Thursday, March 10, 2016

Book Review #2 - Tanon San Jai - Jimmy Tran

Jimmy Tran
Professor Valverde
ASA 150E
9 March 2016

Book Review #2
        Bryan Thao Worra book “Tanon Sai Jai” does a good job of establishing a voice in expressing his own past, present, struggles and successes that shapes him to be the individual he is. Bryan was born in Laos during the Laotian War. He has a very interesting background being adopted from an American Pilot who flew in Laos. He is an inspiration to the Lao, Hmong, Asian America and transcultural adoptee communities who also felt and currently feels a displacement wanting to know their biological family. It took Bryan 30 years to be reunited with his biological family. A lot of his poems expresses sadness and sorrow talking to his mother and father and expressing a pain that the readers can relate too. Readers can see that Bryan shows a deep sadness because he wants to see his parents as any other child would want to meet their parents for the first time. Currently, he travels around colleges, schools and community institutions in the United States speaking to audiences. When he came to UCD, he did a good job of explaining the history in Laos, entertain his audience and read his poems with a passion so that the audience can relate to the emotions that he expresses. Additionally, he does a good job of explaining his poems and what extent he went to produce high quality poems in the book.
 Bryan feels that stories is where we learn the most about life. It truly brings meaning to life because stories are what make people who they are as individuals. It’s through those experiences that shape them by their influence, background and their everyday life living on planet earth. He recommends Mong Lan who is a Vietnamese American poet that also writes poems that are similar to Bryans. Additionally, he feels that Mong Lan is one of his inspirations since her poems are skillful and artistic in expressing words to her audience. One thing that stood out to me is when he mentioned the fact that writing a poem is a democratic form which means that it does not have to follow a specific format. Many people have given him criticism for his English because when a person speaks broken or practical English, many assumptions and stereotypes can make cloudy judgements on him. He lets his readers know that by providing a strong foundation of language, it gives the luxury of letting people know your story which is a tremendous privilege to have since there is a lot of censorship for authors to oppress their voice and freedom of speech. A lot of his poems expresses a possible future that gives a sense of hope. On the other hand, Bryan feels that it is important to have diversity, perspective, many voices and an acceptance for multiplicity as it gives the audience a broader perspective to help them open their eyes up rather than being narrow minded. Many elders feels that poets “have to preserve culture” or else it would be lost. Bryan does not feel that this is the case as the culture will always be there since having diversity and perspective gives a fair point of view in different issues that goes on. Bryan does a good job of bringing up “The Betrayal” because he makes a good point about a ritual we have with betrayals and struggles that many Asian Americans face. It’s a cycle that we constantly repeat. Lastly and most importantly, he mentions that any writer including himself will not start out as a perfect one because it takes time to grow and learn the technique on writing successfully.
 The poems that fascinated me and stood out to me the most were “Khao Jai, Midwestern Conversations and Aftermaths as they were the most unique to me. Khao Jai inspired me because it’s an expression of the human heart and strength as every one of us has a unique talent. I feel that as human beings we take failure for granted because failing is how we learn. We must fail forward and learn from our mistakes which is how any human being improves as a person. The quote that states “I’ve seen how much difference one person can make. I don’t want anyone to fall behind in our beautiful city. As a writer, I never want a title, a grade or a sheet of paper To hold a soul back from All of the good they can do in the world. A head of knowledge is worth more than a tray full of gold and jewels. But every head is unique and capable of generosity” (29). This quote makes me realize that as human beings we tend to define ourselves by what we do, what title we are given and what grades we have gotten in the past. Sure, they are all important things but it does not define us as every human being is capable of greater things. To simply be oppressed and dragged down psychologically and mentally by those things listed above is no way for a human being to live life as the sky is the limit. No human being is perfect, we all have strengths and weaknesses. It is those strengths and weaknesses that pushes the human race to keep moving forward as shit happens and sometimes we cannot simply control unfortunate circumstances that may come our way. Another quote that stood out to me states “We fail the world, ourselves, if we don’t seek the best for one another, If we’re unkind to someone whose only crime is they aren’t like us, Or they make their way through the world by a different road than ours” (29). I can relate this to my outrageous comment of saying that #BlackLivesMatter is just a superficial movements to stir up unnecessary riots. At first I honestly felt that color of your skin is no excuse to create tensions among other human beings. I know that African Americans are being racially profiled and are killed because the color of their skin and I also know that African Americans are also killing other people of with different skin colors so I thought to myself, don’t they matter too? Don’t all lives matter? However, Professor Valverde made me realize that their movement is to stand up for something deeper than that. It is standing up for the fact that African Americans are constantly being treated as second class citizens because of their blackness. No matter how educated, smart, credible, polite they may be, they are still seen as thugs who have no place to belong in the world. #BlackLivesMatter is trying saying that black lives matter just as much as any other lives, they are not trying to say that they matter more. Like Bryans quote, the point I am trying to prove that we are all human beings and we all deserve to get treated equally regardless of the color of our skin. The color of our skin is just a skin color hiding behind the heart and soul we possess beneath out physical bodies. We all want to contribute, live life and be happy in an ideal world where we continue to love each other.

       Midwestern Conversations made me realized that Asian Americans males like Bryan and myself are handed expectations to live a certain way. One of the quotes stated “You’re the whitest guy I know,” Nate tells me over a backyard BBQ At the end of high school. It’s supposed to be a compliment. “You speak English even better Than some of the students who were born here,” A teacher tells me after hours” (30). I just want say that I do not like to be given a certain label to act like a certain race or ethnicity, I only know how to act Asian, Vietnamese and American. I personally would be offended if I was told that I was the whitest guy someone knows. How am I supposed to take that as a compliment? What makes me white? Because I treat other people with respect? What makes a white person better than everyone else when clearly all other ethnicities work just as hard as white people? However, I realize that it’s the patriarchal system that is engrained in our heads that were planted in other minorities head to oppress and to keep them in check at a certain level. To make them feel inferior because of their race and to plant a fear that makes them believe that white people are better than them when clearly that is not the case. We have to live with a new attitude believing that we are winners because that is what keeps the human race and Asian Americans going coming into a new generation forming as we speak.

How has the poem "Khao Jai" changed the way you think about yourself and place in your personal life? Do you feel that you have been socially engrained to define yourself based on what you were labled as a person growing up?

Works Cited
Worra, Bryan Thao. Tanon Sai Jai: Poems. Minneapolis, MN: Silosoth Pub., 2010. Print. 

Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2016.

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