Self Reflective Essay: The Importance of Knowing

Throughout the semester of English 111, we focused our attention mainly on the causes and effects of the 2008 global financial crisis. Our readings of William Shakespeare’s King Lear, Michael Lewis’s The Big Short, Angela Flournoy’s The Turner House, Toni Morrison’s A Mercy, and, most recently, Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower all tied back to the 2008 crisis. In some cases, like The Big Short and The Turner House, the novels were about the financial crisis, and it was just a matter of analyzing them. However, in King Lear, A Mercy, and Parable of the Sower, it was not a matter of reading about a subject, but rather interpreting a separate setting and plot and comparing it back to the events of the 2008 financial crisis. 

The 2008 financial crisis had its roots when there began to be an increase in subprime mortgages. A subprime mortgage is a mortgage targeted at a borrower with less-than-perfect credit and savings. Because of the increase in subprime mortgages and at-risk borrowers, there began to be an increase in consumer debt. The increasing amount of debt caused the financial markets to begin to crash. As time went on, big banks began converting to holding companies instead of investment banks. It’s entirely possible that, had the responsible parties taken action earlier on to fix the mistakes of giving subprime mortgages to at-risk borrowers, the recession could have been minimized or entirely avoided. But, since the companies weren’t worried about their own well-being, they didn’t take action to change the outcome of the situation.  This is seen in Michael Lewis’s The Big Short, in which Lewis follows the story of higher-up businessmen who are not only evading the struggle of the 2008 crisis but benefiting from the struggles of the lower class. Upper-level traders learned that something was going to go wrong with the subprime mortgage market, but chose to keep this information to themselves so that they can benefit afterward. Eventually, after the subprime mortgage bubble has burst and the dust settles on the situation, they have all financially benefited. 

Parable of the Sower, our most recent read, is told through the journal of our protagonist, Lauren Olamina. The setting is the fictional town of Robledo, California in 2024, in a time where climate change and inflation have worsened so extremely that water is barely affordable to the general public, and many people have been forced to resort to living on the street, committing robberies and murders in order to stay alive. Lauren and her family are lucky enough to live in a gated community, with a handful of other families who she’s known her entire life. Things begin to go downhill with the death of her brother after he leaves the community, and then the disappearance of her father. Then, criminals from outside the community break down the gate, burn down the houses, and kill everyone they can. Thanks to quick thinking and a survival pack that she had stowed away in her closet, Lauren survives and begins the journey on the road. Accompanied at first by Zahra and Harry, two other survivors from her neighborhood, Lauren begins to attract others to join their group traveling north. Eventually, their group, which has reached thirteen people, reach land that one of the group members, Bankole, owns in the northern part of California. They all start a settlement together, called Acorn, which centers around Earthseed, a religion that Lauren has been crafting for years and that everyone else in the group is interested in. 

There are many parts of Parable of the Sower which can be tied back to the 2008 financial crisis, as well as some of the key terms that we’ve been collecting and discussing over the semester. A huge part of Parable of the Sower is the consequences of increased inflation, and who it has affected. In Sower, inflation has made it so that innocent people and families are living with minimal water and supplies, or buying water from unsafe sources. This is an example of moral hazard, a term that was defined early in the semester as “the risk that an individual or organization will act irresponsibly or recklessly if protected or exempt from the consequences of an action.” ( The government in Sower is more focused on how things are going with space travel than dealing with the well-being of the people. “Christopher Charles Morpeth Donner is our new President–President-elect. So what are we in for? Donner has already said that as soon as possible after his inauguration next year, he’ll begin to dismantle the “wasteful, pointless unnecessary” moon and Mars programs.” (Butler, 27). Because Donner is wealthy and privileged, he doesn’t have to worry about life on the streets and is willing to prioritize other issues first because it doesn’t affect him directly. This relates to the moral hazard which was present in the 2008 financial crisis. Members of the government and the upper 1% weren’t focused on helping those who were in poverty because the situation didn’t directly affect them. 

Something else which connects the events of Sower to the 2008 financial crisis is the idea of trust. According to our class definition, trust is “believing that a person will do what they say they will.” In the 2008 financial crisis, the subprime mortgage borrowers had trust in the companies that had given them the mortgages. Their trust ended up falling through, and they were led into debt because of the poor mortgages they had been given. In Parable of the Sower, Lauren has to have an insane amount of trust in those around her. Because of the unsafe situation that she’s living in, especially after the destruction of her gated community, she has to choose who to trust. There is always a huge risk for her trust to fall through since there are so many people with bad intentions. Like the at-risk borrowers who had put their trust in their lenders, Lauren had to put her trust in the people and environment around her. 

Throughout the semester, everything else we’ve read tied into the 2008 financial crisis, like Parable of the Sower tied into it. It was important to my understanding of the course and the 2008 financial crisis that I keep on top of the reading and coursework. Although there were some instances where I struggled with keeping up with the reading, I did my best throughout the semester to keep up with the reading and participate in the in-class discussions. I particularly found difficulty with The Turner House and found myself falling a bit behind the class schedule. As the Turner family was struggling with falling behind on payments on the family home and facing the threat of eviction, I was struggling with falling behind on my responsibility and facing a complete lack of understanding and success. While I did finish the book, it still demonstrated a low point in my semester when it came to my reading progress. After The Turner House, I gained the knowledge that it was worth it to take extra time to complete the reading so that I could adequately participate in the conversations and reading quizzes. 

By the time we reached Parable of the Sower, I had about ten weeks’ worth of experience in the class, and I fully understood the workload required to really succeed. Because of this, I kept on top of the reading for Parable of the Sower and kept the themes of the course in mind when reading. I was able to really find success, and I actually really enjoyed the book. I also found this success with A Mercy. King Lear and The Big Short were difficult for me to read, but I was still able to make it through them. It really wasn’t until A Mercy that I really realized how much easier the course was if I had an understanding of the reading. This contributed to my success in the semester and helped me to achieve my best work in the course. Overall, I feel that I experienced real growth throughout the semester in this course. There was space provided for me to learn the importance of keeping on track with the course, and also the importance of advocating for myself when I lack an understanding of something. There’s a good chance that I would have achieved success earlier in the semester if I had voiced my concern while we were reading King Lear or The Big Short. I learned that it’s important to speak up when I am struggling so that I can succeed and really have an opportunity to learn, instead of spending my energy trying to make it through books that I didn’t understand. 

In the 2008 financial crisis, subprime mortgage borrowers were suffering in silence. The subprime mortgage lenders never accepted blame as things began to go downhill and therefore kept the at-risk borrowers in the dark. Because of this, borrowers suffered in silence and often had no choice but to pin their issues on themselves and their own wrongdoings and poor credit, while, the whole time, the blame should have been pinned on the lenders. In this past semester, I let myself stay confused rather than stepping forward and asking for help when I needed it. Because of this, it seemed easier to tell myself that I didn’t understand the course, rather than tell myself that I needed to reach out and ask for help. As the borrowers needed only to learn more about their situation to shift the blame from themselves and realize that their hardship wasn’t their fault, it only took a moment of understanding for me to realize that I could have been successful throughout the whole semester if I had shifted the blame from myself and reached out for help. 

Will the future be fantastic or fatalistic? A brief comparison of the 2008 market Crash and the dystopian future novel Parable of Sower

By: Spencer Jurgielewicz, December 13th of 2022

2008 saw one of the largest financial crises since the Great Depression in 1929.  It affected every nation on the planet and would result in short-term consequences of things such as high unemployment. Long-term issues, such as increased income and housing inequality, are still being felt to this day. Another effect that was seen from this crisis is seen in popular culture and various works of film and literature. This is an avenue which gives individuals the ability to express themselves and their views with directly or indirectly metaphors or messages. One such work is that of Parable of Sower by Hugo award recipient Octavia E. Butler. This dystopian novel set in the not-so-far-future features many comparisons and similarities to what we are witnessing and have witnessed in our lifetimes in the United States and even around the world. This allows writers, like Butler, to empower readers and bring awareness to a cause which may not be receiving as much attention or even to bring more attention to an ongoing issue. Butler’s novel draws many similarities from the 2008 Global Market Crash with countless examples and samples. I personally have seen and even have been affected by said issues which occurred back in 2008.  

The 2007/2008 Global Market Crash was something that was decades in the making and simply not something that happened overnight (Singh, 2022). It would be an oversimplification to blankly proclaim “oh the housing crisis happened because too many people bought houses and couldn’t pay for them”. This would be almost like stating “The Second World War occurred because Nazi Germany invaded Poland in 1939”. While both of these proclamations might yield some truth, both contain years and even decades of context which might be alien to the average person and if left out would be missing a bigger picture. While the housing market issue could arguably begin its origins with something like the deregulation movements under the Reagan administration and the formation of what we perceive as the modern Republican Party, the major effects began to occur in 2006 with housing prices beginning to fall then (Singh, 2022). The following year subprime lenders had started to file for bankruptcy (Singh, 2022). A subprime lender is a credit provider that specializes in borrowers with low or what is called “subprime” credit ratings, or a review of your credit and borrowing history ( Fernando, 2021). As a result these borrowers represent a higher risk of default or not being able to fully repay the loan (Fernando, 2021). So these subprime loans are associated with relatively high rates of interest and considered risky (Fernando, 2021). 

The series of subprime lenders filing for bankruptcy in 2007 was a massive red flag yet ignored or seen as “low risk” by lawmakers on Capitol Hill and many financial advisors. Later that year two massive hedge funds collapsed largely due to subprime loans not being repaid. A hedge fund is a method of investing in which managers use borrowed money, and other non-traditional assets, in order to beat regular investment returns for clients (Investopedia Team, 2022). By September this issue got so bad that the U.S. saw its largest bankruptcy ever with the collapse of the financial services company Lehman Brothers Holdings, Inc. in September of 2007 (Singh, 2022). By this point there was no turning back and the bubble would burst. Holdings with some worth trillions of dollars, were worthless investments in subprime mortgages (Singh, 2022). What would follow would be one of the worst economic crises since the 1930’s and see millions affected. Income inequality, especially among people of color and women, would increase which left these groups at an even greater disadvantage. While disheartening it would give a unique opportunity to present it in a manner in which they could advocate for assistance and a change in policy. This would include literature, film, and other similar media means. 

While many works of literature outline the previous statement one such strong example is that of Parable of Sower by Octavia Butler. The novel follows a character by the name of Lauren Oya Olamina and begins in 2024 right outside Los Angeles. The United States has been ravaged by climate change disasters, wealth inequality, and social issues. She lives in a gated community which separates itself from the numerous homeless and less fortunate individuals outside its walls. Lauren’s father is a Baptist pastor and attempts to hold the community together with faith and charity but many sadly like her mother, abused drugs which had negative consequences on Lauren. The United States at this point has elected the psuedo-fascist President Donner who loosens labor protection and advocacy for private, foreign investors who begin a sort of “debt slavery” among the population. Lauren becomes interested in a new religion called “Earthseed” . It highlights how God is Change and humanity must shape God in order to save itself from disorder and extinction. Lauren’s brother Keith becomes disenfranchised by their status quo and leaves the gated community to join a group of anarcho-thieves and sadly is killed. At this point her father attempts to leave the city walls and sadly is assumed to be killed while outside. By 2027 the federalist system collapses in the U.S. while individual states and cities enforce strict border securities on their own. Her community is overrun by outsiders looking for resources.  She escapes but due to fear of an increase in sexual assault dresses as a man and travels away with two fellow survivors. She marries and sets up the first Earthseed community named Acorn, in northern California and hopes that humanity can prosper on another planet and throughout the solar system. The novel deals with themes of drugs, greed, socio-economic collapse, women’s rights, and interracial marriage rights.  

