Monday, June 6, 2011

2nd Response on "Girl In Translation"

In the book Girl In Translation, Kimberly goes through her coming-of-age process in America, having moved there as a complete foreigner around age 11. There are many similarities and differences between child and adult Kimberly, but a change I see clearly is how much more mature Kimberly became as she ‘came-of-age’. One of the primary aspects of coming-of-age is maturity, including how you deal with problems and face your responsibilities. As and adult, people expect you to be mature, even if it can be very hard to be the ‘bigger person’, and Kimberly takes on that expectation head-on.

Kimberly and her mother are extremely poor, working in an illegal sweatshop for long hours and living in a roach-ridden apartment in the projects of Brooklyn. One of Kimberly’s only friends in America, Annette, doesn’t have a clue what a rough life Kim has. Besides the language barrier, it is extremely hard for Kim to deal with, much less tell her wealthier best-friend, about her home and financial situation. In the beginning, Annette doesn’t seem much to notice, and their friendship glides along, but as they get into high school, Annette starts to wonder why she can’t call Kim, and why Kimberly can’t even afford to wear nice underwear to gym class. Later on in the book, Kim finally comes clean about how she lives when Annette shows up at her house. “I knew you didn’t have a lot of money, but this is ridiculous. No one in America lives like this.” [Annette said]. I stated the obvious. “Actually, they do.” (p. 242) A part of maturing is accepting who you are, and if you don’t like, then you try to change it. Kim does both those things, by toughing it out in her home and working her butt off trying to make a better life for her and her mom.

Another part of maturing is voicing things and taking stands for what you believe in to get things done, rather than waiting around for things to happen on their own. Since the beginning, Kimberly’s Aunt Paula has held over her head that she was the one that brought Kim and her mother to America. She makes them pay her back almost immediately, and puts them in a crappy apartment, secretly not wanting them to ‘make it’ in America. “America! If I hadn’t brought you here, you’d still be in Hong Kong. I even gave you another address so you could go to a better school.” [said Aunt Paula]. “You did that because it’s illegal for us to be living where we are.” [said Kimberly]. In this moment, towards the end of the book, Kim finally voices what she knows, and then she and her mother quit their jobs in Aunt Paula’s sweatshop so Kim can go to Yale, something Aunt Paula didn’t want her to do since it was a sign that Kim was better than her son.

One last way that shows how Kim matured is by getting a boyfriend, and showing Matt that she cares about him. I know this may seem like an odd example of maturity, but telling and showing someone you like them is incredibly hard, which I would know from personal experience. In the beginning of the book, Kim acts as if she is afraid of boys. While reluctantly going on a motorcycle tour with Matt, she says “I did desperately want to put my arms around him but...shyness overwhelmed me just at the thought of it.” Telling someone you like them not only shows bravery, but it shows that you have the power to lay-out who you are and what you’re thinking, instead of being afraid and hiding your whole life.

In conclusion, the main aspect of Kimberly’s coming-of-age that shined through was how much she matured, and took life by the reigns. As a young adult, you can’t always wait for life to make the decisions, you have to, even if that can be scary or tough. Life doesn’t always work out the way you may want it to, and the only way you can try to fix things is by getting up and fixing them yourself.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Response on Prompt #6

Rebelling, I feel, is a necessary part of growing up. Rebelling is such a general term though. When I say we should all rebel, I don’t immediately think about going out every night to drink and party. Everyone has their own boundaries, and we should rebel to our own limits. If you’re born n’ raised in a religious suburb, your tolerance for ‘crazy’ may be slightly lower than a born-and-raised New Yorker like myself.

To me, the term rebelling just means a way of going ‘against the system’, whether the system is the authority in your life, social norms etc. To learn who-we-are, we need to see where our moral beliefs and stance is. For example, do you think it is ok to be gay, or not? Going against the ‘system’ is also good just to, maybe, see how you deal with things you don’t believe in, whether that’s thinking it’s not fair to have to say ‘please’ or having a curfew before midnight. Part of getting our feet stabilized on the ground is learning how to fall. Like the saying “Forward two steps, back one step”, life isn’t always going to be up, so we need to fall a few times and see which way we can pick ourselves back up.

The thing about rebelling though is that it can have major consequences. While going against the ‘system’, we find that we like it too much and take it from experimental zone to a more permanent place in your life. For example, though I don’t want to take drugs, I understand if maybe you try it out. Well, maybe not understand, but I probably won’t blow up on you and give you an intervention. I think if we don’t try something ‘bad’, we will never understand ourselves that they are bad or disgusting. All we will know is what everyone else thinks, which to most people isn’t good enough. When this one-time thing though becomes permanent, that’s where the problem begins.

