People are People, Not Numbers

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Photo Credit: Arely Escoto

 

With immigration statistics being flown around and used in such ways as either extremely problematical or way too low, mass sums of people are being generalized in the process. No matter who is immigrating or has immigrated, the person and their experience must be kept in mind. Without the individual insight of each person, then overall immigration reform will not be possible. The following is an interview with 1 experience that I wanted to echo.

The interview took place at lunchtime or about 1:10 on Wednesday, March 8th in LL 303 in the Chapman Library. The interviewee had an interview over the phone just after the interview, so time was a little short, but all of my questions were answered. Arely sat directly across the table from me with her freshly opened salad and coconut water. During the interview she took a few sips of her drink to later ask me if I wanted the rest. She said that she did not like the coconut water and did not want to waste it. I asked why she got it if she did not like it. Her response was that she wanted to try something new.

Trying something new is something that is currently under way in US politics today. Instead of addressing the need for new immigration policy, President Trump has sought to build a 21.6 billion dollar border wall. Not only will this prove to be ineffective, but it does not address the larger problem of where undocumented students or Dreamers will go to college. Every year, there are about 65,000 undocumented high school graduates that might not be able to go to college. Every child deserves an equal opportunity to go to college.

Interview

Jon Small: Can you please state your name and where we are right now so we can have that on the record?

Arely Escoto: My name is Arely Escoto and we are in a bookable room in the library.

JS: OK awesome. Basically how does your life experiences shape the story you’re going to identify with today?  If someone asked you where you’re from what would you say and why?

AE: I was born in Mexico, really close to Ensenada, Baja California, which is literally five hours south of the border and I would say Mexican since I was born in Mexico. JS: And now obviously you’re here today in America.  Now what stories are behind that or how did you come from Ensenadas?

AE: There is no “s” at the end, it is Ensenada. My family decided to move here because of with limited opportunities school wise and job wise, the schools over there are horrible. We put in our papers to legally move here and we waited a couple years to move and we got our visas, we got our Green cards, we got everything so we moved in 2001, I think. Yeah that would make sense, I have been here for 16 years. So yeah, in 2001, we moved to LA and we lived there for a couple of years. My mom, my sisters and I moved down to Orange County, Santa Ana. We lived In Santa Ana for most of my childhood and recently moved to Anaheim.

JS: OK, awesome. Now you mentioned that there were visas and I assume a lot of paperwork involved between that transition. Now what does that entail or from your perspective what did you see?

AE: Well it was a lot of fingerprints, a lot of pictures taken, a lot of paperwork, a lot of English, even though I did not speak English, so a lot of translating. A lot of paperwork.

JS: Now I know that you had send over an Article titled “Dispelling Facts About Immigrant Youth” that you are wanting to work on right now, which I thought is very, very awesome especially at this time. Now, I was reading that you talk about the legality to my writ to the US. Now I see that the paperwork may act as a barrier to entry, but would see that policy to change and how so? What are the critiques to the process?

AE: Well I don’t like it. I think it’s very racist. It is the only border we have to the South and it is not fair because this used to be Mexico. California used to be Mexico, New Mexico, Texas, all used to be a part of Mexico. And then the US stole that land, like through violent actions and then they never acknowledged that or they never said “Oh we are sorry” and write that down in the history books. I did not learn about it until college. So, having that sort of legal aspect for a made up border is sort of ridiculous. And then they charge you so much money, like thousands of dollars to do it. And then it is like you are coming from an area that is extremely impoverished, well, we were middle-class-ish, but still did not have that money, which is why it took so long. We were saving up that money to come here and live here. I mean there is inflation of the money. Back when I was young, it wasn’t that bad, it was like 5 pesos to a dollar. Pesos is the currency over there. Now, it is like 20 pesos to a dollar. So, yeah. With the exchange rate, you lose a lot of money. I do not think it is fair that they make it so hard to migrate here, when most, I don’t know if most, of the problems are caused by US intervention, US policy, and US trade agreements. I just do not think it is fair or right or morally correct.

JS: With a very candid response, what would you say would be the best way to reform that process like would a faster and cheaper process be better?

