Kelly's Writing

Queens College

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly Santana at 12:39 am on Tuesday, November 1, 2016

I want to start off by saying that I quite enjoyed reading The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-Time. It’s completely different from what I’ve ever read. It was captivating to be inside the mind of a teen who has a behavioral disorder – whichever it may be – and seeing how he internally addresses and handles all the drama/conflict that’s occurring in his life. I had figured people would oppose and possibly dislike this book because it may be “controversial”, but I just have a hard time seeing how people could be so upset about it. Yes, Christopher has some form of autism, but Haddon never openly names what it is. And, to me, that means he’s choosing to be somewhat elusive, which allows the reader to make their own conclusions about what Christopher has. And although a major part of the book is obviously about Christopher’s condition, it’s also about a young teens personal struggle to come to terms with the life he has and how to deal with the problems that he must face. I don’t know, I just didn’t see the novel as exploitative or anything. It’s just one author’s created character inside an imagined world that’s been published for all of us to enjoy. Those are just some of my thoughts on it.

Now, onto some other reviews.

The first review I want to discuss is written by a father, Greg Olear, whose son has Asperger’s. Olear doesn’t think Haddon paints an accurate portrait of what Asperger’s is with his main character. And he finds it more disgruntling that Haddon admits that he knows very little about Asperger’s and did very little research about it for the book. And because of this, Olear says, “What I find objectionable is that he seems unaware of – or worse, indifferent toward- the fact that he has made both his name and his fortune exploiting the Asperger’s community, my son included.” On some level, I could understand why Olear would be upset with Haddon and his book, but after I read William Schofield’s review, I couldn’t agree with Olear’s review (although I can see where he’s coming from).

William Schofield has Asperger’s so I was very interested to see what he had to say about the book. Schofield says that he relates to, and has similar characteristics as Christopher. One line from his review that I really agreed with was this: “This book is a good murder mystery story but a better description of how the mind of a different person with some kind of special need looks upon how things work and come about.” The aim of this book isn’t for us to pinpoint exactly what disorder Chris has and see how well Haddon did portraying said disorder. Lastly, Schofield writes, “Can you, though, diagnose a fictional character? My answer to this question is that you cannot. I think that Mark Haddon may not have intentionally set out to write about someone with this particular condition as he frequently just describes Christopher as having ‘some sort of disability’, but may have ended up doing it anyway; the similarities are very convincing between Chris and me especially, in my opinion.”

After reading both reviews, I think that you can’t completely toss the book out of hand and believe that it’s inaccurate or false, because we all experiences things in different ways- even with people with Asperger’s. Olear’s son may not be able to relate to Christopher, but William Schofield obviously can, and I think that’s important to note. This is a story about Christopher Boone, not a story about Asperger’s.

“We Love You, Charlie Freeman”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly Santana at 11:25 pm on Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Kaitlyn Greenidge’s “We Love You, Charlie Freeman,” was a very interesting and strange book to read. For much of the beginning of the book (and even half way through it) I had no idea where things were going and what the climax would be like. I still have so many unanswered questions after finishing the book, and I’m not even quite sure what the main theme/genre was. I also had a hard time making connections to past works we’ve read because this story was so different. I want to say it resembles “Invisible Man” because they both have a coming-of-age feeling. And of course, it deals with prejudice and racism. I think both characters face prejudice from whites but also their own race. I also feel like both books have this kind of walking-on-thin-ice, thriller kind of feel, where you never know what to expect in the next chapter. I expected this book to be a cheerful, feel good story, but it was actually the complete opposite. There were always haunting and troubling revelations in each chapter that led you to believe that this characters whole world was close to falling completely apart. Both characters (Charlotte and the Invisible Man) face so many different hurdles that you’re not sure when all this tension and confusion will finally blow up in their faces. Both characters also seem to be trapped by the world around them. Charlotte is either trapped in the world of her mother, the Toneybee Institute, or Adia, until the end when we learn she moves away from it all and creates her own world and life. The invisible man also has this sort of ending, where he manages to find a place where he can be himself and is not pressured by the people and prejudices around him.

