2011 Volume 7

A Journal of Academic Writing

Pulaski Technical College


Volume 7


Milestones is a publication of:

Pulaski Technical College

3000 West Scenic Drive

North Little Rock, Arkansas 72118



Our Thanks To:

Dr. Dan F. Bakke; Augusta Farver; Patricia Palmer; Carol Langston;

Cindy Harkey; Purnell Henderson; David Harris; Joyce Taylor; Cindy

Nesmith; Lilly Dixon; BJ Marcotte; Tim Walbert; Melinda Gaston;

Billie Egli; Michelle Verser; Tena Carrigan; Melissa Myers Hendricks;

Michelle Anderson; Ginny Peyton; Kelly Owens; Wendy Davis and

the staff of the Pulaski Technical College Libraries; members of the

Pulaski Technical College Library Committee; the staff of the Pulaski

Technical College Physical Plant; Tim Jones; Amy Green; Tracy

Courage; Lennon Parker; and the faculty, staff, and students who have

continued to show interest and enthusiasm in this publication.

©2012 Pulaski Technical College

Works appearing in Milestones are printed with the permission of the

authors. Copyright reverts to authors immediately following publication.

Milestones is published annually by Pulaski Technical College

through the Division of Fine Arts and Humanities.

Submissions to Milestones are accepted year-round via e-mail at The publication accepts academic essays,

personal narratives, and creative nonfiction. Anyone associated with

Pulaski Technical College is encouraged to submit to Milestones.

The views and opinions expressed herein are not necessarily those of

Pulaski Technical College or those of any of the college personnel or

people responsible for publishing this journal.

Please note: The language and content contained in this journal may

not be suitable for all readers.



Joey Cole

Managing Editor

Sandy Longhorn

Editorial Board

Amy Baldwin

Matthew Chase

Kate Evans

Laura Govia

Caroline C. Lewis

Jonathan Purkiss

Consulting Editors

Mark Barnes

Antonia Garcia

Leslie Lovenstein

Allen Loibner

Founding Editors

Wade Derden and Angie Macri

Design/Cover Art

Amy Green


2011 Volume 7


Editor’s Note 5

Cultivating a Lifelong Love of Books 7

Shavonne Bohanan

Educating Our Children Today 10

Holly L. Gwatney

To Game or Not to Game 15

Nadine Pitcher

Pinball: The Misunderstood Game of Amusement 21

Jack Black

The Native American Image on Film: 28

The Power of Images

Holly Ingebo

Love and Healing: A Human Experience 36

Joy Johnson

The Black Venus 42

Shannon J. Foster

Boland’s Elegy 48

Kayelin Roberts

Late Start in Literacy 52

Lora A. Williams



Editor’s Note

Milestones began in 2004 under the nurturing hands of Angie Macri

and Wade Derden. In their expert care, the journal became a tangible

artifact of the academic writing produced by our students in our classrooms

both on campus and in the online environment. Having taken over as

Managing Editor of Milestones in the summer of 2011, I’d like to

thank the founding editors for their service and for providing such a

stellar model which I might follow. Moving forward, it is my hope,

and the hope of the editorial board, that the journal will remain a

source of pride and inspiration for PTC.

Over the last six months, as I’ve watched this volume of Milestones

come to life, I’ve been struck by the importance of collaboration and

revision in the writing process. Within these pages, readers will find

essays that began with an assignment in a classroom, from which the

writers brainstormed their ideas, organized their thoughts, perhaps

researched relevant information, perhaps brainstormed some more,

and eventually drafted their essays, sometimes with input from their

peers, their instructors, or a writing tutor. However, these efforts are

not the end of the writing process. Next, students had to submit their

essays for a grade, a nerve-wracking process considering the time,

effort, and care that went into their writing. Once the essays were

returned by the instructors, students who felt confident about their

work chose to submit their essays to our editorial board. When

accepted for publication, the essays met the careful eyes of the editors,

suggestions were sent to the writers once again, and more revision

materialized. With the content settled, the editors went to work on

proofreading, that meticulous activity meant to search out and eradicate

the sneaky typo, extra comma, misplaced MLA citation, and

accidental apostrophe. Finally, as a group, the editorial board reached

a consensus to publish the essays contained here for the variety of

thought they represent, from literacy narratives and literary analyses

to researched histories and researched arguments. The words of these

writers feed our intellectual appetites and model for future students

what each might achieve in academic writing.


Along this journey to publication, I’ve been privy to exciting

conversations about the diverse voices among our community and the

diverse teaching styles among our faculty, as each instructor guides a

group of students through the circular maze that is the writing process.

The result of this diversity shines through in this volume; these

essays prove that there are many ways to write an essay, but we all

strive for clarity and concision, for consistency in documentation and

syntax. Within these pages, our students demonstrate the ability to

communicate their own ideas, often while incorporating the ideas of

others, and to recognize the power that resides in that ability, the true

goal of any serious writer.

Given the voices and the collaborative effort represented here, I am

delighted to usher into print this year’s incarnation of the journal, our

seventh volume.


6th Annual National Library Week Essay Contest Winner


Cultivating a Lifelong Love of Books

As technology continues to thrive and evolve, the world moves

farther away from some things that were staples in my childhood while

growing up. One of these essentials is a simple book. From before I

can remember, books and reading have always been a part of my life.

My mother often recounts stories of how she read and sang to me in

the womb. As a toddler, it was second nature for me to grab a book

and ask someone to read it to me multiple times. As I began to get

older, the love of reading stayed with me, and I began to read books

to myself and make weekly visits to the library where I had limitless

access to any kind of book I wanted. I have read countless works,

and of these, several authors have played an important role in my life,

including Dr. Seuss, Wilson Rawls’ Where the Red Fern Grows,

Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, and Booker T. Washington’s Up

from Slavery. Each of these authors and their books had a significant impact

on my life at various ages that cultivated a lifelong love for reading

and learning.

Dr. Seuss is such an important author to me because he is the

first author with whom I became familiar. Growing up, I had a Dr.

Seuss collection that was hard to beat. If Dr. Seuss wrote a book, I had

it. All of Dr. Seuss’s books were my favorite! His books taught me

how to read in rhythm and rhyme. Dr. Seuss also taught me how to

be creative with his use of ‘cats in the hats’ and fictional creatures

who always donned funny names and appearances. By reading Dr.

Seuss at an early age, I learned how to be a better “out loud” reader

and realized my thoughts and dreams in life could be as creative and

fantastic as I wanted them to be.

The second book and author that played an important role in

my life was Wilson Rawls’ Where the Red Fern Grows. I was

introduced to this book by my fifth grade teacher who read this to us

each day after the excitement of recess. I remember each day, sitting

at my desk, listening to the adventures of Old Dan and Little Ann and


being drawn into the lives of characters for the first time. Many of the

books I read prior to Where the Red Fern Grows were shorter and of less

substance, but Rawls’ book instilled in me the value of substance in the

little things. Whether those little things are taking time to relax or

taking the time to be interested in the lives of others, Where the Red

Fern Grows left me with the belief that even in this busy world, sometimes

the small things in life are important enough to stop and notice.

The third book and author that played a significant role in

my life was Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. I read Gone

with the Wind my seventh grade year as a challenge to myself. When

I found out the book had over a thousand pages, I was astonished. I

had never dreamt of reading a book that long, so I bravely set out to

do it. I checked the book out of the library that summer and began to

read it. Not only did I read it that summer, but I read it each summer

after for the next five years and it became one of my favorite books

(and movies). As I continued to read the book each summer, the 1,037

pages seemed like a mere hundred. Gone with the Wind taught me

that persistence is met with reward. I could have easily given up on

reading such a long book, but I stuck with it and got the reward of

falling in love with dynamic characters such as Scarlett O’Hara and

Rhett Butler.

The fourth book, but not final by far, that has played an

important role in my life is Booker T. Washington’s Up from Slavery.

In Washington’s autobiography, he recounts his humble beginnings

from an enslaved child to his praiseworthy founding of the Tuskegee

Institute, which still stands today. As the book progresses, Washington

simply tells his life story, but it is an instinctive inspiration to those

who read it. This book has inspired my life by showing me that nothing

is impossible. If Washington could teach himself to read with the aid

of others, I know I can make A’s in all of my courses. If Washington

could become a great orator, I know I will become a great leader.

Finally, if Washington could found a school of learning in the same

lifetime he was a slave, I know I can positively contribute to the

well-being of my community and society as a whole.


In conclusion, one of my favorite quotes from Booker T.

Washington is “Excellence is doing a common thing in an uncommon

way.” Excellence in academics, my professional career, and my home

life is what I strive for each and every day, and my lifelong love of

reading has been a wonderful tool.



Educating Our Children Today

In today’s society, many people do not realize just how

important it is to receive a higher education in America, not only for

older teens who will be graduating from high school soon, but also for

the younger children who have not yet reached the point of thinking

about their future. Even though it seems hard to believe, when children

start school at a young age, they also start preparing for their future.

They are taught lessons in many different subjects, but they are also

being prepared for what they will need during their higher education

years. As a society, we depend on our children’s teachers and educators

to teach and prepare our children for what is ahead of them. Sometimes

what our society does not realize is the fact that it is not up to the

educators alone to prepare for our own children’s futures. It is the

responsibility of not only the educators, but also the parents of today’s

children to motivate and support those children, the generation of

tomorrow, in the aspect of obtaining a higher education in America.

Throughout children’s lives, they will learn and pick up on

many different things, in and out of the classroom. They will listen

and repeat what is said and taught to them, beginning when they say

their first word. They will also idolize what they are shown by those

around them, most importantly by their parents or caregivers. It is

amazing to think that even at that early of an age, parents are able to

start the thought process in the minds of their children of what their

future should include. Parents are setting the example for their children

in all they do, including how they live, work, and teach each child.

Not only do children learn manners and respect from those they are

most around at a young age, but also they learn the importance of having

a strong work ethic. Parents with a strong work ethic instill in their

children the importance of not only striving to work hard, but also

striving to learn what is needed for that work. It is important that the

parents of today’s generation of children start the teaching process

with strong examples of respect and integrity for education in every

area of their child’s life.


