Wednesday, September 11, 2013

 Universal Truths
Stephen Graham Jones is not only an accomplished writer, but also has an interesting background, growing up as an Indian with traditional parents. He writes fiction, and even says he dreams in fiction. Jones came to Loyola and spoke to a room of staff and students about his writing process, early life, and even read from some of his books. I have not read many horror, crime, and science fiction books, (the main genres he writes in) however the themes throughout his stories and throughout his life contain universal truths. There are strong parallels between his words and four texts, Robert Frost’s poem, “Mending Wall,” Frances E. W. Harper’s poem, “Learning to Read,” Jill McDonough’s poem, “Accident, Mass. Ave.,” and Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach’s, “The Service of Faith and Promotion of Justice in Jesuit Higher Education”. Jones’ words along with these four texts illustrate how societies share universal ideas of striving to better oneself and others around them, societal expectations, and embracing and accepting diversity.
In Robert Frost’s famous poem, “Mending Wall”, two neighbors are separated by a stonewall. One day they meet and discuss repairs necessary to the wall. The narrator suggests that they do not need a wall because walls are for containing cows and there are no cows around. Only to have his neighbor respond, “Good fences make good neighbors” (Frost 27). The narrator then goes on to try and convince him they do not need the wall, but his neighbor is stuck to his old traditional ways and repeats, “Good fences make good neighbors.” Here Frost demonstrates how the narrator tried to better the relationship between himself and his neighbor but was unsuccessful in doing so. Similar to the narrator, Jones was unable to change the Indian stereotypes of the people around him. He explained when he went to Tallahassee, Florida someone running a coffee shop asked him to do a rain dance so the drought could end. When he was in Little Rock, Arkansas he was asked what his spirit animal was. The narrator in the poem was strong willed and tried his best to better his neighbor, and Jones did not let people’s ignorance bother him.
 “Learning to Read” is the story of a woman who was a slave, and even after her freedom she makes the courageous decision to, at age sixty, learn to read. Harper says, “…you’re too late; / But as I was rising sixty, / I had no time to wait. / So I got a pair of glasses, / And straight to work I went, / And never stopped till I could read” (Harper 34-39). This has always been a dream of hers, and it exemplifies one wanting to better herself, and grow for her own personal benefit, not for others. She illustrates self determination and a strong willed, self-assured woman. Jones, too, wanted to better himself. He explained how his whole family was farmers and he was expected to follow along in that tradition. His plan was to buy a tracker, begin to cultivate land, and work for an hourly wage the rest of his life. However, when he found his passion, writing, he realized he wanted more out of his life. He took matters into his own hands and successfully pursued his passion, getting an education, and becoming a novelist, demonstrating bettering himself for personal gain.
Jill McDonough’s poem, “Accident, Mass. Ave” depicts a car accident in the middle of Boston. A woman gets out of her car after she has been hit and begins yelling at the woman who hit her car. The narrator explains, “But she lived and drove in Boston, too, so she knew, / we both knew, that the thing to do / is get out of the car, slam the door / as hard as you fucking can and yell” (9-12). The women were yelling just for the sake of it, because it was the societal norm, and what was expected. However, when they realize no damage was done to either of the cars they see the absurdity of the situation. They break free from societal norms, laughing and hugging about the situation. Jones too explains how he breaks free of societal expectations in his writing. Readers expect him to stay within the same genre, or solely write about werewolves, but he continually surprises them with new fiction he plans out in his head. He explained how when writing for a certain publisher they want an outline before signing with him. This makes him feel constrained and does not allow for him to have freedom when writing. By not staying with the original outline, Jones strays from expectations and is liberated because of this.
A Jesuit Education stresses acceptance of diversity. Kolvenbach states, “This composition of our time and place embraces six billion people…some white and many brown and yellow and black. Each one a unique individual, they all aspire to live life...” (Kolvenbach 32). In a Jesuit Society, diversity is not just accepted, but promoted. This was not the case when Jones traveled. In New Mexico people referred to him as, “chief”. They asked him what kinds of animal tracks were outside, and he proceeded to pretend he didn’t know. He explained how he felt like people were looking at him like an alien in Florida. His diversity made him an outsider, and did not know what it was like to live in a place that accepted him for who he was, he longed for a place like a Jesuit Society.
         These four works can easily be compared and contrasted with to Jones’ life and works. His universal truths of acceptance, diversity, and bettering oneself are found throughout our society today and will be omnipresent for decades to come.

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