AE: Right now, it is really hard to become a citizen, so opening that path to citizenship for those already here would be the best thing. Then after that, I think it should be tied with the economy, because a lot of women in the United States are not having kids so the market in 10 to 20 years is going to basically crash because there is no more kids growing up and learning the system here in America. I don’t know if it will crash, but it will get there. Opening the market to immigration, like letting that flow through will be very beneficial to the United States and it would be very beneficial to Mexico and any other place that they let immigrants come from. So yeah, that could be like one option and then another option could be, I don’t know, get rid of the border, but then, I don’t know if getting rid of the border would help. I mean a lot of people don’t come through the border anyways, it is a desert area. Who will be coming through a desert area like where a lot of people die like where thousands of people die each year. I think it is less now, because there is a lot less because immigration is very low. It is desert area where you have to walk thousands of miles and it is horrible. A lot of people cross through a river and get dragged through the river and a lot of kids get dragged through the river. They do that and then a lot of them simply overstay their visas, which is the most common way someone becomes an illegal immigrant or undocumented or at least that what happened to me. Making that path for people who are here easier would boost the economy already, because a lot of more people would pay taxes. Well, no, we already pay taxes. That is not a thing we don’t do, because I just filed my taxes. [Laughs]  We pay billions in taxes actually. We could potentially pay billions more if they let us become citizens, because we would be making more. I don’t know, I think the whole not letting people becoming citizens in a country where they live and work in is ridiculous and then deporting people and some people have not lived there in 10 years and some people have not lived there all of their life. It is like, no, you are being deported because you were brought here when you were three years old. That’s crazy. Making that easier or cheaper, well, easier, because the only way to do it is if you do it while you are not in the United States, because you have to leave anyways or there are other ways, but I cannot remember them right now.

JS: As students at Chapman, how has the FAFSA problems that you mentioned in your article divide the role of legal and illegal citizenship?

AE: Well, it would make college cheaper and more affordable, because right now, I do not get FAFSA, but I do get the California Dream Act Grant, which sort of aids in that, but it is a lot less than I would be getting with FAFSA. The Dream Act Grant is in a couple of states, but I do not actually know the statistic for that. But it is through California, so it is a state grant, it’s not a federal grant. We do not get any federal loans or we do not get any get any federal aid. So it would definitely help in that aspect. I would probably still be working, but I would not be as stressed. I just wouldn’t have to worry about where the money is going to come from. My sister would not have to worry and then my sister is actually in Mexico. She went back because she didn’t want to pay into the system here. She would not be getting any money either. She didn’t know what she wanted to do after college, I mean after high school, like a lot of people, so she did not want to be stuck in the community college system, because we would be charged for out of state tuition for that. A lot of people get charged that, the out of state tuition. It is significantly higher than the in state tuition, because you are technically not a resident or a citizen. Some people are residents and residents do get FAFSA. So that is easier for them. It would definitely make it more affordable.

JS: How did you navigate the process of coming to Chapman with the complexities with the Dream Act and FAFSA that you just mentioned?

AE: It definitely made it harder. I did go to a community college for one semester. But that is because I did not get accepted into Chapman, until the next semester. I was able to save up for that. At first, I was paid way more than I am now, because I got different scholarships. It definitely made me try harder because I had to apply for scholarships and grants. The grants would depend. I don’t know. [laughs] It definitely made me try harder because I did have to to apply for those and then it made me focus more on actually working, I mean school. It made me save my money better because all it was used towards my tuition. I learned how to juggle everything very quickly and I had gone to school in Santa Ana for most of my life, all of my life. Well, not all of it. I did go to elementary school in Mexico. I knew the system, but my grades where not the best so I had to try even harder grade wise to keep up with university level work. I took a lot of summer and winter courses just to catch up. I am just trying harder.

JS: President Trump has proposed a wall to block off illegal immigration into the country. What are your comments on that action?

AE: Well, I think that’s a horrible allocation of funds that can be used into a more different and more necessary things like the school system. There are just so many things that it could like boost the economy like the homelessness problem we have. There are just so many other things that can be done. It is like billions of dollars that are being put into that and it is ridiculous because that is not one of the main ways that immigrants migrate into the United States. It is just a fact. And there is already a wall there and militarized. We are already spending money there and it is unnecessary. There is that and spending even more money, it just doesn’t make sense to me. I mean it could be spent in better ways, in my opinion, my very opinion, my very humble opinion.

JS: Some have said that the United States was founded on immigration and others have said that we have the right to choose who comes into the United States. Regardless of the right side of the debate, do you think the United States should have a clear and defined policy on immigration as opposed to the travel ban approach that is currently happening?

AE: It is difficult to say whether it should be kept as is or changed or reformed. That is tough question. [Laughs] I do not think I have the answer for that.

JS: With the newly opened Cross-Cultural Center here on Campus and the I am Chapman campaign programs going on, do you think Chapman is heading in the right direction or move to broader approach from an admissions stand point?

AE: I think admissions is definitely a priority, because admitting more students it will become diverse. It is a given. You can’t really say it diverse when there is only really 40% of people of color. So admissions would be one of the top ways to get more diverse. Even then diverse is such a difficult term to define or categorize because what are you basing it on? Skin color? Intelligence? Experience? Background?  There is just so much that makes a person diverse. Even just being a person makes you diverse and unique. Every person is unique in their own way. No two people are the same. How do you define it? In terms of allowing more Latinos, Hispanics, Mexicans in would be a good way to just help that community, because we are one the largest communities here in Orange County at 30 something percent. But we account for only 17% of the students here and nationwide it is a very low percentage. We have the highest dropout rate, but that is because of sort of culture we are brought up in and the way that education is not a propriety. In helping more students like me get into schools like this just help everyone. There are no negatives to having more educated people in the community and in society.

