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The author of Go and come back, Joan Abelove, acutely makes us realize that. The author, Joan Abelove has won many awards for Go and come back; It was chosen as ‘an ALA notable book,’ ‘an ALA best book for young adults,’ and ‘a 1999 Los Angeles Times book prize finalist. ’ Her first book, Go and come back is a fiction based on real places, experiences, and people.
The people who live in the village of Poincushmana in Peru only know each other.
However, one day, two white women, who are strangers come to Poincushmana to study the people’s lives. Everybody is fascinated and mesmerized by the two white anthropologists, Joanna and Margarita. So, the tribe people allow Joanna and Margarita to live with them in the village.
Despite the fact that Joanna and Margarita’s unique behaviors and boxes full of mysterious things seem very interesting to the Peruvian tribe, the main character, Alicia does not like that Joanna and Margarita are going to live in the village.
However, due to the fact that Alicia, Joanna, and Margarita are not friends from the beginning, makes this book more impressive. Reading that total strangers have become part of the family, even though when there is no similarity between them, is beautiful enough to warm our hearts. Everybody would be able to feel the line that connects each person in the tribe, including Joanna and Margarita. Although there are no big sensations, the quiet and tranquil friendship between Alicia and Joanna is so intimate that it is enough to make us not lonely, And thus, I want to recommend this book to people who are lonely and apart from their families.
Go and comeback made me(whose family is in another country) realize that there is always a line that connects a family, even though the family is 1000 miles apart from each other. Moreover, I also realized that I have a place to return to. For example, at the end of the book , when it is time for Margarita and Joanna to leave, Alicia tells them, “”Catanhue”, I said, Go and come back. ” (177) The word “Catanhue” was more powerful than “I love you,” or “I will never forget you,” or any other words. The phrase, “Go and come back” to me, seemed like a sign of eternal connection between family.
Moreover, Go and come back plant abiding belief in people, about people. For example, when Joanna feels guilty because she thought that she made Margarita sick, Alicia goes to her and tells her, “How can you think you have such power, to be able to harm people? No, it can’t be. Only if you ate a tabooed food, or asked a witch to cast a spell. People don’t have that kind of power over each other by accident, by chance, for no reason, without spending much time learning to be a witch. No. You can only harm people if you mean to. ” (75) Everybody knows that people have power to harm other people.
However, influenced by the author’s unique and memorable writing style, we are mysteriously convinced that people do not have such power to harm people. We are strangely assimilated with the author, and Abelove’s writing leads us to have credence in people. Go and come back is a book that people can finish in a short time, despite the fact that it contains a theme that can affect many people, especially people who are lonely. This book tells us that a family is always connected and we all have place to return to. At the end, Joan Abelove’s dreamy yet, realistic style of writing is not a waste of time to explore.
In Joan Abelove’s ”Go and Come Back,” married women have boyfriends, teen-agers have sex and become mothers, couples invent excuses to slip off to the bushes for amorous encounters and everyone skinny-dips in the river. Were all this activity happening in the Hamptons it would raise an eyebrow or two, but since the ovel takes place in a village in the Peruvian jungle we have to look with fresh eyes, brows at ease. The author did her doctoral research in cultural anthropology in the Amazon jungle more than 25 years ago, and this, her first novel, is based on her experiences there. Instead of narrating events as the pale explorer recording the oddities of the dark savages, she has written the story through the eyes of a young woman in the village who is alternately intrigued and appalled by the behavior of the two strange white women who come to stay for a year.
Missionaries pass through and want to change the toilet habits of the Isabo (the fictive name the author gives the people of the region), but the anthropologists are there to observe and take notes. While the narrator, Alicia, does gain a measure of new perspective (she gets a ride in an airplane near the end of the book to see her village from a bird’s-eye view), it is the two visitors, Joanna and Margarita, who change the most. Alicia instructs them in everything from cleanliness to the proper behavior of boyfriends. They learn what it means to be hospitable and generous.
Abelove offers us a radical view of property. When the two white women have more sugar, more beads or more liquor than the villagers, the villagers simply take what they want: the sin is in having too much when others have less, not in stealing. When property is theft, theft is proper. We also learn that when you wash a turtle, it will rain. What is work? What is hygiene? What is family? What is death? Alicia explains about sex: ”Even little boys who have sex for the first time bring their little girlfriends gifts, just a little something, some fruit or nuts. It is what sex is about, a trade, a barter, an exchange. ‘ ”Go and Come Back” provides a nice antidote to the fear that surrounds sex in our culture. It has no steamy scenes of lovemaking, just matter-of-fact conversation and giggling. Abelove’s writing is charming, although in striving for the simple language used between people who don’t understand each other it reads as though intended for a younger audience than it really is. There is not enough plot to the novel, but by its end the reader has nonetheless become attached to the characters and their relationships. We are left with a lot to think about in our own culture — why we think the things we think and do the things we do.
