Showing 131 - 140 of 358 annotations tagged with the keyword "Abandonment"

Breath, Eyes, Memory

Danticat, Edwidge

Last Updated: Oct-07-2007
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Sophie, who has lived with her aunt in Haiti for the 12 years since her birth is being sent to live with her mother in New York. She leaves her aunt and grandmother amid a riot at the airport, and arrives in New York to meet her mother and her mother's long-term lover. Her mother has frequent nightmares, related, as it turns out, to the rape that eventuated in the birth of Sophie. Sophie's mother insists that the only road out of poverty is to study hard; she wants Sophie to become a doctor, and jealously oversees her work and protects her virginity, frequently testing her to make sure she has not been sexually active.

Eventually Sophie elopes with a kind musician, Joseph, but finds herself unable to enjoy sex. She returns to Haiti with their baby while he is on tour, and finds refuge among the women who raised her, though they themselves suffer various effects of poverty, alcohol, and violence. Sophie's mother flies to Haiti to be reconciled with her and takes her back to New York where the two women and their partners briefly share peace and kindness. But when Sophie's mother finds she is pregnant, she begins to have the nightmares about rape again, and kills herself. Sophie and the mother's lover fly to Haiti for the burial. Sophie runs away from the gravesite into the fields where her mother was raped, and attacks the cane stalks in fury, frustration, and a final cathartic gesture of self-liberation from a painful past.

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Second Language

Wineberg, Ronna

Last Updated: Sep-25-2007
Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

Summary: All thirteen short stories in this collection draw readers into the quietly compelling lives of disparate and very ordinary characters who function and suffer in unsettling ways. We are like them and not like them, but their circumstances, while sometimes disturbing, are familiar--and strangely magnetic. The opening lines of "The Lapse" illustrate this power of attraction:

I married Joanne during a lapse. A religious lapse. I don't display my beliefs like a gold medallion, though, as many whom I know do. I prefer to observe in private. After all, any intimate relationship belongs only to the entities or people involved. (p. 35)

Who can bypass an invitation to enter into announced intimacies, however private, that must be revealed in a matter of pages. What lapse and who is Joanne?!

"Bad News," centers around Sheila Powers, a psychologist, whose disruptive marital break-up is compounded by her mother's recent diagnosis of cancer and a subsequent flow of memories about her mother, her father, and herself. She is "between worlds...between life zones." (p. 113) Aspects of the future, at least her mother's, may be somewhat predictable, but the complex depths of the past mix with the present to generate sticky threads that belong to the story and to the readers as well who will recognize bits and pieces of their own family lives.

In a fourteen page story with a decidedly off-putting title, "The Encyclopedia," Wineberg zeroes in on Doris who, after a dissolved relationship, decides to sell the thirty volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica-"the macro-edition, the micro-edition and the year books" purchased by the former couple. Not about remote bits of history or dinosaurs, we discover, but a story about separation, a series of lovers, benign conversation with a fellow worker who claims to be similarly tired of men, a possible buyer for the unwanted encyclopedia, a relationship with the married buyer, an end to the relationship, and a decision to keep the books after all. Her life, we might decide, is encyclopedic, a litany of minutiae that does, indeed, provide information about conditions of existence.

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Running with Scissors

Burroughs, Augusten

Last Updated: Sep-03-2007
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This memoir chronicles the pre-adolescent and adolescent years of the author, the son of an alcoholic, abusive mathematics professor father and a psychotic Anne Sexton-wannabe confessional poet mother. The only family member who does not abuse the boy in any way is estranged--an older brother with Asperger’s syndrome. Meanwhile, the amount of trauma to which young Burroughs is subjected boggles the mind. Just when one thinks it couldn’t get any worse, it does.

Burroughs, who loves bright, shiny, orderly things, also likes doctors--paragons of cleanliness, virtue and wealth. Unfortunately, his mother’s psychiatrist, Dr. Finch, described as a charismatic Santa Claus-look-alike, is unethical, bizarre and squalid. As Mrs. Burroughs becomes more and more dependent on Finch, she allows her son to be adopted into the crazy Finch household.

This family includes wife Agnes, who copes with her husband’s infidelity by sweeping madly; son Jeff, daughters Kate, Anne, Vickie, Hope and Natalie; grandson Poo; and adopted son, Neil Bookman, who is twenty years older than Burroughs and homosexual. When Burroughs is thirteen, and has told Bookman that he, too, is gay, Bookman forces the boy to have oral sex. They become lovers.

