Beah, I. (2007). A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
A Long way gone is based on the true story of the author, Ishmael Beah, whom becomes a boy soldier at a very young age and was forced to be such. He becomes a boy soldier during the brutal times of the civil war in Sierra Leone. At the age of 12, Ishmael’s village is attacks by rebels and since he was away during the attack, he loses touch with his family. Since he was with a group of friends while he was away during the attack, he travels from village to village with his brother and his friends looking for shelter and food. They go day by day with what they find and what they could do together, but struggle to keep each other together and calm because of the loneliness that they begin to experience when they see no one of close by villages. During their traveling from village to village they experience things and do things that they never thought of doing but are obligated to do because they have no other choice. During his journey, he moves from village to village in which he has to move faster and faster because he feels that the rebels are right on his tail and he knows that if the rebels capture him, he will be killed. Eventually throughout Ishmael’s journey, he is captured by the army and becomes a killing machine, which he was afraid of because he is exposed to horrible violence. Throughout much of his journey, he loses his friends and brother through all confusion and he begins to see things differently with anger and revenge. He has a friend die in his arms because of being shot by the rebels, and having leave him behind was one of the hardest things he had to do. He gets a really bad image of the rebels in his head and he begins to hate them and think of revenge because of losing his family and friends. When he is joined into the army by force, he is brainwashed into believing that the rebels are killers that have no sympathy for anyone and that is why he lost his family and friends throughout the way. Not only does Ishmael, but other boy soldiers also get addicted to drugs such as cocaine, marijuana and ‘brown brown’, which were used to have courage to fight and helped them repress their emotions in times of war. Ismael and other boy soldiers have nightmares and other things happen to them while they are under the command of the army. One day, the army knew that they had to give up the boys to UNICEF. Ismael and other boy soldiers are taken to a rehabilitation center, where they intend to mend the past and focus on the future but is difficult with all the withdrawals that they are having because of the drugs. While at the rehabilitation center he meets a woman names Esther and he finds a type of forgiveness and he begins to understand what he has been through and tries to discover himself. He is reunited with other family members in Freetown, where he tries to find peace again. At the end of the novel he is invited along with other children with similar experiences, who have suffered and survived also.
Diaz, J. (1996). Drown. New York: Riverhead Books.
In the book Drown by author Junot Diaz is a collection of short stories, Diaz explores the struggle of Dominican Republic immigrants in the United States to achieve the American Dream. Each story is related, but is a separate vignette, each with its own title. The novel does not follow a traditional story arc but rather each story captures a moment in time. Drown is narrated by an educated adult, and set mostly in the 1980s, with much of the narrative occurring in the narrator’s childhood.
Yunior, the narrator, tells the story of his family’s immigration to the United States from the Dominican Republic. The story begins when Yunior and Rafa, his brother, are eight and twelve, and are sent to live with their uncle for the summer so their mother can work. Their father abandoned them when Yunior was 4 and their family lives in poverty, sometimes having to forgo food for clothes and other necessities. Their mother works long hours, sometimes fourteen-hour shifts, at a local chocolate factory while their grandfather watches them.
At 9-years-old, five years after Yunior’s father leaves, he returns from the United States to bring them back. They live in an apartment and establish a new community in New Jersey. Although they still live in poverty, they do not want for food or other basic necessities. The stories then jump forward many years to when Yunior is in high school and living with his mother. He works and helps pay the rent and other bills while she works as a housekeeper.
The last stories chronicle Yunior’s father’s experience as he tries to succeed in the United States. The father, Ramon, is ambitious and hardworking, but still struggles to provide for himself and his family. While he is away from the Dominican Republic, Ramon marries a U.S. Citizen, also from the Dominican Republic, in order to gain citizenship. He lives with her for many years and she bears him a son. Eventually, however, he leaves her and goes to reclaim his family that is still in the Dominican Republic. He leaves New York after getting a tip from a friend that a new apartment complex in New Jersey is looking for supers and is offering a salary and free rent. This is where he brings his family to live. The reality of Ramon’s situation, contrasted with his illustrious dreams of the United States, is stark.
