Sean Labrador y Manzano
Island off the Coast, CA
Dr. Dean Chair
School of Underfunded Liberal Arts
Cash Strap State College
Middle America, USA
Please consider the skills and experiences I will contribute to your Department.
I look forward to teaching at Cash Strap State College and at the same time finally finishing three ongoing projects. Having studied Carson McCullers’ Reflection in a Golden Eye in Daniel Alarcon’s Craft of Fiction class during my Master in Fine Arts program at Mills College [though I wish I can offer my skills and experience of a Ph.D., preferably from Stanford’s Comparative Race and Ethnicity, but unless I have a full ride, enough to ease paying child support, I cannot imagine myself financing another long bookish run], I was motivated to present at UC Riverside’s annual graduate student (dis)junctions conference, a paper that had two aims—first, addressing the implication locating the Pilipino house servant, Anacleto, in a pre-World War Two South, Army base and second, questioning Queer Theorist’s immediate dismissal or acknowledgement of Anacleto’s “obvious” gayness.
Unfortunately, I believe I presented the right paper but to the wrong audience or to the wrong panel or to the wrong kind of queer scholars pow wow. Whereas there was a heavy queer Pilipino presence at the “U.S.-Philippines Postcoloniality and Literature Panel,” my target audience was receiving its first introduction to the existence of Carson McCullers, to Reflections in a Golden Eye, and to Anacleto. I should feel good about that. The choir told something new.
In establishing a connection, I reminded my cohort of Marlon Brando’s Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now. This was the only “aha moment” because every Pilipino has the Viet Nam War flick filmed in the Philippines as part of their cultural repertoire. I mean can you tell the difference between a Pilipino and a Vietnamese? The click or the clique? The slant eyes, the devious eyes, the bug eyes, the red eyes. But certainly quite the production cliché.
So the "aha"—when Captain Willard examines portraits in the Colonel’s dossier, we are looking at recycled prop stills from when Marlon Brando starred as Captain Penderton. Albeit the Cambodian/Vietnamese river, adapted from J. Conrad’s Congo river, shot on a Philippine river.
The river is palimpsest. Emerged the assassin to redeem us of our messianic complex? Deposit that spit or spitting image at the bank (and not inside the expatriate) V.S. Naipul because M. Twain foreshadowed his letter to Brown folk long before measuring the Mississippi.
It was a sad day and a victorious day for a conference. Sad day because my attacking Queer Theory’s rise to becoming the dominant and dingproof paradigm did not draw questions from the panel or the audience [not a murmur of outrage] or sad day because my introduction of Anacleto did no draw questions from the panel or the audience. Not A Pilipino in the 1940’s appearing in a novel as opposed to appearing in newspaper race riot coverage. Victorious day, because my attacking Queer Theory’s rise to becoming the dominant and dingproof paradigm did not draw questions from the panel or the audience and therefore proved my point that developing Queer Pilipino scholars have capitulated ethnicity and race when distinguishing the American queer from the Pilipino queer—as in let a white queer theorist tell us that because a Pilipino male wears a barong, or “blouse,” that the barong is a queer marker.
In that case Ferdinand Marcos was so gay. Or is this the reason we don’t see Kirk Hammet jamming on his Gibson in a barong? Or we only see T. Lincecum in jersey leaving AT&T Park? Granted, if research proved or was still inconclusive to prove Anacleto is queer, at least there was impassioned research. What bothered me about all the critical text devoted to discussing the various sexual relationships and identities in McCullers’ novel is the unanimous claiming of Anacleto’s sexuality. He is queer. If he is to be so, let’s study why. Let’s peer down the long history of homosexuality in the Philippines. Let’s diagnose the persistent disidentification of Pinoy masculinity. Let’s distinguish phobia and exoticism. Lets give him exhausted interrogation.
I have found Carson McCullers experts lacking in Philippine psychology. Perhaps a Disabilities Scholar is more apt. Skin’s no free ride. So you see, I look forward to incorporating Carson McCullers and other Southern Writers in my composition courses, and not just Southern writers, any one who brings issues of American colonialism in the Pacific between 1898 and 1945.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to fly me to your campus for an interview to discuss the implications locating a Pilipino writer in your college during the War on Terror? Someone who ardently questions his own cohort for their appropriation of the War as their own personal subject matter, as if they had returned from the front.
