It didn't take me five months to read, it took me five months to get around to reading it. Once I started, it was only a couple of weeks before I finished it. I know, I know, it should have only taken me a few days, for some of you overachievers it would only take a few hours, but I'd get sidetracked with life and, oh never mind. Suffice it to say it's the first book I've read in a long, long time, and, I liked it.
Have you read it? What did you think as you were reading it? I suppose this is why it took me so long to finish reading it. I'd think about the prejudices that the characters experienced and then think of some of the prejudice I've experienced, though not on the level that many blacks in the south experienced.
I clearly remember two instances. The first when I was in fifth grade and the second when I was in high school.
In fifth grade there was a girl, who's name I've never been able to recall, that was my tormentor. I couldn't ever understand why she treated me like she did, vindictive and just plain mean, until one day she made a comment that puzzled me initially but then made things perfectly clear. We were at recess, I was playing with my friends she with hers. Somehow the two groups came together, something set Mean Girl off, I can't remember what happened to ignite her ire but I do remember that her comments were immediately directed at me. In her most shrill voice she yelled at me "you're nothing but a dirty Mexican!" I just stood there, dumbfounded. I thought to myself, 'why is she saying this to me? I took a bath last night, I know I'm not dirty.' Childhood innocence protected me from bursting into tears but the comment, obviously, left an indelible mark on my psyche.
California in the early to mid-seventies was all about getting rights for the migrant workers. We were not migrant workers, though my father did work in the agricultural industry when we initially immigrated to the U.S. a work related injury caused him to have to leave it; subsequently, he received training to be a television repair man. The injury also resulted in our becoming 'town folk'.
The move to town wasn't bad we adapted to the neighborhood, learning the ins and outs of riding a bike on paved roads, playing street ball, etc. All was well until I got to high school. It seemed that the protests for migrant worker's rights had spilled over to the high school and many of the Hispanic students wanted to organize themselves into protest groups. There was always talk about having a riot of some sort to show that they weren't going to be pushed around. I didn't identify with this group of kids. I wanted to lay low, stay out of the fray, go to class, make good grades, and try and grasp algebra, Latin, and chemistry. I didn't have time nor the inclination to get involved in the protests. One day I'm in the library working on an English research paper, writing it out (no computers with spell check back then, life was rough) ever so neatly on my college ruled paper. A Hispanic girl from one of my classes comes and sits next to me and begins telling me about what's being planned and was I going to participate. I told her, 'no, I'm not interested'. Well that set her ire off. She then accused me of being a coconut, brown on the outside but white on the inside. Didn't I care about what was happening to my people! Was I ashamed of being a Mexican? If I didn't participate then I wasn't really a Mexican. Born in Mexico, raised with Hispanic values and yet not Mexican enough, really? Again I was perplexed. What did not wanting to be involved have to do with my Mexican-ness? This time around the prejudice came from 'one of my own'.
I've never seen myself as a minority, though I fall into three categories, woman, Hispanic, Mormon. My parents never sat me down and said don't take any gruff from the whites nor did they say, you're a poor Mexican play it up and get all you can. No, my parents taught me to work hard, play within the rules, get ahead and don't settle for less than your best. There was never talk about being put upon because of our ethnicity, just about getting an education and making something of yourself.
I hate that prejudice exists, I hate that I've been on the receiving end of it. Yet, I've come to accept the fact that it is something that has been a part of humanity for eons and, unfortunately, will continue to some degree or another. I could tell you so many stories of students I've had, and have, that are no different than the ten year old girl that called me a 'dirty Mexican' or of co-workers who's prevailing attitude is to 'send them all back' or who'll approach Hispanic students and tell them to stop speaking in Spanish because they're in the United States now and they don't need to speak that here.
I don't believe in playing the race card, never have but I also don't think one person is better than someone else just because of skin color, religion or wealth. Life is too short, interesting and stressful to be hung up on such things.
All this from reading a book. Goodness.