English 061

When most people imagine Bonnie and Clyde they picture two young beautiful outlaws as portrayed by Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway in the 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde. Directed by Arthur Penn, the film won two Oscars (Best Supporting Actress and Best Cinematography) and depicted Bonnie and Clyde as a romanticized twentieth-century Robin Hood and his companion, regularly robbing banks and sharing the proceeds with their family and friends.

The truth is that although Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were alone in their stolen car when they were finally ambushed and shot by federal state officers in 1934, the history of how they ended up there is more complicated. The story involves a larger group of people known as the ‘Barrow Gang’ who were notorious outlaws, robbers, and criminals travelling the Central United States during the Great Depression, stealing cars and robbing small businesses and citizens.

Clyde Champion Barrow went by many aliases such as Roy Bailey, Jack Hale and Elvin Williams just to name a few. He was born in Telico, Texas, on March 24, 1909. He was the sixth child of eight, born into a poor, farming family. Clyde was first arrested in 1926, after failing to return a rental car on time. Clyde rarely attended school and stopped going all together after the fifth grade when he became involved in selling stolen goods with his big brother Marvin ‘Buck’ Barrow. Robbing banks, grocery stores and gas stations led to law officers coining the term “Barrow Gang.” Clyde wasn’t difficult to pick out: he was a mere 5 foot 6 inches tall with a boyish face.

Clyde’s future partner in crime, Bonnie Parker was born on October 1, 1910, in Rowena, Texas. She was the second of three children. Her father died when she was four years old and her mother moved the family to Cement City near Dallas. Bonnie attended Cement City School where she was known to be an “excellent honor roll student.” While in school she excelled in creative writing, won a County League contest in literary arts and even gave introductory speeches for local politicians. People described Bonnie as intelligent and personable, yet strong willed. She stood only 4 foot 11 inches tall and weighed 90 pounds.

Bonnie was addicted to romance and dreamed of a future in the spotlight. On September 25, 1926, less than a week before her sixteenth birthday, Bonnie married Roy Thornton. Showing her love, she tattooed her inner thigh with two intertwined hearts and their names. They later separated in January 1929, but never divorced. Parker was still wearing Thornton’s wedding ring when she died.

In January 1930, Bonnie visited a friend in West Dallas. Clyde dropped by the house when Bonnie was there and it’s said that both were “immediately smitten” and many analysts believe Bonnie joined Clyde in crime simply because she was in love. In between crimes, she would indulge in her creative writing, producing poems such as Suicide Sal and The Story of Bonnie and Clyde. Her role in the Barrow Gang crimes has long been debated. Barrow Gang members William Daniel Jones and Ralph Fults have both testified that the never saw Bonnie fire a gun. Clyde’s youngest sister Marie made a similar claim saying, “She just followed my brother no matter where he went.”

Clyde eventually was questioned for robberies and sentenced to fourteen years in prison. Bonnie visited him every day. He was later released on parole with help from his mother. Clyde hated his time in prison and the treatment he received there. Clyde’s goal in life was not to gain fame and fortune from robbing banks, but to seek revenge against the Texas prison system for the abuses he suffered serving time.

In January 1934, Clyde finally made the move for revenge on the Texas Department of Corrections in what became known as the infamous “Eastham Breakout.” Clyde was the mastermind behind the January 16 escape of five prisoners including Henry Methvin and Raymond Hamilton. The Texas Department of Corrections received a large amount of national negative publicity over the jailbreak, and officer Lee Simons promised that the persons involved in the breakout would be hunted down and killed.

While on the run, the Barrow Gang camped out at Dexfield Park, an abandoned amusement park near Dexter, Iowa. Unfortunately, they were noticed by local citizens and soon surrounded by local lawmen, a shoot-out took place. Clyde, Bonnie and W.D. Jones escaped on foot, but Buck Barrow was shot in the back and his wife, Blanche, hit in the face and eyes with flying glass. Buck died five days later at Kings’ Daughters Hospital in Iowa of pneumonia after surgery. Blanche, with her left eye badly injured, was caught and jailed in Missouri.