Can the War on Terror be the Death of Poetry? Certainly can be the death of anybody. Which brings me to why I need this job. It is June 2010 and I know Departments are now realizing that they can afford an additional hire. I thought by the beginning in the year, I’d be in fatigues, the war is the money and the money is the war. Yes, each time the evening news announces the daily death toll of NATO troops, I ask myself, and the Army does not want to hire me as a replacement? 10 killed last Monday. Feed me to the trenches, academic or not.
I do anticipate something of myself will die in the indoctrination or in the field. It is expected. If not my life, or my soul, or my spirit, a bit of my humanity. My humour? But touché art for art sake. And cash for the child support. O handsome ransoms please come cheap in the coming months. This is my rifle.
As I still wait for the Army’s approval to wear the colors, I have to use the opportunity to apply for any teaching gig. Fight or Teach. A good example is the biblical parable about the man treading water somewhere in the deep ocean, praying for God’s rescue but he drowned even though God kept sending him a life preserver, a raft, a boat, etc. The man did not recognize the signs. He wanted God himself. So, I’m trying to make the most of my time seeing what campus out there in the world from Seattle to Kabul would take my pardoned soul, before God/ess says, your chances are up. Here is your rifle, follow the “widening gyre.” Someone, something is giving me a reprieve. My time is measured by the diminishing scar on my neck. It’s quite chimerical.
So Dr. Dean Chair, I would bring the same several questions to the study of contemporary text. In regards to authorship and content or context, what does it mean to craft a novel or book of poetry in a time of war, in a time of imperialism, in a time of crisis? In regards to the writers from 1898 to 1945, what does it mean to omit the presence of Pilipinos in American life, to America’s nation building in the tropics, to tens of thousands of soldiers returning with stories of massacre? And I use massacre loosely. 4 to 10 million depending on the historian. Do you include the famine that followed scorched earth tactics? Is it the same as omitting the echo of slavery or Jim Crow? Are today’s novels less genuine when they omit from a character’s consciousness the concerns of the War on Terror? Here the author cheats? Here the character is flat? Or here we have someone representative of the aloof and ugly American, more concerned about ego and consumer goods, than the bloodshed conducted in his/her name? Are we now in a long period of fantasy, the War does not exist? If not for my scar, the War would truly exist. Touching it reminds me of impotence.
I like modeling McCullers. The novel appears in 1940. War spreads throughout Europe. Anacleto supposed to remind us readers of the American colonial presence in the Philippines, supposed to remind us of the American empire—one plantation environment for another, that with Empire, there are rivals ready to challenge. That with Empire comes colonial subjects clamoring to the metropole, refugees especially, for Empire means building because of War and preparing for War. And yet, what pervades the storytelling—the domestic intrigue between two oversexed/undersexed households. While appearing loyal and patriotic in the service of the empire, they are more concerned about instant self-gratification, that they don’t see the coming Fall. Compared to the ugly Americans employing him, Anacleto, queer or straight, recovers the popular opinion of the stooping agricultural laborer Pilipino, a menace to white female chastity, a threat to wages, a challenge to the definition of a red-blooded American, etc. Don’t put him in the mess hall peeling potatoes. Give him a machete, and watch the heads topple.
I know what you’re thinking, the subtle comparison I have made between Anacleto and myself. This rupture was unavoidable. Like every Metropole these days, there’s a Cash Strap College and the long line of wanting individuals like myself (men in their 30s with Master degrees in the Humanities, afraid of obsolescence, asylum seeking from Child Support and Student Loan) presses their intuitive knowledge of comparative holisticism based on real-life power dynamic experience, and not just in the classroom—the street and the bedroom. Think of me as the pensionado you never enrolled. Oh, so you weren’t thinking that—how about, applicant’s sexuality has been misidentified/misread often enough by older white men looking for brown toy boys on the streets of Honolulu, Olongapo, Berkeley, and San Francisco, that he has a grudge when Queer Theory or any theory claims the authority to render gender and so maybe he has a chip on his shoulder to adequately prove or disprove the caricatures and representations of Asian males compromised in American literature. I mean who is next? Steinbeck’s Lee from East of Eden? Ah, yes, the Asian Male Food Prostitute in 20th Century American Literature. Quite a stir-fried anthology.