JS: I definitely agree. What made you want to write the article with Dr. Smoller and your inspiration there?

AE: I have been thinking of writing one since my freshman year. I have drafts and ideas about what I wanted to talk about. I knew that it was something that was needed. There are two main things that pushed me: one was Dr. Smoller telling me to do it like encouragement from factually to get my voice out and the other was the rally that was in front of the library the other week, a couple of weeks ago I think. Where there was a standing solidarity, but a lot of people don’t know are the facts, or the reality, or the hardships that a lot of immigrant students face. I do appreciate the solidarity and the people standing with us, but just standing there, what else are thy doing? Are they actively joining outside organizations that are actively helping immigrants? Are they volunteering in places? Are they teaching people their rights? Are they learning who has rights and who doesn’t? Like there is so much more that they could be doing, but they are not. I don’t know. I just find it a little hypocritical. I do appreciate it and I am not saying I don’t.

JS: This idea of what else can be done fits into what you want to do with a club on campus that you mentioned in your article. What are your thoughts on doing more like the club?

AE: I saw a need for it. My goal with that is education. With that education comes the knowledge of I can do this with it. We can start voting more. As college students we are one of the lowest demographics that vote, I mean that don’t vote. I think learning that our voice does matter and what can do with it as a group of students that has all of this passion and all of this drive to help underprivileged or marginalized communities. It is important to learn in a space where it is a safe space like an academic space with your peers and people who have actually gone through this and wouldn’t normally have the courage to come up and tell you or have the courage to talk about it in class. I am one of those people that does actually talk about it. I have never been ashamed of it. I have always been outspoken about it. I think that I have the drive to do this and that I want to help others and help all of the other undocumented students here on campus. I am not the first one to do this. There are groups and programs and even buildings already on other campuses like UCI, CAL State Dominguez Hills, CAL Poly Pomona, UC Berkeley. Everyone but us, because there is not that many of us here. You see that defecate that there is no need for it, but I think there is a need for it. I think it is about time we do something.

Follow Up Questions

Jon Small: I just had a few follow up questions that you are free to respond and can be completed any time before we get back from the break.

 

What are your thoughts on this article?

 

Would you use the term “Dreamer” to describe yourself or another word or concept all together?

 

What are you studying? What do you imagine for your future? What is your favorite music, favorite dinner, favorite book or writer and what is your favorite current film/TV show? What gives you hope?

Arely Escoto:

So reading that article just made me completely disheartened. She was targeted for deportation simply for speaking out. This whole idea of borders is simply ridiculous and outright limiting for no good reason.

Although I do like the whole idea of being a “dreamer”, in the sense of having aspirations for the future, I think the word is simply too passive. It makes it seem as if students are just sitting there and not actively doing anything toward their future. I don’t think there’s just one word I could use to describe myself– I don’t think anyone could do that. I’m just a person who so happens to be a migrant, but so are millions of people throughout history. It’s not like as humans we have to stay in one place our entire lives, although that’s exactly what the US government is telling us by making immigration extremely difficult and targeting those who migrate illegally. Not only that, the US government is completely ignoring the historical context of immigration, being that Americans were the one of the first illegal immigrants on this land in the first place. This idea of one entity (governmental or not) “owning” and claiming a part of Earth, something that belongs to no one and everyone all at one, really makes no sense to me. How does one group of people have more of an entitlement over another group of people over land?

Also, targeting “Dreamers” alongside trump’s plan to build a bigger wall along the southern border has not only caused problems in and of itself, but completely normalized racism among adults, young adults and even children. It’s sickening to say the least. This article states one event that recently occurred, but stuff like this has been happening throughout the nation.

I’m currently studying political science. For my future, I’m planning to either get my Master’s in Public Administration, study Law, or possibly do both. My music taste ranges and I honestly like anything as long as it sounds good to me. I don’t think I have a favorite dinner because I honestly just love food. My favorite book is probably The Kite Runner. My favorite movie is Scott Pilgrim vs. The World or Big Fish, and my favorite TV show is probably The Office or Parks and Rec haha. What gives me hope is knowing life is full of endless opportunities.

Executive Order: Fear

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As policy makers, unintended consequences is inevitable. However, fear appeals can be easily avoided if you read between the lines and find those key words. With the election of Donald Trump to Presidential Office, he first signed an executive order that created a travel ban on Muslims, but later replaced that order with a revised travel ban removing the targeted language. Even though that language may have been removed, an undertone of fear strikes through the newer executive order. In order to highlight that fear, I used a erasure form of poetry. Here, I did not modify the order in any way, but simply removed the other language by lightening the rest of the order. The whole reasoning behind this example is when writing any piece of policy, never base your piece off of a fear appeal.

