metaphors of potatoes and farmland to Yumi's life story is a great way to help the reader relate to Yumi's struggles as a teen and when she returns home. 

R_Massey:  I was bewitched by the way she unraveled the complexity of the lives she created. Much like our actual lives, the story entails different perspectives. As though each life is a string, they connect to make a web.


What is the effect of portraying such complexity?
(Ozeki in an interview: "Agenda-driven fiction is antithetical to inquiry. Agenda-driven fiction has its mind already made up....
Writing is how I think, how I interrogate the world, and the novel is my medium...It's a thought experiment....
The novel is not, and should not be, a Trojan horse....

However, I have tons of opinions...We ought to be terrified!...I have a lot of remorse about the myriad
ways that I am contributing to the [environmental] problem. All my novels...have been written from remorse...
The good that I'll never run out of things to feel remorseful about. The bad that I am not
willing or able to eradicate all the many causes of my environmental remorse...")

BUT! What about this….?
To be honest, I am really creeped out by Elliot and notes/hints of Asian fetish in this book….Bluntly speaking, I do not like reading about anything pertaining to Asian fetish. Though it is only Elliot who really has this fetish, it was enough to make me close the book and not want to keep reading (until I had to finish the book). 

III. @ end: mid-sem evals:

write a couple of paragraphs: what's working? what's playing?
what needs working with and playing with?

(hand these in; to discuss on Thursday)

IV. Here's an example of two passages that could be worked into a paper-->
from Lloyd's newsletter, p. 67:

"there is an idea in circulation that...'aggressive' non-native plants are harmful, invasive, and
will displace 'native' species. How ironic to hear these theories profounded by people of European
ancestry in America!...Our plants are as immigrant as we are!...anti-exoticism is Anti-Life...I do not
intend to promote Third Reich eugenics in our family garden......[they] are being promoted by
Agribusiness and Chemical Corporations as another means of peddling their weed killers."

anticipating Yumi's conversation with her mother, p. 118:
"'What are these?' Momoko looked at the large, mutant squashes and shook her head.
'I don't know.' Then she started to giggle...She..pointed to Ocean and Phoenix....
'Like them. All mixed up'....'What did she say?' Cass asked....'She said squahses were promiscuous.'"

one critic wrote about Ozeki's insistent equation of mixed race and hybrid plants:
Melissa Poulsen. Hybrid Veggies and Mixed Kids: Ecocriticism and Race in Ruth Ozeki’s Pastoral Heartlands.
Asian American Literature: Discourses and Pedagogies 2 (2011) 22-29
twenty-first century, literary and environmental studies must recognize and engage with the interdependence of spaces traditionally opposed: the natural and the human built, the country and the city, exurbia and the urban….more complex imagining of the environment….Written with and against the pastoral tradition, Ozeki’s novels merge country and city…use modified food to interrupt the possibility of a dichotomous country and city…. And attends to the deep-seated connections between the language of race and the language of biology… through the lens of …toxic discourse…Ozeki questions the silences in the pastoral imagery…


As Lawrence Buell points out…”what we loosely call ‘nature’ has often long since become ‘organic machine’” as the “physical environment is being increasingly refashioned by capital, technology,  and geopolitics.” Such blending of nature and technology is key to the counterpastoral developed in All Over Creation…. heartland farm life is a complicated capitalist engagement…. the toxic reality of their seeming pastoral spaces are revealed… 


All Over Creation highlights the presences of racial others and simultaneously exposes how they are written out of the pastoral…. the pastoral as an idyllic space only for those of a certain color…. the most radical and largely unfamiliar move of the text is its unification of toxic discourse and racialization through the question of bioethics, and an entanglement of plant genetic modification and human multiracial identity…. The parallel between biodiversity and cultural diversity emerges in arguments laid out through the Fuller’s seed company.… Momoko’s seeds…embody the migrations and drifts of people in the United States; her “heroic efforts to preserve the rich diversity” of plants is paralleled to the preservation of the cultural diversity brought through migration. Such dedication to diversity stands in contrast to the farmer of the pastoral heartland, the “large-scale potato farmer, a monoculturalist” made “nervous [by] all that diversity”…. Lloyd attempts to interrupt the imagined pastoral heartland through a questioning of the plant and racial nativism it projects…


Through the sexualized, fertile imagery of crossbred human-plants All Over Creation tracks the lives of multiracial characters and interracial relationships while developing a bioethical argument against genetically modified organisms…. An uncomfortable moral ambiguity begins to emerge as the imagery of plants and humans, and cultural and bio-diversity, merge….genetically-modified potatoes might be read as a form of hybridity….Momoko’s garden requires careful fertilization…to preserve the integrity of the various endangered plants….to preserve the diversity, Momoko has to avoid further diversity…. the uneasy ambiguity Ozeki produces through the simple but insistent equation of mixed race and hybrid plants serves as a reminder of the potential of such slippages…. setting her interracial families in the United States’ Midwest, she pushes readers towards new ways of conceptualizing the crucial but often disconnected meanings of emplacement….