Monday, January 28, 2008

Vol. 2 / Choosing the Right Title for Your Book


Most might feel the need to write their book before deciding on a title. But it may be better to decide on at least a tentative title to help you, the writer, stay focused on the subject matter. A title can be changed at any time prior to publication.

If you self-publish your book, you must create a title yourself. If you are published through a traditional book publisher, they may help you choose one. But with traditional publishing houses, the final say-so of title choice will rest on them. Either way you publish, you should have a title reserved in advance.

Your title will decide whether your book sells or not. Your title should be directly related to your books subject. It should be “catchy” but subject related. For instance, if your book is about your dog spot, a title such as, “Spot on the Rug,” might make your reader believe your book’s about carpet cleaning. So make your title obvious to what the book is about.

Titles should be not more than 4 to 7 words and use your sub-title to explain what your book will include.


A sub-title is not required with a book, but if you have one, it should tell the reader more about what the book is about. For example, the book titled, “A Book Inside,” has the sub-title of, “A simple guide to writing, publishing, and selling your story” making it clear what information is included in the book. A sub-title can be as many as ten words, offering a good amount of information about the book.

After you’ve decided on a title and sub-title, research the name to be sure the title has not been previously published. There are several ways to accomplish this, including searching through Yahoo or Google search engines, Books in Print, or, or all three. Registering and adding your title to Books in Print will ensure the title now belongs to you.

There are about 195,000 new titles published in the U.S. each year. That’s not say all those books are selling. Seventy-five percent of new releases are self-published and sell an average of 200 copies. Knowing where the book market is strongest can help you write the book that will beat the odds; that begins with choosing the right title for your book.


Suggested online reading;

6 Keys to Choosing Your Book Title
Search Amazon for Book Titles

CLICK HERE to request this FREE ezine twice monthly!

Ezine Author:
Carol Denbow
Author, Are You Ready to Be Your Own Boss? (2006 Plain & Simple Books, LLC)
Stress Relief for the Working Stiff (summer 2008 Publish America)
A Book Inside, Writing, publishing, and selling your story
(summer 2008 Plain & Simple Books, LLC))

Please visit our websites at:
Plain & Simple Books
Support the Arts
Author’s Den
Oregon Authors
Signed Copies
Author’s Den of Oregon

More Sites of Interest:
Writer 2 Writer
Aptly Spoken
The Art of Pete Bauer

Your related website listed here (Bookstores welcome)! Send your information to Links Request

Interested in contributing to our ezine? Please send your comments, stories, requests, and questions to Contact

Copyright © January 2008 by Plain & Simple Books, LLC
All rights reserved. The text of this publication, or any part thereof, may not be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the publisher.
We are always happy to share the information provided in our ezine as long as credits are included. For reprint permission please e-mail Reprints

Soekarno vs Soeharto : My Dad

When my dearest Dad was still alive, I was not very close to him. He was a kind of old-fashioned parent who probably thought that he didn’t need to be close to the children, to make the children respect him. No wonder, as far as I remember, I never had a chance to talk heart to heart to him.
In the beginning of 1980s, after my family moved to our present dwelling place, I found a small book containing the story of Soekarno. I didn’t have any idea who bought it. But of course it must have been either my Mom or Dad who did it. For days after I found that book (I don’t remember the title), I made myself preoccupied to read the book. Reading the book made me know how great Soekarno, the first president of Indonesia, was. With several women falling in love with him and becoming his wives, I was thinking if I would fall in love with him too if I got to know him personally. :-p
In the general election 1984, the first election I joined, my Dad seemed worried that I would vote PDI. “Nana seemed to enjoy reading that book about Soekarno,’ he said to my Mom. “Tell her not to vote PDI. I don’t like Soekarno for his being polygamous. Not to vote Golkar either. We are Muslims. We are supposed to choose a political party that represents Islam, that is PPP.” He further said.
When my Mom told me what my Dad said, I complained, “My choice is my own choice, right? I am supposed to keep it for myself, aren’t I?” I showed my being rebellious.
“But don’t forget you are your Dad’s kid. He feeds you. You are to listen to what he says!” my Mom showed her authoritarian look.
Behind it, in fact I felt very surprised. My Dad used to work for state-owned bank, (used to be called Bank Pembangunan Indonesia). As a civil servant, he was to vote Golkar, if he wanted to go on working there. How could he not vote Golkar?
But my Mom told me that was my Dad. I never knew his political vision. He frankly told my Mom that he didn’t like the first nor the second president of Indonesia. As a very religious person, I believe he mixed his worldly life with his religion. Everything done must be based on religion. Abusing religion for someone’s worldly life seemed illogical to his opinion, perhaps. (Like we often see from many politicians nowadays.) He strongly believed that religion would really save someone’s life.
After I grew up, and I could see clearly many people abused religion for their own benefit, and especially after claiming myself as a feminist, sometimes I want to have a heart to heart discussion with my Dad. I want him to see me as an adult—no longer kid. Something impossible to happen though. :)
(For example, when I was in senior high school, the New Order regime produced a movie about 30 September 1965 bloody event, to promote the heroic struggle of Soeharto to “save Indonesia from Communist”. All students, civil servants, as well as their spouses had to watch the movie in the cinema. I was very bothered with what I saw in the movie at that time. I easily “got led” by the main theme of the movie: DN Aidit with his allies under the Communist Party was the cruelest group of people. On the contrary, Soeharto was the hero. When I told my Dad about this opinion of mine, he easily said, “Don’t get cheated easily. The reality was not like that.” However when I asked him to explain what really happened, using his point of view, he didn’t say anything. He said that I was still too young to “know everything”.
I have a very different relationship with Angie. I often have heart to heart discussion with her, about anything. Besides, I also often treat her as an adult when discussing something.)
What I remember from my late Dad was that he was not the supporter of both Soekarno and Soeharto. However, since we never had a deep discussion, I never know his reason.
PT56 13.13 280108

