Monday, 19 February 2018

The Market, Part One

Snowy Day in Cottage Grove, WI
When I initially set out to write about my experience on the job market I figured I would do a quick blog, give some advice, and then wrap it up. As I sit in my office on this snowy day in late February, though, I realize that what I have gone through the past six months can't just be summed up in a quick advice blog. I realize that the work and struggles I've faced over the past six months in my job search have a lot more to do with decisions that I've made over the past ten years, opportunities that I've been given, and the reality of a pretty dismal academic market. So, in what I'm now planning as a three part series, I will begin my first post by giving some background on the realities of working as a Ph.D. in the humanities and discuss my personal journey that has gotten me to this point.

Here we go.

The Academic Market

Within academia it is no secret that secure jobs for Ph.D.s are few and far between. According to the most recent MLA Report on the Survey of Earned Doctorates, these are the statistics of job acquisition specifically of Ph.D.s in history and the humanities in 2014 (the most recent collection of data reported):

"Of the 1,533 doctorate recipients in letters in 2014, 1,293 reported their postgraduate status. Of that number, 47.1% reported having definite employment at the time of graduation, 7.1% had definite postdoctoral study, and 41.9% were seeking positions."

In a field where over 40% of graduates are looking for jobs, it is clear that a Ph.D. is no guarantee of employment. This issue is compounded by the number of Ph.D.s who graduate in a year. Professor Sharon O'Dair says:

"In its annual reports, the MLA separates doctorates in literature from those in rhetoric and composition, creative writing, and speech and rhetorical studies; if you total all of those, the current numbers are closer to 1,200 per year."

An article in The Atlantic discuss the amount of time it takes to earn a Ph.D. in the humanities. In this article, Laura McKenna says that data collected between 1994 to 2014 insinuates that humanities Ph.D.s are taking a median time of 10.70 years. McKenna goes on to say:

"Consequently, more than 12 percent of Ph.D.s complete their doctoral programs with over $70,000 of combined undergraduate and graduate student-loan debt."

So, things don't look great. On top of these statistics, though, there are countless stories of fatigue, overexertion, and gendered, raced, and socially marginalizing realities in the academy. In her article "Why I Collapsed On the Job," Katerina Bodovski tells the story of working to the point of literal, physical collapse once she got a job. She writes:

"My job description stipulates that I should spend 60 percent of my time on research, 30 percent on teaching, and 10 percent on service"

Yet, Bodovski talks about a reality of spending nearly 100 percent of her working time on tasks that would fall under teaching and service, yet her job depended on her keeping up with the research component of her work. This created an untenable situation that she could no longer physically or mentally cope with prior to her physical collapse. She is back at her job now, but she says that she wrote this article because she "lost the ability to help herself" and she wants to warn others against that same silent, sneaky fate. 

Now, I include all of this just to set the stage for the job market that I willingly chose to enter in August of 2017. I was made pretty well aware of these realities during my first semester of my MA in English Studies at Illinois State University. In that semester I took a required course called ENG 401: Introduction to Graduate School. My professor was Dr. Christopher Breu, and I have since called him "the professor that tells the truth." In that class, he told us, this work is not worth doing unless you love it. He, obviously, does love it, but his point was that the quality of life, return on time investment, and compensation of most jobs does not equal the time and effort put into obtaining the degrees necessary to do this work.

My Personal Journey

Downtown Bloomington, IL
I did not go into this field of Rhetoric and Composition unaware of the challenges that exist, but I probably did come in slightly naive. I made the decision to continue in my MA program even after taking Dr. Breu's class, and then halfway through I applied to Ph.D. programs. My decision had been made, but it was not always easy. I remember nights during my MA of sitting up late at my computer just crying that I'd never get my work done, let alone get through my program. I remember moments waiting by bus stops on ASU's campus choking back tears because I didn't know if this was the right choice.

On the other side of the Ph.D., though, I've had to reevaluate and really consider what it is that is important to me. Also, because of some wonderful advice and the amazing support of my husband, I had the privilege to be able to consciously skirt around some of the time and financial struggles that many face. When I was applying for graduate school one of my professor's at Olivet Nazarene University, Dr. Rebecca Belcher-Rankin, told me that I should never earn a degree without an assistantship. I took that advice very literally, and I chose my schools based not only on where I was accepted and had strong programs but on the assistantships that they could offer. That brought us to the cornfields of Bloomington-Normal, IL and then out to the beautiful desert of Tempe, AZ for me to complete my degrees.

