Year in Review

2013 can suck it.

That's not generally how I would start a blog post, but this year has been really hard. I'm very grateful for all that it has taught me. The courage it has given me. The resilience I have learned from it. The love that I have received within it. But seriously, I'm happy that this one will be going down in the history book of life in a few hours.

Instead of wallowing in the crap that was 2013 or drowning my sorrows in eggnog, I figured it would be nice to look back on the (few) highlights of this year. Here are my favorite moments from this year in (sort of) chronological order:

Red Hair, Don't Care
I change my hair often, yall know that. But this was probably my favorite hair change this year.

Mentee Graduation
My first group of mentees from my fellowship on campus graduated. I cried, laughed, & toasted their achievements. I'm so proud of them!

Miami won the championship. No further explanation needed. #WhoMad? #TeamHEAT

Photo Shoots
This was the year of photo shoots. These are some of my favorite shots:


Friends Visiting
I was so excited to see some familiar faces from home this year. Catrina, Gavin, & Lacey, thank you so much for making my heart smile :)

Encounters & Crossings
This has been my favorite blog post to date. It really was a reflective moment into my life. I did some serious soul-searching. I feel like I traveled a journey from the little girl on the left to that grown woman on the right to understand why I have found myself in the position I'm in today. The best part is that Natalie Zemon Davis (who this was inspired by) actually read my post! She sent me an email & told me that she thought my writing was beautiful. I was absolutely floored. It was such an honor.

I did not expect to be nominated for Vice President, let alone elected. But, I've had a blast. I've gotten close to so many people in my program because of the History Graduate Student Association.

This was my first time on a plane. EVER. It was absolutely exhilarating! I had such an awesome time with the Acosta's. Here are some of my favorite photos from that trip. Thanks Rachel (and baby Naomi!) for showing me around the city & hosting me. Love you so much!

Key & Peele
So...yall already know how much I absolutely adore this show. This year, I did a blog post in honor of them, we participated in their fan remix competition (see the video here), and I even dressed as one of their characters for Halloween. But the real honor has been getting to know them. They really are great guys. I've gotten particularly close to Keegan. We talk pretty often on Twitter and I got the chance to meet him in December. He's just an all-around great person. We had deep conversations, laughed a lot, and he gives some of the best hugs in the world. He also gave me some awesome book suggestions to help me focus on finishing my work. Of course, I'd be the one to meet Keegan & get homework. Go figure. Lol.

A high school dream finally became reality this year. I got to see WICKED and I cried during Defying Gravity. It was amazing. I also saw The Book of Mormon which totally rocked my socks off!

Images & Perceptions, this was an absolutely breathtaking experience. I learned about this diversity conference called "Images & Perceptions" via Facebook and it sounded awesome. I contacted the director, Siham, and asked if she needed volunteers and she seemed excited to have me. 

I had no idea what to expect when I showed up that Friday. I was nervous. I hoped they would like me. I had no idea that by the end of that day, I would have a new family. They welcomed me with open arms. They encouraged me & inspired me. We had awesome conversations, so many laughs, delicious meals. In addition to that, I learned so much about cultures that really aren't prevalent in Arkansas where I grew up. There were so many moments that night that weren't captured on camera (although the photos below are awesome!)...and really, they probably never could be captured. Instead, there was a moment when we were sitting around Saira's sister's living room, cozily chatting & laughing out loud on the various couches & chairs, sipping warm coffee, relaxing after a long, yet wonderful day...I remember looking around & then closing my eyes for a second. I wanted to freeze that moment in time. Take a mental snapshot of the beauty that surrounded me. Siham, Saira, Noha, Liz, Doris, Hassane, Bill, Keegan, Trish, Alex, Linda...thank you. Also, special thanks to Henna, JoAnn, Mark & everyone who hosted us with grace & compassion. You may or may not know my current situation, but you loved me through a very rough patch. I truly love you all so much. I'm glad to have family in Detroit now :)  

Despite the trials of 2013, there are many joys to celebrate, as evidenced here. 

Here's hoping 2014 will be much better!

Happy New Year, friends.

With love,

Levels of Blackness

I absolutely love the show Key & Peele. Like, seriously.

For those of you who don't know what that is (which you should), it's a sketch comedy show that stars Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, two biracial men, who are just hilarious. Lots of people have seen clips of their sketches on YouTube, but if you actually watch their show on Comedy Central (Wednesdays at 10:30/9:30 C), they do live banter that's filmed in front of an audience in between the sketches. The banter is just as good as the sketches, so if you aren't watching it on television, you're missing out!

As an avid fan of their show, I've watched several of their interviews, I went way back and watched a ton of MADtv clips they were in (two words: Coach Hines), I follow them on social media, and I've even had the pleasure of chatting with them once or twice on Twitter (this one being my favorite lol), which was so awesome. If you don't get the character I'm referencing in my tweet, check out this clip. I dressed as the twin sister of the main character "Wendell" whom I dubbed "Wendellyn" for Halloween. It was amusing.