Maybe, I should have paraded with a license plate on my tail, “Exit Only,” and I wouldn’t have had the persistent indecent proposal, and I wouldn’t be so Angry Asian. Just joking. More in line—frustrated. Where’s the job placement and maybe pole dancing should have been my future. Does the MLA pit require candidates to poll dance their interviews? [Note to self: if not hired, think about applying to Emory University’s Ph.D. program, hang out with Salman Rushdie and Natasha Trethewey, road trip to Columbus and trace McCullers steps.] Do I secretly wish McCullers left a note: “Anacleto is straight!” Yes. Because that would establish again the complexity and fluidity of the Pinoy, of Pilipino culture, of Asian culture, and how American culture is fixated on inexplicable binaries. The future is brown. Not grey. We need more Asians in Queer Theory to reorient and remind of humble beginnings.
In fact, I spent a day at the Harry Ransom Center (University of Texas, Austin) examining the Carson McCullers Collection. I looked for any evidence to the origins of Anacleto, or to the whereabouts of Zorro David, the actor who played Anacleto in John Huston’s 1967 film adaptation. Did McCullers’ know of any Pilipino houseboys attending to Army officer households in Fort Benning?
Put it another way, imagine you’re an officer, and you wanted longevity during peacetime—sure, war was looming, but even before the threat of war—promotion would most certainly demand a tour of duty in that far off colony—and I don’t mean Hawai’i. Many of the well-known generals of World War Two put time in the archipelago, as junior officers. Usually, presidential biographies are boring—but Eisenhower’s experience in Luzon. O how horrible it was—having the knowledge the archipelago can be easily invaded and crushed, that the Empire had over-extended. Like many officers, there was the opportunity to bring back house servants, the same hired while in country, or even mistresses—think MacArthur.
So you see McCullers’ novel crossed into a different area of expertise—immigration. A consequence of the depression, exclusionary laws and the reduction of the Pilipino’s legal status in the United States. However, how many Pilipinos entered the United States as part of an Army officer’s household? How many Anacletos were there? How many Anacletos lived in the South or any military outpost? Was Anacleto the preferred option over the black question? Which color evoked less concern? That’s an easy answer. And the lesser threat was always deportable. “He” was the preferred Navy steward. I forgot to mention, I am an excellent cook, and can cater the Department banquet all by myself. Hope you’re not allergic to shrimp! Or black bean sauce!
In the archives, I didn’t find the model for Anacleto. But in my gut, McCullers must have interacted with households that employed Pilipinos. I need more than a day to examine thoroughly the files. However, what I found was shocking, or epiphanic—a letter from Zorro David to Carson McCullers thanking her for the role. Before immigrating to the United States after World War Two and later working for Saks in New York City, the orphan Zorro David had lived in Orani, a small town on the Bataan peninsula. My stepfather has lived in Orani, Bataan for the past 15 years. Meaning, I can trace David’s roots. Although it is thinking ahead towards a sabbatical, but a research mission to the Philippines is in order. I will add the National Museum in the itinerary. There’s a collection of Modernist painters, trained in Spain, and while there accumulating a revolutionary politics supporting the end of colonialism, or an improvement of the legal and representative status of the Philippine indigenous population in the Cortez. I love literary research. Power to the epistle.
Finding Zorro David’s address almost did not happen. Travelling to Austin was extravagant. So how to make it a necessity. So, visiting the University became the second of three reasons sending me to Texas.
The first was Jack. My stepfather’s fourth wife sent his brother a letter asking for money. But what about the two monthly pension checks received from the Navy and the Merchant Marine? Shouldn’t his retirement be enough to live large on a chicken ranch in Orani, with two children privately schooled shacked up in a marble floor “mansion”? Fourth Wife claimed medical expenses. She had no proof or billing statement. Fourth Wife refused to let Jack’s brother to speak to him. Jack has Parkinson’s says Fourth Wife. So Jack’s family contacts me about how to go about finding the truth. What better way to explain the Philippine culture and why Jack was held “hostage?” I was ten when I last saw Yoakum. When I arrived, I was driven south of Austin into the middle of flooded rice fields before entering gas fields. There I learned Fourth Wife made a killing selling the farm without Jack knowing, and paying off gambling debts. Meaning Fourth Wife conspired with debtors. What is unfortunate, the rice riots at the time drove crop prices. Jack could have profited. He didn’t have to sell the farm.
I met Yoakum, told people I was a stray picked up hitchhiking on the highway. At least I did not end up dead like the numerous dead armadillos. That’s how I eased Jack’s family. Despite his condition, he will be kept well enough, his pension check is valued, and therefore his life is valued, he’s ending up in no ditch. He wants to die in the archipelago, have his ashes scattered. Why convince him to return to Texas or West Virginia—lose his solitude?
