Wednesday, March 24, 2010

American Dreamer and A Wife's Story

American Dreamer is about a woman named Bharati Mukherjee who moved from India to Iowa City to study writing for 2 years. She was supposed to return home to an arranged marriage, but she chose instead to marry a guy from her classes in a lawyer's office above a coffee shop during a lunch break. She talks briefly about her home life growing up and her social status in India, which is defined mostly by the family name, heritage, and geographical area, rather than being defined by the individual. As I go on reading this, I can't help but feel like I may be missing her point. She compares and contrasts the three countries she has lived in: India, Canada and the U.S. She is basically declaring her reasons for choosing to become a U.S. citizen. She describes India as being too reliant on the past and basically says developing yourself as an individual is tough. That reminds me of an Indian grad student I used to talk to here at Clemson. He said Clemson was way tougher than anything he did in India. I asked him why and he said you actually had to do your work here. Everyone in India just copied off each other and their professors, and other sources. None of his work was his own, and nobody ever cared. Anyway, she says Canada resists cultural fusion, and her years spent there were particularly harsh. She goes on to say that she has grown to love the idea of "America", and takes her citizenship very seriously, but admits that a lot of times living in the U.S. falls short of the perception that is "America". In the end, she begins to question all Americans, both immigrants and natural born citizens, and challenges everyone to show that they can change America just as America has changed them.

Its an interesting perspective on things, one that I can easily see her side of. I agree with a lot she had to say, although some of it I have yet to experience and therefore have a hard time knowing exactly what she means.

In A Wife's Story, it is more of the same. American stereotypes towards foreigners. It starts off in a theater. They are watching a play, Glengarry Glen Ross, I think. It's during the scene where they are talking about the Patels and it is offending the author. Afterwards she walks through the streets with her friend Imre. She gets home and has to talk to her roommate about her trouble with her husband. Then, the author's husband from India calls. He misses her and wants to come to visit her in America for a sort of honeymoon. They hang out, shop, and then they go on a guided tour of New York City. She mentions that they have more privacy than they ever did in India. She talks about how she doesn't really love her husband because it was an arranged marriage, she just learned to do what he likes. On page 39, her husband says, "Quick, take a picture of me! Before the Twin Towers disappear." I thought that was pretty strange, particularly if this was written before 2001. She mentions wanting to see some white muslims before she dies on page 39, and that made me want to see some too. I never really thought about it like that. It didn't really occur to me that any of those even existed in the world until I read it in this story. Anyway, his last day there the husband asks the author to come back to India with him because he misses her and can't live without her, and he is worried about how she gets hit on so much in America. She refuses to come back, talking about how she still has time left on her degree.

Going into these stories I assumed that these were real experiences of the author, Bharati Mukherjee, but there were some inconsistencies between the stories. In American Dreamer, she was studying writing for two years in Iowa City. In A Wife's Story, she was getting her doctorate in Special Ed. in New York City. In American Dreamer, she married a Canadian and remained married for several years, but in A Wife's Story she went through with the arranged Indian marriage. If I had to guess, I would say that American Dreamer was the true story, and A Wife's Story was more fiction. Possibly how she thinks things might have gone if she were to stay with the arranged marriage. It just kind of messed with my head because I was automatically assuming that both of the stories were true stories about the author. This reading had a lot of references to other stories that we have already read.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Matthew,
    I'm teaching my first college English class this fall, and I'm thinking of including one of Mukherjee's stories in the course. It was very enlightening to read your responses and to see what your perspectives on the stories were. (Also, I hadn't read most of them for a few years, so you helped refresh my memory.)Great job and thanks for posting.