The Importance of a Narrative

Ever since I was a young girl, I was infatuated with storytelling. I’d beg my parents, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, anyone who I deemed as “old and wise” to tell me a story, a true story. I think the thing that I always searched for in these stories was some type of emotion I didn’t fully understand yet. I would ask my parents, on a smaller scale, how 9/11 impacted them, and at a larger scale, how it impacted their community. This community started at the neighborhood, stretched to their workplaces and dove even further at a nationwide scale. I would ask my grandparents how they individually felt during the Vietnam war and World War 2, and how their community as they knew it changed. I would focus on the emotions in their voice as I asked them to reflect on a really scary time in their lives. A time where they couldn’t see the future and didn’t know how the story would end. I can’t explain it, but there was some part of me as a young girl that was jealous of their experience with pain, loss and uncertainty. I felt as though it gave them depth, caused them to see the world a little differently than my innocent self could. Now, as a young adult, I am beginning to understand the pain they went through, and I regret the jealousy I felt towards them. As a junior in college, I have been asked to undergo an unforeseeable and uncontrollable change due to the global COVID-19 that is traveling faster than the thoughts in my head as I am writing this blog. I am beginning a narrative that I never saw coming, where I was asked to cut my semester short and move back to Long Island with my parents. Where I was asked to leave my friends without a proper goodbye, friends I may never see again. Where I was asked to end my Ultimate Frisbee season before it has even begun, not knowing my last tournament with my team would have been the last. I did not consent to this change. Please excuse my french, but so much shit has hit the fan in the past 4-5 days that I am not really sure if this blog will answer the prompt I was given, but at least my thoughts are on paper (or on your computer screen) and I am connecting with my readers.

Now that my rant (for now) is over, I will attempt to connect what our world is enduring with our class content. In 2008, The United States experienced a housing crisis that asked families to undergo a change that was unforeseeable. Families lost their houses, they were displaced, and lost so much of their lives in the matter of seconds. I was too young to remember what our country went through, what my parents went through, and the pain that they felt. I am now understanding this pain and this uncertainty, and I hope and pray to God that my children and my children’s children never feel this pain. As a class, we were asked to read The Big Short by Michael Lewis and The Turner House by Angela Flournoy. They both tell their reader a narrative of the same story, and I believe that The Turner House sheds light on what was missing from The Big Short. I believe that they work together to fill in the missing puzzle pieces to a narrative that affected so many people’s lives.

After reading my classmate Kaitlyn Papaccio’s blog “Liquidity of Narratives”, she helped me wrap my head around how these two works of literature work together to create a single story. Kaitlyn wrote, “With both narratives working side by side we can see how these narratives are quite similar, despite their scale and it is arguable that without the pairing of these two narratives a well-rounded perspective of the crisis is lost”. I completely agree with Kaitlyn’s statement and will build off of our agreed claim. In class, we agreed that The Big Short was a difficult read due to the lack of prior knowledge on the Housing Crisis and the terminology that went into it. Lewis threw terms at the reader such as “liquidation” and “credit laundering” (pg. 141) that required me to constantly stop reading and start defining. As a class, we compared it to reading a text book that provided the stone cold facts of the 2008 crisis. In fact, I was one of the many that watched the film in order to feel some type of emotional connection. However, I will say that without reading this narrative before reading The Turner House, my personal narrative would be very different. In The Big Short, I was given the cold truth of what went down behind the scenes. We then read a narrative that told us an emotional story of how individuals were affected by the Housing Crisis, and it all seemed to come together. The Turner House makes The Big Short seem more real and more emotional than what Michael Lewis portrays it to be. However, I do think it is important that Lewis wrote a narrative in this textbook style because there is no sugarcoating or dramatizing the events and experiences of those affected. It is important because there is no bias to the words written on the page and Lewis understands that every individual was impacted differently.

After re-reading what I have so far, I see that I am writing backwards as to what the prompt asks, ” Does The Turner House shed light on what was missing from The Big Short‘s story telling? If so, how? If not, how not? So what? Who cares? “. I need to slow down. I think I am saying that The Big Short sheds light on The Turner House, and there is something so interesting about that because it was not intended and it was unforeseeable. I want to say that they shed light on each other and it is not a one way street. We need both a story that is unbiased and gives the facts and a story that tells an emotional rollercoaster of individuals impacted by these events. We need both because as a reader who does not remember the Housing Crisis taking place, I want to know WHY these events happened (through The Big Short) and I need to now HOW these events impacted families (Through The Turner House).

Angela Flournoy’s work makes the events that happen in The Big Short seem more real. She manages to show the reader how families were impacted financially, physically and mentally. In my opinion, The Big Short lacks or downplays the physical and mental components and focuses mainly on the financial aspects that were impacted. In this way, The Turner House sheds a light on the missing puzzle pieces to the narrative. Flournoy talks about really deep things such as addiction and the struggle with sobriety. The 2008 Housing Crisis caused many people to fall into old habits and self sabotaging routines that affected their lives and their families greatly. These two works of literature allow us to create a deeper understanding of a single event that can’t be told by one perspective or point of view.

When I was first learning about the world wars, it was from personal accounts from family members that were filled with emotion and personal perspectives. I then relearned the world wars in grade school and high school. I tried to keep my grandparents stories separate from the text books stories and my teachers stories. I finally realized that that was impossible. Instead of forcing ourselves to separate these narratives, we should combine them to create a story filled with facts and personal events and emotions. Through The Big Short, we have the data and the statistics. Through The Turner House, we have the emotions and the personal accounts. Together, we have a beautiful narrative that includes truth, pain, and uncertainty. Something that our world is going through right now and something that we will once again come out of stronger than ever before.

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