As early as elementary school, today’s teachers start to prepare children

for what they will need when they reach high school and even college.

Many schools start pre-college prep classes as early as the sixth grade.

At eleven years old children are seriously preparing for classes they

will take in college. Many parents do not realize just how important

it is to help their children at this age with the education they are starting

to receive. It takes more than just helping with homework or projects

to support our children in their future. It is up to the parents to provide

not only the educational support needed, but also the emotional support

and motivation needed to guide each child in the right direction.

At an early age children do not realize how important having

a higher education is to their future; in fact, even many teenagers do

not realize the effect this will have on their place in society after high

school. An education is needed to prepare them for the world they

will enter after they leave the security of high school and home. In

Mike Rustigan’s article “College-Prep Track Not for Everyone,” he

summarizes the importance of teaching today’s children the skills

needed for a successful future, whether it may be a four-year college

degree or the experience in a specific trade field of vocational training.

In this article he says, “The magic of learning something that is useful

and relevant sparks a strong desire to achieve” (Rustigan 3H). Many

parents and teachers stress the importance of a four-year degree, but

the importance of education lies in learning the skills needed to

support oneself in their future. Whether it may be a four-year degree

from a university or a learned trade such as a certain vocational skill,

the purpose is using what is learned to succeed in life. Parents and

teachers alike need to teach and support each child in the areas that

will help that child with his or her specific goals for future success.

Most teenagers do not look toward their futures with a negative

view of “what could be.” They seem to just assume their future will

be bright with fortune and success without thinking about all of the

hard work and dedication that is required to make this actually happen.

Many teens do not sit and plan for the “what ifs.” What if someone

is married for 20 years as a stay-at-home mom and suddenly finds

herself single, unemployed, with no financial support for the children

for whom she has to provide? What if after 10 years with the same


company, someone is let go from their job without any other

employment prospects? What if a high school graduate decides it’s

just not worth the effort involved to continue on with a higher education

or vocational training? Whose responsibility is it to answer the “what

if” questions for our children before it becomes too late? The teachers

of the education system can only do so much. It is their job to teach

the students the lessons and preparations needed in order to maintain

a higher level of education. It is the parent’s responsibility to guide their

children through the learning years. Today’s parents should be the

influence behind their children, the ones who show them their potential

education and help teach them the benefits of obtaining this education.

There are many factors that influence parents and their children

regarding the continuation of education. Many people look for what

will benefit their children the most in their future careers and potential

family positions. Our society today puts a lot of focus on continuing

a solid education through a four-year university degree, and for the

most financially stable careers, this does prove necessary. Although

in terms of obtaining the education needed in today’s society to compete

with the job market, parents and potential students must also look at

the cost of receiving the education needed versus the benefits that the

education will provide. In Elyse Ashburn’s article “College Graduates

Say Their Education Was Worth the Time and Money,” she summarizes

a survey done representing recent college graduates and their experiences

of obtaining a higher education. In this article she states, “The vast

majority of college graduates believe their degrees were worth the

time, effort – and cash – they took to get” (Ashburn). Many potential

students may consider the cost of education an obstacle. However, for

those students who have an educational support system, as well as a

motivational support system behind them, this obstacle seems to be

easier to overcome. It takes more than just the teachers supporting

today’s youth by helping them to obtain the skills needed by education.

It takes the parents to support, motivate, and encourage their children

through each step of the education process.

The main purpose of higher education is to generate the skills

and knowledge necessary for a successful career. In addition, the

education system provides children with positive role models to teach


them the information needed in regards to their education. Teachers

help to prepare today’s children for what they will need for their

future. However, parents must be the ones to help children realize

their potential for their future and to encourage and motivate their

children each step of the way. Without the support of teachers

and especially parents, the youth of today will not have the full

support system needed to succeed as the adults of tomorrow. The

accomplishment of achieving a higher education in America will

not only allow our children the potential of a strong, solid career,

but will also help them in their journey of finding fulfillment and

happiness in each area of their lives.


Works Cited

Ashburn, Elyse. “College Graduates Say Their Education Was Worth

the Time and Money.” The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The Chronicle of Higher Education. 20 May 2008. Web. 29

Mar. 2011.

Rustigan, Mike. “College-Prep Track Not for Everyone.” Arkansas

Democrat Gazette [Little Rock] 24 Jan. 2010: 3H. Print.



To Game or Not to Game

“Put that game down. You’ve got studying to do.” Heard this

before? If you have, you are not alone. Most people growing up

between 1972 and today have had some exposure to video games, with

many having been avid players at some point or another. In fact, “a

1996 study found that 98.7 percent of children said they had played

video games before” (Ferguson B20). As video games become more

advanced and more common, data is emerging that suggests that there

may actually be many benefits to regular game play. More and more

experts say that video games are not as harmful as previously thought

and they might actually be good for you. Video games prove that they

enhance the learning experience when introduced into the classroom,

they are currently innovating test taking, and they are becoming both

more physically active and more social than ever before. Though

critics still abound, video games have proven over the years that they

are up to any challenge society can throw at them.

Since the birth of the video game in the 1970s, the world of

technology has grown rapidly and so has the world of gaming. The

first video game widely played by the public was Atari’s Pong, first

released in 1972. The response to this simple electronic game was

immediate, and the public clamored for more of its kind. Games like

Space Invaders (1978) and Pac-Man (1980) were soon common

fixtures in arcades, and classic games like Super Mario Brothers

(1985), The Legend of Zelda (1986), and Sim City (1989) continued to

draw increasing numbers of young people into their digital realms (“A

History”). Parents were reasonably befuddled by the emergence of

this new brand of media and the degree to which it entranced their

children. Seen first as innocent time-killers, many parents began to

resent the amount of time youngsters devoted to these seemingly

addictive games rather than more ambitious pursuits.

With the rise of first-person shooter games like Quake (1996)

and Call of Duty (2003), as well as games encouraging criminal

behaviors like Grand Theft Auto (1997) (“A History”), parents now


had a new scapegoat for violent crimes committed by American youth.

It wasn’t long before every school shooting seen on the news was

attributed to the games supposedly played the night before. Some

people may claim that video game simulations allow players to

rehearse violent behavior, or that children cannot help becoming

violent if they frequently play violent games, but the truth is that the

causes of violent behavior are too complex to pinpoint on any one

variable. Choosing video games as the unseen demon behind the

shortcomings of society is perhaps one of the laziest conclusions on

this subject, especially when you take into account the number of

people who have played video games at some point in their lives. As

Christopher Ferguson states in his piece for the Chronicle of Higher

Education, “Using video game-playing habits to predict school shootings

is about as useful as noting that most or all school shooters were in the

habit of wearing sneakers and concluding that sneakers must be

responsible for such violence” (B20). As more research into the issue

has been conducted, there has been little concrete evidence linking

violent behavior to video game experience. Most researchers have

concluded that games are just what they claim to be – entertainment

– and nothing more. However, in recent years there has been increasing

evidence that games may actually aid the learning process and have

unprecedented intellectual as well as physical benefits.

As games grow more technologically advanced, we begin to

see the dawn of games used as educational tools. Some games like

Oregon Trail, Muzzy Lane’s Making History, Civilization, and Spore

have obvious educational characteristics. These games are seen more

frequently as supplements to subjects covered in the classroom. Many

teachers find that students respond very well to these simulations as

they allow them to “play” history, explore scientific principles, and

experience a previously unmatched level of interactivity in a variety

of subjects. In Muzzy Lane’s Making History, for example, students

lead their own European countries in the years preceding World War

II. Lee Wilson praises the game in his article for Technology and

Learning, saying, “This game draws on the core academic principles

of reading, math, and social studies while also encouraging teamwork,

initiative, creativity, problem solving, and leadership.” He also


describes how games such as these, games with no one correct path,

encourage students to use complex problem-solving skills and often

allow them to learn from failure as much as success (Wilson). For

obvious reasons children also seem more enthusiastic to participate

in gameplay than in other traditional supplements to classwork, meaning

that they are more likely to retain the lessons they learn because they

are truly engaged in their learning process.

It is also increasingly evident that recreational games played

outside of the classroom may have their unsung benefits. In a study

released from the University of Rochester, cited by Guy Dixon for his

article in the Toronto Globe and Mail, researchers report that those

playing one hour of a first-person shooter game for one day a week

scored higher on vision tests than did players of the simpler, puzzle

game, Tetris. Also, a study released by York University in Toronto

concludes that not only are players experiencing improved vision, they

also have a tendency to score higher on several other challenging

mental tests than do non-gamers (Dixon). The reasoning is simple. As

the gaming world advances, recreational games are becoming far more

intellectual and interactive. Users are not “vegging” out the way they

do with television. They are thinking critically, solving puzzles, and

using creativity and strategy to secure their goals. Modern games

rarely reward players strictly on reaction, or “twitch” speed, and most

games require careful decision making that could have extreme

consequences for the player’s errors. With continuous mental rehearsal

that so effectively absorbs the user, it is no wonder that video games

are becoming synonymous with cerebral growth and learning.

Not only do games have possible learning benefits, they also

are innovating test-taking and, in many cases, are proving more

accurate than standardized tests of the past. Many people may ask

how a video game could possibly be a more accurate evaluation than

a classic pencil and paper test. Video games themselves are, and have

always been, a series of tests. These tests ultimately lead to larger,

harder tests that must be overcome before a player can advance onto

new challenges. Robert Rothman of the Harvard Education Letter

writes about the revolutionary work being conducted by James Paul

Gee and his associates to develop new computer-based assessments.


Their mission is to develop a series of games that allow educators to

better measure student comprehension, problem-solving, and critical

thinking skills. With these electronic assessments, educators receive

data on the many choices made during the test so that they can better

determine a student’s overall understanding of the subject. Gee

explains the value of computer-based tests when compared with

traditional exams by stating, “It’s difficult to know what to do with a

single score that tells what a student did on Tuesday at 4:00 [when

the student took a test]. Games give scores on a number of variables.

