Posts

Text Review: Little Fires Everywhere

Little fires everywhere by Celeste NG

 

  Little fires everywhere by Celeste Ng is a novel and now a television series which contrasts the lives of the Richardsons, a “traditional” affluent white family, with the Warrens, who just ended up in the wealthy town after a life of moving and living paycheck to paycheck. The novel explores the concept of identity in terms of race, wealth, and altruism.

The Richardson family is connected with Mia and Peal warren in many aspects despite their contrast in identity. Mia Warren is a tenant of Elaina Richardson’s and serves as the Richardson housekeeper. Pearl becomes close friends with the Richardson children and even becomes romantically involved with one of the Richardson boys.

The complicated relationship between the two families leads to judgment and prejudice based on the clashing identities. The “on the move” lifestyle of Mia and Pearl Warren is seen as irresponsible and selfish in the eyes of Elaina Richardson and I find this to be a great example of the Richardson’s as one and the Warrens perceived as the other in her eyes. Yet, from the eyes of Pearl she truly respects her mother and the sacrifices she makes for the two to have a roof over their heads, until she meets the Richardson’s. Until Pearl experienced another life, she had never questioned the one that she was given.

The question of both family’s moral compass is at its peak when a family friend of the Richardson’s is going through the adoption process of an Asian baby after the mother, who is a coworker of Mia Warren’s, surrendered her child. The mother of the baby had gathered herself and her finances and wanted her baby back, however, the family that had been fostering the baby claim that their wealth and stability was a better fit for the baby. The birthmother and Mia Warren’s perspectives were that the baby would be better suited with the birthmother because the baby could embrace her culture and identity as an Asian American despite her unstable financials.

The combination of these examples of identity depicts Ng’s argument that identity is a complex concept and is not simply one’s culture or one’s status. In, fact identity is a combination of both of those things plus the decisions one makes. I think that the complexity of identity depicted in this novel is something that we had explored in our course in Persepolis, Interpreter of the Maladies, and The Leavers.

For those interested in this novel I would like to share that it is written in a way that engages the reader from the start and takes you through each character’s story in a way that allows the reader to explore their identities with them. To me the novel is a relevant and modern view on different classes of race, socioeconomic status, and immigration.

Freedom Writers

The movie I have chosen to review is Freedom Writers. This movie is based off of a true story, but within every movie there is a hint of exaggeration and false story lines to add interest. I remember watching this movie years ago when I was younger and it opened my eyes to things I did not know about. The story follows a new teacher at a school that consists mainly of Latino and African-American students that are also from lower income communities. This teacher dedicates her time and effort into trying to reach these students and teach them about discrimination and racism mainly using the Holocaust as their main lesson. Though the students did not accept Mrs. Gruwell as a teacher at first, they soon began to trust her and learn from her. The students realize how the Holocaust affected people and the world and they realized how much it means to value another person and not judge them based off of where they came from or even the color of their skin. They even got to talk to real Holocaust survivors and hear their stories firsthand.

I thought this movie was a good representation of things we learned in the beginning of class like knowing the whole story and not having a single story to things we have learned recently like cultural difference and diversity. These students didn’t understand what they were each going through until they opened up and shared. Their peers gained empathy for them and created a stronger bond. They also got to appreciate each other’s identities and cultures. I also see a connection between that class and the way our class is set up. We get to share our ideas and perspectives each week in a forum where we can all read it and agin insight. We may have realized that things are much bigger than ourselves.

1/26/99 – Freedom Writers group shot
Photo by David Waters/Press-Telegram

Text Review Assignment: Molly Freshman

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

If you’re looking for something riveting, touching, enlightening, and culturally aware all at the same time; Everything I Never Told You written by Celeste Ng is a perfect new read. Throughout this novel, Ng introduces the reader to a world of being the “outsider”, and how main character Lydia navigates her life balancing two different cultures. This story starts off at the end, where Lydia’s body is found in a nearby lake, but then goes into detail about everything that got her to that place. The police officers brush her disappearance off as being a miscommunication, a rebellious act from a normal teen; but it turns out to be something much more serious. Lydia is an Asian American girl, struggling with her self identity, her mother’s abandonment and her father’s infidelity. Her parents are unaware of just how badly she is struggling in school, the effects of being the only Asian in a small sheltered town, and looming family’s expectations for her. 