Aside from them being hilarious, it's worth noting that they are in such a unique position as comedians. I think comedians tend to joke about race in general, but I'm not sure that I've seen many transcend racial boundaries in the same way that Mr. Key and Mr. Peele do in their show. They seem to be very comfortable exploring themes of race. They've been able to portray different ethnicities (as is evidenced by the Wendell clip above), while also probing the depths of "blackness." For example, perhaps one of my favorite clips that analyzes the expectations of how you should carry yourself as a black man is this one:

It's amazing to me how they evaluate different levels of blackness in just 48 seconds. This is what makes their comedy so awesome. It goes beyond just being humorous; it actually contemplates societal issues and normative behaviors (in a sometimes exaggerated way lol). Which brings me to the point of this blog post: levels of blackness.

On their show, they've mentioned they often have to "adjust their level of blackness" depending on who they're with. One of my favorite times they've talked about this is in this interview, which I enjoy because the interviewer brings out the humor of this idea when he asks them "what level of black" they were in that moment. Keegan & Jordan of course go on to make it even more hilarious. But, upon reading the comments from that interview, it appeared to me that some viewers were attributing the "adjustment" to them being biracial. And after chatting with some of my colleagues about the show, it got me to thinking..."adjusting your level of blackness" is a real sociological phenomenon.

I think Keegan & Jordan are absolutely right. When you are a minority, in order to penetrate the dominant culture, I feel that it's a constant game of adjusting how "ethnic" you are in any given moment. And in our society, you have to participate in mainstream culture. Whether we like it or not, even if you're protesting against it or attempting some form of pluralism or assimilation, you're still engaging in a central dialogue. And through that engagement, you are a participant.

I've had experience with this myself, as I mentioned, through simple, non-racialized conversations with my colleagues. For example, I remember talking with one of them (who happens to be named A-Aron...if you got the joke, you are my friend lol) a couple of weeks ago and saying, "I'm really glad we're closer now so I can show you my black side." Now, as you all know, I study French history. I'm one of very few African Americans who do so. Because of that, I'm keenly aware of my blackness when I'm with other Europeanists or historians in general. I addressed this in another post. But when I said this, A-Aron replied, "Really? So...what 'Pam' have you been hiding?" That question really struck me. It's not that I've been hiding per se. Instead, I would posit that in my experience, I have been seen as the example for my race in many instances where I've been the only black person in the room at a history conference, in a class, in a restaurant, or whatever. When it becomes painfully obvious that you are "different," you feel the weight of representation. You are put on display as an exhibit that encompasses the entire African American race. And in those situations, I have felt the need to be overly articulate, overly graceful, overly respectful. (Side note: I actually had a guy say to me one time, "You're great...if all black people were like you, I'd love 'em a lot more." Needless to say, me and that guy don't talk anymore.)

Also, I must say that I don't believe it stops at "blackness." I think it applies to all minorities. That title in and of itself implies a sort of "apart-ness," which makes you cognizant of the fact that you are an "other." And if you are an "other," then there must be some sort of authority that lies at the opposite end of the spectrum. Hence, the majority, the dominant culture. And that culture often may objectify or exoticize your "other-ness."

Now, I'm not arguing that we should leave it at that or accept "othering." That's ridiculous. But I am saying that Key & Peele are making a very valid point about what it means to be a minority in America. Adjusting your level of ethnicity is an actuality for people who are on the periphery of dominance.

I'll stop there because I don't want to make this post too much longer, but please share your thoughts. If you want to see some more really popular Key & Peele sketches, I'd recommend the substitute teacher, Obama's anger translator, or one of my personal favorites, this ultimate fighting match promo.

I'd like to leave you with one of my all-time favorite Key & Peele sketches. This has nothing to do with race, but it's just one of those clips that makes me cry from laughing so hard lol. Enjoy!

I'm sure there are plenty of sociological studies that discuss "othering" but, since I'm a historian, I don't know those sources lol. The works that I would recommend if you're interested in this historiography would be Edward Said's "Orientalism" or Tim Mitchell's "Colonising Egypt." The former will most likely be the better option for you because it takes more of a sociological approach whereas with Mitchell, outside of the first chapter, you may get lost if you have no background in African history. You've been warned lol.

Loving People Who Suck

I love my job very much. As most of you know, I work for a church here in Chicago. A wonderful, life-giving, open & affirming, loving church called Saint Pauls United Church of Christ. Unfortunately, this wonderful place has often been taken advantage of. We've had things stolen, people have been accosted for money...sad, disturbing things have happened. And today was one of those days.

Around 11:45, the doorbell rang and I pressed the button to let the person inside. Here, we have an open door policy. Generally that's a good thing. Sometimes it's not. Today it was the latter.

A young rather disheveled looking gentleman came up to the office and preceded to tell me that someone here at the church had stolen his bag. Since I knew the person he thought stole it, I disregarded the story internally. He went on to ask if I had a bag I could give him, a backpack or a carrier bag in particular. I apologized to the young man, but told him that we don't have any bags here (which is true). He thanked me and walked out of the office. I (wrongfully) assumed he left the building. Instead, he went downstairs and stole one of my co-workers backpacks, with all of his identification, his passport, his cds, and radio.