They’re not scoring whether a student succeeded or failed. They show

how a student performed, and in some cases how innovative a solution

is” (qtd. in Rothman 5). One of the many benefits to these types of

exams is that students may be learning a great deal while they take

them. Feedback is immediate, and through trial and error the subject

becomes more permanently cemented in a student’s memory.

There are many challenges to this fledgling concept still

being worked out by creators. One of the challenges is designing these

game-based assessments. The idea is to have a concept that is engaging

and fun while also being somewhat unfamiliar to students. If some

students are familiar with a subject while others are not, it may give

an unfair advantage to those with prior knowledge. There is also the

large amount of data collected by the assessments to work through,

and educators must determine which data is most critical. Last but not

least, these tests must be technically sound and provide accurate

measurements. Of course, there are many parents who still believe

that standardized testing is the only accurate measurement of their

child’s skills. It is clear, though, that computer-based assessments are

the way of the future.

The days of viewing gaming as a lazy or unsocial endeavor

are over. It is true that some players are so engrossed in their fantasy

worlds that they rarely leave them to socialize, sleep, or even bathe,

but these people are not the majority. Video games are a form of media

like television or books, and most forms of media are subject to overuse

by those wishing to escape the realities of day-to-day life. Ask

yourself this; can’t any person become desperate for a form of escape?

Can’t anything be addictive? In the new generation of gaming,


however, games aren’t frequently used solely as a way to escape. They

can also be a way to connect. In Wilson’s case, he uses World of Warcraft

to connect with his teen sons while on the road. He is one of an

increasing number of adult gamers who find a social and creative

outlet in gaming (Wilson). According to the Entertainment Software

Association’s webpage, “In 2011, 29 percent of Americans over the

age of 50 play video games, an increase from nine percent in 1999.”

Many adults, like Gee, find that adults can learn a lot through gaming.

Gee states, “Adults get very good at what they do, they are very

experienced at it, and they look real smart until they have to learn

something new” (qtd. in Dixon). Games like World of Warcraft may

utterly engross players, but they also gently bring otherwise unsociable

people out of the dark and into their ideal social situations. Let’s face

it, not everyone likes to get out. In massively multiplayer online

role-playing games (MMORPGs) people can interact through guilds,

parties, and raids, and players can continuously feel like they are a

part of something. Also, we are beginning to see the advent of motion

games like the Wii, Xbox Kinect, and now Playstation Move. We are

already seeing more gamers who are physically active because with

these systems the player’s motioning hand or moving body becomes

the controls. Who knows what changes will occur as these systems

improve and gamers invest themselves more physically in games.

Though cast as the antagonist, that demon behind the social

issues we face, video games are proving themselves to be more than

just some other mindless pursuit. The vast majority of people are

demanding games of substance, games that require higher level thinking

and planning, and even games that make the player move. Video

games are becoming increasingly more commonplace and may even

be integrated into the standardized test system before we know it. It

may not be long before your sister, your brother, your child, or even

you are called upon to use knowledge extracted from video games in

daily life. Video games still have a long way to go before they are

accepted by mainstream society as learning tools, so we as a public

should encourage gaming development and remain open-minded to

new technologies. Video games are truly the wave of the future. Are

you ready to ride the wave?


Works Cited

Dixon, Guy. “It Sure Is! A Healthy Way to Spend Your Summer?”

Globe and Mail [Toronto, Canada] 11 Aug. 2007: R1. Gale

Opposing Viewpoints in Context.Web. 27 Nov. 2011.

Entertainment Software Association. “Industry Facts.” The

Entertainment Software Association. 2011. Web. 27 Nov.


Ferguson, Christopher. “Video Games: The Latest Scapegoat for

Violence.” Chronicle of Higher Education. The Chronicle of

Higher Education, 53 (22 June 2007): B20. Web. 27 Nov.


“A History of Video Games: Innovation Timeline.” EduTube

Educational Videos. N.p. 26 May 2008. Web. 27 Nov. 2011.

Rothman, Robert. “Video Games Take Testing to the Next Level.”

The Education Digest 1 Mar. 2011: 4-9. ProQuest. Web. 27

Nov. 2011.

Wilson, Lee. “Video Games Are Useful Educational Tools.” Media

Violence 15 Sept. 2007. Opposing Viewpoints in Context.

Web. 27 Nov. 2011.



Pinball: The Misunderstood

Game of Amusement

The pinball machine is a true piece of American pop culture

and has been around since the early 1930s. It has been an entertainer, an

outlaw, a therapist, and an icon. As with most American entertainment,

the pinball machine has been scandalized as being a gambling device

and given a bad reputation. During the first two decades of the pinball

era, the games were considered gambling devices by the courts in most

major cities. This is best described by Rob Hawkins in his thesis of the

pinball machine as “that of a villainous thief with connections to the

underworld through its older brother the slot machine” (qtd. in Jensen

“First”). In actuality the general populace of the time believed them to

be just amusement devices, a temporary escape from the woes of the

depression and the onset of World War II. A therapist session for the

price of only a penny or nickel, you might say. From its humble

beginnings and through its most turbulent times the pinball machine

has shown perseverance, adaptability, and ingenuity. It changed over

the decades to accommodate new laws and appeal to the ever changing

needs of the player.

Right from the start, pinball was believed to be connected to

the mob for many reasons. According to Walter Hurd, first, it had

similarities to the slot machine. Second, it had a strong revenue intake

during the Depression. Finally, the name used to identify the serviceman

of the machine was the “operator.” The use of the term “operator”

was misinterpreted as that of a thug, or muscle for the mob, by most

city officials. The operator was simply the man who purchased the

machine, placed it in an establishment, serviced it, and collected the

earnings from the machine (Hurd 92).

In its simplest form the pinball machine began as a wooden,

rectangular box consisting of a coin slot, a slanted playfield, a spring

mounted ball shooter (also called a plunger), a marble, scoring holes,

and brass pins nailed to the playfield. As Rufus King describes, the

player deposited a coin to begin play, then pulled back the plunger


and jettisoned the marble (which later changed to a steel ball bearing)

onto the playfield. The marble by way of gravity traveled down the

playfield to either land in a scoring hole or in the drain hole at the

bottom. The brass pins made it more difficult to get a score by

deflecting the marble away from the openings to the scoring holes. In

these early versions, the player did not have any means to control the

course of the ball except for nudging the machine sideways. Furthermore,

the score had to be added up at the end of the game by the player.

These early pin-games, as they are commonly called now because of

the brass pins nailed onto the playfields, did not require much skill to

play. At that point, it was more a game of chance than skill (King

“Pinball” 19). The difference between “chance” and “skill” became a

major factor in the arguments defining pin-games as gambling

devices in many court cases. In the American Heritage Dictionary, a

game of chance is said to be “a game, usually played for money or

stakes, in which the winner is determined by a chance event” (“Game

of Chance”).

Around 1901 the forefather of the modern pinball game first

appeared called Log Cabin, according to Michael Shalhoub. Later, the

first commercially produced pinball game, Baffle Ball, was available

in 1931 and was considered a novelty amusement device (Shalhoub

12). As King states, in 1933, the “pay-out” pinball machine was

introduced. This new version of the pinball machine caught the

attention of city and government officials. The “pay-out” machine

was made to give out money or tokens when the marble landed in

pre-determined holes on the playfield. These machines provided the

player with only one marble to shoot instead of the normal five to ten

marbles as in earlier games. According to King, these “one-balls” as

they became known, changed the perception of the game from a

novelty device to a gambling device. A gambling device is loosely

defined as having three elements: requiring monetary consideration,

chance, and the possibility of receiving a prize. The prize can consist

of money, redeemable tickets, vouchers, or merchandise (King “Rise”


In 1935, a new feature was added to the types of pin-games

available; it was called the “free play” or “replay” mechanism, as


stated in Jensen. This new feature had two goals. One was intentional,

awarding the player a free game for his skill. The other was un-intentional,

helping to revive the waning slot machine industry. The free-play

mechanism gave the player a free game when he reached a certain

score. These free games could be redeemed legally by the establishment

for a monetary value or under the table where it was illegal. Of course

the player could keep playing the game if a cop was around. The

establishment owner would reset the mechanism by using a hidden

switch on the bottom of the machine called a “knock off switch.” This

switch subtracted the free games from the machine but added them to

a meter inside the cabinet. Meters on the inside of the machine kept

track of the coins inserted, games played, and the number of replays

that were deducted from the machine. This made it easier for the

owner of the machine and the establishment where the machine was

located to divide up the earnings up correctly (Jensen “Pingames”).

Eventually, the free game feature came under fire by the Illinois

Supreme Court in 1942 because of a statute of 1895, which states:

Every clock, tape machine, slot machine or other

machine or device for the reception of money on

chance or upon the actions of which money is

staked, hazarded, bet, won or lost is hereby declared

a gambling device and shall be subject to seizure,

confiscation and destruction by any municipal or

other local authority within whose jurisdiction the

same may be found. (qtd. in King “Pinball” 20)

Using this statute upon which to base its decision, the court decided

that winning a free play was considered winning a prize. Thus the

“free play” type of pin-games became classified as a gambling device

along with the “one-ball machines.”

A new era for the pin-games opened up in 1947 when a

feature was added called “flippers,” according to Jensen. Flippers

allowed the player to use skill and timing to keep the steel ball (which

replaced the marble in the late 1930s) in play. The flipper is a paddle

connected to a solenoid that hits the ball back up into the playfield to

either extend the game or hit a specific scoring target. The introduction

of flippers changed the game of pinball from one of chance to one





requiring a level of skill (Jensen “Pingames”). This still did not help in the locations where pin-games were illegal to operate. By 1950 there was a big demand for an anti-gambling bill so Congress enacted the Johnson Act. The Johnson Act was designed to prevent the inter-state shipping of gambling devices, parts, or manuals for such devices into areas where they were prohibited. In many local laws, the term “one-ball machine” was stated directly as a gambling device, and pin-games now fell under this ruling, as did slot machines

(Jensen “Pingames”).