Throughout this course, we have covered a lot of material concerning the role of the “Other”, or being an outsider surrounded by a very established majority. One piece of writing that comes to mind is The Leavers by Lisa Ko. This story follows the life of a young Asian American male, who is forced to change his name in order to fit in with his adoptive parents and their American culture. He goes through much trial and tribulation in his life, and ends up losing the only friend that “looks like him” in his small town. This sends the boy into a panic, as it is already hard being the only Asian American in a majority white location, and he lost the only person that made him feel safe and accepted. Both characters, Deming and Lydia, face immeasurable hardships solely due to their ethnicity. Lydia is subject to family pressure, expectations of good grades and success when she is struggling just to make one friend in a town that looks nothing like her. When the police come to investigate Lydia’s disappearance, her friends can not list one name of someone they considered her “friend”. 

Both of these stories are centered around how difficult it is to be an outsider, a part of the “Other” group within the presence of a majority. The authors want to stress the additional pressure and stress that people of minority descent, or simply an ethnicity other than white feel on top of the regular stress any teenager would have to bear. There is no reason for their ostracization from society, other than their Asian descent, and this trait that they can not change determines so much about their life. Although they both happen to be Asian American, this applies to any outsider of a different ethnicity and inspires people to look at how they treat people as the “Other”.

Euphoria – Text Review Assignment – Cassie Mohr

Not many films or T.V. shows accurately depict the lives of teenagers. Entertainment that is supposed to be made for our age group often shies away from discussing real problems many of us experience. This is not the case with HBO’s Euphoria. 

Euphoria follows a group of high school juniors as they go through the trials and tribulations of everyday life. It mainly focuses on Rue, who has just returned from rehab following a drug overdose and is struggling with trying to stay clean. At a party, Rue meets a girl, Jules, who just moved into town and is immediately enamored with her. Through Rue, Jules, and the other characters, Euphoria deals with sensitive subject matters such as abusive relationships, teen pregnancy, sexuality, gender identity, underage pornography, drug abuse, and mental illness. Needless to say, this show openly explores topics that many teenagers experience but don’t see accurate depictions of in media because of their ‘taboo’ nature. 

Jules and Rue sitting at a lunch table.

Jules (left) and Rue (right) quickly become close friends in Euphoria. Source: HBO

Because of the intensity of its subject matters, Euphoria frequently deals with issues of identity, power, and injustice. In terms of identity, many of the characters are in the midst of understanding their sexual and gender identities. For example, Nate, an antagonistic and abusive football player, struggles with understanding his sexuality. He communicates this struggle through anger, getting violent when his girlfriend, Maddy, tries to talk to him about his feelings for men. He also develops a strange fixation on Jules, who is trans. Is he jealous of how Jules is confident in her identity while he feels like he can’t be? Through characters like Nate, Euphoria shows the pressure that can come from attempting to discern one’s own identity.  

There is a lot of discussion of power dynamics and injustice within Euphoria. For example, when Maddy’s family presses charges against Nate for strangling her, he uses blackmail and coercion to create a false narrative of the night’s events and pins the crime on someone else, Tyler. Nate’s actions are relatable to Hegel’s ideas in his Master-Slave Dialectic. As identified by Hegel, the Master-Slave dynamic is based upon the master destroying the autonomy, not the lives, of the slave. Nate attempts to become the master of nearly everyone in his life. He uses blackmail against Jules and Tyler to get them to give statements exonerating Nate and criminalizing Tyler. Nate, in master fashion, does not outright destroy the lives of Jules and Tyler, but he does remove their autonomy through blackmail. Nate getting away with his abuse and being able to return to normalcy is also an example of an injustice. He gets rewarded for his violent and gross behavior and faces no real repercussions for causing extensive damage to others. 

Nate and Maddy argue at a carnival.

Nate (left) and Maddy (right) have a toxic relationship that affects not just their lives, but the lives of others as well. Source: HBO

We have talked about very difficult issues throughout this course. Euphoria is a fantastic show for my classmates that addresses issues of identity, injustice, and power in a way that is relatable to the many predicaments our generation often find themselves in. Concepts from this course, such as Hegel’s Master-Slave Dialectic, allow us to have a deeper understanding of the complexities addressed in Euphoria. I believe the minds behind this show want us to have a conversation about these ‘taboo’ issues and how they affect our lives. My classmates and I have discussed delicate topics at length and are able to view Euphoria with a more sophisticated and perceptive lens. 

 

Levinson, Sam, creator. Euphoria. HBO, 2019, https://www.hbo.com/euphoria.

Text Review Assignment: Attack on Titan

A manga named Attack on Titan written by Hajime Isayama has racism involved in the story. Attack on Titan is a manga where the main character, Eren, and his peers work together and try to defeat the titan which killed thousands of people including his mother. 

