Giselle’s chosen piece Retratos Vivos de Mamá is in Spanish, and Giselle has encouraged us who do not speak the language to translate it in order to get as much of the full effect of it as possible. I used the Google app on my phone to translate the text on my computer screen; though the translations were not perfect, they were accurate enough for me to understand the story. The piece is about the attempt of the author, Carolina López Jiménez, to tell the story of her deceased’s mother’s life, to trace the life she had before her children. The title translates as “Living Portraits of Mama,” which I think is a beautiful way to look at this piece: Jiménez bringing stories, “portraits” of her late mother to life.
I did not have a way of translating the videos or audio snippets, so although I watched and listened to them, I was not able to understand what they were saying. My understanding is based entirely on visuals.
Jiménez speaks about the mother that only she, her brother, and her father knew. She feels for her mother, having to get up every day with the weight of all those she cared for on her shoulders. She speaks about her mother’s last days, the pain and sickness, and the need to remember her mom in a different way. That is why she created this project; to remember her mother and to tell her story beyond illness and beyond motherhood. She wanted to know and share who her mother had been as a person, not just as a mother or a wife. This is an aspect of motherhood that fascinates me…who a mother is BESIDES a mother, what her life was like before she had children. To me, it feels like after you have children, all of society views you entirely differently. Your identity from before is taken away by them, replaced by your identity as a mother. Something that so touches me about this piece, then, is the refusal by the author to let her mother be remembered as ONLY a mother. She realizes that there were other aspects of this woman’s life and does not want to let them be forgotten.
The author expresses her fears of repeating her mother’s life, of becoming what she was, a selfless woman who sort of gave herself up for everyone else. She fears, too, that the disease that killed her mother lurks within her, too. This reminds me of a quote I saw once in a tumblr post, “mothers and daughters existing as wretched mirrors of each other: I am all you could have been and you are all i might be.” And another quote, I believe from eight bites by Carmen Maria Machado: “There’s something about having a mother when you’re a girl. It’s crushing. Crushing having a mirror that suffers all on its own.” This thought that mothers and daughters are reflections of each other, that they see themselves in one another and see their own suffering reflected back at them. It’s a theme I’ve been exploring in some of my own stories, and a theme I see in this piece as well.
I also really enjoy the way the piece was set up, made to look like diary entries and a scrapbook and so forth, the way it contained photos and documents from Jiménez’s mother’s life. Its construction as an e-lit piece really let Jiménez showcase all of these things and tell her mother’s story.
Though I only consumed what was ultimately a small part of the entire piece, I was extremely moved by it. It’s a beautiful, touching memorial that I’d love to continue exploring more.
I thoroughly enjoyed How to Rob a Bank’s multimodal storytelling approach. In the way that it utilized different apps to tell the story, it reminded me of epistolary stories, those that are told through letters and/or other types of written ephemera. In a way, it even reminds me of certain exploration-based video games like Gone Home where you explore an environment and piece together a story by reading letters, journal entries, etc and examining objects left behind. I love such ways of a telling a story, so it’s really interesting to explore an e-lit piece that uses similar conventions.
The story itself felt almost parodical, though. It was too unrealistic in a strange way, not really in a compelling way that inspires suspension of disbelief. So, I can’t really say I enjoyed the story of the piece or the way it handled it, but I did enjoy its method of storytelling.