Reading Groups

A Book Review: “N” (The Compass Series) by Stephen Santos

front-cover

I never ask for more than I deserve/You know it’s the truth/You seem to think you’re God’s gift to this earth/I’m tellin’ you, no way.

-Janet Jackson, What Have You Done For Me Lately

     There are two ways to think about Stephen Santos and his new novel, N: The Compass Series, and the differences of how we interpret a failed marriage between two people whose worldview is inharmoniously synched with spirituality, practicality and conventional wisdoms that always seem to betray even the most decent of amorous intentions.

     Joshua and Bridget are married, and Bridget wants (and is eventually granted) a divorce from her husband. She moves with her children into a new marriage which she feels will provide her with a better sense of emotional and financial security.  Joshua is understandly devastated, torn with anguish, and is forced to accept the way his wife feels, and he thus spends the remainder of the book laying the bulk of his problems at the winged feet of his wife (whose voice in the matter seems controlled, choked and regulated, but more on this later). At times, Joshua seems delusional and romantic about marriage and women. He seems ironic and contradictory, believes he knows what Bridget wants, yet he is unable to hear her for sake of his own veiled conceit:

We were young, and she had so much life in her. I loved her with all of my heart, but I didn’t have concrete plans as to where I was headed in life. She, on the other hand, had a plan, a purpose and a desire to be free from uncertainty about things. She kept dragging her feet when I would ask her about our future. She knew that I couldn’t change, and that she would have to be the one to. That sounds bad. It’s not that I didn’t want to change for her, it’s just that I had discovered what everyone really wants (63-64).

     But Bridget did seem to know what she wanted in life and marriage, if only Joshua had listened. The novel is full of these moments, Joshua is steady with his blame-game, and Bridget struggles to find happiness and a sense of marital fulfillment. All is difficult mostly because Joshua cannot bring himself to think in practical terms regarding the breakdown of his marriage, the problem of arrogance, and the limitations of spiritual/religious panaceas. He spends too much time ministering to us (in first-person), undervaluing his wife, and, fatalistically, seeing the world through romantic lenses.

********************

Sing your praises, hold your hand/Tell the world that I think you’re grand/I’ll do any, thing for you, (he-he) but slave.

-Ray Charles, I’ll do Anything But Work

Much masculinity, particularly when it is aggressive and overbearing and hostile and unrelenting, is really a mask for the innate puerile frailty most men suffer. This is why it is so important to repress oppress suppress and  control women. This is why it is difficult for men to listen to women, husbands their wives. It is difficult for a man to respect a woman’s independence and self-assurance, but particularly her right to control her body mind and soul.  And religion undergirds this male persistence simply by way of its own support and confirmation of female subjugation (Ayaan Hirsi Ali is still on the run last I heard). Throughout the novel, Joshua never accepts responsibility for his failed marriage, only insisting that Bridget has fallen from (his) grace like in a biblical scene, thus it is his righteous duty to rescue and rehabilitate her. Her dreams and ambitions (which he has taken for granted and/or is unable to bear) is never really the focus of Joshua’s concern, just that he must save her from herself. More of Joshua’s sermonic hubris:

I refused to worry about things, and I was ok with the ways that life changes direction. She figured she needed to control her life so that nothing was left in the air. I know why she did this, but I knew she would always be nagged by the fears of her childhood unless she followed me. She knew deep down her desire was to live with me, but she kept wondering how she would function in reality? She used to always tell me she thought I lived on a cloud somewhere, and she was trying to make things work down here in the real world (64)

     “Why did she have to do this? Why now? Why ever? For comfort. That’s her reason. So that she could feel more comfortable, that’s what it boils down to. She was tired of being a journey. Well, did she really think that life was supposed to be easy?” (23) Ironically, the answers to Joshua’s questions – which he cannot see because of his evangelical preoccupation with all that is wrong with Bridget – is revealed in the futile soliloquies where he finds himself suffocated by his own romanticism.

     In a scene that is quite revealing, Joshua asks Bridget pointedly if he is the reason to blame for her leaving the marriage. Bridget says yes. “If you  would’ve just provided a safe place for us, a place where I didn’t have to worry about the things I was worried about, then I wouldn’t have felt like I needed to go look for it elsewhere” (44). Bridget is redolent with reason, trying desperately to lift her voice above Joshua’s impassioned sentimentality, hoping he will see the importance of financial and emotional security a woman needs and desires from a husband. She tries to explain what is practical in a marriage and what security means for her: “Josh, you know just as well as I do that whether you worry or not, there are still bills that need to be paid, people who get sick and things that were outside of our financial reach” (44). Again, Joshua misses his chance to learn something about women and how they view marriage. Here he cloaks his personal inadequacy in ignorant romanticism: “Yeah, but life is more than just paying bills. It’s more than just paying bills. It’s more than a feeling of safety” (44).