Bonnie and Clyde would later be gunned down by an ambush on May 23, 1934. Bonnie was twenty-three years old, Clyde twenty-four. In their car a saxophone was found as well as three Browning automatic rifles, one 10-gauge Winchester lever-action, sawn-off shotgun, one 20-gauge sawn-off shotgun, one Colt 32-caliber automatic, one Colt 45-caliber revolver, seven Colt automatic pistols, and approximately 3,000 rounds of ammunition. They also found license plates from Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Texas, Indiana, Kansas, Ohio and Louisiana. At the time of their death, Bonnie and Clyde were believed to have committed thirteen murders and several robberies and burglaries.

Castleden, Chloe. Bonnie and Clyde : The Notorious Barrow Gang. New York: Constable & Robinson, 2011. Ebook Library. Web. 06 May. 2013.

May 6
Bonnie and Clyde: The Notorious Barrow Gang

Hmm, where do you start with a screenplay/movie like this? Everything that I was told prior to reading the screenplay and watching the film is entirely true. There is an abundance of symbolism, metaphors and layers packed into this one piece of work, that it is impossible to take it all in during the first read or viewing. I did enjoy the screenplay, but found it confusing and hard to follow at times. Watching the movie helped answer certain questions by giving me a visual and tying everything together. However, I found it difficult to follow the time period in the movie, where in the screenplay you can read the location and date of the setting, which covers a span of 50 years.



Right away we’re introduced to the idea that Caden is distraught with the idea of dying and illness. We see this when he says he’s not feeling very well, but in other not-so-subtle hints like the magazine in his mailbox titled Attending to Your Illness, him reading the obituaries aloud, and his daughter’s fascination with her green poop and asking if she’s going to die. Caden even physically hurts himself when shaving and the sink bursts, causing him to gouge his brow. He then sees an optometrist who refers him to a neurologist. All the while, we never really figure out what’s exactly wrong with him.

His wife Adele admits during their couple therapy that she fantasizes about Caden dying – that can’t possibly make one feel too keen on life. Throughout the rest of the screenplay we see Caden thinking he’s dying or contracting other symptoms like leg spasms, having a seizure, attempting suicide, and taking handfuls of prescription pills. I struggle to make sense of this all, until we’re introduced to the character Millicent, who’s hired to play Ellen and later Caden.

Millicent wins over the role of Caden when she proclaims:

“Caden Cotard is a man already dead, living in a half-world between stasis and antistasis. Time is concentrated and chronology confused for him. Up until recently he has strived valiantly to make sense of his situation, but now he has turned to stone.”

This statement sums up the character of Caden in a careful depiction. His fear of dying has caused him to live as if he’s already dead. It’s as if he’s a hypochondriac to some degree. His obsession with analyzing and attempting to figure out his life brought him to make a life-size reality play about his life. He spends over 20 years developing, rehearsing and casting this play, to which no audience ever sees.


Throughout the screenplay we see Caden in many different relationships. The first is with his wife, Adele, and they seem to be going through marital issues to say the least. Adele appears to be the catalyst to Caden’s “death.” She doesn’t go to his opening night and when he comes home she’s stoned with her “friend” Maria. I say “friend” because I’m not really sure what their relationship is… Adele tells Caden not to go with her to Berlin, but that she and Olive will go alone. She assures Caden they will talk when she returns. But she never returns. Caden vigorously cleans Adele’s studio with a toothbrush when she leaves. We see the association of cleaning again when Caden visits Adele’s New York apartment when she isn’t home, and he takes on the role of Ellen the housekeeper.

Caden sends Olive gifts and letters, but doesn’t receive anything in return. He’s in a relationship with Claire and they have a daughter of their own, when he decides to go search for Olive. His search is unsuccessful, but he knows that Olive now has floral tattoos all over her body. Maria meets to talk and reveals that Olive is her muse. In anger, Caden tackles Maria and she runs off.