Surprisingly, the Illinois Supreme Court decided to amend its earlier ban on pin-games in 1952 by adding:

A coin-in-the-slot-operated mechanical device played

for amusement which rewards the player with the right

to replay such mechanical device, which device is so

constructed or devised as to make such result of the

operation thereof depend in part upon the skill of the

player and which returns to the player thereof no

coins, tokens or merchandise shall not be considered

to be a gambling device within the meaning of this Act

and any right of replay so obtained shall not represent

a valuable thing within the meaning of this Act. (qtd.

in King “Pinball” 21)








This alteration to the ban re-opened many areas to the pin-games but accidentally did the same for the slot machine industry, too. As Jensen elaborates, another type of pinball game became available because of this change, the “bingo” machine. Produced from 1951 to the mid-1960s, the bingo game had five to eight balls instead of one to get around laws that only banned the “one-ball” machines. Flippers were not used on these games, which caused them to revert back to a game of chance. The game was set up like its namesake, the bingo card. The playfield had 20 - 25 scoring holes.Each scoring hole corresponded with a number on the bingo cards on the back-glass. To increase your chance of you winning, all you had to do was deposit more coins into the machine to activate anothercard. The normal amount available on any given machine was six cards. Like its predecessor, the “free game” machine, the bingo



machine could be cashed in, by winning a “BINGO,” usually through the establishment or on the few that were equipped with the pay-out mechanism through the machine (Jensen “Pingames”).Jensen goes on to tell about the 1957 federal Supreme Courtnruling on the bingo pinball machine. After several cases, the Court ruled that bingo machines were for all intent gambling devices. Byway of the Korpran Decision, this made them subject to the rules under the Johnson Act. This same decision made it illegal to have a knock-off switch to reset the free game meter, as mentioned previously,

or even to have the meter in the game cabinet at all. However, the free game mechanism itself is still available as a standard part of modern

pin-games (Jensen “Pingames”).






To help promote pinball as a “for amusement only” game, a

new feature was created in 1960 called the “add-a-ball,” states Jensen.

The add-a-ball was similar in function to the free play feature, but

instead of a free game, a player won another ball by achieving a certain

score. The designers believed that it was harder to cash in a ball than

it was to do the same with a free game. This change to the machines

was a big improvement that has become a standard feature on modern

games. This feature allowed a pinball machine to be placed in areas

that had previously banned pin-games (Jensen “Pingames”).

One place where this did not change was New York City,

which had enacted a pinball ban on January 21, 1942, by order of

Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. According to “Episode 17” of the podcast

This Old Pinball, this lasted until 1976 when the ban was challenged

by a group of manufacturers and their lawyers. As a key witness, a

young journalist named Roger Sharpe was called in to demonstrate

the skill needed to play a pinball machine. Sharpe, a freelance writer

who had published several articles on the pinball industry, was asked

to explain and demonstrate various parts of the pin-game. During his

demonstration, he called out where he was going to send the ball on

the playfield, hitting it on target each time, thus proving that pinball

was a game of skill instead of chance. The ban was lifted that very

day, making it a major victory for the coin-machine industry

(“Episode 17”).


By the end of the 20th century, pinball bans and laws were

thought to have been pulled from the books or forgotten. But this was

not the case. Peter Applebome reports that in August 2010, a retro

arcade was shut down by an ordinance prohibiting arcades on Main

Street in Beacon, NY. The ordinance was put into effect during the

mid-1960s. The arcade was opened in 2008 and had become a booming

success. The arcade was doing so well that the surrounding businesses

recommended it to their customers. The code enforcers were not aware

of its existence until a review was printed in a newspaper in the spring

of 2010. After being shut down, the owner tried to work with city

officials to alleviate the problem so he could open his business again.

The city council took three months to finally make an amendment to

the old ordinance, but by then it was too late. The owner had to sell

his inventory of machines to pay off his creditors and then had to leave

town as well (Appelebome). The closure was considered a major loss

of much needed tourist revenue and a blemish on the city council.

From the “one ball” machines all the way to the “add-a-ball”

machines, pinball strove to be for amusement. But with every

alteration made, new oppositions arose to challenge its validation as

an amusement device. Its 80-year transformation from a gambling

device to an amusement device is all but complete. So, why has the

perception of pinball machines by lawmakers not changed as much as

the game itself has? This can never be explained; as with most

American entertainment, pinball is still being scandalized because of

its rebellious image and the supposed connection to crime.


Works Cited

Applebome, Peter. "Dream Dies as Museum of Pinball Goes TILT."

New York Times 13 Sept. 2010: A23 (L). General OneFile.

Web. 21 Oct. 2011.

“Episode 17.” This Old Pinball. 18 Mar. 2007. MP3


“Game of Chance.” American Heritage Dictionary of the English

Language. 2009. Print.

Hurd, Walter. “A History of Pinball.” The Billboard 29 May 1943:

91+. 25 Aug. 2011.

Jensen, Russ. “The First Pinball Book? The Hawkins Thesis.” Coin

Slot Sept.-Nov. 1996: n. pag. Web. 1 Aug. 2011.

---. “Pingames and Gambling- A Historical Survey.” Coin Slot June-

Aug. 1987: n. pag. Web. 25 Aug. 2011.

King, Rufus. “Pinball Problem in Illinois. An Overdue Solution.” The

Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology, and Police Science

57.01 (Mar. 1966): 17-26. JSTOR. Web. 10 Oct. 2011.

---. “Rise and Decline of Coin Machine Gambling.” The Journal of

Criminal Law, Criminology, and Police Science 55.02 (June

1964): 199-207. JSTOR. Web. 19 Sept. 2011.

Shalhoub, Michael. “The Pinball Compendium: 1930s-1960s.”

Atglen: Schiffer Publishing Ltd, 2002. Print.



The Native American Image on Film:

The Power of Images

“Cowboys and Indians,” these words conjure immediate

images in the mind with which much of the world is familiar. These

are the images and stereotypes that make up the classic good guys vs.

bad guys game for children and entertaining material for storytellers.

Where did these images and ideas originate? How have they affected

American society and culture as a whole? As familiar as these images

are, what may be unfamiliar is how inaccurately the images of Native

Americans have been portrayed throughout the history of popular

media, particularly film. These images have aided in damaging the

Native American psyche and have impeded the true story of our

nation’s history.

After the first European encounter with Native Americans,

many reports, stories and documents were produced describing these

experiences with vivid imagery. These were often accompanied by

illustrations showing how the natives dressed, lived, and behaved.

Through these written accounts and interpretations of native culture

through European eyes emerged the image of the “Indian” that would

later be transformed into a damaging visual image on the big screen.

Largely, the “Indian” was described as savage, wild, untamable,

uncivilized, and without moral conscience. These images have been

ingrained in people’s minds for well over a century.

These negative images have not only been responsible for

causing damage to Native American societies, but also to the American

culture as a whole. Due to repeated grievances the American government

committed against native tribes, preserving Native American culture

has been a struggle. Many native children continue to grow up struggling

with their identity, trying to understand where their native culture fits

with their American culture. Most of these individuals have been

forced to reject their native culture and fully assimilate to white American

standards, practices, and beliefs.


The “Savage Indian” was dramatized and romanticized in

19th century romance novels. According to Charalambos Vrasidas,

this genre of literature was popular among wealthy American women

and sold many books. Among other forms of entertainment were the

circus-like Wild West shows of the late 19th century. The popular

Buffalo Bill Wild West Show traveled throughout the country,

eventually making its way to Europe. In these shows the “Indian”

image came to life. The “Indians” reenacted dramatized versions of

famous battles between native tribes and the United States Cavalry.

Many famous Indian chiefs participated in Buffalo Bill’s show, such

as Sitting Bull, Geronimo, Chief Joseph and Rains in the Face. The

American public responded favorably to these shows. Bill Cody

advertised these shows to be not only entertaining but educational as

well. Thus, the audience perceived these scenes as being historically

accurate; however, that was not always the case. The Native American

performers that participated in these Wild West shows were treated

very well. They were allowed more freedoms than they received on

the reservation and were all paid very good wages (Vrasidas 66). The

harm was in the images portrayed to the audience for a profit. For

many audience members this was their first and only experience with

Native Americans. These images of savage warriors and violence were

all they had to form their opinions about Native Americans. The message

was also being sent to Native Americans that they could exploit their

own culture for money.

Taking a cue from the profitability of these Wild West shows,

some of the first films to be produced used the “Indian” image. In fact,

these stereotypes became even stronger and more powerful with the

introduction and popularity of film. Peter Rollins states that in 1893

Thomas Edison premiered his new invention, the Kinetoscope, by

showing his film Hopi Snake Dance (1893) at the Chicago Colombian

World’s Exposition. In this film Edison captured images of natives

acting out a tribal dance. Then, he began producing short films

referred to as “actualities” that could be viewed through coin operated

machines. These included Sioux Ghost Dance (1894) and Buffalo

Dance (1894), featuring more images of tribal dances (Rollins 56-58).

Many of the performers of these dances had performed in the Wild


West shows. Ian Morgan points out that these short films were not

filmed on reservations but in Edison’s studio, the Black Maria, and the

Native Americans knew these images were contrived and inaccurate.

There were over 3,000 silent “Cowboys and Indians” films produced

during this Silent Era. This included Hollywood’s first feature film

by Cecil B. Demille, The Squaw Man, in 1913 (qtd. in Knopf). The

role Native Americans played in the emergence of America’s film

culture has become clear, though that role has not been publicly

recognized or rewarded.

Throughout all of these films, the message was very clear;

the white race remained superior over Native Americans, and the

white lives were more important than Native American lives. Though

many of the same stories and themes were regurgitated, there were

many other important stories that never made it onto the screen. One

of these stories was the fact that the United States government signed

over 400 treaties and agreements with Native Americans and not one

of them was kept (Deloria 225). Perhaps this could have explained

what the “Indians” were so angry about and why they seemed so

violent. Historical inaccuracy and the continuation of the war theme

were often justified by the belief that “Indians” were a problem to be

dealt with and to be overcome in the name of survival and the

progression of white society.

