A Double Feature Review of Two Books with Similar Themes
Two different books of fiction by two different authors, but both with plots touching on issues that are relevant today both online and in face-to-face real life.
What happens when a person is made to be a victim, either unintentionally or with a malicious purpose of intent? What are the long term results and how does suffering through it change the victim?
Bullying can take many forms and can have very different outcomes for the victims. These two books look at several forms of bullying and intimidation, and the differing outcomes for its victims.
A tale of academic, marital, and grammatical conflict
David Tan is an award winning novelist who has been hired as an instructor of creative writing at a small Northern California college as part of their instructor globalization effort to add diversity and new ideas to their faculty. It sounds like a perfect job for David while he works on his next novel, but there is a problem that will make his transition to teaching difficult. While David’s written words are flowing and seemingly effortless, his spoken English is broken and less than fluent.
What results is a moving story of cultures, language, rejection, and the many forms bullying can take against someone who has been determined to be a vulnerable victim.
Harish “Harry” Raghavan from India and Salima from Lebanon are two other instructors hired by the college as part of the program who become friends with David, sharing their stories of adaptation to life in the United States.
From conversations over lunch, both Harry and Salima notice that David is having trouble both in and out of his classroom. Instances of students’ inattention, disruptions during lectures, cruelty, and outright open disrespect of their instructor are everyday occurances in his class. The students are running his classes instead of David. Harry observes an incident between David and a server in the college cafeteria where the server steps way out of line in his open disrespect to David and intervenes to defend David.
Family life offers no solace for David either. At home, David’s wife is too wrapped up in her own business world which she deems more important than her husband’s seemingly petty problems and concerns. David’s father is openly hostile to him and even refuses to speak with him in their first language.
Luckily for David, he has something that many victims of bullying don’t have when they need them: good friends, including one of his tutoring students, who help him gain confidence in himself and to see what is being done to him, and encourage him to stand up for himself and his own needs.
As David’s life undergoes more changes, it’s the support of those friends that allow him to both survive and thrive.
Friends offering support for the victim overcome the bullies. If only it could always be so in real life.
Two victims, two very different outcomes
Take one hard-working man who has overcome some very bad breaks in his life and one woman who appears to be living a charmed and priviledged life, throw them together in a chance encounter where she rear-ends his truck, and many people would assume that the unfolding story was leading to an eventual romance and a happily ever after for the pair.
But look closer.
Jon has suffered one disappointment after another, from losing a full college scholarship after an injury, to having his supposed best friend not only cause his marriage to fall apart, but also to have them take away control of the landscaping business he had built. Jon is left with his home gone, his business only partially his, and a mother who uses guilt and passive agressive tactics on him for her own benefit, caring nothing for her son’s troubles.
Instead of giving up or turning to drink or drugs, Jon continues to work as a minority partner in his business, moves into a one room cabin with no indoor plumbing, and turns his efforts into moving on and living as well as he can manage through his own labors.
On the other hand, Morgan is a young woman who seems to have everything. She comes from an upper crust family and has a fiancé who seems to dote on her. Under the surface appearances, Morgan is quietly suffering.
Morgan’s family puts an enormous amount of pressure on her to do what they consider the “right” thing, to control her choices in life, and berate everything she attempts as not good enough. Comparisons to her older sister, Katherine, a successful author, are thrown at her on a daily basis. Her fiancé supports her parents rather than his intended bride, and places demands on her to shape up to his vision of what his future wife must be.
Jon does his best to help Morgan to break the pattern of her parents’ abusive, controlling demands and to allow her to become her own person. The two of them seem to connect on both personal and romantic levels. Morgan seems to be making adjustments to her life and enjoying their time together.
Unfortunately, sometimes the scars of a lifetime of bullying, intimidation, and unrealistic demands are simply too deep to be cast aside even with the support of a well-meaning friend or lover. Strength and the resolve to stand up for herself will be needed as well.
Can Morgan dig deep enough to find that resolve?