- This was required reading for my American Lit II class.
Summary from GoodReads
Work from the prolific American author best known as the author of Ramona, a novel about the ill-treatment of Indians in Southern California.
Sometimes I wonder if there’s a point to reviewing older novels. I mean – there’s obviously a point to reading them, and Ramona presents a good case for that. But after reading a book like this it’s hard to imagine that others haven’t read it, or something like it… until I remember that until this past semester, I’d never even heard of Ramona.
For those of you who, like me, had never thought to pick this book up let me just say that it will frustrate, awe, and inspire you. The story is one that speaks of epic, sweeping love and loss, but it’s buried in pages upon pages of description which, back in the day before the internet, television, and radio, would have passed for entertainment but today just feels as if it’s one more thing to push through in order to get to the meat of the story.
Thankfully, I read this book for a classroom setting – so three days were set aside for us to get to the meat and actually talk about the themes and ideas in Ramona.
Here’s what I came away from this talks with:
Even in a story, such as Ramona, when the author is seeking to shed light on the issues of the time (specifically the tensions between whites, Mexicans, and Native Americans), in order for Ramona to be related to she is given “white” characteristics – i.e. blue eyes from her Scottish Father.
Sweeping stereotypes are made not only about the whites (and honestly, as far as stereotypes go, they were pretty harsh but necessary ones) but also about Mexicans. Even the Native Americans in this book did not escape judgement from Helen Hunt Jackson.
Jackson has no problem spending 70 pages talking about the little things – making a bed on a porch, tension-filled relationship between Ramona and her adoptive family, and so on.. but she spends less than a paragraph on a vital turning part of the story. In fact, the action and result of this turning part happened so quickly I thought I’d imagined it happening and had to go back to re-read it.
I understand from our discussions the importance of a book like Ramona and I believe that it’s important that it continues to be read and talked about – but more than anything, I wonder how that will be possible with the changing of our culture. We talk in 140 character tweets – so how can we expect young adults today to be patient enough to read pages upon pages of description? It saddens me to think that this story is one of many that will end up lost as a result – so if you decide to read just one “classic” American story this year, think about choosing this one.
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