Mukhopadhyay: Contemplatively Leapfrogging

In Mukhopadhyay’s work, near the very end of his work, there is a definite criticism of multiple organizations that were working for a cure for autism.  This is very possible a direct attack on Cure Autism Now, but I won’t point any fingers if Tito doesn’t.  Tito (and again, I apologize for using his first name) is perfectly diplomatic while he discusses his changig views on participating in the research, but I’m sure that Tito feels more strongly than he lets on about this issue.  I mean, how could a person be unbiased?  Either autism is a problem to be fixed, or it’s a different type of mind and thinking to be accepted and celebrated.  I don’t see any in-between, really.

Tito’s anger with his mother, and his confusion at her involvement with organizations to cure autism was so upsetting to me.  “How could she participate in a system that classified me as sick?  Did Mother really think I was less of a person?”, Tito wondered.  There were obviously reasons that Tito’s mother had aligned herself with such organizations.  I figured that it was an issue of funding.  Possibly, Tito’s mother felt that the evil of being considered sick was better than the evils of Tito’s contributions being ignored, or studies on autism not being done.  I admire Tito’s mother’s decision to respect her son’s misgivings about associating with these organizations, and deciding to move away from California.

I know that it’s a bit off-topic, but did anyone else feel that Tito’s writing in his chapter “Struggling Our Way Out of a Belief System” seem a lot like stories one often hears about people who “escape” “oppressive” religions or cults?  I mean, I read a story about an ex-Scientologist that eerily echoes this story.  I’ll try to find the story I read.

I decided to classify this piece as an example of “leapfrogging”, as Tito had previously gotten aid from this organization, but is now beginning to question their motives, though he still feels that a lot of their work is valid.  The validity Tito seems to find in the research, if not the conclusion, caused me to classify this as “leapfrogging”, rather than “Taking on the Establishment.”  This stance allows Tito to see the good that the organizations do, while still being critical of their motives.

Tito’s writing style seemed very measured and premeditated.  it didn’t flow as much as many of his other stories.  I feel that in an effort to be both diplomatic and an independent agent, Tito had a lot to lose by writing this piece, but he wrote the chapter anyway.  I wonder about the placement of the chapter (paged 176-178).  it’s fairly innocuous.  He didn’t start the book condemning the organizations, and he didn’t end with those statements either  It seems like this piece was designed to slip under the radar.  I wonder how the organizations responded to Tito’s allegations of stolen intellectual property.  Revenge is best served in an internationally-acclaimed novel.

A Rant: And What of the Father?

While reading Mukhopadhyay’s work, I was intrigued by Tito’s choices of topic.  He included many stories about his how he perceives the world, how he learns, and (rather incidentally) his mother.  Tito (I will apologize in advance for calling the author by his first name, but the red squiggly lines are killing me.  Rather ironic coming from me.  My entire name is a series of angry auto-correct) writes all of these stories, but he doesn’t conform to many of the pot norms that other writers of collections seem to care a lot about.  In particular, Tito wastes no space speaking about his family situation, or when and how he came to America.  I was left with a ton of questions after reading this book.  What does Tito’s mother do for a living?  Why is his father only mentioned a couple of times?  Is Tito a citizen of the United States?  What organizations sponsored Tito and his mother?  Why did the two move to Texas (this is addressed a bit on pages 176-78, and a couple of other places, but I still don’t understand the motivation behind the move)?  Are Tito and his mother middle-class?  Does Tito speak any language other than English?  Can he type?

I understand that these questions were not necessarily what Tito was concerned with while writing his biographical text, but I still wonder if this book would have had different focuses, had this been written by a neuro-typical person.

Exploding the Nuclear Family

Hi!  I know that this is a bit late.  My holiday interfered, and I JUST got to a typewriter.  This is a comparison of Gilman and Greenidge

I am a bit unsure of how to process We Love You Charlie Freeman.  This seems to be how I start out every post!  The book was extremely visceral, with moments of physicality that felt uncomfortable, and made me feel morally itchy.  Freeman’s use of social taboos such as breastfeeding a chimpanzee reminded me almost forcibly of Ellison’s Trueblood.  Beyond the taboos, there were uncomfortable descriptions of binge-eating and child abuse.  All of this in the name of social science and the dangers of pretending that there was never a history of Black oppression in the United States.  I feel as if this novel has ties to pretty much everything that we have read this semester, whether in narrative style (the multiple narrators reminded me of Lodge’s Thinks…) or in social implications (as seen in Invisible Man and Du Bois’ works).  I felt that thematically, this book had the most in common with Gilman’s Yellow Wallpaper.