My heart was broken when my co-worker realized that his things were gone. On one hand, I felt so bad because this particular co-worker is from Mexico and would have to get in contact with the Mexican consulate to get new identification and passport, which I'm sure is a pain. But even more than that, I was so hurt that people take advantage of wonderful, compassionate places such as this. I won't go through the long list of thefts that we have had in the last year. Just know there are many things missing. But, yet, our hearts are still open and our doors are as well.

"Why? Why do people do bad things? And why do we have to be concerned with who we open the door for? It sucks that we have to care who's coming in the door at our church, but we do." In this childlike way, I asked our senior pastor and one of our associate pastors these questions after we realized a theft had taken place. 

Right then and there, the two of them became my spiritual counselors for a moment. And the best thing they said to me was that we needed moments like this, for things like this to happen, to remind us why we need Jesus. And also to be confronted with our own sinfulness. Rather than disassociate myself with the person who robbed us and label him as one of the "people who suck," I should look at him as a brother. After all, we, meaning all of mankind, are born into the same sin. I can see a reflection of myself in the desperate actions of this young man. While I may not literally behave the same way as him, I can certainly see the figurative ways in which I am no greater and no less than he.

But also our senior pastor, Pastor Matt, reminded me that in realizing we need Jesus, we have to accept that we can't be Jesus. While our doors are open figuratively, we may have to change our literal policy. We may have to screen who comes through our doors when a young woman finds herself alone in the office with a thief, as I did today. And it sucks. It sucks that I need to be cautious, wary of who comes into the building. It feels un-Christian to screen who comes through the door. Yet we have to. We have to because the world, ourselves included, needs Jesus. In this way, I was confronted with my own humanity today. With all of its joys and sins, sorrows and happiness. 

I apologize if this post seems incoherent. I just needed to get my thoughts out in an honest, open way. I titled this post "Loving People Who Suck" but I hope from my words, you can gather that I really mean "Loving Ourselves." 

I'll end with a quote from one of our pastors. We had a rummage sale here at the church recently. After the sale, we keep the rummage open for folks experiencing homelessness to shop for free. Pastor Matt had a great moment with a guy who was standing in line. I love this story. I hope it inspires you:

"The first man in line had a long pony tail and a scuffed up black leather jacket. He looked rough. I thought I saw him for who he was. Tough as nails. We stood two feet from one another in dead silence. Then he spoke up. And here’s what he said, “Hey, you want to see a picture of my kids?” They were beautiful of course. Twins, two-year old girls. He had about a dozen photos. After I looked through them he said, “I’m here to get toys and furniture and clothes for them. Their mother and I are trying to get our custody back. Trying to get our daughters back. I’d stand in this line for hours. I’d wait all day.” And he smiled and there was such hope in his eyes. And I saw this man for who he truly was and I saw my own fear for what it truly was and I felt myself broken in two and made whole right at the exact same time. Indicted and enlightened in an instant both at once."

Updated Shenanigans

Prior to updating you on my shenanigans, I should tell you where my heart is for this post. When I was approached by The Lakefront Historian to cross-publish "Encounters and Crossings: The Ambiguity of African American Identity," I must admit that I was hesitant. I certainly wasn't insecure about my work,  but I was skeptical because my blog would be cited as the source. I remember thinking, who reads The Lakefront Historian? Probably historians. What would they think if they clicked on The Scholarly Woman and saw posts about fashion, movies, religion, weight loss, etc. along with history? I panicked temporarily. But, then I checked myself. Why? Why should I try and conceal that outside of the field of history, I pursue several other passions? I'm grateful because that temporary moment of panic inspired this post.

Who is The Scholarly Woman?

That's such a broad question. But, after the buzz around my sociological reflection, it's one that I feel I must answer. However, I won't "give the kid the candy too quickly" as my pastor says. Instead of giving a direct reply, I'd like to respond by saying what this blog is not.

1) This isn't a history/academic blog.
2) This isn't a fashion blog.
3) This isn't a graduate student blog.
4) This isn't a movie review blog.
5) This isn't a weight loss blog.
6) This isn't a political blog.
7) This isn't a religious blog.
8) This isn't a lifestyle blog.
9) This isn't a music blog.
10) This isn't a communications blog.

When I say what this blog is not, I would like for you to consider that it is, in fact, all of these things. Confusing, right? Allow me to clarify.

If you read my very first post, "Untitled Shenanigans" you see that this blog was never intended to be streamlined. This blog is a reflection of me. And to borrow a phrase from pop culture: I can't be tamed. I can't be confined to a box marked, "historian" or "fashionista" or "wife." Even the title of my blog, The Scholarly Woman, suggests the sort of pluralism that shapes my life.  I'm neither solely a "scholar" or "woman." I'm not a fan of binaries. Perhaps I'm a post-structuralist in this way. I believe anything in life can have a multiplicity of meanings (hit me up if you want to have a discussion on post-structuralism/post-modernism, I don't bite).