After 1930 most films being made were “talkies,” or movies

with sound, and the popularity of the Western began to decline until

the 1940s and 1950s when Westerns hit their peak of popularity,

according to Rollins. During this time, films became more accessible

to all Americans due to mass production and cheaper ticket prices.

Also, Westerns could be inexpensively produced. The storyline was

often the same and therefore could be offered to the audience as a

B-movie for a cheaper price (Rollins 76-77).

There were several distinct and continually used “Indian”

characters that emerged in the Western. Vrasidas explains that they

included “The Savage Warrior,” depicted as an immoral heathen who

killed without conscience, and “The Indian Princess,” usually a

buxom, sexual character who would eventually submit to the white

man’s power. This female character was a completely romanticized


European idea, as the princess did not exist in native culture. Vrasidas

goes on to state that the infamous “Drunk Indian” could not resist the

temptations of “fire water,” and “The Loyal Sidekick,” a partner to

the white man, would often have non-Indian characteristics in style of

dress or speech (Vrasidas 64-65). Many of these characters were

portrayed as primitive, violent, drunk, dirty, deceptive, immoral,

idiotic and violent. No matter the character being used or the story

being told in any particular film, the setting always took place in the

white man’s world. Ward Churchill adds that during these early films,

unlike the Wild West shows, Native American actors were not cast to

play native characters. Native American roles were given to Jewish,

Italian, and Spanish actors. Many roles were also given to horror film

actors such as Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney to promote how terrifying

the “Indian” character was (Churchill). The Westerns were also usually

full of historical inaccuracies concerning customs, character costumes,

spiritual beliefs, and ceremonies. Little attention was paid to the fact

that there were over 600 native societies, all with different cultures

and customs that made their particular tribe unique. Instead, native

culture was generalized in most films (Media Awareness Network).

One of the most offensive films produced during this era was

The Searchers (1956) by John Ford, starring John Wayne. John

Wayne’s character, Ethan, shoots a dead native in both eyes and then

says that the Comanche warrior “will have to wander forever between

the winds,” thus never being allowed to enter the spirit world. This

film also depicts the sentiment that native culture was seen as vile and

disdainful. However, it was not just native societies that were affected

by these images. Other Americans, whose only exposure to “Indians”

was through the savage images displayed on screen, were unable to

relate to real Native Americans. Perhaps if more gentle images had

been used, such as images showing daily life on a reservation, a

mother with her child, an elder, young Native American children playing,

or anything that was not related to war, white America would have

had a better understanding of native culture and the grievances Native

Americans suffered. Many scholars point out that people’s perceptions

of history are shaped to a great extent by images presented in film and

television (Vidal 156). According to Churchill, by the 1950s even


Native American children would rather “cheer the Cavalry,” the winners,

than root for their own people who were depicted as the losers.

In the 1960s and 1970s, new ideas began to appear on the

screen. Much of this change could be attributed to a new political

climate in the country. Protests against the Vietnam War were staged

in America against the genocide taking place in Vietnam. The Civil

Rights movement gained strength and received acknowledgement.

Environmental groups and consumers became more active, advocating

for environmental protection. According to members of the Arkansas

Chapter of the American Indian Movement, the “Indian” portrayed

on screen during this era became more peaceful and often had an

environmental agenda. During this time, Native Americans started to

fight for their own justice and began challenging policies concerning

life on the reservation. The American Indian Movement was also

created in the 1960s. This organization held protests in theaters where

they believed films were being shown that wrongly portrayed Native

Americans. The Indian Actor’s Workshop started in the 1960s and

supported Native American actors playing Indian roles (American

Indian Movement). Were things starting to change to improve the

Native American image?

According to Vrasidas, in 1969 a Senate subcommittee

conducted a survey, collecting two years’ worth of data, and found

that white society perceived Native Americans to be lazy, drunk, and

dirty. The stereotypes had been successful at serving their original

purpose of confirming the superiority of the white race and continued

to strengthen the myths on which America had been built. These

stereotypes provided entertainment and justified the abhorrent

behavior of the United States government (Vrasidas 68). The making

of films may have started to change for the better, but it did not mean

those negative images of Native Americans could be erased from the

minds of the American public. There was still work to do.

In the 1990s, Dances with Wolves (1990) by Kevin Costner

attempted to make a more historically accurate film. Costner chose

the shooting location of South Dakota, since it was the actual home of

the Sioux tribe depicted in the film. Costner also chose to use native

actors that spoke Lakota, the native Sioux language. This was


progress, or so some thought. However, domination of whites over

Indians was still the main story, leaving no room for a Native American

hero in the film. For a little over a decade there was an increase in

movies being made from Native American perspectives. These movies

were not period pieces but stories of Native Americans living in modern

society and often on the reservation. Smoke Signals (1998), written

by Native American author Sherman Alexie, was perhaps the most

popular of these films. Smoke Signals is a story of two young men

growing up on the reservation, struggling to find their identities and

relate to their tribal traditions. This film was also successful in showing

the importance of humor in modern Native American culture. Native

Americans could be funny and entertaining without the images of

whooping, war painted savages on horseback. There were stories to

be told.

Today, though much progress has developed over recent

decades, there still remains a long journey ahead. Roscoe Pond states

that in 2008 Native Americans made up .3% of roles cast in television

and movies. African Americans made up 13.3% and Caucasians made

up 72.5% (Pond). Things have progressed, but racial bias and ignorance

still exist. It is beyond time to correct the inaccuracies in the historical

record that the medium of film helped create. The few films that were

viewed as more authentic never gained the same recognition as other

films, where certain truths and realities were overlooked. JoEllen

Shively offers that in 1992, a study, consisting of 20 native males and

20 white males, living on the reservation had the men watch The

Searchers. The subjects were asked a series of questions about which

character they identified with more. The study revealed that 60% of

the native subjects and 50% of the white subjects identified with the

John Wayne character. While 40% of the native subjects and 45% of

the white subjects identified with the other cowboy character in the

film, played by Jeff Hunter. Yet none of the participants related to the

native, Chief Scar, not even the native subjects of the study (Shively).

Many of the films of the last century can be seen as a direct

result of the inability of America to accept its role in the wrong doings,

hegemony, and hateful acts that were committed against Native

Americans. It was important for the government to continue to exert


its power and authority over the tribes, and this was made easier with

the support of American citizens. What better way to influence the

American public than through the medium of film? However, times

are changing. There has been a significant rise in Native American

women taking on the role of director in recent years. Every year a

Native American Film Festival brings film enthusiasts to New Mexico

to celebrate films that are made by Native Americans. There are now

many Native American film production companies and artist advocacy

groups. In addition, documentary is a genre that has become very popular

for Native Americans interested in film. Many award-winning

documentaries have been produced by and about Native Americans

during the last decade. Now it will be up to Native American

producers, screen-writers, documentarians, and actors to tell their own

stories, and rightly so.

This same power that film held over its audience in the past

is the power that can be used to reverse these stereotypes and wrongful

images for the future. This idea is what the new Native American

filmmakers are counting on. Storytelling has always been deeply

rooted within most native tribal cultures, and now is their chance to

hone those storytelling abilities for true stories to be unveiled and

embraced by all Americans as “the true American story.” Film can

help Americans understand the reality of Native American problems

and challenges in modern day society. Perhaps film will be unable to

erase the harm these images have caused; however, it can provide a

platform for healing to take place through new images and stories.


Works Cited

American Indian Movement, Arkansas Chapter. Hot Springs, AR. 21

Oct. 2010. Discussion Group.

Churchill, Ward, Norbert Hill and Mary Ann Hill. "Media Stereotyping

and Native Response: An Historical Overview." The Indian

Historian 11 (December 1978): 45-56, 63. ERIC.

Web. 25 Oct. 2010.

Dances with Wolves. Dir. Kevin Costner. Perf. Kevin Costner,

Graham Greene, and Mary McDonnell. 1990. MGM, 2004. DVD.

Deloria, Vine, Jr. Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto.

Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1988. Print.

Knopf, Kerstin. Decolonizing the Lens of Power: Indigenous Films

in North America.Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2008. GoogleBooks.

Web. 25 Nov. 2010.

Media Awareness Network. “Common Portrayals of Aboriginal

People.” Ottawa: Media and Internet Education Resources,

2010. Web. 25 Oct. 2010.

Pond, Roscoe. “Native Americans Still at the Bottom in Hollywood.”

Yahoo! Voices. 4 Feb. 2010. Web. 25 Oct. 2010.

Rollins, Peter C. Hollywood’s Indian. Lexington: University Press of

Kentucky, 1998. Print.

The Searchers. Dir. John Ford. Perf. John Wayne. 1956. Warner

Bros., 1997. DVD.

Shively, JoEllen. “Cowboys and Indians: Perceptions of Western

Films Among American Indians and Anglos.” American

Sociological Review 57.6 (Dec. 1992): 725-34. ERIC. Web.

25 Oct. 2010.

Smoke Signals. Dir. Chris Eyre. Perf. Adam Beach, Evan Adams and

Irene Bedard. 1998. Miramax, 1999. DVD.

Vrasidas, Charalambos, ed. 1996 Annual Conference of the International

Visual Literacy Association. 1997. ERIC. Web. 25 Oct. 2010.



Love and Healing:

A Human Experience

The thoughts and emotions that Louise Erdrich provokes in

her short story “Love Medicine” allow the reader to gain a glimpse

into Native American experiences, but Erdrich does not alienate those

readers who are not Native American. Erdrich develops the characters

of Lipsha Morrissey and Grandma and Grandpa Kashpaw as regular

people with notable imperfections and flaws, yet quite eloquently

allows them to possess a rare, deep love for each other. The symbolism

that is intertwined through the story, the characters that are developed,

and the love that is evident in the actions of the characters and in the

situations they encounter become a “vision of the essential unity of all

things” (Schultz) to the reader no matter what cultural history he or

she may possess.

