The Wrong Kind of White

blog post june 10th 2019

ALL WRITTEN AND ARTWORK ARE THE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OF PSG LOPES. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, 2019.

When I was a kid I was aware that my family and I were of Portuguese descent but I never really truly understood what that meant until I was much older. My initial observations of the culture happened to be negative and I found myself isolating myself from the Portuguese culture and focusing more on American traditions.

Aside from my dark hair and Portuguese features, everything else about me was Americanized. I enjoyed American foods, American music, American fashion, American actors, and so on. I never learned how to speak Portuguese either so I never really identified with that part of myself. I remember when I was growing up that all of our holidays incorporated Portuguese traditions. My mother would make Portuguese cuisine and desserts. My father was very active in the Portuguese community and was involved in many organizations for writers, artists, and teachers of the Portuguese culture. He used to drag us to different events when we were kids and I hated it. I always felt out of place. Everyone spoke a language I didn’t understand but regardless of the language barrier, there was something I understood even without translation. I was fat and that was something that always stood out to this culture. They didn’t want you to starve, there’s was always plenty of food and drink on the table, but heaven forbid you were heavy! The conflicting opinions held by this culture was unsavory to me and made me want to separate myself from them even further.

I visited Portugal once when I was seven years old. Both sets of grandparents lived in Portugal but I was only close to my maternal grandparents. We visited them the summer of 1988 and I remember so much of that trip even though it was over thirty years ago. I remember the foods, the smells, the beautiful locale of my grandparent’s home, and I remember the people. This trip would mean more to me as an adult than it did when I was a child.

When I graduated high school, I started exhibiting my first signs of independence. When I had to get my financial aid settled for college I realized that I wasn’t going to get any grants or anything. Although my name sounded ethnic, I am categorized as white. I have this conundrum of having a Latina sounding name but categorically I am white. I was never afforded any kind of special treatment. I was stereotyped and discriminated against because of my name, yet people considered me white.

When I got my drivers license, my name was truncated in order to have my name fit on my driver’s license. When I fought the woman at the DMV she asked me if I was a citizen of this country and I knew I was fighting a losing battle. The racist woman’s true colors became visible and no matter how much I fought the bitch, I wasn’t going to win and now every single time I show someone my driver’s license I have to delve into my pre-prepared speech as to why I sound like a not quite de facto Star Wars character.

This would be the general theme throughout my entire adult life. I realized that I didn’t fit in with the Portuguese culture because I didn’t speak Portuguese and I wasn’t a stereotypical Portuguese woman. I didn’t enjoy the Rancho and I don’t wear multi-colored outfits and dance and drink red wine on Portugal Day. I don’t enjoy random pig parts mulled together into an unsavory stew. I don’t like fado music. I don’t visit the Ironbound. I’m not a part of any Portuguese associations.

I’m not American enough, or white enough either. My parents both speak Portuguese. They both have accents. I didn’t realize that my parents were different until I was about fourteen years old. My mother encountered two separate incidents of discrimination. Once I was at the furniture store with her and she was looking for a new sofa and the man explained something to my mom. My mom got snippy with the man because he changed his policy and was not forthright about it. As punishment for my mom asserting herself, he blamed it on her accent and not understanding what he was telling her. I was so angry on her behalf, not just because of the insult, but it was also a sexist remark. The mere thought of women asserting themselves makes men feel the need to denigrate and degrade us.

Another incident involved a neighbor we befriended when we first moved to New Jersey. She was an elderly woman who was old-school racist. She would use horribly racist words and we tended to avoid her or just be polite and say hello and goodbye. My mom got into a fight with her once and she insulted my mom basically calling her an immigrant and to go back to her own country. This became a common theme in our lives.