Therefore, to ask "Who is The Scholarly Woman?" is to ask "Who is Pam?" What are her goals and dreams? What does she want out of life?

I'll stop referring to myself in the third person.

Who am I? Well...I'd like to think I'm many things. I'm a Christian, but I love learning about other religious cultures (for Christianity isn't a finite belief, but rather a fluid set of interpretations that has developed its own culture, in my opinion). I'm a scholar, a graduate student, a French historian. Check out my website if you'd like to see more about what I study. I serve on the exec board for our History Graduate Student Association along with other organizations, including University Senate (I get to hang with the Provost and the President often. No biggie.) Outside of my scholarly work, I serve as a mentor to students who aspire to attend grad school. Specifically, I work with students who are a lot like myself: first generation college student, underrepresented ethnic groups, low income, etc. I work as a Communications Coordinator outside of the university. I love what I do and the multifaceted, unique learning opportunities it has afforded me. Lots of grace in my work place (no pun intended, for those of you who know I work for a church). I love fashion, like, a lot. I also love me some hair! Someone suggested I do a collage of my many different hairstyles, but I don't think I will in case I want to recycle and re-use some of them lol. I'm a singer. I love various genres, but gospel will always have my heart. I love music and musical theater. I really miss the latter, actually. Maybe I'll audition for a musical again someday. Who knows? I also absolutely adore movies. I get so excited when awards season comes around. And yes, like last year, I will be doing an awards season inspired outfit! I've also lost quite a bit of weight, which is exciting. I'm thinking of losing maybe 25 lbs more, but a lot of my friends have discouraged that. And hubby doesn't want me to lose my curves. So, we'll see. I'm also black...not sure if you noticed. Yeah, I'm African American, and that certainly is a major part of who I am. I'd like to think that I'm sort of brooding. I love picking apart notions of race, gender, class, religion, politics, etc. Although, I try not to think too hard about politics because I find it to be...well, depressing honestly.

Basically, the point is, I am many things. There are countless facets to who "Pam" is. I'm not defined by my race, occupation, scholarly ambitions, religion, political beliefs, and other passions. Some people choose to see me as only those things, and that's their prerogative. I believe too many of us shape our identity through other people. I choose to find who I am in the passions I have found in life. Because those passions are numerous, this blog reflects that. In short, no, this blog will likely never be streamlined to only a "history" blog or "racial reflection" blog or "fashion" blog. This is precisely because I hope to never be streamlined. I desire to have bountiful passions throughout my life. While I may be very good at only a few things, I want that youthful curiosity, that questioning, exploring nature to always be a part of who I am and how I lead my life. And, if I get that wish, I will always be outside of any one particular box. We all have the opportunity to cast off restraint and dream bigger than we've ever imagined, to live many lives through our passions and interests. That is one of the infinite beauties of existence. And with that, my friends, you have The Scholarly Woman.

Encounters and Crossings: The Ambiguity of African American Identity

This past semester, I wrote a paper on historian Natalie Zemon Davis entitled, "Encounters and Crossings: The Life and Work of Natalie Zemon Davis." Known for her charming writing style and impressive archival research, Davis has gravitated towards "exposing and bringing to life the histories of those groups often suppressed in traditional historical narratives." She is a historian of early modern France, but more recently her work has taken her outside of Europe. Her life as both a woman and a Jew has been a story of encounters and crossings, a desire to be in the center, while challenging from the periphery. In reminiscing on her time in grade school, she once remarked, "I was very eager to be a good student and to be popular and do all the other things you were supposed to do, but I was Jewish." She went on to say, "I was certainly an outsider." The contradictions of center and periphery have guided Davis throughout her historical career.

There are striking similarities between Davis' life and my own. She struggled with her Jewish identity in her younger days and I have wrestled with what it means to be African American. The complexities of African American identity sometimes astound me. It's interesting that no matter how old you get, you still never fully grasp or understand it...for the identity is a paradox in itself. It is ambiguous because it attempts to be both African and American, while simultaneously, it is neither. You're no longer found in the motherland, abandoned instead on strange soil. Yet this is your home...but here you are often rejected, often despised, often misunderstood. You feel an unspoken separation from both localities. So, in the end, where do you stand?

Davis' work really got me thinking about this when she talks about being the only woman in a room filled with men (some who often ignore her or treat her as less their equal), forced to reconcile between her position on the periphery while participating in the center. As a black woman, I have often felt the sting that makes you firmly aware that you are...somehow different from those around you, whether that means you're the only black person in the room when the topic in class is American slavery, or you're the only woman in the room during a discussion of the evolution of feminism. This idea of "encounters and crossings" has been my entire life. Specifically in the world of academia, my position as an African American woman has often bewildered or enthused people. Reactions to my presence have ranged from unmerited curiosity to accolades and rewards. By unmerited curiosity, I mean I have been the recipient of curious excitement when I walk into a room, as if people are saying, "ooh, a black girl, how fun!" Yet, I have also witnessed the befuddled looks on the faces of soon-to-be colleagues as they say something to me like, "Oh, this is the modern Europe class" as if I stumbled into the wrong room (that actually happened to me, by the way).