Both Gilman and Greenidge break apart the nuclear family with deft hands, exposing the aftermath of the explosion this causes in their works.  In The Yellow Wallpaper, Jane is distanced from her child in a way that many in her time would have found to be unnatural.  Her baby is genderless, faceless, nameless.  The complete disassociation from the “mother character” leaves the narrator in uncharted territory.  In typical Victorian fashion, the breakdown of the family unit was a harbinger of worse tidings, and sure enough, Jane falls apart as her household does.  Perhaps one is an allegory to the other.  The person cannot exist outside of the family framework.  Perhaps in Gilman’s mind, the family was part of how she envisioned the human mind to work.  Once the family is broken, the mind is damaged.

In WLYCF, the characters are in a family unit that I am ashamed to say struck me as odd.  Being a modern novel, there should be nothing strange about a high-achieving mother whose job is the cause of a family’s relocation.  I suppose stereotypes are hard to get rid of, though I do try.  I wondered why the mother was the main voice.  I assumed that it was a deliberate choice.  Laurel is the odd-man out in this novel.  Her name is the only non-“C” name, making her the outsider.  By the way, am I the only one who found it creepy that there was no reference to the fact that the husband and chimp shared a name?  Charlotte gets upset that her name is being taken, yet Charles never mentions that his name was ACTUALLY taken by Charlie?  As in The Yellow Wallpaper, the mother distances herself from her family.  The mothering roles are given over to another (her husband), and she becomes completely involved in the study to the point where nothing else matters.  She is eaten alive, with not even her sense of self, identity, or family left intact.

In Gilman’s work, we are given unlimited access to what we suppose to be the writer’s mind.  We are able to hear her concerns and understand just how little she is able to identify with those around her.  We are only left to wonder about what those around her are thinking.  In Greenidge’s work, Laurel is the enigma.  She narrates the novel very briefly (in the form of a flashback), and we are never shown what is “inside of her head”, so to speak.  We are given access to her entire family, but she remains untouched.  This seems to mesh well with her character, who seems withdrawn and untouchable.  I wonder what would have happened had this book been narrated by Laurel.  I think that we might have seen a Yellow Wallpaper-esque scene.  What state must Laurel’s mind have been in to allow her to associate with the Toneybee Institute once learning of their racial experiments in the past.  How did she justify this to herself?  Even if that were possible, given her investment in the project, how could she let her daughters become so devastatingly unhappy without noticing?  She must have noticed, but justified it to herself.  I imagined Laurel’s thought processes so much that she might as well have been a character.  Why did she let Charlie near her chest in the first place?  How could she continue?  While she may have been able to justify her family’s disintegration as something outside of her control, Charlie’s nursing habits were something that she must have initiated, or at least allowed.  Her justifications to Charlotte seem shallow and unconvincing to her daughter, and therefore to the audience.  Could she have believed herself?

“I think this could be a good thing.  I think it could be good to have a secret with each other,” Laurel tells a horrified Charlotte.  Secrets seem to play a key role in both Gilman and Greenidge’s works.  Jane keeps her diary a secret from John and his sister.  Her pleasure from writing seems secondary to her pleasure from keeping the secret.  She talks a lot about how sneaky she has to be to write, to study the wallpaper, and to even get up from bed.  Jane seems to enjoy keeping these secrets from Jenny, and seems to gain a sense of autonomy and power from these secrets.  Almost all of the characters in WLYCF have secrets, as do most actual people, I would guess.  Laurel has the most to hide.  She is aware of the history of the Institute, and is allowing Charlie access to her chest.  Charles seems the least secretive, with his dislike of Charlie being one of the only things that he leaves unsaid.  Callie hides her unhappiness and her resulting binge-eating.  The main secret-keeper is the main narrator, Charlotte.  She hides most of what she feels, in typical teenager style.  She feels the most REAL of the characters created in this novel.  Her sexuality, unhappiness, and knowledge of her mother and the Institute’s secrets are all kept out of sight of the public.

While they differ in what makes a family whole and in the modes of narration, Gilman and Greenidge both seem to come to the conclusion that once the basic family unit is crushed to pieces, the members of that family are allegorically destroyed as well.  I would argue that family is not necessarily as clean as both authors seem to depict it as, but I believe that it is an effective device to show chaos.  Both these works were incredibly uncomfortable reads with unstable mother figures.  The collapse of sanity naturally followed.