Soeharto passed away

On Sunday 27 January 2008 around 13.15 Angie and I entered a food stall selling chicken noodle and meatballs somewhere on Jalan Suyudono Semarang, not far from my dwelling place. Before both of us sat down, a child around five years old entered the food stall, running while yelling, “Soeharto tutup usia …. Soeharto tutup usia…”
He must have referred to Soeharto the second president of Indonesia who had been ailing now and again since he stepped down of the presidency on May 21, 1998. But still I was a bit surprised to hear that.
“Soeharto, our ex president?” I mumbled, meaning to talk to Angie.
She shrugged her shoulders, showing disinterest.
Meanwhile, the seller, a man around in his mid thirties, didn’t show any shock or surprise. He smiled widely, somewhat laughed, saying, “Entar malem melek-melek nih?” (“We will stay awake tonight?”)
An adult man in the food stall showed his doubt with that news, so he quickly went out of the stall, entering a small house behind the stall, where there was a television set in the living room. I could see it clearly from where I was sitting.
The seller said again, jokingly, “Perlu layat ga nih?” (“Will we go visit to show condolence?”) without showing any mournful expression on his face.
Since I had poor eyesight, I couldn’t see clearly what I saw on the television set from my seat. Still almost disbelieved in what I heard, I told Angie, “Honey, please watch that television and sharpen your ears, is it right what that little child said? Soeharto, the ex president passed away? Eventually?”
Angie seemed astonished to hear me saying so. “Don’t you think that he will die anyway, Mama? He has been ailing for some time, right?”
“I know he will die anyway, honey. But I also always thought that he would still be alive for some more time, to protect his children. You know what I mean? People say that Indonesian government will not really daringly do any legal action towards his family as long as he is still alive. And he had sort of power, in my opinion, that he would protect his offspring.” I explained.
“He has passed away now Mama.” Shortly Angie commented.
“Yes, he has. And I will be waiting for what will happen to our beloved country after this. I sometimes think that you are luckier than me living in an era where you can ‘undergo’ to have different presidents. Since I was born, until more than 31 years afterward, there was only one president, Soeharto. When I was attending school, until I graduated, I only underwent under one president to rule this country.”
Angie smiled widely to hear that.
After we finished eating our meal, hurriedly Angie and I dropped by at our ex dwelling place, not far from the food stall. Once in a while we visit this house since no one lives there anymore.
After Angie turned on the television set, I watched clearly the report given by many television stations about the death of Soeharto, making me talk to myself, “He has really gone now. At last …”
Monday 28 January 2008 in the fitness center, after doing aerobics for about 50 minutes around 08.30am, I did some more exercise in the fitness area. There was one television set there. You can guess it showed the process of Soeharto’s burial. However, nobody there but me seemed interested in what was shown on television.
“Apparently, the grass root people don’t find it a big event.” I talked to myself.
I looked at the sky which was cloudy. The weather seemed mourning but not all people showed the same thing.
Although listening to some songs from my MP, I still tried to listen to the television, while doing some exercise there. However, not long after that, someone talked to the clerk of the fitness center, “Mbak, please play some songs, house music, to accompany us to do exercise.”
It was complete then. Nobody seemed interested in watching the television. The sound from it couldn’t be heard either.
Although some television stations aired programs showing so many people mourned Soeharto’s death, from what I saw in my surrounding, no one seemed to care about it.
Anyway, all human beings will drift away to the following kind of life. No one can avoid it.
PT56 12.40 280108

