With a book as content-loaded and complex as Zone One by Colson Whitehead, you are sure to run into at least a handful of memorable scenes and quotes.
I have been thinking about the language Colson Whitehead uses in Zone One ever since I began reading it. It’s complex. Overly-descriptive. Lyrical. Eloquent. Frustrating. Muddy. Inflated. But I love it.
I didn’t think it would be worth writing a blog post about, but Wednesday’s class made me change my mind. By the end of class time, there were about forty plus previously unfamiliar words written on the board. And I’m sure we could have come up with plenty of more. Zone One is a complex novel through and through.
Though I’d like to (and I will) get into the actual content of the book, Zone One by Colson Whitehead soon (seriously, I’m really liking it so far), I’d like to briefly discuss something that caught my eye in the first few pages of the novel.
“He was their typical, he was their most, he was their average.” “He staked out the B or the B chose him: it was his native land, and in high school and college he did not stray over the county line…” “… He was not made team captain, nor was he the last one picked. He sidestepped detention and honor rolls with equal aplomb.” “His aptitude lay in the well-execute muddle, never shining, never flunking…” (Page 11)
So, I’ve officially let Clay’s Ark sit with me for a few days now. I still don’t entirely know what to make of it, but I have definitely felt many emotions across the spectrum while processing the events that unfolded in the novel. In my opinion, Octavia Butler does an excellent job at developing a story with such complex characters who really make us (and themselves) question the concept of humanity and being a part of a community. Read more
After reading Serhiy’s blog post about how children’s mind are often molded based on their environment’s and the people they are surrounded by, I felt like I needed to reflect upon my own life, and revisit my own childhood.
I grew up in a community where just about everyone blended in with one another. Light skin, brown, blue, green eyes, blonde, brown, red hair. And then there was me. Tan skin, dark eyes, jet black hair, and a name that makes everyone have the same strange, puzzled look on their face, and makes people pause, say “how do you spell that?” and “oh, that’s so pretty!” I stuck out like a sore thumb, as cliche as it may sound. On top of that, I was the nerdy, shy kid with glasses. However, I was not very familiar with racism throughout my schooling, because it didn’t really impacted me. As I’m typing this, I’m realizing how strange this sounds to me. All throughout school, my community treated me as an equal in all aspects. Not only had racism not impacted me, but I was never bullied or taunted for being that shy kid with the glasses. If anything, I tended to ostracize myself. I knew from a very young age that I had an appearance that set me apart from most, which definitely took a big hit to my self-esteem. I felt as though I needed to change to look more like them, and less like me. However the more I taunted and ostracized myself with my differences, the more my community embraced me and treated me the same as the rest.
But, back to Serhiy’s point. Unlike me, our heroine, Alice Achitophel, in the novel Zulus by Percival Everett, is constantly haunted by her physical differences. She is reminded that she is fat by everyone around her, and it is a heavy load to bear. Clearly, racist tendencies aren’t written into our brains when we are born. We are taught to discriminate. But how do we fix it? Many of us are reminded through school and parents to treat other equally and to “treat people the way you would like to be treated.” But regardless of preaching this mantra, we start to see subtle evidence suggesting otherwise on TV shows, in music, and through the news starting at a young age.
I read an article recently from the New York times (to which I will post the link to at the end), that suggests that children begin to notice differences between groups and people and the different ways people are treated as early as five years old. Writer Jennifer Harvey states that parents and community members who rely on the “generic messages” of treating everyone equal simply are not doing enough. Harvey says this message is dangerous and that parents must acknowledge discrimination and the fact that is happens. They must point out racism and discrimination to their children when it does happen and have a discussion as to why it happens and why it is wrong.
What do you guys think? How can we eliminate discrimination? Can we eliminate it? Do you think Harvey’s method is effective?