15 May 2014

A bit more fun: For the WSE Newsletter/ TAing for Ana Castillo

This semester, I have the honor of being the Teaching Assistant for Ana Castillo and her class “Writing Spiritual Memoir.”  Castillo, as I wrote in my application for this TA position, is one of those writers for me.  Reading her work changed my life, and I remember the first time I read her novel So Far From God, which is set in a part of New Mexico where I have motherline roots.  I remember where I was both locationaly and contextually in my life when I read this story:  Monterey, California; an undergrad at an evangelical Christian university in love with Keats and the Romantics; 21 years old.  With nuevo mexicana roots myself, I read Castillo’s revision of the “Way of the Cross” to Chimayo (sacred Earth in NM) with her character la Loca, and I felt intimately connected to the procession!   If you haven’t read this novel, I can’t recommend it enough, particularly this scene in Chimayo.  Indeed, reading So Far From God over ten years ago, I was so affected that it lingered with me, so much, in fact, that the novel plays a key part in my dissertation. 

Altogether, this class is unique to me (even though I have been a TA before in other really exciting classes) both because the teacher and her writing are key figures in my life and because of the focus of the class as well.   My studies align with “Writing Spiritual Memoir”; in particular, I am attempting to integrate spiritual memoir writing into the academic framework of a dissertation.   Thus, for all these reasons, I feel a synergy in being Ana Castillo’s TA, additionally because it is my final semester at CIIS.   I mean, how perfect is that?

To give a brief overview: Castillo’s “Writing Spiritual Memoir” is a hybrid class.  We met face to face in January for a weekend, and now the class discussions and assignments are continuing online.  Although a hybrid class can be tricky – we must have different expectations on caucus than in face to face classroom settings – the class topic is perhaps ideal for this situation.  Writing spiritual memoirs takes a lot of solitary time to self-reflect and then put it all on paper.

Maestra Castillo’s exercises and assignments encourage the students to think about their lives as a whole and then to dive into a particularly poignant memory.  Her words free memoir writing from having to be objective or chronological.  Her suggestions call students into more depth and intimate engagement with their stories.   Then, too, Castillo asks students to  (re)consider their definition of spirituality with assignments to read a memoir of their choice along with Castillo’s anthology, Diosas de las Americas /Goddesses of the Americas.

Overall, from a TA’s perspective, “Writing Spiritual Memoir” has been both affirming as well as challenging.  Through this class at CIIS, there is great opportunity to both learn from Castillo as well as to learn from ourselves through the spiritual memoir writing process.  I am excited to see how the semester continues.  

Moreover, I am excited to connect with Castillo more having been given this great chance to work with her.  Castillo offered the class the chance to join in on her writing workshop in Chimayo in April for Holy Week.  I will be there along with another student in the class.  Last, being there for Holy Week, I will have the opportunity to actually walk the “Way of the Cross” procession with this amazing writer.  I would never have thought it possible as I was reading So Far From God so long ago; however, I am not so surprised. 

Truly, mine is a story of much synergy, or good luck, in the WSE program, and I am grateful to have been a part of this community of sister scholars for the last four and half years.

13 May 2014

A Bit of Fun: Testimonial and Photograph for WSE blog I wrote in early April

Before entering the Women’s Spirituality program at CIIS, Cristina was a writing teacher at CSU, Long Beach.  Along with teaching at CSULB, she also worked as an interfaith chaplain and helped to coordinate, at the Women’s Resource Center (WRC) on campus, a project to end violence towards women students. 

She had studied English Women’s Literature for her BA and MA, and she was trying to figure out the next step for herself.  Decreasing funds for teachers and project coordinators on campus were forcing many of her colleagues to leave California, and Cristina thought it was probably a good time to go back to school.   Her own personal life circumstances also encouraged her to make a change with her life. 