P.S.: My workmates felt intimidated by the programs related to Soeharto all the time for these past two days, 27-28 January 2008. And they also said, "Why were we forced to raise the flag? Why were we forced to show that we were mourning while in fact we are not?" LOL.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Feminism: a western culture? (2)

When I was in the elementary school, the second half of 1970s, I used to find many girls getting married after graduating from elementary school. Don’t imagine that they were around 11 or 12 years old when graduating though. For some reasons, many went to school at a later age (not around 6 or 7 years), so that it was possible they were already 15 years old or older than that when graduating from elementary school. In that decade, especially in the environment where I lived, it was common for girls around 15 to get married.
I was lucky because my parents didn’t just adopt such a “culture” so that they didn’t think of marrying me to anybody after graduating from elementary school. They let me continue my study to junior high school. And as a rebel, I didn’t continue to Muhammadiyah school, I chose a state school instead. It means I did not conform to the “culture” in my family. I went to a state senior high school too.
In a narrow sense, in that decade, it was a culture for women to get married before reaching 18 years old. (According to Children’s Convention, anybody who is under 18 years old is still considered a child that needs to be protected by the parents, society, as well as the country.) Women stopped getting a higher education after elementary school was also a culture at that time.
However, the condition is not really as “bad” as like that nowadays, although there are still same cases similar to that. Mentioning this, I want to remind my blog readers that to say culture is something dead, moreover culture is created by God, instead of constructed by society, is absolutely mistaken. Nothing doesn’t change, wise people say.
Referring to my previous post, “Feminism: a western culture?” in this writing, I want to give another simple example to counter people’s accusation that feminism was just a movement from the west that was not suitable for the easterners. It is right that the term ‘feminism’ was coined for the first time in 1891 in America (Bauer, 1998:33). However, the most important thing is that the struggle behind this term—feminism. To me, feminism is to give women freedom to choose what they want to do in their lives, without any limitation only because they were born with breasts and vagina plus womb.
Not only women in the west can make decision for their lives; women in the east can do that too. Women are also human beings, as men who have enjoyed their being superior for centuries. It does not mean that I want women to be superior though. LOL. Equality is more beautiful.
In my own life, by claiming myself as a feminist (though it is not really important), I want to emphasize that I adore making decisions for myself.
Please stop abusing the term ‘culture’ only to keep the status quo of the patriarchal society.
PT56 13.45 220108

Monday, January 21, 2008

Feminism : a western culture?

“Feminism is western lifestyle. Therefore, as eastern people, we are not to follow it because it is not our culture. It can be added too that feminism is against Islamic teachings. Consequently, as eastern Muslim, we are forbidden to give green light to feminism to “intrude” our way of life.”

How often have you read such a statement? Or probably, how often have you stated such a doubt about feminism?
To counter such a doubt (I just got such an accusation at my blog at in this writing, first of all I’d like to cite the definition of culture I took from “World Book 2005” (the digital version).

“Culture is a term used by social scientists for a way of life. … People are not born with any knowledge of a culture. They generally learn a culture by growing up in a particular society. … Therefore, one of its characteristics is that culture is acquired through learning, not through biological inheritance. Children take on the culture in which they are raised through enculturation.“