Executive Order Erasure

What are Diverse Cultures?

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When reading anything, including my own posts, this question will up. It is important to realize now that there is no correct answer and many definitions will work. Overall, there must a sense of inclusion and that own inclusion can change. So it is best when writing a policy to have multiple ideas of diverse cultures in mind to not exclude anyone or have the only correct definition.

My definition of diverse cultures explains diversity as being different than one culture or the combination of all cultures working together in one space. From the words of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, to create a “single story, show a people as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become.” This single story represents a one view approach to culture and diversity must have many views. She also explains that “the single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” In order for diversity to be accepted and to keep to its definition, every story or truth must be completed and shown to exist. If that one story is a half-truth then that must make the other half a lie. From the words of Aristotle, “Rhetoric is useful (1) because things that are true and things that are just have a natural tendency to prevail over their opposites.” Here, a true story can prevail over a lie, however, the whole the completed story must be accessible. No person would say that they understand a whole book if they have just read the first chapter. He continues with “the ‘great’ is that which surpasses the normal, the ‘small’ is that which is surpassed by the normal; and so with ‘many’ and ‘few’.” Great stories must rise above the many to become a few that are the truth. Today, there are so many news articles claiming the truth, but the most diverse article rise to find the truth. Finally, according to President Washington is his Farewell Address, “The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.” Here, one story, person, or party, cannot exist if there is to be diversity.

My Experience with Education

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Immigration is a critical issue that will be hard to solve in the coming years. However, education and immigration are related. Education is a reason to migrate as well as better job opportunities and living conditions. When the education system is lacking, there can be indirect consequences with immigration. When writing new immigration policy, education as an experience cannot be overlooked.

What felt like decades ago, I was accepted into Chapman University. Now, at first, I thought that I would not be accepted to this “four year private university,” but instead attend the local community college Saddleback. The largest factor for me was money. I am very aware of the debt that students can take on from school. According to FinAid.org, the national student debt is over 1.4 trillion. I did not want myself or my family to take on such a heavy burden just on my behalf. Therefore, I only applied to Saddleback and might transfer to Chapman after 2 years in community college. However, since Chapman  had given me  such a generous financial aid package, the opportunity to attend was given. With this unexpected opportunity, I then knew that I needed to follow every opportunity that was given to me. This would prove itself very quickly.

About a month before my first class was to begin, an email from Chapman came out and it had fun activities that students could do a week before school started. I recall a camping trip and maybe something about a movie showing, but the last one on the list was something about the Promising Futures Program for First Generation Students. My first thought after reading this was “What is a first generation student?” With this in mind, I pressed to find out more information about the topic by following the link.

There it said that a first gen student was any college student that had parents who had not completed a four year degree in college themselves. This could be one or both parents. After reading this, I dismissed the idea that my parents had not completed 4 years in college to obtain a bachelor’s degree. Everyone must have a degree to work in the real world as every teacher told me in high school. If you do not have a degree, then you will not have a job and you will fail in life. I knew my parents were not failing in life since my father owns his own company and my mother helps run that business. Therefore they must have degrees. But what if they did not?

So I tried to process this potential possibility. I knew that my best friend’s parents had four year degrees because their jobs required them. Did my Dad’s job require a degree? I suspected that it did not, but then the only way to find out was to ask my parents. After asking the basic question of how many years of college did they attend it, was answered with only a maximum of two years. At this point, I thought they had lied to me to me in some way, but really I never asked them before this point.

With this new information, I believed that I could qualify to be in the Promising Futures Program since I am a First Generation Student. The only barrier to enter this program was a written essay of why I should be admitted into their summer bridge program. When I first read that question, I did not believe that I should even respond to the essay question, because I had just found out about this identity that I had all of my life. I did not feel deserving of this title, due the fact that I might be robbing the opportunity for someone else to join the program who might have known their identity longer and might have parents who have no college experience at all. I did not know how to approach the essay.

I asked my parents if I should even respond to the essay, but that came off as being above the program. My parents encouraged me to respond be saying “You cannot change who you are, so you should just give it a shot.”

With the idea of speaking for others, I felt as though I did not have a right to talk or dare write about being a First Generation student, but according to Linda Alcoff, “some of us have been taught that by right of having the dominant gender, class, race, letters after our name, or some other criterion, we are more likely to have the truth. Others have been taught the opposite and will speak haltingly, with apologies, if they speak at all.” With this baseline established, I feel easier to pursue the essay.

 

“ Speaking should always carry with it an accountability and responsibility for what one says.”

