Thursday, November 19, 2015

Motherhood & Culture

One of the things that really struck me about the readings was their focus on mother's and how they  navigate their world with their children. In "Who's Irish,"  I was really struck by the prose and how it was written from the grandmother's voice. I thought the grandmother's struggle of how to raise her grandchild as an authentic Chinese girl was very real and interesting. She is constantly at odds with her daughter, who has assimilated to American culture, and her husband on the best way to raise the child. Her understanding of child-rearing is in conflict with the American "progressive" understanding of rearing children. Her headstrong ways result in her being moved out of the home, losing access to the direct raising of her grandchild. She does not know how to bend her ways in order to adjust to her surroundings.

This reminds me of Okonkwo in "Things Fall Apart" who would rather die than adjust to the changing world around him. Or  in "Potiki," the image of the tree that bends, but does not break. It brings to mind for me this image of balance. A balance that the grandmother has failed to find. She doesn't want to relinquish her Chinese heritage, and fails to understand that her granddaughter, though she may not immediately look like it, nor act like it, is Chinese too. Caught between to worlds, the grandmother is still wrestling with expanding her definition of what it means to be Chinese.

In "Borders," we see another stubborn mother who will not give up her heritage. When asked whether she is American or Canadian, she calmly responds each and every time, even when the stakes get higher, that she is "Blackfoot." Told through the narration of her child, we can see how this bothers the child who would have probably just have chosen a side to get this over with. In this way, I think, we are presented with a different viewpoint that reveals the strengths of holding on to the essential parts of one's identity even in the face of opposition. The way that she chooses to identify herself does no harm to anyone around her, but still the officers insist on her changing her title to the one they have provided her. In this situation, I would argue that the mother is choosing not to let the officers break her.

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