Hundred thousands years ago, our ancestors moved from one place to another place. They could move from the east to the west, or on the way around, from the west to the east. They would bring their habits (read => culture) wherever they would go. When the era of ‘nomad’ ended (this started especially after women invented agriculture), they would develop their culture in their respective place, based on their way of thinking. Different places absolutely would create different ‘culture’.
Meanwhile, gender bias has been on men’s minds since immemorial time. The “invention” of some celestial religions would strengthen it since those religions were “invented” by men. Therefore, no matter whether one culture was developed in the east or in the west, apparently those cultures had one similarity, the marginalization of women.
Perhaps you still remember the glory of Islamic nations with their ‘cultures’ many centuries ago. Muslim scientists invented many things. However, the fight among three Abrahamic faiths (to win “the prize” as the most righteous religion) made those nations left behind. I assume that it was due to the unnecessary fight. Therefore, when the western nations progressed with their sciences, way of thinking, advanced inventions, etc, the eastern nations were even in the dark age.
Related to that, it is very understandable when women in the west started to question why they were marginalized first while women in the east were still ‘dumb’. However, to say that feminism ideology is ‘western’ and that it is not appropriate for the eastern women, with reason that it is not our culture is very shallow.
Started with the first women summit in Seneca Falls in 1848, American women (read  western women) began struggling for equality. The printing machine and publishing companies obviously were more developed there rather than, in Indonesia let’s say, in that era. Although those women were attacked by the cult of true womanhood (where one of its tenet was that women were not allowed to write because writing was men’s sphere), they still produced writings to protest.
In Indonesia, around the same era, very few women got their chance to get education. It is understandable then if they could not pour out their protest in a form of writings. However, we have one very good example of it, R.A. Kartini with her letters to her Dutch friends. She protested why she could not continue her study to a higher level. She also questioned why her fellow women citizens were not allowed to get education at all. I believe many other women also questioned similar things, only their protests were not recorded appropriately.
It is also underestimating to say that women in the east are not supposed to follow the struggle for equality. In other words, it can be said that those women cannot perceive the unequal treatment they get from the society, using ‘culture’ as the tool. (e.g. by saying “feminism ideology is just not eastern culture.”)
At the beginning of its ‘birth’, we know that feminism was proposed by white, middle class women so that it did not really represent the whole women in all nations. Therefore, to accommodate this lack, more kinds of feminisms appeared, where one of them is multicultural feminism. Their emergence apparently has made feminism ideology something down to earth, something very common in women’s lives for women living in the developing countries.
Culture is often used as a scapegoat to refuse a new thing. It is ‘abused’ in a form that human being is not a free creature to use their awareness to value something. As I have cited above, culture is acquired through learning. There is no wrong when someone has different way of thinking, or different value as long as they do not harm the society. They have different ways to view culture through their learning, using their common sense, and not just passively follow what the crowd considers as ‘culture’.
To end this writing, whether feminism ideology is western or eastern ‘culture’, it is no longer important. The more important thing is that using our common sense and awareness to view a piece of culture is appropriate for our lives or not. Afterwards, respect other people’s values in the hope that they will respect our values too.
PT56 13.35 210108

Not Knowing ...

I sometimes think that not knowing something is better than knowing. Or, not knowing makes someone’s life more peaceful.

In Javanese culture, in general, and in Central Java (or Semarang) in particular, people suggest that when someone is hospitalized, he or she is to leave the hospital (after getting cured) NOT on Saturday. Why? Javanese people believe that when someone leaves the hospital on Saturday, he or she is “doomed” to be back to the hospital, to be hospitalized again not long after that.

Although my family don’t have Javanese blood in our bodies, we somewhat believe in that so-called “myth”. It is easily understood because we have been living in Java for decades. Therefore, when my youngest sister was hospitalized last December (from the Christmas’ eve until the New Year’s eve), and the doctor let her go home on Saturday (December 29), my family chose to bring her home on Sunday December 30. (Un)fortunately, on that Saturday morning December 29, her temperature increased again and she got chilled terribly. This made the doctor ask us to let her stay in the hospital longer. We ourselves didn’t dare to bring her home.

Two days after that, Monday December 31 she seemed much better. She also started to feel bored of the situation in the hospital while her elder sisters felt exhausted attending her days and nights. My younger sister proposed an idea to bring the youngest home. Around 1pm when the doctor came to check her condition, I asked him that possibility. To our heart’s relief, he let us to bring her home.

Meanwhile, at the administration office, I met a guy who paid his sister’s expense. He was so in a hurry that he didn’t wait for the hospital to give him the computerized receipt. He simply said that he would come back afterwards to take the receipt and the change. (He didn’t live far from the hospital.) When asked by one of the nurses, he said, “We want to bring her home as soon as possible since tomorrow is Tuesday. We’ve got to do it before 4pm.” While giving you-know-what-I-mean look toward the nurse as well as to bewildered me.

I was dumbfounded. I didn’t ask him to explain what he meant. My being wise guy made me draw a conclusion—or a rhetorical question—whether the Javanese also treat Tuesday the same as Saturday as a “bad day” to go home from the hospital. Since that out of the blue made me uneasy, I called my mom (I was at the hospital attending my youngest sister together with Angie at that time) to pick us up before 4pm. ((NOTE: although it was still Monday, Javanese people believe that after 4pm, it could be considered to “have entered” or “to be counted” Tuesday already.)

