Today in ABQ: Conference Hell, Muslim Harry Potter, Southern Devils, and Simon Ortiz

Today was busy. I’m pooped. In my defense, and in addition to having a cold, it is after 1 A.M. back home, though only 11 here. I cannot promise this will be readable.

I started my day with a workout and a way overpriced breakfast, followed by a presentation titled “So you want to go to Grad School.” Most of the info was pretty run of the mill, but she did have some really interesting insights on alternatives to academia. Plus, she was funny.

Then followed my personal hell: networking. I managed to meet the overall and regional presidents. They were nice, intelligent humans, and did not bite me, so I’ll call that a success. I’m reminded of the funny internet meme that says “Introverts Unite! We’re here! We’re uncomfortable! We want to go home!” Yup, that sums up my networking experience. Here’s to hoping I appeared more competent than I felt.

Lunch turned into a mini adventure when, on my way to a local deli, I got lost, headed to Jimmy Johns instead, took another wrong turn and ended up eating at a great local pizza place. The waiter and I had a heart to heart about the virtues of homemade dough and mozzarella, adding to my socialization experience. (Bonus: they served me way too much food, so I didn’t have to venture out again for dinner! Both economical and introvert friendly. Win!)

After lunch I went to two panel presentations.

The first was called “Devil Went Down to Georgia” and the panel discussed representations of Satan and evil in the South, especially in Southern Gothic literature. Color me impressed. They outlined the Gothic, then the Southern Gothic, talked about what characterizes classic texts, then focused on four contemporary novels, while pulling in other media, music, and pop-culture. They talked about the influence of African religions, especially Voodoo, on Southern images of evil. Really a wonderful presentation, and our discussion afterward was engaging.

After the talk I hung out with some of the panelists and audience members and we continued the discussion. They asked me about Appalachian literature and how it departs from and is similar to the general trends of Southern Lit. Not only was I proud of my social self, but was also proud I had retained what I read in Dr. Claxton’s class.

I went to another panel Titled “Harry Potter and Christian Theology: A Muslim Perspective.” I cannot say enough wonderful things about their presentation. Though the panel was arranged by four students, two could not get permission to enter the country from Iran, so the presentation was done by just two. They did a beautiful job; I’m sure their colleagues would be proud. They pointed out that Harry Potter has been banned in both Christian and Muslim nations, but for opposite reasons. In the US, Harry Potter is banned for being anti-Christian, while in Muslim nations, it is banned for being too Christian. They talked about Harry as a Christ figure, the Deathly Hallows as the trinity. There is too much to explain here, but I learned so much about Muslim culture, and about how my own culture looks through the lens of theirs.

At the end of the day I went to see Simon Ortiz speak. He was amazing. I have so much to talk about, it might be a separate blog post tomorrow. It was an honor to hear him, though. He talked about the history of war and genocide against indigenous groups in the Americas, and the boundaries placed around those groups now: on our landscape, in our language and rhetoric, and in our historical memory. He was thoughtful and eloquent, and I was enchanted.

Now. That hotel bar had better have some bourbon.


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