While this novel describes an extreme “worst case scenario” for the future of the United States it would be valid to say there do exist some parallels to our current state of affairs and that depicted in the novel. One theme touched upon was that of racism. Even in this reality race and judges based upon still exist. Early in the book Lauren discusses how she was discouraged to play with the White children and many White people were fearful of others so much so they would arm themselves (36, Butler). While this book was written in 1993 it still outlines problems we face today in America. There are dozens of examples within the media of mistreatment among individuals solely based upon race and even people resorting to violence as a justification for self-defense. This prejudice also extended to interracial couples. Lauren cites a time when two people of different races were caught and she feared violence would erupt due to it (85, Butler). Another rather similar parallel is the treatment of women. A large portion of the novel sees Lauren crossdress as a man in order to ensure her security. Society had become so lawless that a woman simply walking down the street was at risk of something such as assault. In our modern era we have seen women being taken advantage of especially by men in powerful positions. CEO’s and Wall Street tycoons took it upon themselves to use company time and money to hire escorts as seen in the film Inside Job. While this financial mismanagement was not the sole reason for the 2008 crash it was surely a factor. While examining the more financial aspect of the novel we see rather shocking similarities. The wealth gap is astonishing as depicted with the rich flying around in private helicopters and the lower-income individuals being bothered or even killed simply for being “poor” (245, Butler). We can see in our world how the homeless are often discriminated against and put down. If you take a city, such as New York, one would see citizens owning billions in assets yet a few city blocks away we might find dozens of homeless people begging for a bottle of water and some crackers to survive the day. The wealth gap has risen greatly since 1993 and is likely to continue. Outsourcing to foreign countries, increasing privatization, and increasing militarization of police do not help the “99%” as we see this all backfire for President Doner throughout the novel. 

Upon the completion of this novel and now the end of this English course I found many themes and concepts which I was able to relate to easily. For starters my family was directly affected by the market crash. My family owns a series of duck farms around the United States called Jurgielewicz Duck Farm. Many farms existed with the one on Long Island spearheaded by my paternal side. Unfortunately due to numerous factors including financial issues going back to the 1980’s and 1990’s, the farm located here in New York collapsed and went bankrupt during the 2008 crash. This might go to show that even those in the “upper-middle or upper” classes were hit hard by this crisis and the only ones truly unaffected were the top 1% in this country. Now my family’s start goes back to the early 20th century upon their arrival in the United States. They opened a duck farm and by 1962 supplied 4.3 million ducks which is roughly half  of the entire nation’s duck supply at the time (Herbst, 1987). The business would shrink and by 1980 would produce only a million of the nation’s duck supply (Herbst, 1987). The final nail in the coffin was the 2008 market crash. Having such a sudden and a quick downturn of the U.S. economy, including a massive impact on imports and exports, saw too much strain on the business and it went out. From a personal anecdote my family struggled due to the massive downturn in assets. A change in lifestyle had occurred as my family moved as well to another part of Long Island. Such an adjustment was rather difficult to say the least but showcased to me, my family, and friends how events which took years in the making can and will disrupt the lives of unsuspecting individuals. Even 10+ years later I still feel personally affected by decisions made by CEO’s on Wall Street. I attended Geneseo College mostly due to the cheaper tuition rates which made it attractive to many students from Long Island especially. The cost of higher education is growing day by day and this will continue to influence people’s decisions for the years and decades to come. This could perhaps affect my children as well all from issues that stemmed from 2008. 

Events from 2008 still influence decisions made in this country and around the world. The “snowballing” of this crisis started as far as the 1980’s; however, in 2006 and 2007 a few key events took place which should have been seen as warning signs but were ignored. What would follow would be a massive economic downturn. Novels, such as Parable of Sower, hold messages and metaphors regarding how people were affected during and post-crisis. We can see direct comparisons between our world and that of the future world in the novel. Race, gender, privatization, greed, and collpase of authority were just a few things touched upon in this novel which bear rather scary similiarties to what we face now. In my own story I have witnessed the collapse of a food industrial empire. When I first took this course I did not expect to be able to draw connections between a science fiction novel set in the future and our own past. In reality we are inching closer to more economic downturn unless the proper measures are not taken to prevent another 2008


Fernando, J. (2021, May 20). What does subprime lender mean? Investopedia. Retrieved December 5, 2022, from 

Herbst, L. (1987, November 29). The ducks stop here no longer. The New York Times. Retrieved December 12, 2022, from 

Singh, M. (2022, September 21). The 2007-2008 financial crisis in Review. Investopedia. Retrieved December 5, 2022, from 

Team, T. I. (2022, October 25). What is a hedge fund? examples, types, and strategies. Investopedia. Retrieved December 5, 2022, from

Mia Stout Final Essay

During the 2008 housing crisis families were forced out of their homes. In order to even get a house you needed to have good credit and a stable job to get a mortgage. When the investors wanted to make more profit the lenders had to loosen their “standards” on who could get a mortgage. This allowed lenders to give out sub-prime mortgages to “people with poor credit” and unverified income to borrow money. They trusted the bankers when buying their house; in return, they were forced to leave everything behind. All because of the new lenders’ “requirements”, and low-interest rates which drove up housing prices. So that means the subprime mortgages would have to default (when a debtor cannot meet debt payment) because the person wouldn’t be able to afford to pay the mortgage anymore. To get a better understanding of the 2008 housing crisis the novel The Big Short sheds so light on the issues. The Salomon brothers “took giant pools of home loans and carved up the payments made by homeowners into pieces, called tranches. The buyer of the first tranche was like the owner of the ground floor in a flood. The buyer of the second tranche – the second story of the skyscraper – took the next wave in payments. The investor in the top floor of the building received the lowest rate of interest but had the greatest assurance that his investment wouldn’t end” (pg 7, Lewis, M. The Big Short). This means that the bank sold the mortgage to a “third party”.

In Parable of the Sower, Lauren and her family lived inside a wall to protect them from the outside world. It was hard to make enough money to support everyone but her family managed to do it. With the world in shambles, the government spent its money on sending astronauts into outer space. “All that money wasted on another crazy space trip when so many people here on earth can’t afford water, food, or shelter” (pg 17). During this book, there is a huge financial crisis. Not a lot of people can afford the amenities to live. But here is the government not doing anything about the global crisis. “After all, politicians have been promising to return us to the glory, wealth, and order of the twentieth century” (pg 20). Ever since Lauren can remember politicians have been promising a return for civilization but, it yet has to happen. This is a great example of fraud. The government has claimed it wants to help the global communities but no action has been taken to help them. Money is a huge issue in communities behind the walls. If you want the police or even the fireman to come inside the walls it costs a fortune. “Most of our households couldn’t afford another big bill, anyway” (pg 32). It seems that not a single person can afford anything anymore. You have to scavenge for food and water if you aren’t lucky enough to grow your own food. This is a great example of a financial crisis because without food or water you’ll be dead in days. During this time people have to learn to protect themselves and their families inside and outside of the wall. The walls give them protection and hope that they can see another day but, it’s not always granted. “Someone shot Amy right through the metal gate” (pg 50). The wall is supposed to keep them safe but things keep happening near it. Things get thrown over the gate or left around it by the scavengers. This is toxic, some of the things they throw over are “ a maggoty dead animal, a bag of shit, even an occasional severed human limb or a dead child” (pg 50). It seems like these scavengers are trying to do anything to get these people disgusted enough to where they want them to leave their homes. These acts are also putting pressure on the community, they need to feel safe and secure and these vial acts aren’t doing that in fact it’s doing the opposite. “Our thieves paid us a visit last night” (pg 73). With everything that’s happening in the world, this is a huge global financial crisis. Everyone in the world, on the walls or out on the street is having a financial crisis. When it comes to Laurens’ area being robbed it seems to be liquidity. Somehow the robbers are getting easy access to jump over the wall to steal food for themselves. In this world, there is just a lot of corruption happening everywhere and there’s no way to stop it. 

During this crisis, there is a lot to worry about, your friends, family, loved ones, and yourself. It can be very difficult to stay together as a community, there is so much happening that can destroy a person’s perception on life. “We are coming apart. The community, the families, individual family members….We’re a rope, breaking, a single strand at a time” (pg 116). This global crisis is breaking down everyone’s spirits. When it comes to living in the walls you need money. Olivar is another walled-up town that needs to be bailed out by corporations. “A company called Kagimoto, Stamm, Frampton, and Company–KSF–has taken over the running of a small coastal city called Olivar” (pg 118). During the 2008  housing crisis banks needed to be saved by the U.S. government. The U.S. basically bailed them out of their money issues they were having and it seems that Olivar is getting the treatment. Later on in the book a big change occurred that turned everything upside down for everyone living in the walls. There was a break-in, someone smashed the front gate open, started burning houses down, and took everyone’s possession. “Last night, when I escaped from the neighborhood, it was burning. The houses, the trees, the people: Burning” (pg 151). Lauren’s house was destroyed by people wearing colors on their heads. “[B]ald people with painted heads, faces, and hands. Red faces; blue faces; green faces” (pg 154). Everyone’s possession are now gone because of the scavengers. Everyone in that community lost everything and some tragically lost their own lives. This comes back to the 2008 housing crisis, Octavia E. Butler wrote a story that shares information about a global financial crisis, housing crisis, foreclosure crisis, and subprime mortgage crisis. This can be compared to the housing market crash, everything that these families owned are gone. Their house, valuables, and even their own lives are all gone. Nothing can be restored and the only people they have to blame are the scavengers who can be related to Wall Street, everyone is just trying to survive. Accountability has been taken for some of the intruders but the rest stole what they could carry and left. This leaves Laurens’ community in corruption and they will not be able to come back from it.

At the beginning of this class, I didn’t understand what the 2008 housing crisis was. Now I understand it happened because of Wall Street and third-party bankers. Banks would give out mortgages to anyone that wanted one no matter what, even if they couldn’t afford it they were given one. If they couldn’t pay their mortgage the loan would default and be given back to the bank. The 2008 housing crisis affected many families in the United States. Many lost their homes because of careless businessmen wanting to make extra money. During the crisis, I was only about six years old at the time so I have no memory or recollection of this happening. Thankfully both my grandparents and parents weren’t severely affected by this. My grandparents still own the houses they built and my parents lived with them at the time so thankfully we weren’t affected either. We had trust as a family that if something were to happen we would be there for one another. It was like we were in our own bubble, we didn’t get touched during the housing crisis which was surprising, for other families though they weren’t so lucky. I think learning about the housing crisis before college would have been more beneficial for me because it is still hard to understand everything that went on behind those “closed doors” of Wall Street. It also doesn’t help that no one wants to take responsibility for their actions which to me is aggravating.  I believe that when it comes to buying a house in the housing market you should have some knowledge about what goes on and what you are expected to do. It could help you in the long run, also look at the fine print in the contracts you are signing it could have some “unspoken rules” that you might not know about. Change is inevitable it will happen anytime and anywhere so you need to be ready for it. Take precautions if you have to. Learning about this 2008 crisis was an eye-opener for me. I never expected something like this to happen. I cannot imagine being told to pack up my belongings and leaving all because of a bad investment. Learning to change is the best thing to do in this case. Learning can grow a great change in perspective and instead of thinking of the bad parts, focus on the good parts. Yes, you lost your house which is horrible but, you still have your family, everyone is in good health, and now moving forward will make you stronger than you ever thought you could be. In the end, never give up, push forward and you might just surprise yourself with how strong you can be.