I also have to mention that I was really taken aback by the ending because it just didn’t offer the closure I was expecting (and sort of needed). Things are just left in the air. Each person in the Freeman family is troubled and trapped in their own messes. But by the end, there’s really no resolution. Each of the characters are greatly effected and shaped by what occurred in the institute. You can say that Charlotte manages to escape and makes a life for herself, but even then she is brought back to that troubling place each year to visit Charlie.

One last thing that really bugged me was this: What was the point of  the chalk Dr. Paulsen always had with her? It was never explained! That was so frustrating because I really don’t know what to make of it. Any ideas? Let me know!

The Invisible Man is Everyone But Himself

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly Santana at 12:19 am on Wednesday, September 28, 2016

This post doesn’t really pertain to any of the blog options (or maybe it does, I don’t know) but bare with me. I just thought I’d share my thoughts. Also, sorry for the late post!

I did not expect the book to be what it actually is. The narrator starts off his story by telling us how he’s invisible to the world, and he lives in a hole surrounded by too many lights whose electricity he doesn’t pay for. All the while, I was trying to figure out exactly why he thought he was invisible. I even started wondering if he literally was invisible, but then tossed that out of hand. Once the book really starts, I felt like I was thrust into a world I wasn’t prepared for. I was sort of caught off guard by the jumps from certain chapters. I felt like he was writing a long stream of consciousness throughout a lot of the book. But eventually I got the feel for it. The narrator creates this sense of invisibility for the reader, and I think that really bugged me at first. Things about his life were very vague. We never learn his name, what college he attended, where he lived- none of it! We only learn about this Invisible man by his internal thoughts; we don’t get access to any external elements that could help us get a sense of who this man is outside of himself.

One thing that also really struck me was the narrator’s naivete, especially in the beginning. The narrator first takes us to this “battle royal” where he ends up fighting with other black people as superior white men look on laughing. It angered me that throughout the entire thing, the narrator was hoping to be able to give his speech to these men, even after he is demeaned by them. The narrator doesn’t say anything bad about these men throughout the whole ordeal; it even seems like he’s actually thankful to them for letting him give his speech. The narrator doesn’t seem to look at anyone badly- in fact, he works hard to please people. The reader is made known of the narrator’s naivete/blindness towards the evilness (and racism) of the people around him. And because of that, he is an unreliable narrator. And again, the narrator trusts Dr. Bledsoe when he gives him the letters or recommendation, not knowing that Bledsoe’s letters are actually hurtful to him.

The narrator doesn’t have a strong sense of self as he tells us about his life. He is influenced by societal norms and expectations of the time which force him to become the invisible man. But in the end, he learns that he cannot stay invisible. I wonder if Ellison purposely created this narrator to be aloof and unknown to represent many African American men like himself during his time. Who knows. Anyway, I’ve already gone off for too long. Hope all of this made some sort of sense in the end.

Damasio and My Dad

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly Santana at 2:37 am on Tuesday, September 20, 2016

This week’s readings were a lot to take in in just one sitting and I’m still trying to process it all. While I do that though, I found Damasio’s discussion about consciousness/self and how we process things around us very interesting.

Firstly, the story about the man Damasio was having a conversation with at the start of Stepping into the Light, reminded me of my father’s first brain surgery. He had a double brain surgery last summer, and after the first surgery, we went to go see him in the ICU. When we first entered the room, he was awake but he wasn’t fully there. He was kind of in a state of limbo for a few minutes before the anesthesia fully wore off. The Doctor’s said he was fine and that that was normal, but it was so strange for me to see. He was laying down with his eyes open, but he didn’t speak or notice us until a few moments later. In the words of Damasio, “He was both there and not there…” Now I don’t know if this is exactly the same as Damasio’s story about the man who lost consciousness, but the reading made me think back to that day. Maybe it’s the closest I’ve come to that experience where, “… patients can be awake and attentive without having normal consciousness…” (page 15) Either way, I thought I’d just throw that thought out there.

