Upon reading the two essays by Barry and Tan, I realize that I feel… almost enlightened? I loved Barry’s creative comic strip about her process of unlearning “the two questions”. Her comic strip was fun and engaging, which made it easier for me to connect to. As for Tan’s essay, it was very well-written, and the way she speaks about unlearning “broken” english to help her write intellectual literary papers is inspiring.
In her comic strip, Barry wants to discover where her desire to write fun stories and draw interesting pictures went. If I had been so into drawing I would be missing it too! I kind of feel the same way as Barry – what has caused me to stop creatively writing? As she delves into her thought process she realizes that along the way she was taught to question her writing and conform to this idea of pleasing others instead of yourself. She writes “but the two questions find everybody” which I think represents the fact that nobody is able to escape these ideas that modern society has placed into our heads that we need to impress others to do well instead of satisfying our own needs (Barry, 3).
In order to free herself from the two questions, Barry needed to unlearn the idea that her writing would only be good if it impressed other people. She needed to learn that just because people “liked [her] more after [she] made [a] picture” it didn’t mean that she was necessarily doing the right thing for herself, which was hard because it was the only way that she was learning to do well in life, and she couldn’t find what she had lost. It’s very hard to try and rid yourself from lessons that seem built into you, something which I know from experience! I feel as if Barry’s comment strip was her own way of demonstrating how far she has come in the process of unlearning the “two questions”. She uses fun and childish illustrations and expressions, and I think as she continues writing she is reconnecting with her old desires to draw pictures and write stories that she loves.
On the other hand, Tan has to explore what she has missed from growing up learning the English that her mother knows, and the difference between that and what she was taught in school. She explores different English dialects, as well as her own tendencies towards writing in English. She tries to take note of when and how she stopped speaking her mother’s language, and conformed to a well-learned, well-spoken form of the English language. This is what she wants to unlearn. This is what she feels ashamed of. Tan explores “the forms of English [she] did not use at home” (Tan, 1) and rather than continue writing as her “worst” subject (Tan, 5), she decides to unlearn writing nonfiction pieces and start writing fiction stories. In order to be more successful, Tan felt as if she had to connect with her readers, with her most important reader being her mom. Upon changing her writing style, Tan needed to unlearn “correct” grammar and “wittily crafted sentences”, (Tan, 5) which was hard because that is how she learned to write. The reward of this unlearning process is definitely worth it though, when her mother states “So easy to read” (Tan, 5).
I think that rather than learn something new, Barry remembered her passion, and Tan put the words she spoke onto paper. Barry unlearned the two questions that tied her down, and she went back to her drawings. Her drawings weren’t something new to her though, she simply was just remembering them! 🙂 As for Tan, while I do think that writing fiction meant for her mother to read was new, I do not believe that what she actually wrote was something “new”. Both authors revert to writing in a way that is familiar to them, in the sense that they have been around the words and styles before. The style for Tan might be new, but the English that she now writes with is one that she is used to.