Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

Like almost every other book I read, I watched this movie first. I thought that the movie was good, the actors played their roles really well, and the story was interesting. However, I felt that there was probably way more to this story than what they were portraying. Boy, was I right.

My aunt and I were talking about the movie and how we both wanted to read the book. She actually surprised me by sending a copy to me in the mail (special shout-out to Aunt Angie!).

***MAJOR MOVIE AND BOOK SPOILERS AHEAD***

I was surprised when I started reading that the book wasn’t set up like the movie. It didn’t start in the present with a major conflict that the main character was dealing with, it just started from the beginning of J.D.’s life.

It threw me off at first, but I liked it way better. Starting from the beginning really allowed us to see everything through J.D.’s eyes. We got all the background on his family in Kentucky, his Mamaw and Papaw’s move to Ohio and everything that led up to his childhood. It really helped to set the scene and give the reader the sense of hope for a better future by getting out of Kentucky.

If you’ve read the book or seen the movie, you know that his grandparents getting out of Kentucky wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. They never lost their “hillbilly” side and had very strong and aggressive personalities. It made his mothers life very difficult, which in turn made J.D.’s life difficult.

This sort of rut that they were stuck in is something that I think needs to be talked about more. I don’t think people realize it, but when you grow up in circumstances where you’re told this is all you’ll ever amount to and this is what you should expect from life, it’s really hard to get out of that. J.D.’s mom was smart and did well in school, but as he mentions ended up pregnant and divorced before she was even out of her teens. She was just a product of her environment and once she was caught up in it, she didn’t find her way out.

J.D. was on that path as well because he was also stuck in that environment. It wasn’t until he took control of his life and moved in permanently with his Mamaw that his life started to change for the better. Through a series of choices that he made, without any real goals, he became the exception to the rule. He made it to Yale. He made it out of poverty. He was able to improve his life and recognize that he wasn’t the norm for people who grew up the same way.

He also recognized that he didn’t do this on his own. He needed help and he needed people to help him figure out how to get that help. It was actually shocking to me as well when he realized that he could spend less going to Yale than he did going to a local college. It makes sense when you think about it, because there’s plenty of financial aid for people who need it when they go to college, and of course ivy-league schools have lots of money to give. It made really wonder how many people haven’t even tried because they didn’t think they could afford it. How many people were told that they couldn’t accomplish going to a better school because they would end up with too much debt?

Since I watched the movie first, I was shocked to find out that the entire conflict in the movie wasn’t even mentioned in the book. J.D. wasn’t interrupted during his dinner to find out his mother had overdosed and had to drive all night to make it to the hospital. He didn’t take her to a rehab where he had to pay with multiple credit cards. He didn’t catch her trying to use at a dirty motel.

There were mentions of similar situations, but nothing so dramatic as what they portrayed in the movie. It actually made the movie feel cheap and like a disservice to J.D. real, true story. They used his family’s problems to create a dramatic situation that took away from his accomplishment. They made it about Amy Adams, when it should’ve just been about how he got away from her.

It’s not often that I’m disappointed in movie adaptations, but this one is pretty bad in my opinion.

Everything he wrote about was real and interesting. It’s eye-opening and inspiring to see how someone from a totally different background can accomplish more than they ever thought was possible. It really does show that opportunity is out there, but it’s not as accessible as we think.

This was truly a great book and great story. I really hope that everyone who watched the movie takes the time to read the book.

Room by Emma Donoghue

58477b974eb6c4d9d9ad62f5b8c15b1d

Okay, so let’s just assume from now on that if I watch a really good movie I will eventually read the book it’s based on. Room was such a good movie. It made me happy, it made me sad, it made me laugh, and it made me cry. I honestly didn’t know that it was based off of a book until I saw on Goodreads that one of my “friends” had read it and decided right then and there that it was next on my list.

I love when there are little differences between the book and movie versions of the same story. It kind of helps me to separate the two in my head and enjoy and appreciate both without comparing them to each other too much. In the book version of Room, the biggest differences to me were that Ma had a brother and that it was revealed she had given birth to another baby before Jack.

I think both of these aspects added interesting twists to the plot. The parts with Jack’s other family, like his grandparents and his uncle, really showed how difficult it was for the adults to understand what he had been through and how they had to adapt to understand what it was like for Jack to be outside of room. This actually kind of made me angry at times because it was so difficult for them to understand what the world was like for Jack, and I felt like they could have been nicer about it instead of getting angry at him for doing something wrong.