In my opinion, the author is able to capture the crude reality as well as the raw awkwardness of adolescence in an engaging series of stories. Having been born and raised in the Dominican Republic myself I easily related to Junot's transition from there to America. The familiarity and uniqueness of each small detail from his early days in the "campo" to urban living were significant and outstanding to me. Yet Junot manages to keep the person most unfamiliar with any urban or foreign experience, or with Dominican slang for that matter, engaged and wanting more. I truly did not expect to find such whimsical and yet truthful documentation. Proving to be somewhat of a classic man-child’s unconventional memoir, Diaz has the power to make you chew the truth and savor it. This is a subtle celebration of manhood disguised as a collection of entertaining snippets in the life of a true hero for the multicultural fascination in America today; a celebration which is not frilly, nor pretty, but entertaining and fascinating. Who knew emotion could be expressed in poetic discretion.
Lewis, O. (2011). The children of Sanchez: Autobiography of a Mexican family. Vintage.
The Children of Sanchez by Oscar Lewis (1961) is structured around chapters that describe in ethnographic detail the lifestyle, values and customs of the different members of the Sanchez family. Lewis intention is to give the reader an inside view of family life and what it means to grow up in a one room home within a slum tenement situated in the heart of Mexico City. Yet while the author Oscar Lewis redefines anthropology as dramatic novel, at the same time he continues in perhaps the most important ideological mainstream of anthropological thought, giving a voice, and dignity, to the backward and poverty-stricken peoples of the non-white world. An incomplete summary of the history of the discipline will serve to place Lewis' work in perspective.
The Children of Sanchez sets off several factors from most other anthropological writings in the field. Most obviously, its form. Lewis presents a multiple autobiography of Jesus Sanchez and four of his children. The Sanchez family are urban slum-dwellers. They are not all literate, but are very well-spoken, indicating perhaps that Lewis' technique could not be constructive applied to a culture with a limited vocabulary and a limited range of experience. Manual, despite his peripatetic ""marital"" career, has some sense of responsibility about occasionally earning a few pesos; Roberto is completely amoral, his thieveries start in his own home- and eventually land him, recurrently, in jail; Consuelo and Marta have their men, their babies, their loves and hates and quarrels and sniping at each other and the succession of other women that their father and brothers bring home. Therefore, the literary structure Lewis presents is a three-act drama (novel?) (Each act covering the same time period) with four scenes per act (the story of that period as told by the four children), and a prologue and epilogue in the words of the father.
The author‘s concept didn’t “blame the victim.” Instead, it involved recognizing that poverty doesn’t entail simply not having enough money, but also often entails the necessity for adaptive strategies for dealing with persistent poverty, which in turn create subcultural differences in patterns of living and perspectives and worldview. Such subcultural strategies and practices often do have the unfortunate effect of contributing to the reproduction of poverty (and so must be addressed as part of any overall strategy for dealing with poverty with this the key reason to reassess Lewis’ concept), but they are not the ultimate cause of poverty, and addressing these symptoms of poverty alone will do little to affect endemic poverty. Furthermore, the culture of poverty is not an accurate reflection of the poor, but rather, reflects cultural stereotypes that have no true basis in fact. Many social forces such as social mobility and government assistance (or lack of) play a role in shaping poverty. However, it is important to note that inheritance can work both ways. An individual can inherit his or her family’s wealth just as easily as an individual can inherit his or her family’s poverty. Overall, was an interesting book to read. This book highlights the lives of several generations of a lower class family in Mexico. Reads quite easily and authentically. It was fascinating to read about the intimate details of their daily lives - their impressions of the world, and their living conditions, down to the food they ate each day.
