A lonely start to the new year

since Beloved left on a three week work trip a few hours ago.

I have the cat, but still. Maybe I can spend time thinking about the plans for the year. That’ll come in handy.

Based on the plans so far, 2012 will be the Year of the Red Tape. There are many administrative hurdles I foresee, with the only consolation that whatever we do, we never have to do again. With the exception of taxes. We’ll always have to file taxes.

2012 will also be the year of my more formal “Americanization”. Of course I learned much implicitly, simply by having an American companion, lover, husband (ooh, right, husband, hehe), but I’ll need to do more. I plan to document the process of learning about American culture here. I’ll not mention everything, of course (I could write angry rants about how the “relationships advice” section of a large American-based aggregator site that rhymes with “he said it” is full of outdated sexist tripe, for instance, but why bother) but the more interesting things I hope to at least mention.

I need to talk about Oprah. Or at least learn more about Oprah. Because I’ve never seen a full episode of whatever it is she does, simply because I filed it away as “day time television with guru-type advice persona”. Based on a recent article in The Atlantic, though, she’s much more. And I may not like Oprah, or think that her shows are anything for me, once I find out more about her, I don’t think I can dismiss her outright when it comes to the Americanness of what she has offered.

I will probably need to learn a lot about uh.. minority cultures. Because I don’t even have the vocabulary to start thinking about them right now. I can “check my privilege”  until I’m blue in the face, if I can’t get at least a halfway decent factual base and historical perspective on why things are the way they are, I’m going to screw up and hurt people’s feelings.

Example: I had just finished reading two books that I found on an reading list for an MIT course on “the American novel”. The books were Beloved, by Toni Morrison* and The Known World by Edward P Jones. For those unfamiliar with these books, they deal with the difficulties of recently free and/or still enslaved coloured people. Without going into the actual content (which is heartbreaking): the protagonists are people of colour. They speak to many other people of colour. And the English they used was something that I picked up on. Wishing to discuss these books with the Beloved, I tried to find a word that would describe how the language felt. The word I used? Ebonics.

Cue a troubled silence from the Beloved who was at a loss about how to explain to me the complications of using that word. Heh. I still haven’t done enough reading and studying to find more appropriate terms. Which is why I’m not writing more about it (although I would recommend both novels – they’re magnificent).

One book that is on my reading list for this year is Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. I hope it’ll help me find  more understanding and more sources for further reading.

There are many more parts of American culture that deserve my attention that I haven’t gotten around to. Cooking, for instance and their relationship with (public and private) space, nature and travel.

* me using the term Beloved to refer to my husband is not in any way related to or inspired by Toni Morrison’s intensely impressive novel. I took my inspiration from a more escapist series of novels, Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy and Tawny Man Trilogy. Also worth a read, by the way, if you love well-written fantasy and intrigue.

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