“Being a lover of literature, I escaped into books and pretended that the traumas of life didn’t exist.  I didn’t know how to live in reality, and after being trained as a sexual assault crisis counselor with the WRC, I realized I had been living in a rape culture all along.  I realized violence was normal in my daily life, and I decided I had had enough.”

One of Cristina’s mentors at the WRC told her about the PhD program in Women’s Spirituality at CIIS.  At the same time, Cristina was invited to co-coordinate a farm community with four other women.  She decided to enter the WSE program as a semi-distance student.

“It was perfect. I worked on the farm all day – weeding and harvesting – and then I worked on my papers on ecofeminist thought!  Before entering the PhD program,  I had no idea that women and the Earth were an integral part of women’s spirituality! That year turned out all kinds of synergy.”

Finishing her first year and writing, in that, a paper on her motherline, Cristina decided it was time to explore her Xicana and Filipina ancestral lineage.  While completing her coursework, she traveled to New Mexico and the Philippines.  She was able to meet and learn from her personal role models, including Leny Strobel, Cherrie Moraga, and Ana Castillo.   And through WSE, she worked as Ana Castillo’s Teaching Assistant.   Cristina connected with scholars in the fields of mestiza discourse, pedagogies of the sacred, and indigenous Filipina epistemologies. 

“Suddenly I was writing a dissertation that brought together my love of literature as well as acknowledged the painful experiences in myself, my ancestors, and my communities due to racism and colonization as well as sexism and patriarchy.”

As Cristina wrote her dissertation, she also developed her creative writing and has had a few of her pieces published in anthologies such as Mujeres de Maiz: Ofrendas of the Flesh and Verses Typhoon Yolanda: A Storm of Filipino Poets.  

Cristina is currently working to complete her dissertation.   Check out her progress at cristyroses.blogspot.com.


04 May 2014

"Sacred Heart of Mango"

Sacred Heart of Mango

This is from my new water-coloring series called “Sacred Heart of Mango.”  Below is my short artist bio and artistic statement.  I had fun writing these!

Cristina Golondrina Rose, Artist
Short Bio

Cristina is the daughter of Debra of Los Angeles and grand-daughter of Priscilla of New Mexico and Concepcion of the Philippines.

A writer and artist, Cristina was born in LA and is now a PhD student in Pinay-xicana mestiza spirituality, literature, and art.  She has taught English and organized women’s empowerment circles at CSU, Long Beach.  She also worked on sustainable farms.  Currently, she volunteers for the Center for Babaylan Studies and the San Francisco Asian Art Museum’s annual Fil-Am celebration.  While completing her dissertation, she engages with water-colors in order to speak to her Filipina-Xicana multiplicity.

Artistic Statement

Sacred Heart and Mango
Juicy, sweet, and altogether amazing, mangos are a sacred fruit among Pinays and Pinoys.  This spiritual connection to mangos for Filipinas and the long history of mangos both in the Philippines as well as Mexico got me thinking.  As a Pinay-Xicana, I’ve worked to understand the shared religiosity, spirituality, and culture between my ancestral ethnicities.  However, I needed an image that integrated these multiplicities in a way that the written (linear and dualistic) language, particularly English, cannot.  Enter the sacred heart of mango.

Painting these beautiful images is a ceremony for me.  The gold, red, blue, and green colors are the diction I employ to tell this story of merging families and emerging cultural transformation. 

02 May 2014

Research and Writing as Ceremony: Concluding Thoughts on My Acknowledgements Page and Submitting for Publication Today

Today truly marks the end of “an era” for me if you will.  I put Chopin on my record player, I offered a ritual to la Virgen; and, now, I am now letting go of my dissertation, accepting where it is just now, acknowledging that the work never really stops, and submitting it for publication.

Well, in a few hours, that is.  I first need to revamp the “Acknowledgements” Page.  Thus far I have three sentences thanking my mothers and teachers for, I write, inspiring in me a “love of literature, of women, and of darkness.”