Immortality, Decapitation, Heroin, & Aliens: Markers of the Apocalypse

Lidabel Avila, Adelia Callear, Kendall Cruise, Madolley Donzo, Marlee Fancett, Kya Primm, Nicholas Parks, Maddie Butler

Ricky Rice, a former drug addict who works at the Utica train station receives a bus ticket––an invitation––to make good on a promise forged in Cedar Rapids. After making his trip to the secret foundation of the Washburn Library, he is employed to uncover the whereabouts of the Voice—a mysterious speaker that seldom reveals itself and whispers advice to the Scholars of the Library. Here, Ricky is later promoted to go on a trip West with another scholar, Adele Henry, to halt rogue scholar Solomon Clay’s plans of revanchism. After a mission to a sewer to find other possible secrets, Ricky is attacked by a mysterious figure that Adele refers to as one of “The Devils of the Marsh.” Throughout the time afterwards, Ricky grows weaker, eventually going to the hospital where he discovers that the symptoms of his sickness are synonymous with those of pregnancy. Him and Adele further track down Clay while Ricky has multiple flashbacks to his troubled past. He grew up in a heavily religious cult, worshiping the Washerwomen’s teachings that stated how other churches are all corrupt. Eventually, the Washerwomen’s followers found themselves in conflict with the police. Facing their end, the Washerwomen begin killing, or “sacrificing,” their followers to “save” them, including Ricky’s sister Daphne, whom he unknowingly shoved in front of him in a panic to escape. Later in his life, he made his way to Cedar Rapids to meet up with his childhood friend Wilfred, who also suffered from the trauma at the hands of the cult. This ended up being a set-up where he was trapped in a basement with stray cats who eventually began to seem to eat his soul, causing him to gather up the strength to escape. Additionally, we find out about Adele’s eventful and traumatic past where she was sexually assaulted, heavily tortured, and almost killed. She was then employed by the Library to help them find signs of The Voice, and eventually stop Snooky Washburn from selling the Library. In her mission to do the latter, she, along with Solomon Clay,  travel to Garland to convince Snooky not to go through with the sale. The trio travels into the Devil’s Well where they meet the Swamp Angels who work for the Voice. The Angels try to get Adele to shoot Clay but instead, for the sake of the Library, she shoots Snooky. The Angels, in the midst of the chaos, are subsequently killed. She later hears the Voice revealing a message to her which we discover is “Invite them back in.” Going back to the present, Ricky comes to the conclusion that he was impregnated by a Swamp Angel, and he is unsure if he will survive the delivery. Adele and Ricky then find Clay and his followers about to sacrifice themselves for their cause. Ricky goes to kill Soloman and two more Angels appear to help. The Angels sacrifice themselves to finish Clay’s death, prompting Adele and Ricky to leave. This sacrifice results in Ricky being the carrier for the last Angel. 

Upon hearing the message from the Voice, Ricky Rice exclaims, “What the hell does that even mean?”, prompting him to analyze both himself and his society—but more specifically, the Unlikely Scholars he surrounds himself with (LaValle 359). We learn that the Voice instructs Adele to “Invite them back in,” calling into question who the Voice is referring to, and how doing so might work to fulfill the goals of the Library (LaValle 364). We believe this articulation is referring to the redemption of multiple figures throughout the novel, which can be seen as a recurring theme that influences the character’s decisions. The most prominent instance would be the return of the Angels and the different responses the characters have to them, primarily reacting to their appearances. The vile and unusual appearances of the Swamp Angels sparks a plethora of emotions, ranging anywhere from fear, hatred, admiration, and even love. Adele is then reminded of the truth that the different appearances offer, which is that “the face of goodness may surprise you” (LaValle 265). This interaction lays the necessary groundwork for the later themes within the novel, reminding the audience that what may be visible to you is not the complete story, and maybe you have to look beyond your biased perceptions. Additionally, the Unlikely Scholars start off their redemption journey by breaking away from their criminal pasts, attempting to move forward from the time they were seen as despised and rejected by society. Due to their harsh rejection from society, they begin to internalize those ideas and project them onto others who also covet being perceived as  “normal.” Solomon Clay goes on to describe human beings by stating, “The despised become despicable. God damn! We’re worse than animals! We’re like monsters” (LaValle 282). On the journey of the Unlikely Scholar’s redemption, they abandon the past that held them back, however, many additionally reject the Angels on the basis of their appearance alone. They have become jaded and “despicable” in the eyes of the Voice because they refuse to look beyond their first impressions and see the power and asylum those beings bring. Ricky instead breaks from the typical pattern of the Scholars and accepts the help the Angels are willing to bring, despite their appearance. He begins to have a revelation and recognizes that objectively attractive people—such as Solomon Clay—may not possess the goodness that society expects of them. The ability to look beyond appearances speaks largely to a redemption arc, further connected to the idea of forgiving someone by seeing the situation from their perspective. 

The redemption arc throughout the novel, can be seen most intimately through the main character Ricky Rice as he considers his childhood traumas and how they’ve impacted the man he has grown to be and also the man he wants to become. As a child, Ricky Rice grew up within the cult of the Washerwomen and, as part of their religious duties, his parents had to go on “commissions,”  in which they would spread information about the cult door-to-door. When his mother was late to return from her commission because of an accident, Ricky’s father was “eager to go on his assignment and wasn’t willing to wait,” desiring “his full hundred and fifty days away,” since there would be “No children demanding” (LaValle 329). Ricky reflects that “Time alone is pornography for people with families,” which foreshadows the trauma Ricky has when his father must return from his commission to pick his child up from an orphanage and, after a brief lunch, drops him back off, briefly intending to leave him there before retunring to pick Ricky back up and bring him home (LaValle 329). Later in life, when in the face of death with the two spiritual cats chewing away at his soul through his leg, Ricky remembers this moment in his childhood and considers that “Leaving me behind wasn’t what had made my father feel guilty” and that “He’d felt guilty because leaving me behind had been so easy” (LaValle 338).  Ricky gains the realization that “the cats stopped eating. Not when I thought about what my father had done to me, or even when I admitted what I’d done to Gayle, but when I asked myself if I was satisfied with the life I’d led” (LaValle 339). As Ricky is battling to live and feeling unsatisfied with his life, he’s seeking redemption and he expresses, “I know I’ve been selfish. But there’s still some good in me. I can stop being a coward. I can be brave. I promise” (LaValle 339). Ricky explains his inability to forgive himself until he finds the courage to forgive his past and his parents, he says,  “You can’t forgive them unless you do. And I forgive them now” (LaValle 363). In order for Ricky Rice to move forward with his plans of redemption and individual growth, he must be challenged with the task of forgiving those who have taken part in his past traumas, as well as himself for the perceived mistakes he’s made in his life. By following Ricky’s redemption arc, readers see the expansion of his values concerning forgiveness and redemption, and he begins to see how these are applied to the society he lives in as well, which the angels seem to suggest with the line “Invite them back in.” This can be seen through many big machines, like the acceptance of the Unlikely Scholars into the Washburn Library, the homeless population by Solomon Clay, and the Angels—which have been perceived as devils thus far in the novel by humans. Highlighting aspects of redemption in this story allows us to gain insight on both the struggles Ricky encounters with forgiving, and an understanding of how redemption and forgiveness play a larger role in an apocalypse.

In the context of apocalyptic events, a common thread amongst the course readings for this semester has been the idea that an apocalypse proposes an opportunity for the chance to be ‘redeemed’. Andrew Santana Kaplan defines an apocalypse as “commonly associated with the end of the World, [but] etymologically, it primarily means to un-cover…” (Kaplan 81). To uncover something or a world can then be paralleled to the concept of redemption: to redeem a world, after it’s been destroyed, to a ‘healed’ version of what it once was. Linked to this definition of apocalypse in Kaplan’s essay, is the concept of ontological identity, specifically in relation to Blackness, and how it “ is necessary for the redemption of degraded Humanity” (Kaplan 76). Here Kaplan draws attention to the connections between recognizing and embracing one’s unnormalized identity and how that can assist in redeeming beings that have been harmed by the world around them—resulting in their individual world’s ending. When LaValle writes that a divine figure declares  Adele to “Invite them back in,” he is proposing that those who have been ‘degraded,’ to use Kaplan’s language, can be given the space to redeem themselves by those who choose to invite them into those spaces (LaValle 364). Similar spaces to evolve, uncover, absolve, and reclaim aspects of one’s life/world have been presented in various novels throughout the course of this semester.

Redemption in Wild Seed stems from the impending death by suicide of Anyanwu as she prepares to leave everything she has known––even Doro. Brought to this realization, Doro knows that the only way to save himself from loneliness is to appeal to Anyanwu; to change himself into an image she would accept. In this sense, Doro wants Anyanwu to invite him back into her life: to stay with him for the rest of their immortal time on Earth, and to comfort each other’s loneliness if it may arise. Anyanwu—having originally been willing to let Doro back into her life, giving him a second chance after the cat-and-mouse game they have played for the last few decades—becomes hesitant when Doro kills Susan, one of the women he brought to live on Anyanwu’s plantation. The death of Susan brings Anyanwu to the revelation that Doro may never change. That he will always look at his people as nothing more than a source for his own power. Anyanwu had allowed Doro back into her life because she thought that he had finally understood that his need for breeding his people didn’t make him any better than the slavers. However, she was presented with the notion that Doro’s inert nature was to use his people until he no longer needed them and then to discard of them by jumping into their skin. Anyanwu is resigned to death because if she can’t change Doro, then what is the purpose of being alive. Once he realizes how important she is to him, he decides that he’ll change for her. That he will stop breeding his people, and killing just for the sake of killing. That he will work towards being a better person––that he will redeem himself––if it means that she will remain with him.

The idea of redemption is almost a cliche in  American Desert, but after further examination, it tells the story of a battle between Ted and his ego while he grapples with whether he will let his surrounding society, as well as his family, back into his life after his resuscitation. Ted is a failed academic in his eyes and has yet to accomplish anything notable, causing the college he worked for to deny him tenure. This severe blow to his ego contributed to his lackluster relationship at home with his wife and kids. This feeling of inferiority led him to cheat on his wife in search of validation, something he felt a relationship with a younger student could provide. Then, on his way to die by suicide, he is killed in an accident, being decapitated, only to have his wound be shoddily stitched up. Nevertheless, he reanimates during his funeral, sitting up in his coffin during his wake. In his experience of being alive, dead, and then alive again, Ted was able to find value in his family and find value in himself, despite his past failures and wrongdoings. He realized if he wanted to be happy and at peace, he needed to kill his ego, and dying was the jumpstart to that realization. In terms of the line “Invite them back in” from Big Machine, Ted had invited his family and society back into his life, this acceptance was the final test of whether he had killed his ego and truly advanced and redeemed himself.  Accepting life for its varying experiences, and realizing that other people are just as important to him, relieved him of the apocalypse he was undergoing. In this he was able to find grace in his family, which finally gave him the allowance to die.

In Lagoon, redemption for the corrupt, oil-dependent society comes with the introduction and integration of the alien lifeforms which are looking to enter the society in Lagos. The journey of the novel works to demonstrate the city inviting the aliens into their communities, both in a more abstract, emotional way, but also literally in their inhalation of the garden-egg smelling vapor. The latter example of the city’s shift eventually reveals the true subject that the society is allowing back in: the natural world, with true redemption for the inhabitants of Nigeria lying within this olive branch. In one, the aliens making the water more inhabitable for those who live within it, even at the detriment of human life, and two, cracking down on oil company corruption, then replacing that facet of the economy with advanced technology brought by the aliens, Lagos was then better able to link the natural world to the industrial, and makes a space where both can thrive and work together to create a more cohesive unit. 

Opportunities for redemption through invitation also present themselves in Pym by Mat Johnson, a self-proclaimed parody of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, that explores a similar story to Poe’s from the perspective of a Black professor who’s just lost his job. Presenting the novel as a parody to readers does two things: one, it offers a ‘redeemed’ perspective on Poe’s racist narrative—one that explores the connotations of perceived invitations at the end of the novel—and two, it allows readers to understand that opportunities of redemption can be given to those who might not deserve them. But for the sake of the person offering this opportunity, it might give them the chance to reclaim something that an offender has taken from them.

Lidabel™: At the beginning of the course , we encountered Layli Long Soldier’s poem “Obligations 2,” where she writes, “As we / embrace   resist / the future    the present   the past / we work   we struggle…to understand   to find   to unbraid   to accept…the grief   the grief   the grief   the grief.” In connection with our exploration of the other novels, especially Big Machine, Soldier’s ability to force their readers through ‘the grief’ in her poem is highly comparable to that ability of the writers we’ve encountered this semester—LaValle, Butler, Johnson, etc—to do the same for their characters. As each protagonist navigates through moments in their lives that produce differing levels of grief, in their lack of capacity to move past this, they are obligated to move through it, utilizing their apocalyptic experiences to reflect on their deservingness of redemption. Ultimately we, the protagonists and us as readers, are confronted with the concept that we are allowed to grant forgiveness and redemption to both others and ourselves. We must hone the self and social degradation that is produced before, during, and after times of apocalypse as opportunities to bestow repossession amongst ourselves and others.