The racism inside the Attack On Titan has caused tons of deaths in the book. In the world of the book, there are two lands: Paradis Island and Marley land. Paradis Island is an island where people of Eldians live. Paradis island has walls that surround the residential area where people live so that humans will be protected from human-eating titans that live outside the walls. One day, the wall was broken by an enormous titan that appeared from nowhere all of the sudden. The fractured wall allowed the titans to enter the residential area causing many peoples to be eaten. 

Marley land is a land where the people of Marleyan and some Paradians live. In Marley land, the people of Paradians are looked down on and treated unfairly. Marley’s history claim that Paradians have once almost destroyed the world thus Paradians are called “children of devils.” Paradians are forced to live in an assigned district which is separated from the Marleyan community with a gate and guards. The marriage between Paradian and Marleyan is forbidden so that Paradian blood will not mix with Marleyan blood. One day, Marleyan government has ordered four Paradian children who have the power to turn into a titan to destroy the wall of Paradian island. 

Because Marleyan believes people that live on Paradis island are children of the devil and should be vanished, they chose to destroy the wall of Paradis. The fractured wall allowed titans to enter and many people lost their lives. The people that live on Paradis island were living their normal life and had nothing to do with what their ancestors did hundreds of years ago that lead people to call them “children of the devil.” It is very unfair that people on the island were slaughtered with no explanation and no reason just because of their ethnicity. 

In this class, we have read a lot of reading regarding racism. Every racism in those writings is very unfair and it should not happen to anyone. In Attack on Titan, Paradians are considered as Others thus they receive unfair treatment.

The cover of the first volume.

 

Sources

“Attack on Titan.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 2 Dec. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attack_on_Titan.

Isayama, Hajime. Attack on Titan. Kodansha Comics, 2009.

 

Text Review Assignment: The Karate Kid (2010 film)

Karate kid ver2.jpg

The Karate Kid, also known as The Kung Fu Dream in China, is a 2010 film that stars Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan in lead roles. The story revolves around the 12-year-old Dre Parker’s(Jaden Smith) encounter with the Chinese culture. Moving from Detroit, Michigan to Beijing, China with his mother, Dre experiences a series of culture shock and is often bullied and discriminated by a group of Chinese students led by Cheng. As Dre is surrounded by a completely foreign culture, he misses his home in Detroit and wants to leave Beijing. At the same time, Dre meets Mr. Han(Jackie Chan), an aging maintenance guy who turns out to be a Kung Fu master. Mr. Han witnesses the discrimination and struggles Dre goes through and decides to teach him Kung Fu in order for Dre to protect himself and make peace with the bullies. As Dre spends more time with Mr. Han, he gradually discovers the beauty of the Chinese culture and is getting used to his life in China. After a long period of seemingly tedious training, Dre eventually defeats Cheng at a Kung Fu tournament and earns the respect he deserves.

Roger Pratt BSC / The Karate Kid - British Cinematographer

When Dre first arrives in Beijing, he is considerably the only African-American in his school and the neighborhood, making his identity interesting for many Chinese people who have never been in contact with foreign cultures. As people in China sometimes ask Dre whether they can touch his braids, Dre is treated like an outsider with most people looking at him differently. Similarly, Dre used to see China as nothing more but an old and ancient country. But after spending time in Beijing, he is impressed by what he sees and ends up dropping his stereotypes of China. Dre’s first encounter with the Chinese culture really reminds me of the concept of “One” and “Other” as the two sides both view each other as the “Other”. Such Othering avoids the people in China from getting to know Dre’s background and his stories and prevents Dre from truly understanding and embracing the Chinese culture.

The Karate Kid 2010 Wide Screen Images | Karate kid, Karate kid 2010, Karate

One of the scenes in The Karate Kid that impresses me the most is when Mr. Han tells Dre that “You only think with your eyes, so you are easy to fool.” This somehow aligns with Adichie’s The Danger of a Single Story as both the film and the speech tend to encourage the audience to see the whole picture before making judgement, or in other words, to understand the whole story before looking at things with bias. As we often times tend to judge something foreign only based upon our assumptions, the lack of adequate understanding fosters bias and stereotypes. And such bias would eventually lead to marginalization, discrimination, and systemic injustices. As Dre ends up making peace with the bullies which resemble the ideas of power and social injustice and earning the respect from those who once see him as an outsider, The Karate Kid depicts the collision of the two entirely different cultures and encourages its audience to embrace cultural differences by becoming more inclusive and respectful of others.

