“Slice of Pie” A Connection to Celia Toro

Cristina Henriquez wrote a touching novel called, The Book of Unknown Americans, which details the aspirations of many characters who came to the United States. Celia Toro is one character for which, after reading, I realized I had an understanding on a deeper level. Although Celia had her family with her, she reminded me of an instance when I knew someone who did not and had to fight to make a good life for herself and her children, whom she had to leave. Through my experience as a young child, I had a real life “Celia” whom was my dad’s former girlfriend. I experienced her determination to make her life and everyone around her better, much like Celia Toro, and witnessed her struggle to make her children’s life better.

In one instance, Celia Toro from page 67, was doing her best to provide a touch of the “American Pie” for her friends and family when she served the weekly sandwiches using a sophisticated way of presentation. This connected with me through my experience as a teenager because my dad’s former girlfriend was much the same way because she would always have a new desert waiting for our “family” to enjoy, which she also connected to the “good life”. A weekend was never complete, in her eyes, without her famous deserts and weekly trips to shop for her ideal of “class”.

My dad’s former girlfriend’s ideal of class was different from what I would think to be the definition. She would not only shop for expensive groceries to enjoy, but also purchase a different candle each time she went shopping. She had explained at one time that providing deserts and having a new candle every week was her way of reminding herself that life was better, and she was secure financially. Without those weekly trips, she would become saddened and fearful that her time of security would soon come to an end.

My dad’s former girlfriend also had children she had left behind, which made living without them a challenge financially. Every week my dad would give her money to send overseas to her children because they were very poor and depended upon my family for survival. Each time I grew out of clothing, it would also be sent to her children for them to wear. I experienced the pain my dad’s girlfriend had suffered and the joy of her life being with us, as well. Celia and my dad’s former girlfriend were much alike in that they each tried to live for others, which is something that should be treasured by those they touched.

Reading about and experiencing their struggles, makes me thankful for my blessings.

The Giver- Population Control

People across the nation experience hunger, in which there is little relief.  Some families hold the belief that the more children born, the less work they must do individually.  This may seem like a good idea, but the available food resources keep declining with each birth.  At this point, a need for food management becomes a crucial concern.  A way some countries do this is through population control. Just as in the real world, population control is a central theme of the novel by Lois Lowry, The Giver.  The community has a specific order in which a Twelve enters adulthood training.  However, if a person does not achieve the “assignment”, a release is conducted to control the population.  Population control is not a “foreign” concept, although in this case, it correlates to the foreign country China. 

As does The Giver, China regulates its population through restrictions on birth.  The Giver, allows one boy and one girl to be given to complete a family unit under the advisement of The Giver to prevent starvation from becoming a problem.  According to National Geographic, China’s one -child policy has been in effect since 1979 with drastic consequences for those who did not adhere it.  Families could be fined, face sterilization or abortion.   From 2013-2016, 12 million couples could apply for a second child, however, only 12% of the eligible applied leaving, China in a desperate need to rebuild its population. According to National Geographic, given the choice to have more children, most families decided to limit themselves to one or not have any children because the economic and social issues to succeed were heavy.

However, within the novel, The Giver, the community regulates its workforce through assignments at the age called a Twelve. By doing this, the community guarantees its workforce for the future.  Unlike The Giver, according to National Geographic, China’s one-child policy is the cause of concern for the community.  A decline in births means the future labor force is threatened.  By even having two births per family unit by 2016, laborers would not be available until the 2030’s to 2040’s replace the aging population in the work arena.  This effects not only China, but the rest of the world. Within Lowry’s novel, a suggested world may seem smart to some people, but is the world in need of such a strict regulation?

According to National Geographic, one-fourth of the population will be 65 and older by the year 2100.

I ask, do you think a limit of births should be placed on all countries to prevent hunger?  Why or why not?