Menchu, R., & Burgos-Debray, E. (1984). I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala. London: Verso. (Pp.1-296)
Rigoberta Menchu‘s compelling and conversational memoire, I, Riogoberta Menchu: An Indian Women in Guatemala offers a thoughtful, dark glimpse into the bloodiest years of Guatemala’s armed conflict and genocide, in the late 1970s and early 1980s. As a woman from among the most marginalized in Guatemala, the indigenous class, she recounts her experiences as a symbolic articulation of the struggles endured by other oppressed and persecuted Guatemalans, indigenous and non-indigenous alike. Her testimonio takes readers along a subaltern feminist path exploring the re-securitization and agency of marginalized groups and women, in times of conflict that remains a foundational text in understanding the complexities of post-conflict Guatemala. Menchu recounts her experiences of poverty, racism, and violence throughout her life in the Quiche province of the Guatemalan highlands. Readers follow Menchu’s account, from her stolen childhood of labour on exploitative fincas, to her work as a catechist and community organizer, as part of the Peasant Unity Committee (CUC) and in solidarity with the Marxist guerilla movement operating in opposition to the Guatemalan State and the military.
As her story unfolds, the context of communal victimization shifts to one of agency, as Menchu describes the gradual transition of her family and community into allies of the guerilla forces and securitized subjects in the ongoing conflict. She recounts experiences of community organization to escape massacre, setting up traps to thwart the military (Burgos-Debrary, 1984, pg. 127). In particular, she details the death of her father Vincente Menchu who died in the peasant occupation of the Spanish Embassy in 1980, which was burned down by the military with occupiers locked inside (Burgos-Denray, 1984, pg. 185). For Menchu, “this reinforced my decision to fight” (Burgos-Debray, 1984, pg. 185). She also recalls the kidnapping, rape, torture and murder of her mother by the military (Burgos-Debray, 1984, pg. 198), along with the public burning her alive, but tortured and disfigured younger brother and the other political prisoners at the military who claimed the indigenous were subersivos, communists working with guerilla forces (Burgos-Debray, 1984, pp. 178-179). Finally, Menchu concludes her work with a more holistic understanding of poverty and exploitation in Guatemala, as un understanding that transcends racialized boundaries between the indigena-ladio divide, and that reinforces a revolutionary Christianity central to work: “We all contribute in different ways, but we all are working for the same objective” (Burgos-Debray, 1984, pg. 246).
In conclusion, Menchu’s testimonio represents a foundational yet controversial text in Guatemalan and Latin American studies that provides invaluable insight into the light of Guatemalan indigenous people, particular women during the country’s disastrous civil war and genocide. Her experiences of trauma, war and organizing the Guatemalan military highlight mechanisms of countering the gendered dimensions of conflict, and how engagement in the struggle offers windows of opportunity for women in women in deconstructing patriarchal social structures. Her testimony must be understood not as such, as a Western reading of her story re-imposes a hegemonic, patriarchal framing of the truths she expresses. Rather, it must be read as a testimono through a subaltern lens that incorporates a feminist perspective into the analysis, acknowledging the power behind Menchu's work that challenges not only the dominant order of society, but of patriarchal constructions of knowledge and truth.
Mo, Y., & Goldblatt, H. (1994). Red Sorghum: A Novel of China. New York: Penguin Books.