     In his great novel, Baldwin wrote: “We all commit our crimes. The thing is to not lie

santos

Stephen Santos

about them – to try to understand what you have done, why you have done it. That way, you can begin to forgive yourself. That’s very important. If you don’t forgive yourself you’ll never be able to forgive anybody else and you’ll go on committing the same crimes forever” (79, Another Country).   Joshua’s burden is that he cannot forgive himself for his inadequacy as a provider. He cannot forgive Bridget (in the real sense) because forgiving her would place a deeper burden of confrontation: to excavate hidden pain; to look at the man in the mirror, to challenge all that he has come to know about life, love, and about people. Perhaps this is partly the inextricable burden Santos, too, confronts inasmuch as why he avoids the subcutaneous questions pervading the entire novel:  Why is Bridget’s character so condensed, paralytic, voiceless, and solely dependent on Joshua’s holy mercy and righteous wisdom?

 

     The biblical meaning of the name Joshua is “a savior; a deliverer.” The American meaning of the name Joshua is “a savior; a deliverer.” The Hebrew meaning of the name Joshua is “Jehovah is generous. Jehovah saves. In the Old Testament, Joshua was chosen to succeed Moses as leader of the Israelites for their journey to the Promised Land” (http://bit.ly/2h2Po4r). So perhaps that is Joshua’s real problem: He thinks his job is to save Bridget. He thinks he is on a righteous crusade of biblical importance, to rescue the fallen woman, the harlot, from imminent self-destruction and eternal doom – this, he believes, is his sacred calling. He ministers when he should seek counseling; he analyzes when he should accept; He proselytizes when he should be silent.

Categories: Article, Motown Book Club, Reading Groups, RealMenRead, Uncategorized, Writing Groups | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Michigan Male Authors: Help support #MotownWriters literacy efforts #RealMenRead #mwn #amreading #MotownLit #Detroit

realmenReadAre you interested?

Please fill out the form to show your interest…

Categories: RealMenRead, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

ULITT 2014: February 22 & 23, Michigan State University | #ULITT2014 via @CAITLAH

ULITT 2014: February 22 & 23, Michigan State University | #ULITT2014

ULITT_sticker.png

It’s that time again, ULITT 2014 is just around the corner! REGISTER BELOW

In the coming weeks, we’ll be releasing information about this year’s conference. In the interim, sign up to join our ULITT mailing list below. 

#ULITT2014 

This year’s conference will feature a keynote by renowned activist, writer, and filmmaker dream hampton, as well as powerful workshops by 5e Gallery, Inside Out Literary Arts, Urban Word NYC, and others!

What is ULITT? 

The Urban Literacies Institute for Transformative Teaching is being held at Michigan State University once again.  Designed to explore critical issues that affect today’s youth, ULITT strives to support teachers, educators, youth organizers, community leaders and activists to not only engage but cultivate best practices for working with our students both within and outside of the classroom. 

Past ULITTs 

ULITT 2013 featured keynotes by Dr. Chris Emdin–a pioneer in the Hip Hop science movement–and acclaimed spoken-word poet Jessica Care Moore, as well as tremendous contributions by the likes of MC K-Swift, Jamila Lysicott, Hired Gun, Toni Blackman, Michael Cirelli, Adam Falkner, and Issac Miler.  

A   

Register HERE! 

ULITT 2012: June 18-21, Michigan State University

ULITT 2012 featured transformative sessions from Dr. Dawn-Elissa Fischer, Toni Blackman, Michael Cirelli, Adam Falkner, and Jamila Lyiscott, and workshops and performances from Ishmael “Ish” Islam, Hired Gun, Eagle Nebula, Intikana, MC K~Swift, and Detroit’s own Invincible. MSU’s State News reported on ULITT 2012 here.

Urban Literacies Institute for Transformative Teaching 

ULITT, an annual event designed to support teachers, educators, youth organizers, community leaders and activists in cultivating social justice and hip-hop pedagogy, embraces the Freirian student-centered model and aims to explore critical issues affecting today’s youth. Using the power of spoken word poetry and hip-hop as the lens to explore language and privilege, participants will learn best practices from professionals in key fields of urban education, youth development, and community activism. 