I took one year off in between my BA and starting my MA. I had gotten married the August following my BA graduation in May, and I took that year to spend time with my husband, adjunct at my alma mater, and apply for graduate school. I applied to maybe ten schools' literature programs, and I was accepted at Illinois State University, University of Colorado-Denver, and Northwestern State University. I received an assistantship offer from ISU, so I went there. It was a fairly easy decision to accept the offer of a paid for, two year program. It turned out to be a great choice because after one semester in the literature focus of the English studies major I decided to switch to the Rhetoric and Composition focus, and I could do that without losing any time or credits. That made the decision to switch concentrations easy, and that is probably one of the best decisions I've ever made because it set me up to study texts and people that I am really passionate about and opened up more job opportunities than those that are typically available for literature Ph.D.s.

The decision to accept the offer to get my doctorate was a little more tricky. We were living in Bloomington, IL, and I applied to three schools for my Ph.D. This is far fewer applications than one would normally send out, but I only applied to schools in places that my husband and I both wanted to live, and I really had the sense that if I was meant to get my Ph.D. then I would be accepted at one of the three schools. During my final two semesters at ISU then, while I was taking classes, teaching, and writing my thesis, I was applying to these schools. I applied to the rhetoric and composition programs at University of Colorado-Boulder, University of Madison-Wisconsin, and Arizona State University. I was not accepted at Boulder, I was waitlisted at Madison, but I received an acceptance and full assistantship (i.e. I didn't pay tuition and was paid a stipend to teach) from ASU. I cried when I received the acceptance, and that reaction showed me that this really was what I wanted to do.

Outside of Phoenix, AZ
Wade found a job in Tempe, we packed up our house, and we drove out to Phoenix, AZ in July of 2014. We couldn't have picked a hotter time to move, and I began to truly understand the phrase "baptized by fire." I liked my program and started to feel at home on the campus but then about halfway through the fall semester I hit a wall. The temperature was hot, and it wasn't getting cooler, and I suddenly felt aimless and very far from home. Panic started to overtake me every night, and I began to question every decision I'd made. At one point I truly thought that by Christmas of 2014, we'd be packing up and making the move back to the midwest.

This was a tough but necessary turning point for me. I had carefully considered my decisions and options up until this point, but these weeks of what I call my "Extensional Crisis 2.0" (the first one was Spring 2010) made me truly evaluate and decide what it was that I wanted. Wade was my rock. At one point he had to come home from work to literally help me get out of bed. That was how weak and anxiety ridden I was, but with his help I slowly started to get better. I started going to a naturopathic doctor, took a food test, ate differently, and began to feel my gut heal for the first time in my life. I started doing yoga everyday, and I began to use and diffuse essential oils. These physical changes, coupled with the decision that I would finish that first semester and then reevaluate, got me to where I needed to be. In fact, by the first weekend of November I came home to WI for a friend's wedding, and though I enjoyed my time in the fall breeze and with family, I was ready to go back to the desert after the week was over. By then time my plane touched back down in Phoenix Sky Harbor I knew I was home, and I knew that this was really what I wanted to do.

Helping Myself

When I went through my first existential crisis, I needed a lot of help. I credit my then professor and mentor Dr. Kristy Ingram with being the lifeline that pulled me back. She offered me sage advice, gave me dinner when I forgot to eat, and was a listening ear as I questioned and debated really, everything I'd known to be true. I will be forever grateful to her for that.

When I hit my second existential crisis, I definitely still needed help. All of the things that I listed above were life savers and really shifted my daily routines and habits in positive ways that I still practice today. What I learned, though, was that I could either let this Ph.D. eat me alive, or I could begin to help myself, like Bodovski suggests above. I knew that I needed to find and then stick to my own path to be able to finish my degree.

My Meyers-Briggs personality is ENTJ. Now, I know some people (including my husband) don't see a lot of value in tests like these, but I love them. I think they reveal so much about myself and other people, and even more interestingly, the way that people react to one another. ENTJ stands for Extrovert, Intuition, Thinking, and Judging, and together that reveals the following:

Based on this personality type advocating for myself is not a struggle. It is actually something that comes pretty naturally to me, and something that I am not afraid to do. That being said, it wasn't something I'd ever really realized that I could or should do, specifically in a Ph.D. program that was seemingly already predetermined for me. I think it is no coincidence that this revelation came to me just as I was being immersed in feminist theory and pedagogy. I think that one of the reasons that feminist causes and discussions are so close to my heart now is because I saw the efficacy and necessity of them in my own life, even in a very privileged setting.