[Note to self: apply to Texas’ Ph.D. program if any English Department or the U.S. Army has not hired me.]
The third reason, because there’s always a third reason, as if I have a triskelion stamped on my forehead: Gutter Glitter. A month after my son’s mother and I split, I decided to contact every woman I have been with—daring risk. I wanted to know something about myself that they might be privy to, that I wasn’t aware, that has to do with how my relationships breakup, some inherent flaw of mine. Maybe it’s the kind of woman I am attracted to, wrong kind, forbidden, destructive, insecure, devious, “damaged.”
The last time Gutter Glitter contacted me was to relay she was moving in with her mother and stepfather somewhere outside Tulsa, Oklahoma. So when I emailed my first ex-wife, she responded immediately with enthusiasm—not because I separated from my second wife, but because I was the most qualified candidate (my history of spontaneous long roadtrips) to help her and her 8-month daughter move from Austin to Humboldt. She was returning to California in a moving van. So my last morning in Yoakum, was my first day in Austin. When the archives closed, I drank a beer at the Student Center before taking the bus to a white ghetto, where for the past two months, she lived with her daughter and two other single mothers with children in a “substance-free” half-way house, on a street of “substance-free” half-way houses.
My dinner was leftover chicken from a private boarding school, delivered to the door. Every day without a teaching job, I think about sleeping on the mattress, in the living room, counting the many days of reheated chicken dinner and biscuit, the expired bags of Sam’s Club pretzels. The charity knock on the door of leavings. I can see why no one there was motivated to work. Gutter Glitter needed my help. Dear Sean email or not, this was my closure, 2000 miles later. Wouldn’t you be interested in the stories and conversations from this roadtrip? Hire me, and when I am not on the clock, we can meet at the pub and get acquainted. Too cozy? Well then office hours.
Yes, Middle America is perfectly located between three areas of literary interests: Austin and New Orleans and Great Lakes. I do expect to continue my Carson McCullers studies and expect my exploration and enthusiasm for her writing to be included in any syllabus at Cash Strap State College. Furthermore, the proximity to New Orleans will no doubt encourage my writing of that elusive historical novel about “white Filipinos” with a dusting of Asuangs. Got to exploit the feeding frenzy for vampire lore, cater to what sells. In the late-1700s when Spain controlled New Orleans, many a Filipino sailor, or Manilamen, abandoned the pressed service aboard the galleons and established a “maroon” colony. Over the generations, with marriage possible with European colonists, the Filipino community blended in the rural outskirts. Likely, many an Asuang born into the South. Just got to find them. Lure interviews with my neck.
Your proximity to the Great Lakes region, I will finally begin the choreography (or preliminary stage production) of a choreo-poem based on the McSweeney’s Column, Conversations at a Wartime Café, “Conversation 13: Civilian Under Naval Training,” located here.
The column describes my experiences of Navy bootcamp, Great Lakes, Illinois, in 1994. As my work schedule permits, I will update the choreo-poem with more current facts and experiences about Navy boot camp. I would be able to conduct interviews with Great Lake’s recruits, and perhaps recruit among them 100 willing Smurfs. Better yet, I prefer dancers with long hair willing to be shaved in front of a gawking public. A troupe that can perform self-destructs. More compelling, I want lesbians, because transitions are fascinating. And bald women can be quite sexy. I want an audience and a crew to be moved and unmoved by the assailable repetition of the word CUNT. Maybe I can find a role just for you. You seem like a Rainman. I’ll attach the script with the cover letter.
So back to being desperate and available for hire. Having experienced the MFA programs of San Francisco State University and Mills College, and having studied at Naropa’s Summer Writing Program, I became aware that a political and cultural sensitivity emerges in one’s writing; it has to. That said, what is hopefully achieved is Civic Engagement, is relevance. I bring an appreciation for how the political and cultural inform literary production, reading and teaching, to being unmade.
I bring to the English Department a familiarity with writing communities and opportunities. I have a natural ability to interact with local, distinguished and emerging authors. Simply, I’m not shy. Do you have a budget to fly in writers for a reading series? Say 9-writers, one for each month. Would you go for 18? I offer the student writer an extensive critique and engagement. I will speak possibilities in a student’s writing. I just speak possibilities. And life preservers, rafts and boats.
