What is a bildungsroman? It is a coming of age story that tells the story of a protagonist’s development from youth to maturity. Coming of age stories are important in today’s culture so that young people can find a character to relate to. When I was growing up, I loved to read, and I found 2 novels that truly spoke to me as a person and helped me to realize things that I wouldn’t have known otherwise about the world. The two coming of age stories that I loved were, It’s Kind A Funny Story and I’ll Give You the Sun. Those books helped me when I was dealing with depression and showed me that no matter what happens and how you feel, there is always something better in the distance. That’s just one example of how a coming of age story can help someone, and that is just from personal experience. Coming of age stories are important to help young people learn about moral values and lessons in self-acceptance.
These stories also often provide a character for every person, there’s a book for everyone to relate to and that is so important when growing up. It is so important for young people to find aa character that they can relate to, one who goes through similar struggles. By seeing the character grow and deal with their struggles, it can inspire the writer with a new way of thinking and way to accept themselves. With the increased use of the internet and social media, everyone is able to connect with each other easily, but it can also create isolation for those who do not fit in. Growing up in modern America is very difficult, especially since early adolescence is when pseudo stupidity is at its highest so, in turn, kids self-esteem are at its lowest. These stories give those people something to turn to and something they can learn from and enjoy at the same time. So, these coming of age stories are super important in todays culture.
The books that I chose to focus on are: The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston and Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia. The Woman Warrior is a book of memoirs where Kingston tells the story of her life and figuring out who she is through fiction stories. Dreaming In Cuban is a book which follows the ups and downs of the Del Pino family during the years 1930-1980 in Cuba and America. Both of these books focus on similar themes and subjects and also use some of the same story-telling techniques.
Something that both authors utilize in their work and writing style is the altering of reality. In the woman warrior, Kingston mixes fiction story telling with her real life. Garcia lets us into Felica’s hallucinations and shows that Lourdes’ lazy eye can see things that others cannot see. In The Woman Warrior, Kingston uses Chinese legends (comparing herself to Fa Mulan) and story-telling to better understand herself and her identity. In Dreaming In Cuban, the author explores altered reality through the mental illness of the Del Pino family, Jorge’s inability to cross over and Celia’s lazy eye. In the beginning of the book, Celia talks about how she can speak to her granddaughter, Pilar, telepathically and later on in the book, Pilar confirms that she often speaks to her grandmother in her mind, “Abuela Celia and I write each other sometimes, but mostly I hear her speaking to me at night just before I fall asleep. She tells me stories about her life and what the sea was like that day.” (going south 28-29). This style goes along with the title of the book, Dreaming In Cuban, Pilar is living in one world and dreaming in another.
The method that these two authors use the altering of reality to their advantage is different form each other. In Dreaming in Cuban, the altering of reality goes hand in hand with the strong sense of spirituality that this book has. The significance of spirituality and santeras is clear from the very start of the book and is consistent throughout and through the use of the santera, the author was able to incorporate the different versions of reality.
At first when reading the book, I didn’t know what a santera was but after doing some research, I found that a santera was a priest for the Santeria religion. Santeria practices the worship of saints and they incorporate the Yoruba religion as well. In Santeria, they have a divination system for communication with their ancestors and the deities and they practice animal sacrifices, which happens throughout the novel. Knowing these things about the religion helps to better understand that line that Garcia walks over what is reality and what is not. The Santeria religion makes it easy to balance out those two sides of reality.
Another method that is used for the altering of reality in this book is the. Mental illness depicted in the book. One character that mixes both the mental illness and the spirituality is Felicia. In the book, you are able to live through Felicia’s dreams and hallucinations as well as see the confusion she faces when she awakens and has no idea how she got there. Felicia’s character makes it easy to have the lines blurred. Even during her initiation into Santeria, the imagery used has blurred lines, “The santeras had made eight cuts on her tongue with a razor blade so that the god could speak, but Felecia could no divulge his words. When obatala finally left her body, she opened her eyes and emerged from the void.” The religion and spirituality aspect of this novel has a similar effect of how Kingston uses story telling in her novel.
In The Woman Warrior, Kingston is able to go from reality to fiction through her story-telling. She often tells her story by telling the stories of another which end up tying together in the end.
A subject that both of these books deal with is identity. In The Woman Warrior, Kingston struggles to find her identity, she compares her stories to her mothers and her lineage. Kingston grew up Chinese-American and dealt with feelings of displacement and not knowing who she was. Having to live between the worlds of American culture and Chinese culture is difficult. Kingston tries to better understand herself through the stories that she tells. For example, Kingston uses the story of Fa Mulan to show the kind of woman that she would like to be, a woman warrior, “After I grew up, I heard the chant of Fa Mu Lan, the girl who took her father’s place in battle…I had forgotten this chant that was once mine, given me by my mother, who may not have known its power to remind. She said I would grow up a wife and a slave, but she taught me the song of the warrior woman, Fa Mu Lan. I would have to grow up a warrior woman.”