The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein follows the narrator, Enzo, and incredibly intelligent, observant and philosophical dog, as he contemplates his life on his deathbed.
The small family Enzo is part of is comprised of Denny, Eve, Denny’s wife and their daughter Zoë. At the beginning of the book he is lying on the floor, dying. He is an old dog and while he is waiting for Denny to come home and find him. It is incredibly sad, but also in an odd way happy, because Enzo is excited to die so doesn’t have to feel pain and so he can be reincarnated as a man. After Denny comes home, Enzo reviews his entire life, starting with when he was a puppy. While most of the book is rather depressing, there ares some brief moments of humor and happiness.
The perspective from which the novel is written from is fascinating. The reader gets to see the life of a human through the eyes of a dog. The unique perspective also allows Enzo to show his view on life. It is a first person narrative, so the reader can see the thoughts and desires of this clever dog.
The opening lines are especially powerful. Enzo starts by saying, “Gestures are all that I have; sometimes they must be grand in nature. And while I occasionally step over the line and into the world of the melodramatic, it is what I must do in order to communicate clearly and effectively. In order to make my point understood without question” (Stein 1). Even though he is a dog, Enzo believes that, “[his] soul is very human” (3). So, when Enzo starts the book saying that he can only communicate with grand gestures, Enzo is not only referring to himself, but to all humans as well. This conveys how all humans are constantly fighting to be heard and recognized in their lives. In order to stand out and be heard, they must be “melodramatic” and do something “grand in nature.”
Much of this book is made up of metaphors and symbols, and is full of ideas with double meanings. One of the main metaphors that exists throughout the book is the metaphor of racing. Denny is a semi-professional race car driver and always tells Enzo about “racing in the rain.” However when Denny talks about “racing in the rain” he is talking about the rain both metaphorically and literally. Driving in the rain can be difficult, and I think that “racing in the rain” is a metaphor for persevering through difficulties.
As I stated before, Enzo is very philosophical, intellectual and observant. It is his intellect and his observant nature (and also the help of “[his] little black nose that is leathery and cute” [39-40]) that helps him identify something in Eve’s brain that would have a profound impact on the lives of the Swift family. This moment is a good example of the foreshadowing present in the book, but it also shows how Enzo is limited in ways he can express himself. Because he lacks a “facile tongue” (40), Enzo is unable to tell anyone about Eve’s condition and as a result, her predicament worsens.
Despite all of the tragedy already introduced a third of the way through the novel, Enzo still finds ways to brighten the scene with his humor. One of my favorite examples of Enzo’s humor is when he is describing why dogs are closer related to humans than monkeys. He insults monkeys and then to prove his reasoning he says, “The full moon rises. The fog clings to the lowest branches of the spruce trees. The man steps out of the darkest corner of the forest and finds himself transformed into…
A monkey?
I think not” (21).
The chapter ends there and I found Enzo’s dry humor combined by the sudden ending of the chapter hilarious.
This book is similar to A Dog’s Purpose, one of my favorite books. Both books are told from a dog’s perspective as he studies his purpose in life. They also have ideas of reincarnation in them. So far I have really enjoyed this book and hope to continue to discover more about this fascinating and tragic story.

 

 

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The Red Pony by John Steinbeck

The first third of the The Red Pony introduces the main characters as being Billy Buck, the main worker at a ranch who works has a close relationship with the Tiflin’s, Carl Tiflin, the owner of the ranch, and Jody Tiflin, the son of Carl. Jody is given a Red Pony and names it Gabilan. Billy makes a mistake which causes Gabilan to get sick. In this time, Jody develops a close relationship with the pony, but unfortunately it dies. By the time he realizes this, a buzzard (a type of bird) has gotten to Gabilan’s eye. Jody mercilessly kills the buzzard before Billy pulls him away from the scene.

Steinbeck does an excellent job of characterizing, especially when describing Jody and Billy. Billy is shown to be an optimist who possesses a slight fear of the Tiflin’s, despite the fact that they rely on him to operate the ranch. This is shown in several instances when Billy repeatedly assures Jody that his pony will be okay and recover, but fails multiple times in his promises. Jody’s true self is shown towards the end of the chapter when he chooses to kill the buzzard rather than bury Gabilan or something else along those lines. Although he is only a child, showing him in a fragile, emotional, and raw event allows the reader to know who he is on a deeper level. His violence and strong emotions overcome his compassion, creating an uncontrolled image of Jody.

A stylistic device that I noticed in the story was foreshadowing. This happens when Gabilan gets sick and Jody looks up into the sky and he, “…saw a hawk flying so high that it caught the sun on its breast and shone like a spark. Two blackbirds were driving him down the sky, glittering as they attacked their enemy” (28). Earlier in the story, Billy suggests that Jody should name his new pony Gabilan because, “‘…That means hawk…'” (10). These symbols are rather obvious, but they are effective in hinting towards the death of Gabilan because it is such a small observation from Jody, as if it does not matter to him until it actually occurs and he is in the moment. This characterizes him as a child further.