The opportunity to apply to any program may feel like it is just a requirement. I need the money for school, I need to get a job, or I need to move out of the house. Therefore, I must fill out this forms and be on my way. The idea of necessity did not apply for me. My life did not depend on my acceptance into the Promising Futures Program, neither of my parents would make do extra chores if I failed to get in, the only barrier to entry was the essay response. The idea of even writing the piece seemed complicated. I had no experience to work with, no one to reference, but I had an identity. This identity gave me the strength to tackle my response with the idea of honor. As Linda Alcoff points out, “ speaking should always carry with it an accountability and responsibility for what one says.” I wanted to honor myself, and my family by being a student that can overcome traditional values associated with “uneducated” parents.  I would show the world that I had the confidence to conquer anything in front of me. Sadly, I did not say those exact words in my essay. I focused loosely around those ideas, with an addition to being thankful for the opportunity to meet new people and try new things. I am surprised at what the program had to offer from my acceptance of this essay.

The best part of this program was the ability to attend the summer bridge program. Not only was I able to meet a lot of people, I was able to develop a sense of family within the Chapman community. Everyone that I have meet has come back later in my school life to help me in some way. The biggest help has come from the adviser, Crystal, who not only has shaped my academic life, but also been a reliable resource when I need her most. For example, this past summer I went to Italy to study film with the Dodge School of Film. I would not have been able to pay for the flight to Italy and back, but luckily Crystal was able to direct me towards a PFP benefit of having my flight completely paid for. This was the greatest news at the time, and allowed me to experience Europe for the first time. I will never forget that experience. The program has also offered other opportunities.

Through the office of admission, they have created a Next Gen Overnight program which allows Chapman prospective students to spend the night at Chapman to see if they like the school. This students generally have parents that have not gone to college, and are the first ones in their family to experience a college. I was fortunate enough to be a dorm room to host a student from the Inland Empire. I was extremely nervous about meeting the student, but in the end, he proves to be a friend today. Through my connection with him, I not only helped set up a good first impression of the school, but he was able to join the Chapman Ambassador program and help the school even more.

With national student debt increasing and college graduation rates at only 60%, according to the National Center for Education Statistics,  education is a crucial part for the future generation of students. Students must be exposed to all of the possibilities of education to be able to see the world for what it really needs. What I really want is for all people everywhere to have the tools to create a lasting education that can withstand the test of time.

Education is critical to the development of any nation and that must be apart of our lives.

When Should You Be Speaking For Others?

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There is a time and place for everything, but not everyone should be speaking then. When it comes down to policy decisions, everyone who is involved and will be effected should have a voice. Now, when the polices are vast, representatives of the groups of people must be present in the decision making process so that no group goes without representation.

Quotes:

The rituals of speaking which involve the location of speaker and listeners affect whether a claim is taken as true, well-reasoned, a compelling argument, or a significant idea. Thus, how what is said gets heard depends on who says it, and who says it will affect the style and language in which it is stated.” -Linda Alcoff

“But there is no neutral place to stand free and clear in which one’s words do not prescriptively affect or mediate the experience of others, nor is there a way to demarcate decisively a boundary between one’s location and all others. Even a complete retreat from speech is of course not neutral since it allows the continued dominance of current discourses and acts by omission to reinforce their dominance.”- Linda Alcoff

 

“Some of us have been taught that by right of having the dominant gender, class, race, letters after our name, or some other criterion, we are more likely to have the truth. Others have been taught the opposite and will speak haltingly, with apologies, if they speak at all.” -Linda Alcoff

 

“ Speaking should always carry with it an accountability and responsibility for what one says.” -Linda Alcoff

 

I am still curious about the idea of speaking for others and speaking about others. With the for and about being compared, “for” advocates on the behalf of a group that the speaker may be a part of, while “about” is just looking into a group that they do not belong in. My biggest question is; how do you know is you belong in that group? What are the requirements, if any, apply to these standards? For the most part, if the reasons have moral grounds and are accepted by the audience then the speaker can continue. However, who is to say that one person cannot talk about a topic? They may not have the experience need for a topic, but insight might be there. As long as no one hurts one another with damaging rhetoric, then everything should be allowed.

 

The idea of a political arena mattering to me as rituals of speaking means that power can never be removed from rhetoric. As a student, professor’s voices dominate or at the very least have much more power over students. Sometimes, it may feel like my voice is powerless and I cannot change anything that would be better for me. If exploitation were to continue, then the politics of language would have negative actions on my education and well-being to the point where I would be unwilling to participate.