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/11/151113-datapoints-china-one-child-policy/

The Hate U Give: Fault Lines

Police brutality is a very controversial topic which many people tend to side one way or another.  The novel, The Hate U Give, depicted a police officer shooting an unarmed man and the struggle to seek justice for the innocent victim, Khalil.  However, I see this more of a depiction of how the media responded very poorly to the situation.  Just because Khalil was from an “undesirable” location that was full of gang activity, the media automatically assumed he was part of it as well.  There is a problem when the media takes it upon themselves to react without having the whole, truthful story.  The way I see it, everyone deserves a chance to have their story told in a situation such as this.  Whether Khalil came from a bad neighborhood or not, it should not reflect the definition of who he was as a human being.  Many people are surrounded by “undesirable” circumstances, but it does not define them as a person.  The media was very much at fault for dehumanizing who he was and not seeking the truth.  The media’s focus was ratings, nothing else.  Whatever fueled people to pay attention to their coverage was the most important aspect of their job, shamefully.  This may mean skirting the facts or totally disregarding the truth to get people to respond in their favor.  Ratings! Ratings! Ratings! 

Another fault I see is Starr should have had help dealing with her emotions, which she did not.  She had already witnessed two of her friends being shot, one from the age of ten and then, Khalil as a teenager. She should not have to go through her life trying to overcome her emotions on her own.  Sure, it was a regular occurrence of people getting shot due to the gang activity, but it does not change the fact that Starr needed counseling.  To grow up having gone through such a tragic loss at a young age, made her face emotions no one child should have to deal with on their own.  Khalil’s murder added to her pain for which she still had no counseling.   Her parents knew she was a witness to a drive-by shooting when she was ten and did not get her counseling, or so it was not seen to have occurred.  That, in itself, was a poor move as a parent.  However, she then was a witness of another friend’s death and still no counseling was made available for her!  Why wasn’t counseling automatically part of her daily life?  Why does it matter if gang violence was a regular occurrence, she should still get counseling!  Isn’t a parent’s job to protect their children??  I believe her parents wanted her to have a good life, but her emotional needs were discounted in a major way.  Do you think her parents were wrong in not getting her counseling from a young age, or do you think her environment, in their eyes, prepared her for what was to come?

A Theme of Desperation

A look into Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones

Desperation is a theme that I discovered had a profound appearance throughout the novel, Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones, by Micah Dean Hicks.  The theme of desperation played an important roll in the work because it showed that it does not have a bias and if one is to give in to the desperation, only bad can come of it.  Even though all the characters were different in their own way, each character seemed to have been connected through varying levels of desperation.  Each character was embedded into a reality which they wanted to escape whether human, pig, or ghost.  That desperation found ways of being manifested, such as Jane’s mother not being able to be loved, but she wanted love so badly that she hurt the ones she loved with a burning touch.  Desperation also acted in ways that may seem healthy, when it wasn’t , such as Henry creating an alternate universe where he was the hero, when in reality his actions were the problem. Although the ghosts in the novel inhabited the human’s body and had no base in reality, the ghosts were also desperate to regain a semblance of their past lives or disappear into nothingness.   Desperation has a way of taking over a person’s life and totally consuming them.  Desperation acts as a ghost in someone’s life that cannot be escaped, thus it is the controlling factor of many decisions a person makes.  Desperation haunts a person until they can either find an escape or become so overwhelmed with it, that as a person, they lose themselves and withdraw into their own nothingness.  Just as the novel displayed, desperation can have good intentions or bad.  It is up to the individual to decide if he or she want to be controlled, or rather enslaved to the desperation…or break free from it. 

BREAK the BODIES, HAUNT the BONES

Many people in society have become entangled with directing their inner hatred of others into a physical reality.  No one person can voice their opinion without fear of being lashed out against in the public’s eye.  Micah Dean Hicks’ novel, Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones, is a very telling piece of literature which makes readers painfully aware of the suffering one may experience when society is determined to carry out horrific actions.  According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations, there were 8,437 hate crime offenses reported in 2017, with a steady rise.  Out of that total, 4,832 were based on race and ethnicity, with 48.8 percent being motivated by African American bias.  The novel, Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones, showcased an African American family who were never truly accepted in the town of Swine Hill, so they were easily subjected to hate crimes because of their socialization with the pig people, who represented an “other” in the text.  

