Shocking my students…

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009 by Rachel



My students had summer reading: Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi. I read the book the other week, as I was lucky enough to have a setup small classroom “conversation” with Saadawi during orientation. This isn’t a book that I would say I necessarily enjoyed. At 114 pages, I finished it easily in a few hours. The writing is okay, though repetitive and perhaps overly dramatic at points. The storyline is simple: Saadawi interviews Firdaus, a prostitute sentenced to death for murdering her pimp. Saadawi’s “interview”/commentary serves as bookends to Firdaus’s story, which is told from Firdaus’s perspective in first person.


Saadawi says that she considers this book to be more of a history than a novel. When asked why she thought this was an important convocation text for freshmen to read, she responded with two answers. 1) There is Firdaus in every woman. 2) Prostitution is at the heart of patriarchy and capitalism. I enjoyed the book more than I enjoyed hearing Saadawi’s political views. In particular, I didn’t appreciate her stance that we (as Americans) shouldn’t provide aid in any situation to any foreign countries. I’m a firm believer that if people are in trouble, we should help, regardless of if they decide to use our help (ala AIDS medicines not making its way to the people who actually need it in Africa). But I’m off on a tangent, and that’s an issue that deserves more attention than I can give it at this point.


This is a book about prostitution, abuse, molestation/rape, and the hardships of being a woman in Egypt. This is not a book that I would have ever chosen to be the first thing that my students see, though I do see some reason behind its selection. Today was the first day we discussed the book. What I didn’t expect/anticipate was having to switch gears and turn into “sex-ed” for a minute.


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I think I’m a man on the inside

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009 by Rachel

might be a man

Haha! Maybe not exactly. I hope you appreciate my attempt at turning myself into one though.


This is something that I never quite noticed I did until fiction workshop a few semesters ago. I’d submitted this story, “H2O Intolerance,” for workshop. Someone pointed out that because I’m a woman they assumed the narrator was a woman and was surprised when they got to the second page and realized that the narrator was in fact a man.


I never realized that people normally write from the perspective of their own gender. It just never occurred to me. My story needed a male narrator, so I created one. Even my long neglected novel follows a male professor. I knew from the moment I started writing it that my hero was, in fact, a man.


Last night, in poetry workshop, we had an in class exercise. It wasn’t anything fancy, just write a 10 line poem in 10 minutes following a set of certain stipulations (use some sort of saying/adage/proverb that you’ve manipulated in some way, then use five from a list of eight words that Laura put up on the board). I wrote it the way I do any poem, and I didn’t have a hard time doing it.


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