Family, Friends, Food, and Film — I associate Thanksgiving with spending time with my family, connecting with friends, preparing and consuming food, and perhaps seeing a film at some point during the long Thanksgiving weekend. All of these associations relate in one way or another to the film Pieces of April. I didn’t see the film when it first came out in 2003, but my wife and I rented it a few years later when it came out on DVD. It has since become my favorite Thanksgiving film.
Pieces of April focuses on a young woman named April Burns (played by Katie Holmes) who lives with her boyfriend in a tiny, dilapidated apartment located in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Although April feels alienated from her family, she wants to reconnect with them. She invites them all over for Thanksgiving dinner even though she is a totally inept cook, and her family members accept the invitation. In many of the scenes, April is desperately trying to prepare the meal, which is made more difficult when her oven breaks down. She copes with this problem with the help of her eccentric neighbors who allow her to use the ovens in their kitchens for the short periods of time when they are not using their ovens. In other scenes, April’s family members are riding together in a cramped car to New York City. Their tensions play out in comical ways as they get closer and closer to April’s apartment.
What I love the most about this film is its portrayal of a family. In many ways, this family is completely dysfunctional, but they still care about each other on some deep level. They do not communicate well using words. However, they are finally able to connect by using food as a sort of communications medium. Food also provides a tangible way to bring April’s friends and neighbors into the family fold. The film’s culminating dinner brings together quite a wide variety of people, but at least for that one meal, they transcend their differences. Such is the power of food.
I hope all of you have a great Thanksgiving.
Kudos — As you know, I like to use my Monday Missives to share news about recent accomplishments by members of our department. Here is the latest news:
Meghan Barnes recently gave the following three presentations at the NCTE Conference held in St. Louis: “Challenges of Social Justice Pedagogy: That Time I Did Exactly What I Tell My Students Not to Do,” “Reciprocal Community Relationships: Challenges of Inviting Community Voices into Teacher Education,” and “Teacher Research as Reclaiming Education: A Critical Analysis of Two Inquiry-Based Projects.”
Bryn Chancellor last month was an invited author at Litchfield Books’ A Moveable Feast in Pawleys Island, SC; she also gave readings at Scuppernong Books in Greensboro and McIntyre’s Books in Pittsboro as part of the North Carolina Arts Council fellowship reading series. Her novel Sycamore also was named one of Amazon’s Best Books of 2017 and rights recently were optioned to FilmNation (The Big Sick, Arrival) for their new television department.
Katie Hogan presented a paper titled “Rural Queer Echohistories as Movement-Building and Freedom-Making” on Saturday, November 18, at the National Women’s Studies Association conference in Baltimore, Maryland.
Allison Hutchcraft gave a reading at Lenoir-Rhyne University as part of their Visiting Writers Series and was part of a panel discussion “NC Writing Today.”
Janaka Lewis presented a paper titled “Black Girlhood and the Power of Belonging” at the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora conference in Seville, Spain, on Nov. 10 and a paper titled “Reconstructing Black Girlhood, from Stories to Selves” at the National Women’s Studies Association Conference in Baltimore last week.
Consuelo Salas recently presented a paper titled “Food-Based Pedagogies: Opening the Classroom Space” at NCTE Conference in St. Louis in a session titled “Foodways Literacy and Language Learning.”
Upcoming Events and Deadlines— Here is information about an upcoming event:
Dec. 1 — The English Department holiday party will take place on Friday, December 1 from 11:30 to 1:30 in the Faculty/Staff Lounge. Please put this special event on your calendar and make sure to sign up on the potluck list located on the desk outside of Monica’s office.
Quirky Quiz Question —Pieces of April premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. What is the host state for this annual film festival?
Last week’s answer: John Benjamins
The Journal of Language Aggression and Conflict is published by an international academic publisher with offices in Amsterdam and Philadelphia. Does anybody know the name of this publisher?