4 Followers
25 Following
localcharacter

localcharacter

Mrs. Woolf and the Servants: An Intimate History of Domestic Life in Bloomsbury

Mrs. Woolf and the Servants: An Intimate History of Domestic Life in Bloomsbury - Alison Light A friend mentioned that she liked to use part of this book in her middle-school curriculum. Of course I'd seen it, but I went through middle school before it was published, so I didn't really know anything about it. It's told in the voice of Esperanza, a (teenage) girl growing up in an ethnic urban neighborhood. (The back cover copy identifies the city as Chicago and calls the neighborhood Hispanic; apparently other editions use the word Latino.) A teenage Hispanic/Latina girl was and still is an unusual POV for American fiction. Cisneros doesn't dwell on the differences, she just reports the experience from the inside, and that's good. In schools it seems to be used as a general introduction to diversity, identity, and POV, though no doubt there are some curricula that use it as a convenient new stereotype of Hispanic culture, or even ban it outright on those grounds.It's very slight, just a few dozen one- or two-page vignettes. They're quite nicely done, using a variety of approaches (dialogue, interior monologue, personal essay, straight narrative); it also works to demonstrate ways of making fiction. But it ends up as a series of impressions, not a coherent story, certainly not a novel. It took me only a couple of hours, and I'm a slow reader. Maybe if I'd read it at 13 years old it would stay with me, but at 44 I don't really expect it to.It's clear that We the Animals was in part a response to this book; while that book built up much more detail of the young boys' lives through extended narratives, it was thrown off by the author's heavy-handed recounting of his sexual and artistic rites of passage. Cisneros alludes to both but, thankfully, doesn't rub our face in them.