According to Louise Flavin, Lipsha Morrissey’s character

can be described as “a type of love child” who was “saved” by his

grandparents from his own mother “who wanted to tie me up in a

potato sack and throw me in a slough” (Erdrich 276). Nevertheless,

Lipsha is raised by people who love and protect him and he is devoted

to his grandparents in return. James Ruppert explains, “Erdrich uses

Native American codes to develop characters with an inward looking

sense of identity, one based on family and community where kinship

defines who one is.” Lipsha’s devotion is apparent. Although he

claims that showing “gratitude gets old,” he also firmly acknowledges

that he would “do anything for Grandma.” He is also fiercely

protective of Grandpa, stating that he “took care of Grandpa like

nobody else could” (Erdrich 276). These attitudes and statements

clearly express the influence that the Ojibwe culture has had on

Lipsha, teaching him the importance of unity in the family.

Lipsha Morrissey is a thoughtful person, describing himself

as “thinking some fairly deep thoughts that surprise even me”

(Erdrich 277). However, the most significant aspect of Lipsha’s character

is that he has a healing touch that he uses to help his grandparents and


people within his community. He claims, “I know the tricks of mind

and body inside out without ever having trained for it.” Yet he

cannot heal Grandpa Kashpaw’s mind, stating, “He was a hard nut”

(Erdrich 276). Lipsha also “fears he is out of his depth when it comes

to a miracle like that” (McKinney). All of these statements create the

idea that Lipsha’s touch is not all-powerful and there may be some

places in the mind that Lipsha’s gift of healing is not meant to heal.

Grandpa Kashpaw has been regarded as a wise and wellrespected

man throughout his many years living in Hoopdance and

has “stood out as a hero” to his grandson Lipsha (Erdrich 276). Yet,

now Grandpa Kashpaw is “getting foolish.” However, in contrast to

the Western belief system, Grandpa views his dementia as a chapter

in his life that he has been “called to” and not a disease with which he

has been afflicted (Erdrich 277). Though there is growing concern

among some of his family and community members regarding the

changes in his mental status, Grandpa accepts this phase of his life as a

“second childhood” and a chosen path. Lipsha exhibits understanding

of his grandfather’s state of mind when he says, “I could not see myself

treating Grandpa with the touch, bringing him back, when the real part

of him had chose to be off thinking somewhere” (Erdrich 278).

Lipsha recognizes the limitations of his gift and chooses to respect his

grandfather’s chosen path. But Lipsha remains confronted with the

most difficult part of Grandpa’s mental state and that is his unfaithfulness

to Grandma with Lulu Lamartine.

Grandma Kashpaw is a strong, determined woman. She

loves Grandpa fiercely and wants “him back the way he was so at least

she could argue with him, sleep with him, not be shamed out by

Lamartine” (Erdrich 278). Louise Flavin describes her as “the

embodiment of the saintly virtues of compassion, forgiveness, and

love.” By using the adjective “saintly” as one of the words to describe

Grandma Kashpaw’s character, Flavin helps to identify the blended

belief system which Grandma practices throughout the story. Grandma

Kashpaw’s spirituality and the blending of belief systems is visualized

when, following Grandpa’s untimely death, “her hands were tied up

in her rosary, and her gaze was fully absorbed in the easy chair opposite

her, the one that had always been Grandpa’s favorite.” Grandma


Kashpaw’s hands being tied up in a rosary would indicate that she is

using the rosary beads to recite Hail Marys, a decidedly Catholic

religious tradition, and at the same time she claims to be seeing a

recently deceased Grandpa Kashpaw sitting in his usual chair, as she

exclaims to Lipsha, “He ain’t gone yet” (Erdrich 288). She is voicing

the traditional Ojibwe belief that life does not end but only changes in

form. Sara Gaughan describes this blending of beliefs, claiming, “The

two forces – traditional and modern – are constantly at odds here, sometimes

blending, and sometimes refusing to intermingle.” Grandma Kashpaw

incorporates both modern Catholic and traditional Ojibwe beliefs to

manage the grief over the death of Grandpa Kashpaw.

Originating in the Catholic religion, the rosary itself does not

make a clear symbolic connection to the Ojibwe culture; however,

when the reader considers the actual shape and repetitive nature of the

rosary, it becomes a perfect visual of Native American worldviews.

According to Vine Deloria, Jr., the Native American people view “life

as an undifferentiated whole…. The tribe is an all-purpose entity

which is expected to serve all areas of life” (qtd. in Schultz). This

idea of being part of a whole, or looking at life in a cyclical pattern is

affirmed by Lipsha following the death of his Grandpa; he now sees his

life as having “the feeling someone wore it before you and someone

will after” (Erdrich 289). Lipsha suggests with that remark that even

death does not break the circle of life but continues on, though it may

be in different forms.

Love is not only a part of the title of this story but, more

importantly, it helps to develop the vivid theme of unity. Love is

woven throughout this story in the relationships that exist between

Lipsha and his grandparents and more specifically in the love that

Grandma has for Grandpa despite his unfaithfulness. Evidence of this

love is expressed when, despite Grandma’s anger towards Grandpa

after he says, “Let’s make whoopee,” Lipsha also sees that “tears were

in her eyes” and “how much grief and love she felt for him.” Lipsha

realizes that love does not get easier over time and, in this instance,

clearly witnesses Grandma’s love for Grandpa “rear up like a whip

and lash” (Erdrich 277). The true love that unites Grandma and

Grandpa is also visualized when Grandma has the vision of Grandpa


sitting in his favorite chair after his death. She then claims, “He came

back for me even after death to claim me to his side” (Erdrich 289).

The love that united them in life could not be removed by death, but

only changed in expression. Lipsha echoes his grandmother’s belief

about his grandfather’s love when he states, “He loved you over time

and distance” (Erdrich 289). This supports the idea that the love

between Grandma and Grandpa could and would unite them forever;

furthermore, their true love would not die with Grandpa, only change

in the form in which it was experienced. Lipsha is inspired by the

love that Grandma demonstrates but also realizes that a person needs

“staying power, going out to love somebody,” and this staying power

is not something Lipsha believes he possesses (Erdrich 278).

When Lipsha realizes that geese mate for life, this also

becomes symbolic. Believing that the “higher feelings of devotion

get lodged in the heart,” he can now see the actual, edible hearts of the

geese as the “love medicine” that will make Grandpa Kashpaw be

faithful to Grandma Kashpaw (Erdrich 282). The use of food as a

means of healing is quite common in Native American culture. As

Nichole Moreau explains, “In many cases, food is used in love

medicines, mending the bonds of broken relationships and creating

wholeness among individuals.” This idea affirms the importance of

what Grandma Kashpaw asks of Lipsha as well as the seriousness of

the love medicine itself. Unfortunately this seriousness is forgotten by

Lipsha when he makes the decision to use the more easily acquired

frozen turkey hearts instead of goose hearts as the “love medicine.”

Then after the priest and Sister Martin both refuse to bless the frozen

turkey hearts, Lipsha sticks his fingers “in the cup of holy water that

was sacred from their touches” and blesses the hearts himself (Erdrich

285). The most critical consequence to all of these decisions for

Lipsha occurs when Grandpa tragically chokes to death on the turkey

heart that Grandma feeds him. In the end though, Lipsha realizes that

love cannot be concocted or manufactured, telling Grandma, “It’s true

feeling, not no magic. No supermarket heart could have brung him

back” (Erdrich 289-290). According to Nichole Moreau, “Lipsha

ultimately learns that rituals must culminate from ‘true feeling’ and that

Western concessions can spoil them.” In effect, Lipsha acknowledges


that the love that his grandparents shared was spiritual and there

was nothing physical or visible with which it could be compared or


Another thought-provoking example of eternal love is captured

in Lipsha’s story about Lamartine’s cousin, Wristwatch. Lipsha

claims not to know Wristwatch’s real name but that he earned the nickname

after his father died because he wore his dead father’s broken

watch without fail. Lipsha states, “He didn’t care if it worked…. He

often put it to his ear like he was listening to the tick…. But it was

broken for good and forever, people said so, at least that’s what they

thought.” Then when Wristwatch unexpectedly died one day, the

watch unexplainably began to keep perfect time and he was buried

“with the watch still ticking on his arm” (Erdrich 282-283). Lipsha

then asks the question, “What if some gravediggers dug up Wristwatch’s

casket in two hundred years and that watch was still going?”

According to Lipsha, the next logical question would have to be this:

“Whose hand wound it?” (Erdrich 283). This moving story about the

love between a father and a son clearly represents the idea that true

love can defy death. Although Wristwatch and his father had been

separated by death in the physical sense, the love that they shared had

never been broken, therefore, perfectly symbolizing eternal love.

The unifying factor in this story is not found in the ‘medicine’

but in the love that is shared between Lipsha and his grandparents

and, more specifically, between Grandma and Grandpa Kashpaw.

This type of love can only be fully realized by the participants of that

love. Erdrich makes clear through her characters that despite their

flaws and shortcomings, the love that they have for one another is

what claims the most power in the end. She develops the Native

American belief of “the interrelatedness of all life” and uniquely

guides the reader through the successful blending of beliefs as well as

the challenges of combining the Native American belief system with

those of the dominant culture (Flavin). The symbolism that is clearly

evident, the character’s representation of themselves, and the love that

is intertwined throughout this story make “Love Medicine” a thoughtprovoking

reflection of Ojibwe culture, eternal love that heals, and of

human relationships as a whole regardless of culture or worldview.


Works Cited

Erdrich, Louise. “Love Medicine.” The Norton Introduction to

Literature. Ed. Alison Booth and Kelly J. Mays. Shorter 10th ed.

New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 2010. 276 - 290. Print.

Flavin, Louise. “Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine Over Time and

Distance.” Critique 31.1 (Fall 1989): 55-64. Literature

Resource Center. Web. 8 Oct. 2011.

Gaughan, Sara K. “Old Age, Folk Belief, and Love in Stories by Ernest

Gaines and Louise Erdrich.” Louisiana Folklore Miscellany

10 (1995): 37-45. Literature Resource Center. Web. 11 Nov.