The Finches, meanwhile, exhibit their quirks and weird tendencies in multiple ways. "Bible-dipping" is popular to read the future, as is prophesying by examining Dr. Finch’s turds. A patient with agoraphobia, Joranne, lives in one of the rooms--in fact, she has not left the room in two years. Young Burroughs is allowed to smoke and drink. When Burroughs says he doesn’t want to return to school, Dr. Finch facilitates this desire by giving Burroughs alcohol and pills to fake a suicide gesture, then hospitalizes the boy.

Yet Burroughs manages to befriend a couple of the Finch daughters, and to survive his childhood. The book closes with his departure for New York City and with an epilogue outlining various people’s outcomes. Finch lost his license due to insurance fraud.

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The Village Watchman

Williams, Terry Tempest

Last Updated: Aug-14-2007

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

This is a short piece, a scant twelve pages, in which Williams remembers Alan, an uncle who had mental deficits. During his breech birth, Alan’s brain was starved of oxygen. In the dominant American culture, Alan is called “retarded, handicapped, mentally disabled or challenged.” Williams concludes, “We see them for who they are not, rather than for who they are.” (p. 29) The title of the work refers to an Alaskan totem pole figure whose expression reminds her of Alan. In Tlingit culture, there’s a story of a kidnapped boy who lived with the Salmon People. When he returned twenty years later, he was seen as a holy man, not an “abnormal.”

To the young Terry Tempest, Alan demonstrated enthusiasm and spontaneity, for example bowling with reckless glee, regardless of where the ball went. When she asked him how he was feeling, he said, “very happy and very sad,” explaining that “both require each other’s company.” (p. 31) She liked his direct answers, those of a person we sometimes call a wise fool. Later, he lived in a “training school,” a joyless, ugly, and smelly place where abnormal children in Utah were sent and warehoused. Suffering from epilepsy, he wore a football helmet to protect him from sudden falls.

At age 22, Alan made the choice to be baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Williams describes the ceremony and how the family supported him through it (including yet another violent epileptic episode). When Alan died at age 28, Williams was 18. Looking at the totem pole, she remembers Alan, seeing him for who he truly was.

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Becoming Chloe

Hyde, Catherine

Last Updated: Aug-10-2007
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Jordy, 17, gay, abused by his parents, has taken refuge in a New York basement from where, one night, he witnesses the brutal gang rape of a young 18-year-old. After his shouted threats scare off the attackers, the girl slips through the window into what turn out to be shared quarters. The two begin to take care of each other; she insists on his getting treatment for head wounds at a public clinic (where care is distiinctly substandard) and he becomes guardian to this young woman whose history of abuse has left her in a curious state of social alienation and innocence about what is normal. The story becomes a kind of vision quest when, faced with "Chloe's" (a name she gives herself by way of starting over) inclination to put herself in harm's way, and to flirt with suicide, Jordy decides to prove to her that the world is more beautiful than it is threatening and ugly.

They acquire an old truck and embark on a cross-country journey that becomes a picaresque series of encounters, most of them with helpful, kind people, one notably disastrous, with three young men who threaten Chloe and land Jordy in the hospital after a fight. The trip terminates in Big Sur on the California coast where Chloe's dream of riding horses on the beach is fulfilled with most of Jordy's remaining cash. The pilgrimage leaves them with a sense of hope which each of them communicates to the New York therapist who briefly helped them, in letters that end the book.

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Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

Author Diedrich investigates ("treats") mid-late 20th century memoirs about illness (illness narratives) from an interdisciplinary perspective drawing on the disciplines of literature, social sciences, and philosophy. Her analysis uses the theoretical frameworks of poststructuralism, phenomenology, and psychoanalysis to consider "what sort of subject is formed in the practice of writing . . . illness narratives," the kind of knowledges articulated by such writing, whether and how such writing can transform "expert medical knowledges," how language operates in these memoirs, and "what sort of ethics emerges out of such scenes of loss and the attempts to capture them in writing" (viii).

The book is divided into Introduction, five chapters on specific memoirs, and Conclusion. Chapter 1, "Patients and Biopower: Disciplined Bodies, Regularized Populations, and Subjugated Knowledges," draws on Foucault's theory of power to discuss two mid-20th-century memoirs of institutionalization for tuberculosis. Betty McDonald's the Plague and I is compared with Madonna Swan: A Lakota Woman's Story. Dividing practices and regularization are shown to serve different functions in these two incarcerations, figurative in the case of Betty McDonald, and literal in the case of Madonna Swan.