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (1/3)

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas follows the life of a black girl named Starr Carter, after her childhood friend Khalil gets killed by a police officer. Following Khalil’s death, the reader is able to observe Starr’s struggles with violence within her community and racism, as well as how she deals with the major differences between friends from her school and her neighborhood.

The most prevalent theme throughout the first third of The Hate U Give has been racial injustice. Through the opening scenes, the reader witnesses Khalil and Starr getting pulled over by a cop for no specific reason. During this scene, Angie Thomas stresses how prevalent racism is in their community when she discusses a talk Starr previously had with her parents: “The other talk was about what to do if a cop stopped me. Momma fussed and told Daddy I was too young for that. He argued that I wasn’t too young to get arrested or shot. ‘Starr-Starr, you do whatever they tell you to do,’ he said. ‘Keep your hands visible. Don’t make any sudden moves” (20). Although she was still a young child, Starr’s parents were forced to take cautionary actions against the police brutality that was ever so common in their community. This quote alone allows the reader a perspective of how much racism can have an effect on black communities like Starr’s.

Racism also follows Starr through her life while at her school in Williamsburg, a predominately white neighborhood. I thought that the inclusion of Starr’s use of code switching while at Williamsburg was yet another way to call attention to how prevalent racism still is in many areas. Starr refrains from using slang or having a confrontational attitude to keep herself from being seen as “ghetto” by the other students. I think this is tied together with other books and articles we have discussed as a class, such as the Ted Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story” presented by Chimamanda Adichie. I found that both The Hate U Give and “The Danger of a Single Story” discuss how dangerous labels can be.

In my opinion, I believe this book would be a good book to add to the English curriculum to due to how relevant the themes discussed are to the time we live in today. Similarly to The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, Starr’s voice in The Hate U Give is strong. I think it would be a more than adequate replacement for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, due to it’s ability to give students an example of a strong personal voice. Lastly, with the increase in police shootings that have sparked movements such as Black Lives Matter, The Hate U Give could provide a new  perspective for many.

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The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell: Ryan, Alex, & Connor

1/3

I’m on a nonfiction reading spree, with the last 2 books I’ve read and the current book I’m reading, The Tipping Point, being nonfiction. However, unlike Unbroken and Alcatraz 1259, which in their basis were autobiographies or biographies, The Tipping Point is much more like a textbook in terms of the way it presents information. However, this doesn’t make it anymore boring than any other book; in fact, the information it presents makes it even more interesting than a fiction book you may pick up.

The Tipping Point is a collection of research discussing how the little things in society can blow up dramatically. It opens with an example of Hush Puppies. For awhile, Hush Puppies had died, and it’s future wasn’t looking bright. However, in a spontaneous act of events, the brand suddenly skyrocketed, with sales increasing by more than 1400 percent. Gladwell discusses how the shoe brand could have make such an amazing comeback, and continues to further discuss the Three Rules of Epidemics. While reading through his gathered research, I found it very interesting how one of the rules, The Law of the Few, relates to my life.

The Law of the Few, to summarize, states that in society, there are a three specific types of people that come together to spread epidemics. The first is a Connecter, the type of person that knows everyone and is very outgoing, experiencing new things and new ideas. The second type of person is a Maven, who is the information hub and shares the information with other people. The third and last type of person is a Persuader, a charismatic person with very strong persuasion and negotiation skills. After I read this and contemplated awhile on it, I realized that there were lots of these types of people surrounding me, and I even knew some of them. I have a friend who seems to be in every single club, and likes to make new friends and talk to people they don’t know. In my life, they are my Connecter. I know another person that, admittedly, likes to search up random facts, try new things, and find out interesting facts I didn’t even know I wanted to know. I have an extremely proficient Persuader in my life, even convincing me to do things I didn’t think I would ever do.

cannot wait to keep reading The Tipping Point and finding out even more information about things in society, and I also can’t wait to hear how other people reading this book interpret the information.

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Quiet by:Susan Cain 1/3

Quiet by Susan Cain is an extremely interesting and thought provoking novel in stark contrast to the books I had previously been reading. It is narrated by Susan Cain as she tries to find out all of the information she possibly can about introverts and extroverts, like causes, benefits and what each word really means. The whole book or at least the first third is so full of evidence that it is sometimes hard to form your own opinion because of how strongly her arguments are put together. However what I have enjoyed most so far is the self reflecting that the novel asks me to do. For instance Susan created a quiz to determine if you are an introvert or an extrovert and although it doesn’t really give you a specific answer it does make you think about the how you fall on the scale between introversion and extroversion. Another thing Susan talked about during the very beginning of the novel was the bias that society, particularly American society has against introversion. She talked about how ten or twenty years ago the ideal candidate for a college was not someone who skipped three grades in math and english but instead someone how got B’s and was very social outside of school. Adding to this she talked about the effects of working together as groups, a trend rising in the modern workplace with wall less offices, Cain stated that despite popular belief group work actually reduces our ability to create new ideas and be productive. She ment this in the sense of a meeting saying that if twenty people got together in a room and brainstormed ideas they would be less productive than if the same people had all worked alone.Cain noted however that it is important to have a mix between the two for the most and best work to be done. So far I am really enjoying this book it is the change I needed from the senseless action ones. One thing I have noted is the use of the word gregarious, not a word typically used in our society but frequently used in the book, it makes me chuckle everytime I read it. So far so good!