McKinney, Karen Janet. “False Miracles and Failed Vision in Louise

Erdrich’s Love Medicine.” Critique 40.2 (Winter 1999): 152-

160. Literature Resource Center. Web. 11 Nov. 2011.

Moreau, Nicole. “Erdrich’s Love Medicine.” The Explicator 61.4

(Summer 2003): 248. Literature Resource Center.Web. 11

Nov. 2011.

Ruppert, James. “Mediation and Multiple Narratives in Love Medicine.”

North Dakota Quarterly 59.4 (Fall 1991): 229-241. Literature

Resource Center. Web. 11 Nov. 2011.

Schultz, Lydia. “Fragments and Ojibwe Stories: Narrative Strategies

in Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine.” College Literature 18.3

(Oct 1991): 80-95. Literature Resource Center. Web. 12 Oct.




The Black Venus

“Her Hair” is a poem from a collection entitled Les Fleurs du

Mal or The Flowers of Evil written by Charles Baudelaire, a poet from

the mid-nineteenth century. There are many erotic overtones throughout

Baudelaire’s writings, especially in the way he describes his lover’s

hair in “Her Hair.” His particular style of poetry is a very detailed

account of his relations with his lover. Upon reading Baudelaire’s

writings, we see how an author can bring his readers into his mind’s

eye and out of the sheer doldrums of typical writings. For example,

as described in the fourth stanza, “Her Hair” is a “port” to his ecstasy

with his lover (Baudelaire line 16). This style accurately draws readers

into the very perspective he has for his lover as Baudelaire pulls readers

into the frontlines of this love-drunk journey.

Baudelaire is known for having loved several different

women and having intimate relations with them. However, Therese

Dolan states within her article that there was one woman in particular

with whom he was obsessed and with whom he had on and off

relations for a span of “over twenty years” (612). Her name was

“Jeanne Duval, the dark-skinned actress whom Baudelaire met in

1842” (611). Their love was both passionate and lustful. This is

proven in Baudelaire’s writings about Duval. She captures his devout

attention in a way that most men only dream. He not only wrote about

her, but he also drew “sketches” of her “even after he separated from

her” (Dolan 612). She became a part of him that he would never let

go. No matter if they were in a relationship with one another or not,

Baudelaire always remained enveloped by her.

Baudelaire oversteps many conventional boundaries in his

writings about Duval. He intricately describes his most intimate

moments with her by using descriptive metaphors that enrapture readers

to this day. The journey he takes his readers on in “Her Hair” is a

journey into the bedroom with Duval. It is a journey where readers

can find themselves in awe, making readers unsure if they should

continue reading because of how close he draws them into his relations.


At the same time, this style causes the reader to want to read on and

learn more about Baudelaire and his lover’s experiences.

Baudelaire loved Duval’s dark hair as quoted within “Her Hair.”

In his lifetime, he was known for calling her his “Black Venus”

because of her beautiful dark hair (Dolan 612). He gets very eloquent

with his wording as he almost appears innocent when he talks about

the top of his lover’s head. He states, “O fleece, that down the neck waves

to the nape! / O curls! O perfume nonchalant and rare!” (Baudelaire 1-2).

In the second stanza of “Her Hair,” Baudelaire gets more

extreme with his diction as he works his way down his lover’s body,

describing it as distant lands such as “Asia and Africa” (6). He travels

her from limb to limb like he would if he were visiting those lands.

According to Dolan, Duval was known for being of either “mulatto or

quadroon” descent. These particular countries may have been mentioned

in reference to the continents from which Duval’s bloodline may have

come (Dolan 612).

In the third stanza Baudelaire gets more vulgar as he

describes how her legs are “strong tresses” that will “carry” him (11)

as he goes between her legs that are “full of sap” (13). The sap is

referring to the wetness a woman gets during intimate encounters. He

then describes the caresses of her legs as a “reverberating port” as she

gets excited during love making (16).

There is no turning back now in the poem. Taking matters to

the next level in pure Baudelaire style, he speaks of even more

elaborate foreplay as he blatantly states, “I’ll plunge my head, enamored

of its pleasure / In this black ocean where the other hides” (21-22).

The “black ocean” he speaks of here is not the hair on her head but

rather the hair on her private area. This is well expressed when he

says, “where the other hides,” “the other” meaning her vaginal opening.

Today’s readers’ minds are filled with questions and wonder as to

whether what they are reading is indeed what they think it is. Classrooms

are filled with discussion and amazement. This is the result of brilliant

diction that is written in an almost riddle-like format. Readers of

Baudelaire’s time must have had even more trouble trying to decipher

every word, line, and meaning of the message Baudelaire is trying to

get across.


Again, Dolan reminds us that Baudelaire was totally enamored

by Duval. Even during times he and Duval were broken up, he sent

her “money and visited her two or three times a month” (Dolan 613).

He was devoted to her so much to the point that the separation of their

relationship wouldn’t allow his mind to totally depart from her. He

often thought of her and reflected on what it was like when he had

been intimate with her. Through the arts, he expresses this obsession

of his to reflect on his intimacy with Duval. To some people this

might seem strange or a bit unusual. However, the artist in Baudelaire

is able to put these thoughts into poetic analogies for others to see.

Within the sixth stanza of “Her Hair,” Baudelaire openly

speaks of the actual scents and smells a woman lets off when being

aroused. He writes that the “oil of coconut, of musk and tar” that

comes from between her legs makes him “drunk upon” smelling them

(29-30). One rightly assumes that the “tar” he speaks of is formed

between her legs as she gets wet with excitement during foreplay and

starts to experience orgasm. The speaker longs to stay in this moment

with the woman and loves to partake of oral sex with her even to the

point of calling her vagina his “oasis and gourd” of which he loves to

“drink” deeply (34-35). A “gourd” used in this case would mean her

vagina, which is like a cup from which he will drink. Baudelaire is

unmistakably unafraid to illustrate to his readers the very details of his

relations with Duval to the point that he shares with his readers the

detailed elements of oral sex. Amid the critics of the mid-nineteenth

century, he openly describes his sexual relations in such a unique way,

that although he is explicit, he gets away with it.

Even though Baudelaire had other lovers in his life, no one

could take the place of Duval. By all accounts, she meant everything

to him. Baudelaire had her on such a high pedestal that no other

woman could ever reach her. In fact, according to Dolan, during a

time that Duval and Baudelaire were not together, he had a relationship

with a woman by the name of “Appollonie Sabatier.” He often spoke

of Duval to her and even “drew Jeanne’s profile in Sabatier’s album,”

which “Sabatier kept” and inserted “into her copy of Les Fleurs du

Mal.” Under the profile sketch of Duval, Sabatier wrote, “His ideal!”

(Dolan 613). This was true and is proven throughout all the sonnets


and poems Baudelaire wrote in Duval’s honor.

In the mid-nineteenth century, Baudelaire’s writing style and

freedom of expression was unheard of. He takes his readers beyond

closed doors and between the actual love making sheets with his lover

and himself. He is far beyond his era’s time in writing style. It is

automatically assumed that critics in his day and age found Baudelaire’s

writings vulgar and intolerable. His terms of sex and lust are beyond

most people’s thinking of that time period. For these very reasons,

amongst others, readers today are enthralled with Baudelaire’s

writings and he is a well-remembered writer.

It appears unknown as to why a poet would write in such a

way as to be so controversial at his time of life except for being a

revolutionary and a forerunner for writers to come. Baudelaire

incorporated free verse and got away from traditional rules and regulations

of poetry. Also, he was a man obsessively in love with a woman’s

body, a man who adored being intimate with the woman by whom he

was so captivated. He wasn’t afraid to record his memories of Duval

for all to read. He had the kind of passion for her that allowed him,

in his own way, to shout it from the rooftops. His shock factor leaves

readers’ and critics’ minds open to endless questions and thought

provoking conversations. His writings pull readers into his world so

much that upon each new reading of even one of his writings, a person

learns and is opened up to more and more of Baudelaire’s world.

Through all of the breakups and rekindling of Baudelaire and

Duval’s relationship with one another, they remained in contact

throughout most of their lives. According to Dolan, “Duval suffered

a stroke on April 5th, 1859, and entered the Maison Municipale de

Santé, where Baudelaire provided financial support for her upkeep.”

Later, in 1860, despite Duval’s partial paralysis from the stroke,

Baudelaire tried living with her again, as well as her “alleged brother,”

but became annoyed at the fact that her “brother” wouldn’t hold down

a job and provide anything for the household. In 1861 Baudelaire

moved out and never lived with Duval again (Dolan 613).

Dolan elaborates that Edouard Manet, a famous artist,

became so enraptured in the relationship between Baudelaire and

Duval that he wanted to get more intimate with the idea of the couple


by trying to capture what Baudelaire saw when he looked at Duval.

Manet himself was pulled into this journey Baudelaire had his readers

on because he himself was a fan of Baudelaire. Trying to recapture

the beauty with which Baudelaire most remembered his lover, in 1862

Manet painted a picture of what is better known as a portrait of Jeanne

Duval entitled, “Baudelaire’s Mistress, Reclining” (Dolan 611). This

was said to have been painted as a type of memorial to the “love”

between Baudelaire and Duval. It was a way to protect their “love”

even through “illness and death” (Dolan 615). The reason for the

painting and for Manet feeling this way makes sense especially when

reflecting on Duval’s conditions after her stroke.

For Baudelaire’s timeframe as a writer, he was definitely out

there and pushing the limits on what he could get away with. However,

Baudelaire was an artist, writer, poet, friend, and lover of many.

Through all of his years on this earth, he always kept a part of himself

devoted to Jeanne Duval. She was his number one lover and friend

throughout most of his life. One of the most definitive ways he

describes his relationship with her is intently written in “Her Hair.”

Whether a reader is a critic or a fan, Baudelaire is a forerunner for his

fellow writers.

