Michael Ray De Los Angeles.
Recommended Media, Literature, Cinema, & Art
♛ email: MichaelRay@LoraxCommunity.org
Los Angeles, CA, 2017
We Animals: Poems of Our World by Nadya Aisenberg
The anthology celebrates our home, and its many ecosystem, through the words of Wendel Berry, Pablo Neruda, Marianne Moore, Theodore Roethke, Gary Snyder and many more. This collection is a publication of the Sierra Club known for its conservation efforts of wild nature, and founded by John Muir in 1892.
The collection is arranged into sections, “Reverence,” “Dominion,” “Fraternity,” “communion” and “fantasy,” each section highlights the relationship between humans and nonhuman nature. In “fraternity” the poems emphasize the interconnectivity of humans but also shows how animals are anthropomorphized by society and as a result become separate from nonhuman nature.
Locally Delicious by Ann Anderson
Published in Arcata, California, the publication contains a wide variety of resources that pertain to the Humboldt county region. The book compiles recipes, personal narratives, and full color photos of food, animals, plants and the people involved in the care, cultivation and preparation of these resources and foods. The appendix includes listing of the farmer’s markets, restaurants, information on community supported agriculture (CSA), and even information on foraging, fishing and hunting.
The book reveals the vast amount of resources that are available to people living within the Humboldt County region, but more so, it also demonstrates how important a local food identity is to the residents of the area. The recipes of the book focus on seasonal platters, using ingredients that can be acquired in Humboldt. The Locally Delicious places a focus on eating locally by citing its benefits such as fresher food, and a diverse community and economy. Lastly the book takes an approach against industrial agriculture, citing the effects that it has both on the region and its people.
Field Guide of North American Edible Wild Plants by Thomas Elias
The field guide provides a detailed description of a diverse variety of plants that grow in North America, both perennials and annuals. In addition, the guides illustrates the region(s) that each of the plants listed grows in, as well as the country of origin. For example miner’s lettuce, Montia perfoliata, is located in “valleys, lower mountain slopes, springs and moist sites” within America but is actually from Europe (Elias et al 95). The guide also cites related species, how to identify, prepare and avoid “poisonous look-alikes.” The text even contains a section devoted to plants that should not be ingested. The seasonal key to plants within the guide is immeasurably useful.
Most of the plants that are mentioned in the text appear alongside full color illustrations, a complement to the descriptions of the plants found within the guide. The visuals assist the reader by addressing more than the physical descriptions of the of the plants, such as its leaves, stalk and colors. The photos that are used present the plants in various stages of growth, seasons or even how they appear as part of a larger landscape. This variability in presentation reminds the reader that all plants are part of a interconnected ecosystem.
Wild Urban plants of the Northeast: a Field Guide. by Peter Del Tredici
Peter Del Tredici’s field guide reimages the urban landscape, trumping the myth that cities are devoid of plant diversity. Many urban areas consist of parking lots, concrete walkways, alleys, gutters and chain link fences and thus the amount the amount of nature within these areas is thought to be minimal, especially in relation to plant life. Tredici’s guide unveils the misconception and provides the reader with multiple photos of each plant entry, throughout lifecycle. Also Tredici includes the “ecological function” and habitat preference of each plant. The approach that Tredici takes allows for one to see a parking lot as something that contains not weeds but bull thistle, Cirsium vulagre, or broadleaf plantain, Plantago major L. Essentially, how one interprets a bioregion, helps to construct the narrative of the region. Within the urban landscape, a reevaluation of plant narratives is needed. Tredici’s demonstrates a comprehension of this need for reevaluation in several of his entries, he accomplishes this by including the cultural significance of particular plants . His cultural plant key is compiled with other standard aspects of a plant field guide, such as the physical description, scientific name of a plant.
