The Book of Dahlia By Elisa Albert

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In The Book of Dahlia, Elisa Albert introduces us to Dahlia Finger, a 29 year old slacker from a broken, over-privileged family. Living in a Venice cottage purchased by her father she spends her days smoking pot and watching the same old movies over and over. Her biggest concern at the moment is awaiting the results from the GRE; she took them in the hopes of going back to school even though she had no clue what to do with her life. Then it happened, the moment that would change her life forever, a near fatal  seizure. A symptom of a terminal brain tumor in Dahlia’s head.

With the help of “The Book”, a self-help book for cancer patients, she recollects various moments of her life that may hold the answer to why her. We follow Dahlia as she tries to comes to terms with her life, disease and her overwhelming sense of doom from a death sentence. Meanwhile,  everybody around her tries to keep a positive attitude for her.

The book was extremely hard to put down but at the same time at some points was hard to read. As I read I couldn’t help but feel for Dahlia and relate to many of the struggles she has as a child, teenager and later as a slacker graduate with no direction. I can easily see why this novel was one of Entertainment Weekly’s top ten fiction picks last year. The sarcastic wit and sadistic humor make it an easy read while the powerful subject matter makes you truly rethink your own mortality.

Death and Mourning in Ethnic Literature

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I am halfway through my last semester at BMCC and am taking this great literature class. We are reading four different novels by ethic writers. In addition, we have to read several articles dealing with the process of mourning, loss, and trauma. I think it is very interesting to apply some psychological theory to the way that these writers interpret how people deal with loss. The books that we are reading are Bone, by Fa Myenne Ng, Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, by Carlos Hijuelos, Ceremony, by Leslie Marmon Silko, and Praise Song for the Widow, by Paule Marshall.

In the class, we are not only focusing on the indiviual loss the characters go through, but also about the larger issue of loss for ethnic people in America. Besides the literal physical death of family members these books deal with the larger issue of loss of identity and culture. These authors use a death to represent these larger issues of loss. This applies a lot to the immigrant stories but as well to all nationalties that are not thought of as mainstream, majority, white America. For example, the novel Ceremony is about Native Americans, who suffer the loss of their land to outsiders, who in turn made them feel like outsiders in their home.

The class is very compelling, but very difficult. The themes and some of the material that we are dealing with takes a lot of effort to grasp. For the class we have to write three papers. I just finished the second paper for the class. For the first time in years I really struggled with getting the  paper done. I just had so many things that I could have covered and had a hard time organizing them into a coherent paper. It took a lot of work to cut things out and still have it be understandable, clear and to a point. In the end, I’m not even sure that I was able to accomplish that. I’m just glad that I will be able to revise the paper and hand it in for a new grade. I just hope that I will be able to get the last paper done well. I have a little over a month left and I am really starting to feel the pressure.