Tuesday, February 2, 2010

"Is Life Destiny or Determination?"

The main character in Achy Obejas' lovely short story, "We Came All the Way from Cuba So You Could Dress Like This?" asks that question. The ten-year-old and her parents have literally just gotten off the boat from Cuba, 1963, when the action starts. Throughout the story, the plot jumps from the day they arrive--the processing center in Miami with the well-meaning Catholic volunteer and the convenience store where they're amazed by all the products, where we learn about her father's expectations of America and dreams for his daughter--to moments in the future--the narrator's experience with lovers, male and female, and her father's disappointment and disavowal of her; her father's death of a heart attach in 1990 and her own experience with cancer shortly thereafter; the narrator's constant questioning of whether she and her family would have been better off staying in Cuba.

We'll be talking about this one today: how does the unchronological plot structure affect your understanding of the story and its characters? do you think the narrator is reliable, given that half of the time she's speaking from the point of view of a ten year old? what is the central conflict?

I ask these questions, and we search for valid answers, but I do think the best and most interesting fiction raises questions rather than answers them. Ah, well, as long as I keep pushing for that search for answers - even if it simply yields more questions, that's ok too.

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