check out the latest volume of the Texas Undergraduate Research Journal

Shameless plug: This past year, I worked for the Texas Undergraduate Research Journal, a work of multi-disciplinary research entirely produced and edited by UT Austin undergraduates. The Journal is published annually & features incredible works of research conducted by UT undergraduates. This year, I had the honor of designing the journal in its entirety, and after a summer, the Journal has been published!

So if you’re even slightly interested in reading about the role of meatloaf in American culture or about the historical and literary symbolism behind LBJ’s inauguration speech, check out Volume 16 of the URJ right below!

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a four-leaf clover — hard to find and lucky to have

This past weekend, one of my best friends came down to visit me in Austin for half a day. Given we didn’t really have that much time, we spent our time mostly on campus. UT actually has a really nice art museum (the Blanton Museum of Art), and it just so happened that there was a Blanton Block Party going on the day she came, so we stopped by that (before we went to go get some amazing Indian food and boba, of course!)

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An instant out of time

Back when I had more time, I used to draw still life sketches. My grandmother, who is an amazing artist, taught me how everything I know about art today. Her art teacher wanted her to be an artist too, but she ended up pursuing a career in language. But after she retired, she immediately went back to drawing. Sometime, I’ll have to show y’all some of her art. Now THAT is talent. I call myself an emerging chick. 😛

And then a sneak peak on what I’m still working on:

Between the Pages: Refund: Stories (Karen E. Bender)

Refund: Stories Karen E. Bender

Refund: Stories
Karen E. Bender

I bought Karen Bender’s Refund because it was on sale at Barnes & Noble (and because it was one of last year’s National Book Award finalists and the excerpt looked interesting); it was only until after I arrived home that I realized how fitting it was that I had chosen this particular novel: on the first page were the words, “We think about it every day, sometimes every hour: Money. Who has it. Who doesn’t. How you get it. How you don’t.” Every decision we make in our lives, including my decision to choose the cheaper book on sale, seems to have some sort of underlying financial motivation, and the lengths each of us will go to in order to find a temporary happiness, to make sense of our situations or to fight our battles differs because of, once again, money.

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Between the Pages: The River Why (David James Duncan)

The River Why David James Duncan

The River Why
David James Duncan

As I was first scrolling through my English teacher’s list of recommended books to find one that could fit into my thesis project, I most definitely ignored David James Duncan’s The River Why. As someone who has absolutely no idea what the difference is between fly-fishing and bait-fishing, I figured that I would be equally indifferent towards a novel (with a fish hook as the cover art) about Gus the fishing prodigy.

Fortunately, I couldn’t have been more wrong: as soon as Gus introduced me to his parents and asked me to consider whether large quantities of water near a person’s anterior should elicit similar results as a small quantity of water inserted in a human posterior would, I was hooked (by Duncan’s humorous writing and memorable depictions of characters, that is).

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Between the Pages: Olive Kitteridge (Elizabeth Strout)

Olive Kitteridge Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kitteridge
Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kitteridge, a deeply empathic and human novel, strives to commeasure human tendencies and social attitudes.

The novel is divided into around ten chapters, each involving different characters but all revolving around one woman, Olive Kitteridge, a stubborn, middle-aged woman who doesn’t exactly like the changes she witnesses in her small town.

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From the ears to the heart: Tower of Power

On January 17th of last year, a legendary brass player passed away. Mic Gillette, who joined the Gotham City Crime Fighters (which later evolved into the Tower of Power) at age 15, played a variety of instruments — from the trumpet and trombone to the baritone and tuba. Tower of Power is an American R&B-based horn section and band from Oakland, California that has been performing since 1968. Its horn section has often performed separately, but Tower of Power is best known for their funky soul sound highlighted the horns and bass-guitar lines. Among their most highest-charting songs is “Soul with a capital S,” though Gillette was on hiatus during the production of this album, T.O.P.

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paradise will be a kind of library

This winter break, I had a lot of free time, so in addition to trying to learn Beyonce’s 7/11 dance (which, of course, I managed to make myself look like a flopping potato), I also read a few books, too. Here are some short reviews/synopses that I wrote of the (probably only) four books I’ll have had ample time to read this semester (RIP me).

cover_theireyesZora Neale Hurston’s 1937 classic Their Eyes Were Watching God tells the story of beautiful Janie Crawford, a young and naïve girl who blossoms into a mature and independent woman throughout her three marriages. Intertwining narration with the heavy vernacular dialogue of southern African Americans, Hurston weaves self-identity, feminism and faith into an unforgettable love story. If there’s any book that can amplify the voice of an ordinary African American woman so loudly and proudly, it’s Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.

519na7gpjkl-_sy344_bo1204203200_Joshua Ferris’s And Then We Came to the End isn’t named one of the top ten books of 2007 by the New York Times Book Review for no reason: much like a book version of The Office, And Then We Came to the End details the lives of a group of coworkers for a failing advertising agency. Combining the witty and detailed banter and gossip that comes with spending nine hours a day with a group of people that you sometimes call friends, other times competitors or even strangers, Ferris’s debut novel manages to both beautifully capture the atmosphere of a workplace and engage our attention until the very last sentence (literally).

the-catcher-in-the-rye-cover-6c8dab7d64192277315d6bf528d6f7b2Now, for some reason, J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye didn’t really speak to me as much as the other three novels — perhaps because it so thoroughly captures the attitude of a rebellious teenager struggling to come to terms with himself and stumbling through the stage of life we call growing up. Perhaps it was the frustration that came along with reading about his ventures and his mistakes, and the fact that the ending never gives full closure about his maturity (which, absolutely perfectly mimics real life), that made me slightly uncomfortable, but as I’ve said twice already, that may be a result of the fact that it’s so real. 

6980146-_uy200_Grapes of Wrath was 20th-century America’s masterpiece. Column McCann’s Let The Great World Spin is 21st-century America’s masterpiece. Tying together the lives of more-or-less unrelated characters by Philippe Petit’s infamous high-wire walk between the Twin Towers, McCann weaves together beautiful, intense and passionate stories of those watching the mysterious man walking in the air that day. This single gravity-defying act serves as a single point of intersection between a variety of different characters, but as McCann shows, our lives are inherently intertwined and forever linked together, just like the Twin Towers were when Petit walked across between them.