Red Sorghum is about a family from China and the dynamics of how family and business are intertwined together. There are different traditions that are played out in China but the traditions in this era of the novel were very rare from what we see today. The narrator of the novel tells the story of his family in the 1920’s and more so, tells the story of her grandmother. The grandmother’s story starts off with the narrator talking about the grandmother being arranged into a marriage with a much older man. She was arranged into the marriage because she was a poor girl and her parents knew it was a good deal for her to be married with a vineyard owner. The good thing that the parents saw that he was wealthy, but that bad thing was that the older man had Leprosy. Leprosy is a chronic disease that multiplies in bacteria, but mainly affects the skin, the peripheral nerves, mucosa of the upper repertory tract and the eyes. They take the young woman in a sedan chair to meet her husband. Before she gets into the sedan chair, she sneaks a pair of scissors inside her blouse. She is carried through the sorghum fields by a group of men, that is called a party. On the way to meet her husband, while passing through the sorghum fields the young woman’s party is attacked by bandits. When the bandit attacks the party, one of the men from the party that is carrying the young woman, defends her and then runs off into the fields. She found herself in the fields and the days after, the man that defended her accosted her the next day in the fields, while she is very grateful for he has saved her life, she makes love to the man. For many years, she stays with the man she was arranged in marriage with and when he dies she takes control of the winery, which is having very difficult financial times. Since she takes control of the winery, she takes a different pride in the winery and shows the workers that they have to have a different type of pride in the winery and their work. She then meets once again the man that saved her life, and he is an alcoholic whom which urinates into a barrel of wine and even though this would seem a bit odd, it actually made the wine taste a bit better. Family and business were very much well intertwined and correlated because of the way the family was structured. The typical Chinese family had a patrilineal family in which the father always made the decisions of the family. The young woman in the story, whom which is the narrator’s grandmother, is not typical of a Chinese family because a woman does take on a business without a man by her side, and more so a woman was not allowed to be a head any type of business. The war also affects the way that business is ran when the Japanese attack and flatten the sorghum fields; the Chinese revolt against them.
Vasconcelos, J., & Jaen, D. (1997). The Cosmic Race: A Bilingual Edition. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press.
The Cosmic Race by Jose Vasconcelos (1925) predicated the coming of a new age, the aesthetic era, in which joy, love, fantasy and creativity would prevail over the rationalism he saw as dominating the present age. The Cosmic Race is a dense piece of rhetoric filled with internal contradictions and ambivalent motives. A racial thinker, Vasconcelos was not exempt from his own period-base racism especially with regard to peoples of African and Asian descent.
Vasconcelos argue that Mexicans and by extension the “hybrid” Ibero-Americans represent a synthesis of all the great races of the past. These races are the black or Lemurian, the oldest; the red or Atlantean and second oldest, ancestor of the current indigenous civilizations of the Americas; the yellow about which Vasconcelos says remarkably little; and the white, among which Vasconcelos distinguishes the two great strains of Anglo-Saxons and Spaniards. Vasconcelos is not particularly committed to the details of this race system, although literal minded readers of the early 21st century, for example, found him intolerably racist. Vasconcelos’ utopian vision of mestizaje leading to a new, privileged subject that lives in a race less world does not hold up theoretically. According to Vasconcelos, the fifth race will symbolize racial diversity. He pointed out that Latin America would be unique globally as the place where racial diversity and interbreeding would occur. Furthermore, he stated that the blood of all races was already present in mixed-race people in this part of the world. At one point, Vasconcelos states that “the Chinese, who under the holy counsel of Confucian morals multiply like rats” (p.19), and he repeatedly speaks of blacks as ugly. But he also states that “the mestizo, the Indian and even the Black surpass the White in an infinity of properly spiritual capacities” (p.32). However, while his nonracist sexual views seem to some redeem his racial views, they at the same time suggest a sexual egotism repugnant to many women. But in the among all this mixture and ambivalence, what really matters to Vasconcelos is that Mexicans not so much as they are but as they could be will synthesize all prior race types into a fifth race. Vasconcelos’ views on mestizaje racial mixture are key to understand the dominant ideological logic behind Mexico’s nationalist relationship with race.
In The Cosmic Race, Vasconcelos sees the vast potential of specifically Mexicans as mestizos, and lands them for their mestizo/a (mixed race, specifically Spanish and Indigenous) character. Significantly, he also casts the mestizos as the first stage in the creation of a new, cosmic race that will eventually take on characteristics and subsume the genetic streams of “all the races.” According to his logic, this cosmic race would take on the best or most desirable traits from each respective race and eventually lines between the “original” races will blur to the point that any one individual’s “racial heritage” would be completely indistinguishable from author’s, thus becoming the ultimate mestizo/a (something akin what some might now call a post-ethnic post-racial world. In conclusion, Jose Vasconcelos will always be a thinker of controversy.