Images:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Karate_kid_ver2.jpg

https://static01.nyt.com/images/2010/06/11/movies/11karatespan-1/KARATE-articleLarge.jpg?quality=75&auto=webp&disable=upscale

https://britishcinematographer.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/DF-11458_cp.jpg

 

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – Text Review Assignment

The Hate U Give

Angie Thomas

 

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is a novel that follows the life of Starr Carter, who witnesses a fatal shooting involving her friend Khalil, who was unarmed, and a police officer.  The news of Khalil’s death was heard across the nation as headlines plastered with his name hit every news station. Starr is put into the position where she is the only person able to speak out about what she witnessed the night Khalil was murdered. Starr, being the living witness to the crime, is asked to testify against One-Fifteen, the officer that killed Khalil, at his trial. Throughout the book, Starr progresses from mourning her friend to being an advocate against police brutality and a symbol at the protests that engulfed her hometown of Garden Heights. A major scene of injustice is when officer One-Fifteen fires his gun at Khalil. Following a party, Khalil offers Starr a ride back home, but on their ride back home, Khalil is pulled over for failure to use signals. After resisting getting out of the car, the officer forces Khalil to get out and for Starr to stop recording the incident. When the officer leaves to run Khalil’s identification, he reaches inside the car to check on Starr. When checking on Starr, Khalil reaches for his comb and this is when the officer fatally shoots Khalil. One-Fifteen claims he mistook the comb for a gun upon realizing the shot he took killed an unarmed man. Injustice is portrayed through Khalil’s death. People and news stations begin to paint Khalil as a drug dealer and thug, which plays into racial stereotypes where people assume that a Black person killed by a police officer was, in some way, a criminal in order to justify the wrongdoing of the officer.

Khalil and Starr, picture from the film: The Hate U Give

 

 

The Hate U Give connects to the idea of a “single story” presented by Chimamanda Adichie. Starr being asked to testify before a grand jury is one way the legal system is used to prevent a single story. Without Starr’s testimony, officer One-Fifteen would be the only one to describe the events that lead to Khalil’s death. Having only One-Fifteen’s word for the events of the night may lead him to leave out certain details that may incriminate himself, but Starr’s testimony would allow for a more balanced view of the night. Additionally, the single-story impacted the nation’s perception of Khalil. News stories painting him as a drug dealer hurt the case that Khalil was murdered at the hands of an officer of the law and helps to “justify” why One-Fifteen can kill an unarmed human being. Starr, frustrated with claims of him being a drug dealer, states “that’s how they see him. It doesn’t matter what he’s suspected of doing it. ‘Drug dealer’ is louder than ‘suspected’ will ever be,” (Thomas 113). The authors wanted the reader to understand how labeling people out of suspicion is harmful and often does not take into account the other aspects of one’s life.

 

Thomas, A. (2017). The hate u give (First edition). Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers.

Text Review: The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner - Wikipedia

Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner is a novel set primarily in Kabul, Afghanistan that follows a series of significant events in the life of the narrator and main character, Amir. In Afghanistan, Amir grows up in a wealthy, well-respected family who has two servants– Ali and his son, Hassan. Hassan and Ali are ethnic minorities referred to as Hazaras, and therefore are treated as second-class citizens in Afghanistan. As young children, Amir and Hassan are best friends and spend a lot of time together, but over time, society warps Amir’s perception of Hassan up to the point that Amir hides and watches Hassan get raped by a group of racist town bullies. Their relationship is forever altered, and Amir is filled with such guilt that he frames Hassan for stealing money in order to get him out of his life. Through all of this, Hassan submits and never resists due to his status as a Hazara and loyalty to Amir’s family. Later on in the story, Afghanistan’s government is taken over by the radical Taliban, causing Amir and his father to flee to America. As a grown adult with a wife of his own, Amir learns that Hassan and his wife were murdered by the Taliban in Afghanistan and sets out to save and adopt their son.

All in all, this novel serves to show the power and privilege injustices between ethnicities in Afghanistan. Hassan and Ali are probably the most genuine and benevolent characters in the novel, yet live poor, disrespected, and defenseless due too their ethnicity. Hassan is looked down upon, bullied, raped, and eventually killed, while Amir (who was loved dearly by Hassan) acts as if Hassan is inferior and ultimately completely betrays him. Amir’s privilege allows him to lie as a child and escape the dangers of Afghanistan as a young adult, something Hassan is not able to do. As it relates to this course, there is a clear One-Other dynamic in Afghanistan that treats the Hazara minority as the inferior “slave” in the master-slave relationship. There is also a connection between this novel and Persepolis, as the lives of the characters in each of stories are dramatically altered by a revolution resulting in the reign of Islamic fundamentalism. I think overall, Hosseini wants the readers to consider prejudices they carry in their own lives that are built around silly, outdated stereotypes and societal standards. He also wants the reader to avoid living with the guilt of their past discrimination; instead, he wants them to do their best to right their wrongs and the make the world a better place– just as Amir attempts to do in the end of the novel by adopting Hassan’s son.