 

Terms:

  1. Coherentist: Coherentism is the name given to a few philosophical theories in modern epistemology, the study of knowledge. There are two distinct types of coherentism. One is the coherence theory of truth; the other, the coherence theory of justification.
  2. Classical Liberal theory: Classical liberalism is a political ideology that values the freedom of individuals — including the freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and markets — as well as limited government. It developed in 18th-century Europe and drew on the economic writings of Adam Smith and the growing notion of social progress.
  3. Charge of Reductionism: reductionism is the practice of analyzing and describing a complex phenomenon in terms of phenomena that are held to represent a simpler or more fundamental level, especially when this is said to provide a sufficient explanation
  4. Discursive: digressing from subject to subject
  5. Metaphysically: highly abstract, subtle, or abstruse

 

 

Quotes:

“The true canon-however mistily it might be revealed to us- was thought to be a canon for all time.” (123)

“Altieri argues that Herrnstein Smith is correct in claiming that the literary canon reflects nothing more or less than a society’s “interests” but wrong to conclude that the current canon therefore has no legitimate authority.” (127)

“Robinson argues that the dominant culture’s supposedly neutral aesthetic values are are framed in ways that make it difficult or impossible for disadvantaged groups to enter the cannon.” (128)

“Student’s future employers will want them to calculate market shares and perform multiple regressions, so the time they spend developing expertise in the liberal arts is mostly wasted.” (133)

 

I am curious about the United State’s education system when it comes down to choosing a book to teach in class. The same book cannot be used in every school district, but similar ones might be. How to the teachers determine the right book to use?

 

This concept matters to me, because the reading environment would never change. New voices that have created content would never be heard. The books need to reflect the changing times in society and not dwell on the past with the outdated content.

 

Vocab Words:

  1. Canon: a general law, rule, principle, or criterion by which something is judged.
  2. Foundationalism: is a view about the structure of justification or knowledge.
  3. Discourse: written or spoken communication or debate.
  4. Capital: wealth in the form of money or other assets owned by a person or organization or available or contributed for a particular purpose such as starting a company or investing.
  5. Curriculum: the subjects comprising a course of study in a school or college.

Why read The Hero’s Walk?

 

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Photo Credit: Jon Small

If you have never read about an Indian family in India written by an Indian author, this would be great place to start. Reading diverse books opens up a new perspective to society that may not have ever been seen before. Every policy maker should be reading diverse texts from a non-western author.

 

I am reading Anita Rau Badami’s novel book, The Hero’s Walk. I picked it up on Amazon in used condition for six dollars. I am not 1005 sure why I chose this book over the many others from the provided book list, but it mainly had to do with the price of the book, the speed at which it got to my house, and the length of the book itself at 359 pages. The size is just long enough to keep me engaged, but not too long to make it seem unfinishable in a few weeks. Another key aspect that drove me to read it, was that it had a colorful front cover and had the word “hero” in the title. I felt I could not go wrong with any book that seemed that lively at first glance.

I am reading The Hero’s Walk because I free a multicultural view of the world is eroding in the United States. Many more people care only about themselves and not the rest of Non-America. I was not sure where to start with a country to start with so I wanted to look at the top three countries by population. With the United States placed 3rd, China and India were the two options. I would be perfectly fine in reading a work with either perspective, but I felt I did not have a perspective on India, because I have never read a book placed in Indian culture. Therefore, this book was the lense through which I wanted to glimpse into Indian culture, even if I am only to able to gain a little insight.

I am reading The Hero’s Walk to learn about what makes the protagonist who Sripathi is. From what I can gather, the foundation for his morals is that his family is his main priority. The people in his life matter the most, but due to complicated history with his parents and his children, they do not also agree. However, those that do live in his house, he does the best to provide for them. One of the best examples, is that he has set up a water storage and distribution system in his house with a maze of pipes so everyone has reliable access to clean water. Due to the supplied saline water solution, he and his family must import water and use the created system. Now, I am not sure how widespread the issue is to access of clean water in India is today, but if this issue is happening in a old small town, then it would have to be happening elsewhere. Today, if this were case in America, it would be unthinkable, however not unseen. Flint Michigan is the perfect example. Now, their water was not mixed with salt, but with lead. Drinking both can be detrimental to everyone’s health. Now, knowing this information, should I do something.

I am reading The Hero’s Walk, because I want to know where I am positioned on the fate of Non-American lives. This brings up the idea of Modernization versus Westernization. In this Indian town, a modern water system should be in place so all of the people there can have clean water 24/7 instead of just having water delivered. Would this modern system then make the Big House that his family has lived Westernized? Would his family then lose the family’s sense of tradition? With Sripathi’s complex history, his oldest child, his daughter, had left the family for a live in Vancouver, Canada. Here, to at least some degree, wanted to leave the Eastern culture for a modern Western society. This can bring about a different kind of action on part of Americans. As an American, I would want everyone to have the benefits like easy access to clean water everywhere in the world, but if that is not possible, I cannot condemn someone from trying to leave that life to have somewhere else like Canada or America. Today, I do not think it is fair for people in this country to claim that everywhere should be like America, but no one can into America to live. India and many others may not have the resources and capital to make “America” there. So, people would want to do their best to have a better life elsewhere which may be America. For that reason alone, no one should be denied entry to a country based on their country of origin alone.

Why read diverse texts?