(FYI, we left the hospital after 4pm because of some things. I didn’t tell my family about my “new finding” that Tuesday is not a good day to leave the hospital, not different from Saturday.)


Friday January 11 my youngest sister’s temperature increased again.

Sunday January 13, her body was very weak and the temperature was still high although we already took her to one doctor whose house was close to our dwelling place. The medicine that particular doctor gave didn’t work at all to decrease her temperature. Consequently, we decided to take her to the (same) hospital again. She had to be hospitalized due to dengue fever. Two weeks before, it was due to typhoid.

My mom commented, “We’ve avoided bringing home from the hospital on Saturday before this. However God “destined” that she had to be hospitalized again, what can we do? This is obviously out of our power.”

I kept quiet. I remembered the guy giving me you-know-what-I-mean look to explain why he brought her sister home in a hurry around two weeks before. This made me think that I had better not hear such a “rubbish myth” than I made myself sound so ridiculous and silly.

(I wrote this on January 18, 2008. My youngest sister was let go home on the day believed as the best day for Muslims. Since the doctor came to check her condition early, around 10.30—compared to the previous doctor who was responsible to treat her last December—I could ask my Mom to pick us up before 12, to make sure that it was STILL FRIDAY.

PT56 21.00 180108

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Vol. 1 / Welcome! Who Can Write A Book?

A Book Inside
Volume 1

Click here to request this FREE ezine every month!

Who Are We?
Plain & Simple Books, LLC is a small publishing house started by author Carol Denbow in 2005 in an attempt to self-publish her first book, Are You Ready to Be Your Own Boss? The plan was not only a publishing success for Denbow, but the company grew to represent and assist several other authors in promoting and selling their books. Today, after being twice self-published, and once traditionally published, Denbow shares her experience freely with new and upcoming authors from around the country.

Welcome to the first volume of our free monthly ezine. This and future newsletters will help you develop your writing skills while assisting you through the process of composing your book and selling your story. Expert contributors will share with you their writing and publishing knowledge and help you stay on the right track throughout. Our goal is to offer easy-to-comprehend information to the subscriber. If you would like to unsubscribe, click here and write “unsubscribe” in the message box, then send.

Who Can Write a Book?
Is there a book inside you? 81 percent of Americans say yes. With so many people having the desire to see their story in print, why does only a small percentage pick up the pen and write? Maybe it’s because writing and publishing a book seems like such an immeasurable task. But with proper direction, all writers have the ability to see their story in book form. A Book Inside monthly newsletter will guide you through the process of writing and formatting your story, the pros and cons of all types of publishing and how to go about the process, and show you the best and most unique ways to sell your book.
You’re not alone in this venture, there are about 195,000 new titles published in the U.S. each year-is yours next?

What to Write?
Do you have an expertise which may benefit others? Has your imagination run wild with thrilling mysteries others may enjoy reading about? Or do you simply have a story to tell? If you feel there is a book inside you, the first step to turning your idea into a book is of course, writing it.
First and foremost, write what you know. With experience comes knowledge, and you will enjoy writing more when you are familiar with your subject. Later, when you are promoting your book, you will need to be very familiar with the information included to be comfortable discussing your book with potential buyers and others.
When you choose your book, the subject matters. Check your resources (library or internet) to make sure the book market is not already saturated with similar books. It’s always good to look for a niche, something new that hasn’t been previously published or puts a new twist on a subject. Make yourself familiar with researching the library or internet; you will be spending many hours there, especially if your choice is to write non-fiction.
Avoid a book idea which requires the reader to make notes in the book. Libraries and some booksellers prefer not to carry books which include several work sheet pages because they lose value once written in.

Who’s Your Audience?
Before you decide exactly what to write, figure out who will be buying and reading your book. If you are writing a family history, for instance, your audience may be limited to your friends and family members, and book sales won’t be a concern to you. But if your plan is to sell your book and make profit, you need to research the market to determine what your audience will want to buy. People buy non-fiction books to learn about something; they purchase fiction books for the pleasure of reading. Consider non-fiction for your first book, they’re easier to write and considerably more non-fiction books are published than fiction. In fact, non-fiction generally outsells fiction by two to one.
Half of all books sold in 2006 were sold to people over age 45. Women buy 68 percent of all books sold, so it might be wise to consider targeting your book idea to include a more mature and primarily female audience as well.[1] The highest percentages of books sold were mass market paperbacks and college text books.
The following are statistics on what age groups purchase which type of books. Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,001 adults, aged 18 and older.[2]

