Welcome Wednesday guests for October:
10/01 Finding Sky author, Susan O'Brien;
10/08 Award-winning Hank Phillippi Ryan (Truth Be Told);
10/15 Indie authors Polly Iyer (Backlash) and Ellis Vidler (Prime Target);
10/22 Murder by the Month author, Jess Lourey;
10/29 Marilyn Levinson, Golden Age of Mystery Book Club Mystery author.

Gloria Alden's latest publication is nonfiction. Boys Will Be Boys: The Joys and Terrors of Raising Boys. Edited by Cher'ley Grogg was recently released and available on Amazon. Gloria wrote three essays and two poems in her chapter included in the book.

Don't miss this month's release of Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays on October 7th, in which WWK bloggers Shari Randall ("Disco Donna") and E. B. Davis ("Compromised Circumstances") have short stories.

KM Rockwood's
short stories will appear in two anthologies released in October. They are: "The Lure of the Owl" in Swamp Mansion and Other Dark Stories, to be released as a ebook, and "Aunt Olga and the Werewolf" will be included in the third Creatures, Crimes and Creativity anthology release by Intrigue Publishing. at their conference in October.

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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Reality Check

I’m writing a tangential follow-up to Elaine’s comments on authenticity. Authenticity vs. appearance was not something that occupied my twenty year-old mind. I’d heard people shout at the top of their lungs, “I’ve got to be me.” I’d heard of people traveling vast distances to find themselves. My thoughts were, “Who else am I going to be?” Or, if I take a trip to California, it will be to enjoy a vacation not to search for myself as though that was a package left at a bus terminal.

A course in twentieth century American Literature turned my attention to the choice between authenticity and appearance. The book that most exemplified this issue, according to the teacher, was Saul Bellow’s THE ADVENTURES OF AUGIE MARCH. I never finished this book because I was tired of reading picaresque novels about males finding their identities. The way I saw it, white males in academia had more than a head start over any female. White men should acknowledge their advantage instead of figuratively gazing at their misunderstood navels.

Another professor, much respected, said that a noted female actress of the time was seeking to have more than her body admired. How ridiculous is that, his tone implied. I’m sure he wasn’t just talking about the famous actress but about all the small-brained female students and teachers who wanted him to see their achievements as well as their curves.

Back to authenticity and Saul Bellow. Despite not finishing THE ADVENTURES OF AUGIE MARCH, I received an A for the course. Was my grade authentic or for appearance only?

The American Literature professor had to be in his sixties and had spent his adult life teaching. I believe he was examining his roles as teacher, parent, and a Jew in America. During his lectures, I caught glimpses of the professor struggling in his role as a parent, especially towards his daughters. He questioned the value of what he taught. Was he helping the young people who took his courses? What did it mean to be Jewish in America where Christmas and Easter are as important as July 4th?

A quarter of the tenured staff in the English Department was Jewish, way more than the percentage of Jewish-Americans in the population. So why were his religious and ethnic origins an issue for him? Because he felt obliged to give the appearance first and foremost of being a New England Yankee? When I attended college, no Black of Hispanic teachers taught American Literature in the department.

I learned more about the difference between authenticity and appearance from the teacher than from the assigned books. He was genuinely trying to come to terms with his roles in society. He seemed to care deeply about whether he examined issues truthfully or in accordance with the norms of Academia.

So, maybe my A for the course wasn’t a farce. I continue to think about the differences between authenticity and appearance. As an immigrant from the UK many years ago, I could’ve embraced the stereotype my neighbors and co-workers wanted to give me. Something made me resist sinking into the ready-made role. It didn’t correspond with what I knew of my childhood in the UK.

I’ve seen others battle with authenticity. Sometimes achieving authenticity seems not such a good thing. I want to say, “So you’re authentic self is a flake. Maybe you should’ve stayed with appearances.” Or, “So you’re authentic self is a macho, all feminists are lesbians mindset. You’re hitting on the wrong broad.”

Appearances create a façade displaying wealth, perfect democracy and justice, images of people too content to wrestle with the issues of authentic vs. appearances. Once a person steps through the façade, that person has to sort through confusion to find out who he/she is.

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