Without people like Baudelaire we wouldn’t have modern

literature in the forms they are written in today. Without bold writers

stepping up to cross the lines of what is the norm of society, readers

everywhere would be completely bored with the words that would

end up on the page. Those words would not be enjoyable at all and

may cause the reader to give up reading. Therefore, we need writers

like Baudelaire. Our minds should be awakened when we read something.

As readers we require stories and / or events that not only grasp but

also keep our attention. Baudelaire’s writings, beyond any doubt,

grasp our attention and then some. His writings pull us out of our

norm and push us to read about something as uncommonly written or

spoken about as “Her Hair.” By writing in this way, Baudelaire draws

us into his writings and into his most intimate moments with his

“Black Venus” (Dolan 612).


Works Cited

Baudelaire, Charles. “Her Hair.” Trans. Doreen Bell. The Norton

Anthology of World Literature. Ed. Sarah Lawall and

Maynard Mack. Vol. E. 2nd ed. New York: Norton, 2002.

1386. Print.

Dolan, Therese. “Skirting the Issue: Manet’s Portrait of Baudelaire’s

Mistress, Reclining.” The Art Bulletin 79.4 (Dec. 1997): 611-

629. JSTOR. Web. 26 June 2011.



Boland’s Elegy

Eavan Boland’s poem “Elegy for My Mother in Which She

Scarcely Appears” depicts the mournful loss of the speaker’s mother.

Boland creates the image of the mother without ever describing her,

through the delicate use of language. Then, through those images, the

loss of the mother becomes greater because of a sense of attachment that

the reader gains through the sight of the speaker. As the speaker

guides the reader through the poem, the situation and setting add a

greater impact as they meld together to form the pulsing tone.

Instead of being described literally through the poem, the

mother is portrayed through the use of other objects. Metaphorically,

the objects described symbolize the mother. The “singing kettle” (line

11) resembles, inevitably, the mother’s time in the kitchen, while the

connotation behind the word “kettle” gives the reader images of a

mother or female family member boiling water while working in a

kitchen. Also, the “brass dogs” (17) resemble the mother’s time spent

by the fire as well as all the hardships she has endured, just like the

brass dogs endure “the heat / thrown at them by the last of the peat

fire” (18-19). Lastly, the mother is described as the “clotheshorse”

(22). Not only does “clotheshorse” stand for what would be a

mother’s daily chore, laundry, but also it has a different denotative

meaning. While it can be used to describe the frame from which one

hangs clothes, it can also mean a woman who is fashionably dressed.

Not only does Boland describe the speaker’s mother through these

images, but also she touches on a subject outside of the initial theme.

By using personification of the objects, such as transforming a kettle

into a bird (11-16), there is a sense of irony because she turns something

as plain and inanimate as a kettle into a poetic creature that often

appears in other poetry. Her use of this throughout the poem makes

a statement about how one doesn’t always have to write about the

creatures themselves in order to convey a beautiful image.

The setting and situation are portrayed through the eyes of

the speaker. The speaker is the daughter of a mother who has passed


away. By using the setting, Boland describes the characteristics of the

mother and the effects of the loss on the speaker. The “clotheshorse”

(23), “kettle” (11), and “brass dogs” (17) are items from the speaker’s

childhood home in “Dublin” (27). Through the memory of those items,

an image of the mother is created. Growing up in Ireland, the speaker

grew familiar with the mentioned items, and they were as ingrained in

her as her mother was. The pet-like qualities given to the objects also

show how the speaker is attached to the birds, dogs, and horses of her

childhood. And just as the grieving mentioned in stanza one is done

for the animals that have passed away, the speaker also grieves for the

loss of not only the objects, but also her mother. The speaker then

categorizes not only the implements but also her mother as things she

“need[s]” (27). The use of the objects to describe the mother also adds

a sense of distance between the reader and the relationship between the

speaker and mother. The only description of the mother is the ghost of

her appearance near the actual clotheshorse (28-29). With the use of

speaker, setting, and situation, Boland creates a memorable image of

the mother and her characteristics.

However, Boland’s tone of the whole piece creates a true

sense of the speaker’s mourning. The first stanza is full of what can

be inferred as a child’s curiosity and acceptance of the things that she

experienced. This leads into the speaker’s acceptance that she needed,

as a child, to grieve over an “arranged … demise” (4). Later, as she

raises questions of this accepted quality of life, she begins to question

it, and through that the tone shifts into her reminiscing of the objects

she grew up with. She gives them pet-like qualities, which adds to

how familiar and common the objects were in her youth. Slowly, the

fondness of the second stanza changes and the third stanza transforms

the tone into the sadness of the loss of the mother. This is shown by

how the speaker describes herself as a “conservationist” (33). She

wishes to use the “beast” (35) called language in order to preserve

what memories of her mother that she can. By having the mother

appear only once, in lines 28-29, Boland gives the mother an almost

lacking presence, having her appear like a ghost rather than as a live

person. Through the mourning tones formed, a connection is made

between the speaker and mother.


With the use of varying poetic elements, Boland creates an

elaborate depiction of the speaker’s mother through the surrounding

setting, and she fashions the relationship between the two through

tone. Boland’s tone demonstrates the speaker’s obvious struggle with

the loss of her mother and the way language permits her to preserve

her love.


Work Cited

Boland, Eavan. “An Elegy for My Mother in Which She Scarcely

Appears.” The Norton Introduction to Poetry. 9th ed. Ed.

Alison Booth, J. Paul Hunter, and Kelly J. Mays. New York:

Norton, 2006. 179-180. Print.



Late Start in Literacy

I often remember my early childhood years of growing up in

Chicago, Illinois. This was a time when all I did was play. When I

was at school, the teacher would read to us, but I was always daydreaming

and not paying attention. After school, at home I would go

outside and just play. I never took the time to pick up a book and just

look at it. Of course, my mother was a single parent and worked all

the time. She never took the time to explain the importance of reading

and writing. This was a time in my life when I had no direction or

guidance involving literacy or the importance of writing.

When I was nine years old, my mother relocated the family

to Little Rock, Arkansas. By this time I was a loner and still not

conscious about reading and writing. There was no internal support

from my home or family. The days in school seemed like weeks and

the weeks seemed like years. I found myself back in my old way of

not paying attention. As I recollect, there was one beautiful and sunny

day in the month of May, when I was sitting in class, and the teacher

asked me to read a sentence she wrote on the board. I stared at her in

total confusion, without blinking an eye or giving a response. Mrs. Jenkins

was not going to give up, so she would say a word and then have me

repeat the word, as she pointed at the word on the blackboard. After

about three or four times, she had me read the words as she pointed

to them on the blackboard. Although I began to read, it was observed

that I also had somewhat of a speech impediment. In the end Mrs.

Jenkins smiled, told me I did a great job, and finally had the entire

class clap for my achievement. This was the beginning of my long

road to literacy, writing, and speech. At that very moment a big glowing

smile came across my face, and I felt like the smartest kid in the

world. In addition, a feeling of self-esteem and confidence was

beginning to build from within me. It was from that point on that I

felt like an intelligent student who belonged in the classroom with my

classmates. I could now walk and talk with pride and dignity and feel

good about myself.


Two weeks after that day, there was a parent-teacher conference

about my inability to read, write, or even speak clearly. My mother

informed the school staff that I was lazy and would not apply myself,

in spite of all her efforts. The school decided to place me in a special

class, once a day, to get the help I needed. Mrs. Jenkins took a special

interest in my development. In the beginning, Mrs. Jenkins would read

to me from books with stories about animals, insects, numbers, and

things that were educational. To ensure that I was listening, she would

have me tell her what she read to me. I found out that as I spoke more

about the stories being read to me, I was beginning to gain my confidence

and I spoke with more clarity.

At the end of the school year, Mrs. Jenkins gave me a set of

five books from the Dr. Seuss series, with names like Green Eggs and

Ham, The Cat in the Hat, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish,

Horton Hatches the Egg, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. All of

the books were fun and made me laugh and even had me acting out

some of the words I read. During the summer, I would read out loud

to myself as I looked in the mirror, just as Mrs. Jenkins taught me. I

even found myself walking down the street reading or sitting on a

swing and reading. I could not wait until the summer was over, so I

could tell Mrs. Jenkins how much fun I had reading the books she

gave me. I was not only able to read the words, but also I could recite

the words from Green Eggs and Ham. Reading had replaced all the

playing I had done in the past. In essence, reading was what I did to

have fun. I had found a new way to educate myself and have fun doing

it. In fact, at times I felt like an actress reciting a part in a movie. There

was a visible confidence about me when displaying my newly found

reading and speaking skills.

I also received help from outside the classroom. The person

in my family that helped me with my reading and comprehension was

my grandmother. My grandmother was a sweet and loving old lady

who spent most of her days reading her book, the Holy Bible. When I

told my grandmother about Mrs. Jenkins, she decided to also help me

with my reading and writing. At first my grandmother would tell me

biblical stories and tell why they were important. Later she would

teach me how to read verses and then tell me what the verses meant.


This was where my reading comprehension began to develop. By

reading the Holy Bible, I also began to gain a better perspective on

life and the importance of having the ability to read, write, and speak.

It was amazing to sit in church and hear the pastor preach, but my

knowledge made it more thrilling to hear him read the words from the

Holy Bible. I had graduated beyond the Dr. Seuss books, in the fact

that I could see and hear how powerful reading and speaking could be.

The impact Mrs. Jenkins and my grandmother had on me has

played an important part of my journey through literacy. I have

approached literacy, speaking, and writing as a challenge and not an

obstacle or trepidation. Mrs. Jenkins told me that in order to learn,

sometimes we must make mistakes, so it was all right, just as long as

I continued and learned from the mistake. My grandmother gave me

the Holy Bible, with the understanding that I will always have a book

to read. In fact, I was shown an old version and a modern day

translation of the Holy Bible. Overall I learned that reading was fun

in the beginning, but as I read more, I also found out that reading was

informative and educational.




Milestones 2011 Volume 7

A Journal of Academic Writing

Pulaski Technical College

3000 West Scenic Drive • North Little Rock, AR 72118






















 Created on 08-30-2016