Truly for me in the field of liberal arts, in history in particular, my African American identity is a blessing and a curse. A blessing in that, I suppose it makes me unique. I find that in every department I go to, people whom I've never met have heard of me or know of me simply because I am "that black girl." Although it's unfair to leave it just at that, because I do work hard. There have certainly been those professors who have heard of me because I've done well in one of their colleague's classes and that has often led to high expectations of my work, which I gladly oblige. I've always enjoyed a challenge. But, on the other hand, it's led me to times where professional historians approach me, automatically assuming that a) I should be doing black history and b) that I won't make it in this field dominated by mostly white males.

My southern upbringing, modest background in the French language, and the few opportunities I had to study French history in my undergrad have served me in interesting ways. I've found sources of great encouragement from those who say things such as, "Everyone is going to want you in their department when you get your PhD. You are an African American woman from the south with very little French background who has claimed this field as her own." And that's fine. That's actually awesome. But it's also afforded me some discouragement such as, "No one's going to expect that you can make it in this field. You're setting up a very hard road for yourself ahead..." or "Your lack of background in French history will be a stumbling block for you along the way." How all of this will play out remains to be seen. However, it is striking that I'm constantly forced to make peace with these different opinions and reactions to something as seemingly simple as being presence, my skin, my gender. Certainly, my life is filled with paradoxes. Filled with ambiguity, filled with irony, oxymoron's...

The reason I define the African American identity as ambiguous is because, like the word suggests, it is: “open to more than one interpretation; it has a double meaning. It is unclear or inexact because a choice between alternatives has not been made.” If I am honest, this ambiguity ties directly into why I am not an American historian. 

As a historian, I have to recognize my own position in the historical community. I must admit that my decision to do European history was very much a conscious one. It was more than just my own fascination with France (which is certainly a major part of my decision). It was also a means of discontinuity with an "African American" identity. Before you misinterpret my words, when I was growing up, one of my biracial friends would constantly protest to us in defiance, "I am NOT black!" This is in no way what I mean by discontinuity. I am an African American woman, and of that I am quite proud. My discontinuity was simply getting lost in the pages of history…where I no longer felt the pressure of being "African American," but instead I was just "Pam"...a historian attempting to understand life through the eyes of a nineteenth-century peasant.

But, if I'm forthright about my "position" then that requires a careful analysis of the society that shaped my values and beliefs. Growing up in Arkansas, I feel that I was constantly reminded of my "place" as an African American in the south. Whether that meant that I was discriminated against or seen as "one of the good one's," I was constantly aware of the weight of being an example of my race. My decision to study European history was an attempt to step away from that weight. European history offered me the chance to not be inundated with my race. 

The history I was taught growing up seemed to be a never-ending tale of black oppression. Now, from a professional standpoint of understanding the "big three" - class, race, and gender - this oppressive tale is absolutely right. For I could never read about the Founding Fathers without remembering that my ancestors were being forcibly carried in chains to this country deemed "the land of the free." Nor could I read about the Roaring 1920s and the Age of Jazz without being confronted with the discrimination that African American musicians were subjected to and the humiliation of using back doors or not being allowed to stay in the exclusive, all-white hotels where they were invited to provide entertainment. And I also cannot think about World War II without remembering that African American soldiers returned home, all the more bitter about their treatment as second-class citizens. I'm reminded of Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins' reflection on American racism in Devil in a Blue Dress: "I had spent five years with white men, and women, from Africa to Italy, through Paris, and into the Fatherland itself. I ate with them and slept with them, and I killed enough blue-eyed young men to know that they were just as afraid to die as I was." Yet, we were treated as "different."

Now, yes, these are larger American events. I can't even begin to mention the many lynchings, assassinations, beatings, and other forms of diabolical mistreatment African Americans have suffered through.

With this in perspective, there's no doubt in my mind that if I were to go into a Freudian psychoanalysis of my decision to study Europe, I would find that it was a combined effort of the unconscious and self-awareness that brought about my fascination in France. It served as a break away from the America that confused me so much in terms of my identity as an African and an American. 

Of course, as I learned, France and Europe have their own racial history and past, one that is just as exploitative, and perhaps more so. While I am personally connected to African American history, I cannot deny Europeans the recognition of their "civilizing missions" of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the slaughtering of millions in an attempt to make "savages" more like "godly Europeans." And they were quite successful in their mission, as western civilization still currently determines what is beautiful, what is acceptable, what is modern, and what is democratic. As historian Geoffrey Barraclough once said, "By 1900, European civilization overshadowed the earth." Therefore, yes, Europe has its own racially charged history, even if it is not as personal to me. That is an entire story in itself.