Once I realized that I needed to start acting on my own agency and as my own best advocate, I needed to prioritize what I really wanted. The first thing that I knew that I wanted was to graduate in three years. My assistantship was for five, and I had up to ten (I think) to finish, but based on goals that Wade and I had together, I wanted to finish coursework and my exams in year two, and I wanted to graduate at the end of my third year. I did these things, but it would not have been possible without the help and input of Demetria Baker, the Writing Programs administrator, Dr. Maureen Daly Goggin, my chair, and Drs. Elenore Long and Patricia Boyd, my committee members. Their support and willingness to help me get through on that timeline is really what made it possible.

The second thing I had to decide was what type of institution I wanted to work at. In higher education there are four general tiers (or rankings) of institutions. These tiers draw upon The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education that lists institutions according to the highest degree level that they produce, as well as the annual (since 1983) publication from US News & World Report that ranks the top 200ish schools of the approximately 2,500 accredited institutions of higher education in the United States. The four tiers of higher education are debated and in no way definitive, but this is the general breakdown:

One reality of these generally understood tiers is that a scholar is almost never hired at a school that is at a higher tier than the one where they earned their degree. ONU is a tier three school, ISU is a tier two school, and ASU is a tier one school that is listed 60th overall on the Best Graduate English Programs list in the 2017 US News & World Report. As a scholar, then, I had to decide where I wanted to go. If I wanted to aim for a job at a tier two school I would have needed to spend a significant amount of time and energy on publication. If I wanted to aim for a tier three or four school, I could move more quickly through my program and focus on teaching certificates and experience.

After my long, rambling discussion above, it's probably pretty obvious what I chose. Though the market is getting more and more competitive and often even tier three schools require multiple publications, on the advise of my chair and in alignment with my gut feeling, I decided to move quickly through my program and put publications on the back burner. I did keep up my conference attendance and presentations, which is another important component of scholarship.

F&R Views in Dayton, OH
I had two basic reasons for this choice. The first reason  boiled down tremendously to my undergraduate experiences at ONU. I've written in this and many other posts about the impact and influence that my professors at ONU had on me. My college experience was so exceptional educationally, socially, and for the work that I wanted to do in the future. I knew that this was the kind of place that I wanted to teach.

Secondly, while I do like to research and study, it is not my primary passion. I can do research, and I do like to learn and grow in new areas and ideas in my field, but researching is not what gives me energy and fuels my drive. At the Feminisms & Rhetorics conference this fall, one of the most influential moments was in the feminist workshop where they asked us to identify our feminist superpowers. I identified mine as "facilitator," and since the conference I have often thought of how much that rings true. And when I teach, I get to facilitate. Every new semester I get excited about putting together syllabi and preparing the classes for my students. I also like the energy of being with my students in the classroom and sharing ideas with them and truly learning from them. Teaching energizes me. Talking about ways to teach better and instruct better energizes me. I love to teach. And after all this, I know it's what I want to do and who I want to be.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

A New Year

This isn't going to be the most academic of my posts, but I feel like the break over Christmas and the New Year almost counts as part of the school year because it is sandwiched between the two semesters. This year Wade and I enjoyed celebrating Christmas with both of our families here in Madison, and then we took a wonderful trip over the new year! We traveled to Spain and then took a cruise on the Norwegian Spirit to other Spanish ports and Morocco! We had a really great time. I have included a few pictures here from our time abroad.

We started the trip in Malaga, Spain. We stayed there for four days, and we celebrated New Years Eve and New Years Day there. We stayed in an Airbnb that was less than ideal, but we really enjoyed the city. It was historic and really, really charming. I loved it. We spent most of our time walking the streets and eating at outdoor cafes. We visited the Malaga Cathedral, which is affectionally nicknamed "La Manquita" or "The One-Armed Lady" because one of the towers was left unbuilt. We also visited The Alcazaba of Malaga, which means "citadel" in Arabic. It is a palatial fortification built in the early 11th century, and it is stunningly large and well-maintained. We visited the Picasso Museum one day, and my favorite part was a special exhibition called "We Are Completely Free: Women Artists & Surrealism." I really enjoyed seeing that work. We spent New Years Eve wandering the city, and then we went to the Plaza de la Constitucion for the countdown. It was packed with people and surrounded by Christmas lights. It was a really exciting way to bring in the new year!