In another visit, Caden finds Olive as a prostitute, dancing in a glass window. He yells for her, but again is unsuccessful. It’s not until Olive is of age 40 and dying from ink infection from her tattoos that Maria finds Caden to say goodbye to Olive. This relationship I find the most frustrating and confusing. I don’t understand why Adele allowed this relationship between Olive and Maria? And we find out Olive has been told lies about her father, thinking he left her for a homosexual relationship. Wanting her forgiveness before she dies, he admits to her beliefs, but she does not accept.

Then we have the character of Hazel. For some reason Hazel is associated with fire and her house is in flames at all times. I’m not sure what this is trying to portray? That she is unattainable? That she is evil? But to me, Caden and Hazel seem perfect for each other. But yet they both end up in relationships with others and having children: Hazel with Derrick and Caden with Claire. In the end we see them end up together, and just when we think there’s a chance for happiness, Hazel dies from smoke inhalation.

Book Comparison

My mind is so confused with Synecdoche, that I’m not even sure how to compare Promethea and The things They Carried with Synecdoche. But an internal journey is definitely present in all, as well as the haziness of fiction and nonfiction. The difference: in the other books our main characters come out successful and alive, where I feel Caden does not. He never completes his play, yet he spends his entire life trying to make it perfect. When perfection does not exist.

Apr 29
Synecdoche, New York

You know the thing I liked the most about Billy Sims was his humble and modest demeanor. Art and graphic novels are not his current full-time job, rather he is a special education teacher in Ohio. So he applies for a variety of contests and shows in his spare time and then “forgets about them.” When he received the e-mail from Drake announcing he had won the Emerging Writers Contest in graphic fiction he almost didn’t believe it. In fact, he didn’t. He closed the e-mail, reopened it and then called his wife before crying. 

During his presentation he mentioned some mistakes he may have made in the wood cuttings or things he would have done differently. He did not claim to know all the answers and I found that very relatable. He left his artwork open-ended for his readers and audience to interperet the cuttings in their own way. I really like this because we all think differently and through art and literature we can share different experiences. 

One thing is for sure, Billy Sims is a very talented artist. HIs wood cuttings are delicately manicured to tell a brutal story of genocide. His picture novel gets the audience thinking and talking about corporate power, government, religion and mass destruction of people. He is currently working on wood cuttings for the story of Ulysses.  

Apr 19
Gallery Talk with Billy Sims

My boyfriend and I thought we’d treat ourselves to some Orange Leaf yogurt before going to listen to Cheryl Strayed at the Des Moines library. We must have neglected our yogurt craving for way too long because it was gone in 5 minutes - toppings and all!

Arriving 30 minutes early to the event, we figured we’d just walk around the library and waste time before Cheryl went on. Boy, were we wrong! The place was packed! We literally found two seats in the way back corner to sit. I was surprised, and very impressed to see so many people attend.

Strayed did not disappoint. She was candid, honest, humbled, well-spoken and entertaining to listen to. She spoke about Wild - how it came to be, the process,and then read a couple excerpts. When referring to the time she bought a shovel from REI, she laughed and said, “Sometimes life hands you metaphors.” I couldn’t agree more. Strayed commented that Wild is about “what it means to be human.” And she waited to write her memoir until she felt she had something to say. 

Strayed also shared a piece she wrote for The Rumpus and the Dear Sugar advice column. Her response to a twenty-something-year-old girl was so real, and honest, and comedic - it was fantastic! I will have to start reading that column, I enjoyed it so much! 

Apr 16
Cheryl Strayed at #DMPLAViD

In book three of Promethea, Sophie makes the decision to find Barbara in the Immateria and bring her back. But Sophie cannot just leave her “Earthly” duties, so she develops a plan for Stacia and Grace to combine forces to become the “Earthly” Promethea while Sophie is away. The rest of book three (and the majority of book four) consist widely of Barbara and Sophie traveling through the Immateria looking for Steve, Barbara’s husband, so she can say goodbye and return with Sophie.