This story was so, so heartbreaking and hard to read at times. I absolutely loved Jack and loved to see the story from his point of view. He’s such a smart kid and it’s really interesting to see him experiencing the world for the first time. You really want to root for him and Ma. Which brings me to Ma trying to kill herself. That whole situation was horrible and I couldn’t help but feel like she was being selfish. I understand that everything would have been incredibly difficult for her and that she would probably be extremely depressed even after the escape. However, she knew how much Jack relied on her and he would have been so lost without her. I’m glad that she did make a recovery for Jack’s sake.

What’s really scary and eye-opening about this story is the realization that situations like this have happened in the past. Oftentimes when girls have been found after spending years in captivity it is revealed that they had children or had been pregnant. This book really makes you wonder what kind of life people in these situations have as they continue to grow in the outside world. There’s something seriously wrong with the world and it seriously breaks my heart that people go through situations like this. It makes me feel so blessed to have what I do in life, even if my life isn’t perfect.

The ending of the story really made me happy and I felt like it was a perfect way to have this chapter of Jack’s story end. It really felt like Jack would be able to let go of Room and live his life in the outside with his Ma.

Sculpture Student Sends Message With Reclaimed Materials

PrintView original post at http://tyler.temple.edu/blog/sculpture-student-sends-message-reclaimed-materials

J. Thaddeus Lutz received the opportunity of a lifetime when he began his internship with Darla Jackson at the Philadelphia Sculpture Gym.

After the junior sculpture major took a 3D wood shop class with Ryan McCartney, he told McCartney that he was interested in trying to cast metal. That was when McCartney recommended that Lutz check out the Philadelphia Sculpture Gym.

“Eventually, he got in contact with Darla Jackson and he just asked her if she needed an intern,” Lutz said. “I started it, fell in love with it, and now I’m really good friends with Darla and it’s awesome.”

Continue reading

Morgan Gilbreath’s The Ground Beneath My Feet

Senior Morgan Gilbreath came to Tyler because she wanted to take on a double major, a school that was not just an art school, and to be in an urban environment. She is currently pursuing a BFA with a concentration in Glass, a BA in Art History, and a certificate in Community Arts from Tyler.

In the past year, Gilbreath has been awarded the Tyler School of Art Partner Scholarship, had an article published in Cleaver Magazine, and had an original piece installed in Temple Contemporary.

Continue reading

The Jon Lennin Xperience by Rachel B. Glaser

927898d5c14efddcfa6345ed79f4a9b6This story was pretty strange. Everything from his sister virtually dating Kanye to Jason worrying about being able to give Yoko Ono an orgasm was definitely different.

I liked the story and I’ve definitely been caught up in that sort of virtual world where you can basically do anything that you want. I hope that it hasn’t effected my life in the way that these characters have been affected but I guess it could happen.

Something that was pretty interesting was that these games always had an ending that wasn’t necessarily good, but definitely final. Jason’s sister kept having to break up with Kanye and Jason ultimately had to kill John Lennon.

I’m interested to see what my classmates think about this story.

Final thought – Once again the story assigned has a sexual element to it. I’m seriously curious about why my professor assigns so many sexual stories. Does he think they’re easy to relate to? Does he even notice that he’s doing this?

The Healer by Aimee Bender

0048b667c91636db37f3b46faf08022dI’m a Game of Thrones fan, so I couldn’t help myself.

I absolutely loved this story. I guess when I read, I tend to go for supernatural or fantasy elements and this story was right up my alley. I would even go as far to say that I would recommend it to someone.

There’s definitely underlying themes in this story like be thankful for what you have and to be helpful to others, or to not judge people by their cover. But I just really enjoyed the story for what it is.

It’s a pretty interesting concept to come up with and to make into a complex story about feelings and friendship. I loved that the ice girl and the fire girl were able to cancel out each other and be normal, and how after the fire girl sort of left, the ice girl had to leave too. It was sort of like one couldn’t be there without the other.

Man, I feel like I’m fangirling all over this story. I hope that people in my class like it just as much.

Last comment – the mutant girls totally reminded me of X Men. I wonder if there was any sort of inspiration from that.

Sea Oak by George Saunders

95024c7085e97836dcd4090658584936Last Thursday, our reading was the short story “Sea Oak” by George Saunders. My professor let us know that this was the first story we were reading that would stem away from realism and have some supernatural elements, so I was really excited to read this.

First of all, I should probably explain my choice of photo for this post. If anyone has read the story, they know that the narrator works at this weird sex restaurant-type place where the male “waiters” strip as they bring out food. It has a pilot theme apparently. I’m not sure if places like this actually exist, it seems pretty unsanitary. Anyway, all I could think about was Magic Mike and male strippers. It’s relevant, I promise.