The Malaga Cathedral

Visiting the beach near the Port of Malaga
On January 2nd, after our four days in Malaga, we boarded our cruise ship, where we stayed for ten lovely days! The cruise was really great. We hit some choppy waters that didn't make us or our fellow passengers feel the best, but the staff was really wonderful and accommodating, our cabin was very comfortable, the food was good, and we really enjoyed the ship's hot tubs, lounges, and shows. We visited four Spanish ports on the cruise, and we liked them all. First, we stopped in Barcelona, and we basically did our own Antoni Gaudi tour from a hop on/ hop off bus. My favorite spot was the outside of Casa Battlo. It was so beautiful and unique. I really liked Barcelona, although with all the gothic architecture it reminded me much more of Paris than any other Spanish city that I have been to. We also toured three of the seven Spanish Canary Islands on our ports of call. We visited Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, and Arrecife, Lanzarote. They were all very interesting and quaint, but we enjoyed Las Palmas the most. It had the best mix of downtown, history, and beach.

Our cruise ship

Enjoying dinner & a show onboard
One of very favorite portions of the cruise, though, was our stop in Morocco. We couldn't go to our original port of call, Casablanca, because of rocky waves and weather, so we docked in Tangier, Morocco instead. I was initially disappointed because I had been looking forward to going to Casablanca (mostly because of the movie), but our day turned out to be pretty great. We booked a full day excursion from the ship, and I'm glad we did. I think we saw the most we could in the safest way. We got on bus #5 straight from the ship, and we visited Cap Spartel, the Caves of Hercules, and then spent the rest of the day in Tetouan, Morocco. We got back to the ship at 5:45PM and it left port at 6:00PM, so that part was a little stressful, but the rest of the day was pretty great. Cap Spartel is a lighthouse located at the entrance of the Strait of Gibraltar, and the Caves of Hercules have a cut out in the rock in the shape of Northern Africa. Both were really beautiful. In Tetouan, our wonderful guide Ahmed took as all around the medina (old city), to visit mosques, an art school, a homemade goods and rugs shop, and took us for a delicious, authentic lunch complete with musicians and a dancer with burning candles on a tray on his head. Africa was Wade's fourth continent to visit, and we enjoyed our time in the historic and beautiful African cities that we were able to visit.

Nuts and spices on the street

Outside of the art school
Our trip was in turns informational, exciting, and relaxing. We were ready to come home and see our pups, but we really enjoyed our time away. We were really appreciative our travel agent, Shay Shull at Mix and Match Mama, for her help, and to the cruise staff who did a really great job hosting us. We came back ready to jump into the new year and back into our work.

Speaking of which, my spring semester has started! This semester I am teaching Technical Reporting and English 2. Both start pretty early in the morning, but I seem to have a good group of students in both classes as well. I am interested to see how the semester will play out, as I am also going to be tutoring a few hours a week in the Writing Center, which is new for me. I will be sure to report back on the progress of my classes and the tutoring this semester.

For this year, I am focusing on the word "simplicity." I am trying to figure out what that will mean in all aspects of my life, and I plan to read and mediate on the word and idea. I have some ideas of what it will look like, but I am excited for the new start and the new focus for year.

I hope that however your year started it will be a year of joy, growth, and peace. Here's to 2018!

Monday, 18 December 2017

An Instagram Story

I received this email from a student in my English 1 class after the end of the semester. So kind! 

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Conference, Conference, Class

This semester seemed to fly past. It feels like yesterday that I was writing my example blog post for my students, "Three Pieces of My Puzzle," and publishing it here. All in all, it was actually a great semester. I was able to work with about 60 pretty awesome students, attend two really inspiring conferences, and even apply myself pretty fully to the job market. Being on the market is almost a full time job in and of itself, and I plan to write a full blog entry detailing my experience in the spring. In this blog entry, I want to talk about the two fall conferences that I attended (one academic and one non) and review my experience teaching three sections of English 1 at Madison College.

