This paper will count as two major essays. Therefore, it will be of extended length: at least 1200 words. It will consist of several parts (percentages given indicate the amount of the paper which should be given to each section.):
Introduction: A BRIEF summary of the book, covering the main points discussed, its seeming purpose, and one or two ideas you see as most significant. (10%)
Author Information: Present information about the author which shows his/her credibility regarding the topic. This will require a little research. (10%)
Connections (60%): With the text: Present ideas you find in the book which coincide with, or contradict, ideas we have read in class this semester.
With Current Events: Present ideas, experiences, etc., which are realities in today’s world, or current events. Search newspapers, magazine sources, etc.
With other readings: Describe connections (ideas and experiences) you find between this book and other readings you have done for this class or others.
Criticism and Recommendations: Try to find some published criticism about the book made by professional book reviewers (not by casual readers on the internet or at Amazon.com, for example). You should go to the library to find this. By the way, criticism does not just mean negative things someone says, but anything a reviewer says. What does the criticism say about the validity, style, or interest level of the book? Then discuss your own critical feelings about the book (same criteria as above), and tell whether you recommend the book, to whom, and why or why not. (10%)
Conclusion: Discuss your feelings/ideas about having to read this book for the class, and anything else you wish to say about the book, its topic, or the experience of reading it. (10%)
Final Draft Due: Midnight, Thursday, December 1st.
No late papers will be accepted!
General Requirements: Send pasted into an email. Must have a title (not the title of the book itself!). Must be double spaced. Remember to use italics for book titles and quotation marks around titles of essays, stories, and poems. Do not use topic headings. Instead, use topic sentences that clearly indicate the topics of the sections. When quoting, use quotation marks correctly, according to the handout on citation. Try to avoid having too many quotes; paraphrase instead, as much as possible, using direct quotes only to make a point about the language used by an author. Use present tense when discussing what an article says. Refer to essays, stories, and poems with the titles and authors. Do not cite page numbers or use footnotes. Make citations within the body of the essay. Follow the instructions in the assignment carefully! Since this is a course in college level reading, being able to do this is required!
Once Upon a Time in Tiburon
As Carolyn Gold Heilbrun had so eloquently put it, “Romance is the glamour which turns the dust of everyday life into a golden haze.” Romance is something magical; something inexplicable that is somehow inseparable from us humans. It is something unexpected, comes unannounced without giving even the slightest warning; and when it happens, it is blind. It does not care about your religion or your skin color or your personal beliefs, it will just happen. This is exactly what happens in the novel The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. The main character of the story, fourteen year-old Lily Owens, falls in love with a black African-American boy named Zachary Lincoln Taylor. While this kind of situation might be quite common in today’s world, it was entirely uncommon back in South Carolina, 1964, where the story is set.
The condition back then was still terribly hostile. It was a time when the Civil Rights Act had just been implemented and most of the white people who did not want the status quo to change were still against it. So when Lily and Zach develop a budding romance between them, things get rather complicated. Lily and Zach experience a lot of relationship problems, difficulties, and limitations because of the two’s racial differences; showing how race discrimination used to be a tremendous issue in the 1960s.
I have found the most interesting relationship problem being the internal racism issue that Lily and Zach have within themselves in the complete beginning. In chapter four, it reveals that Lily actually “had some prejudice buried inside [herself]” because she thought that colored women “could be smart, but not as smart as [her], [her] being white” (Kidd 78). Chapter seven also mentions how “I [Lily] was shocked over him [Zach] being handsome” because she used to “[make] fun of colored people’s lips and noses” (116). Zach—while is more subtle in showing his racist side—is sometimes sarcastic towards Lily’s race. An example is when he says, “August told me about you being here and helping us out, but she didn’t say anything about you being . . . white” (116); and another one is when Zach says, “Of course you don’t. . . .” after Lily admits that she does not know who Miles Davis is (117). These examples reveal how at first both parties were a little reluctant to each other; each having certain stereotypes about the other. Given the fact that these two persons have never met before, this is perfectly understandable. Both Lily and Zach also have very limited exposure to people from different races—something also incredibly common in America during that time due to the segregations—which explains their unenthusiastic behaviors. However, despite their differences, they manage to overcome their last bits of racism and as the story unfolds, end up having deep care and affections for each other (231). At that point, they no longer care about their racial differences and instead, they’re seeing each other as equals and as the persons they really are.
It was such a pity the world did not evolve along with them. In the eye of the society at that time, race is still the thing that discriminates people into strata. There was still a lot of hatred between the black African-Americans and the white Americans, not permitting a relationship between a young interracial couple. This tension between those two races brought external obstacles and limitations to Lily and Zach’s relationship in the novel. An apparent case is expressed by Zach, saying “Lily, I like you better than any girl I’ve ever known, but you have to understand, there are people who would kill boys like me for even looking at girls like you” (135). This same case is also evident in August’s worries in letting Lily go with Zach to deliver a dozen jars of honey to Clayton Forrest’s office (156). Lily and Zach cannot be seen together in public because it is extremely dangerous at that time.
The romance between Lily and Zach has somewhat become the modern day Romeo and Juliet on a much larger scale. It is a forbidden love affair between the two children of two so-called ‘families’ who hate each other; the ‘families’ here referring to the black African-Americans and the white Americans. Just like Romeo and Juliet, their relationship is limited to secrecy: Lily and Zach can only be together when no one is around and furthermore, they cannot tell people about their relationship. And just like Romeo and Juliet cannot do anything to change the families they were born into, Lily and Zach cannot change the skin pigments they were born with either. Therefore, they cannot avoid the curse of racism that is upon them.
Both Lily and especially Zach understand this agonizing fact. “‘We can’t think of changing our skin,’ he [Zach] said. ‘Change the world—that’s how we gotta think’” (216). He is absolutely right; the nation needs to first undergo some sort of revolution before it will accept their relationship. Fortunately for them, the beginning of that revolution is already in motion—marked by the implementation of the Civil Rights Act—and thus giving them optimism and hope for a better future. A future where it will be normal and acceptable for Lily and Zach to be together despite their racial differences.
“We can’t be together now, Lily, but one day, after I’ve gone away and become somebody, I’m gonna find you, and we’ll be together then” (231).