Maddie™: This notion of our individual understanding and perceptions of the apocalypse determines the apocalyptic outcome. The bridge explosion, while horrific, can be viewed as a terrorist attack, which was not foreign knowledge to the characters in Big Machine, allowing them to band together and move forward. The result of the apocalyptic chaos caused by the explosion that was inflicted on the people on the bridge, caused unity, “couples, trios, and quartets of the people walked together on the streets. Holding each other up. Some of them were crying, others still shocked. But no one seemed abandoned” (LaValle 353).  Lack of familiarity in the face of the apocalypse is what caused the characters in American Desert to convert to chaos and violence rather than unification. Different types of the apocalypse are the bridges to encourage each individual’s apocalyptic outcome. Ricky Rice talks about the challenges in individual perceptions and basic human nature, “they were just human beings. No matter how many visions and dreams and visitations, they were still just folks at first. They didn’t know if they were right. They could only hope” (LaValle 366).

Madolley™: A pre apocalyptic event is a phase before the actual apocalypse, where individuals are preparing for what they perceive to be an end of their world or end of worlds. If one believes the apocalypse to be the birthing of the last angel then the entirety of Big Machine is a pre apocalyptic world that serves as the catalyst for not only Ricky and Adele but also for residents of Garland and anyone associated with the Washburn Library. Ricky is brought to the library by the Voice, taught how to search for odd occurrences/any presence of the Voice, and is then sent on a case-specific task. In Garland, Ricky is under the assumption that he’s there to help Adele deal with the Solomon Clay situation, however, it is revealed at the end of the story that the Dean only sent Ricky there because it was preordained by the Voice. That he couldn’t send his best scholars for fear of Ricky not making it out of the birthing of the last angel. Everything that happened in Garland: the explosions, the bombing, even the cult of Solomon Clay is a cover for the Dean’s ideology of enslaving this angel. Once Ricky and Adele are made aware of the plan, they are on the run. They know that it is their duty to tell everyone their story in order to stop the apocalypse from occurring, because if the Dean gets his way, who’s to say there won’t be more destruction of the world? With the introduction of the growing angel in Ricky, both his and Adele’s worlds are ending as they try to figure out where to go from there.

Kendall™: Within Big Machine, the machine of the Washburn Library operates explicitly under the pretense of their faith in The Voice. This release of control is innate to the structure of faith, and is what allows the apocalypse of this novel, as well as ones we have read previously in the course, to occur. At the end of the novel, when Ricky “invites” the Angles of the Marsh to control him and have faith in their actions, he allows them to assist him in shooting Solomon Clay and chooses to carry to term the last angel. These choices ultimately are what lead to the true apocalypse at the end of the novel, and in this way faith serves as the catalyst for the apocalyptic event, the birth of the last angel. This is also seen in novels like Lagoon, where when Ayodele dies and releases the mist, allowing for the final show of the invitation of the aliens and their society into Lagos, this then leads to the worldwide apocalypse in the body of the novel. This faith in the aliens and that they wish to better nature and society is what leads to the uncovering of the corrupt nature of not only Lagos and Nigeria, but allows for the same to be integrated in the world around them. Through these avenues the way that faith operates in the bodies of these novels help to further perpetuate the apocalypses of the characters in these novels.     

Adelia™: The Library serves hundreds of people, both in occupations, shelter, and purpose in life. It allows the addicts and lost individuals that are brought to the Library to discover a way to change themselves, giving them a new and more proactive life. The katechon is denoted by The Nomos of the Earth as “the restrainer [that] holds back the end of the world” (Kaplan 80). Through this definition and its application to Big Machine, the primary force that acts against the chaos within society is the Washburn Library with its persistence in hindering its opposers. Not only does the Library implement order within the outside world, it creates a sanctuary for those repudiated from humanity. Santana Kaplan describes the katechon, in modernity, as “civil society”, or rather, “the World”, where the understanding of the two lies within how civil society is the center of “Human values” and this sets in place the Biblical interpretation of the World in “modernity” (Kaplan 80). In this interpretation, both aspects possess a shared “anti-Black structure” (Kaplan 80).  Through civil society being the katechon–yet holding a basis of anti-Blackness–it serves as both the stopper and agitator for the apocalypse; the Washburn Library stands in as society within Big Machine and henceforth reinforces tranquility for themselves, yet creates the disruptions within society, as the apocalyptic instigators come from within. Furthermore, the Washburn Library creates an opportunity for redemption for those rejected by society. This notion of redemption creates an intangible abstract katechon flowing through the overall goals of the Library and within each of the Unlikely Scholars as they attempt to discover the whereabouts of the Voice in order to reach salvation/acceptance by said higher power. Through redemption comes the action of working towards bettering oneself within society, yet it still remains the society in which initially rejected the Scholars and might continuously do so due to its anti-Black nature. 

Kya : We can also identify the dismissal of the homeless man’s statement and his subsequent exile from the bus as the katechon of the novel. In a plea to the bus riders, the homeless man says, “We even worse than animals…We like monsters” (LaValle 13). Despite the truth of his statement, it goes ignored because they couldn’t be bothered by his outbursts, even if it meant leaving him out in the cold. Had Ricky and the machine invited the man back in, they could have spurred redemption and thus, the apocalypse earlier. Meanwhile, Solomon Clay goes on to say the exact sentiment later in the novel: “We’re worse than animals! We’re like monsters” (LaValle 282). Solomon’s use of proper grammar and his non-threatening appearance appealed to Ricky because they perceived the homeless man as unruly and improper—and thus was someone to be ignored, unworthy of their forgiveness. By the end of the novel, Ricky acknowledged the mistake of “sacrificing” the homeless man and he effectively began the library and the world’s journey to redemption–looking beyond their initial perception and judgment to begin inviting them back in. 

Nick™: The apocalypse for Ricky started when he lost his sister to the washerwomen, his apocalypse ended when he accepted what his life was and what he had experienced. This is similar to Ted, where his apocalypse was arguably his whole life; even before he had “died” the first time, his apocalypse ended when he had freed himself from what he had done, experienced and went through. Ted and Ricky both ended their apocalypse when they set their minds free and freed themself from the trauma that had controlled their lives. They also ended their apocalypse when they let go of their ego, Ted was tormented from the “what if’s” in his life and Ricky was tormented by his ego in terms of holding onto his past or future self-importance, understanding that accepting and letting go has purpose and value in achieving calmness of the mind. As well,  Doro had a huge impeding ego that caused the death of countless peoples and uprooting of many lives in a negative way.  His apocalypse was his ability to never die and this apocalypse was only able to end when he let go of his ego, which meant lending his life over in support of Anyanwu and stopping his destructive habits and release of his power hungry cravings. 

Marlee™: Big Machine attests to a series of apocalypses through Ricky Rice’s life, from his childhood through his adulthood, and suggests that there will be more apocalypses down the line. This interpretation draws from Santana Kaplan’s characteristics of apocalypses, and that “The paradigm is not merely a particular phenomenon, nor is it a universal, but is rather a ‘singular case that is isolated from its context only insofar as, by exhibiting its own singularity, it makes intelligible a new ensemble” (Kaplan 18; quote from Agamben’s Signature). The first singular case Ricky experiences that marks a major apocalypse in his life is when he is separated from his childhood with the Washerwomen during the shoot-out in the staircase, and reflecting on it later in life, he considers that maybe he’d also died on that day. With this realization, Ricky is able to begin to consider the other apocalypses of his life: when he finds part of his soul eaten away by spiritual cats in a basement in Cedar Rapids, when he becomes an Unlikely Scholar, and now, as he is pregnant with the last living Angel. This, however, will not be the last apocalypse in Ricky’s life, which he seems to acknowledge in the concluding chapter. There are only more apocalypses to come.

For Your Viewing Pleasure – Title Possibilities:

  1. The Man, The Myth, The Legend: Ricky Rice
  2. To Our Ancestors: Please Forgive Us for Forgetting We are Fish
    1. What Ricky Rice’s Search For Redemption Has Taught Us: We All Need to be Forgiven for Forgetting We Are Fish
  3. We’ve Forgotten We’re Fish but Ricky Rice Hasn’t: Returning to our Syngnathidaen Roots
    1. We’ve Forgotten We’re Fish but Ricky Rice Hasn’t: Becoming a Syngnathidaen Marsupial
  4. The Last Angel on Earth: Surviving Doomsday through Male Pregnancy 
  5. Ricky Rice,  Syngnathidae Extraordinaire
  6. Seahorses are Not Marsupials but Ricky Rice Is and Yet Both Are Pregnant
  7. Marsupials for the Divine
  8. Apocalypse and Redemption: A Murder of the Ego
  9. A Hivemind’s Perception of the End
  10. Chick-fil-a’s apocalyptic end
  11. The straightforward path of the Apocalypse 
  12. Apocalypse: The New Plan B One-Step
  13. Redemption in Light of the Apocalypse 
  14. Seeking Redemption: Through Title Generation, We’ve Created our Own Apocalypse
  15. End of it all: the apocalypse, Ricky, and this class
  16. Redemption despite Destruction
  17. Heroin and Decapitation: The Apocalypse is the Cure
  18. Cults, Heroin, Redemption, & Pregnancy: A Ricky Rice Story
  19. Ricky Rice: a realization that pregnancy is actually, indeed, hard (and not giving)
  20. Immortality, Decapitation, Heroin, & Aliens: Markers of the Apocalypse

Final Self-Reflective Essay Ally Ross

The housing crisis was an event that affected people all over the United States, including my family. At the time of the event I was not even aware of what was going on, and honestly not until now did I really understand what it was. Throughout this semester I learned how important it is to make connections and dive deeper into material and reaching out, in this case to my father about how my family was affected. Through this I was able to make connections to not only the crisis itself and my family but to the course material and novels we read such as The Big Short and Parable of Sower.

The Housing Crisis of 2008 was a financial crisis caused by the mortgage crisis when there was a decrease in house prices because people were not paying their mortgages and there were many foreclosures. The housing bubble led to high-interest rates. This, causes financial institutions such as Morgan Stanley,  Goldman Sacks, and others to collapse. When the bubble burst banks held a large quantity of money of worthless investments in sublime mortgages. The housing crisis left many people without jobs, savings, and houses. In The Big Short a quote that stood out to me that basically summed up the effect of the crisis was from Ben Rickert, “If we’re right, people lose homes. People lose jobs. People lose retirement savings, people lose pensions”

Prior to this class I never fully understood the effects of the Housing Crisis of 2008. My family was affected by the housing crisis because my Dad’s law firm’s business suffered badly from the financial collapse as his client’s projects all stalled. The law firm let go of over 50% of the firm, my father included. Before my Dad got another job he took up some freelance work and my mother went from only working part-time to full-time as a nurse. Being able to learn that the financial collapse led to the housing crisis I was able to understand how many families were affected by this, mine included. People lost their jobs from the financial crisis that affected the law firm, but thankfully my family did not lose our house. We ended up moving to a larger house, and in October of 2008, we bought our house at the top of the market at that time. If my family bought it a year later it would have been less expensive but we would’ve also gotten much less for the house we sold.

After gaining a deeper understanding of the financial and housing crisis of 2008 I realized that it holds many elements that relate to the Parable of the Sower. While the book is nonfiction we see many connections to terms learned throughout the semester that also makes the two relate to one another. Some terms that correlate the housing crisis to the Parable of the Sower are the idea of moral hazard, trust, toxicity, effigy, good/bad faith, and many others. Parable of the sower reflects and embodies as well effects we would have seen in the housing crisis of 2008, such as financial troubles, homelessness, and loss of jobs.  In class we learned about pressure, pressure is seen in Parable of the Sower especially with Lauren and her family as they experience it while trying to survive Lauren especially uses the pressure to help herself succeed in the end by escaping Robledo and starting earth seed. My parents experienced a lot of pressure while trying to make sure my siblings and I could still have a good life, even while my parents were working extremely hard to make sure we could. My parents were making sure their troubles weren’t affecting my siblings and me and tried to keep things as normal as they could during that one year. I learned from this class that my parents were working in the term I learned “good faith” as they did things that they may not have wanted to do, such as my mom working full time and my dad having to take up freelance good, but all this was done to make sure my brothers and I could still continue doing nice things as before such as ski lessons, and sports, and vacations. I also see good faith in Parable of the Sower when Lauren sticks up for Amy who had been neglected and sees potential in her and pleads with Cory to let her learn with the older kids. While Parable of the Sowers plot is wildly different from what my parents experienced in the sense that my family during the housing crisis was not experiencing a post-apocalyptic lifestyle. It is still clear to me the elements we had learned in class relate to not only the financial crisis’s effect on my family but the themes in Parable of the Sower.