Conclusively, no, I'm not here to offer some deep revelation of the African American identity. What does it mean to be African American? I have to admit that I don't have an answer to this conundrum. How do I, myself, personally define it? I'm unsure...I'll save that for major theorists, sociologists, historians and others who like to probe the depths of the human condition. Truthfully, this blog post is more about vulnerability and laying bare my own troubles with my African American identity.  Quite frankly, I don't believe that there is any definitive answer or definition to that identity. Therein lies the ambiguity. It is a peculiar, yet awe-inspiring position to be in. I do know that my own life has (and continues to be so) been a tale of encounters and crossings, of challenges and acceptance, of periphery and center. As a historian, I seek to find others in that same position. Furthermore, I choose to find myself in the pages of history. As Davis put it, "History reveals the possibilities of the past – admirable, troubling, irritating, astonishing – and as such, they encourage us to think about the possibilities in the present and future. For me, the possibility of the past invites a commitment to humanity and offers a ray of hope for the future." 

And, yet, there's a strange wonder and excitement within it all.

Readings Mentioned: 
Natalie Zemon Davis, "A Life of Learning" Haskins Lecture, American Council of Learned Societies, 1998.
Geoffrey Barraclough, "The Impact of Technical and Scientific Advance" in An Introduction to Contemporary History.
Walter Mosley, Devil in a Blue Dress.

Random Readings From My Classes That Really Make You Think About Being Black In America:
Gail Bederman, "'Civilization,' the Decline of Middle-Class Manliness, and Ida B. Wells's Antilynching Campaign (1892–94)."
Fogel and Engerman,  Time on the Cross (in case you're up for a reading that will infuriate you).

Summer Look Book Part 3

The finale of my summer look book is here!! This outfit is perfect for a low key dinner date. Plus the flowy top allows you to enjoy your food without worrying about the after-dinner bloat ;)

Top: H&M
Jeans: Target
Clutch: T.J. Maxx
Heels: Payless

I hope you have enjoyed my little summer look book. I'm super excited to say that my sociological reflection has been edited and should be posted soon. Yay!!

Summer Look Book Part 2

Bonjour, mes amis!!

Here's part 2 of my summer look book and this one is a little more sexy. This look is great for going out with the girls or dancing with your significant other. Or you can combine the two dates like I do and get a huge group together along with your significant other to go dancing and whatnot. It's your choice!

This dress is super sexy and slimming. The color is also very "in trend" right now if you care about that sort of thing. I just love that it's a bodycon dress, so it still gives me the ability to move freely.

Side view!

And here's a little back view for ya!

And, just a little tip, these shoes (although they are wedges) are not very comfortable, so you may want to consider some of these babies right here for the balls of your feet. 

And this is probably my favorite photo from this look. Gotta love a candid shot.

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for Part 3 

Summer Look Book Part 1

Let me start by saying, I hate the summer time. Yes, it is true. It's hot, it's muggy, I hate sweating (unless I'm doing worship or working out). Plus, my skin is always the worst during the summer. I have 3 skin conditions and I've had so many break-outs this summer, it's crazy.

But, the one thing I do love is the summer fashion. So, I'm doing a 3 part summer lookbook. Here's the first, enjoy!

Crop Top - Charlotte Russe
Skirt - Target
Boots - Jeffrey Campbell

This is such a fun, flirty look. It's perfect for an afternoon/early evening date with your significant other. It's sexy enough to keep their attention, yet loose enough for me to have a flowy, fun day!

Movie Updates

So, I've been having a blast watching movies so far this year! I mean, not as much as fun as last year when The Avengers came out, but still, so much fun. In an earlier post, I listed movies I want to see this year. Here are the one's I've seen so far:

Movies I've Seen:

Gangster Squad
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
Jack the Giant Slayer
Oz the Great and Powerful
*Iron Man 3
The Great Gatsby
*Star Trek Into Darkness
*Fast & Furious 6
*Man of Steel
Movie 43
*The Place Beyond the Pines
*Pain & Gain
*This is the End
*Monsters University

*personal faves

Movies Still On My List:

G.I. Joe Retaliation
Now You See Me
The Hangover Part 3
Much Ado About Nothing
White House Down
Despicable Me 2
Pacific Rim
Red 2
The Wolverine
2 Guns
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
Thor: The Dark World
The Wolf of Wall Street
Jurassic Park 3D 
The Croods
The Monuments Men

Newbies to the List:

Only God Forgives
The Lone Ranger
The Best Man Holiday
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Anchorman: The Legend Continues

Here are some of my personal favorites and disappointments:

Biggest Disappointment:

After Earth - "womp, womp" is all I have to say about that. 

Oblivion - This movie was incredibly boring. They story line was not so great...Tom Cruise looked great, but that couldn't save the movie.

Biggest (pleasant) Surprise:

Pain & Gain - This is a dark comedy, what with all the drugs and murder (and it's based on a true story. You should google it, it's crazy). Mark Wahlberg, The Rock, and Anthony Mackie were just fantastic. I mean, they had me laughing from beginning to end. I saw this movie 4 times, and I'm unashamed to admit it.

Biggest (not so pleasant) Surprise:

Oz the Great and Powerful - James Franco...really did not wow me in this role. He just seemed...disingenuous the entire time. Like, the movie could not have been carried by his acting alone. In fact, it would have failed if it was just piggybacking off of Franco. But, luckily, the ladies (Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis, and Michelle Williams) really make the movie fun to watch. But, don't go in expecting something amazing...because it wasn't. The colors were bright and beautiful to look at though.