When Sophie finds Barbara and they begin to make their journey they find a map at the train station. This map resembles the London underground rail-map, but instead it is the Tree of Life of the Kabbalistic system. Now, to be perfectly honest I was not familiar with Kabbalism. The only thing I knew was that at one time celebrities like Madonna, Britney Spears and Ashton Kutcher wore these orange bracelets representing Kabbalah… So I went to the trusty Internet to learn a thing or two.

According to Kabbalah.com: “The word Kabbalah means many different things to many different people. In a nutshell, it is an ancient wisdom that reveals how the universe and life work. On a literal level, the word Kabbalah means ‘receiving.’ It’s the study of how to receive fulfillment in our lives.” This web site reveals that Kabbalah is an ancient yet entirely new paradigm for living that teaches on all branches of life such as health, relationships, business, etc. It suggests that these branches of our lives emanate from the same trunk and the same root. The site went on to say that Kabbalah is the technology of how the universe works at the core level, and “it’s a whole new way of looking at the world that can connect you to the kind of permanent fulfillment you may be seeking.”

For me, this helps to make more sense of this journey that Barbara and Sophie begin. Sophie feels as though she needs Barbara, because to this point Barbara is a mother figure to Sophie. She needs Barbara for the support to fully understand her Promethea role and existence in the material world as well as the Immateria. Barbara realizes she is meant for greater good and is thankful for Sophie coming after her; however she would like to find Steve to gain closure and bid farewell. Through these actions, Sophie and Barbara can “receive” fulfillment in their lives. We know they start on the Tree of Life at foundation and walk along the sun path toward HOD. Along the sun path, we can notice the change in color within the illustrations – warm tones such as orange and yellows are brightly present.

When they’re close to reaching Splendour or the HOD, Barbara and Sophie come to an infinity loop that covers a two-page spread. To me, this represents the connections of all of our “branches” in life and the feeling of dejavu comes from these branches meeting at the root. When they’re traveling through HOD, I get a little confused. I’m not sure what direction they are traveling, possibly the tower line? But we see them go through many emotions and feelings before approaching the allusion of “death.”

In my research I also found that Kabbalah is a set of esoteric teachings meant to explain the relationship between an unchanging, eternal and mysterious “Ein Sof” or “no end” and the mortal and finite universe. I believe this helps to explain the connections between the material world and the Immateria. While Kabbalah is used by some denominations, it is not a religious denomination in itself. In Judaism, it forms the foundations of mystical religious interpretation. In other faiths, its scriptures are read outside the traditional canons of organized religion. According to Wikipedia.com, “Kabbalah seeks to define the nature of the universe and the human being, the nature and purpose of existence, and various other ontological questions. It also presents methods to aid understanding of these concepts and to thereby attain spiritual realization.”

Through their journey Sophie meets her dad and learns he didn’t abandon she and her mom, but rather his drug-dealing partners killed him. She also learns more about her own mother and is able to amend their relationship and start a new. The rest of book four was a little out there for me. I was confused by the sexual tension between Barbara and Sophie and all the talk about “godsex.” The journey somewhat reminded me of the Christmas Carol only in that people would appear to help them along their path and provide information for them to continue. Other than that, I was at a loss for what the author was trying to convey or wanting us to experience through these two books. Hopefully other posts will provide more insight for me to understand a little bit better.

Apr 15
Promethea: Books 3 & 4

Promethea is a mystic warrior who can transport herself by using her imagination, which is fitting as the illustrations in the graphic novel are very imaginative with a variety of shapes, patterns, borders, symbols, colors, repetition and layers. The artistic aspect of graphic novels is appealing because the story cannot stand alone; instead as readers we must look to the illustrations to help us understand and guide the narrative of the story. If the words were simply put on paper without the pictures readers would most likely be frustrated and confused about where the characters are actually at in the story, the time period, who they’re talking to and what’s going on around them.