Feminisms & Rhetorics 2017

In October of this year, I traveled to Dayton, OH to present at the 11th Biennial Feminisms & Rhetorics conference. I stayed and presented with my awesome writing group, Casie Moreland and Jessica Boykin. The conference was hosted at the University of Dayton from October 4th to 7th. I was there from October 3rd to 6th and then flew home early to attend the other conference.

Like my time at Fem/Rhet in Tempe in 2015, I thoroughly enjoyed this conference. Casie, Jess, and I presented early in the conference at 1:45PM on Wednesday, Oct. 4th, the first official day presentations. We had three attendees at our panel, and after we each presented our material, we had a good conversation with those who attended about our work and future research possibilities. Our panel was called What is Past is Prologue: Women's Contributions to Rhetorics of Social Justice. On this panel, my presentation was called "'We Remain a Complex People:' Accounting for Feminist Rhetorical Practices in a Black Feminist Food Memoir." I discussed Ntozake Shange's 1998 food memoir If I Can Cook/ You Know God Can. I discussed the power of the intricacies of Shange's work, and I talked about how her work contributes to a larger group of African-American women fighting for social justice.

At the conference, I attended several other panels, including the keynote by poet Claudia Rankine. I saw friends and colleagues from Arizona State and Illinois State, as well as other conference friends. It's always a treat to reconnect with those people at conferences across the country. Casie, Jess, and I also explored Dayton a bit in our free time. I can't say it's my favorite city, but we enjoyed our time together writing, talking, and presenting. Always glad to spend time with these special friends.

Bloom Women's Retreat: A Story Unwritten

I left Feminisms & Rhetorics slightly early because I was expected back in Wisconsin for Ridgeway Church's annual Bloom women's retreat. The retreat actually ran from October 5th to 7th, but I was able to be there from the 6th to 7th. I heard the Friday evening keynote speaker Cheri Milton, and I stayed through the Saturday morning session to hear Bethany Peterson speak and then helped clean up. What I saw of the retreat and what I heard from others about it before I got there was so exciting. As part of the leadership team, I helped to plan the Friday afternoon breakout session where we asked women to share parts of their stories with each other. We had leaders positioned at every table to facilitate the conversations, and in our debrief following the retreat the team said that the women responded readily and openly in the sessions, which was so exciting to hear.

The retreat took place at Chula Vista Resort in the WI Dells, and it was cozy setting for our meetings and rooms. Even though I was only able to be part of the retreat for less than 24 hours, I knew all the work that went into the planning with my fellow leadership team members Debbie, Brittany, Bethany, Brianna, Martha, and Melissa, and I was glad to see the retreat was such a success. It was worth skipping out on the last part of Fem/Rhet, a delayed flight, running through O'Hare airport to get my connection, lost luggage, a drive through the rain, and an almost sleepless night to be there! We are already gearing up and planning for next year's retreat!

English 1 Classes

Other than that action packed week of conferencing in October, I have also been able to travel to Indiana couple times this semester and spent some time in Chicago and other parts of Illinois. Otherwise, I have been in Madison teaching my classes and job marketing. I hadn't taught the equivalent of an English 1 course since teaching at English 101 in the fall 2014 semester at Arizona State. I totally revamped the class from when I taught it at ASU, which was definitely beneficial but created extra work for me because I didn't have any previous examples of the projects to show my students. We started the semester with a fairly basic summary essay, so I wrote the example project "Surfer Girls and Sunset Memories" for my students to use as a model for the project. The next project was the rhetorical analysis blog project, which I posted here under "Three Pieces of My Puzzle." We then spent the second half of the semester focusing on the final project, which was an opinion editorial. The editorials were focused around a specific food documentary that I asked the students to watch as a group. I created an editorial called "My Dreams of Sushi" based on the 2011 food documentary Jiro Dreams of SushiOther than the final editorial, my students also composed annotated bibliographies (documents citing and discussing sources) and a group presentation.

From the end of the course survey, I was able to gauge my students' reactions to these three major projects, as well as the other various components of the course. Of the 53 students who filled out the survey, 23% said they liked the summary essay the best, 45% said they liked the rhetorical blog the best, and 32% said they liked the opinion editorial the best. I started the semester with 75 students, and I ended the semester with 61 students. At a community college, this is a pretty good retention rate, and I'm glad that over 80% of my students were able to stick with the course.