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
A fictional narrative set during the depression era, Steinbeck’s novel the Grapes of Wrath follows the Joad family as they venture away from the dust storms in Oklahoma to sunny California. The tone of the text is one that is sympathetic towards the plight of the migrating family, painting both the Joads as well as other migrants as humble people who want nothing more than the ability to work. As a piece of fiction the novel provides a window through which one can see the rise of industrial agriculture within America. A large focus of the novel revolves around the changing practices regarding the cultivation and harvesting of produce. Throughout the novel Steinbeck utilizes elements of the developing American road culture to tell the story of the Joad family. Steinbeck draws attention to things such as cars, campsites, roadside diners and even service stations, the effect is that the reader is provided with a wider scope of reference through which he/she may examine the depression era. The window that Steinbeck provides also allows the reader to see the ecological turmoil that prompted the mass migration of Oklahomans and other Americans. One of the pitfalls of the novel is the suppression of nonhuman nature. Steinbeck presents the dust as thing that is separate from the people, a thing which imposes itself onto the land and causes death. Thus the concept of the dust acting as a element responding to ecological stress, caused by farming practices, is not examined.
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
The Graphic Memoir is an inmate look into the life of the author and her Pennsylvanian family. Within the text, Bechdel describes various events within her life beginning with her early adolescent relationship with her father. In addition to her early life, she also describes her experiences in high school and college. Over the course of the graphic novel, the reader observes how Bechdel’s family attempts to acclimate themselves to the social climate of rural America that existed during the post world War II era. To further illustrate the ways she, and her father, are coerced into conforming to gender codes, Bechdel reconstructs the world that once knew by including, the dictionaries, and family letters that were part of her life. The effect is that she establishes a visually authentic memoir through the inclusion of elements such as her father’s letters, television broadcasts and other media that she was exposed to. The relationship between the author and her father is a central conflict within the novel, and up until his death Bruce (Bechdel’s father) imposes his ideals of femininity onto his daughter– which as a masculine lesbian Alison finds constricting. In short, Fun Home illustrates various constraints that exist within the realm of individual sexual identity in addition to commentary on rigid heteronormative gender roles.
Read more: Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
The dystopian Californian road novel evokes images similar to those seen in Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath–mass migration and ecological turmoil due to the inappropriate use natural resources are two major literary elements. The heroine of the novel, a multiethnic adolescent named Lauren Olimina, caravans from Southern California to Northern California and during her venture challenges social, gender and racial norms. In doing so, the author of the novel, Octavia Butler presents metatextual commentary on issues of race, class, gender and ecology.
In a world that has been desensitized by violence, plagues of fire and numerous crime waves Lauren is unique; she is sensitive to the plights, struggles and pain of others–whether family, animal, thief or harlots she feels their strife, literally. Not only can she physically feel the emotions, and physical ailments of other but Lauren feels that she has the ability to shift the dominant paradigm of violence that is present within the world that she knows. Her confidence in a paradigm shift is detailed within her Earthseed collection. The collection that she has titled Earthseed is a series of verses which appear throughout the novel and discuss her views on human interconnectivity and the circular nature of life on planet Earth. Each of her Earthseed entries is written as poetry but like her hypersensitivity, is kept private due to a fear of being ostracized. This text is listed on the California Department of Education recommended reading list curriculum.
This book takes a post-modern, deconstructionist approach to examine the history of American education and its effects on the adolescent age bracket and in the process connects modern education to social Darwinism. Within her text, Lesko establishes that there are “four confident characteristics” (raging hormones, peer oriented, always becoming, and signified by age) that define the adolescent age bracket. All of the “confident characteristics” are used to define an adolescent’s relationship to adulthood. For example, to be “signified by age” one may consider the milestones an 18th birthday, the transitions from middle school to high school, or a pregnancy as signifiers. Within her text, Lesko address teenage pregnancy, power and privilege and the purpose of time within the class room– in some cases she cites French philosopher Michel Foucault. The discourse that Lesko presents to the reader provides a lens through which young adult literature and the construct of adolescence itself can be examined.
"Dreamworlds 3" directed by Sut Jhally
The films examines the cultural construction of the female identity within film, specifically music videos. Sut Jully suggests that the women within the dream world consent to being objectified. As a result, we, the consumers of staged misogynistic, violent, or pornographic images are directly on the social level. He suggests that the falsified portrayals of women within film, and other media affects how they are seen outside of the fantasy, or “dream world.” Within this Sut Jhally’s film there are various example of how music artists (of all genres) conform to the standards of the dream world– in some cases this conformity is represented by a surrender of the female body to physically abusive, dominant males. Dreamworlds 3 was chosen to help frame the concept of the disappearing girl. Throughout Sut Jully’s discussion, he highlights the various ways that women are muted, marginalized, objectified and abused because of the dominant cultural ideals held by the belief in the dreamworld.