If She Did Not Exist, We Would Have to Invent Her 

In chapter one we begin in Lexandria, 411 A.D. Here the illustrations allude to the time period: People are wearing sandals and long robe-like clothing; buildings appear to be made from sandstone with wooden windows and doors; a camel in the distance leads us to infer we may be in a desert-like climate. An important symbol through this chapter is the sun medallion. This medallion has the appearance of an ancient artifact and seems to represent the Lexandria time period as it appears on the pages where this setting takes place. When we’re in futuristic New York a checkered boarder is present, and the sun medallion is very small, as if to represent the presence of the past. Both the checkered border and the sun are present when Sophie visits Mrs. Shelley, showing that the future and past are about to collide. Another key choice in these illustrations is the cinematic style when we’re in the past. The comic scenes are wide and give the impression of a movie reel, representing the importance of chronological order and that one thing happens because of another.

The Judgment of Solomon

In chapter two we see different shapes and sizes in the panels. Some are circular; some are square, some large and others small. There is a new border that resembles an Egyptian style that outlines the pages. The border is red in color to symbolize danger. One key aspect in the detail of illustrations through this chapter is the emphasizing of key events through full-page spreads or larger illustrations not enclosed in panels. For example, we see a larger image when Promethea is blasting the demons into Immateria. This illustration resembles the power Promethea has is a lot bigger than the demons know and bigger than she knows.

Misty Magic Land

The beginning of chapter three has a new symbol of an eagle appearing on the pages. We also know that Mrs. Shelley is not doing well in the hospital and Promethea comes to visit her in hopes to discover more about her new, found powers. The eagle is symbolic in many ways: Native Americans believed eagles were earthly incarnations of sacred spirits. They would also use the feathers from eagles to heal the wounded. And we know today that eagles are an endangered species. The eagle appearing in this chapter can symbolize the Promethea spirit dying in Mrs. Shelley, but yet beginning in Sophie.

Once in Misty Magic Land, bright colors are used to resemble this dream-like scene. Promethea even mentions this setting is like a recurring dream. When she follows Little Red Riding Hood into the dark woods, we see panels within panels. By doing this, the illustrator creates a layering effect. To me, the laying of panels represents the layers of a dream and that of the imagination. We know dreams and imagination are not clear cut, but rather obscure. This layering also shows that chronologic and systematic order no longer presides, but the power of thought can form your realities.

A Faerie Romance

This chapter starts in a “faerie realm” of all past Prometheas. We get this impression as Mrs. Shelley appears in her “Promethea” and she greats others such as Margaret and Anna, who ask how the “new girl” is. This realm is fluorescently colored with pinks and purples, appearing mystical and safe. The faeries watch Sophie through their looking pond as she’s researching at the library. This scene is creatively illustrated as we can see Mrs. Shelley and the others looking down from their “realm” and Sophie appears in bubbles from the pond. The illustrator also made a choice to display text from the book Sophie reads in handwritten cursive. For the reader, this differentiates the writing, letting us know that we are now receiving some historical information.

Weapon for Liberty

There is one illustration in particular from this chapter that I’d like to discuss. It appears in the middle and it is brightly red. Margaret visits Sophie and begins to explain “the end of the world.” She explains that war is “the failure of imagination.” The illustration is a montage of different symbols including roses that appear to be dripping in blood, flags, soldier helmets with legs, barbed wire, skulls, swords and a crow to name a few. The crow is largely displayed in this illustration (and could possibly be a raven, but for my analytic purposes I’m going with a crow.) Crows are opportunistic birds, feeding off anything and everything they can find that is edible. With being so large, this crow represents the people in the world feeding off of others for their own benefit; therefore, resuming in war and bloodshed.

Warrior Princess of Hy Brasil

Colors really stood out to me in the last chapter. It was apparent that in the imagination scenes colors were mostly green, orange and purple hues. Orange can mean energy and demanding of attention. We see orange when Marto Neptura appears. Green can mean inexperience and obviously Sophie is inexperienced at being Promethea. Purple can symbolize mystery, and we know Sophie has a lot to learn. When the scene goes back to Sophie in the hospital we see a lot of blues and gray, which can convey cold, sadness or depressive emotions.

Apr 8
Illustration of Promethea

There were two stories in particular in The Things They Carried that really moved me and made me think: “Speaking of Courage” and “Notes” happen to appear side by side in the book and both stories refer to the character Norman Bowker. In “Speaking of Courage” O’Brien tells in explicit detail a postwar story about Bowker and his uneasy transition to the real world.

