No matter the day in age, people growing up within areas enveloped in poverty seem to be living the same stories. Closed in living spaces, questionable streets, and teenagers itching to make it out into the world; somewhere other than where they are currently living.
In the House on Mango Street, Esperanza is one of the many people trying to move through this way of life as best as she can while yearning to escape Mango street. As the book moves through characters, we see that Esperanza is not the only one who wishes to overcome living in this area. Reading this book, I was able to understand what growing up in conditions such as these ones may have entailed, let alone how it could be so hard to leave and move on from a life like that.
Growing up in a white family and predominately upper-class areas, I was completely shielded by what living in an area of poverty may have been like and assumed that people who were living in situations such as Mango Street were just not trying hard enough to build a life for themselves. However, as I have grown I have realized that is not the case. It seems that when many people have grown in poverty stricken areas, it is almost as if they are permanently stuck. Towards the end of the story, an old woman tells Esperanza, “When you leave, you must remember always to come back” (Cisneros 105). This passage stands for those that are in fact, stuck. There are few people who are able to make it “out” of this lifestyle once born into it, and the old women believe that Esperanza is one of those people. Because of this, the book is highlighting the importance of dependency. There are ways to make it out of a rather dark situation and this can definitely include a boost from someone else.
Adolescence is tough part in every person’s life. Trying to figure out who you are or who you want to become can be one of the most difficult factors of growing up. Though just about everyone can agree with this, many of us experienced completely different things during this stage of life. Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson gives a complex story of a girl finding her way through poverty in the city.
One of the most important dynamics of this story is August’s mother. August had memories of her mother going crazy in a sense, and leaving in the night with her father and younger brother. The children are to never see their own mother again and their father rarely speaks of her, if at all. From the point of leaving their mother forward, it is clear to see that August sees her mother in everything she does. When August notices Sylvia, Gigi and Angela, she is completely enticed and awestruck by these girls. One of the things that first came to my mind was that August was looking for another way to encompass the female figure she needed in her life when her mother became absent. In a way, the girl’s friendship was different than most adolescent friendships as it became centered around taking care of each other and attempting to be a support system. At this point in a teenager’s life, this would be something that would be looked for within a mother. Not only is August leaning on her friendships to cover up the gaping hole left in her life from not having a present mother, she also seemed to cling onto Sister Loretta, grasping for some sort of female figure to help her navigate through growing up in a city like Brooklyn.
At the beginning of the time that Sister Loretta is in the children’s lives, August follows her and tries to take part in relying on faith rather than parental figures. As she is searching for herself, this only lasts for a short amount of time. As August jumps between friendships, faith and her father to keep her afloat, it becomes clear to see that August’s mother is the underlying cause of her distress and is ultimately the thing that enables August to drown in her adolescent memories.
In reading the book Red Clocks by Leni Zumas, I was instantly brought back into thinking about what it is like to be a woman in today’s society. We are told what we can wear, who we need to impress, how we need to act and what we can and cannot do with our bodies. Though living in my own personal world, I have yet to experience this to a full extent, I am completely aware that this happens every day and has been happening since the beginning of time.
All of the women portrayed in this book are experiencing a struggle of what the world expects them to do as women, mothers, and individuals. Roberta is one of the characters that seems to have a stigma that really hits home. Her main goal being one that sets out to have a child on her own is something that has been frowned upon and still continues to be looked down on. Through generations, the expectation has been that for a woman to have a family, she has to be with a man. In all reality, there are countless women who are out in the world without a partner who have only dreamed of having children or a family but are unable to have a “true” family without a man from the eyes of society. Roberta is a shining example of those women and brings a voice to the table that speak for a number of people.
On the exact opposite side of the spectrum there is Mattie’s character who is pregnant yet does not want to keep the baby. Ultimately, this should not seem as a problem considering it is Mattie’s body and choice of whether she would like to birth a baby or not however, this character brings light to the situation that has been rising for years and will for years to come. Both characters are struggling through a reality that is extremely controversial yet are used to bring a voice to the hundreds of women who are or have been in the same shoes as them.
In Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi, we are drawn to a similar parallel between the characters. Much of this book is very clearly associated with skin color and identity however these two play a huge part in being a woman. Boy is fighting a battle with identity as her character develops into that of a “wicked” stepmother towards her stepdaughter, Snow. Though much of this identity crisis in this book have to do with skin color, this ties into the idea that both of these books are an example of the parts of being a woman that are rarely discussed. Being a woman comes with the assumption that society gets to indulge in having an opinion about how we live our lives.