I ended the semester by asking each student to bring in a quote, lyric, or saying that they liked to our last class. I told them it was a chance to get some easy points as well as an opportunity to leave the course on an inspiring note. I was happily surprised by the range of readings my students brought and how they seemed to actually enjoy the activity. They brought in quotes from Mark Twain, Shakespeare, Einstein, Forrest Gump, Chance the Rapper, the Dalai Lama, Picasso, Bernie Sanders, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Will Smith, Calvin and Hobbes, J.F.K., and three ladies read excerpts of Maya Angelou poems.

For my reading, I chose one of my all time favorite quotes. It is a conversation between Sam and Frodo, characters in J.R.R. Tolkien's epic fantasy series The Lord of the Rings. This conversation takes place as Sam and Frodo journey with the creature Smeagol/ Gollum in the middle of the three books, The Two Towers. In the book, this conversation takes place on pages 362-364, but I like the movie quote (included right) even better because it's a bit more succinct and ends with such a powerful message. I told my students if they remember nothing else from the semester that I hope they remember that "there's some good in this world... and it's worth fighting for."

I need to finish grading 25 final projects, 60 reflection letters, and submit the final grades in Blackboard, but this semester is almost all wrapped up! I plan to send the following graphic with my final email to my students, and I will leave it here as a conclusion as well.

I wish you joy and peace in this holiday season.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Three Pieces of My Puzzle

Like a puzzle, individual people are made up of lots of different pieces. Some pieces fit well together and some pieces stand out, like the valued corner pieces. Three pieces that make up parts of my overall life puzzle have the common element of empowered women. I like to spend my time researching, reading about, and trying to emulate the examples of strong women that I see in my life. In this blog entry, I discuss an empowering a song, a memoir, and a yoga video, and then I rhetorically analyze those elements through the lenses of ethos, pathos, and kairos respectively.


Single Cover
The 2015 Andra Day song "Rise Up" on her album Cheers to the Fall has been a favorite of mine lately. The song has been an inspiring song in our national landscape. The song was used in a Serena Williams video, and Day sang the song at the White House, and she sang the song with Nick Jonas at the live benefit concert hosted on A&E Networks called Shine a Light: A Concert for Progress on Race in America. The official music video for the song was directed by M. Night Shyamalan and depicts the relationship between a young woman caring for her partner who was injured in the line of duty. As Day sings the lyrics, "I'll rise unafraid/ I'll rise up/ I'll do it a thousand times again" the video depicts a beautiful story of love, commitment, and strength.

This song has meant a lot to me in this period of my life, but I especially like it because it is reminiscent of the powerful poem "Still I Rise" by Maya Angelou, a well-known, influential, feminist poet. In the last stanza of her poem Angelou says, "leaving behind nights of terror and fear/ I rise/ into a daybreak that's wonderfully clear/ I rise." Though I cannot find proof of intentional similarities, Day's repeated lyrics of "rise up" speak to the same power of women rising above dark histories and difficult situations.

The rhetorical element that I see being especially pertinent to this material element is ethos. According to our course definition, ethos "is a means of convincing someone of the character or credibility of the persuader." Ethos plays an interesting role in my analysis of this song, though, part of the ethos that I am attributing to the lyrics is not officially documented. I really like this song for what it is-- a powerful anthem about the ability to rise above difficult circumstances. I do believe that this song at least draws on ideas represented in Angelou's poem. I personally attribute ethos to this song that is undocumented, yet it still influences my reception of this song in a very positive way. In addition, the moral character that Andra Day displays in her performances of this song contributes a strong ethos for any outside viewer. As mentioned, she sang this song in the White House for an event hosted by Michelle Obama, as well as for the benefit concert. Her public persona is obviously strong and kind, and the words of the song reflect that ethos.


Memoir Cover
In 2008 author Diana Abu-Jaber published her first memoir, A Language of Baklava. Prior to publishing this memoir, Abu-Jaber was a fiction writer. Her published novels were highly acclaimed, but her memoir was her most personal and revealing work. This memoir is food memoir, which means that the nonfiction narratives are focused around food experiences. This includes stories about food, as well as recipes for the food she discusses. In the introduction to her memoir, Abu-Jaber writes, "each of us has the right to tell our stories, to be truthful to our own memories, no matter how flawed, private, embellished, idiosyncratic, or improved they may" (1). Basically, she is saying that her memoir is true to her, memory, which may or may not be entirely accurate to the actual events that she lived.

