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Friday, March 13, 2015

Huesitos

One time in high school we were doing that awful thing that you've probably seen on teen dramas if you didn't experience it yourself: picking for teams. Some of you have seen me play ultimate frisbee and thought that I was quite the athlete. You'd be incorrect. Once, when it was down to the usual few of us who actively brought down whatever team we were on, I was picked. This great victory was dampened somewhat by the name by which I was called. That name was Kid in the Corner.

For a brief amount of time afterwards I was referred to by my "friends" as Kid in the Corner. This is about as bad as it got for me as a kid.

When people talk about reading as escapism, I think escaping from what? When I read I want to wallow. "Remind me what a pleasure my life is," I shout at the books. The librarian glowers. I look embarrassed for shouting at books until he looks away. "Tell me something horrible!" I whisper-shout. The librarian is not hearing it. I mean he is literally hearing it, because a whisper-shout is really more like a shout than a whisper. Metaphorically, though, he is not. Hearing. It.

That last story took some creative licenses. I am not aware of glowering librarians aside from the one in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Glower. When you write it by itself it looks like it means "one who glows." I do not mean that. Rhymes with shower.

Anyway, if the following book doesn't make you feel better about your life, I'm awful sorry. Come by my house at <address redacted> and I'll make you some Mexican food and we'll cry together.
I will tie the glass and stone with string, hang the shards above my bed, so that they will flash in the dark and tell the story of Katrina, the mother that swept into the Gulf and slaughtered. Her chariot was a storm so great and black the Greeks would say it was harnessed to dragons. She was the murderous mother who cut us to the bone but left us alive, left us naked and bewildered as wrinkled newborn babies, as blind puppies, as sun-starved newly hatched baby snakes. She left us a dark Gulf and salt burned land. She left us to learn to crawl. She left us to salvage. Katrina is the mother we will remember until the next mother with large, merciless hands, committed to blood, comes.
That's Esch from Jesmyn Ward's Salvage the Bones. She lives in Bois Sauvage, Mississippi and what a life it is. Mother died in childbirth, alcoholic father, poor poor poor. Some reviewers on Goodreads, when they decided to briefly crawl out of the gaping maw of Abaddon to type mewling vitriol before being dragged back to their deserved suffering by Old Scratch, The Prince of the Power and Air, even The Accuser Belial, had a problem with the way Esch talked:
On top of this, the first-person narration of an under-educated, cliché, pregnant black-teen feels wildly inconsistent. Forget about the fact that this narrator has no business using words like “detritus,” dialogue like “And we wasn’t fixing to drown it in no bucket” just doesn’t mesh with prose like “In the woods, animals dart between the valleys of shadow, birds trill up through pathways of sunlight,” when it is supposed to be come from the same voice.
I need my kitten pic.

Here's an idea, Mr. White Guy. Is it so hard to think that an author who grew up in a town similar to the one in the story would understand the terror of being ostracized by the uneducated poor who surrounded her if she even hinted at aspiring to something more? Whose brother sold crack out of his mom's house? Do you think she wouldn't learn very early to talk like her neighbors when she's at home and like her fellow students at the boarding school her mom's employer paid for? Even though she was relentlessly bullied by both groups?

My goodness. Give an author the benefit of the doubt that she knows what she's talking about and that you don't know crap. Socrates said that. Well, he said "I know one thing: that I know nothing" but you get the point. I love it when people say a character's actions are unbelievable because said character doesn't do what he would do when. As far as I can tell all he would do in any situation is not write and publish an award-winning novel.

Is Esch pregnant and black? Yes. Is she cliched? No. Is she under-educated? NO. DUH, YOU DUMB GUY SHE IS OBSESSED WITH BOOKS. Listen to one rap album (if your mom isn't home) and pay attention. Listen as they weave together simile and vocabulary in a way you never will. And when they talk in between the tracks they sound like they're from the streets because you can be from the streets and STILL BE SMART.

I hate him so bad.

Salvage the Bones is raw and horrifying and beautiful.