“The Europes” vs Wall Street

While reading A Mercy, I think I took for granted all of the natural comments and sightings that Florens had mentioned throughout the text. I saw them mostly as adding to the story and to describe a scene. Now looking back, I have been able to text crawl through the book, and find scenes, and passages that help me understand life during this time, and the variety of people that were all working during this time, and had come from other places/ where expelled from there original homes.  Particularly looking on page 174 of A Mercy, “ Six English, one Native, twelve African by way of Barbados. No women anywhere” here Florens was listing off the type of the different men that she saw working in the field but the only thing she said that they had in common was the fact that they all truly disliked was the master’s son. Why would that matter? When things fall apart, the only thing that would unite them would have been the fact that they all dislike this one man, they would need to learn to find themselves, and then also live as a group. 

I also think recognizing how Florens sees them and calls the white people as, “The Europes” like on page 63, is a prime example of how even the Europeans are all new and where pulled from Europe as well. Every time she says that it is a reminder that they are not actually from America, but from Europe. This also reminded me of the movie Old Man and the Sea and The Big Short because in each of those the depressed(with money, goods, or emotions) characters referred to the giant or larger companies not as people, but as a thing, as “ Wall Street” or as the “Tax people”, and now “the Europes”. I found how characters like Mr. Gettridge, Florens, and the folks who suffered from the housing crisis talked about large institutions or groups of people in the broad sweeping sense.  Many people were “enslaved” to their mortgages living paycheck to paycheck, by no means, is it like slavery, but more of a saying. People during the housing crisis who had fallen into the trickery or fraud of the Wall Street men, later found out that their houses would soon not be there’s but the banks. The folks during this time were trapped into walking away from their beautiful house or trying to maintain status and working for the rest of their life to pay it off.  Any race, any ethnicity, any hair color this applied to everyone. 

Within Jacob Vaarks household we had people of many different ethnicities, Florens, who is African, Lina who is Native,  Willard and Scully who were white men and all of these people worked for Jacob Varraks under the same household. This is about pre-racism slavery as Toni Morrison had mentioned in this video there WAS a time, wherein America slavery was NOT linked with racism. We can see that with the work done with Willard and Scully, and Lina. These people did not have a home, and the Vaarks home became everyone’s home. With that being said, when Jacob died, that was also the common thread, holding them together. Now they had to go on a journey of self-discovery, and hoping the group comradery would them bring all back to the house.  Since, they did not have as Morrison states, “an institution to hold them together, a tribe, or a race.” They had to learn to push back against everything that was or wanting to expel them and come to where they were accepted. Another insight that was picked up from listening to the video linked above, is Morrisons’ mention of the Bacon Rebellion. Bacons Rebellion took place in 1676, and this book took place during the 1680s so shortly after this event. She described it as an event where men of all races gathered to protest the governor of Virginia,  they did many awful things, burning cities, etc but in the end, the culture ended up viewing the Africans and servants as the people of fault, and they were worried that they would uprise again. Some take this to be a starting point for racial slavery in the United States which correlates with the expulsion of African people from their homes to fuel this new forming mode of work in the US. Although this is after the time frame of A Mercy, we can still see how this affects Florens in her personal self searching to find freedom, which she finds after she let’s go from the Blacksmith, “ Now I am living the dying inside” page 167 Florens was expressing her extreme rejection from the Blacksmith, but now she does have the freedom to build herself up. Florens at the end of the novel realizes the gift she was given to be able to live in the Vaarks house, it was a mercy. Offered by a human.  In a few years to come, many Africans would not have the freedoms that she had now, like being able to experience the freedom to discover herself.

Text to Text and Text to World Connections within The Turner House and The Big Short

When starting the book The Turner House by Angela Flournoy, I did not know where the story was going to go, or how it was going to connect to The Big Short by Michael Lewis. Shortly after reading The Big Short, I started to see different themes from the book in my life and, that was when my understanding deepened on many levels. In the literacy education classes I have taken, we learned about text to text, text to self, and then text to world connections. How this works is you have one book or a text, and you or the students try to make connections to other texts, to yourself. Then to the outside world all bouncing back to the original text/book. My original understanding came from making text to text connections with The Big Short and then The Turner House, which then enabled me to seek out and dive into a  text to world connections with The Big Short. In ways such as explaining a DBQ question to 8th-grade students about why African Americans were not allowed to get mortgages in certain parts of towns. Supporting the students with the background knowledge of what a mortgage was, and conceptual knowledge of the process on how to get a mortgage from my own learnings at college gave the students a different insight on this DBQ question.  Going back to the text to text connections between The Big Short and The Turner House I can see some resemblance; similar ideas in the means of addiction, and the housing crisis,  but the Turner house is putting the characters into perspective, giving them a true story, giving them emotion, and a long line of the family.  How could a “real person”, or “real family” be similar to the Big Short? Then looking and using this new text to world connection and seeing how this topic did not only impact people in the past, but it is still being taught and influencing the students of today.