On the afternoon the white women arrive at her village, Alicia is baffled: Why do they sing songs that have no meaning? ”Shboom, shboom” is nice music, but it’s nonsense. After a year of sharing and learning on both sides, she and Joanna listen to a cassette and have this conversation: ” ‘What does it say? ‘ I asked. If she talked she wouldn’t cry. ‘It says, ”In the end, at the end of it all, the love you have, the friendship you have, the love you are left with, is just the same, is only the same, as the love you gave, the love, the friendship you had for others. ‘ ‘ ” ‘Of course,’ I said. Who didn’t know that? ‘That is why it is so important to learn not to be stingy,’ I said. ‘Now, in the end, you finally understand. ‘ ” ‘Yes,’ she said. ” ‘But your music, your bug music, was telling you that all along. ‘ ” ‘Yes. But the Beatles, our bug music, said it a little different. They also are saying that as much love as you have in the end is only how much love you made, how much push-push you did in your life. ‘ ” ‘These bugs know something about life, don’t they? ‘ I said. ‘ The lesson: We all live in a yellow submarine, and it’s a good idea to try to understand one another so we can enjoy the ride. I saw this book at one of the big bookstores downtown and just couldn’t take my eyes off the cover. I was fascinated by the pattern of the tattoo and perhaps because it is kinda greenish. I assume this is Alicia’s picture, the main character of the book. The background location was her village of Poincushmana, located deep inside the Peruvian Jungle of Amazon. It was during early 1970s.
Alicia’s tribe is called Isabo, the people of little monkeys. “Go and come back” is said as “catanhue” in Isabo language to reply when someone says good bye. Alicia, in my opinion, is a sweet and sensitive person. She thinks and considers others’ feeling before she does something or says something so that it wouldn’t hurt people. Alicia felt herself to be less attractive because she is rather serious and skinny compared to Elena, her cousin (also her best friend), who is short, fat, with round cheeks and has a big hearty laugh.
Definition of beauty for the Isabos reflects the culture and lifestyle. A beauty is for someone who is fat and round (because eating meat was quite luxurious in the village, perhaps only once a week after the men returned from hunting), has flattened forehead, has bind anklets and wears loads of beads and accessories. Days at the Poincushmana changed one day after two white females (nawa) anthropologists arrived to live with the Isabos for one year, in exchange for medicine supplies. They were doing research for their thesis.
It turned out that these two nawa were weird (because they wore pants though they didn’t have penises), stingy (they had so many things and never shared, so the Isabos had to steal from them), lazy (never worked like any of Isabos women, only sitting and writing and asking so many questions) and impolite (they were so dirty and insulting the cleanliness of the village because they didn’t wet their hairs on morning showers while morning is the most important time to start your day). The difference in thinking and sharing is part of one’s upbringing.
To survive in their jungle, Alicia and the Isabos were used to share everything (especially food) with everyone. Alcohol is a famous thing in the jungle because its taste and effects to the drinkers could lighten a party, thus the presence of alcohol in the village for the Isabos means party time. In contrast, that wasn’t the case with Margarita and Joanna, because they came from America, they were more used to alcoholic drinks. Alicia and the Isabos only knew their own world so they thought their culture was the correct one.
Alicia believed that these nawa were very ignorant about many things, so she tried to help them to understand her culture. I have been to a similar situation so I could feel the confusions, angers and depressions of Margarita and Joanna being strangers in the middle of the Isabos. It’s like whatever you do is always wrong, even though you’ve tried so hard to please them. It’s never going to be enough! Alicia’s decision to adopt one nawa baby emphasised more of her personality. She was only a teenager and still unmarried; young and naive, I suppose.
Adopting a nawa baby is surely one big responsibility even for adults in her village. But from Alicia’s perspective, she was just saving a life and it had nothing to do with skin colours. She did try hard to care for the baby. Her motherhood ability was provided by nature (Sure every woman has the thing. Remember when we were young we used to play with dolls and barbies pretending they were our kids? :). As the book is targeted for younger readers, the flow is simple and easy to follow. I could easily imagine how the village looks like with its neat lines of river, houses, path and kitchens, as described by the author.
The wordings are a mixture of English and Isabo, which confused me in the beginning. Nevertheless, I could grasp some Isabo words later on to add onto my vocabulary database, how cool is that? hehe… ;) Cultural clashes on the story reminded me of my first months in the foreign country where I now live. Trust me, we could always learn something good from other cultures by being open-minded (listen more and ask more, that really helps). With that, foreign country would not be so “foreign” in the end. Hahuetian raibirai, whatever that would be.
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