Read more: “Dreamworlds 3” Directed by Sut Jhally
Persepolis (also an animated film)
The graphic memoir is the story of Marjane Satrapi, an Iranian artist that came of age during the 1980s. Within her drawings, she depicts the cultural repressions imposed onto her and the Iranian people that occurred during this war ridden 1980s. Satrapi’s parents are part of the upper class within Iran, and it is her family’s position within the country that allows Marjane Satrapi to leave the warring country to go study in Austria– both of her parents insisted. While in Austria Marjane is not required to wear her veil. Furthermore, in her attempts to adjust to the Austrian ways of life, and in order to make friends, she suppresses aspects of cultural identity. Upon her returns to Iran Marjane is reminded of the oppressions that she had left and has to readjust her once again to conform to the cultural norms, not of Austria but of her home country of Iran. This novel is a CA Dept of Ed. recommended reading.
The Crucible by Arthur Miller (adapted for film)
In an adaptation of Arthur Miller’s play, Jean-Paul Sartre provides a French interpretation of the American play. The play is set in colonial America (Salem Massachusetts to be exact), and it revolves largely around the life of John Proctor and his adolescent mistress Abigail Williams. A hardworking farmer, John Proctor discovers, Abigail and several other girls from his village dancing around a fire– which is considered blasphemous amongst the townspeople. The result of this discovery is a series of trails in which the adolescent Abigail claims that she was under the influence of witchcraft at the time that she had been dance. She, along with the other accused directed their allegations at various people within the village in an effort to protect themselves from punishment. In the process, Abigail is shown to be aware of her sexuality (even attempting to fulfill her desires with the resistant John Proctor), simultaneously she acquires position of power falsifying her identity and claiming to be possessed– therefore not herself. The historical and cultural context of the film is particularly interesting–Marcarthyism and the blacklisting of U.S citizens within film and literature are the actual witch hunts which occurred during the time which Miller had produced the play. This text is listed on the California Department of Education recommended reading list curriculum.
Read more: The Crucible by Arthur Miller (also adapted for film)
White Oleander by Janet Finch (Also full-length feature film )
This coming of age story follows the young girl Astrid as she moves from foster home to foster home while her mother serves an extended jail sentence for poisoning and murdering a cheating lover. Throughout the novel Astrid has numerous identities imposed onto her by those around her; her surrogate mothers, foster parents and even the school system all take a part in constructing Astrid’s identity. In adapting a book for film, there are always elements which are not represented, either because of film’s time constraints or production limitations; within the film, one aspect of the book that is glossed over is the explicit sexual relationship that Astrid has with her adoptive father figure which ends violently for the young girl. The censorship of the fictitious relationship between Astrid and her paternal figure within the film demonstrates one of the many ways in which female sexuality is muted. Furthermore, this muting of sexual identity demonstrates that the sexualization of females is “signified by age” (as Nancy Lesko would suggest), and because Astrid has not fulfilled the social sand cultural signifiers of adulthood, the representation of her relationship with her adoptive father is something that is only expressed in the print version of White Oleander.
Keep in touch:
Michael Ray De Los Angeles
Contact: @vampyrohtechnix Media
Writer, editor, and Generation Y shutterbug. California grown environmentalist and published photographer, “Say Avocado.” You can find me across social media platforms (including Twitter, Soundcloud, Bonoboville, Instagram, and Youtube) with intersecting content focused on ecology, environmental activism, Literature, and California culture. I read and write about plant-based living, with recommended readings, audio broadcasts and short documentaries. I like appropriate technologies like solar system and home gardens.
In my non-writing life, I like fashion, yoga, and set design. I’m a graduate of Humboldt State University with a BA in English Literature, and was a costumer for the world-famous Humboldt Circus 2012-13. I love Poesy, spoken word and was Poetry Division editor for The Toyon Literary Journal.