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,

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