SBS 400: Senior Capstone Seminar I
Asante, M. K. (1980). Afrocentricity: The theory of social change. Buffalo, NY: Amulefi Publishing Company.
In the article The Theory of Social Change by Michael Asante is about black racial identity that developed in the late 1940’s. By the early 1970’s, researchers began to focus on developing theories that explained the developmental. process of Black racial identity (Cross, 1971, 1991). The pioneer of such theories, William Cross, created a model depicting how African Americans develop their sense of “Blackness” or how they experience “nigrescence”, which means “becoming Black.” According to Cross (1971, 1991), African American individuals who experience “nigrescence” are re-socialized from having a Eurocentric-influenced identity to having an Afrocentric identity. Cross’s model depicts five developmental stages that an individual experience’s to develop his or her Black identity: Pre-encounter, Encounter, Immersion-Emersion, Internalization, and Internalization-Commitment. Stage one - Pre-encounter: This stage of Cross’s model depicts the “old” identity to be changed. Individuals in this stage are unaware of their “Afrocentricity” or Black heritage because of an overexposure to Eurocentric ideals and culture. FurthermoStere,in the perspective of African Americans in this stage is difficult to change concerning race and “being Black” due to a lack of awareness. According to Cross, this lack of awareness contributes to the development of several attitudes and characteristics associated with this stage of Black identity development.
Afful, S., Wohlford, C., & Stoelting, S. (2015). Beyond "difference": Examining the process and flexibility of racial identity in interracial marriages. The Journal of Social Issues, 71(4), 659.  pp.
In the article Beyond “difference”: Examining the process and flexibility of racial identity in interracial marriages by Stephanie E. Afful, Corinne Wohlford and Suzanne Stoeling examine the definitions of race used in discussing interracial marriage, arguing that the common framework of cultural differences used in existing insufficiently describes the range of experiences in interracial marriage. The authors use racial formation theory to examine racial identity within interracial marriages and how racial identity might be reclassified as a function of interracial marriage status. They also discuss individual-level implications with respect of how interdependence theory affects racial identity and marital quality in interracial marriages.
The main points in the article were that racial formation theory provides a framework to approach the topic of race, race relations, and racial identity as a socially constructed entities that are vulnerable to change over time pending on the social, historical, and political landscape of a particular culture. Social Identity Theory assets that individuals use their identities as a source for maintaining their self-esteem by engaging in favorable in-group comparisons. White partners in interracial marriages mat be cognizant of their race and even be classified as less white when seen in public places with their Black partners. Black partners may be reclassified as less Black when their interracial partners. Interdependence theory offers a theoretical explanation of how interracial relationships partners might affect each other’s racial identity as well as marital satisfaction. According to Interdependence theory, will lead to partners making decisions based on each other’s interest.
The purpose of the article was to expand how past literature has defined race and to provide a different and perhaps more comprehensible approach to exploring race and racial identity among those involved in interracial relationships. The potential effects of the social scrutiny on participants in interracial marriages, who must view their relationships through a social lens not focused on same-sex marriages. Lastly, to further examine the changing definition of race and racial identity within interracial marriages, in light of racial formation theory and interdependence theory.
The article helped me find and understand how interdependence theory affects racial identity and marital quality in interracial marriages, how I must first understand race in able to in able to meaningfully understand of the experience of individuals in interracial relationships, and how racial formation theory are pertinent to understanding of racial identities and how interracial marriage include racialization and racial signification. It also helped me find new theories that explain racial formation in interracial marriages which is one of my themes in my literature review.
In my opinion, the article was well-structured with a lot of useful informative that I can add in my literature review. The subheadings were helpful because I was able to understand the article better. I also liked how the article primarily focused on interracial marriages (Black and White couples) since that is the topic I am focusing on for my capstone. It has been a struggle to find scholarly articles that focus on my topic but I’m content that I had found several. Overall, I learned that Black partners feel their own Blackness more acutely in contrast with a White partner’s inexperience with racism or Black traditions.