This story was pretty interesting overall. Without spoiling it, the whole twist was pretty shocking and I’m not sure that it was completely believable for her to act that way after dying. However, it did give the family the push they needed to improve their lives and they probably would not have done that if all of this didn’t happen. I also thought it was pretty gruesome and awesome that she continued to decay after coming back.

It’s definitely something that I would be interesting in hearing how George Saunders came up with the idea and what it was like writing scenes like that. Something about the craft of writing is so interesting to me and I guess that’s why I take so many creative writing classes even though I’m a journalism major. I guess that’s a lot of writing too.

The only thing that sort of bothered me about this story was that the sentences were sort of difficult to read until I got used to them and the dialogue seemed sort of unrealistic. But, the whole thing I think is supposed to be sort of a parody, so I guess it makes sense then.

Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice by Nam Le

0b2538f8487213a6e95a42b9460b6958“For inspiration, I read absurdly formal Victorian poetry and drank Scotch near. How hard could it be? Things happened in this world all the time. All I had to do was record them.”
Nam Le. “Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice.”

In a creative writing class that I took a few semesters ago my professor told us that in short stories every line has to count. Nam Le definitely made every single line of “Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice” count.

The story showed the life of a struggling writer, how he struggles to find something to write about, and how he struggles with his relationships. He is unable to open up to his girlfriend, who very clearly cares a lot about him, and he is unable to relate to his father.

I think that the title definitely describes the relationship between the character and his father. That struggle between love and honor, pity and pride, and compassion and sacrifice. All of these themes are strong throughout his storytelling and make it a really great story to read.

Anyone can understand and relate to the struggles between a parent and a child. Parents give you life and raise you to be the person that you are, but you still struggle against them. You want to do things for yourself and have your own opinions and experiences without their input. Breaking away from your parents is an important part of growing up and becoming more independent. However, breaking away can sometimes leave you in a position where you aren’t comfortable. They still feel the need to take care of you and you still want to please them.

I think it would be really hard to express all of these feelings in a short story and Nam Le did a really good job doing that.

Pet Milk by Stuart Dybek

56c4ca7951b9f912e901009e5998d3f7So, now that I am back in school I’m going to be doing a ton of assigned reading. Since this blog is, in theory, a way to keep track of everything that I read this year I’ve decided to include the stories that I read for class as well. By doing this, hopefully, it will also help me to remember what I’ve read and better discuss my feelings on the texts with my class.

This is the first reading that has been assigned to me by my Creative Acts professor. I think it was an interesting choice to have us read this for the first assignment of the semester, but I have to say I enjoyed it.

The narrator starts off discussing how he puts pet milk into his coffee and that it was something that his grandmother had done when she made coffee as well. I’m not going to lie, I thought that pet milk meant that it was milk from a domesticated animal like a cat or a dog. I grew up with cats and often my parents would buy cat milk to feed to the kittens that we had, so thinking that someone would put that in their coffee kind of grossed me out. I know now that it is PET milk and that it is just evaporated cow’s milk. I guess that makes me feel better.

I liked how the story started off with this anecdote of his grandmother and how he would watch the creamy PET milk blend into the coffee. If anything, this author is amazingly great at giving sensory details. I felt like I could relate to the smells and sights that he described so well because of the way he described them.

The way that the PET milk blended and swirled reminded him of a drink that he would have at a restaurant with his girlfriend at the time and then led the narrator to tell a story about the restaurant that he would frequent and the girl that he would go there with.

I really liked the ending, even though it left me wanting more. I guess with a story this short having an ending so quick makes sense, but I thought that the story was going somewhere else.

Overall, I enjoyed reading the story but I thought that it was too much like a stream of thoughts. There really wasn’t any theme to the story that held up from beginning to end. It felt sort of like he was making coffee, then thinking about his grandmother, and then the restaurant, and then this girl, and how he saw a boy begin to wave to him while he was on a train.

I’m interested to see what other people from my class thought about this one.

“Artists for Haiti” to Hold Charity Fundraiser

424056_10150595122362749_326931576_nIn 2011, the Penn State Project Haiti chapter approached Temple University to start an organization that would work to fund a new orphanage in Petite Riviere de Artibonite, Haiti.

Project Haiti Temple University was created and began holding movie nights, bake sales, and clothing drives to raise money for the Saint Francis Xavier Orphanage.

In 2012, Meredith McDevitt began the fundraiser “Artists for Haiti” in hopes that the Tyler community would come together to raise funds for the orphanage.

“I have always thought that one of the greatest ways to give back to those in need is to use your own personal talents in a collaborative effort,” McDevitt said. “This fundraiser enables the artists of Tyler to create or donate their work for charity.”

Continue reading