Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Inside or Outside?

Albert Wendt’s Sons for the Return Home resonates in a tremendous way in my life back home in two ways. The first way in which this week’s reading resonates with my life is in the way it presents, as we labeled it in class, the cultural bubble. Back home I am a very different person than I am here at college; because, back home, I am part of a larger community of Greeks. For a long time during my childhood, I spent time in two different worlds; one world was my homeland Greek community and the other was my outsider school community. On the one hand, the Greek community I was a part of was loving and supportive while also setting up a false lens through which I looked at the rest of the world. When you’re part of the Greek community, the bonds you automatically have with other Greek people are inclusive, instantaneously created, and usually positive. The occasional free dinner meal. Odd relatives who own pastry shops and give you way too many sweets. Etc. The parochial churches, which provide a large gathering space for community events, are reference points for establishing other Greek’s heritages and families. This cultural community, in a similar but different sense of the Boy in our novel, set up a reality bubble around me which didn’t necessarily provide an accurate interpretation of American culture/home I was living in. So the first way this text reminded me of home was in its depiction of how our homes can sometimes provide us with out-dated or inaccurate information about the world around us; which, more importantly shows us how reliant we are, in our youth, on other people’s depictions of reality. This also relates to the chapter in the text which depicts the mother and the father weaving their images of their home and projecting that home on to their children. Contemplating this scene in the text, I found it hard to judge, in a binary right-wrong way, the parents because they are only attempting to provide a meaningful life to their children; but just aren’t aware an imaginary homeland can’t replace the location in which a child is raised.
The second way in which this text resonates with my life is how the boy introduces his “outsider” girlfriend to the community and how the community reacts. In many ways, Wendt hits the description on the dot in describing the awkward tension between the cultural, what Greeks call, “Xevo”/outsider and the cultural insider. The disparity is not the same as it is between a minority group and majority group (because Greeks are in no way oppressed in American culture), but the feeling of outsiderness remains similar. For a personal example at first American party I attended, I had no idea how to act so I just did what I always did at Greek parties which definitely made me stick out. And the old Chinese saying is right “The nail that sticks out gets hammered.” This is reminiscent in the text of the relationship the boy has with the girl especially when he brings her to his home and party and when he visits her home and parties. Where the cultures are different enough that each person outside of the others cultural territory feels extremely uncomfortable even though they have an ambassador with them. These scenes very accurately depict the internal mental space of the characters which stems from my own tense and awkward cultural experiences.

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