• Happy birthday to my little brother

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    Happy birthday to my brother who is actually not little at all — today he’s 21! He’s probably studying right now or making up on lost sleep time, so let me embarrass him quickly.

    First of all, let me tell you what it’s like having a younger brother. When we were kids, it was someone to boss around and someone to play with. He always had a lot of friends but we stuck together, even when we didn’t like it. As we got older, he was someone who wanted to hang out with my friends and do things I did. At one point we grew into our own lives but I think we’re growing to love each other more. Now I realize that a younger brother is someone who makes you proud.

    Hanging out when he was just a wee teenager.
    Hanging out when he was just a wee teenager.

    I’d imagine it’s what parents feel when their child accomplishes something. I feel proud of the person he’s become because I’ve watched him grow up (even if I refuse to believe it)! I know you’re meant to do great things, it’s just a matter of time. Whatever you plan to do, I can only wish you happiness and remind you that I’ll always have your back.

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    At some point you became taller than me and cooler than me. You’re tough, but you also have a big heart. You’re quick to share what you have with your friends and help them up when they’re down.

    That’s just who you are and I’m proud of that. Love you, bro!

     

  • Celebrating Zora Neale Hurston

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    Original photo via Flickr user mishism.

    Today would have been Zora Neale Hurston’s birthday. If you haven’t read anything by Hurston, “Their Eyes Were Watching God” is a good place to start.

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    She is featured on Google’s banner today.

    I read this novel in high school and still remember the main character, “Janie Crawford”. She is born and lives in Eastonville, Florida. It’s where Hurston herself grew up and “the first incorporated African American settlement community in the United States,” according to its website.

    Janie is a woman whose voice is stifled by her husband and her community. Only when she finds love does she feel that she can become herself. Hurston uses the metaphor of reaching toward the ocean’s horizon to represent what her character feels, but even that is used against her. It’s a story with a tragic ending, but you’ll enjoy the writing. Here’s the full quote from the image above:

    It was all according to the way you see things. Some people could look at a mud puddle and see an ocean with ships. But Nanny belonged to the kind that loved to deal in scraps. Here Nanny had taken the biggest thing God ever made, the horizon— for no matter how far a person can go the horizon is still way beyond you —and pinched it in to such a little bit of a thing that she could tie it about her granddaughter’s neck tight enough to choke her.

    I’d recommend reading this book with some background information about Hurston’s life and community in the early 20th century. Let me know if you do!

  • Happy Birthday, Walt Whitman

    Photo taken in the late 19th century by Matthew Brady // via Wikimedia.

    Come, said my Soul
    Such verses for my Body let us write, (for we are one,)
    That should I after death invisibly return,
    Or, long, long hence, in other spheres,
    There to some group of mates the chants resuming,(Tallying Earth’s soil, trees, winds, tumultuous waves,)
    Ever with pleas’d smiles I may keep on,
    Ever and ever yet the verses owning – as, first, I here and now,Singing for Soul and Body, set to them my name,
    Walt Whitman

    On May 31, 1819, Walt Whitman — the American poet, Civil War nurse, and eyes of New York City — was born. Whitman’s goal was to write an American epic, to unite people in one vision at a time when the country was fragmented. Still, his quirkiness shines through, even by today’s standards.

    When he first published “Leaves of Grass” in 1855, Whitman made no attribution to his name, but he had a portrait of himself on the front. He is an “American” poet not just for his place of birth, but for the sense of democracy that his poems create. His poems embrace conversation — with his readers, with strangers, with himself. He uses apostrophe, a literary technique, to speak to his own soul at times. He uses a capital S, like in the poem above. There’s something about the confidence in his words, and his need to reach out and touch.  I’ve loved Whitman in all of his strangeness for a long time, because his poems make you feel that we’re all strange and in it together.