If you have never read about an Indian family in India written by an Indian author, this would be great place to start. Reading diverse books opens up a new perspective to society that may not have ever been seen before. Every policy maker should be reading diverse texts from a non-western author. Reading a non-traditional book can give you new ideas and expand greater reasoning for why people want to live in America, but also keep their roots and tradition alive. This piece recognizes the balancing act of both.

“Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”

― Anne Frank

As the ideal book for your next high school book club, The Hero’s Walk, by Anita Rae Badami would be the best selection. In your own class or club you may have read 1984, Animal Farm, Brave New World, or even Fahrenheit 451. What do all of these books have in common? Well, they place you, the reader, in an unfamiliar environment with the protagonist looking for their place in the world. On those terms, this book would be the grounds for that connection, but actually connect with an existing Brave New World on the other side of the world.

 

 

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PC: Jon Small

 

I am reading Anita Rau Badami’s novel book, The Hero’s Walk. I picked it up on Amazon in used condition for six dollars. I am not 100% sure why I chose this book over the many others from the provided book list, but it mainly had to do with the price of the book, the speed at which it got to my house, and the length of the book itself at 359 pages. The size is just long enough to keep me engaged, but not too long to make it seem un-finishable in a few weeks. Another key aspect that drove me to read it, was that it had a colorful front cover and had the word “hero” in the title. I felt I could not go wrong with any book that seemed that lively at first glance.

I am reading The Hero’s Walk because I feel a multicultural view of the world is eroding in the United States. Many more people care only about themselves and not the rest of Non-America. I was not sure where to start with a country to start with so I wanted to look at the top three countries by population. With the United States placed 3rd, China and India were the two options. I would be perfectly fine in reading a work with either perspective, but I felt I did not have a perspective on India, because I have never read a book placed in Indian culture. Therefore, this book was the lense through which I wanted to glimpse into Indian culture, even if I am only to able to gain a little insight.

I am reading The Hero’s Walk to learn about what makes the protagonist who Sripathi is. From what I can gather, the foundation for his morals is that his family is his main priority. The people in his life matter the most, but due to complicated history with his parents and his children, they do not also agree. However, those that do live in his house, he does the best to provide for them. One of the best examples, is that he has set up a water storage and distribution system in his house with a maze of pipes so everyone has reliable access to clean water. Due to the supplied saline water solution, he and his family must import water and use the created system. Now, I am not sure how widespread the issue is to access of clean water in India is today, but if this issue is happening in a old small town, then it would have to be happening elsewhere. Today, if this were case in America, it would be unthinkable, however not unseen. Flint Michigan is the perfect example. Now, their water was not mixed with salt, but with lead. Drinking both can be detrimental to everyone’s health. 

 

How does the author fit into all of this? Well this is not her first book, and not an unknown experience to her. Anita Rau Badami (born 24 September 1961) is a writer of South Asian descent living in Canada. Born in Rourkela, Odisha, India, she was educated at the University of Madras and Sophia Polytechnic in Bombay. She emigrated to Canada in 1991, and earned an M.A. at the University of Calgary. Her first novel was Tamarind Mem (1997).”

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Photo Credit

How common is it for Indians to be living in Canada? Well, there are about 1.2 million Indians living in Canada with the number of immigrants from India grew 74% from 314,690 in 2001 to 547,890 in 2011.

 

From “Theory before ‘theory’-liberal humanism” by Peter Barry, “Language itself conditions, limits, and predetermines what we see. Thus, all reality is constructed through language, so that nothing is simply ‘there’ in an unproblematic way – everything is a linguistic/textual construct.” (35) Here, no matter where you are located language is not unlimited, but provides a construct. This construct is root of the problem for our own protagonist and is a key reference point to use through out the book. 

 

light at the end of the tunnel
PC

 

The story of The Hero’s Walk, by Anita Rau Badami, takes place in small old town in India, named Toturouram. Here, water is delivered every other day because the tap water is too salty, a dump truck driver delivers unwanted debris to the front door for no reason, and a cow is tied up in the neighbor’s backyard porch. If this situation seemed a little ordinary for a small town, then the family that lives there would be right at home.

“He hated water day, an event that occurred four times a week on Brahmin Street between six-thirty and seven in the morning. Because of the town’s dire shortage of drinking water, the municipal corporation regulated the supply by releasing limited quantities on alternative days.” (25)

 

“He did not believe in ostentatious displays-of possessions or of emotions.” (3)

 

The main character of this book is Sripathi Rao who is mentioned before and, for the most part, serves as our lense into his world of entertaining, innovative, and history rich people who happen to be his family. He is a writer at heart that serves his family as a copywriter who was once thought to become a doctor by his lawyer father. His wife, Nirmala, in Sripathi’s words are that “he had always found her to be like a bar of Lifebuoy soap-functional but devoid of all imagination.” (4). However, she taught a traditional dance in the home, Big House, and “she was glad to be making extra money, although she never told Sripathi that his income was not enough any more. A good Hindu wife had to maintain the pretense that her husband was supporting the family.”(14) For the most part, the get along well, until an event that no parent wants to go through, the daughter, Maya dies.

