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Peter Selwyn spent the first ten years out of medical school at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, caring for HIV-positive patients--mostly intravenous drug users and their families--in the early years of the AIDS crisis. As he worked with dying young men and women and their families, Selwyn returned to his own unexplored pain surrounding the loss of his father, who fell or (more likely) jumped from a 23-story building when Selwyn was a toddler. Mirroring their function in Selwyn’s life, the stories of the five patients who most affected him serve in this book as the threshold to the narrative of how Selwyn investigated, mourned, and commemorated his father’s death, finally revaluing it as central to the person and doctor he became.
This story is set in the 1950s. Gloria St. Clair's great grandmother, Great Mam, is a displaced Cherokee--one of the Bird Clan's "Beloved Women" who "keep track of things"--who moved from her tribal home in Tennessee to Kentucky with the white man whose children she bore. Gloria's father, a coal miner, decides that the family should take Great Mam back to Tennessee for a last visit before she dies.
The journey is a disaster, revealing that remnants of Cherokee life have been reduced to poverty and tawdry tourism. Gloria realizes, though, that Great Mam's heritage has survived, not in the place she came from, but in what she has passed on to her great granddaughter: Great Mam has given Gloria the nickname "Waterbug" after the creature that, according to Native American myth, retrieved the earth from the bottom of the sea, and in remembering this and all the other stories Great Mam told her, Gloria becomes the next one whose task is to retrieve the past, to "keep track of things."
As this highly original and provocative film once again demonstrates, John Sayles is not a traditional storyteller. Audiences are caught in the detective story focusing at one level on murders and abuses committed more than 20 years ago; but the filmmaker guides their attention to the survivors, the current and very ordinary folks inhabiting the small border town where secrets are closely kept.
Imagine a blank canvas on which seemingly unrelated splotches of paint appear; then imagine those splotches as members of various ethnic groups inhabiting Frontera on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande. First, we have custodial white men who hang around the local coffee shop or fish on previously-owned Indian land transformed recently, and with some controversy, into a lake by the construction of a dam. Then we have Mercedes Cruz (Miriam Colon), a successful business woman and council member who curiously shows little compassion for "wetbacks" and those relapsing into the Spanish language. Her daughter, Pilar (Elizabeth Peña), of whom she is a constant critic, is a school teacher and single mother of two teenagers, a figure whose importance will increase as the composition develops.
Also, there is Otis Payne (Ron Canada), the African-American owner of the town’s black bar, a refuge for that minority group; and there is his estranged son, a rigid and unyielding colonel at the nearby base. Finally and less developed, are the Indians whose land has been claimed by the town’s ruling forces.
As fragments from the past and present provide dimension and meaning, increasingly the disparate colors are transformed into a representational form with clear connecting lines. Shapes and textures gradually become familiar and palpable. Within the context of good and evil, narrative lines blur and thicken. With tantalizing flashbacks, past and present fuse, allowing puzzle pieces to fit together; then engaged audience members realize that the narrative threads have twisted to expose unimagined patterns of sacrifice and love.
This film, like Nair’s earlier films (Salaam Bombay!, Mississippi Masala) presents serious social issues for viewers to consider, but the story this time, is set in a happier context. As the title reveals, a wedding is central. Monsoon is added to account for two kinds of turbulence: the weather on the day of the wedding and discomforting family factors such as pedophilia, secret trysts, and class distinctions. For the Punjabi Verma family, it is Father of the Bride with the universal tension, stress, and chaos associated with such happy events, but also with distressing twists that are sorted out or washed away symbolically by the monsoon’s arrival.
"My mother danced all night and Roberta’s was sick. That’s why we were taken to St. Bonny’s." Thus begins Twyla’s narrative of her long-term, intermittent relationship with Roberta, another eight-year-old who shares her failing grades and "not real orphan" status at St. Bonaventure’s, the shelter where they live for a few months.
The two girls become fast friends despite the discomfort occasioned by the situation, their problematic mothers (Roberta’s is hyper-religious and unfriendly; Twyla’s is pretty but childlike, an embarrassment to Twyla because of her casual clothing and behavior), and their racial differences (one is white, one African-American). They also share a defining moment, in which they watch bigger girls assault Maggie, a disabled woman who works in the institution’s kitchen.
The girls meet by accident four more times; as young adults in a Howard Johnson’s, where Twyla works and Roberta stops in with two young men on the way to the coast for "an appointment with Hendrix"; in a grocery store in Newburgh, the blue-collar town on the Hudson river where Twyla lives (Roberta lives in white-collar Annandale); at a picket line against a busing plan (Roberta is protesting the busing; Twyla ends up picketing for it); and finally in a diner on Christmas Eve. Each time they meet, they piece together what has happened in their lives, but also return to the defining moment of Maggie, arguing about what really happened and what role they played in the abuse.