Just as Jane and her family were assaulted, others within the natural world must defend themselves against hate offenses. According to HuffPost, a young 20-year-old man named Deandre Harris was beaten in Charlottesville, Virginia with metal poles while attending a “Unite the Right Rally”, concerning the removal of a confederate statue on campus.   His attackers were 18-year-old Daniel Patrick Borden and 33-year-old Alex Michael Ramos.  The beating took place in the parking lot and resulted in a broken wrist, chipped tooth, and the young man had to get staples to close the wound on his head.   Mr. Deandre, the victim, had a difference of opinion that segregated him from his attackers.  This coincided to the bathroom scene when Henry had his nose sliced while on school property for going against the town and befriending the enemy, the hog people. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, hate offenses such as this, directed at individuals, make up 78.3 percent of all hate crimes.  Even in a crowd of people, neither Deandre nor Henry were safe.

The novel also opened historical implements of remembrance of the Ku Klux Klan’s actions against African Americans that are still seen today.  At the same rally, an imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, Richard Wilson Preston, purposely shot at an African American male and missed.  His charge… shooting a gun within 1,000 feet of a school, nothing else!  Why didn’t the charge fit the crime of attempted murder??   This rage was also seen in the townspeople of Swine Hill who had a burning hatred within them that was multiplied by the ghosts that inhabited them.  Not only were the ghosts feeding their desire for blood, the townspeople had a pact mentality that replicated  the Ku Klux Klan who represented their confederate dead by wearing white costumes and  were merciless in the hunt for their “other”.  Jane and Henry’s family experienced terror inflicted by the townspeople in many ways from vandalism, Henry’s attack, and the family had to run for their lives during a mob attack. According to the FBI, 27.6 percent of people who are victims of hate crimes had their property vandalized and 11.7 percent account for aggravated assault. Sadly, many hate crimes go unreported, so therefore, the reality of the extent of hate crimes is not recognized.

Arkansas has been one of a few states without a hate crime law, however this year, 2019, one is being introduced.

Do you think if more states would adopt a hate crime law that it would affect a person’s actions against those he or she consider an “other”?  Why or why not?

https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime/2017/tables/table-12.xls

When the Moon Was Ours: Sharp Edges of a Rose

Each person has a way of trying to escape their own inner pain, but does running from that pain really make it go away…no.

Coming from a place of experiencing my own pain and wanting to use that knowledge to guide others through theirs by becoming a counselor, I noticed a lot of inner turmoil was experienced by all the characters within the writings of Anna McLemore’s , When the Moon Was Ours.  
 However, the pain that spoke to me the most came from Miel, herself.   

Miel first began as a scared young girl who came to be part of a community through a mysterious event when she fell out of the water tower in front of the townspeople.  She, herself, did not know what had happened and at that moment her life had become a mystery, even to herself.  She was a normal little girl except she had the ability to grow roses from her wrist, making her unsure and scared of her own self.  Each time she tried to communicate that pain, she was unable to do so.  She not only was running from others, but in fact, she was running from her true self.  She wanted to be a normal girl, but that was not who she was, she was special and although she did not feel what she had to offer was beautiful, others wanted a piece of what she had.