Further, I see the possibility and opportunity to launch a literary journal (online and print). Operating it as a class or as part of a writing workshop opens the door to the writing world, extends the classroom beyond. The journal is a very effective teaching tool. I even have a name for the journal, though it may draw some controversy. The Pabst Mine Disaster or fill-in-the-blank Mine Disaster or fill-in-the-blank Disaster will have in its mission remembering America’s stories of labor, the working class, tragedy, conservation, etc. Hmm, you think The Deepwater Horizon Disaster Literary Journal to fresh and raw? Please see the Creative Writing sample syllabus. I have a familial connection to this kind of labor history. My stepfather joined the Navy (yes, the same Jack, marooned in a tropical archipelago, losing mind and memory) to avoid inheriting his place in the coalmines of West Virginia. Such stories have been buried. In fact, I am working on a story of the coalmines of West Virginia. The buried men. Those who prefer to be buried far from Appalachia in the fringes of Empire. In this regards, my relocation to Middle America, would assist in the historical feel, of a fourth project. My stepfather’s story, “The Revolutionary Tax Collector Visits West Virginia Farms,” explains how and why he is held “hostage.” Why he prefers the click and clatter of a language he cannot engage in. The noise shields him from the world.
Yes, I will be using my employment as a platform to relaunch my writing and investigation, and as a staging ground to complete a more thoroughly researched paper in time for the February 17-19, 2011 Carson McCullers: An Interdisciplinary Conference and 94th Birthday Celebration hosted by Columbus State College. While there, I will visit the newly opened National Infantry Museum located at Fort Benning. I want better knowledge of the first 10 years of American military occupation in the Philippines. Ironic, I have this determination to reach Fort Benning by way of the academy or by way of re-enlistment. Charon can be so funny, same flat fee.
I intend to share with my Composition classes my writing process and motivation. Motivation! I was previously employed by Mills College’s Trio/Upward Bound program, teaching three courses during the residential summer program in 2008. I taught what I knew and what I continued to research:
Junior Reading and Composition, Environmental Ethics: Asthmatic Nation: Reading Oakland, California’s 580/880 Toxic Corridor.
Learning outcomes: Becoming aware of urban toxins and toxicity. Identifying local polluters. Recognizing clean air is a human and civil right. Contributing to the literature of environmental protest and eco-criticism. Completing First-year college ecocritical essay, using Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring as a model. You’d be amazed by the eco-critical urban landscape poetry produced from this class. I called it the 580 poem. 58 lines of ten words each. Each line clean of prepositions and articles. Imagine a world so sterile but efficient.
Freshman Reading and Composition, Environmental Literature: The Environmental Apocalypse Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony.
Learning outcomes: Understanding the toxic legacy of uranium mining and atomic weapon production, especially vis-à-vis indigenous communities. Completing First-year college ecocritical essay addressing themes of environmental degradation and the human costs of resource exploitation found in the text. Admittedly, high school freshmen were not ready for my class.
Visual Autobiography: Poetry of Place.
Learning outcomes: Completing a portfolio of weekly landscape urban text/image poetry troping Oakland and other locales of the East Bay, at the same time locating the personal within the public sphere, i.e. cultural critic and social commentator. I started this group with writing ekphrastic poems on Chagall.
Prior to Mills College, I was employed by UC Berkeley’s Upward Bound Math/Science to teach 3 UC Berkeley-type 2-hour long college-level Reading and Composition courses per day, 5 days a week, during the 6-week residential summer programs between 2002-2006, or 5 summers. The major course descriptions were:
2002: The Hero’s Journey: Manufacturing Identity in Chickencoop Chinaman (Frank Chin), Ceremony (Leslie Marmon Silko), Smoke Signals. Note: provide Kleenex when screening Smoke Signals.
2003: Lewis Carroll to Jean Baudrillard The Matrix and its literary and theoretical origins. A class on corporate product placement taught in the Pacific School of Religion library.
2004: Literary Representations of War: Vietnam, Middle East, Somalia to 9/11. Note: girls will read the entire text of Mark Bowden’s Black Hawk Down when you tell them Orlando Bloom “stars” in the film adaptation. Final project: stage an anti-draft protest as if you were in danger of going to war after graduating high school.
2005: Adolescent Literature: Sex, Drugs, Body Art, and Rock-n-Roll in Youth Culture. Praise Kathy Acker! Without a war draft, how else can you motivate students to study literature?