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas 1/3 (Clark and Jared’s Group)

The Hate U Give is about a black girl named Starr Carter, who struggles with the prospect of speaking up after her unarmed black friend is shot by a white police officer. The novel covers themes such as racism, gang life, and code switching and can be emotionally heavy at times.

Each time I think of The Hate U Give, I think of the Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Junior and Starr are so incredibly similar yet very different. In fact, those two remind me of one of Charles Darwin’s observations in his famous voyage to the Galapagos: species can be ecologically different, yet similar. Obviously, both Junior and Starr do not live under the same circumstances, yet both have a cynical, nonchalant sassiness of a teenager living under difficult circumstances. The only differences between the two of them is that Junior is a boy and his tribe is plagued with alcohol whereas Starr is a girl and plagued by gang violence and drugs. Both also, have to deal with the issue of racism. Starr deals with racism by ignoring it and pretending that it is not that big of a deal until a racist cop kills her friend. Just like Starr, Junior requires a drastic event to convince him to nip racism in the bud. Roger making fun of buffalo, black people, and Indians convinces Junior to fight back. The similarities are so uncanny, that I feel as if Sherman Alexie and Angie Thomas formed some kind of author conspiracy where they wrote the same thing with different characters and problems.

Another recurring idea in both Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and The Hate U Give is code switching. Both Starr and Junior turn on a “white” switch in which they act completely different than how they do around their own race. In The Hate U Give, Starr compares her “hood” self to her white or Williamson self. She says that at Williamson she “doesn’t use slang—if a rapper would say it, she doesn’t say it, even if her white friends do. Slang makes them cool. Slang makes her “hood.” Williamson Starr holds her tongue when people piss her off so nobody will think she’s the “angry black girl.” Williamson Starr is approachable. No stank-eyes, side-eyes, none of that. Williamson Starr is non confrontational. Basically, Williamson Starr doesn’t give anyone a reason to call her ghetto” (Thomas 72). Even though Starr lives in Garden Heights, a ghetto filled with gangs, drugs, and violence, she goes to a preppy high school where everyone is rich and lives in a perfect neighborhood. She wants to be seen besides her class and color so tries to be the opposite of what the stereotype for “hood” girls are. This signifies that fact that she is ashamed to be poor, black, and living in a neighborhood where gunshots are so common, they go unnoticed. In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Junior goes to school with his Indian mindset. He fights the biggest white kid after a tussle, but does not realize that the social norms in Reardan are very different compared with Indian norms. What he takes as normal-punching a guy in the face-is considered murderous and violent to others. This helps Junior create a new, white persona for himself as someone who dates a white girl, plays basketball with white boys against Indian boys, and is best friends with someone who is white. Both Junior and Starr, however, can not always keep out what happens at the home. Junior stays home from school for many days due to funerals and wakes and seems to find out someone else dies everyday. This carries on to class, where his teachers mock him for missing so much school, carrying over the insults from back home on the rez to also at Reardan. Starr takes Khalil’s (her dead friend) murder very seriously and becomes more and more upset and angry at Williamson which causes some of her “friends” to make fun of her for being upset.

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The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Blog Post part 1

For my second IR book this semester I chose The Help by Kathryn Stockett. This book has been recommended to me many times so I decided to check it out.

I’m very happy to say that I wasn’t disappointed! It comes from the perspective of three women: Skeeter, Minny, and Aibileen. I enjoyed reading the chapters from different perspectives, as each of the different characters had their own distinct voice. They all lead their own separate lives, but are connected to each other by their involvement in the creation of a book of interviews about the hired help in Mississippi. Because of the multiple different stories and perspectives in this book, the plot is very interesting and never really slows down too much.

Being set in early 1960s Mississippi, there are still a lot of racial tensions and prejudice. The book is largely focused on this and how it affects the main characters. Miss Skeeter is a white woman who aspires to be a journalist. She wants to write a piece (as mentioned before) about what life is like for the African American help. Aibileen, and later Minny, who are both African American women who work for white families, agree to let her interview them. This is when the three characters’ stories start to get more linked as they all get fully involved in the writing of the book.

This book is a bit like To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. The settings are similar, and characters in both books have to deal with racial injustices and violence towards African Americans. The book To Kill a Mockingbird is actually mentioned quite a few times in The Help.

Overall, I am looking forward to reading the second half of this book and finding out what is going to happen to the book of interviews and the characters.

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