The Big Short was the big perspective looking down on millions of little houses all sold together. The Turner House is the smaller perspective looking up, it starts with the families, and the one home that the bankers would take for granted, and it shows the characters have troubles, short selling the house, gather money to pay for the house, and then all of the internal struggles that ALL humans have the opportunity to face. Addiction. It can be defined as, “Becoming attached to something that one cannot go without it, one becomes dependent on an activity, drug, or food” as mentioned in Merriam Webster’s definition.  Mentioning explicitly here activity.  The Bankers on Wall Street, they could gather, “ 100 different triple- B rated bond… they persuaded the rating agencies that they weren’t as they might appear…They were a diversified portfolio of assets”(73, Lewis) Meaning these bankers would take the lowest of the low bonds the bonds that would never get paid off, and mortgages like the Turner Houses (text to text connection), and combining them all to seem like a triple-A bond. Triple-A bonds are the highest and securest place to store money and the hardest mortgages for costumers of Wall Street to get.  “Turning nothing into something” often looks like fraud and these bankers enjoyed a well, high-paying paycheck, the risk was high, but who was the risk actually high for? They started wrapping and rolling as many housing mortgages as they could find and labeling them higher and higher quality. One could say it was an addiction. The draw of the money, the ease, the appeal. It was all there.

This is where the men of The Big Short connect with The Turner House(text to text), zeroing in on Lelah. Mother of Brianne, who is the mother of Bobbie. Lelah is the youngest of the Turner family, and she has a serious gambling addiction.  “She was just a mind and a pair of hands calculating, pushing chips out, pulling some back…” (49, Flournoy) That quote really emphasizes how drawn back and taken away the character is from herself as if the addiction itself had moved in and taken control.  When Lelah was pushing the chips, and manipulating them to her will, or the addictions will she also was not feeling anything. “ It wasn’t to feel alive, but it also wasn’t to feel numb. It was about knowing what to do intuitively, and thinking about one thing only, the possibility of winning…” (49, Flournoy) Lelah was gambling not to feel anything, but to win. Lelah had an addiction that was so strong, regardless of her family, she wanted to hit the jackpot, to win big. Similarly, men on Wall Street did not care about how they felt, they wanted to win big as well, bring home a big paycheck. “Morgan Stanley’s elite bond traders did not spend a lot of time worrying about this” (208, Lewis).  The meaning of “This” is the subprime mortgages that the companies on Wall Street were combining and selling. They did not worry, they did not process, it was their addiction. They were only concerned about winning, and not they other feelings. I guess one could say it is our human flaw, the will to win at whatever it takes. The increase of debt among the nation, hurting our own families, the will to win is a game, is an addiction. Taking a step back, and placing no blame on anyone who has this disease of addiction. Lelah is a great example it first starts off as a choice, but then it becomes a habit that is too strong to break. Many of my peers had mentioned that the book The Turner House had made The Big Short much easier to grapple with the understandings of addiction. We became able to empathize why she would gamble to try to earn money for the house, and how the book says she was strict on counting her money for fear to not go broke. The Turner House humanizes some situations from The Big Short that were seeming “too big” to understand at first glance. 

It can become easy to blame the greedy men on Wall Street, but humans all have in common is the capability to want more. It is a good lesson to learn to be quick not to judge one another and learning how much we do all have in common. These ideas and concepts are not uncommon. One last text to world example is, in the show Parenthood, there is a Grandfather(Zeke) who is trying to get rid of a not so great piece of property he bought and his daughter (Julia) is a lawyer and had a friend (Timm) who could “rearrange” the property for her grandfather and bundle it into other properties and get it off their hands, for the family could possibly lose their other house becuase extra piece of property. When I heard this going on in the show, I paused the show and said to my family, ” That is NOT okay, what he is doing is going to bundle this mortgage and try to hide this poor property with better ones. This is what we talk about and learn in my English class.” These situations will come up, everyone will be exposed to them, knowing how to respond, and when to say something is important. Sure enough, the Grandfather did not really like the deal, because he thought it was shady, and did not end up doing business with the man.