We know it was Sunday and it was summer and Bowker was driving his dad’s big Chevy up and down and all around town. Besides the specific sights of the town and setting, O’Brien shares intimate information about Bowker and his past with us the readers. We learn that after high school Bowker lost his best friend, Max Arnold, from drowning in a lake. We learn that most of Bowker’s friends are gone or married, and get the impression that Bowker feels stuck. He’s stuck in time and doesn’t know where he’s supposed to be. He left for the war and his friends kept going and now he doesn’t know where he fits in. We get this impression especially when O’Brien writes: “The town seemed remote somehow. Sally was married and Max was drowned and his father was at home watching baseball on national TV.”

Throughout this story we also get the sense that Bowker is always trying to impress his father or live up to his expectations, but feels he can’t or fails to fully. We also just get the sense that Bowker no longer knows how to communicate or express himself, because when O’Brien begins to explain Bowker’s story of losing Kiowa in Vietnam it’s “And then he would have talked about…” or “Then he would have told about…” This story begins to explain everything that Bowker never did and never would do.

In “Notes” we learn that Bowker’s never speaking about what happened in Vietnam got the best of him and he took his life in 1978. “Notes” differs from “Speaking of Courage” in that this story O’Brien speaks directly to us the readers, rather than telling a story. “Speaking of Courage” felt very much like fiction with the vivid storytelling and details that it would be hard to know if you were not Bowker, but in “Notes” we get the sense or confusion that maybe this is nonfiction with O’Brien putting himself in the story and knowing Bowker. This is also prevalent throughout the book. There are times when we get great storytelling and action scenes, then there are times when O’Brien speaks to us and explains things to us on how he wrote what he did.

O’Brien moves me with his writing in these two stories, because he’s painting a picture that could very well be real and could be an actual person. Even though Bowker doesn’t exist, there are veterans out there like his character. In his letters, O’Brien captures the distraught and lost feeling that many Vietnam veterans felt after the war and may still feel. 

Apr 1
Painting a picture with “Speaking of Courage” and “Notes”

I really enjoyed reading Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. I began reading before the e-mail from Professor Letter, so I had the impression that this was a piece of nonfiction work. I was about halfway through when I read the e-mail and realized it was fiction. To be honest, I became a little frustrated and confused while finishing the book. I kept thinking in my mind “Is this or isn’t this fiction? And if some parts are true, which parts exactly? I want to know!” I decided to ignore my confusion and questions and enjoy reading the rest of the book.

Looking back at O’Brien’s first short story “The Things They Carried,” it makes sense that it is fiction. In this story he’s talking about someone other than himself: Lieutenant Jimmy Cross. He reveals intimate details about the Lieutenant that it would be difficult to know and be accurately portrayed as a piece of nonfiction work. For instance, when telling the story of Martha, O’Brien writes “He would sometimes taste the envelope flaps, knowing her tongue had been there.” This is great writing; it draws us in, but it’s not likely true.

The part for me that made it so easy to want to believe the book was nonfiction is the fact that O’Brien actually served in the Vietnam War. And through most of his stories he speaks in first person using “I.” In his story titled “Notes” he writes about his friend Norman Bowker and how he struggled to deal with life after the war. O’Brien shared portions of a letter that Bowker sent to him and in it Bowker suggests O’Brien use his story for a book. O’Brien revealed that Bowker took his own life in a Central Iowa YMCA after a game of pick-up basketball with friends. O’Brien has a way of using such vivid, intimate details in his writing. That vividness plus the fact he’s a veteran makes the reader believe his words are real. (Or at least I did!)

When, I came to “Good Form” and realized the majority, if not all, of the book is fiction. I have to admit I felt cheated and angry. However, I finished the book and I appreciated and felt entertained by O’Brien’s stories. A part of me still wants to learn that some details of the book are true. Like when he took his daughter to Vietnam for her tenth birthday. Did that really happen?