Also, Damasio discussed the self and perception of the things around us and how we interpret them. He makes the reader do an exercise to show how quickly the brain works to process the things we see when we look around a room at different objects, and how all the while, “the degree of change occurring in the object – the body – was quite small.” Our brain goes through this process pretty much every moment in life, while still keeping the living body the same.

This made me think of Neurocomic. In one of the last pages, the female character tells the male character that they are simply drawings on a page, and they only exist when the reader reads the book. Once we stop reading and imagining these characters, they cease to exist. Our brains are able to process things like the writing in a book and create a whole sort of images, without changing any aspect of our bodies. The brain is split up in many different ways to control all sorts of different things, all the while working together to make the person who they are.

Again, I’m still working all this out, but this is what I’ve conjured up so far.

Hustvedt’s hysteria and “The Yellow Wallpaper”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly Santana at 1:05 am on Tuesday, September 13, 2016

When I first read “The Yellow Wallpaper”, I felt like I’ve read this story a few times before by other authors who’ve written during the same century: a wife loses her mind because her domineering husband won’t let her do anything and won’t take her feelings seriously. And because of this oppression she becomes fixated on something strange and ends up going crazy. I had this story pretty much summed up until I read Hustvedt’s “The Shaking Woman or a History of my Nerves”. Once Hustvedt got into the topic of hysteria, I thought of the wife from Stetson’s story. Hustvedt writes that her shaking began when she spoke about her father who had passed a few years before. She questions if her shaking, which is now called conversion disorder, was a delayed reaction to the trauma her fathers death had caused.  This is when I started to make a connection between Hustvedt and the deprived wife who becomes obsessed with the yellow wallpaper. If Hustvedt’s disorder was caused by a stressful and traumatic event such as the death of her father, maybe the same has occurred with the wife in “The Yellow Wallpaper”. The wife mentions she is sick but her husband doesn’t believe it’s anything serious or permanent. She also mentions how she is not allowed to do normal, day-to-day things such as writing and working, that help clear and relax the mind. She becomes trapped and is prohibited to do pretty much anything other than to lie down. No one believes that her sickness is legitimate. I think this may have caused her to have a break with reality, and now she becomes fixated on this wallpaper that she believes has a woman living behind it. This wife has no where to go with  nothing to do, so what does she do? She focuses on the yellow wallpaper that she starts to obsess over and despise more and more.

Like Hustvedt mentions, hysteria was a term used long ago to describe a mental illness where, typically, a woman would have some sort of fit because of some bodily stressor (whether in the brain or the uterus). Hustvedt’s disorder causes her physical body to react to the internal stress or trauma she may feel, but maybe what the wife in Stetson’s story is experiencing some kind of psychotic break due to the oppression and stress she feels? Maybe he was onto something.

I’m not sure if the connections I’ve made make much sense because this is all such a complex topic for me, but that’s what I conjured up from my reading of both stories.

Lyrical moments in “Present in Absence”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly Santana at 12:05 am on Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The poem, Present in Absence, by John Donne stood out to me because of the emotions expressed throughout the four stanza’s. I had a bit of a hard time trying to interpret what was being discussed at first. But in the end, this is how I saw it: The first stanza explains how difficult it is to overcome absence, and that only time can settle the pain of that absence.  In the second stanza, the man goes on to explain that loving someone he can’t be with is difficult, and that time doesn’t seem to move fast enough. The third stanza explains how the man wants to have the physicality he desires with his love, but he cannot because she’s like a hidden treasure. Finally, in the last stanza, the man seems to come to terms with the fact that no one can take his love from his mind. There, he can always be with her and never miss her.

It was interesting seeing how the man in the poem seems confused and goes through different emotions. He goes from feeling that her absence hurts and that time moves slow, but then he accepts the fact that he can always have his love in his mind, where no one can take her. The style of the poem is in ABBABB rhyme.  I think the reader can see the speaker go through the motions of having to deal with the absence of his love.