 

“Maya is dead,” said Sripathi. He heard his own voice again, and now it seemed to be coming from somewhere else. “So is her husband. Car crash.” (35)

 

This act is very act leads to what has been bubbling up over years and causes Nirmala to hit Sripathi out of angry. However, is this action, Sripathi did something that he had never done before. “You hit me?” she said, stunned. “You killed my child, and now you are hitting me also? Evil man.” (36) With the news that their only daughter had been killed in Vancouver with her husband, blame is set all around, but Sripathi takes it the hardest, because he had not written to her in years and is seen in the family as the one that pushed her away. However, he believed that if he let his children make their own way in life, then they would know what to do. In the current state, a new member will enter their lives that they did not believe could happen: Maya’s child, Nandana, will live in Big House.

 

“‘We spoke to your grandfather in India, Nandu,’ continued Uncle Sunny. ‘He’ll be comin here. That will be nice,right?’…To India? No way. How would her parents find her when they came home?” (48)

 

With all of the family history, one central symbol appears; Big House. This is where Nandana will go and where Maya left. Before that, no one had ever left the house or even the country since the house had been in the house for generations and represents the Rao family name. Sripathi’s father and mother wanted him to have it so he could provide for his family. Even though his father wanted him to be a doctor, his drive to provide for his family is all that he has. Big House represents his family and that house is in disrepair much like his family. Both the house and family are still standing, but it may not be for long. This is where the main tension lies. Sripathi and his family are at odds over the death of Maya and if it is right for the child to join them there.

 

A major theme is that family is first, but Sripathi seems to be failing to do that, even though he has tried his best for years. The idea of putting family first can be found in TV and a book that I have seen and read. The TV show that comes to mind is “Breaking Bad”, where the main character, Walter White, starts his journey as a drug kingpin to help his family, but slowly pushes his family away. For the book, The Metamorphosis, the main character, Gregor turns in a bug and his greatest fear became reality, because he can no longer support his family. Since he cannot support his family, he is rejected by them. In both causes, family has to come first, or the character is rejected.

 

 

Western Bluebird using Nest Box. Brood unknown.
PC

One of the most inspiring aspects of this story is that Sripathi has the chance to redeem his passed daughter by taking care of Maya’s daughter as if it were his own daughter. This spirit drives the later half of the book is the best way.

As cultural and family are large parts of this book, some films share similar values that connect Canada and India. The first being, The Burning Season where, “the plot concerns a young Indo-Canadian wife and mother who runs away to India in pursuit of her lover.” Here the film and our book match with the action that love is the reason for staying out of India. The second film, Desperately Seeking Helen, where “The film covers the complications in the relationship between Marjara and her mother, Devinder. Marjara had the perception that her mother was unable to balance the culture of Canada against that of India, and Devinder was more feminine and traditional compared to her daughter.” Here, the connection between Canada and India and family struggle are at odds. Lastly, the film, Gehri Chot – Urf: Durdesh, can connect the life of Maya in our book and her marriage to the Canada, with a child going back to India, where “Arun Khanna  is an NRI from Toronto, Canada who marries a traditional Indian woman Shobha . They have a son named Raju and a daughter named Pinky . Shobha finds it difficult to fit into the Western lifestyle in Canada and eventually separates from Arun after suspecting him of an affair with his secretary. Shobha decides to take her son Raju back with her to India while Arun stays in Canada with his daughter Pinky.”

 

Compliment this reading with Bone and Bread by  Saleema Nawaz , where Good Reads notedBeena and Sadhana are sisters who share a bond that could only have been shaped by the most unusual of childhoods — and by shared tragedy. Orphaned as teenagers, they have grown up under the exasperated watch of their Sikh uncle, who runs a bagel shop in Montreal’s Hasidic community of Mile End. Together, they try to make sense of the rich, confusing brew of values, rituals, and beliefs that form their inheritance.” Another great compliment would be The Illegal by Lawerance Hill, where Good Reads noted “all Keita has ever wanted to do is to run. Running means respect and wealth at home. His native Zantoroland, a fictionalized country whose tyrants are eerily familiar, turns out the fastest marathoners on earth. But after his journalist father is killed for his outspoken political views, Keita must flee to the wealthy nation of Freedom State—a country engaged in a crackdown on all undocumented people.” Lastly, a great compliment would be Birdie by Tracey Lindberg where Good Reads noted, “Birdie is a darkly comic and moving first novel about the universal experience of recovering from wounds of the past, informed by the lore and knowledge of Cree traditions. Bernice Meetoos, a Cree woman, leaves her home in Northern Alberta following tragedy and travels to Gibsons, BC.”