Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Probing the Boundary Lines of Home with Karen Zacarías

Border wall between USA and Mexico

 "Border wall between USA and Mexico" by Kenneth Gill is published on Wikimedia Commons with a CC-BY-SA license.

September 15, 2017 was a momentous day for Karen Zacarías.

The Mexican-born playwright took the oath of allegiance to the United States and became a naturalized American citizen alongside twenty-nine other applicants at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and two actresses from her latest play in the audience. Zacarías had called the United States home since childhood and used her plays to raise awareness of the experiences of immigrants. She was a proud supporter of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy and vocally opposed the candidacy of Donald Trump. However, being unable to actually vote in the 2016 election left her feeling voiceless; her frustration over the election's outcome drove her to finally apply for citizenship.

After taking the oath, it was President Trump's face that filled the screen next, exhorting Zacarías and the other participants to teach American values to other immigrants and "help them to assimilate to our way of life" in a pre-recorded message that several of the new citizens found disconcerting. As Juliet Sanchez, the Colombian-born schoolteacher who stood next to Zacarías during the ceremony, explained, "We can and should respect, celebrate, and embrace our new culture, but you shouldn't tell us to assimilate" [2].

The complexities of home and identity are familiar themes for Zacarías, who is the daughter of an accomplished Mexican epidemiologist and a Danish nurse and speaks four languages. She recalls, "I grew up in an extended family where it was not uncommon for someone to stop eating to write a poem on a napkin. I always knew I wanted to be a writer". [7] She titled her first two poems "I wake up with love" and "I am sick and tired of the moon." Whe she was six years old, she decided she needed a typewriter, like any serious writer, and saved up her allowance to buy one. Every Christmas she and her cousins entertained the family with a talent show featuring poetry, music, and skits. [1]

Growing up around ambitious artists inspired Zacarías' dreams, but also dispelled any illusions she may have had about what these dreams could cost her. "I have seen people become bitter because they had made big sacrifices and given everything to their art, and art (or any profession, no matter how passionate) will never give you everything back," she reflects. "I saw how artistic expression could be misused as a justification for self-indulgent, self-important and destructive behavior," she explained. "Consequently I resisted being an artist for many years." [7] 

Zacarías recalls her grandmother as "an early feminist who fell madly in love with the wrong man," the renowned "Golden Age" director and screenwriter Miguel Zacarías. "She struggled with her conflicting feelings for my traditional grandfather and her need for expression in a world that did not deem her worthy ... She was the true brilliant writer in the family, difficult and charismatic and contradictory, who was silenced in so many ways and died in her room alone..." Zacarías would later draw upon these memories in her play The Sins of Sor Juana, with its vivid portrayal of seventeenth-century nun-turned-proto-feminist-poet Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. [7]

Zacarías experienced her first major change in life circumstances at age ten, when her father received a scholarship to study at Harvard and moved the whole family to Brookline, Massachussets, where they unexpectedly decided to stay. Her father survived a deportation scare and eventually moved to Washington, D.C. to oversee the the Pan American Health Organization's AIDS program. [1][7]

 Meanwhile, Zacarías majored in International Relations at Stanford University and took a job at a Latin American policy think tank to pay off her student loans. She started writing plays by night and took classes in playwriting at Georgetown. Her classmates recognized her prodigious talent and encouraged her to apply to graduate school, but she was reluctant, insisting she wouldn't apply until she "knew I could support myself without betraying others." [7] Finally, another student promised to pay Zacarías' tuition so that she could use her training to help others. Zacarías enrolled at Boston University and, upon graduating with an MA in playwriting, founded the Young Playwrights' Theater, a nonprofit that teaches playwriting as a way to empower urban youth with literacy and conflict resolution skills. [1]