Mary the Color Scientist

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly Santana at 1:21 am on Friday, September 2, 2016

This is it. Will I know what I see? Will any of my hard work truly pay off? No one knows, and that’s the freaky part. Doctor Bernard will come in the room for the first time ever and show me different colored objects. Will he show me red? Or blue? Or purple? Or even the rainbow? I wonder what a rainbow looks like in the sky. I mean, I know it’s shape and that it’s the reflection and refraction of light in water droplets, but what does it truly look like? I can’t wait to find out. Last night, I couldn’t sleep because I kept trying to picture colors. I tried to imagine the inside of my eye receiving the waves of the color yellow, and my brain interpreting that signal. I figure yellow will be my favorite color based on what I’ve learned about it’s formation. It sounds beautiful. I could just start to picture it- but am I seeing the right thing? Am I seeing what everyone else sees? Will I know the color yellow when I see it? Will I be satisfied with it when I learn how it looks? I guess I’ll find out in a few moments.

Doctor Bernard knocks on the door, and I stand up in a flash. He announces himself and asks if I’m ready.

“I think I am,” I say.

And there he is. And the first thing my eyes land on is the flower in his hand. It’s a rose. And it’s bright and absolutely breath taking.

“Mary?” asks Bernard carefully. “Do you know what color this rose is?”

My mind is trying so hard to recall everything I’ve ever learned about interpreting colors- but nothing. My mind is completely blank. All I could see is this bright flower. And it makes me feel something I didn’t think I’d feel.

“No,” I say.

Doctor Bernard takes a deep breath, and his dark brows crease.

“…But I know what it makes me feel.” That’s the only thing I manage to come up with.

Doctor Bernard arches a brow and says, “Go on.”

“It makes me think of love. And passion. My heart is racing, and it’s not because this is the first color I’ve ever seen. I know the difference between that kind of excitement and what I’m suddenly feeling.”

“It makes you think of love?” Doctor Bernard’s voice sounds confused and interested.

“Yeah, like being around this color- whichever it is- will always make me feel love in a strong way. Like I can’t escape it. What color is it?” I ask, suddenly curious.

Doctor Bernard says, “this is a red rose.”

“Oh,” I respond. So this is red.

Doctor Bernard writes it down on his notepad. He digs in the cart he’s carried in, and pulls out a balloon.  “And this?” he asks. “Do you feel anything with this?”

I observe the balloon and let my mind decide. “It makes me feel… Sad. I know that balloons are usually used for festive things like parties and stuff, but that color makes me feel down. Like I should be crying.”

The doctor’s face changes and now seems intrigued by my response. “I’m going to show you one more object before I let you go. If this color makes you feel something else, please tell me,” he says. He lifts up the final item. It’s a plastic ball. I lean in and observe it’s color. Again, I can’t place it. But just like before, I start to experience something.

“This color makes me happy. All I want to do is smile. I feel joy inside. It’s the oddest thing- how quickly an emotion can surface just by encountering a color. But the way this emotion rushes in, I know what I’m saying is right. Nothing has ever made me feel something so quickly.” I smile sheepishly, knowing that the researchers won’t be all too satisfied with my first responses to color.

Doctor Bernard gazes at me a bit more and then nods his head, saying, “Well, Mary, it’s very interesting that you correlate colors with feeling. It’s a shame you can’t recognize the colors based on your studies, but what I can say is that you’ve correlated colors with their correct meanings. This is extremely helpful in our study. I think once you experience the outside world and all it’s glory, you’ll be feeling a lot of intense emotions. Do you think you’re prepared for that?”

I take a deep, steadying breath and say, “In this short time, I’ve realized that all my life, I’ve experienced dullness. I never knew the colors around me could effect me so much. But now I know that they do, and it’s like I’ve become a new person with real emotions. It’s been ten minutes and I’ve already experienced a load of different, powerful emotions. It’s like nothing I’ve ever felt before. Maybe seeing and experiencing colors can alter who I am as a person and how much I can feel. And if that’s the case, then yes. I’m more than ready.”

Hello world!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly Santana at 11:38 pm on Tuesday, August 30, 2016

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