I spent my whole adult life trying to find my place in the world. I have no identity. I feel that both sides of the coin have betrayed me at some point. I have felt bullied and oppressed because of my name. This name that weighs down on me yet I still keep more to prove a point than because of pride. I spent my whole life educating people that my name is pronounced Lopes as in slopes not Lopez with a “z.” When I was in elementary school, I even had a teacher tell me that I didn’t know how to pronounce my own last name. I even went home to confirm that it was indeed Lopes as in slopes and my dad laughed and told me my teacher was a bitch. So from then on, I got that whole “us vs. them” vibe not only from the Portuguese culture but from the American culture as well.

I never fit in with the Portuguese crowd. I went to a very diverse college, which I loved, but I failed to really belong in any one crowd. I enjoyed talking to everyone. I remember there being a big Portuguese community in that college but I was never welcomed in their club. I wasn’t one of the “cool kids,” which was fine with me because they appeared fake and two-faced anyhow and I associated the Portuguese culture, at the time, with lacking in authenticity. My limited scope of my culture was always with people who I viewed as snobs and unwelcoming which made me hate the culture.

I remember moving to New Jersey and my neighbors to one side of our home were never very nice to us and they clearly are very racist as well. They had a daughter close to my age that they kept away from me because apparently being Portuguese was contagious.

I also remember taking a test in New York City to become a teacher and I was actually accused of cheating because I got near perfect scores. Apparently, you can’t have a name like mine and be smart too. I called them out on their racism and threatened to get the ACLU involved over it. I was just so sick and tired of the blatant racism and discrimination and oppression.

When I decided to finally become a writer full-time I was faced with a very important decision. Would I keep my name or would I develop a pen name? I thought about it a lot. This was a major decision for me. I was tempted to choose the name, Simone Lawler. Was I really going to be that person who hid her cultural identity for the sake of sales? And then I decided that I would keep my name; however, I would abbreviate it since my name is rather long. Those are my full initials and my own last name. This was the name my father gave me and I was not going to be ashamed of it. I wasn’t going to let the ignorance and blind hatred of others get to me. I realized that being a writer is a huge responsibility. My ultimate goal is to maintain my authenticity and I aim to be relatable and educational and responsible in what I write. I want to teach others to do better, to be better, and the way that I accomplish that is through my writing.

Now at thirty-eight, I am much happier and secure with my cultural identity. I embrace it and realize that just like everywhere else you’re going to meet good people and bad people and that’s with any culture. Just because I had a few bad experiences with the Portuguese crowds as a kid, that doesn’t mean that every single Portuguese individual is like that. I just had very limited exposure to individuals of my culture. Now, I have a lot of respect for my culture, I’m fully immersed in the foods, music, and rich history. I am proud of who I am. I am proud of my parents and all of the hardships they endured when they first moved to this country in the 60s. They are two of the strongest people I’ve ever known and my heart swells with pride for them both.

There are so many differences out there. That’s what makes us so interesting as human beings. Every single one of us has an amazing story to tell and it is worth listening to. To shun someone because of who they are is so ignorant and quite frankly boring. I am so bored of racist people who choose to remain willfully ignorant. I feel so sad for close-minded people who will never get a chance to know all of the wonderful people out there. I feel it truly is their loss! I’m done explaining myself, explaining who I am, explaining why my name is the way it is. This isn’t Ellis Island circa the 1800s. We are in 2019 and what do we have to show for it? What has changed really? There’s still so much work to be done!

Thank you for taking the time to read today’s blog. If you are interested in checking out my books, please visit my Amazon Author Page here: amazon.com/author/psglopes.

Also, please view my Patreon page here: www. patreon.com/themoonlitgoddess

I am looking to acquire funding for an editor and to create a song single for my upcoming release, John of Art, coming late summer 2019. Even a $5 donation would help. Thanks so much and I hope that you are all doing well.

 

Dark Musings Poetry Anthologies: The Origin and Story Behind My Poetry Series

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ALL WRITTEN AND ARTWORK ARE THE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OF PSG LOPES. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, 2019.