Movie that Delivered Exactly What I Expected:

Fast & Furious 6 - Yesssssss, I love fast cars. I really do. A guy friend told me I like "muscle cars" and maybe that's true because I was just on the edge of my seat with excitement and this movie delivered. I can't wait for the 7th one!

Man of Steel - All I have to say, is that Superman liiiiivvvves! Superman is the hero of childhood. And I will be watching every Superman film with Henry Cavill as the lead. I'm convinced that he is Superman (and soooo hot).

Anywho, I won't drone on and on, but I've enjoyed the movie scene so far. Looking forward to the summer time for more animated films. I love going to these by myself, buying gummy bears, and sitting on the edge of my seat, laughing out loud like a child. Don't judge me.

The End of Year One

Long time, no see friends!

I have successfully completed my first year of graduate school and I must say, it feels good. If you read my blog post on last semester, I figured I'd do a similar post this time around. This semester, I read a total of 91 (yes ninety-one) books and articles, wrote 4 small papers, 14 mini reflections, and 2 gargantuan final research papers.

My two final papers were absolutely delightful to write because I loved the research. One was on an influential twentieth century historian. I chose Natalie Zemon Davis (I adore her). She's a social and cultural historian of early modern France, who focuses on marginalized groups (peasants, women, slaves, etc). One of my favorite quotes from her is, "I was never the historian for kings and's the others who need me." My other paper was a historiography on French urban centers, national identity, and regionalism. I analyzed scholarship on provincial cities in contrast to scholarship that is more centralized and Parisian to find the ways in which provincial cities can both problematize and work in tandem with national history. Both papers were a joy to write, although the latter was the hardest. My biggest struggle at Loyola has been understanding what a "historiography" is. I think that UCA prepared me very well for archival, primary source research. But I had difficulty analyzing secondary sources. Most of my work was too "book review-ish" instead of a scholarly analysis. When I look back on it now, I realize it was because I just did not understand what historic writing and historiography meant. That struggle haunted me over this year. My first draft of my French urban identity paper was almost disastrous. I had to completely re-work the argument. Nevertheless, after weeks of re-vamping, long nights, early mornings, lots of coffee, and sleepy time tea (for those restless nights when I dreamt in French), my professor wrote, and I quote, "This is an excellent paper. In the future, use this format for your historiographies, as you've finally figured out the genre." I could have literally shouted for joy, right there, in the middle of campus. It was a glorious moment. I feel very relieved.

Now that Year One is over, I realize I have learned a lot. The first, and perhaps most important academically, is that the grade is not the most important. Rather than chasing an A (a mistake I often did in my early years of undergrad), graduate school is about the training. You can get a "B" and still not understand what "historiography" actually is. Instead, I want my "A" to reflect that I've finally grasped the concept fully. That attitude is different from the one I've had in the past. And it is enlightening and in some ways freeing. When I get my "A" now, it reflects that I've been trained well and that I can succeed in this field. That is incredibly rewarding.

The next best thing is that I completed my Fellowship (hoo-ray!)! The four senior students that I mentored for my fellowship program are graduating today. They come from all different backgrounds: minority, first generation, low income, etc. They come from marginalized groups that are not expected to succeed. They are all getting their degrees and also they are all going on to graduate programs. I could not be more proud and honored to be a part of their lives and share in their success.

With this year having been so awesome, I'm wondering how next year can be better, you know? Lol! Nah, it's gonna be great! Already, for the summer I'll be presenting at a conference, taking a language course, and possibly working with a French historian on some research (fingers crossed!). Next year, I already have a couple of organizational appointments lined up, like serving as Vice President for our History Graduate Student Association. For now, I can kick back, go to a bunch of movies, enjoy the Windy City, and hang out with my hubby and puppy love. I know God has amazing things for us yet to come!


The Movies Tag


I saw this "movies tag" going around on YouTube, where a bunch of different people were answering these random questions about their movie preferences. This is actually harder to do than it looks, because, for me, there are several possible answers to all of these questions. I'm going to try to narrow it down to one answer per question...we'll see how well I adhere to the rules.

1- Favorite movie of all time?
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. That movie legit changed my life. #JackSparrowForLIFE

2- Favorite scene from that movie?
Several....but the first that comes to mind is the scene where Jack is talking to those two army guys who were supposed to be guarding the ships to make sure "these docks stay off limits to civilians" lol!