The food experiences that Abu-Jaber discusses in her memoir reminded me very much of food experiences that I have had in my life. Abu-Jaber's mother is American, but her father is from Jordan. Likewise, my mother comes from primarily American dissent while my father is half Lebanese and half Spanish. The food that I grew up eating with my dad's family were considered weird by some friends. We ate hummus, pita, and baklava at almost every family event. At the fancier events we would eat lamb skewers, rolled grape leaves, and kibbeh. I always knew those foods were a little different, but it wasn't until I read Abu-Jaber's memoir that I read about family and food stories like my own. On top of that shared food experience, I really appreciate Abu-Jaber's narrative voice and empowering messages for women. In a family where her dad expected her and sisters to only marry and have babies, Abu-Jaber pushed against these expectations and forged a unique path.

The rhetorical element that I am using to better understand my relationship with this text is pathos. The first time that I read this memoir I had a very emotional reaction. I laughed and cried reading stories that sounded so much like my own. Pathos is an "appeal to emotion" and this memoir appealed to my emotions in particular because I could relate to the experiences of the author. In addition, Abu-Jaber's narrative style is very inviting and easy to read. The recipes that she includes look very tantalizing and invite the reader into the text, literally, if they choose to try the recipes. The emotional range that Abu-Jaber displays in this text reflects the many ways that a variety of readers could find something valuable and tasty in this memoir.


Video Cover
I love to practice yoga. I started practicing close to five years ago now, and while I have taken classes at yoga studios I most often practice yoga at home because it's cheaper and easier to fit into my schedule. When I first started to practice yoga I followed random YouTube channels to find good yoga classes. During that search, I found Bad Yogi. Bad Yogi is a yoga program developed by Erin Motz. Her overall philosophy is to "redefine yoga culture" by removing "the snobbery, pretense, and endless 'prerequisites'" ("The Bad Yogi Story") that are often ascribed to the yoga community. Motz runs the business out of her home, and she has a great sixteen week yoga program called Perfect Body Yoga Program (though she stresses it is about having the perfect version of whatever body you have), and she often sends free classes to her email chain.

On June 19, 2017 Motz put out a free class called the "Wonder Woman Yoga Workout." I had just seen the movie Wonder Woman the weekend before, so I was excited to see this class title in my inbox. I did the class in my home office and realized I loved even more than I thought I would. All of Motz's classes are empowering and effective, but this class was special. In the video, Motz says that she loves all the "powerful, girl power energy" around the movie, and this class really channels that energy well. The class is only about 10 minutes long, so it isn't a super intense class, but the moves are all strong and intentional. I've done this class probably twenty times since she published it, and I think it's my favorite class that she's ever put out.

The rhetorical element through which I view this Wonder Woman class is kairos. Kairos is all about putting out the "right thing at the right time," and I think the timing of this class being put out is a huge part of what makes it so enjoyable. For me personally, I had become very familiar with Motz's teaching style and the typical moves that she includes in the yoga flows. This class was refreshing because it was different. Even if many of the poses were the same, she put a new twist on them in accordance to the theme. More generally, though, this class came out at the same time that the movie came out, which made it very fitting and very easy to understand. Also, it came out at a time in our American culture where some women felt defeated or undervalued, and this flow reminds women of their power and their strength. The timing of the flow had a lot to do with my love of it.

These three puzzle pieces-- the song, memoir, and video-- are just a few of many material elements that I could have chosen to represent and in discuss in relation to the rhetorical appeals. I recognize that each element contains representations of multiple appeals, however, I have focused on ethos, pathos, and kairos in relation to the three because those are the appeals that I see as being most effective in my view of the material elements.

Works Cited

Abu-Jaber, Diana. The Language of Baklava. Pantheon, 2008.

Angelou, Maya. "Still I Rise." The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou, 1978,

Day, Andra. "Rise Up." Cheers to the Fall, 2015.

Motz, Erin. "10 Minute Wonder Woman Yoga Workout." Bad Yogi, 19 June 2017,

Motz, Erin. "The Bad Yogi Story." Bad Yogi,

Friday, 25 August 2017

Instructor Introduction

Welcome to Class!

I am Dr. Bruce, and I will be your instructor this semester. I really love to teach, and I hope this semester will be informative and productive for you. I also hope that we all get to know each other. To begin, here are four things that I love:

Durango, Colorado

Oxford, England


Writing Quill Tattoo

Typical Workspace




Gluten Free Cinnamon Cake

Upward Facing Dog