My name is KJ/Kerry-Jean.
I’m a 24 year old trying to make it in the exciting world of teaching high school history. Due to the complete lack of available education jobs right now, I’m currently stuck working as a substitute teacher. The only highlight of this situation is that I had ample time to complete my Master’s Degree in History.
Reading has always been a passion of mine. What started as an interest in classic mythology and fairy tales as a kid has now blossomed into a fairly substantial obsession with building up my personal library. I don’t read for escapism, but rather to push my mind to new limits, so I’ll admit to being a bit of snob when it comes to literature. I will always read a book before criticizing it, but I have difficulty taking some of my friends seriously when they gush over the newest romances or vampire trends.
This blog is my love note to literature. I use it to explore many different genres at once, discuss some of my favorite authors, and highlight books that I feel deserve more credit from the general audience. If you ever have suggestions or are looking for recommendations, I’m all ears.
I’ve had roughly a year to mull over this book since I last posted about it. While I don’t entirely disagree with what you’ve said, this novel has way, way too many problems for me to ever feel comfortable teaching it. It’s a nightmare.
The entire novel is based upon a gross set of cultural appropriations. Basically, a young white boy is adopted by Tlingit elders who use the wisdom and spirituality of Native Americans in order to solve his emotional troubles and force those same teachings onto the people that he deems worthy.
99% of the Native American concepts in this novel are made up on the spot. Seriously –Oyate.org recently removed their “Books to Avoid” page, but this topped their list. From the animal dancing to the totem pole to the ancestor rock, Miklaelsen blatantly made up Native traditions in order to keep his protagonist busy. Even the concept of Circle Justice was exaggerated to the point of lying. All of his decisions to include Native “culture” ignores any actual cultural significance that may be attributed to these items and actions. The result is that this book presents the reader with a fill-in-the-blank fantasy sort of culture that has no basis in reality.
First and foremost, this is a problem because Ben Miklaelsen is not Tlingit. He isn’t Native American at all. The guy is actually of Danish descent and was born in Bolivia. His decision to base a novel on Tlingit culture was due to the fact that he enjoyed travelling and once spotted a white “spirit” bear too. Oh, and he was inspired by the Columbine massacre. Not really a great connection to the culture he insisted on writing about.
When discussing this novel in both guides and interviews, Miklaelsen speaks as though the Tlingit don’t exist anymore. He outright states that they aren’t a modern culture. Every time he discusses the Tlingit, he pits them against “American society” and the American audience, as though they exist at opposite ends of the spectrum. This only reinforces the idea that Native Americans are some magical group that are spiritually and ancestrally linked to nature. It stops us from thinking of them as actual people.
But moving along from the cultural side of it:
I am not a fan of the way that Peter, the boy who was brain damaged from Cole’s attack, was treated within the story. His case is one of “tough love,” where he was forced to spend time with his abuser in an isolated setting because it was supposedly for his own good. His concerns and fears are ignored, his own desires to leave and never see Cole again are brushed off and his violent outbursts are hailed as a wonderful show of recovery. This is a young boy who attempted suicide twice since he was attacked. Somehow, despite the fact that he still suffers from vivid nightmares about being beaten, every adult in this situation agrees that learning how to forgive is what he needs the most. Forget that he needs to feel mentally and physically safe, forget that he currently has no trust of the outside world, forget that he is still coming to terms with the fact that his body will never again be fully functional: Nope, the only thing that will “fix” this teenager is if he forgives the boy who nearly killed him.
This is not safe and it is not healthy. That is not a message that I am comfortable sending, especially since there is a good chance that many students have experienced abuse in their own lives. This book essentially teaches that they must ignore the voice in their head that preserves their personal safety and keeps them out of danger. It’s the comfort and happiness of their abusers that supposedly matters the most.
Just typing that out makes me angry.
So during the past year, my opinion about this book has gotten much more harsh. I’ve talked about it with other professionals, I’ve been a part of the discussions that it provokes in the classroom and I’ve seen the misinformation that it spreads among students. If I can avoid this book for the future, I’ll be much better off.
How do you feel about this book? I have some opinions but nobody I know has read it :(
I think that any book capable of giving you a strong emotional reaction is well worth reading.
I don’t particularly find Catherine’s and Heathcliffe’s relationship romantic, nor do I really think that it should be interpreted that way. “Love” doesn’t apply to these people in the way that our culture wants it to. So anyone who tried to turn them into a traditional romance is wasting their energy. Trying to fit them into such a mold is going to leave you angry and disappointed.
Above all else, I think it’s amazing how Bronte used her setting - The moors are so ingrained in the characters and the storyline that it reflects every emotion and relationship. That symbolic conflict between nature/natural instinct and cultural expectations is a great way to keep the reader focused on the family’s corruption and how they differ from the civilization around them.
I don’t think that anyone can really argue (successfully) that Emily Bronte was a poor writer or was incapable of creating a dynamic plot. This book was very powerful when it was first published and I think that it continues to retain a lot of power due to its cultural significance during that time period. It’s not too difficult to see Bronte’s connections to the development of Marxism, feminism, social frustration and her flirtations with pain. Without getting too anachronistic, I like seeing students study this work in order to understand the 1840-50s better.
no matter how many times i watch american psycho, i still don’t quite get the ending. has he gone crazy and imagined all the killings? or was it simply just a case of mistaken identity from his lawyer and he’s got away with it all? help.
I’ve never seen the movie, but I can talk about the book:
Bateman is an unreliable narrator. He is deranged, to a certain extent, but lacks the self-awareness necessary to identify and really verbalize his problems. As the audience, you therefore have to accept that Bateman isn’t always living in reality and that his narration will occasionally twist and exaggerate his experiences.
Ultimately, the ending is meant to be left up to you. It’s intentionally difficult to separate his hallucinations from the real deal. So all we really know is that he left that message confessing, we know that his lawyer dismissed it as a good joke, and we know that Bateman continued on with his life afterward. So there are a lot of people out there who believe that the final violence was simply in his head. But personally, I think that there are enough little clues in the story to show that he really did commit (most of) those acts. It’s possible that the real estate broker cleaned up his mess in a desperate effort to sell the apartment (since murders would drastically bring down the price of the place) and potentially cover their own tracks.
IMBD actually has a decent explanation of the film if you want a detailed break down.