However, I really want to say so much more (maybe not thanking individuals as I did with my MA thesis though). 

In an earlier blog, I began writing about my whole journey of education.  Still, I wasn’t sure just then that I would be graduating (and, to tell  the truth, I really still have my doubts even now! Right? That whole “imposter syndrome” perhaps).  I wrote that blog because I woke up in the middle of the night thinking, “Holy Moly! This is the end of the road for me. That is, the road ends here.  Phd means final final, the ultimate destination for formal education.  I mean, there’s always “post-doctoral” work, and, of course, the perpetual student I am (my identity so wrapped up in this!), more research and writing sounds great (AFTER A LONG SUMMER BREAK!!).  Nevertheless, I’ve been in school (off and on, but mostly on) for 30 years of my life.

Brief history of my formal education:
-          Preschool at Shepherd of the Hills and Hillcrest in Whittier (don’t remember much, but I do have a friend still—we went to JH, HS, Biola, and CSULB together)
-           K-5 at Murphy Ranch (my memories of this time are pretty negative, but I do have a friend still –need to send her a grad announcement)
-          6th grade at Granada Middle School. Ditto about hating it.
-          7-8 Whittier Christian Junior High. Loved it. Turning point. Writing my spiritual memoir, I return to this transition.  Friends – these are also friends from church –  still from here.
-          9-12 Whittier Christian High School. Again. Loved it. On cheer and on homecoming court.  Glorious time of life.
-          Undergrad at Biola in La Mirada. Also. Loved it. I studied English Writing and Literature. Mentors: Doland, Reynolds, and Callis.  Travels to Oxford, Bahia de los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Greece, Italy, the UK, India, Prince Edward Island, and around the U.S., especially New Mexico
-          MA at CSULB.  Studied English Literature again. Loved it and the whole LB experience.  Mentors: Lau, Sinclair, Coenen, and Wakelee-Lynch.  Travels to France, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy again,  Guanajuato, New Mexico
-          PhD at CIIS in San Fran.  Studied Women’s Spirituality. Loved it. Mentors: Arora, Pacheco, and Strobel.  Travels to Malta, the Greek Islands, Spain, the Philippines, New Mexico.

I started preschool (I just asked my mom) when I was 4, and now, at 34, I’ll graduate with a PhD.  As I write that last sentence, and let it sink in, I start to cry actually.  That’s how much value I’ve placed (albeit hecka encouraged by my family and teachers) on this degree.  Did I know I always wanted it? No.  Did I doubt that it was possible? Yes. Even now.  However, perhaps like some people – myself included sometimes – want a kid but never let themselves imagine it is for them; I have wanted this profoundly and not let myself hope it could be something I would attain. 

I mean, although my family values education, an MA let alone a PhD has been concretely unattainable (and undesirable) for many of family members.  Both sexism (you need to read Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own) and racism (I recommend DecolonizingEpistemologies) have created insurmountable obstacles in the educational lives of my grandmothers, mothers, aunts, primas, and sisters.  And, I am a lucky one (mujer, m’jita, nina, kaka, ate) graduating with a Phd in her thirties!   Miraculous!

So, how do I say thank you for all this????

Here goes:

“I must acknowledge that without my family’s imagination and strength in the face of overwhelming obstacles due to sexism and racism, I would not have the opportunity to research, write, and submit this dissertation.  I am grateful for my family’s support, in particular, their encouragement of my formal education. 

Specifically, I want to thank the nurturing women in my family as well as the women in my chosen family.  You are my role models in your creation of liberative visions and languages for our future.  Together, we have come so far!  What we have accomplished is miraculous!   

Additionally, I want to acknowledge the men who have supported me during my journey.  Grandfathers, fathers, brothers – my allies – gratitude for all the ways you advocate for me – your daughter, your sister, your love – and my freedom to write my story.

Altogether, thank you
to each of you
 who has inspired in me a love
of literature,
of women,

and of darkness.”