As Zacarias' nonprofit work immersed her in D.C. public schools, she became increasingly concerned with reaching young audiences through theatre. Her plays Chasing George Washington and Einstein is a Dummy introduced historical figures with disarming humor, while Cinderella Eats Rice and Beans retold a traditional fairy tale through a less Eurocentric lens. Her documentary-style play Just Like Us followed four Latina girls - two of whom are "Dreamers" - through the transition from girlhood to young adulthood. The play premiered in Denver in 2013 and was rapidly taken up across the country. [8] When Donald Trump announced he would seek to end DACA if he was elected President, Zacarías renounced royalties on her script and offered it to any organization that was interested. Requests flooded in from middle schools, high schools, universities and even a group of immigration lawyers. [4] Her most recent play, The Copper Children, tells of "orphan trains" taking Irish immigrants westward, a largely forgotten chapter of American history that produced a notorious custody case billed as the twentieth century's first "Trial of the Century" - some ninety years before the O.J. Simpson trial. [5]

As Zacarías' star has risen, she has had to work even harder to balance work and home, profession and family. "The truth is, I am an uncool artist hoping to buy a used minivan. I have diapers to change, grants to write, classes to teach, so I spend months writing in my head until I can sit down and pour it out on paper ... [Plays] are like children. No matter how many you've had or known in the past, each play needs to gestate and grow and be nurtured and molded by time, attention, inspiration and humor". [7]

Native Gardens, the play Zacarías had in production at the time she became an American citizen, was thus a product of its time. The play displays Zacarías' penchant for humorous dialogue and complex, vibrant characters, but anxieties about the future lurk just beneath the surface. Zararías says she was inspired to write the play after hearing friends trade stories of their disputes with next-door neighbors, squabbles that struck the playwright as "absurd in some ways, but the consequences were really real and emotionally upsetting. I kept thinking, 'Wow, it's almost like every single battle between nations or tribes boils down to this fight between property and culture.'" [3]

As Zacarías revised the script, she wove in references to President Trump's border wall and his demand that Mexico pay the costs. "There's been something in the atmosphere for much longer that made this comedy about gardening and planting and building a fence have a much deeper resonance," she observed. Indeed, only hours before the play's New York premiere, President Trump declared a national emergency to divert funds to border wall construction. [3]

Around this time, Zacarías gave birth to her third child and her odyssey took another twist. The Washington, D.C. townhouse where she had raised two children with her husband, lawyer Rett Snotherly, was feeling cramped and her go-to writing space - the kitchen table - was causing problems for everyone. Zacarías and Snotherly fell in love with an abandoned group home in D.C.'s Mount Pleasant neighborhood and put in an offer, but were outbid by a development company. When the wealthy developer backed out, the property owner offered Zacarías and Snotherly a chance to match the high bid of $975,000 before putting the property back on the market. Given only five hours to decide, they said yes. "Our parents came to see what we bought, and they all cried," recalled Zacarías. "They thought we had ruined our lives." "You bought a shell," agreed the first designer that they spoke to about renovating the run-down property. [6]

Undaunted, Zacarías and Snotherly pressed ahead with a redesign. They sold their old townhouse and cashed in their retirement plans. Snotherly even sold his beloved comic book collection. He had been collecting comics since he was eight, and his collection, amassing over 4,000 titles, had consumed the family's closet space. Zacarías and Snotherly hired local designers and builders and proceeded with the work in gradual stages over a five-year period to save money. In an interview with the Washington Post, Zacarías said she was pleased with the results: for the first time, she had a dedicated writing space at home and a large walk-in closet - with nary a comic book in sight. Her thoughts then turned to deeper reflections on home and belonging: "If we had started this [remodel] when COVID started, it would have been abandoned again. But we were lucky to live through it in this house. We had no idea how much this house would give back to us in a time when we really needed it." [6]

The University of Redlands production of Native Voices is directed by Gabriel Rodriguez. Three performances will take place at the Frederick Loewe Theatre on October 15, 16, and 17. All attendees must wear masks and show proof of COVID-19 vaccination in accordance with University policy. Click here to buy tickets.