The top three for ages 18-29 were:

· 72% - Biographies or books about history
· 60% - Self-improvement books
· 58% - Thriller or suspense novels
For ages 30 – 49:
· 72% - Biographies or books about history
· 60% - Religion and theology
· 60% - Self-improvement books
For ages 50 – 64:
· 74% - Biographies or books about history
· 60% - Self-improvement books
· 59% - Current literary fiction
For ages 65 and over:
· 76% - Biographies and books about history
· 58% - Religion and theology
· 53% - Current events books and mystery novels

The balance of genre choices in the poll included business management and leadership books, classic literature, horror novels, personal finance books, science fiction and romance novels. All rated between 7 and 48 percent. For a complete list visit

How Do I Put it All Together?

Slow down and take writing one step at a time. It may seem like an impossible journey right now, but over time, and following the right cycle of things, you will eventually see your book in print. Stay subscribed to this newsletter and follow the suggested path. Each month, we’ll take you one step closer to your dream. But for now…

January Suggested reading:
Website Author:

Carol Denbow
Author, Are You Ready to Be Your Own Boss? (2006 Plain & Simple Books, LLC)
Stress Relief for the Working Stiff (summer 2008 Publish America)
A Book Inside, Writing, publishing, and selling your story
(summer 2008 Plain & Simple Books, LLC))

Please visit our websites at:
Plain & Simple Books
Support the Arts
Author’s Den
Oregon Authors
Signed Copies
Author’s Den of Oregon
More Sites of Interest:
Aptly Spoken

Your related website listed here! Send your information to

Interested in contributing to our ezine? Please send your comments, stories, requests, and questions to

Copyright © January 2008 by Plain & Simple Books, LLC
All rights reserved. The text of this publication, or any part thereof, may not be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the publisher.
We are always happy to share the information provided in our ezine as long as credits are included. For reprint permission please e-mail

[1] Lou Aronica, Publishers Weekly, March 22, 1999
[2] Gallop Poll, Do Reading Tastes Age?, February 4, 2003

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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Women: The Oppressed & The Oppressor

Several weeks ago, a workmate of mine told me about a neighbor of hers who was treated very unfairly by his mother. The mother has four children. She treated her husband (or ex husband, I am somewhat not clear, but they lived in different houses) very selfishly. My workmate’s neighbor who was not treated well by his mother would be scolded very poignantly by the mother if he went to the father’s house to “look for an ally” to “face” the selfish mother.
When telling me about this case, my workmate said, “I don’t understand how a woman can be such a cruel person. She didn’t treat her husband well. She forbade her children to be close to the father while she herself didn’t treat the children fairly. She really didn’t represent “woman’s face” who, in the patriarchal culture, was usually the oppressed. Instead of being the oppressed, she herself was the oppressor. How could such a thing happen?”
To comment my workmate’s rhetorical question, I said that we could not really generalize things that happen around us. There must have been a very crucial thing that happened to that woman so that she acted like that. It could be the way she was raised by her parents, or the “lesson” she herself “deducted” from her life experience, or any other things.
“Was she a kind of woman that feminist movement wanted to ‘shape’, very contradictory from the stereotypes of women in the patriarchal culture: submissive, weak, feminine, vulnerable, etc? How could she know about feminist movement while in my opinion she was just a very common woman, not really educated?”
This was the following rhetorical question from my workmate.
I said that when feminist movement wanted to reach ‘equality’ between men and women, it was very different from what she illustrated as “women control men”. Instead of being the oppressed (men were the oppressor), feminist movement did not automatically mean women oppress men back. It was not ‘equality’; it was taking revenge.
How could such a woman exist in the patriarchal culture?
In Jurnal Perempuan number 54 with the main topic “Celebrating Women’s Diversity”, there is one main article that attracted me. It was entitled “’Batu Permata Milik Ayahanda’: Dongeng Tradisional Indonesia” (“’Father’s precious stone’: Indonesian Traditional Fairy Tales”) written by Riris K. Toha-Sarumpaet, a professor of children’s literature from University of Indonesia. The article was the result of Riris’ research on many fairy tales in Indonesia.
In short, there are two categories of women in those fairy tales: the oppressed, and the oppressor. The oppressed women can be found in some fairy tales following Cinderella motive, such as “Putir Busu dan Bawi Sandah” from Dayak, one ethnic group located in Kalimantan, the biggest island in Indonesian archipelago. As an oppressor, people can take “Malin Kundang”—this tale illustrates how the son was cursed to be a stone by the mother. Besides teaching children to be obedient, this fairy tale also depicted a heartless mother who was not willing to forgive the only son. Fairy tales illustrating sibling rivalry—such as “Bawang Merah Bawang Putih”, women simply are contradicted to each other—the oppressor and the oppressed.
When reading or listening to fairy tales with two contradictory kinds of women, children probably internalize the stories into their sub-consciousness. Patriarchal culture—with the help of those fairy tales—cruelly shapes children’s way to view women. As a result, they can grow up without any choices but the two: being the oppressed or the oppressor.
Going back to the case of my workmate’s neighbor, his mother in fact is just another victim of the status quo of patriarchal culture.
PT56 12.45 080108