Chapter 2, "Politicizing Patienthood: Ideas, Experience and Affect," draws on Foucault's approach to the subject and on his discussion of "practices of the self" in contrasting Audre Lorde's The Cancer Journals with Susan Sontag's Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors (see annotations). Diedrich also brings into her analysis Eve Sedgwick's theory of queer performativity and Sedgwick's own illness narrative, White Glasses. Diedrich views all of these as counter narratives to the clinical medical narrative of illness but she shows how they differ in stance.

Chapter 3, "Stories For and against the Self: Breast Cancer Narratives from the United States and Britain" looks at "the arts of being ill" as they are represented in two cultures, two "conceptions of the self in these countries at a particular historical moment" (61). The narratives discussed are Sandra Butler and Barbara Rosenblum's narrative, Cancer in Two Voices and Ruth Picardie's Before I Say Goodbye (see annotations). Diedrich associates Cancer in Two Voices with an American notion of self-improvement and Before I Say Goodbye with a British "emphasis on the cultivation of an ironic self" (55). The author works in this chapter with Freud's idea of the uncanny, Benedict Anderson's concept of "imagined political communities" and Elaine Scarry's discussion of pain, language, and the unmaking of the self.

Chapter 4, "Becoming-Patient: Negotiating Healing, Desire, and Belonging in Doctors' Narratives," treats Oliver Sacks's illness narrative, A Leg to Stand On, Abraham Verghese's autobiographical My Own Country: A Doctor's Story of a Town and Its People in the Age of AIDS, and Rafael Campo's book of essays, The Poetry of Healing (see annotations). Here Diedrich considers "the possibility that doctors, especially AIDS doctors, might become patients through desiring-and writing-productions" (83) and she utilizes the rhizome model of Deleuze and Guattari to make her case. She discusses how Verghese and Campo are each both cultural insiders and outsiders and how they each "bring the body into language through their writing" (88).

Chapter 5, "Between Two Deaths: Practices of Witnessing," focuses primarily on Paul Monette's writing about the loss of his partner to AIDS, and on John Oliver Bayley's books about the loss of his wife, Iris Murdoch, to Alzheimer's, and her ultimate death (see annotations in this database). In this chapter Diedrich invokes Lacan's concept of the real and his formulation of "the ethical possibility of being between two deaths" (117). She draws also on trauma theory and the work of Kelly Oliver, a contemporary feminist philosopher who has written on witnessing.

Finally, in her "Conclusion: Toward an Ethics of Failure," Diedrich returns to Elaine Scarry's "phenomenological discussion of the experience of pain" and brings in Jean-François Lyotard's concept of incommensurability and his suggestion between the two poles of what is seemingly incommensurable one might search, in Diedrich's words, for "new rules for forming and linking phrases between . . . subject positions" (150). In that context she analyzes physician Atul Gawande's discussion of medical uncertainty and error in his book, Complications (see annotation) and philosopher Gillian Rose's book, Love' s Work. Diedrich concludes that the basic incommensurability between doctor and patient can be a starting point for a new ethics, an ethics of failure and risk "because by taking such risks [of failure, of relations], we open up the possibility of new routes, new treatments: in and between art, medicine, philosophy, and politics" (166).

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Because She's My Friend

Sirof, Harriet

Last Updated: May-29-2007
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Serving as a summer hospital volunteer, fifteen-year-old Teri d'Angelo meets Valerie Ross, a girl her age who has damaged a nerve in a fall, and lost the use of one leg. Valerie's anguish over her partial paralysis takes the form of anger; she manages to keep most of those who try to help her at a distance. But Teri finds her intriguing, and Valerie's condition evokes a kind of sympathy and interest in her that overcomes even the patient's most strenuous rebuffs. Gradually, and with much caution on Valerie's part, they become friends. Valerie finds herself welcomed into Teri's large, warm Italian-American family. Teri's compassion for Valerie grows as she recognizes her loneliness; Valerie's parents are divorced, her father rarely visits, and her mother keeps up a hectic work schedule.
      
Teri also benefits in ways she didn't expect from the friendship; Valerie's bravery, even when masked with anger, inspires her to speak up more clearly on her own behalf, to ask for what she needs, and even to circulate a petition at school when she feels she has been discriminated against in the judging of a science project.
     
When Valerie is taken to a "sanitarium"-a mental health facility-for depression and apparently psychosomatic involvement of her good leg in the paralysis, Teri visits her patiently, despite Valerie's apparent lack of interest. But finally, when she watches Valerie rejecting the grandmother who traveled from England to see her, she acts in uncharacteristic anger, and in the shock of the moment, Valerie stands up, proving to herself and others that her good leg does, infact, function.  It is a turning point in her healing.

