Professor Lynda Dexheimer
Basic Composition: 44
4 October 2018
An Emotional Journey Back Home
Nostalgia is a term that is often confused or misused by a lot people. The true meaning of “nostalgia” can be best described as “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.” But does that mean any memory from the past can technically be considered nostalgic? The answer is no because it can not be nostalgic if it is not connected to an actual memory. American author Chuck Klosterman describes nostalgia in his article, “Nostalgia on Repeat”, as a mostly negative literary connotation. With many of his personal anecdotes and life connections, Klosterman explains his view on nostalgia through pop music and art. Many people see nostalgia as an issue but Klosterman looks beyond the problem. He looks to find what is “real” nostalgia and what is the mistaken aspect of nostalgia. As we all may know, nostalgic memories often come from one’s past life. This can entail situations, experiences, people, or emotions that were felt at any point in the past. Maya Angelou is an American poet, teacher, and civil rights activist who wrote, “Choices”, which was an essay on the Civil Rights Movement. In her essay, Angelou explains experiences of African Americans in the south during the Civil Rights Movement. She explains “African Americans are moving back to the south to reclaim their home place” (Angelou 147). The south was once thought to be as a prison restraining African Americans from their freedom. But in the recent years, African Americans are finding their ways back down south to the land they really love. One can say that this might be seen as something that is happening unintentionally. However, the other side of the argument is that African Americans moving back down south as a rationale of nostalgia. Klosterman’s perspective on nostalgia is relative to Angelou’s essay discussing the emotions and experiences of African Americans when she talks about the desire and reasons to move back south.
One way that Chuck Klosterman explains his version of nostalgia is by looking at the past and thinking that anyone’s past is still important to them even though it is behind them. Klosterman explains this by writing, “When we appreciate things from our past, we’re latently arguing that those things are still important- and if those things are important, we can pretend our own life is equally important, because those are the things that compromise our past” (Klosterman). Klosterman is saying that the past matters and can not be forgotten. No matter from how long ago a memory or thought might be, it defines us for who we are. The past cannot be changed but the future is yet in our power. We have control over our future and we can go in any direction we want. Maya Angelou explains that the history of African Americans is still important to them for various reasons. With the values and traditions of their culture, African Americans are even willing to return back South to seek out their old lives. Their hope is to go back to their native South. The South is still an important place to the culture and lives of African Americans. In the same way that Klosterman argued about the importance of our past, African Americans are reconsidering the importance of their history also. Angelou claims, “With liberation comes choice. One of America’s worst race riots occurred in Atlanta, in 1906, yet today it is home to many African Americans who choose to live there happily” (Angelou 147). With more opportunities now available to African Americans than before, they are choosing to live in the land that they once fled. Taken together, these texts raise interesting points about emotion and memory and how they affect decisions made by African Americans.
Slavery sparked an enormous controversy in the United States with many fleeing to find new life in the north. The Civil Rights movement brought change for the south which made it a more livable place for African Americans. The South it is still important to them because that is where their family generations began. That is where they built their communities and that is where they want to remain living. Angelou’s description of the African American’s emotional memories falls into the context of Klosterman’s nostalgia. Klosterman exemplifies his views by describing the experiences of African Americans as, “Looking at something that actively reminds you of your past and you are reimagining the conditions and circumstances surrounding that image” (Klosterman). In the eyes of Klosterman, African Americans are still holding close feelings and connections to the South. They are feeling more than just memories. They feel comfort like no other, like the south is their true home. Angelou emphasises on that point by stating, “Wherever home is, the closer one gets to it, the more one relaxes… You can almost spot your house… You start to breathe differently” (Angelou 148). Angelou is explaining that the home of African Americans can be anywhere but in particular, the south. They feel more comfortable and peaceful, as one should when coming home. It is a different feeling of life for these African Americans that are traveling back south to their long awaited homeland. African Americans living in the North that may not be able to move south, they often send their children to their grandparents to keep the values and traditions the rich southern culture has to offer. Angelou explains her reason by stating, “they sent them to be looked after, I believe, because of the Northern disappointment” (Angelou 149). African American families want their children to have complete knowledge of their history and origin. Klosterman’s belief for a strong personal history is explained, “People enjoy remembering things, and particularly things that happened within their own lifetime. Remembering creates meaning” (Klosterman). African Americans are understanding the meaning of the south through remembering the Civil Rights Movement. They feel a strong emotional connection rather than just a vacation getaway. They feel that is where their traditions started and that is where they should remain. Angelou quotes, “The South is rich with memories of kindness and courage and cowardice and brutality. It is beautiful physically, and spiritually rich” (Angelou 149). African Americans want to remember these memories, good or bad. The true meaning of the south to African Americans will not be remembered by the mistreatment they received, but by the culture they brought. Nostalgia plays a key role in the African Americans desire to return south because they are truly emotional about their homeland and the need to return is like no other. They are actively reminded that this is where their past generations fought for freedom and liberty. The south is an active battleground of many memories. But the most important memory to any African American is a thought of the real “home”.
Chuck Klosterman and Maya Angelou are two outstanding authors with different stories. Angelou’s explanation of the connection between African Americans and the South poses questions about why African Americans seek the need to return South. Klosterman’s valid point of how nostalgia is connected to the memories of emotional and personal experiences is a solution to Angelou’s claims held by many African Americans. When comparing these two texts, we see a connection of nostalgia between the African Americans and the South. Despite the racism and lack of opportunity in the south during the Civil Rights Movement, today’s African Americans have found rich characteristics of the south and can proudly again call it their home.