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Educational System in Indonesia

Monday afternoon December 24, 2007, I attended a class having a presentation time. There were five students to present their papers. However, I was attracted only to two of them. One student talked about “After graduating from senior high school, what’s next?” and the other one talked about “Deterioration of the educational system in Indonesia”. Both of them are high school students.
The first student. He mentioned three possibilities of what a person usually does:
1.Continuing their studies to a higher level education
2.Postponing their studies
Related to the second possibility, the presenter gave two reasons: There are two reasons for this: the first shocking reason (for me of course) is because someone wants to enjoy his/her life. I was wondering to find out that there were a group of people that want to “enjoy their life” after graduating from senior high school. They don’t want to directly continue studying perhaps because they are tired to study. They don’t want to face any responsibility they have to bear as students: studying, making assignments, doing examination, etc. They don’t want to work either because they are not ready yet to be responsible with their own life. Both studying and working need big responsibilities.
Life means responsibility. When we dare to live, we’ve got to dare the risk.
The second reason (very logical for me) is to save some money before continuing their study since they don’t have enough fund. Some unfortunate people cannot continue their study at once because their parents cannot afford the tuition.
For the third possibility, some people choose to work because perhaps they want to collect some money to continue their study, referring to the second possibility with the second reason. Some other people perhaps think that the diploma they get from senior high school is enough already for them to get a job with enough income for their life. Or sometimes the fact that people graduating from a higher level education do not get appropriate job so that they have to do jobs done by senior high school graduates probably makes people lazy to continue their study to college.
When I asked the presenter whether he did a research by distributing a questionnaire to find out how many percents senior high school graduates do the first, second, and third possibilities, I got a disappointing answer: he did not make that research. When I asked him the second possibility for the first reason—to enjoy life--, he mentioned his brothers and cousins did that. “They have money to directly continue their life, I assume. However, they choose to stay home and do their hobbies: such as being racer (an amateur one).”
“Will you do that later after graduating?” another teacher asked him.
“Maybe Ma’am,” was his disappointing answer. 
“Deterioration of the educational system in Indonesia” the second presenter meant was referring to the idea of the government to include six subjects in the national examination for senior high school students. For several years (I am sorry I don’t pay attention for how many years exactly), the third grade senior high school students had only three subjects tested in the national examination: English, Bahasa Indonesia, and Mathematics. They did the examination for three days. It meant they prepared only one subject for one day. While the new policy—six subjects to be tested—will comprise three days too. It means students have to prepare two subjects in one day. The presenter conveyed his doubt whether students would really have enough time to prepare it. When they don’t have enough time, it is doubted that they will not prepare it well. They will just ‘memorize’ the material to be tested without comprehending it thoroughly. Indonesia’s next generation’s quality will be decreasing.
To comment this topic, I remembered the time when I was at high school, more than twenty years ago. Majoring in “Language”, I got five subjects to be tested in the national examination while my fellow students majoring in “Science” got also six or even seven subjects to be tested. We did that also in three/four days. Minimal score to pass one subject was 6 and WE DID NOT COMPLAIN for that.
The presenter got surprised to hear this and said, “Well, Ma’am, I believe at that time you didn’t get lots entertainment so that you could concentrate well. My generation gets lotsa tempting entertainment so that it is difficult for us to concentrate only on our study.”
“I am sorry to say but you HAVE TO set your first priority for your own future!” was my response.
Talking about the educational system in Indonesia that obliges students ONLY to memorize, and not really comprehend, it has been going on for several generations. I will take one example I experienced. When studying English grammar, I learned and memorized twelve kinds of tenses, from Simple Present Tense until Past Perfect Continuous Tense. I memorized the pattern very well, I could answer questions on tenses flawlessly when those tenses were given separately. However, when I needed to use it in the daily life, mixing many kinds of tenses at once, I did not really know which was which. Memorizing the theory was done perfectly. However, applying the theory in the real life meant something else.
Referring to what Bob Sadino said about the educational system in Indonesia, (in one seminar in one city in Indonesia), he said about the human resources in Indonesia who are smart, memorizing theories perfectly, unfortunately they do not get time to apply the theories. It means those brilliant human resources are not really ready to be used at workplaces. Worse, even the teachers also do not know how to apply the theories because what they master is only the theories but not the application. When the teachers do not know, how will they teach the students?
The deterioration of the educational system in Indonesia is not simply the policy of the government to give high school students more burden in the national examination. It is more thorough and complicated.
My comment for the two presenters: they needed to prepare the papers to be presented more seriously. Their topics were interesting enough but they did not make the papers well. This is also a sign showing that there is deterioration in the quality of the graduates in the English Course where I work. (FYI, since 2003 we have used new books with more up to date topics discussed.)
BWT 10.15 261207