In an interesting twist, the book ends with the girls drifting apart.  They are, indeed, very different. Valerie is planning to attend City College in engineering. Valerie is going to live with her grandmother in England and attend Oxford University, hoping later to become a writer. In a final phone call, two years after Valerie's accident, the girls part with some affection and gratitude on both sides, but also with an acceptance of the fact that their friendship may have been for a season. They gave each other important gifts, and now life is taking them in very different directions. 

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When the Emperor Was Divine

Otsuka, Julie

Last Updated: May-25-2007
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This short novel tells the story of a Japanese-American family’s internment during World War II. They are living comfortably in Berkeley, California, when their nightmare begins. Soon after Pearl Harbor the husband/father is arrested by the FBI--taken away in his housecoat and slippers. We learn of this through the narration of the eight-year-old son, his ten-year-old sister, and their mother--who are rounded up several months later and sent to a camp in Utah. The father remains shadowy--a figure of memory, wishful thinking, and censored letters stamped "Detained Alien Enemy Mail." The reason for his arrest is never explained, as if there is no reason to question the man’s loyalty.

After her husband’s arrest, the mother is left to take care of her children and the house. A few months later she must pack up the household belongings, give away the family cat, kill and bury the family dog, tell her daughter to let loose the pet macaw. They are allowed to bring with them--where to they do not know--only what they can carry. They take an endless train ride through the Nevada desert to reach an internment camp in Utah, "a city of tar-paper barracks behind a barbed-wire fence on a dusty alkaline plane high up in the desert" (49).

Here they remain until the war ends, some three and a half years later. They learn to live in one room with a single light bulb; to stand on line for everything; to eat in the mess hall; to avoid rattlesnakes, scorpions, and the sun; and to "never say the Emperor’s name out loud" (52). They are unable to avoid the desert dust that covers and gets into everything. The children attend makeshift classes, play cards, are bored, lonely, and confused. The boy misses and has fantasies about his father, the girl reaches adolescence and becomes cynical, the mother is too depressed to eat or read.

At the end of the war, the three are allowed to go home "with train fare and twenty-five dollars in cash" (117). Their house has been vandalized; neighbors, teachers, and classmates either ignore them or are openly hostile. Finally their father is released from detention in New Mexico, a changed man both in appearance and spirit.

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Summary:

This remarkable collection of short writings, introduced by renowned poet Naomi Shihab Nye, who visited the Sutterwriters (of Sutter Hospital in Sacramento, California) to offer a workshop, provides a broad, compassionate, imaginative window into the life inside and around an urban hospital. Patients, staff, and all interested in healing through writing are invited to come and participate-with an accent on the latter: no one is invited who isn't willing to write.

Chip Spann, the editor, came to Sutter Hospital with a Ph.D. in English, and has the privilege of coordinating this fluid community of writers as part of his work as a staffmember. His conviction, voiced in an engaging introduction, is that literature is a powerful instrument of healing--both the literature we read and the literature we create--and that the experience of literature belongs in community. The individual pieces are accompanied by photographs and short bios of contributors.

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Broken China

Williams, Lori

Last Updated: May-21-2007
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

At fourteen, China Cameron is trying hard to be a good mother to her two-year-old daughter, conceived while China and her best friend, Trip, were "fooling around" at his house one day. Trip and China's disabled Uncle--her only parent since the death of her mother and her father's early abandonment-do all they can to help her stay in school and parent well. But the child contracts a respiratory infection and dies, leaving China not only devastated, but responsible for a large funeral bill: she insists on ordering the most beautiful casket in the catalogue and funeral services that turn out to be devastatingly expensive. To pay the bill, against the advice of Trip and her uncle, China begins working at the reception desk of a local "gentlemen's club."

Though the job requires that she wear skimpy and revealing clothing, and subjects her to the unwelcome attentions of inebriated patrons, she squares it with her conscience by hanging onto the belief that she is doing the best she can for her daughter. The terms of her employment, however, become more difficult as she is moved toward "dancing" on stage. When she finally decides to quit, she finds that the club is partly owned by the funeral director, who has a history of involving young women in her situation in debilitating debt.

A subplot follows the misfortunes of China's best friend, Yolanda, a young women in her twenties with several children by different fathers who is trying to realign her life after her youngest children are taken temporarily to foster care. Despite their various difficulties, the characters enter with compassion and imagination into each other's lives, and find ways to help one another. At the end of the story, China finally consents to visit her daughter's grave--something she has strenuously avoided--nd concedes to the necessity of coming to terms in a new way with her loss so as to reorient her life beyond funeral expenses, and go back to school with a reclaimed hope of a different kind of life.

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