Chapter 15 of the book titled Writing in the Disciplines features a series of articles by different authors that talk about ethnic differences of various societies.
Bharati Mukherjee’s article “Jasmine” from The Middlemen and Other Stories series, which the author eventually transformed into the full novel, tells a story about a young Indian woman named Jasmine, who arrives in the United States of America, Detroit, in a pursuit of discovering her identity. Jasmine came from Port-of-Spain, the Trinidad Island, which she considered very small for a girl with great ambitions. Mukherjee’s story is written in a quite confusing manner, motivating the readers to think harder and use their own imagination. Jasmine came to Detroit and settled with the Daboo family, Trinidad Indians, who owned a motel, where Jasmine would work and live. Telling about her trip to Ann Arbor, which Jasmine considered a place to be, the author shows that this Indian girl is full of curiosity and desire to live a life different from her sad past. Immediately, she decides to stay in Ann Arbor and starts working for another family, the Moffitts, where she helps with house holding and watches their child. Moffitt’s wife works as a performance artist, and thus, she often travels. The author illustrates Jasmine’s amicable attitude toward the Moffitts as she feels a part of the family. Mukherjee suddenly twists the story as she talks about Jasmine’s dreams about Mr. Moffitt while his wife is away. In his turn, Mr. Moffitt seems to like Jasmine back, which is seen from how he acts in his wife’s absence. Throughout her story, Mukherjee draws a parallel between Jasmine and the American girls, placing an emphasis on her respectable and good-girl personality. However, it seems that the author intends to question Jasmine’s morals as she finishes the story with Jasmine making love to a man who gave her a house and a job.
The article “Between the Pool and the Gardenias” by Edwidge Danticat is rather a disturbing story about a Haitian woman and a child named Rose, which reveals a terrifying reality that Haitian people live in. The story begins with a beautiful description of the baby Rose’s look as she lies in her pink blanket, which might seem to a reader strongly misleading about the plot and its main idea. In this story, which is narrated on behalf of the woman, the author highlights the moment when this woman first comes to the city and sees that many women throw out their babies because they cannot afford to feed them. As it becomes clear that the child that the woman finds is dead, Danticat unfolds that Rose becomes a symbol of this woman’s and her relatives’ unlived happy lives, which she desperately tries to overcome through her imagination. It is impressive how Danticat portrays such a disturbing reality with beauty and peace as she narrates woman’s solicitude and gentle feelings toward a dead child. Until the moment when a woman realizes that Rose is dead, she talks to her and behaves as if she was her own alive child. Throughout the story, Danticat raises readers’ awareness and concern about the reality of Haitian women who suffocated their whole lives.
Another article “Snapshots” by Helena Maria Viramontes illustrates a story about a Hispanic woman whose husband left her. Viramontes portrays a struggling life of this woman, who seeks to reconsider her past values and make sense of her current life. It seems that after a divorce, her whole life is broken, but not particularly because her husband left her. The author masterfully conveys that these feelings arise rather because she wastes years to create a happy home for her husband as she was raised to be a good wife and a mother. Viramontes’ story of this woman is pictured in a series of sad snapshots of her past and present life as she is trying hard to find any value in everything that she did and anything she finished with. Despite its depressing tone, Viramontes manages to reflect woman’s attempts to find answers to her questions and aspiration to fight the reality as she keeps reminiscing about her husband.
George Saunders in his article the “Bohemians” tells a story about the two widowed women living in the same neighborhood, whom neighbors used to call the bohemians. Right from the beginning, the author makes a distinction between them, introducing Mrs. Poltoi as an old bitter and claustrophobic woman, while another one, Mrs. Hopanlitski, as kind and graceful. Almost until the end of the story, Saunders masterfully retains readers’ attention and belief that Mrs. Poltoi is grumpy and bad-tempered as she acts accordingly with the children in the neighborhood. Saunders skillfully reflects kids’ naïve nature and tendency to judge by the appearance. However, later he reveals that first impression might be very misleading, when one family chooses Mrs. Hopanlitski to watch after their son, who is scared and reluctant to stay with her, while they are on a vacation. Finally, the author reveals the truth behind the characters of two women as he unfolds Mrs. Poltoi’s horrifying past and Mrs. Hopanlitski’s (who appears to be native American) past full of lies. In his story, Saunders portrays ethnic differences of people in the context of their human nature and behavior.
In his article the “Different Mirror”, Ronald Takaki stresses an argument about the importance of cultural diversity, especially in the context of modern world. Ronald Takaki himself has a different background, and he starts his article demonstrating human’s awareness of various ethnic cultures on a personal example. Takaki then goes on to explain that the world holds deluded opinions about the origins of American people, tracing back to the history of America. The author emphasizes that people share a sense of Americans, being the ancestors of Europeans, which is wrong. Arguing that people live in the environment of emerging demographic diversity, Takaki raises readers’ awareness about and interest in the ethnic roots of original Americans.