Categories: MWN Events Only, Reading Groups | Leave a comment

Michigan Male Authors: Help support #MotownWriters literacy efforts #RealMenRead #mwn #amreading #MotownLit #Detroit

realmenReadAre you interested?

Please fill out the form to show your interest…

Categories: RealMenRead, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Michigan Male Authors: Help support #MotownWriters literacy efforts #RealMenRead #mwn #amreading #MotownLit #Detroit

realmenReadAre you interested?

Please fill out the form to show your interest…

Categories: RealMenRead, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Michigan Male Authors: Help support #MotownWriters literacy efforts #RealMenRead #mwn #amreading #MotownLit #Detroit

realmenReadAre you interested?

Please fill out the form to show your interest…

Categories: RealMenRead, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Michigan Male Authors: Help support #MotownWriters literacy efforts #RealMenRead #mwn #amreading #MotownLit #Detroit

realmenReadAre you interested?

Please fill out the form to show your interest…

Categories: RealMenRead, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Michigan Male Authors: Help support #MotownWriters literacy efforts #RealMenRead #mwn #amreading #MotownLit #Detroit

realmenReadAre you interested?

Please fill out the form to show your interest…

Categories: RealMenRead, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Michigan Male Authors: Help support #MotownWriters literacy efforts #RealMenRead #mwn #amreading #MotownLit #Detroit

realmenReadAre you interested?

Please fill out the form to show your interest…

 

Categories: RealMenRead, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

@Boys2Books featured in National Spotlight!

Boys2Books1I’m honored to be a contributor to the Motown Writers Network and share about my program, Boys 2 Books.

The program focuses on improving the lives of young males through literacy, leadership, and life skills. The program has been receiving local and national attention via BET, PBS, and other media sources. Read the feature on Boys 2 Books in C&G News, focusing on the work being done to inspire our youth! —-> http://bit.ly/HbbQlQ and check out our feature “It Takes a Village to Raise Detroit” on BET —> http://bit.ly/1czdF6W

For more info. about Boys 2 Books visit: http://www.eddieconnor.com/boys2books or call 313.469.1947

 

Categories: Reading Groups, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Meetup Group: Genesee County Literature Lovers #mwn #michlit

Meetup
New Meetup Group!
LISTED IN: BOOK CLUB, FICTION, READING, BOOK DISCUSSION, NOVEL READING, AND 10 MORE TOPICS.
This is a group for people who love literature in all forms whether it be a novel, poetry, play or lyrics. Reading is what I love most in this world and being able to share that love with other people makes reading even more enjoyable. I am looking forward to sharing in the joy of the written word with all of you!
Organized by Julie Hannah Bissett

Hello! My name is Julie and I love to read. I love reading so much that as a young child my mother used to ground me by taking away my reading privileges, little did she know that I had books hidden all over the house. 🙂
What is your favorite form of literature?
I love every form of literature. The written word speaks to me, there are novels that make laugh or cry, there are songs which I can’t help but sing along to, there are plays which make me question my very existence and there are movies (screen plays) which fill my with unending questions. Whatever form literature comes in the connection and love is always there.
What book would you suggest we read?
Although I have read more books than I can count, one which I would recommend for anyone to read would be Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
Yes, it is a little bit older and a “romance” novel but it is so beautifully written and has such memorable characters that it can quickly become one of your favorites. Until about a year ago I had never even wanted to read a Jane Austen novel, now I am one of her biggest fans.
Who is your favorite author?
Can anyone ever have just one favorite author??? Just to list a few; Novels: J. K. Rowling, Chinda Williams Chima, Suzanne Brockmann, Jennifer Cruise, Betty Neels, Jane Austen, Mitch Albom, James Patterson, Rick Riordan; Poetry: Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, W. H. Auden, e.e. cummings; Plays: William Shakespeare, Tony Kushner, Steve Martin; Songs: Blue October, Ke$ ha, P!nk, Adele, Christina Perry, Nickelback, Shinedown, Seether, 3 Doors Down, Michael Buble. To me there are different writings for different times in our live and that is what these authors represent to me, different times, thoughts, emotions, feelings, needs, wants, but most of all life.
Categories: Notes| Resources, Reading Groups, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Michigan Male Authors: Help support #MotownWriters literacy efforts #RealMenRead #mwn #amreading #MotownLit #Detroit

realmenReadAre you interested?

Please fill out the form to show your interest…

Categories: RealMenRead, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: