The Fear Girls

Category: Author: Taylor

What We’re Reading: The God of Small Things

By Taylor Majewski

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy is a microcosm of gender issues that examines the foundations of post-colonial Indian society. This debut novel by Arundhati Roy, published in 1997, is the recipient of the Booker Prize and the Sydney Peace prize, as it challenges the injustices women faced and continue to face in India. The novel tells the story of Ammu, a divorcee, single mother, and educated woman living in Kerala, India during a time that predated Western Colonialism, a time in which the “Love Laws” were practiced and abided by. The Love Laws determined who a person can love, and how, and how much. Simply put, a person can only love and marry another person from their same caste and religion, and insurgents would be ostracized or even killed by the community. The basic concept of the Love Laws in which the novel is centered around was foreign and shocking to me, and at times it makes the story graphic and difficult to read. However, Roy’s character Ammu is a powerful representation of a person secondarily ranked in society, who challenges power structures to improve positions for women.

Ammu is a member of the middle class bourgeoisie, mother to fraternal twins Estha and Rahel. She initially married a man from a different caste and religion, divorced him, and consequently was not welcomed back into her father’s home after violating the Love Laws. Her children were even considered illegitimate due to her infringement. As the novel progresses, Ammu falls in love with Velutha, a Dalit, or Untouchable, a member of the lowest class. Their relationship is an illegal cross-caste liaison of revolutionary significance within the novel and shapes the struggle that Ammu copes with in her rebellion.

India is similar to the United States regarding gender issues because even in a post-fairness culture, the fight for gender equality continues.  Ammu is a fictional pioneer who sought to alter the hierarchy of rights and power between men and women in her rejection of solely serving as a wife and mother to someone she was supposed to love under the law. She wasn’t satisfied with being subservient in her society and defiantly risked her life in the name of love and her children.

As a tragic love story with a distressing setting, this book is not for the light hearted. But Roy crafts beautiful relationships between Ammu, her children, her mother, and Velutha which all invigorate the compelling effect of her revolt. The novel shows special insight into a possibly unfamiliar culture and is a promised great read.

Recommending the Library

 By Taylor Majewski

On June 17, 1994, a white Ford Bronco SUV progressed down Interstate 405, four LAPD cars in tow, their sirens howling. With over a dozen news channels broadcasting the live pursuit, ninety-five million Americans put everyday life on hold, their eyes locked to the television. The OJ Simpson car chase triggered such a high caliber of media attention that it is considered one of the most widely publicized events in American history. Most Americans even remember where they were and what they were doing when that white van made its way through the heart of Los Angeles, sadly comparable to how they remember their whereabouts on September 11, 2001. My parents, however, remember turning the TV off.

I’ve realized that the entirety of my young life has been prominently affected by that historic moment in media history. My parents canceled the cable in our home that year, and thus cartoons were eliminated from my adolescence, sitcoms from my pubescent years, and reality shows as I entered adulthood. Instead of feigning that I knew the details of popular TV shows growing up, I usually admitted to the misfortune of not having cable to my friends and peers, collecting a variety of different reactions. Most people were stunned I couldn’t even watch the news and one classmate asked me if I was Amish (really, buddy?), but I didn’t see the absence of television as any sort of tragedy, nor confirmation of an isolated form of existence. I view my circumstance as a privilege that vastly changed the trajectory of my life, for instead of picking up a remote every day, I picked up a book.

I don’t think that reading books throughout my childhood instead of watching TV made me any wiser than my classmates nor am I criticizing modern technology. It’s because of the Internet that I am able to follow the news, and at this point any TV show I want to watch can be found online through portals like Netflix and Hulu. But there was something about being raised without cable television that makes me shy away from spending hours in front of any screen, especially now with emerging hits like The Kardashians or Jersey Shore. I mention these shows particularly because of how they portray young people, especially women, setting an unsettling foundation for many, many reality TV shows of their kind. Of course, these shows are popular because of their characters’ ridiculous behavior, but I guess I’d just rather learn about heroines like Elizabeth Bennett than about Kim’s latest love interest. I think following the lives of women in fiction or nonfiction, unimpeded by the tactless nature of scripted reality TV shows, can give young women a more powerful status in modern society.

For most, TV is a part of everyday life and seems hard to live without, but it is possible. My dad and I listen to the Red Sox on the radio regularly and I read the newspaper in my college’s campus coffee shop every morning. See, there are ways to survive without it. I’d also like to clarify that I have obviously watched TV. I am a big fan of shows like SNL and yeah, I do compare my life to The OC every now and then, but I will always recommend reading over turning on the ol’ boob tube. I know too many college students my age who don’t read outside of school assignments, which I think is largely attributed to the fact that it’s simply easier to turn on the TV.

While I used to resent my parent’s decision that catapulted me into pop-culture exile, I now appreciate their choice as OJ made his way down Sunset Boulevard. My life without the incessant buzz of a television in the background has facilitated my growth as a person and my love for English. And while it may be easier to turn on the TV, what you’re getting out of it in the end is far less valuable than opening a book.

Later, U.S.

 By Taylor Majewski

I haven’t traveled much. One time, my cousin (SOPHIA!!!) and I were discussing my current high school Spanish class. I told her my teacher didn’t speak much English,

“He’s from some foreign country,” I explained to her.

“Oh, so is he Latino?” she inquired.

“No, no he’s from El Salvador.”

Go me. Seriously, that private school education was definitely paying off…

At the start of junior year, a trip to South Africa was advertised at a school-wide meeting; I applied to go, and 7 months later, I was on a plane with 30 other students to Johannesburg. That first night we arrived at the African Leadership Academy, where we were to stay, in the middle of the night. The next morning we were woken, jet-lagged and cranky, to depart for the Apartheid Museum in the city. After hours of tours, the group staggered back onto the bus, exhausted. We drove for about a half an hour until the bus stopped in the middle of a barren dirt road. Had we broken down? Then a tiny, barefoot, young girl approached my window, beckoning to come towards her. A boy crept up beside her, then another, and soon at least thirty children had surrounded the bus. Our chaperones announced this surprise visit to the local township of Kliptown, one of the poorest communities in South Africa. I was amazed, scared, and speechless by the community that seemed to gather out of nowhere. Stepping off the bus, I was met with hugs and greetings. The children gave us a tour around their school with fervent details about their everyday schedule and afterwards the entire village performed multiple songs and dances in honor of our arrival. It was the most incredible sight I had ever seen.

The rest of my visit to South Africa was wonderful–we went to a World Cup game, roadtripped to Cape Town, and climbed Table Mountain. But there is something unforgettable about that first night in Kliptown. I was raised in an affluent family, in a suburban town, with a clear naivety to life beyond my own (see starting anecdote). South Africa, in accordance with what I heard, was supposed to be a mystical land that would forever change me as I touched the lives of those less fortunate. It, I promise you, was not. I didn’t return from my trip having “found myself,” nor did I even come back with improved geographical understanding of the globe. What I did come back with was a single, long-lasting memory. In Kliptown, there is no electricity, no formal bathrooms, thin rags for clothes–it is exactly how you are picturing it. But that place embodied a feeling that is extraordinary. The spirit of the town that had nothing was universally jovial, equipped with an ability to spread that happiness like wildfire. I’ve never seen such genuine contentment and I’ve personally never been more privileged than to meet those people–the most amazing people on earth.

I’m a strong advocate that young people, when given the opportunity, should through by any means travel. My trip to South Africa didn’t turn me into Angelina Jolie nor much help my geographical sense, but it did make me significantly more aware of another culture. And that culture, in its own special way, made me more aware of myself. Experiencing new places at a young age is really the best way to gain knowledge of and appreciation for the world we live in. So, travel often, and if you find yourself in Kliptown, please say hi to them for me.