Text Review Assignment: When They See Us

When They See Us is a 2019 limited series on Netflix that addresses the well-known 1989 case of The Central Park Five. This case is about five males who were falsely accused of attacking and raping a woman in Central Park. The teens involved in this case were Korey Wise, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Antron McCray, and Yusuf Salaam and they were known as The Central Park Five. These five boys were arrested and convicted and spent from six to more than thirteen years in prison on the basis of tapes with confessions. These tapes were created by the police where they forced the boys to lie and confess against each other with no real evidence. This show walks us through the events that took place right before their arrest until they were released from prison. They were released from prison only when a man named Matias Reyes confessed to the crimes later in 2002. Through each boy and their families, we can see the horror and the stress that they go through on a daily basis trying to prove that they were innocent.

The Central Park Five and the actors from “When They See Us”.

This show addresses many of the concepts that we have discussed in class, starting with power. Through each boy, we are shown how there is power to control their thoughts, fears, what they would say, and what would eventually happen to them. This power that the people within the legal system have is what put these boys in prison with no evidence against them. We are able to see how the police forced each of them to lie against the other boys and they had complete control over what the public felt and how they viewed this case. With this power, they have the ability to destroy lives and they take advantage of that.

Systemic inequality and injustices within the legal system are two concepts that this show tackles. It shows us how the legal system targets innocent people of color and how they are constantly being convicted of crimes they never committed. Major topics like systemic injustice and inequality and power were shown through each of their perspectives which raises a lot of questions. The creators of this show want us to question the legal system, they want us to fight and create a system that brings more justice to its citizens. One thing that Yusuf Salaam says which I think summarizes our justice system is, “The criminal justice system says that you’re innocent until proven guilty. But if you’re black or brown, you are guilty and have to prove yourself innocent” (Salaam). This statement really shows the difference between a white person and a person of color going through the legal system. With all of their lawyers, they never could prove their innocence until the attacker came forward. Proving your innocence to a whole system that only views you as a danger to society because of your race really exposes the systemic injustice and inequality that we have seen in our country for decades.

Sources:

When They See Us. (2020, November 26). Retrieved December 03, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/When_They_See_Us

Harris, A. (2019, May 30). The Central Park Five: ‘We Were Just Baby Boys’. Retrieved December 03, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/30/arts/television/when-they-see-us.html

Text Review: The Great Gatsby

Over the course of the year, we have talked about how race, identity, and social class all affect injustice in society. I believe that The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald asks and considers many of these same questions, causing it to leave a remarkable and lasting effect on our culture.

This story is about a young man named Jay Gatsby, who throws extravagant parties every night in New York. Turns out, Gatsby is still in love with a woman named Daisy after dating her 5 years ago. Back then, he couldn’t marry Daisy because of his lower social class compared to her aristocratic wealth; however, after years of bootlegging alcohol during the prohibition, Gatsby returns with enormous wealth in order to win back Daisy. And while this initially goes according to Gatsby’s plan, Daisy’s selfishness is revealed when she hits and kills a person with a car, which Gatsby takes the blame for while Daisy and Tom retreat to their money and mansions.

This book brings up many questions of injustice through its rich story. For one, Daisy and Tom continuously get away with their immorality through the use of money. Even something as grave as killing another person is brushed off as they happily let Gatsby take the fall. Additionally, ideas about othering are also explored. Daisy and Tom both condemn Gatsby’s history of bootlegging alcohol, yet throws massive parties with the aforementioned alcohol. They see Gatsby as an Other, as an imposter of their aristocratic way of life because of his poor background.

As such, this work challenges beliefs about the influence of wealth and social class. Even though Gatsby is the epitome of the idea of the “self-made American,” he is still doomed by the society he tried so hard to join. Through the novel, I think Fitzgerald was trying to ask questions about how we see ourselves, and how we see what we want. Gatsby’s idealization of himself and Daisy was never a reality. Because of this, the injustice concerning the shallow ways Daisy and Tom treat others, which are prevalent throughout the book, is never solved.

Works Cited:

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. Hueber, 2004.