Sunday Lowdown #115


I’ve got some cool projects coming due for school, and though I’ve briefly mentioned them in the past couple of weeks, folks have prodded me for more information. The big one last week was an assignment for my interpreting class. We were tasked with picking a location where we would actually like to interpret in the future, possibly during our internship, and get all the information we can. Questions like, what’s the deal with interpreting in this area, are there politics/drama we should know about (e.g. why did the entire board for the state Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf change), who are the must-know interpreters for the area, etc. I chose Region 4 in Michigan, which is a large area in the southwestern part of the state. My big question: why have I been told that as a student in an interpreter training program in Indiana I cannot do an internship in Michigan?

I ended up calling three certified interpreters and emailing with half a dozen more, getting the scoop. While I don’t have a solid answer yet, the president of the Michigan Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf is expecting my call on Monday. The short answer is Michigan has crazy strict laws about interpreting there, but, on the contrary, they have no bachelor’s programs in interpreting — in the entire state. So, how do you go from two years studying interpreting and ASL to being ready for national certification, especially if you cannot legally interpret in your state between time to get practice? And in what way would an internship violate Michigan laws? I’m hoping to learn more ASAP because my house is in Indiana, yes, but Michigan is so close I bicycle there on the regular. I don’t want to be limited by a line on a map.

As for the linguistics paper, I did a bunch of research last Sunday, including finding a book that will be the pivot point for my topic. I’m looking at a conversation from Zora Neale Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. If you’ve read it, I’m hoping you remember the story of Matt Bonner’s mule, the one everyone claims he overworks and barely feeds. It’s a funny scene that infuriates Matt, and my research will be on discourse analysis. I want to know if Matt is actually mad, based on the rules of discourse in the Black community, or if he’s playing a role.

So far, the academic text I’m reading describes how conversations Black people have make a lot of subtle, intentional moves. For example, not only is it normal to consider audience, but to think about anyone who may be listening, something that hangs over from slavery. There’s also a lot of description instead of straightforward narrative, a method that allows a person to deny wrongdoing in the presence of a white audience. The example was describing a lynching instead of saying what happened. That way, a Black speaker doesn’t state anything in a way that sounds accusatory. I’ll be finishing up that book, I hope, tomorrow. Then, it’s on to some articles, and then applying what I’ve learned to the conversation in Hurston’s novel. The professor asked why I don’t just analyze the dialect. This is just a 100-level class, he said. I may be making it too hard. I said that pretty much everyone ever has analyzed Hurston’s dialect. Plus, I’m more interested in figuring out if there is a “dance” to the conversation about the mule.

On Friday we did a normal activity in ASL class where we take turns signing from what is called the Green Books. These books are *the* gold standard for learning ASL and focus on the grammar and linguistics of ASL. I love doing it. We go around a table like a big corral, signing Person A if you’re on one side of the table, and Person B if you’re on the other. Eventually, you get to the other side of the table. The point is to keep practicing the same brief conversation with different partners. Learning through repetition, basically.

Anyway, I kept signing GO wrong for some reason — a very “I just started learning ASL!” kind of sign. How embarrassing! Then my professor accused me of confusing everyone else, because they started signing GO wrong (he was teasing). I can’t remember what I said, but he responded that he enjoys me and loves (like, literally did the kiss fist) having me here, and I’m awesome. And then I almost started crying. And then he made fun of me again for almost crying by mimicking huge sobs — teasing is a big part of Deaf culture. So, I joined in and mocked myself, too, distracting everyone else from what they were doing. It was a great moment, and I felt doubly welcome at my new school.


So many readers responded positively to my review of the collection of stories titled A Lot Like Christmas by Connie Willis, which is really cool. I’m always surprised when one book can bring readers of various tastes together. Bill @ Australian Legend asked if I wanted to read Doomsday Book together, and I found an audio copy on Hoopla. It’s a Willis novel recommended by Lou @ Lou Lou Reads. I do believe I mistakenly referred to the title as Doomsday Clock in a few comments, and if I did, ignore that. Anyone else want to join us?


Some of you like to add the word “literary” before a genre novel to indicate that it is good, or perhaps “smart” book, but I don’t go for that. Genre is not inherently trashy. However, I bring this up because a host of you would take Jawbone by Mónica Ojeda as “literary horror,” and maybe that’s enough to get you to try this novel. Plus, if you’re looking to read more translated work, Jawbone was written in Spanish (the author is South American). Review Wednesday.


Books Bought Since January 2023: 0


Thanks to Lou for telling me more about why she enjoys Worth’s memoir.


    • Thanks, Jeanne. Oh, I’m totally sure there is a dance as well, but I need to find evidence to demonstrate that I’m not just taking a shot in the dark. I’ve been studying Black lit and culture for so long I can’t remember where and why I know things anymore. So, it’s back to the books!


  1. What a special moment in your class. How cool! You’re obviously working so hard that I’m sure your teacher thinks you’re nothing but a joy in class.

    Many times when I use the term literary I just mean wordier. LOL. I don’t know that adding any word before “horror” will make me want to read it, ha ha! 😉


    • When I’m struggling to identify a genre, I want to say “literary,” but that doesn’t always make sense, either. I think what I really mean is that this is a story that took a recognizable arc, one that is thousands of years old, and added in some new components that are not genre-specific (like boy-meets-girl plus laser octopus, or something).


  2. Starting at the end, I use the word “literary” in front of genre to denote some sort of departure from convention, form, formula, not to imply “pure’ genre is trashy.

    Now back to the opening. What a powerful point – “I don’t want to be limited by a line on a map.” – how many people’s lives are so limited. This sentence really jumped out at me!

    And, your professor. I am completely unsurprised. I reckon you would be a joy in every way to have in a class – conscientious and committed, intelligent and thoughtful, empathetic, and witty and fun. What would there be not to like!


  3. I feel like I’ve learned so many interesting things in this post, especially about black communication culture and deaf culture. I love how teasing is so common, it’s a sort of gentle way of making things a bit lighter, which is nice. Very strange interpretation laws you are dealing with too – I imagine that unless people take the initiative like you are, lots of this kind of red tape etc. just gets swept under the carpet or ignored. You are likely on the verge of making real change!


  4. I loved, as do most readers, Their Eyes were watching God, and the exchange about the mule really stood out, not because it had anything to do with the plot, but because it illustrated the to and fro of Black talk as performance, which I’m sure is what ZNH wanted us to see.
    As I wrote to you, I’ll start listening to the Doomsday Book as soon as you say Go.


  5. I’m quite tempted to join you and Bill for a reread of Doomsday Book, which I haven’t read since before the pandemic. It’s very much a Christmas book for me, though (it’s set over the Christmas period) and that’s when I normally read it, so I haven’t quite made my mind up yet!

    As for the use of “literary”, I think it can have a useful purpose in signifying “the language/way the story is told is more important to the author than the content of the story”, but beyond that I’m not sure I like it.


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