Parable of the Sower was written before the housing and financial crisis occurred in 2007-2008. However, we are able to learn from Parable of the Sower future events that led to things like homelessness, no jobs readily available, and the loss of ability to get certain goods such as water because they aren’t able to afford it, these are also seen in the housing crisis. The financial restraints in Parable of the Sower provide good examples of how citizens and even my family will experience them in the future. While my family was lucky enough to not have to deal with losing the ability to afford housing and goods, that wasn’t the case for many others. We see financial restraints in the Parable of the Sower when Amy accidentally set the garage on fire, and nobody wanted to deal with the costs of calling the fire department, because nobody could really afford the fees of it so they had to find their own way to put out the fire. In the book, Lauren said “no one would take on the fire service fees just to save a garage. Most of our households couldn’t afford another big bill anyway (pg. 42).” This relates to how in the housing and financial crisis people who lost a lot of money had to be wise about what they spent it on, such as maybe instead of spending it towards a luxury such as vacation, they had to use that money instead to pay for next months rent, or food just to get them through the week. 

The Big Short, which plots revolves around the financial crisis which then led to the Housing Crisis of 2008, which we see a lot in Parable of Sower. In The Parable, after Keith’s death, Lauren said “ Who would cause anyone unnecessary pain? I’ve never thought of my problem as something that might do some good before (pg. 115).” This reminded me of how in The Big Short there were a lot of moral hazards, that lead to many people experiencing the housing and financial crisis. The big bosses of the banks and wonders of the funds caused unnecessary pain. This is seen in the quote “The CDO was, in effect, a credit laundering service for the residents of Lower Middle-Class America. For Wall Street, it was a machine that turned lead into gold.” While the two don’t relate in the plot, the idea behind Lauren wondering who would cause unnecessary pain, and the Big Short refers to how the CDO was taking advantage and causing unnecessary [pain to people who couldn’t afford it. This made me think about how pain can be reflected in different ways even if it is intentional or intentional in regard to The Big Short. 

Learning about the housing crisis helped me grow as a student by making connections on a personal level. Before this class, I wasn’t even aware my family had been affected by it. The novels we read in this class explored themes of social and economic inequality, community building, and resilience in the face of crisis, which resonated with my own experiences. Reading the Parable of the Sower challenged me to think more deeply about making connections through class-learned material such as The Big Short, personal connections, and issues we as Americans face. 

As a student at Geneseo, engaging with the connected world learning outcomes promoted by GLOBE has helped me reflect on what I learned in class about the housing crisis of 2008 and my ability to grow as a student throughout the semester. It encouraged me to think critically and creatively, and to communicate and collaborate effectively through our mini-collabs.  These educational approaches I specifically experienced through learning about the housing crisis have deepened my understanding of course material and its relevance to my life. This was possible by feeling encouraged to take an active role in my own learning.  Through making connections throughout the books we have read and forcing myself to speak up and share my thoughts with my group. The class has helped me develop the skills and habits necessary to continue learning and growing throughout my life. As a result, I feel better equipped to adapt to changing circumstances and contribute not only in the classroom but to the community. 

Sharing my story of how the housing crisis affected my family, and being able to make connections of certain circumstances I learned my family faced from it has made me realize I took steps to better myself and grow as a person. I learned how important making connections to different materials and stories of other people even if it is personal can really impact your work. It is important in growing as a student and person to face difficult experiences and diving deeper into understanding their impacts, in the case of this class, The housing crisis of 2008.

Final Self-Reflective Essay

Faith Griffin

Prior to taking this course, I only had limited knowledge on the housing crisis of 2008. I was only six years old at the time that the crisis occurred. Clearly, six year olds do not have an understanding of the economy around them. But, as I got older, I began to hear snippets of the said “crisis” and how some of my closest family friends were affected by it. They were one of many Americans who were forced out of their homes from this crisis. I still did not know what caused them to lose their home. When signing up for this course I was very intrigued by the title and after taking this course I learned just how many people were significantly affected by this housing crisis and how much of an impact was left on the United States. 

One of the most historical events in history that negatively impacted the United States was the housing crisis of 2008. During this time period, millions of Americans were expelled from their homes.  According to NYU Law News,  over six million American households lost their homes to foreclosure. Millions of these people and families were forced into foreclosure- a way to expel people from a place they- and were contractually obligated to sign away their homes. Although there were many causes of the crisis, one of the major ones was subprime mortgages. Investopedia states that subprime mortgages are mortgages targeted at borrowers with less-than-perfect credit and less-than-adequate savings. At the time, this seemed to be a good idea in order to help those who may have low credit scores and savings but it ultimately led to failure. Prior to these types of mortgages, some Americans would not be able to apply for these loans due to low credit scores and low savings. They didn’t have the money or reliability to do so. But, with subprime mortgages, it gave people a chance to become homeowners. These mortgages also helped the banks and lenders make so much money that they did not care of the effect these mortgages had on people. These banks and lenders were acting in bad faith as they were making money off of people they knew could not afford these homes. With a combination of all of these elements, the economy went into disaster. Housing prices plummeted, spending decreased, unemployment increased and people were left with nothing. On the other hand, these big banks came out debt free and had no harm at all. 

A real life example of this is shown in a reading from our course called The Big Short by Michael Lewis. This book goes through the housing crisis through the eyes of the men behind it. In the book, Lewis describes how banks worked with CDO’s. A CDO is also known as a collateralized debt obligation. Lewis states, “the CDO had been invented to redistribute the risk of corporate and government bond defaults and was now being rejiggered to disguise the risk of subprime mortgage loans.” These banks would combine Americans subprime mortgages into CDO’s and would trade them between each other for money. This behavior was a recipe for disaster. After months of the big banks’ risky decisions, it all came to an end. So many banks and investors went under while Wall Street investors got off risk free. The crisis was so detrimental to the economy that “In early October 2008, after the U.S. government had stepped in to say it would, in effect, absorb all the losses in the financial system and prevent any big Wall Street firm from failing”. The government needed to come in and forgive debt in order to try and reverse its effects on the economy. These crisis effects had lasted years and the economy did not return to a stable state until four years later. 

When taking this course, we have read many different books that were written hundreds of years ago to books written a few years ago. We had touched base on how each of these books relate back to the housing crisis of 2008. Although some of these books are non fiction, there are clear connections between the book and the crisis. It is fascinating to see the connections between these books and how much knowledge I have gained when reading. One book in particular that relates to the housing crisis, is Parable of the Sower written by Octavia, E. Butler. 

Parable of the Sower is a futuristic book that was written in 1993 but takes place in 2020. This story takes us through the journey of Lauren and her gated community who experiences a crisis within their community. We learn about the Olamina family which contains Lauren, her father who is a pastor within their community, her stepmother and step siblings. We come to find out that Lauren suffers from a disease called hyperempathy where she experiences other’s emotions just as they do. All is well within the community until there is an outbreak of the drug “pyro”, a drug that makes the experience of watching a fire burn “better than sex” which causes the community to have many arsonists. This drug begins to cause destruction within the community which causes many characters to be expelled from their homes. Prior to being expelled, Lauren’s community began to experience instances of violence and robberies. Lauren states “More and more people are coming over our wall to take what we have, or what they think we have.” (page 117). Those from outside the community would come into their gated community and rob house after house. The community decides that a nightwatch should be created to try and keep the neighborhood safe. However, the drug of pyros, makes this job almost impossible. The community becomes uncontrollable. Those who are on the drug pyros set fire to houses and “While the community tried to put out the fire, and then tried to keep it from spreading, three other houses were robbed.” (page 143). No matter how hard Lauren and her community tried to stop the people on pyros, they caused mass destruction while robbing the innocent people. This danger caused Lauren and her peers to be expelled from their homes. Lauren makes the decision that this is no longer safe and she must leave. She stated “LAST NIGHT, WHEN I escaped from the neighborhood, it was burning. The houses, the trees, the people: Burning…. Everything was chaos. People running, screaming, shooting. The gate had been destroyed.” (page 153). Lauren’s community reached a point of no return. The neighborhood began to burn and chaos was inevitable so there was no other choice but to leave. The people were expelled and forced to leave their homes and family members. Lauren and a few others journey their way North to seek safety. They encounter new members and hardship on the way but ultimately begin their new lives on the land they name Acorn. 

It is evident that just like those of the 2008 housing crisis, Lauren and her fellow peers were also expelled from their homes. Although the housing crisis being non fiction and Parable of the Sower being fiction, both had factors leading up to the expulsion of innocent people. Lauren and her community were affected by those acting in bad faith. Those acting in bad faith were robbing the innocent people of the gated community just as the CEO’s were doing to the people who trusted them during the housing crisis. Both the actions of the arsonist and CEO’s, it left innocent people homeless and forced to leave the only homes they have known. These people were forced to leave what they knew and created new lives for themselves all because of the selfish actions of their peers. 

Looking back on how much this course taught me, I want to return back to the start of this course. I registered for this course for a concentration requirement. I am an education major at Geneseo so I have not taken any English courses or courses that talked about economic terms. I really did not know the full extent of what the course could be about and to be honest I did not know how much I would really learn. But, after reflecting on this course, I can really see how I have changed and how much I learned. In only a few months I went from knowing a few small bits and pieces, as stated in the beginning of family friends being affected to having a full understanding of the crisis itself. I now have knowledge on CEO’s, CDOs, subprime mortgages, fraud, loans and would have no problem explaining them to anyone. Alongside obtaining knowledge on the topic of the housing crisis, I grew as a person. I can say that in my entire college career I have always hated group work. I did not like collaborating with others in fear that they would participate in bad faith and leave it all to me. My look on collaboration has changed drastically after taking this course. After working with my peers on several mini-collaborations, I gained so much new insight on things I may not have seen if I was working independently. In all the groups I have worked in, there was an equal amount of participation and collaboration. Even if people were absent, they made sure to be present in some other way. From their actions and good faith, I now realize that I enjoy group work and can’t wait to use it in all aspects of my life including when I am a future teacher myself. In regards to my new knowledge, I have reflected on what I have learned and know how to apply it to my life. The insight I have gained on mortgages and fraud is how I personally will go about buying a house when I am older and to always read the fine print. 

With the new knowledge I gained, I can look back to recent years and see how history could have repeated itself. Especially, in these past two years there have been many people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Unemployment rose and put a lot of people at a loss of  jobs and many homeless. This could be a time where subprime mortgages came back as there were many people who had poor credit scores and little money to loan a house. There is a possibility that if this were to happen, history could repeat itself. Now with the knowledge that the economy has on subprime mortgages and how it caused an economic crash, subprime mortgages did not make a comeback and instead other policies were put in place to help those affected by the pandemic. 

All in all, I am extremely thankful for all of the new insight and skills I have gained on the housing crisis of 2008 from this course. I want to thank both my professor and peers for making this course enjoyable along with helping me find a new love for collaboration. I look forward to applying all of my new knowledge to my future and will definitely see more courses like this in my future. 

Silencing the Machine

Written by: Lauryn Bennett, Makayla Garrison, Sage Kearney, Mckinley Skala, Marisa Greaney, Jenna Mcfarland, Katie Lyons

Big Machine, written by Victor LaValle, is a story about Ricky Rice’s comeback from his childhood trauma of witnessing his older sister among several children, murdered by a Christian cult led by the Washerwomen. As an adult with a seemingly plain life, Ricky is mysteriously summoned to the Washburn Library in Vermont, where he works alongside other African Americans whose lives have all similarly but distinctively, fallen apart. During Ricky’s journey, there is a man on his bus that is preaching God and yelling at passengers. He is eventually thrown off, after regarding humans as monsters. Ricky considers the possibility of him being invited back on but does not view it positively. Upon arrival at the library, Ricky discovers that their collective purpose is to comb through newspapers gathering information and finding what does not belong. Ricky learns from the Dean about The Voice, something akin to a god among the people of the Washburn Library, and the reason he was brought to the library. Over time, Ricky is promoted to a field scout in California, learns the history of The Washburn Library, and is partnered with Adele Henry. They are tasked with finding and killing Solomon Clay, a rogue “Unlikely Scholar”, which is what the organization calls themselves. We learn of Adele’s history of prostitution and sexual assault and the murder of Mr. Washburn, the leader of the Library organization. By the end of the novel, Adele and Ricky have succeeded in killing Solomon Clay, and decide to listen to the commandment that the Voice told Adele all those years ago. The command, “Invite them back in” (364), served as their guide to helping the outcasts of America integrate back into society by overcoming the controls that hold them back.