Lenny's development from childhood to adolescence concurs with India's independence from Britain and the partitioning of India into India and Pakistan. The interwoven plots give each other substantial meaning. Partly because Lenny's family are Parsees, a religious and ethnic minority that remained relatively neutral in post-Partition religious conflicts, she has access to people of all ethnicities and religions, both within Lahore and in other locales. More significantly, she has access to a wide variety of viewpoints both pre-and post-Partition through her Ayah, a beautiful woman whose suitors are ethnically and religiously diverse.
Lenny's passionate love of Ayah and the loss of innocence that accompanies their changing relationship through the Partition is an energetic center to the plot. Lenny's relationships with her mother, her powerful godmother, and her sexually invasive cousin are also important to the novel. Lenny's polio forms a significant early narrative thread. Other minor but compelling subplots include Lenny's parents' changing relationship, the murder of a British official, and the child marriage of the much-abused daughter of one of Lenny's family's servants.
Summary:A young woman observes the slow decline of her grandmother into dementia and her grandfather’s reaction to the situation. Issues of denial, anger, autonomy, and intimacy rise to the surface—and expose the formerly private dimensions of their marriage. The illness also stresses her own relationship and invites the idea that someday she and her partner could be projected into a future with the same vulnerability.
The narrator is a Vietnamese husband who has a beautiful, flirtatious wife. They have been living in the New Orleans area for more than a decade, arriving in America after the fall of South Vietnam. The husband tells a remarkable story about the lengths to which he has gone, both in Vietnam and in America, to intercept and discourage his wife’s extra-marital interests. The narrator is humorously self-deprecating and matter-of-fact.
In Vietnam, he was a spy for the Americans, and able to "bring fire from heaven" in the form of American rocket attacks to scare off his wife’s would-be lovers; in America, he adapts to the local culture by consulting a "low-down papa" voodoo specialist. What follows this consultation is a hilariously told sequence of events that succeeds finally in winning the wife’s loyalty.
The author tells the story of two Native-American (Chippewa) families whose lives interweave through several generations during the years 1934-1984. The primary setting is a reservation in North Dakota. The main characters, Marie and Nector Kashpaw and Lulu Lamartine, are colorful, sympathetic people caught in a love triangle that endures for most of their adult lives. "Love medicine" represents an attempt by a Kashpaw grandson to assure once and for all that his aging grandfather will love and be true to his wife and cease "hankering after the Lamartine." The plan ends in disaster when corners are cut and the authentic old Indian customs for preparing the "love medicine" are circumvented.
There is a strong sense of the blending of cultures--religion, medicine, commerce, education all take on the distinctive qualities of an evolving mixed culture. Displacement and disenfranchisement are a fact of life, taken almost for granted, with humor, but not without a response. "They gave you worthless land to start with and then they chopped it out from under your feet. They took your kids away and stuffed the English language in their mouth . . . They sold you booze for furs and then told you not to drink. It was time, high past time, the Indians smartened up and started using the only leverage they had-federal law." (p. 326) So begins an initiative to establish a gambling casino; "gambling fit into the old traditions . . . . "
It is 1938, Germany. A Jewish family--lawyer husband, Walter (Merab Ninidze), wife, Jettel (Juliane K?ler), and young daughter, Regina (Lea Kurka, Karoline Eckertz )-- must leave their homeland. Walter establishes a base as a tenant farmer in the British colony, Kenya, sending for his wife and child later. We see Walter in Kenya, sick with malaria, being nursed by Owuor (Sidede Onyulo), a native Kenyan who serves as a live-in cook. Juxtaposed are scenes of Jettel in Germany--fashionably dressed, socially active, secure in the presence of her parents, and not looking forward to living in Africa.
The remainder of the story takes place in Kenya after Jettel and Regina join Walter, who tries to scratch out a tenant farmer's livelihood on the barren, red earth. Walter is stoic but Jettel is miserable in the strange new country, where she cannot speak the languages (English and Swahili) and desperately misses her family. Her dissatisfaction strains the marriage. Adding to the strain on both Walter and Jettel is their worry over what will happen to their parents, who remained behind in Germany. Regina, however, adapts quickly, in part because she responds to the affectionate welcome offered her by Owuor.
When war breaks out between Germany and Great Britain, the family is interned (still in Kenya)--they are considered to be enemy aliens. Men are separated from women, but the women are housed in a former resort hotel where conditions are not too unpleasant. Jettel pleads with the British administrators to find a position for her husband so that they can leave the camps--after all, she points out, they are Jewish and no friend of Hitler. A young officer overhears her, seizes the opportunity to take advantage of Jettel's vulnerability, and in exchange for her sexual favors, helps the family to leave internment and resume farming in a new location.
When the war ends, Walter looks for an opportunity to return to Germany and to work in his profession (law). He is idealistic, believing he has a responsibility to help build a decent society in Germany while Jettel, on the other hand, has grown to like their life in Kenya and deeply distrusts the country that rejected them and murdered their parents.