Home > Uncategorized > “They just don’t get it”

“They just don’t get it”

In reading Love Cemetery, I’ve had a nagging voice in the back of mind telling me that something is not quite right. Not tight with the book, with the story, with the author; I couldn’t figure it out. Then today I was in my Religion and Literature class and we had a very interesting discussion on Postcolonial Literatures. We read Patricia Linton’s Ethical Reading and Resistant Texts and our discussion of this led me to discover what it was about Love Cemetery that had been bothering me. Linton talks about the disconnect between cultures in literature; the reader is not always equipped to understand or relate to a text from another culture. Her most enthusiastic point in this discussion is that it is ok to not understand and she reminds readers that it can even be offensive or overly proud to assume that we can understand. This triggered an aha(!) moment as I realized that I’d been irritated by China Galland’s approach to the culture rift in Love Cemetery. It was for this same reason that her friend Doris was annoyed by her. This became much clearer after reading chapter 8, Shiloh, when the author recognizes this in herself and apologizes. It is a risk of reading about other cultures or participating in the life of other cultures that the author and we as readers face; we cannot assume we understand what life is like for these people who have had vastly different experiences and situations in life. It is arrogant of us to try to master these texts with full comprehension or to attempt to fully relate to the African-American women working alongside China at Love. It’s strange to remind ourselves that sometimes we need to accept that we don’t and can’t understand, especially as students.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. January 25, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    Lillie, I fully agree with you. I think that (beyond some just general style clashes avec moi) was bothering me about the text as well. I was actually have a heated conversation with Evan the other day about America and how we continuously fail to live up to our own standards yet hold other countries to them and the ethnocentrism of it all, but he said something exceptionally sagacious, I thought, about how we should also be careful when using this type of rhetoric because it can become an awful vanity to assume that we understand these other cultures we’re affecting, how we’re affecting them, and to not be grateful for the differences and for certain aspects of America — it, I thought, was well reflected in China’s similar revelation; we must be appreciative and self-aware of our own experiences and not assume we may thus understand the experiences of others. This is an especially difficult lesson for me since I tend to get over-excited and frustrated rather often when faced with the atrocities in America’s past; it comes up a great deal in my Native American Studies and I can sympathize with China now because it is difficult to feel so close to an issue and still recognize that you’ll never truly be a part of it in that you never actually felt the suffering or consequence

  2. rh567
    January 25, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    I agree with both the above statements. I, as well, struggle with the idea that I will never truly be a part of this past, and must constantly live with the fact that I am privileged. I was very relieved in Galland’s 8th chapter when she seemed to “get it”. The idea that we all have/had our parts in shaping America’s “atrocious” history and that all we can do is fix or mend our role. I feel like Galland was not only trying to fix the problems with Love Cemetery, but also fix the racial tensions that have been in place for hundreds of years. Once she understood that that was impossible, but that she could in fact rebuild Love Cemetery, her entire narrative became easier to read.

  3. markcotham
    January 26, 2011 at 1:25 am

    I agree that as a white man, I will never fully understand the experience of African Americans. However, I think that in this situation, it’s appropriate not to give up completely on understanding it, but to humbly ask African Americans to tell us their story, so that we may understand it as much as we can. As long as we refuse to try to understand anything about the African-American story, we cannot expect to reconcile in any meaningful way. I don’t condone, and I abhor, snobbery that presumes that we do know or we can know everything about a subject such as this, but I think that refusing to acknowledge that we can know anything about the subject further exoticises African Americans and sets up a barrier between us. I think we can recognize that we have fundamentally different experiences from black people and that we can’t understand them entirely, while at the same having a desire to learn from them what “little” we can.

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