Why would so many people rebel though, if it does come with a high risk? Besides my opinion of it being necessary, the honest answer I have is that rebelling can be fun. Since I am a bit grounded, rebelling to me is not too huge, but I still remember the time I openly chewed gum in class and put my legs on the table. Wild, huh? Though it sounds stupid, a small moment of rebellion like this leads to a huge feeling of satisfaction that for many people is enough. Ok, I tried it out, I’m cool now. Rebelling is definitely something to avoid if you tend to maximize problems, but small moments of breaking the rules teach you who you are and what you can do (without hopefully getting in too much trouble...)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Response on "Girl in Translation"

Though I believe Kimberly Chang began her coming-of-age process as soon as her feet hit American soil, there is clearly a difference in her from the beginning to the end of the book Girl In Translation. Alongside the many differences though, there are many similarities between adult and child Kimberly. I feel like being a kid is a time we all cherish, and though we come-of-age, we never completely get rid of it. Many parts of us as a kid actually follow us into our adult life, whether prominent in who-we-are or just another one of our hidden personalities.

An aspect of child Kim that seems to creep up on us in adulthood is being insecure and wanting to fit in. “It became harder and harder to pull the sweater over all the under-layers I wore (unlike the other girls), but I had no choice.” This feeling of needing to be like the other kids is one I know well. Though I am far from being poor, I am not the most ‘in-with-the-trends’ and find it hard to deal with the other kids that will laugh at you if you aren’t. I think we all want to be normal, since then you can live under the radar without any negative attention. This happens more so when you’re a kid and a teenager though. It’s human nature to want to ‘fit-in’ and be normal, but as an adult you know yourself better and are more stable overall.

A second trait of Kim’s that follows her into adulthood shows when Kim goes to school in America for the first time. She gets outcasted, accused of cheating, and naturally becomes very upset. “After my talk with Ma about Mr.Bogart, I did what any sensible kid would do: I started playing hooky.” Instead of solving the problem (by maybe talking to Mr. Bogart about her trouble accustoming to American culture), she decides to cut school. Though this could be looked at as a form of rebellion, in the context she does this action in, I don’t consider it rebellion. She is not trying to make the authority (her mother and teacher) angry, she is trying to hide from her problem. Though hiding from any problem is a childish thing to do, Kim does something very similar in the end of the book. When she becomes pregnant at age 18, she doesn’t tell Matt, the father, in fear of making a bigger deal out of it. She didn’t want to “Tye him to her with a baby”, so she runs off to Yale, being a college student by day and a mother by night. Adults and parents are supposed to be the people that solve problems and face their duties, but as Kim matures, she still hangs on to her childhood shy and scared self.

The last way Kim acts like a child is by being afraid to stand-up for herself. Now, I say that like it is an easy thing, which it’s not, but another part of coming-of-age is being able to take care of yourself in a world that does not always play in your favor. When Kim and her mother treat themselves to ice-cream, they get ripped off, and they both know it. “When he rang up the price, it was three times more than it said on the carton...I didn’t know if I should speak up or how you complained about prices in English, so I kept silent as well.” The interesting part is that her mother, who in theory has already experienced her coming-of-age, didn’t stand up for herself or say anything either. I guess none of us completely turn into an ‘adults’, since most times it is just so much easier to be a kid.

As I flipped back through the pages of my book, I realized that many aspects of being a kid follow you to your adult life. Though I would like to think that as an adult you are always in control, that’s not true. As I read about Kim getting scared as a police called from behind, I immediately thought Not ready to be an adult and play it cool yet, huh? After some thought, I realized most people, kids or adults, would be scared in a situation like that. I also need to give credit to Kim for having to experience her coming-of-age in a completely foreign place with a very different language and culture. Coming-of-age means changing, but more in the way that you build on what you already know. Though being a kid and being an adult are so very different, and coming-of-age feels like a slap in the face sometimes, we always have a part in us that still wants our old teddy-bear to hug or our mommies to tuck us into bed at night.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Extended Response to Prompt #7

Ready or Not, Go

Ready or Not

The whistle blows,
the bell chimes.
It’s your time,
it all starts now.
What are you going to do with the rest of your life?

Ready or Not

Run too fast and you’ll get tired.
Totter too slow and you’ll trip.
Will you pick yourself up,
or stay down awhile?

Ready or Not

The path twists and turns
never staying constant.
Up mountains, down valleys,
through rain and fog,
thick and thin.

Ready or Not

Sometimes it’s good
sometimes it’s not,
but don’t claw at your eyes
they’ll get tired.
Just keep your feet moving
don’t freeze now.
Aren’t you sick of being frozen?
Isn’t being free what you wanted?

Ready or Not

Mama can’t pick you up no more,
she can’t keep up.
You’re going too fast,
you have to

You have to.