Works Cited

[1] Brown, DeNeen. "Playwright Karen Zacarías finds inspiration in Arena Stage's Residency Program." Washington Post, October 14, 2021. 
 
[2] Chason, Rachel and Maria Sacchetti. "'Nobody is Going to Take This Away.'" Washington Post, September 16, 2017. 
 
[3] Gilroy, Maggie. "Gardens Versus Walls." American Theatre, vol. 36, no. 5, May 2019, pp. 32-36. 
 
[4] O'Quinn, Jim. "Speaking Truth to Trumpism." American Theatre, vol. 34, no. 9, November 2017, pp. 20-24. 
 
[5] Piantadosi, Francesca. "Portland." Dramatist, vol. 23, no. 2, November 2020, p. 58. 
 
[6] Sowers, Scott. "Vintage Comics Aid a Modern Renovation." Washington Post, March 4, 2021. 
 
[7] Svich, Caridad. "Karen Zacarías: A Writer's Tightrope." American Theatre, vol. 23, no. 1, January 2006, pp. 54-59.

[8] Zacarías, Karen. "Home." Karen Zacarías.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Reserve a Study Room & Tutoring in the Library

 

3rd Floor Study Rooms

The Armacost Library is happy to announce that you may now reserve our two study rooms--Armacost Room and Stone Room--a week in advance with your @redlands.edu email account. Previously these study rooms were available on a first-come, first-serve basis.


From the library's home page, click on the "Hours & reservations link" to view our extended calendar. Follow the directions and be sure to check in at the front desk at the start of your reservation. That's it! 

Rooms are currently limited to 2-hours/day and a 3 days/week to help spread the joy. 

  


Tutoring in the Library

The Armacost Library is also happy to share that it's now easier to find your tutoring group and tutoring groups in the library. For years, the Library has housed multiple tutoring services, but they've often been visible only to their users. Now when you visit our extended calendar, you'll be able to see upcoming tutoring sessions, their locations, and extended calendars. 

A big thanks to our tutors and instructors for the academic support you provide our community!




Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Banned Books Week 2021

In collaboration with other on campus organizations and National Hispanic Heritage Month, the Armacost Library is happy to be a part of this event. Come by our Lobby and take a selfie or write down notes about your favorite banned books. Find a book on our cart and take a selfie! Don't forget to #ArmacostLibrary !!

When thinking about the countless books that have been banned and pulled from libraries around the world over time, it's difficult to understand some of the reasons as to why they were banned in the first place. Whether it be due to disgruntled parents, violence, or language, we have some of those books at the Armacost Library! 

Some of the classics today were once banned, like 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' because people had viewed Huck as a bad role model for kids and due to its offensive language and racism. 'Of Mice and Men' was banned for vulgarity, treatment of women, and racism. And 'The Color Purple' was banned for graphic sexual content, mentions of abuse, and violence. Other titles include 'The Outsiders' by S.E. Hinton, 'To Kill A Mockingbird' by Harper Lee, and even 'Harry Potter' by J.K. Rowling. 

Looking over the banned lists, according to the American Library Association, censoring what materials the public has access to has continued across the fields of education in various ways. Which is why Banned Books Week continues through the years to expose the titles that have been hidden away from the public. By celebrating the freedom to read and giving everyone an opportunity to explore without feeling restricted, we learn to build communities, social justice, and can become a more tolerant and accepting community. 

Come by the table at Hunsaker Plaza during your lunch hours to find out more about the events or get a button for yourself with our button press! Have fun and be safe in your exploration. 

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Welcome Back to Armacost Library, Bulldogs!

Welcome back to the Library, Bulldogs!

We're looking forward to seeing you on campus and supporting your academic success through library programs, resources, and services.

Have a question? Look for the Ask Us bulldog on our homepage.


Need research help? Make an appointment and find your subject librarian.