3- Favorite actors /actresses?
Actors - Johnny Depp, Robert Downey Jr., Denzel Washington, Ryan Gosling, Idris Elba, Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Morgan Freeman, Steve Carell, Morris Chestnut, Josh Brolin, Seth MacFarlane, Jim Carrey
Actresses - Zoe Sandana, Mila Kunis, Rachel McAdams, Halle Berry, Angela Bassett, Natalie Portman, Rachel Weisz, Anne Hathaway, Jennifer Lawrence, Sanaa Lathan

4- Most annoying actor/actress?
Actors - Adam Sandler,  Leonardo DiCaprio (when will he hit puberty?), George Clooney, Robert Pattison, Matthew McConaughey
Actresses - Kristen Stewart, Helena Bonham Carter, Keira Knightley

5- Best director?
Guy Ritchie

6- Favorite guilty pleasure film?
The Notebook

7- Favorite tear jerker?
The movie that in the history of my life has made me cry the most was...I'm ashamed to say...Armageddon. lol

8- Character from a movie that scared you the most?
The guy from The Hitcher...he freaked me out.

9- Movie you love everyone hates?
Lol, this one is aimed at DJ. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. He hates that movie, I love it SO much.

10- Movie you hate everyone loves?
Lost in Translation...I seriously despise that terrible movie.

11- Favorite movie duo?
Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law - Sherlock Holmes! One of my all-time favorites!

12- Favorite animated movie?
This is a tough one...I will break the rules here:
The Incredibles, Shrek, Hercules, The Princess and the Frog, Team America, Mulan, Tangled

13- Actor/actress crush?
Currently: Actor - Chris Hemsworth; Actress - Mila Kunis

14- Favorite movie villain?
Hands down, The Joker. Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight Rises, OMGGGGG, I loved him so much! A close second would be Hugo Weaving...The Matrix, Captain America, MEGATRON, even Cloud Atlas (all of his characters freaked me out lol)

15- What movie surprised you the most?
The Shawshank Redemption...wasn't at all what I thought it would be and is now one of my all-time favorite movies!

16- If you could only keep one movie what would it be?
The Avengers - perfect combination of hotness, action, comedy, and tension.

17- Movie recommendation and for whom?
I don't like this

18- If you could go back in time and marry actor/actress from back when (now old) who would it be?
Cliché, but Sean Connery.

19- One remake you wish had never been made?

Not necessarily a "remake" but the new addition to the Indiana Jones series.

20- About to die but could only watch one more movie what would it be?
40-Year Old Virgin - I want to go out gasping for air from laughing so hard.

21- Favorite movie genre/favorite movie from that genre?
I like action comedies and my favorite movie from that genre has to be Pirates of the Caribbean.

22- What's the first movie you remember watching in theaters?
Lol! This one makes me laugh because I actually remember. Thumbelina. Did anyone else even see that movie?

A Little Spring in the Middle of Winter

Sometimes, God sends truly wonderful days in the midst of it all. Like these little tastes of spring we've been getting in Chicago. I've been enjoying it to the fullest! So, here's what I wore yesterday. Of course, I must add, that most of my time was spent indoors lol.

What I'm Wearing:
Dress - Target
Tights - Target
Shoes - Payless (Yes, seriously. For only like $20 too!)

Looking Ahead: 2013 Movies

With the Oscars coming up in a couple weeks, I decided I would go ahead and list movies that I'm excited about for 2013. As the year moves on, perhaps I'll add some more. While there are some that I'm super pumped about (like Iron Man 3 and Thor), this year isn't as exciting as 2012, as far as movies go (but then again, it's hard to follow the year of The Avengers).

Anticipated Movies of 2013:
*listed by release date

The Wolf of Wall Street
Gangster Squad
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
Jack the Giant Slayer
Oz: The Great and Powerful
G.I. Joe Retaliation (honestly, it's just for the music lol)
Jurassic Park 3D (so pumped to re-live this!)
Iron Man 3
The Great Gatsby
Star Trek Into Darkness
Epic (for Beyoncé hunny, yesss lol)
The Hangover Part 3
Fast & Furious 6
Man of Steel
Despicable Me 2
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
Thor: The Dark World

My Maybe List of 2013:
Movie 43
The Croods
The Place Beyond the Pines
Pain & Gain
Much Ado About Nothing
After Earth (DJ picked this one)
Now You See Me
This is the End
Monsters University
White House Down
Pacific Rim (Idris Elba, alll day!)
The Wolverine (Hugh Jackman, need I say more?)
Red 2
2 Guns
The Monuments Men

Une critique du film "Amour"

Aujourd’hui, j’ai regardé le film “Amour.” Depuis le film est français, j’ai décidé écrire une critique de lui en français. Maintenant, soyez indulgent avec moi. Mon français est rouillé.

Le film a été…intéressant. C’est vraiment dificile expliquer. D’un côté, le film a été magnifique. Le jeu de Emmanuelle Riva et Jean-Louis Trintignat est superbe. La direction de Michael Haneke est formidable, aussi. J’ai apprécié spécialement  l’utilisation de la musique minimal.

D’un autre côté, la fin du film a été déconcertant. Est-ce qu'il a tué sa femme et alors lui-même?? Je ne sais pas! Á la fin, j’ai été…trés désorientée. Et, aussi l'intrigue n'a été pas clair. Le public a supposer beaucoup. Mais, c'est peut-être le charme du film.

Mais, je vous recommande ce film quand même. Essayez. Il est bon!

Merci pour lecture!

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