Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Greatest Generation By Tom Brokaw

What I've learned from reading a variety of non-fiction books is that journalists say it best and Tom Brokaw is no exception.

I've been reading "The Greatest Generation" by Tom Brokaw for a few months now. One might think its taken me this long because I'm either a slow reader or it's boring. Well, one out two is correct. Usually, I have a tendency to devour books. I over compensate my slow reading with skimming and end up missing most of the point, so I deliberately decided to take my time with this book and only read it while I'm at the gym. Plus, its a hard back so its easy to prop open.

A few months back, my mom had a stack of books my brother was giving away, kind of a purging of his collection. I saw the book and remember hearing good reviews, this however, was before I discovered my love for all things WWII. I picked it up and asked my mom "How can Renato be giving this away?!" she said his wife had a copy, so if I wanted this one, I could have it. So I snatched it up. It sat on my bookshelf, along with all my other anxious books (yeah, I totally just anthropomorphize my book, what?! They're excited to get read, I know it!) until I felt a pull toward it. In the meantime, I read a few books of fiction, a non-fiction book about past lives, some short stories, many self help and finally, I was back to WWII and I settled in for this epic story, as if I were sitting at the feet of my grandfather (note to readers: I've never met any of my grandfathers, and even if I did, they wouldn't have been in WWII, they were both Mexican. More on that later.)

I often wonder why I have this "draw" to WWII or history in general. I love all things history. If I narrow it down, I come up with US History as my main focus and if I look a little deeper, I have a swelling heart for Ethnic Studies, any US History related to people of color. Within US History, what draws me the most is WWII, the Civil Rights movement, the civil war and the contact, in no particular order. But yet, time after time, I'm drawn to WWII, the greatest generation. Perhaps (and seriously, I'm just throwing theories out there) it's because my family wasn't here yet. I find it odd that I'd be drawn to something I'm not a part of. I think its also looking for this sense of belonging, looking for faces like mine during "The Greatest Generation" just so I know, I belong too. As I've mentioned, my family wasn't here in the 40s. My family's US history begins in 1969, after my parents got married and my dad moved back to the US. In history class, we'd have projects where they said "go ask your grandparents about WWII or where were they when Kennedy got shot?" And I never could. For one, my grandfathers were both in Mexico at the time and had no involvement in WWII, not even as the Aztec Eagle (Mexican fighter pilots that helped the US during WWII). I suppose, I always felt out of place, like I didn't belong. I think legions of immigrants post 1950s might feel that way, not having a kind of connection to the toddlerness that was our country at the turn of the century. I constantly fight for a sense of belonging here, even though I often see myself as an other. And the thing is, I am an other, but that doesn't make me less of an American than any one else. And I don't say that because someone has outright said that, I think I say it because I too am trying to convince myself that I belong in this country, even if sometimes it doesn't feel that way. I've lived in Mexico, and although I blend in, I still feel different. I live here and even though I've slowly started to not stick out like a sore thumb, I do sometimes feel like an other. So again, that's why I look through our US history to try to find myself in it, why during WWII? Perhaps because it was one of the most important times in our country, one of the most complicated times in our country, a kind of schizophrenia was going on. We must save the Jews from Nazi persecution, but yet, we had segregated armed forces. African-American, Indian-American, Asian-American soldiers all fought one enemy over seas, but came back to find themselves fighting another one: prejudice, Jim Crow etc. I find all this fascinating in a disturbing kind of way, but still I search, I search for a face that looks like mine through all the historical rubble.

Another side to this coin is a sense of responsibility. I feel our generation has lost touch with what's important in life. We're all about instant gratification: twitter, Facebook, pop culture. I want, instead of I need, right now, instead of patience. Rash decision, instead of carefully thought out plans. I'm not sure I'm making much sense on this, but all I can say is that reading about what people had to go through to get to wear they are, especially woman, has given me more of a sense of responsibility to do my part as well as a sense gratitude for the crap they had to endure just so I could go to college and/or not have to avoid restaurants that had signs saying "No Mexicans or dogs allowed".