Armacost Library hours are posted: https://library.redlands.edu/hours. Any changes to hours will be reflected here, and any last-minute changes to hours will be prominently announced on the Library's homepage: https://library.redlands.edu/home.


University of Redlands students and employees will be asked to check-in when entering the Library: iPads are located at front and back entrances. Checking-in supports monitoring capacity and contact tracing when needed. 


Our visitor policy aligns with University policy: visitors will be expected to follow universal indoor mask guidelines. We recommend visitors make an appointment by contacting relevant personnel: https://library.redlands.edu/staffdirectory.

 

As University policy is revised, so too will Armacost Library protocol. 


Armacost Library Community Agreements remind us all that, as community members, we share responsibility for creating and maintaining an inclusive, affirming, and welcoming learning and working space. 


Learn more about Fall 2021 at Marin Campus SFTS Branch Library from Stephanie Miller, SFTS Librarian: SFTS Library welcome video

Monday, July 26, 2021

We're reopening soon!

Library books on shelves

As of Monday, August 2nd, we'll be reopening with limited summer hours. Instead of curbside pick-up, you will be able to pick-up your requested books at the Front Desk without an appointment.* 

Armacost Library faculty and staff will continue to provide a full suite of virtual services throughout the remainder of the summer. Ask a Librarian for help with research questions, articles, eBooks, and more.

We encourage wearing face masks inside the Library to mitigate the potential spread of COVID-19.

Look for continuing updates for the remainder of the summer on our website and in library news.

*You will still need to wait for confirmation via email that the requested book is available for pick-up. 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Chugging Along to UoR

On June 17th, the University of Redlands train station officially opened. Although parts of the rail are still under construction, the Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles will soon be directly connected to the University of Redlands via The Arrow route, an extension of the San Bernardino line. 


Read about the early trains from "A History of the Great Trains" by Chris Cook from our General Collection, where we have others that cater to similar interests. We also  have the book, "Orient Express, the Life and Times of the World's Most Famous Train" about one of the the most famous trains that dazzled people and was featured in enchanting stories. Or, you can read about how the railways fall short of hopes and needs in "Romance of the Rails: Why the Passenger Trains We Love Are Not the Transportation We Need" by Randal O'Toole from our General Collection. 

You can also check out our digital access to eBooks, such as "Empire's Tracks: Indigenous Nations, Chinese Workers, and the Transcontinental Railroad" by Manu Karuka and "The Men Who Loved Trains the Story Of men Who Battled Greed to Save An Ailing Industry" by Rush Loving. These books help to create a better understanding of the railway industry, how far it has come, and where it can still go. Also "Drift: Illicit Mobility and Uncertain Knowledge" by Jeff Ferrell is an interesting read for those with fears of who will come with the trains. 

Reading books like, "Railroads And The American People" by H. Roger Grant can help curious minds understand how the railway expanded horizons while impacting American life to what has become our norms today. So, enjoy a good book physically or electronically! 

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Coming soon: A New InSPIRe!

Screen shot of the new InSPIRe home page

 

As we reported last month, Armacost Library's new digital collections and publishing presence, InSPIRe, is migrating to a new platform in early July.

Soon you'll be able to view scholarship and creative works from faculty and students across the University, including:

  • Undergraduate honors papers and theses
  • Graduate theses, dissertations and MSGIS projects
  • Faculty book chapters, articles and creative work
  • Open educational resources
  • Our House, an annual celebration of University of Redlands scholarly and creative accomplishments

And much more! 

InSPIRe is currently experiencing a short downtime while we finish getting the new site ready for you. Please contact the library if you need assistance accessing a particular work during this time. 

Thanks to Armacost Library's project team, including Paige Mann, Scholarly Communications and STEM Librarian; Michael Kremer, Circulation Supervisor and InSPIRe@Redlands Assistant; and Sanjeet Mann, Arts & Systems Librarian, with support from ITS and external vendors Digital Commons and Ubiquity Press.