Vignettes are wonderful! Sometimes described as a slice of life, vignettes can be so short that they take away the fear of ending up with a white page. Unlike a short story, there’s no defined beginning, middle, or end with a cast of characters, multiple conflicts, and the ultimate resolution phase. Instead, the vignette’s impressionistic scenes focus on one moment or give a particular insight into one character, idea, or setting.
The Mexican American author Sandra Cisneros is the unchallenged queen of vignette writing, and her collection of 44 vignettes, (1984) is a must read.
Life writing – which includes a wide spectrum of sub-genres such as (auto)biography, memoir, letter, diary, (digital) life stories, and oral histories – has a long tradition in the U.S. and is becoming more and more popular all over the world. An abundance of artifacts compiled by famous, semi-famous, and not-at-all-famous people fill public libraries, private bookshelves, research centers, social media, hard drives, and websites. And that’s actually not even surprising since writing and/or talking about ourselves is a deeply rooted cultural practice and comes very naturally to most human beings. We do it all the time: We tell a significant someone how our day was, we put together our résumé when applying for a new job, we talk about childhood memories with siblings or a close friend. However, talking and writing about ourselves in an academic context and, to boot, in a foreign language is a completely different story.
It’s been nearly 52 years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. Without a doubt, he continues to inspire new generations and serve as a role model for non-violent protest and change. In honor of Black History Month in February, I’d like to review a young adult novel that brings the conversation on racism and growing up Black in the United States to a new level. It investigates whether King’s teachings are still relevant today and whether they can help Jystice, a 17-year-old, promising high school student. His life is turned upside down when he tries to help his intoxicated ex-girlfriend get home safely one night. In a confrontation with two police officers, Jystice ends up on the ground in handcuffs – an all-too-familiar sight. The problem: She’s White and he’s Black. As a result of the assault, Jystice will never be the person he once was.
Nic Stone’s debut novel, Dear Martin (2017), interweaves the topics of racial profiling, police brutality, blackface, colorblind racism, micro-aggressions, and acting ‘White’ with questions of identity, friendship, and interracial relationships. With that list, you might just ask yourself how the author still manages to tell a good story without getting too distracted and preachy. Well, she does. But before exploring the topic further, I’ll let Nic Stone introduce the book in her own words.
It is one of the founding myths of “German Americana” that the first migrants from German-speaking territories arrived on October 6, 1683, on North American soil. Unsurprisingly, German Americans have always sought to celebrate this particular date in order to promote and to secure German American traditions and interests. Such celebrations, formerly often called “German Day,” flourished during the 19th century and ceased after the world wars. After the 1983 tricentennial, German American stakeholders were able to revive and to continue the celebrations: On August 18, 1987, Congress approved a joint resolution to designate October 6, 1987, as German-American Day.
Since that time, most American presidents have issued annual proclamations to celebrate the achievements and contributions of German Americans to our Nation with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs. Also, German American societies have taken on the ‘task’ and included annual German-American Day celebrations into their calendars, often in combination with the famous Oktoberfest.