Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Race in Caucasia

I read the article "What is Race, Anyway?" It talked about how interracial marriages have quadrupled in the last 20 years. The article was written in 1994, so there probably has been an even greater increase since then. It is because of this that many people have a hard time deciding which race to select on surveys.

This would definitely hold true for Birdie. She started out as a child, and did not really notice a difference between her and Cole. Throughout interactions with other people, she gradually realizes people view her and Cole differently. An example of this would be when they went to school. The other students made fun of Birdie for having lighter skin, while they accepted Cole because she was more black. Only after Cole sticks up for her does Birdie start getting any respect. After Cole and her father leave for Brazil, and Birdie and her mom flee, Birdie gradually starts becoming more white. She goes back and forth between being black or white, often questioning her past. She gradually decides that she is black. They settle in New Hampshire in a mostly white town. Birdie begins to drift away from her mother when she meets Jim. She becomes friends with Mona, and tries to become more of a white girl, even laughing at jokes degrading black people. When she sees Samantha, she thinks of Cole, and it kind of opened her eyes again. The family then goes to New York, where Birdie starts dancing along to rap music and defends the black teenagers who threw a rock at the car. She feels like an outsider to the white people around her, wants to get away, and eventually runs away.

Clearly, race is not just as simple as skin color. Many people would have considered Birdie "white," but she felt black. This brings up the question why do we even need these categories? The article suggested two ideas for the categories. First, they are there to protect groups harmed in the past. Once the groups are more even, the categories can be removed. Another idea is that the categories will disappear overtime when interracial marriage becomes as common as same-race marriages.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Beginning of Caucasia

I was a little surprised on how much their family grew apart in the first part of the book. The family wasn't perfect to start off, they had their share of fights, but I thought they would remain closer. We can tell from the book that this is a very controversial time period, where I thought they might have put more effort to try to keep the family together. It is probably because of this time period that the family does end up coming apart. The parents start arguing even more than usual, and Deck eventually leaves because he is sick of all of the visitors the mom has over. As the girls keep visiting him, he eventually starts paying attention to Cole only. He can barely look at Birdie when he is trying to talk to Cole. Deck also gets a girlfriend, Carmen, who pays all of her attention to Cole just as he does. Finally, Deck, Carmen, and Cole head to Brazil; leaving Birdie alone with her mom. They change their identities to Jesse and Sheila, and flee town. After four years they still have not met up with Cole and Deck. They travel around for a while, but finally stop for a while in New Hampshire.

One question that I had was what did the mom actually do? We were never actually really told but there are some possible clues. She held secret meetings in the basement every week, and one night a van full of duffel bags was unloaded into the basement. They probably contained guns and other weapons, which suggests violence. The mom ran out of money and had to borrow from their grandmother, whom she really dislikes. They feel like they are constantly being watched by the FBI, had to run away from home, and change their identities. Birdie is never allowed to discuss the basement or FBI, which supports they are somehow related and whatever happened was probably not something good.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


The character Dezi in “Speaking in Tongues” seemed like a good guy to start. He saw Tia sitting alone in McDonald’s and left money to pay for her meal. Dezi figured out that Tia had no where to go, and offered her a place to stay and fix her wound she got after sleeping in an unlocked car the night before. When they arrived at the apartment, he handed out money to all of the little kids harassing him.

After a while, Dezi’s charm began to wear off and we found out his true motives for being nice. The whole time Dezi was just trying to get Tia to become one of his prostitutes. He had told Tia she was beautiful to try to lure her to his apartment. When he gave money to the kids he was probably just paying them to keep their mouths shut about his true intentions. Tia almost left once, but was easily lured back with roses. When they returned home after that, Dezi tried to rape her.

I think Dezi’s behavior was a regular routine for him. He preyed on desperate girls like Tia who had just run away from home and had no money. Dezi offered her a place to stay, and it was hard to turn down. His eventual goal was to make her work as one of his prostitutes. Other clues that this was a routine were that he told her that he liked to take care of girls like her. The kids said that Dezi had a new woman when he first brought Tia home. Also, the prostitutes were willing to help Tia get out probably because Dezi had did the same trick to them, and they were trying to stop it from happening again.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Another Event With Two Versions

One of the questions from the readings on Dresden was to think of another historical event that had two competing versions to it. After thinking for a little bit, the French and Indian war popped into my head, probably because we just wrote a DBQ about it in AP U.S. last week.