In January 2017, I was four months into writing erotica short stories and I was miserable! Every month from September 2016 to December 2016 I released four erotica short stories on Amazon and I would simultaneously release six poems each month as well.
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When I decided to veer away from erotica writing and become a mainstream author, I decided my first published work would be the amalgamation of my poetry that I had released over the months from the beginning of my writing journey.
My first published release became Dark Musings Poetry Anthology: Volume 1. The cover art was my very own, which I am so proud of. I had not yet taken up photography at this time, so I wasn’t really well-versed in digital art and creating and manipulating my photographs yet. For my first effort at creating a book cover, I have to say this came out very well, if I do say so myself! I still had and have so much to learn but every month that I continue to write, it is a process and one where I am in a constant state of educating myself and growing as an individual and as an artist.
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The poems for this particular collection dealt with heartache and loss which I felt when I had lost my job as a fifth-grade teacher back in 2016. I dealt with a lot that summer, after I was laid off and went to a very dark place. I explored my feelings and reached the deepest parts of myself and learned that every path leads you to somewhere new and if one door welds shut there are so many other pathways which one can explore. We keep exploring and entering new paths until we find one that is designed for us. I went from feeling like nothing and a nobody to regaining some semblance of purpose with my writing. My writing empowered me and gave me a voice.
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I explored free verse, various rhyming poetry, song lyrics, and other poetic devices. I grew up reading and writing poetry. My first influences were Shel Silverstein, Edgar Allan Poe, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, E.E. Cummings, and so many others!
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Poetry, to me, allows individuals to enter a world all of their own. It’s a secret language between yourself and the words on those pages. I love the thought of people reading someone’s poetry and every single person having a different interpretation of what the poet was thinking when they wrote that poem. I find that poetry is a conversation starter that can last for years. The subjects of poetry are endless. There is no right or wrong. You just grab a pen and write your deepest thoughts. Every emotion, every sadness, every delight, whatever demons or triumphs one faces can be celebrated and acknowledged through poetry. Volume 1 contains thirty poems. In March 2017, I ended up re-releasing Volume 1 as a 2nd edition which features my photography and digital illustrations. I co-released the 2nd edition with my Dark Musings Poetry Anthology: Volume 2: The Storm Over Vermillion Fields. One other thing I enjoy about poetry is that syntax, punctuation, grammar, etc. is very loose and relaxed. There are so many ways to play with language and what may be viewed as a misspelling or mistake may be a playful trick of language that was the author’s very intention.
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It is in my poetry writing that I feel the freest as an artist. Many people think that poetry is dead and that no one enjoys poetry anymore but that couldn’t be further from the truth. There’s a real need and enjoyment for poetry. This age-old form of expression is still incredibly popular and we need poetry now more than ever before!
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Here’s to what started it all! The spark that ignited a dormant passion that was buried deep within me for years of my life that I allowed to remain quiet for the sake of others. When I finally broke out as a writer, it was as if that dormancy erupted like a long forgotten volcano people took for granted. The presence of this menacing natural structure just laying there in the background underestimated and ignored. Then one day I just burst with rage and anger and sorrow and sadness and the words just exploded on paper and I haven’t stopped since. While writing Dark Musings Poetry Anthology: Volume 1, I have to say I was the angriest. There are several swear words in this book. People have mixed feelings about swearing these days so it really isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. For those who are open-minded and don’t mind colorful language many may relate to this anthology. I have definitely come a long way since this anthology was published but I will always be grateful to the doors this book opened for me as a writer.
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Thanks for reading about my Dark Musings Poetry Anthology: Volume 1, first and second editions!
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You can find this and all of my other works on Amazon via: amazon.com/author/psglopes

My Pilgrimage to the Ironbound

blog pic april 26th

ALL WRITTEN AND ARTWORK ARE THE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OF PSG LOPES. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, 2019. 

