Struggle, Long Lost Acquaintances and Immature Side-eye: Observation Notes 69-70 and Reading Note 30

Observation Note 69: Immature side-eye. Dammit! This could have been such an obvious funny post but instead I have been reading navel-gazing memoirs and angst-filled sexless books for months on end. *shakes fist* *then giggles*.

Obviously, I continue to be a teenager.

Observation Note 70: Long lost acquaintances. I had dinner at a friend’s place last night and my host (in her mid-50s) was describing the moment that a few weeks earlier she had contact with an old high school friend as something that was astounding and incredible as no-one had heard from her since school had ended early in the 1980s. The question arose, would there be anyone who I would be shocked to the point of loud exclamations if I saw her again. Without a thought I remembered the exact person (who I will not give their real name here for obvious reasons) – let me call her “Helen”. When we were all about 15 years old, “Helen” got her first boyfriend. “Helen’s” parents found out and totally freaked out, over-reacted, pulled her out of school and sent her to their village in Greece to live with her grandmother to ensure she had “good Greek girl” values instilled in her. A year later, her parents went to Greece to visit their daughter and to bring her back to Australia, just to find that she was going out, had a boyfriend, and was loving life in her Greek village. She absolutely refused to come back to her oppressive life in Australia. I have never heard from or about “Helen” since that last update. But what really stood strong in my mind was that the Greece that my migrant parents spoke about must be incredibly different to the one that “Helen” travelled to, and I was to find out from my own travels that this was an absolutely true perception of a country whose mores had changed with the times.

Reading Note 30: Struggle. (Just a heads up that there will be a spoiler in this note). In March, I read Elizabeth Acevedo’s The Poet X. It is a coming-of-age verse novel about (X)iomara’s struggle with her migrant parents, her mother’s religion and their very different responses to life. Xiomara is coming to terms with her changing body, her twin and his introversion and as per the usual YA novel, there is the necessary inspirational teacher who mentors and directs here in her time of troubles. Xiomara had complex teen problems that she was grappling with especially when it came to pushing back against parental expectations. This YA novel took me a while to get immersed into, however, once the rhythm of the writing took hold, I flew through the book. There was a small section later in the book involving Xiomara’s mother’s inability to reconcile herself to her daughter’s American lifestyle and interests, especially including Xiomara having a boyfriend. This felt over-wrought and simplistic for me especially in light of how the issues were resolved optimistically which to me felt unlikely. Over-wrought parents don’t just easily accept a new normal. I felt uncomfortable with the book’s ending. Perhaps this is due to my own personal experiences in my youth, especially in light of “Helen” not having understanding parents, whose parents became over-wrought sent her to another country rather than accept her having a boyfriend. “Helen” was not the only friend whose migrant parents had similar cultural difficulties , and who had similar reactions to X’s mother, this made it much harder to ignore my feelings and accept the author’s story. It was too close to home and all that. My own personal experiences aside, the story was powerful and strong and I loved the application of slam poetry as the narrative tool for understanding X. It was a very good read which gave me lots to consider.

2 thoughts on “Struggle, Long Lost Acquaintances and Immature Side-eye: Observation Notes 69-70 and Reading Note 30

  1. I love your friend’s story. Although not Greek, I grew up in a similar situation, with the migrant circle in which I grew up holding onto the mores of their homeland in the 1950s. Many worked hard and scrimped to return ‘home’ – sometimes after decades away only to find that it had changed in the intervening years. Some who sold up and went ‘home’ returned, not only because of the changes but because they were reminded of why they left in the first place!

    • There are so many contradictions to being from migrant families. Their passage of time leaving them with a comfortable nostalgia that is jarring when they do return to their homes. I agree with you – they see the problems that made them leave. The biggest change though is the loss of their own families who have grown apart from them, but also, die and leave a double void – one of death and displacement. I also recognised that “Helen” was unusually fortunate that she went to a more progressive home. There are other young girls who suffer greatly as they are sent to oppressive homes.

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