I guess what I'm getting to with this entry is that history is an important part in the global sense of connection and belonging. Through someones act somewhere, I am where I am, and I personally find comfort in that. My sense of belonging has been damaged for quite sometime now but slowly, I've been finding ways to chisel away at the those parts of myself.

I'm not yet done with this book. I probably have 100 more pages to go, but I highly recommend it, not just to a WWII lover, but a lover of personal stories, personal histories. We all have one, we are all important, we all belong.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

It's been a while

Why hello there Portland, it's been a while, about 4 months to be exact. These last two have gone by so fast, I barely knew what happened.

I've not written much because well, I'm not reading, nor am I running. I've been reading Tom Brokav's "The Greatest Generation"for about 2 months now. (A post about that should be coming.) I've not finished it because its boring, it's just that its the book I read while I'm at the gym. It's a hard back (which I rarely own) so its easy to prop on the elliptical or stationary bike. The other part of this equation as to why I've not finished is because I've not gone to the gym as often as I'd like. The holidays came in like a tornado and spit me out 6 pounds heavier, then I'm moving from NW to SE and this is my last week at my apartment, so I've been packing and anxiety ridden because of it, which yes, exercise is supposed to help with all that, but I'm a stubborn little woman, so instead, I just go home and click on another episode of Law and Order: SVU. I'm waiting till I've moved to stop the madness, or until I suspect every man on the street wants to rape me...which ever comes first.

So yes, I'm moving. Again...ok, well after almost 3.5 in NW Portland, I'm moving across the river to the scary side of town. My mom always warned all us youn ins growing up that "downtown" was scary, which also encompassed anything that had eastin its name. So, not until I moved to Portland AFTER college, did I begin to explore the parts of the East side that were supposedly scary. Sure, there are sketch parts that I know now to avoid, but I've also fallen quite in love with the NE: Irvington, Alameda, Broadway, Freemont and I was really looking forward to exploring the newly established hip NoPo (or North Portland), but alas, the new roomie and I decided on the SE Sellwood area. Its quite a quaint little spot and I really look forward to exploring it. On one of our unpacking excursions, we drove around SE Tacoma, SE 13th and SE Milwauakie and much to my giddy surprise there were quaint little coffee shops and TONS of antique shops...this fits me quite well.

One of the main questions people have asked me is: Are you nervous to have a roommate after living alone for some many years? To be honest: I'm not. I'm really excited. That might be the me of "silver lining, glass half full, frown upside..." but I really am. Its one of those "one door closes, another opens" and I just gotta see it for what it is, an opportunity. I'm going to save money and have a live in buddy! The last 5 years I honestly thought I was done with the whole roommate thing. Not because I didn't want it (ok, a piece of me didn't want it) but because I was in a long-term committed relationship which we both expected to end in marriage. This would have been the year him and I moved in together, probably gotten married and two years from now planned on having children...but it was not to be, and as sad as letting go of that dream is, I'm excited to have another chance at exploring life with a new set of characters. I now get to discover and explore Portland as a single gal. I've not done that since HS. So yes, I'm excited. I feel like this is the perfect timing for something like this. Ok, perfect is not the right word, I'm hesitant to EVER use the word perfect, but the timing is just right. When I was starting to think about cutting my rent in half, I met a wonderful friend through dance who would later become my roommate. Honestly, I didn't know it was possible to be such good friends with someone after just a few months. These things have happened few and far between the years. When it was time to look for a place, there she was. And now, I feel restless at my old place, my lazy habits beating out the healthy ones, I'm moving which will force me to put back in play my healthy habits which I'm really looking forward to. I'll be working out in the morning, which gives me the evening to do cooking or meet a friend at happy hour. I'll have a buddy to laze around with on Sunday mornings or to spontaneously go grab a drink at the local watering hole (once we find it!) And, I'll also have to force myself to take time for myself in the forms of writing, reading and projects. I've always been the kind of person that is better with little time to do many things, than having ALL THE TIME in the world to do one, so I think this arrangement will suit me well...until its time for another change. It could be 6 months, it could be 2 years. I honestly have no idea what's going to happen, but I'm ready for it, my knees are slightly bent, my stance is strong: world, I'm ready for whatever you have to throw at me!