I had an enlightening morning today. My father worked in an area known as the Ironbound section of Newark for nearly forty years. Shortly after he retired, my family and I realized that he was going through something because he began behaving erratically and drove our family crazy for months before we figured out his catastrophic diagnosis. Upon revealing his diagnosis of dementia, our family was devastated but we weren’t exactly familiar with the disease. We were unsure of its progression, we were uncertain of his prognosis; we were basically left in the dark. With each passing month, we become more knowledgeable and educated ourselves on his illness. A lot of what we learned was from witnessing it first hand. There really was no appropriate preparation for what was to come.

Before my father was diagnosed with dementia, my family was pretty much estranged from him. Even though we all lived in the same house as him, my father was a private man and preferred to live his life separately from everyone else. Because dementia is all-consuming and requires round the clock care, this introduced us to a whole other side of my father we never really knew. I realized that I never really fully knew this man I called my father. Not because I did not want to, mind you, but because as I said he wanted it that way. He had his job in the Ironbound, his clubs and organizations that he was a part of, he had his writing and art that he would pursue on evenings and weekends. He would travel and drive around areas alone and we were none the wiser. Since his illness, we became so intimately familiar with our father that it was as if we entered a rabbit hole, an endless fountain of knowledge and information about him, some unsavory, but for the most part, we learned of some things he was interested in that we never knew about.

Today I met with an amazing woman who is well-respected and revered at the Luso-Americano newspaper and discussed my children’s book which I wrote in his honor: My Pápá and Me: A Children’s Book About Our Journey With Dementia. It was so nice speaking to someone who knew my father well. I could almost feel his presence in that building. My father, once notoriously known for how well-dressed he always was, proud and confident in himself walking into the newspaper building and talking away with all of these fine people. It was so comforting to know that he was well remembered. A big motivator for me writing my latest children’s book was to ensure that nobody forgot about my father. He was so important for so many years in the Ironbound community and then he disappeared into the ether and not many people knew about what happened to him. Many abandoned him, some called about him in the beginning but then very quickly it was as if my father ceased to exist. That didn’t sit well with me. As complicated as our relationship was towards the end of his healthy years, I would never want his legacy to fade. My children’s book was essentially my way of coping with this devastating situation my family and I have been dealing with for the past six to seven years. It has been a long, torturous, and highly emotional road for us all. Our goal and mission are to make damn well sure that my family receives the best possible care for him and that he is remembered for his positive contributions to society. I may not have known this side of him well but it was clear from my interview today that he was respected and that provided me with reassurance.

I know that I will continue advocating for others going through similar circumstances. This disease is tragic and heartbreaking. So many times I sit and think about telling my father about all of my accomplishments in writing and I wonder what he would have thought about it. I try not to romanticize his reactions too much because prior to his illness our relationship wasn’t the strongest. But I’ve gotten to know this version of my father and I can honestly say he is lovely and sweet and we currently have the best relationship that we have had since I was a little girl. I have actually read my children’s book to him and he gave me a thumbs up and told me in Portuguese that it was good. I thought his reaction was sweet and heartwarming. This was not exactly the same as if I were to have shown my dad prior to his illness but I accept that. Our family loves him and are fiercely protective of him. I will continue watching out for him and I will continue to fight to ensure that each day he is met with the dignity and respect he deserves. His legacy will persevere. I will make sure of that.

If you are interested in purchasing any of my work, you can always check out my Amazon Author Page here. (click on the orange link).

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My novella, A Wynter’s Tale, is also now available as an audiobook and is featured on Amazon, Audible, and iTunes! If you are interested, you can order my audiobook here. (Click on the orange link above for the audiobook!)

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Thank you very much to everyone who has already purchased my work in the past. Please make sure to leave a review and let me know what you think of my work! I appreciate you all always coming back and returning to read my blogs and to visit me on social media. I am continuously humbled and honored to have you all be a part of The Moonlit Goddess tribe!