I would have liked to see an author’s note from O’Brien, something to explain which parts are factual and which are not. I feel as though I still have so many questions.

Mar 25
The Things They Carried


I would like to applaud Rebecca Skloot and her years of researching and interviewing family, doctors and anyone else in relation to Henrietta Lacks, because in doing so she gives a voice and deserving recognition to Henrietta and the entire Lacks family that scientists and doctors cruelly neglected and ignored doing decades ago. Skloot’s story telling is compelling, thoughtful and fascinating. She took care in covering all bases starting at the beginning with her own introduction to HeLa cells sitting in biology class at a community college. It struck her as strange and wrong that her professor mentions these incredible cells that have done so much for the medical field, and yet knew very little about the person these cells came from.


In writing this book, Skloot not only gives a voice and recognition to the Lacks family, but also informs the public of HeLa cells, how they work and the mass-production of the cells since they were taken from Henrietta’s cervix. I really liked how the chapters were set on a timeline, showing the year and allowing us to compare where we were then and where the medical field is today. Not only the medical field, but also how our country has developed with slavery, discrimination and segregation, as well as class and cultural differences. 


Complex Science information:

Skloot’s explanation of scientific terms, vocabulary and discoveries is easy to follow and comprehend because she takes time for detail. Rather than rambling off big terminology that would mean little to many of us, she defines terms and carefully explains how medical developments came to be. On page 28 she begins describing cervical cancer, the two types, and the controversy of treating both. She gives history and doesn’t sugarcoat when saying that, “some mistook cervical infections for cancer and removed a woman’s entire reproductive tract when all she needed was antibiotics.”


Does Rebecca Skloot belong in her own book?

YES! I know we discussed in class about authors “adding” to nonfiction stories, and by doing so fictionalizing them. But I feel Skloot’s voice solidifies the story that much more. She tells of the years of research and her own journey to find more out about the history of who Henrietta Lacks was and still is with Lacks’ own children. The Lackses were never confronted by the scientists and doctors who created HeLa and mass-produced it to explain what had been done to their mother and why. No one cared to sit down and educate the family on how their mother’s cells came to be; all they knew was from articles they read. The only time doctors contacted them was to take blood for more research with still no explanation. So naturally the Lackses would be skeptic of any and everyone because journalists, media and doctors have only taken from them. So this story told by Skloot is as much of her journey in reaching out to the family, building trust, and researching the truth behind Henrietta Lacks as it is in informing the public of HeLa cells. 

Mar 4
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

     Last night’s WCA event featured Phoebe Gloeckner, an artist, author and activist. I have not read Gloeckner’s “The Diary of a Teenage Girl,” but I did score a free autographed copy and I look forward to reading it! Gloeckner began discussing this graphic novel and how it’s based on her life growing up in San Francisco in the 1970s. She mentioned that she journaled throughout her adolescents and didn’t really pay any attention to her writings until later in life. As an adult, when reading through her entries, Gloeckner realized someone needed to tell these stories of a lost and confused young girl.

     Gloeckner talked about growing up reading and looking at “underground” comic books she found under her mother’s mattress. She even learned what sex was through these comics. She started sketching her own comics as a teenager; focusing on “what’s in people’s heads.” Gloeckner eventually became a medical illustrator where she drew pictures and diagrams of eyeballs and other various body parts.

     Currently, Gloeckner teaches comic illustration at the University of Michigan. She is also researching in Mexico to write a book about the Mexican drug cartel and the epidemic of murders. She has met one particular family that she has grown close in her investigation of their missing daughter. Gloeckner took an interest to their story because it’s as if this girl didn’t have a voice. Her siblings and friends say the same thing: “she was pretty and shy,” but nothing else to describe this young girl.

     I found Gloeckner’s presentation interesting and motivating in that she began as a young girl with an interest in comics, turned medical illustrator, then author and professor, and now researcher and investigator. She’s done so much with her talent and passion. Her presentation was a little scattered, but that definitely let her personality shine and made for a laid-back environment.     

Feb 27
W-C-A featuring Phoebe Gloeckner