Why 13 Siblings in the Turner House?

As I was reading the turner house, something that I wondered was why Angela Flournoy decides to include 13 Turner siblings in the novel, when only about 3 of them are heavily focused on and given a POV. Why have a family composed of so many siblings when some aren’t even accounted for?  Did Flournoy just want to show the dynamics of a big family, or was she trying to get at something deeper?  When I tried to answer this question in class, I said that perhaps Flournoy was trying to show that when you have such a large family, with so many stories to be told, some are “naturally” left out.  Beth compared this to picking up a large pile of leaves, where some leaves are naturally going to fall out of ones grasp.  However, my assertion that leaving out most of the siblings stories was a natural process was questioned.  Someone in class (sorry I am forgetting who!) pointed out that this is not really natural at all but very intentional.  This made me question my initial assertion, and look deeper into the stories that are not being told in this novel.

The siblings who are given a POV in the story, and who are focused on the most are Cha-Cha, Troy, and Lelah.  The other 10, Francey, Quincy, Russell, Marlene, Lonnie, Antoinette, Miles, Duke, Berniece, and Sandra are mentioned here and there, but the story is not told from their perspective and we are not given many details about their lives.  They show up only at large family events, and are only real “actors” in this story when they are interacting with Cha-Cha, Troy, or Lelah.  Roach would argue that these characters are supernumeraries; we are aware that they exist but they are pushed to the background of the story that is being told.  By including these siblings in the initial family tree, but then leaving them out for the majority of the story, I think that Flournoy was trying to show and make the reader acutely aware that there are supernumeraries to every story.  By pointing these characters out in the very beginning we are made aware of these characters, and are therefore aware that the lives experiences of 10 characters are being left out throughout the rest of the novel.

After reflecting on my initial statement that some stories are just naturally left out, I think that it is important to realize that the act of mentioning someone or something, but then depriving them of a story is a very intentional act.  I think that it is important to question why we get some stories but not others, and what are the intentions of the writer.  While I am still unsure of why Flournoy decided to chose the 3 siblings that she did, I do think that she intentionally left out characters to demonstrate the many voices that are often silenced.

 

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