The Death of the Author 2

I am not sure whether I would come to the same conclusion when writing my thesis if I had not used some theories I chose: Goldmann’s Genetic Structuralism, Feminist Literary Theory (referring to Susan Schibanoff’s READING AS A WOMAN), and psychoanalytical criticism proposed by Sigmund Freud. I used THE YELLOW WALLPAPER, a short story written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, as the mental evidence to do my research. I needed to know Gilman’s background—her familial as well as her intellectual ‘journey’; the social values adhered by the majority of Americans when the short story was written. This was the reason why Goldmann’s Genetic Structuralism was chosen. Schibanoff’s idea—reading as a woman—was picked up to emphasize that when reading THE YELLOW WALLPAPER using men’s point of view, although someone has used Genetic Structuralism, he/she could still come up with patriarchal result. For example, instead of blaming the husband for leading the unnamed narrator to the edge of insanity, he/she could share the same opinion with the husband that the narrator really needed to be “saved” from the nervous breakdown by staying away from writing. Freud’s psychoanalytical criticism was necessary to use to see the work as the manifestation of Gilman’s suppressed wish—to openly criticize Dr. S. Weir Mitchell for his wrong treatment toward nervous breakdown patients.
I don’t belong to the brilliant type of student so that maybe I wouldn’t be able to come to such a conclusion if I “killed” Gilman, let’s say by adopting Barthes’ theory “The Death of the Author”; moreover with the very strong religious indoctrination I got in my younger years believing in men’s superiority on women.
There was somewhat relief feeling in me when finding out that Ayu Utami did not really agree with Barthes’ theory “The Death of the Author”. Her main reason was she was often invited abroad to “explain” what she wanted to convey in her novel SAMAN, especially after it was translated to one foreign language. Besides she was considered ALIVE, so that it was important to listen to her explanation what her book was all about, Ayu also admitted that she did partly to promote her book, either to help the publishing company or for her own profit. 
Since I do not support Barthes’ theory, I myself also do expect that the readers of my writings (both in my blogs and in many personal emails I have sent to my loved ones or friends, as well as many comments I have written in some mailing lists I join) do not “kill” me; I hope that they read my writings exactly like what I want to convey.
However, I must realize that in fact this expectation of mine is sometimes somewhat “high” to reach by some people. I found out some people misread my writings and asked me something that made me dumbfounded, “How could they come to this conclusion?” I asked myself, feeling (a bit) unhappy.
I have been trying to find out why this happened. I asked myself some questions:
1.Have I written it thoroughly so that people will easily understand it?
2.Or on the way around, have I written it so little, expecting people can “guess” by themselves what is in fact I am talking about, without giving complete data? It sometimes happens, especially when I take for granted that the topic is widely known.
3.Or have I written it so “loudly” that people are just enchanted by the choice of words and the flow of my ideas but they do not really catch what I convey?
4.Do the readers read my writings thoroughly to understand them?
5.The last, and the most annoying question (YOU CAN JUST IGNORE IT! LOL.) is whether the readers have enough intellect to understand my writings. This probably happens as the result of the four questions above (I don’t write it thoroughly, I don’t give enough data, I write by giving too much redundancy or complicated choice of words and the sentence flow, plus the readers don’t have enough time to read my writings comprehensively).
Above all, I must GIVE IN that Barthes’ theory does exist so that the readers of my writings can “kill” me. Nevertheless, I assume if the two-way communication happens between the readers and me, this violent “killing” would not happen to me. 
PT56 22.11 231207