2006: Queer and Feminist Theory in Orlando: a Biography (Virginia Woolf), Girl Walking Backwards (Bett Williams), and Speak (Laurie Halse Anderson). This last summer got me in trouble, as in Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble. Literary masturbation is not a safe subject, can get you fired. Literary date rape, is not a safe subject, can require counseling when the national average proves itself in the classroom when 1 out of 4 female students confidently (not confidentially) journal sexual abuse. Literary transition is not a safe subject, especially when Tilda Swinton is convincingly hot.
This is the equivalent to 15 semester courses of First-year Reading and Composition. Rather it surpasses in expectation and outcome. In each summer I developed my own college level English curricula, personally marching classes into the UC libraries to demonstrate research methods. At the end of each 6-week program, the student completed 3 seminar papers, a college entrance personal statement, a portfolio of creative writing and journal entries, university library research experience, and a working knowledge of the MLA and critical theory. I must admit I had great joy introducing “the library” to students.
I teach reading and writing as a process centered on a student’s expertise, often an unknowing expertise. For example, I have taught former/ambivalent gang recruits how to re-use their sense of gang symbols, graffiti literacy, and street-wise cunning and apply these skills to reading and interpreting literature. For example, how do you know you entering a rival territory? What signs warn what is safe and unsafe? Use that in literature. What is the red flag? Think of the plot of an essay, a walking tour deep into the hood. I have encouraged ELL students to use their ambivalence toward English grammar as a tool to detect and describe why certain turn of phrases in literature are complicated. Literature is so unfamiliar, that many of my students have a heightened awareness of the defamiliarization of literary craft. These become talking points that lead to very informative lectures on diction, audience, and narrator’s intention. I encourage students to regard what they think as their weakness as potential strengths.
Essay writing is fluid—shaped to a Flow Chart provided in class. There is no deviation from this form. I call it the 1×3×1x3x1×3×1x3x1 Flow Chart, or 33 Flow Chart: Thesis Statement: “Colonial Misreadings of the Water in V.S. Naipul’s Bend in the River anticipate the Congo’s frail political and economic future.”
1 Topic Sentence, “Misreading River”
1c proof and analysis
2 topic sentence, “Misreading Sweat”
2a proof and analyses
2b proof and analyses
2c proof and analyses
3 topic sentence, “Misreading Spit”
3a proof and analyses
3b proof and analyses
3c proof and analyses
The Final will be a 55 paper. Self-explained.
In my courses, first-year students will have every opportunity within the duration of the semester to improve on every assigned essay. What was initially a C paper can improve to an A. I am this committed to the development of the student writer. [One reason is the culture of grade promotion. Very few people will tell you this, but an A in a UC Berkeley English class would have been a B maybe 20 years ago. Are instructors accommodating for the lower quality of the student? Or ensuring future employment—no student will take classes with a notoriously hard grader.] I will guarantee my future employment with innovation and the appropriate level of motivation. In this regard, it is up to the student to seize the opportunity to rewrite. I understand a C or a B grade discourages new writers. It is the purpose of “the portfolio” where students will maintain a persistent collection of drafts and rewrites, narrating a history of development and improvement.
No easy grade with me. I am tough, as learned the hard way by the student who sat by me at the Free Speech Movement Café. I practically gave her clear notes on how to execute her paper, but she decided to go the creative route and ignore structure. Just sitting beside me isn’t enough, cute or no cute. Portfolio material also locates patterns unique to the writer, as in consistent grammatical errors and even a particular voice, bias, or thematic proclivity, as in the writer approaches each topic with a postcolonial ecocritical pov. If you have a habit analyzing the ecology of every novel, then more power to you, exploit that. Use the botanical metaphor.
In the many years with Upward Bound, I have served a diverse student body recruited from the Oakland, Richmond and El Cerrito, Yuba City, Escondido, Phoenix, Honolulu, as well elsewhere—many with embattled backgrounds. Seriously, students with parents having served in the South Vietnam Army, students escaping genocide in Bosnia, students from the Iron Triangle of Richmond. Literature is the fantasy from war. Just getting them to appreciate it and take it seriously. How serious is my candidacy to teach—very grave. If the pen is mightier than the sword, prove it. Pay Charon’s penny and choose me a destiny.
But my son you ask? It’s easier to fly from Cash Strap State College once a month to see my son that it is from the front line of the War on Terror once a year. Besides, I trained him to use Skype.