For those of you who don’t know what the war was about, it was fought in the mid-18th Century between Britain with its colonies and France. There isn’t much debate over what really happened in the battles, but there was a major difference between Britain and the colonies after they had beaten France. The British believed the war had been fought to protect the colonies and they therefore should help pay for some of the war. The colonies believed the war had been fought over the British gaining control of beaver trading in the Ohio River valley. They didn’t think they should pay for the war because Britain was going to make money off of it. Britain began to tax the colonies, and eventually the difference in opinion led to the colonies separating from Britain.

I know that Dresden and the French and Indian war happened 200 years apart and involved some other countries and places, but I did see some similarities between the two. Rebecca Grant and John Black argued about the intentions of Britain in bombing Dresden. Rebecca said Britain had bombed Dresden to disrupt communication and help Russian forces in the West. Black said Britain bombed Dresden to show their power and get more in the post-war treaty. He stated that they even made sure not to destroy the oil tanks that they owned in Dresden. Britain trying to make money is what made me think how the different versions of Dresden and the French and Indian war can relate to each other.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

First Thoughts of Slaughterhouse Five

I didn’t like the first chapter of Slaughterhouse Five where it was random stories of Vonnegut’s life. I think it was more like an autobiography. The book got better in the second chapter when we were introduced to Billy. It was kind of interesting how Billy was larger than Weary, but he let himself get pushed around. He even laughed when Weary was trying to beat him up. Billy had many unfortunate events happen in his life. He started as an optometrist but was later drafted into the army. After he lands in Germany, he gets stuck behind enemy lines without any gear. Billy then returns home and marries a woman and also has children. In 1968 he is in a plane crash and his wife dies while he is recovering.
I noticed that the motif time kept appearing throughout the chapters. The events in Billy’s life are all scattered throughout time. His experience with the aliens teaches him how time is not that important. People can’t ever die; they just “appear” to die. They are only in a “bad condition at that particular moment.” They are still going to be alive in the past.
Billy’s experience with the aliens and death also brings up another reoccurring motif in the book, “So it goes.” Vonnegut includes this term after each time a death is mentioned. Some examples were when Billy's father died in a hunting accident, when Billy is the only survivor of the plane crash, and when Billy's wife died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Lessons of Metamorphosis

The Metamorphosis could be seen as allegorical. There are many ideas that the book could be a metaphor for. One metaphor that I thought was important was not taking anything in life for granted. At the start of the story Gregor is so involved in his work that he doesn’t enjoy having other activities in his life. When he can’t work anymore, Gregor doesn’t have much of anything to do and hides under the couch most of the day. His family also kind of took having Gregor for granted. They grew accustomed to having his money available. When this wasn’t available anymore, they had to all go out and get jobs. They could no longer just sit at home and do whatever they wanted, such as reading the paper. Gregor also became useless to them, so they lost interest in interacting with him.
There are also many other texts that could be connected to this story. I saw a connection between this story and the book the Hatchet. In the Hatchet, Brian is left all alone on an island after a plane crash. He doesn’t have many supplies, anything to do, or people to talk to. This kind of reminded me of Metamorphosis because Gregor is left all by himself in his room. He tries to reach out to other members of his family but they don’t want anything to do with him. One difference between the two stories is that Brian is eventually found in the end while Gregor ends up dying.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Start of Metamorphosis

After reading the first chapter of the story I was kind of skeptical. It is highly unlikely that anyone would wake up one morning, find they had changed into a bug, and have almost no reaction. Gregor's biggest worry that morning was that he would be late for work. I don't think a manager would personally come to your house if you were an hour late for work. It is also odd that he is still living at home and supporting the whole family by himself.

One word that seemed to resonate to me was "torture." From the very beginning, Gregor woke up changed from a human into a bug. It took him a long time just to try to get out of bed. He was like a baby who has to learn how to do everything from the start. Gregor had to learn how to walk and talk again. Even though he could understand himself when he talked, his family was unable to understand him. Being unable to communicate with others would seem like torture to me. Also, Gregor exerts a tremendous amount of effort in trying to turn the key with his mouth to open the door, and then his father wrestles him right back into the room. This again would seem like torture to me.