Big Machine is a novel that demonstrates faith and doubt as contrasting factors that are both influenced by control. “Invite them back in” (364), the commandment spoken to Adele by the Voice, has a complex meaning that was specifically and intentionally constructed by LaValle to help the reader analyze how control is Big Machine in the novel. There is a great deal of faith and trust behind “inviting” somebody or something into your home, your life, and your world. Whether it be through a conversation or a literal invitation into a space, the component of faith is necessary to go through with the invitation. Throughout the novel, characters are faced with the challenges and decisions of “inviting” others into discussions, places, and experiences while battling personal ordeals from their history. Adele battles with her trauma of sexual assault and her alarming murder of Mr. Washburn. Ricky battles with his addiction to heroin as well as his brutal experiences with the Washerwomen. Ricky explains, “Heroin, like I said before, robs you of your empathy”(LaValle, 110). Heroin had made Ricky lose pieces of himself but since he was sober, all of these emotions were intact. These battles with such traumatic history contribute to the doubt that one may feel when determining whether to invite someone or something “back” into their home, their life, and their world again. It takes time for characters like Ricky and Adele to place trust in people when they have been harshly betrayed before by loved ones and strangers alike.

The first time the reader sees the phrase, “invite them back in” is in the beginning of the novel when a homeless man is kicked off the bus. Ricky assumes, “The guy I guess felt underwhelmed by the gesture. Maybe he thought she’d invite him back in. I thought she might have too. I wouldn’t have been happy about it but I would have understood” (LaValle 14). Ricky understood it was the right thing to do, to let the homeless man back on the bus to escape the cold, but he still had a lack of trust in the man for his crazed preaching. “Invite them back in” is also the commandment that The Voice spoke to Adele the first time when she was in the Devils’ Well with Snooky Washburn and Solomon Clay. Adele did not reveal to Ricky the four words that were spoken to her until the end of the novel after he had killed Solomon Clay. Ricky’s first impression of the phrase was, “The command made no damn sense at all” (LaValle, 359). Ricky posed questions of “Invited who back in?”, “Invite them back in what?”, “Had I invited them in before?”. 

It was not until Ricky and Adele spoke with their co-worker Ronny about his gambling problems and losing his family that the meaning behind the Voice’s command to Adele finally made sense to Ricky. Ricky explains, “Maybe the Voice knew it could, it should, demand more of us than mere self-preservation. We were strong enough to lift others” (LaValle, 364). Ricky understood that the Voice deemed himself and Adele capable of helping others. They would use their story and their experiences to inspire others to work through their difficulties, whatever they may be, and rise above them. Solomon Clay would view his mission, though destructive, as helping the poor around him realize they deserve a greater life; “I got in the mud to dig out my men. To convince them they deserved better lives. I put in work…I got passed over…The poor will always be with us”. They would use Solomon Clay’s mission of helping the poor and the unfortunate in a constructive way rather than a destructive way, “No matter where you go, poor people have the capacity to endure. Some people even compliment us on it, as if endurance is all we can achieve” (Lavalle ). They would work to take down the Big Machine of corruption and poverty, and they pursue all of this in an optimistic and humane way. 

The phrase “Invite them back in”, places the consideration of forgiveness in contrast with the idea of control. There is power in forgiving something as it ends the cycle of resentment and reduces the chances of resulting animosity being passed on from person to person, and generation to generation. Once introduced to this command Ricky soon after reflects on his past relationship with his family, “It’s good to keep in mind that your parents felt powerless too. You can’t forgive them unless you do. And I forgive them now” (LaValle, 363). Rice turns these four words into a means to exercise control over the circumstances that have affected him from childhood through to adulthood. He also reflects on his childhood throughout the novel and the events in his past rather than shutting them out. This allows for the realization that reflection and acceptance as a way to gain control is necessary to better the future. The idea of destroying the past as a way to truly right the world has been posited in the essay “Notes Towards (Inhabiting) the Black Messianic in Afro-Pessimism’s Apocalyptic Thought”  by Andrew Santana Kaplan, 

Apocalypticism  is  at  first,  not  concerned  with  changing  [i.e.,  reforming] the structure of society,  but directs its gaze away from this world. If revolution were to  mean  only  replacing  an  existing  society  [i.e.,  the  World]  with  a  better  one, then the connection between apocalypticism and revolution is not evident. But if revolution means opposing the totality of this world with a new totality that comprehensively finds anew in the way that it negates, namely, in terms of the basic foundations, then apocalypticism is by nature revolutionary. (9)’ (Kaplan 81).

Here, it is inferred that to truly have a better world, the essence of the current world ,must end and a new one must begin. This suggested as necessary so as to have entirely erased all concepts of the wrongs done by the former during its existence. However, when considering Big Machine, ignoring the past as a way of destroying it in an attempt to begin anew does not remove Ricky’s trauma and the effects that have taken hold on his life. Forgiveness provides a means for coping and moving on from the events that have caused him great conflict. Absolution begins the healing process for Ricky, as he is faced with an inevitable birth. He is choosing to not perpetuate this system with his own offspring. 

Wild Seed, a novel written by Octavia Butler, draws on the themes of forgiveness and doubt that correlates to the meaning behind Ricky’s interpretation of the phrase, “Invite them back in”. Doro betrays Anyanwu multiple times throughout the novel by breeding her with multiple partners and killing people for power instead of survival. When Anyanwu initially refused to breed with Doro’s son, Issac, Doro calmly explained, “You know your children don’t have your strength. I’ll get what I want from them, and their children will be as much mine as the people here” (Butler, 133). Anyanwu knows Doro to be a being with a superiority complex and she cannot trust him because of this. Doro’s condescending dialogue, narrow mindset, and discriminatory nature leads Anyanwu to run away and start a new life without Doro. When Doro found Anyanwu, Anyanwu had a difficult time inviting Doro back into her life. Anyanwu thinks, “She had run from him, done what no one else could do… yet instead of killing her at once, he seemed to be beginning again with her – giving her a chance to accept him as though nothing had happened” (Butler, 225). Anyanwu goes back and forth between forgiving Doro for his wrongdoings and continually asking him not to harm her people. Anyanwu, like Ricky, invited Doro back in for a multitude of reasons. One being that she, like Ricky, could look out for the people that were weaker than Doro and could not look out for themselves. Anyanwu worked hard to protect those around her, and her selfless character helped turn Doro from a selfish and brutal leader to a compassionate and more humane being. The phrase, “Invite them back in” proved to be a successful guide for both Ricky in Big Machine and Anyanwu in Wild Seed

1 Katie: 

This semester we have dove into apocalyptic novels that allowed us to make our interpretations of what apocalypse means. We used our skills to dissect these readings as a class and figure out where the apocalypses occurred in the readings and if they were necessary or unfortunate. Good faith was put to the test in these texts and in most cases when someone did not act in good faith they were not able to be at peace. In“The Big Machine” Ricky Rice’s life is completely changed after his Washburn Library experience. Ricky and Adele both had life-altering trauma that had to carry with them for years using alternative methods to overcome this trauma. After their journey, they learn about forgiveness, although what has happened to them is unforgivable, this gives them a chance to move on from the past and go forward. When the voices stated; “invite them back in” this was the Voice giving them an answer as to how to go on with their lives, despite everything they endured in their lifetime. The word invite implies that they have the power to get closure from their trauma. Although their trauma is not their fault, it is their responsibility to heal. 

2 Makayla: 

This course has broadened our ideas about what we thought we knew about the word Apocalypse. The six novels we read throughout the semester transported us to the unimaginable, constantly revolving around characters who depended on their faith and on their doubt. One thing I noticed was how multiple characters in various novels were met with needing to make a decision to rely on their faith to persevere or allow the doubt to change their perspective and make them question everything.  Each of the characters had the opportunity to engage with other characters and/or spiritual figures in these instances where control and the importance of a choice can alter the rest of their lives. The control allows for the characters to forgive whatever hurt them, they question or doubt and lead to the next steps in their lives. Like Ricky in Big Machine, we are often met with decisions in our lives where our faith and doubt are both tested for oneself to take their next step to a better them.

3 Marisa: 

Throughout the span of this course, the class has read and deciphered many novels and even a few articles.  The exercise of reading and then later discussing the pieces in class has broadened our thinking as a class, especially towards the concept of “apocalypse”.  The discussions along with our own readings helped us not necessarily create but develop our own definition of the word and concepts.  Through these newly acquired skills we as a class have gained the ability to recognize what the apocalyptic event is in these novels.  Within Big Machine, main character Ricky Rice lives through and explains many traumatic events that have happened in his life, either before the events of the novel or during.  He then discovers the concept of forgiveness and only living one life.  With the realization of this Ricky becomes forgiving and the phrase “invite them back in” becomes something that he can sort of live by.  

4 Jenna:

 Throughout the semester, we have discussed all aspects that come with good and bad faith through a collection of six novels.  These novels have helped develop our thinking in relation to the term Black Apocalyptic Fiction, and how they have allowed us the opportunity to develop our own interpretations as to what we believe it means..  In our most recent book,  Big Machine, we see Ricky Rice’s Life being changed after an experience he encountered.  He carries on his life with such trauma, and realizes that every person in this world only lives once.  Ricky becomes a forgiving person and by doing this he understands to idolize the better.  Over time, we learn to allow ourselves to develop new trusts and develop new relationships. In Big Machine, the quote “invite them back in” was being spoken to them by the voice, telling them to carry on and continue to move forward. In our daily lives, we are put through situations where our faith in good and bad is often  doubted, and we are put to the test of choosing to push forward.  In this course, it teaches us how to grow and learn from our  experiences.  

5 Lauryn: 

This course encompasses all and any aspects of faith, good and bad, impacting the concept of an apocalypse. Making our way through various apocalyptic novels written by an esteemed collection of Black authors, we have explored the different ways to consider a world ending event. One thing that stuck in my mind in this consideration was that apocalypses are almost always beyond one’s control. Rather, they tend to control those who experience them: physical, mental, and emotional responses are all influenced and changed when we go through our personal apocalypse. We begin to put faith into things and people we never trusted before, and to doubt everything we did trust and thought to be true. In Big Machine, this idea is brought into a more spiritual context, and those who originally put their faith in their religious beliefs turn their faith toward themselves, and how they can improve upon a broken past. When push comes to shove, the only one who has the power to “Invite them back in”  is whoever is doing the inviting, and allowing forgiveness to take control in place of bitterness and doubt.

6 McKinley: 

Over the course of the semester, the class has read and analyzed six texts that interpret the theme of Black apocalyptic fiction in their own ways. From Big Machine, one interpretation of Black apocalyptic fiction is that it refers to the faith that people have not in religion, but in changing themselves for the better. A human only has one life to live, and Ricky realizes this at the end of the novel as he discovers the true meaning behind the Voice’s commandment to Adele. In a way, Ricky wishes to be the voice that guides people through their traumas and difficult experiences, just as The Voice led Judah across the world in an exceptionally dangerous time for Black people. Dr. McCoy’s course teaches its students to learn from and grow from each text. Big Machine educates its readers on the importance of not giving up on people who have submitted to the controls in their life and to instead help them regain control and take back their life. 

