Monday, December 12, 2005

Reading More Into It?

When I read books I usually assume that things are what they are. I do not assume that authors are using characters to represent ambiguous concepts or higher meanings - sometimes a homocidal maniac is just a homocidal maniac. This is my second time reading Almanac and something about the characters jumped out at me this time that did not last time and to my surprise it appeared to me that characters were perhaps representing things other than their human form.

I'm at about page 150 now, so my assumptions at this point may be blown away in the next 300 pages, but I'll share them with the group now. There is a legend mentioned on the map in the beginning of the book. It is a legend I've heard about before - one that states that it was taught that European people would come to the Americas and nearly wipe out Indigenous populations and cultures, but that after a time all things European would disappear. It got me thinking about Seese. Seese is a white woman who has lost her baby. She's lost her baby because of her cocaine habit, but the baby is gone nonetheless. I know so many women who have had trouble getting pregnant. The fertility business is booming because women not only have a difficult time getting pregnant, but also staying pregnant. Some people assert that the effects of the environment on women's bodies is affecting their ability to get pregnant. The rise in pollution. The preservatives and genetic alteration in foods. Tainted water. Could Seese represent women losing their ability to have babies - her cocaine habit, the poisoning of her body, our reliance on oil and other things that pollute the environment that in turn poison our bodies? Could the baby represent the loss of something more than just a baby? Seese is white, therefore could be seen as European. If the white women cannot have offspring, the culture could die in a few generations.

Juxtaposed with that story line is the story of Zeta and Lecha meeting their Grandma. The first thing she tells them is, "You are Indians." Yeome represents the return of a culture they did not even know existed. This is right along with many marginalized cultures that have been lost because of shame, genocide, forced moves, etc. Sure, Yeome coming to Zeta and Lecha happens well before Seese is born, but the Almanac itself is not linear - and in a web all things are connected and happening at the same time in different places that eventually connect. In fact, Seese physically connects with Zeta and Lecha, so their story lines clearly intersect.

Zeta and Lecha have their own issues - Drug addiction, smuggling business. Seese is all messed up too. The loss of all things European could mean, not so much that all things European would disappear, but that they would become enmeshed in other cultures and ways of life, so something not entirely European, and not entirely Indigenous would evolve. Of course at this point in the story everything is good and f*#^ed.

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