***I wrote this poem based of my entry for prompt number 7, basically stating that when you’re a kid, you hit the earth with your feet and get to explore a bit, but as soon as your time to grow-up comes, it’s as if something drops you in a new world, and the only way to survive is to hit the ground running. If you make a mistake, the thing that may define your life is how you get out of it, not the mistake itself. If you stumble, get back up and keep going because at this age, anything can happen.***

Sunday, March 20, 2011

FINAL response on "My Papa's Waltz'

Recently we read “My Papa’s Waltz”. I read this poem last year, and immediately remembered the tranquil and sad feeling I got the first few times I read it. This time around, though I still kept in mind what I thought about the poem last year, I made new connections that in some ways reflects what is going on in my life now. Interesting how poems can do that, huh? Anyway, last year I associated the poem pretty immediately with heavy drinking and abuse. T hough I still think the child is getting hurt and the father is at least tipsy, I am more open to the emotional and beautiful side of the poem. The little boy clings onto his fathers shirt through romping and stumbling around. Even with all the ‘drama’ of having a tipsy father, the little boy may see his drunken stumbling as playing, and his pushes and light hits as dance directions. The son may be getting hurt, but the little boy calls this a waltz because it is hard for people to see the bad in their parents.

I’ll start with backing up to the father being tipsy/drunk. The little boy says that there is “whiskey on your [his father’s] breath to make a small boy dizzy,” (line 2) possibly the small boy being himself. Though having whiskey on your breath doesn’t automatically make you drunk, when there is enough to “make a small boy dizzy,” yes not uncomfortable but DIZZY, something is up. Also, “every step you miss” (line 11) indicates that the father may not be completely aware of his surroundings. Another thing that leads to the father being at least tipsy is that the father is dirty with a “palm caked hard by dirt,” (line 14). Having a battered knuckle could mean that either the father is a construction worker as Charlie suggested in class, or that the dirt is from being out late, roaming the streets in a drunken frenzy, getting into some messy tussles here and there.

Another belief I have is that, whether purposely or not, the father is hurting the son. “My right right ear scraped a buckle” (line 12) sounds pretty harsh, and “you beat time on my head” (line 13) could mean a number of things, from hurting the boy physically to threats of memories and the future. Also, people say that since the mother is pretty much just being a bystander, the father isn’t drunk and isn’t hurting his son. If the father was hurting his son, the mother would do something, right? Well, I hate to break it to people, but not everyone is brave. What if the ‘papa’ drinks a lot, and in the past has hit the mother, too? From mother’s we expect there to be a lot of protection for their children, especially growing up in gentle Park Slope. What about protecting yourself? This poem, to me, seems as if it took place at least a few decades ago, when it was more common for mother’s and father’s to be more ‘disciplinarian’ toward their children, and men to be more hostile with women. The mother may be scared for her own self, and may not want to make the scene worse by cutting in.

I also believe that the waltz is actually the father staggering around while his son clings to him. “Romping” (line 5) means acting in a rough and noisy (boisterous) way, which could show up if the son is clinging on, and the father is angry and wants him off. The boy also says “BUT I hung on like DEATH,” (line 3). The fact that the son used the word ‘death’ rather than something like ‘I hung on tight’ shows that possibly he is in a situation not so far from what brings death, or what emotions come with death. Maybe the boy doesn’t exactly know what being drunk is, but he is scared of his papa staggering and trying to push him away.

Adding on to my previous point, usually when people say ‘but’, they are trying to justify or explain something. In the poem’s context, what is being explained or justified is that the whiskey on the father’s breath could make a small boy dizzy. The thing about this poem that I truly find so beautiful and true is that the little boy clearly loves his father. Whether actually dancing or getting abused, and being with a drunk or just tipsy father, the little boy wants to dance and play with him. He defends the whiskey on the breath, and clings on to him for dear life, whether for support or simply wanting love when ‘waltzing’ and being sent to bed. As I mentioned, for us (especially little boys, but even me sometimes), we look up to our parents, and so we find it hard to fault them. No matter what, (hopefully), we love our parents even if they ground us, take away the computer, etc. We all as teenagers have those times of ‘No one understands me!’ or ‘WHATEVER MOM!’ and then the occasional ‘I hate you!’, but how can we truly hate the people that would give up so much for us? The son may be in risk of getting seriously hurt by his drunk dad, but instead of thinking of that, he thinks his father’s staggers and pushes are a dance or waltz of a kind. The waltz of a son and his father.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Are teens going to get a break someday?
A catchphrase can’t be ‘wrong’, or ‘no’ or ‘bad’.
We have unique emotions that convey
What’s the problem with following the fad?

We are not pesky and little like mice,
We are humans and have a big, loud voice
Can’t you forgive us just this once or twice?
The changes happening are not our choice

I do like my tight jeans and baggy shirts
I think they are stylish and cool and hip
And though we may be big, obvious flirts
It all pays off when we get named as ‘chicks’

We are who we are; I am who I am
You may not like it: we don’t give a damn