Miel fought to find her inner truth from the very beginning.  Each time she saw her friend Sam, she had a wanting that she did not understand, her rose to his moon.  This was her best friend, but yet, an attraction was overwhelming and, in many ways, forbidden.  Each time she drew close to Sam, she pushed herself farther away.  The night she and Sam spent together haunted her, made her question their bond.  Each moment Miel was around Sam, she fought those hidden desires.  Her inner turmoil manifested physically each time a rose would shoot its way through her wrist.  She had pain deep within her that had to find a way to escape.  From the very beginning, she was taught the pain that came from the budding roses was evil, so she did not know the beauty of it.  Each time she and Sam argued, she was cut so deeply inside that her body needed a way to express it, so the sharp point of a newly, birthing rose tore through her skin, as her heart was being stretched in places she did not understand.    She had been encased in a glass coffin which brought to the surface fear of losing her life and represented how trapped she felt internally, not being able to escape the tragedy that she believed was her life.  The cuttings of the rose, each time Ivy called upon her, tore a piece of herself that she could never get back or repair. Little by little, she was dying inside with no way to escape.  Every time a rose was taken from her, the blood that seeped through the opening was her  body’s way of letting go and breaking free from the inner confining of her pain.  Who was she, was she loved by her parents, and most painfully, did she deserve love from anyone?  Sam was her place of safety, but what did it really mean? 

           
 It was not until Miel faced her pain that the rose bloomed, the glass coffin shattered, and she was free…free…free.

 

Did “Speak” speak to You??

Painting by David Maculso 1

Victims of rape often get shamed into believing that what happened to them is in some way their fault by the clothes they wore or some other idiotic reason.  The fact is no one deserves to be raped or is to blame for it happening to them.  People need to quit blaming the victim and excusing the rapist, as if he was justified in doing so.  Many rape victims do not report when they were raped because of fear they will not be believed.  The novel, “Speak”, written by Laurie Anderson, demonstrated what a teen named Melinda Sordino had to live through during her freshman year after being raped.  Melinda struggled internally, as well as externally, as many rape victims do.  

            Just as Melinda in the story was scared, she would not be believed by her friends or her parents, 31% of teen sexual abuse is not reported due to the trauma one would experience if not believed, according to the Center for Disease Control.  Melinda was a ninth grader on the cusp of discovering herself in a new world.  She had friends and then one night her world completely collapsed.  She was raped and like many teenagers, she held all the pain inside until like the tree, as indicated in the story, she began to wither away. 

             A rapist can commit this vulgar act and only get a 128-day average sentence, according to the Center for Disease Control.  According to CNN, Brock Turner, a former Stanford swimmer was only given 6 months for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. Judge Aaron Persky stated, “Turner’s age and lack of criminal history made him feel that imposing a six-month jail sentence with probation was appropriate”. The father exclaimed in a letter it was “20 minutes of action”. That “20 minutes of action” left a woman discarded like trash behind a dumpster. The victim had to “fight” to be heard by the judge because his concern centered around protecting the star athlete. People were outraged at this decision and tried getting the judge removed from the bench, but the law was on his side. Why should any female or male have to defend themselves when the rapist is at fault? Many teens hide themselves from the world by ostracizing themselves from friends, turning to harmful substances, or committing bodily harm, such as Melinda did with cutting. Why should Melinda have to worry about not being believed?  Why should the victim have to hide due to their shame when the perpetrator is running free, enjoying his or her life?  Maybe no one wants to admit there is a real problem because then someone would have to do something about itYoung men and women need to be educated on the dangerous situations that one can be placed in, such as the party Melinda became victimized.  There needs to be made a clear understanding of what rape is and is not!  If a male or female are given anything to inhibit their ability to think clearly, then it is not consensual, it is rape, according to the Center for Disease Control. 

            Melinda also had parents who did not make her feel safe because they did not have a close relationship.  Instead of wandering what was wrong, what caused her to change, her parents were angry with her because her grades slipped, and she was not attending class. Not one attempt was made to have a loving conversation with her to find out why things had changed.  Instead of seeing the hurt she was facing, they only saw her as a problem, a disappointment.  Parents need to open their eyes when it comes to their children and be the comfort that is needed in troubling times.  This can only be done when a parent has a loving relationship and sees the change in their child. 

Maybe characters like Melinda can “speak” to readers and from there the occurrence of teen rape can become history.