The Two-Faced Cast Members of King Lear

When we first started reading King Lear it was hard to wrap around how we were going to connect terms that seemed so economical, to something so set in the past. What amazed me was the fact that they really did coincide with each other.  Terms like swap and liquidity have been broadened to reach new meanings in literacy. The term that I felt really was portrayed through the whole book was the term swap, the definition of swap is to give in trade, to make and exchange according to Merriam Webster Dictionary. Generally, when people start to realize that they can take or make something from nothing they get excited and will go to any lengths to do such. Even though King Lear begs to differ believing nothing will come from nothing (1.4). 

Looking at the word swap within some of the characters and their actions is what seemed to help solidify the definition of swap. The characters like the Fool, Edmund, and Cordelia where there interchanging, they’re “supposed” or presupposed beliefs that were placed upon them. In ways that were unsettling to King Lear.  The fool had the job generally of keeping the crowd happy and amused; even if that meant pointing out the remarks about King Lear. At the beginning of the text in Act 1 scene 4, the Fool is just roasting, everyone in this situation, “May not an ass know when the cart draws the horse? Whoop, Jug, I love thee!” here the fool is clearly messing with the family and making fun of them.   Around halfway through the play, the fool starts to try to guide King Lear in the right direction, but since the fool was not normally taken seriously King Lear did not know to believe him. How could King Lear just all of a sudden up and believe someone if all they have done prior was made fun of you, a light of situations?  In Act 3, scene 6 the fool says the line, “He is mad that trusts in the tameness of a wolf, a horse’s health, a boy’s love, or a whore’s oath.” Here the fool was trying to protect King Lear from Edgar who was also swapping or exchanging roles with his other true self. The fool was then caught in a predicament because no matter how hard he tried he had the reputation of being a funny guy, jokester, and when he started to try to be serious and swap positions to protect King Lear, Lear didn’t realize what was happening because it was unusual. 

This little portion matters because once Lear falls for the hook of Poor Tom, he will get dragged into the elements of the outside, and the turmoil Edmund creates just to try to gain something from nothing. Edgar is the legitimate child and Edmund was the illegitimate child, which ended up causing a lot of drama as one could imagine. These characters and their swapping stories are just as important as the fools, Edmund had started out the madness by creating confusion with a note saying the other son was going to kill their father, then he told his brother Edgar that according to the stars someone was coming to come after him. When Edmund wants to exchange his life to be the “real” child so that when he kills off the family, he can get all the money. The problem with this was Edmund would get King Lear’s daughters all wrapped up in his nonsense as well and this was how the two families got tied into the mess.  It seems that the stories fold on top of each other and intertwine to create King Lear itself. Greed, lust, and more greed. Thrust Edmunds self-image that somehow, he deserved more than everyone no matters what it would take.  The last character who did a “swap” that surprised King Lear was Cordelia hers came as a real shocker to King Lear in an almost hurtful sense, because Lear was basing all of his self-worth, and she was asked to tell him how much she loved him. Cordelia did not feel obliged to respond to her father when he asked how much she loved him, and that shook King Lear’s perspective. He wanted to give her a lot of lands, he wanted to say I love you back, he wanted to hear those lovely things. Instead, she did the opposite, she altered her course, she exchanged her old ways for ones of a new, she said, “What shall Cordelia speak? Love, and be silent.”  

This was the turning stone for King Lear when he felt like his own daughter betrayed him and would not give him the “love” he deserved. He would soon find out everything can fall away from you very quickly.  The more I read on the more I realized that when one becomes unhoused, and out in the elements like Lear was during the storm how natural it is to go through a series of emotions, and confusion. Lear himself went through the shouting and jeering. Each person can handle these situations differently and at different rates. Looking back at the documentary of The Old Man and the Storm, with Mr. Gettridge, who was an older gentleman who had lost his family, and most of his house due to hurricane. How he coped was to come back and to rebuild because that was where he wanted to be.  Which when I read the text with this lens it gave me some sympathy and saw Lear in this setting, instead of seeing him as just a crazy mad man in the pouring rain, I saw him as a man who was struggling to figure out what was going on while everyone was trading identities. I saw him as a man who was struggling to grab back the control. I saw him as a man who was struggling to feel the loss of the betrayal of his family. King Lear was expulsed from his home. He was no longer wanted.   All of the swapping, trading, the exchanging, of personality traits, and economic gains were all actually very detrimental to Lear. They lead him to be unhoused.                           

These topics matter because there can be people in the world who are not looking out for yours, my, and others’ best interest and being aware of it is vital. Being exposed to real-world problems through literature and having a safe place to discuss it in a classroom is important for our growth as students. Without understanding and growth there cannot be learning, and without learning, we don’t adapt our ways to something better.