7 Sage: 

The phrase, “invite them back in” poses a contradiction to the voice Andrew Santana Kaplan. The viewpoint declaring that apocalypticism refers to total destruction as a rebirth and correction of the irreparable wrongs that have occurred within this world is defined by Ricky Rice’s ability to forgive and work past his trauma and events of his past. He is forgiving so as not to allow the possibility for these events to happen again. Total destruction implies that there will be a forgetting, and therefore a possibility for these events equally as bad, if not worse to occur again. As the concluding novel in the series of books consumed within this course, it allows us, as analytical weaponry, to recognize that all of the apocalyptic elements in previous books would have the opportunity to occur again if reset from scratch (within each of their separate universes). The multitude of traumatic experiences that Ricky has faced throughout his life can be compared to the different apocalyptic elements within the previous novels. Ricky ultimately chooses to forgive and move forwards as a means to recognize and halt the negativity that has occurred once and for all. Students learn history as a way to recognize the faults of the past and to push past them, while remembering how to not let detrimental events happen once more. Ricky’s forgiveness is the ultimate decision to push past the doubt and capitalize on the events of history as a way to serve the greater good. The angel he will birth would have the potential to massively affect the world. The circumstances of the angel he is birthing make it easier to review this novel’s finale in a larger context relative to other works. Ricky’s ability to forgive, serves a greater purpose that goes beyond his own personal healing. 

The Mechanics of the Big Machine

By Savannah Burley, Hallie Edic, Iris Kahris, Kathleen McCarey, Marie Naudus, Isaac Schiller, and Owen Vincent

In Big Machine by Victor LaValle, a janitor named Ricky Rice receives a letter which includes a ticket and reminds him of a promise he made years ago. He leaves his job for the Washburn Library, where he joins a group called the Unlikely Scholars. The people in this group all share equally dark pasts that continue to haunt them in the present. The longer Ricky stays with the Unlikely Scholars, the more of Ricky’s dark past is revealed. As a child, Ricky’s family were members of a religious cult led by the Washerwomen that ultimately ended in the murder of several cult members and Ricky’s younger sister Daphne, which Ricky blames himself for. After the death of his sister and the arrest of his parents, Ricky traveled around upstate New York fighting drug addiction until he was convinced to run drugs for a friend of his. After transporting the drugs, he is kidnapped and imprisoned in a basement for days where he contemplates his life and his choices that led him there. Eventually, Ricky is singled out by the Unlikely Scholars’ enigmatic Dean to seek out Solomon Clay, a former Unlikely Scholar who has gone rogue, and kill him. He is accompanied by Adele Henry, another Unlikely Scholar, and Claude, their hired driver. Solomon Clay is a threat to the Unlikely Scholars’ secrecy. The Washburn Library originated when the Voice, a higher power, spoke to Judah Washburn and said “go forth and survive” (LaValle 91). Additionally, he is working for a Voice, which tells him “vengeance is mine” and pushes Solomon Clay towards the mission of killing people for the sake of a clean slate for the world (LaValle 181).  While hunting for Solomon Clay and any evidence that could reveal the secret of the Washburn Library to the public in the sewers, Ricky is attacked by a Swamp Angel, leaving him to slowly lose strength and enter into a serious life-threatening condition. It is later revealed that Ricky, from this attack, is now pregnant and carrying the last angel on Earth. In their quest to kill Solomon Clay, Adele hesitantly opens up to Ricky about her own interaction with the Voice. Following the haunting memories of her sexual assault, Adele is left grappling with seeing the scenes repeated in her head. It is the Voice that breaks through these memories to speak with her. The Voice tells Adele four simple words: “Invite them back in” (LaValle 364). When Adele first reveals these words to Ricky, he is confused and does not understand their true meaning. It takes the death of Solomon Clay and his experience with the angel he is carrying to fully grasp what the Voice meant by these four words.

The ambiguous line of “Invite them back in” is open to interpretation and even prompts Ricky Rice to ask: “What the hell does that even mean” (LaValle 359). It is important to unpack these four simple words, focusing on the specific word choice and connotations. Specifically, there is a large difference between the words “invite them” and “let them” when choosing what to say. The word “invite” has more positive connotations and is more of an action with personal decisions behind it. The person has to make the conscious decision to invite someone back in, which can be difficult at times. Inviting a person back in can mean you have to forgive them and offer them a second chance or it makes yourself vulnerable to another person you may not fully trust. This differs from the simple term “let them” which adds a sort of apathy and distance from the other individual. This action can be begrudging and does not have to act as an olive branch of peace.  It is easy to see how “invite them back in” can put a burden on the individual and can be a hard act to do. Inviting someone back in can also require you to have to deal with your own personal baggage, and forgive yourself for past mistakes. This challenge can be seen through the character of Ricky Rice and his own tumultuous journey with forgiving himself for his sister Daphne’s death and allowing himself to open up to Adele Henry.

The Voice telling Adele Henry to “Invite them back in” applies how forgiveness and redemption is a constant theme throughout Big Machine. This can be seen especially through Ricky Rice and his conscious choice to forgive those who wronged him in his formative years. Ricky faced a difficult childhood where he was wronged not only by his mother and father, but also by the women who ran the cult his family belonged to, the Washerwomen. Ricky notes an important memory he had with Rose, one of the cult leaders, where she teaches him forgiveness and the power of doubt. Rose speaks kindly to the young Ricky: “‘I’m sorry for hurting you, Ricky. I lost my temper. Will you forgive me?’” (LaValle 205). Ricky agrees to the woman’s request, forgiving her. During their embrace, Rose whispers to Ricky that “doubt is the big machine. It grinds up the delusions of women and men” (LaValle 205). This doubt later allows Ricky to reexamine his relationship with others. This revelation gives him the opportunity to invite them back in and forgive them. By doubting his perception of who they are, he is better able to understand them as complex human beings who, like himself, are flawed. Upon reflection, Ricky writes to the unborn angel he is carrying that “there’s something greater than you in this world. I don’t know about other people, but I need to be reminded of this. And when I get too puffed up, when I invest too much in my own powers, I rely on what the Washerwomen taught me. Doubt grinds up my delusion. It makes me humble. And that’s a gift” (366). Although these women were dangerous and murdered those he loved, he is still able to find the good in them and their teachings, and no longer looks towards them with hate. Ricky chooses to invite them back into his life without the original baggage he carried whenever he thought back to them. Ricky is also able to reexamine the ill feelings towards his parents and remove the blame he has placed on them, by recognizing that they were only human as well. In his letter to the angel, Ricky reflects: “It’s good to keep in mind that your parents felt powerless too. You can’t forgive them unless you do. And I forgive them now” (LaValle 363). Ricky is able to heal and overcome his haunting past by learning to invite forgiveness in and lose any scorn he held against them.

Most importantly, Ricky learns to forgive himself, which can be an even harder task than forgiving others. He wants badly to be forgiven, as indicated by the effort he puts into being an Unlikely Scholar. As Ricky sits in the basement of a Belgian man’s house, starving to death and being surrounded by three cats who try to eat his soul, he thinks about his time with his old girlfriend, Gayle, who Ricky encouraged to get an abortion because he was, in his own words, a coward. He knows that she would not have gotten an abortion if he hadn’t indicated to her that he would be distant from her if she didn’t. In that basement, he begins to think back on this moment with Gayle and realize that while he was selfish in that moment, it should not be a defining factor in his life. He admits, “I know I’ve been selfish. But there’s still some good in me. I can stop being a coward. I can be brave. I promise” (LaValle 339), showing his willingness to forgive his past self and be better in the future. In forgiving himself at this moment, Ricky finds the strength to get out of that basement. Looking back, Ricky asks: “How much of my spirit did they get?… if I had to guess, I’d bet they gobbled up nearly half of me…. Someday I would have to reckon with it, but for now I was still alive. Left with, let’s say, 60 percent of my essence. Not enough soul to be careless with but, if I change, maybe enough to eventually tip the great scale” (LaValle 340). Much of Ricky’s emotional turmoil throughout the novel is finally solved when he learns that he has the power to forgive not only those who have wronged him, but also himself.

The sentiment of “Invite them back in” can be seen throughout other readings in the Black Apocalyptic Fiction course. This acceptance of another person and inviting them into your own inner world is a central feature in Nnedi Okorafor’s novel, Lagoon. Ayodele, an “alien” who comes to Lagos to help the human world, “‘spoke of her people being catalysts of change. Wherever they go, they bring change’” (Okorafor 158). In order for Ayodele to stir this change though, humans must accept her and her people and allow for the change. Ayodele needs the help of the three humans she connects with: Adaora, Agu, and Anthony. It is because the three of them accept Ayodele and the truth behind what she is saying, that they can stir change for the city of Lagos. Ayodele’ reassures the people of Lagos so they feel comfortable with her, and tells them that her kind “‘do not seek [their] oil or [their] other resources’” but they are there “‘to nurture’” the human world (Okorafor 113). Ayodele’s attempt to come across as non-threatening and a source of good comes from her desire to have the humans invite her into their lives and accept her help. This was first shown in how Adaora invites Ayodele into her own home and looks after the well-being of her new extraterrestrial friend. While Agu, Anthony, and Adaora were initially met with doubt, they ultimately trust in Ayodele’s cause and assist her in having the people of Lagos agree to her help.

The Voice’s commandment to “Invite them back in” can also be seen in the ending of Pym by Mat Johnson. As the only remaining survivors of their expedition to the Arctic, Chris and Garth sail to the island of Tsalal, supposedly the only place left on Earth untouched by the greed and colonialism of white culture. As they see the natives of the island waving to them, they interpret the action as an invitation to land and join them in their Black, utopian world. While there are certainly other, less positive interpretations of the islanders’ wave, the perception of the wave as inviting presents the opportunity to connect invitation and forgiveness in Big Machine and Lagoon to healing similar wounds in Pym. Protagonist Chris Jaynes spends the novel searching for the island of Tsalal in order to reach both an ancestral home and a world in which he is not a minority, something that he has never experienced. He thinks that it “is an American thing: to wish longingly for a romanticized ancestral home. This is a Black American thing: to wish to be in the majority within a nation you could call your own, to wish for the complete power of that nation behind you” (Johnson 30). Prior to undertaking the voyage to find the island of Tsalal, the place where he could exist as a majority without suffering the effects of racism, Chris lost his job as an English professor due to his pushback on ideas he felt were racist. The president of the college denied that Chris was fired for refusing to serve on the college’s diversity committee, but Chris felt like his only purpose on campus was as a diversity hire and that his expansion into other roles was the reason he was denied tenure and fired (Johnson 13). In addition to losing his job, he experiences microaggressions and constant frustration living in a world so ingrained with racism, such as his inability to become comfortable in one self-image. He notes to himself that he is never consistently identified as one race due to his light skin; he is immediately identified as black by Mrs. Karvel, but he realizes that others may assume he is not black and experiences constant uncertainty as to how he will be perceived (Johnson 239). These constant racial jabs constitute a kind of wound similar to Ricky and Adele’s regrettable pasts in Big Machine. Inviting others back into their lives and forgiving themselves and others for past mistakes allow Ricky and Adele to move on to another, better version of themselves as they experience their own personal apocalypses. In Chris’ case, the invitation from the native islanders of Tsalal gives Chris a new world to live in, one where he is a part of the majority like he has always wanted. Similarly to healing personal, emotional wounds, becoming part of the world he has always sought will allow Chris to heal the wounds caused by his existence in a dominantly white world. In this way, inviting someone in serves as a way to heal in both Pym and Big Machine, suggesting that inviting someone in good faith, even someone who has wronged you, is the first step to fixing a problem or healing old wounds. 

Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed is also useful when talking about “invite them back in.” The novel centers around two immortal beings, Anyanwu and Doro, who are simultaneously in conflict with one another (as they constantly disagree on how their colony should be run and their people should be treated) while being drawn to one another (as they seem to be the only immortal beings in the story). While the “normal” people live and die around them, they live through each generation, continuing their lives and keeping up their colonies. Because they are the only immortals, their presence in each other’s lives is constant and undying, which causes tension in their relationship as Doro constantly is chasing and ruining Anyanwu’s colonies. Towards the end of the novel, Anyanwu is planning to die in her sleep until Doro comes to her and begs her not to end her life because he needs her. She tells Doro that he needs to change his ways if he expects her to continue her life with him. In the epilogue, Butler writes, “No matter where she went, she would live. She would not leave him” (298), signifying Anyanwu’s acceptance of Doro’s compromises and her ability to invite him back into her life. It would have been easier for Anyanwu to end her life and finally escape Doro’s grasp on her life. Doro has constantly ruined everything she has made, killed her friends and family, and hunted her down when she went missing. To invite Doro back in was a sacrifice and a vulnerable moment for the protagonist. She needed to be vulnerable enough to trust that Doro would not break his promise to change for her.

Andrew Santana Kaplan’s “Notes Towards (Inhabiting) The Black Messianic in Afro-Pessimism’s Apocalyptic Thought” examines afro-pessimism in relation to how society views anti-blackness. Throughout Kaplan’s work he depicts the influences of the Middle Passage and chattel enslavement on modern day society and how the harsh realities of white history have lasting negative effects today. Kaplan argued, “‘The terms free and black do not just present political problems of citizenship, rights and inclusion, but also serious ontological problems, since the boundaries of ontology – between human and property and freedom and unfreedom– are thrown into crisis of the free black.’ (27). The fundamental ontological problems that the “free” Black presents leads to Warren to make a decisive distinction: between emancipation and freedom. The conflation of this judicial term with this ontological term is mistaken insofar as the Black’s emancipation from slavery in no way yields access to human freedom. This is why the worldly privileging of citizenship, rights, and inclusion fundamentally reinforces our constitutive forgetfulness of Black being” (73). This quote from Kaplan highlights the important distinction between freedom and emancipation for the modern Black person which relates to Big Machine when Ricky and Adele are on the run; he says, “Was it the Washburn Library or the Church of Clay? I don’t know but I’m afraid both are after us” (LaValle 360), which indicates the fear surrounding being “emancipated” but not yet free. Furthermore, if Ricky and Adele were truly free they would not have to be in hiding. Additionally, “invite them back in” relates to Kaplan’s work as well because it assumes that you have the ability to invite some in, which assumes that you, yourself are “in” when in reality Kaplan argues that Black beings are also on the outside of society because of foundational inequalities. 

Savannah Burley: 

Big Machine highlights the important commandment of “invite them back in,” which can be prevalently seen through Ricky Rice and Adele Henry’s development throughout the book, and having to accept their pasts and forgive themselves, and even the others around them, while trying to fight for redemption through the course of the novel; fighting for themselves, and the things and people they love.  Redemption and forgiveness is not only a major theme throughout Big Machine, but the other novels read throughout this course on Black Apocalyptic Fiction, thanks to Big Machine as the final bang for the wrap up of this course. In Mat Johnson’s Pym, Chris Jaynes struggles as a minority in both the Antarctic world and the teaching world, learning to overcome the obstacles in his life and redeem through the struggle of no longer being a teacher. In Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed, Anyanwu has to learn to overcome Doro’s control, learning how to thrive as her own being and redeem herself and her powers. Doro and Anywanu are both healing from their own obstacles from their past lives, and learning how to live on in the world in their uprising. In Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor, the city has struggled with acts of oppression, living within a city of chaos, learning to overcome the obstacles of these new beings in their city. In  An Unkindness of Ghosts, by Rivers Solomon, Aster is faced with the oppression of people from the upper decks, and struggles with the passing of her mother. All of these are instances where we see instances of characters redeeming themselves, and learning to forgive and inviting others in. Victor LaValle not only creates this closing message within his novel, but opens up this commandment within the other novels of the Black Apocalyptic course. Also, teaching us readers the important messages as well. No, it is not easy to move past the things that make up our history, as seen by the two characters Adele Henry and Ricky Rice, but learning to forgive ourselves and others, and learning how to work through those personal problems, in a good faith manner, and working towards forgiveness and redemption. 

Hallie Edic: 

The phrase “invite them back in” indicates a command for Adele Henry and Ricky Rice to invite not only the people who have wronged them back in, but other people who may need their help back in. When I read it, this line seemed to be asking Adele and Ricky to be inviting the world back in after it had wronged them in their youth. In order to lead more fulfilling lives, Ricky and Adele would need to try to forgive the world around them for hurting them when they were the most vulnerable and allow themselves to be vulnerable once more.This idea of forgiveness is not something that is simply contained in literature, but something that can directly relate to everyone’s life. Inviting people back into your life after they have wronged you, or you have wronged them, is hard, but sometimes a necessary part of life. In all of the books we have read in this course, the characters have had to make the difficult choice to invite people back into their lives that maybe they did not want to, but needed to. This message is a call out to anyone who has been hurt in their lives and isolated themselves from the world around them in fear of being hurt again. Just as Ricky, Adele, and the other characters in the novels throughout our course had to overcome their fear of being wronged by those around them, individuals can take away this idea and understand that vulnerability and inviting people back in is not a side effect of being weak, but rather an indication of being strong. In Wild Seed by Octavia Butler, Anyanwu makes herself vulnerable again and again to Doro as they are going to spend the rest of eternity together and in the long run, it is easier for her to invite him back into her life than it would be to keep outrunning him. In Pym, Chris is wronged by the system around him as he is fired from his job for not wanting to be the face of the diversity committee. Because of this, Chris seems to get angry at the world around him and act out because of this, but soon learns to invite people and the world back in, especially when he comes across the fated island of Tsalal. If he continued to distrust the people around him after his adventures, he would not have been able to find Tsalal and (hopefully) be accepted by the people of the island at the end of the novel.  In An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon, Aster and the people on her deck are continually let down and exploited by the people of the upper decks, but that does not stop her from inviting people in and trying to forgive those around her in order to better her situation. Throughout the course, the characters of all the books show their strength through their ability to adapt to the world around them and allow the world to be invited back into their lives even when it has failed them.

Iris Kahris: 

All in all, Big Machine poses an interesting question to the reader, asking to reflect on individual and collective forgiveness and redemption. Collective redemption and forgiveness is an interesting theme to examine through the lens of Black Apocalyptic Fiction because reckoning with the violence and oppression that Black Americans have faced throughout history is a massive concept without an easily identifiable solution. Kaplan’s article delves into the specific details of confronting and challenging the social norms upheld by the inequality and oppression that the United States was built upon; however, even this article cannot offer a solution for reckoning and solving the structural and social injustices and inequalities. Throughout the novels we have read this semester, different authors have shown redemption and forgiveness in slightly different ways, but all falling under the broader umbrella of confronting the past as a way to move forward. For example, in Big Machine Ricky had to confront his personal history in order to forgive himself and move forward. Additionally, in An Unkindness of Ghosts, Aster has to confront her own history with her mother and upbringing, as well as the collective history of the ship in order to move forward and be free from the constraints of the social order inflicted upon her. Throughout this semester’s work, it has become clear that there is no straightforward answer as to how to move forward, but that confronting the past is an opportunity for forgiveness and redemption, either of yourself, another individual or a collective. 

Kathleen McCarey: 

By having the final book of the course be Big Machine, a novel that encourages the reader to ponder the phrase “Invite them back in,” it is encouraging the class to not only reflect on the current novel we are focusing on, but to invite back in the previous novels we have read in class and to put the novels in conversation with one another. The course Black Apocalyptic Fiction has provided us with the tools to make connections among the novels we have read with one another and also to our own world. When approaching all of these texts together with good faith actions, each novel works together to enhance the understanding of what it means when a novel is apocalyptic. Apocalyptic fiction’s focus is on the end of worlds and creating a new slate. This is seen in Ricky Rice transforming his own world by forgiving those who have harmed him and by allowing the painful memories to no longer burden him. These personal transformations in redefining an individual’s outlooks on life can also be seen in Ted Street’s final acceptance of death in  American Desert. These examples show that sometimes, the apocalypse and end of the world can be individual. The readings in this class have proven that the end of the world can in the simplest sense be the end of only one person’s world, their own understanding seeing a renaissance, and reshaping what they at one time saw as their own truth. 

Marie Naudus: 

“Invite them back in,” the final command given by the Voice in Victor LaValle’s Big Machine is not only applicable to the novel but the course as a whole. From Wild Seed all the way until Big Machine we have dealt with apocalyptic fiction while looking through a lens of racism and apocalypse as presented by Andrew Santana Kaplan’s article “Notes Towards (Inhabiting) The Black Messianic in Afro-Pessimism’s Apocalyptic Thought.” The phrase “invite them back in” has a positive connotation as opposed to “let them back in” the phrase forces readers to take a step back and think about who has been pushed to the side and who needs to be invited back in. Thinking about this in terms of racism, I think the goal of “inviting” people back in means to give up years of prejudices and invite people to participate in everyday life without feeling uncomfortable or unwelcome. This can ultimately be applied to every work we have covered this semester: Anyanwu has to invite Doro back into her life to join him, Ted has to confess to his wife and make an effort to invite her back into his life, Aster has to work alongside Theo against the Ship to get back to earth, and lastly how everyone in Lagoon is forced to invite the garden eggs in. Working through the books in this class has helped me to look at the apocalypse in terms of both novels and real life. Forgiveness serves as a catalyst for change in order to help work towards equality in the future. 

Owen Vincent: 

The Voice’s command to Adele in Big Machine highlights a throughline that is present in so many black apocalyptic novels. Adele and Ricky’s character development throughout Big Machine culminates in their acceptance of past events and their forgiveness of those around them, and this represents a significant step in healing from their traumatic pasts. While other characters in similar black apocalyptic novels do not focus so heavily on their pasts, they all have similar trauma hanging over their heads. In Nnedi Okarafor’s Lagoon, the citizens of Lagos are constantly troubled by the corruption and inequalities of the city and the nation of Nigeria, as well as their unfulfilled dreams and ambitions. In Mat Johnson’s Pym, Chris Jaynes constantly experiences microaggressions and the consequences of being a minority in a white world, both in Manhattan and in Antarctica. In Wild Seed by Octavia Butler, Doro’s immortality and lack of a true companion drives him to attempt huge undertakings that span decades. All of these characters are suffering from their own kinds of wounds, whether they are mental, emotional, or physical. Big Machine’s message that active invitation and forgiveness, of others or oneself, is the way to healing provides another way to look at all of these other novels. The city of Lagos in  Lagoon is eventually healed by their invitation and acceptance of the “alien” race, with the entire city, despite their differences, smelling the scent of garden eggs. Based on the actions of the islanders, Chris assumes he is welcomed to the island of Tsalal, a place where he can finally stop existing as a minority and suffering the effects of being a black man in a white world. Doro’s invitation to Anyanwu to join him as an equal at the end of Wild Seed is what finally satiates his need for a real companion. In all of these black apocalyptic novels, it is the invitation in good faith that heals the characters and allows them to move on with their lives and escape whatever has been plaguing them. The closing message of Big Machine is therefore not only a new way to view the conclusions of other black apocalyptic novels, but also provides commentary on how readers can solve their own problems that have been plaguing them in the same way that Adele and Ricky’s pasts plague them; a good place to start would be honest forgiveness and an invitation in good faith.

Isaac Schiller:  

The command to “invite them back in” is emblematic of the Black Apocalyptic texts we have read this semester and their ultimately hopeful perspectives. Although the apocalypse inherently requires destruction, according to Andrew Santana Kaplan, the novels we have read this semester all suggest that a better world can be created through care and compassion toward fellow beings. The task of inviting them back in is not easy, nor is it usually pleasant. In Pym, Big Machine, An Unkindness of Ghosts, the protagonists seek community where they might not find it—with the people of Tsalal, the Unlikely Scholars, or the other people on Aster’s ship, respectively. While they are not guaranteed a better world, they are aware that they are “strong enough to lift others” in their worlds (LaValle 364). These Black Apocalyptic novels are futuristic, but they ultimately express their hopes for creating a better, more equitable world today— a time during which Black and other marginalized people are the victims of world-shattering destruction.

Group Conclusion: The overarching theme of the group’s conclusions all amounts to the idea that the phrase “invite them back in” is applicable to remembering and connecting the readings of the course through the context of individual and collective histories. This shows that although we read these texts at the very beginning of the class, returning to them allows us to make connections with the current text, Big Machine, and to further our understanding of apocalyptic fiction. Reflecting on the connections between the books throughout this semester, it is clear that reckoning with your past is a catalyst for moving forward in life. We saw this theme take shape in different circumstances, but ultimately the themes of the novels culminate in a clear connection between working through your personal or collective experiences and inviting yourself or others back in. Overall, this course as a whole has helped us to look back at the past to forgive and move on towards a better future. To “invite them back in” is a radical step toward creating a society which is more inclusive and creative than it is exclusive and destructive. This maxim ushers us toward thinking about the necessity of a strong collective supporting people through the difficult personal tests of the apocalypse, and of forgiveness being granted for individuals when they falter.