Barrio Boy and The Joy Luck Club

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In both pieces of literature; "Barrio Boy," by Ernesto Galarza and "The Joy Luck Club," by Amy Tan; the authors portray five families and their friends' struggle with language barriers, even within their own families, adapting to the customs and routines of the North American society, and how the younger family members succeeded in school, work, and relationships.

In Amy Tan's book "The Joy Luck Club," the theme of the "American Dream," which is the belief that America is a guaranteed land of opportunity, of success and happiness is the main theme in the story. It is of women who set off on a journey because in their own country they were suffering through many hardships, like war and shame from their own family in China. Much like Ernesto Galarza's book, "Barrio Boy," his family and Ernesto experience a revolution in Mexico, their home country.

The hardships of having to move from city to city in Mexico was tough on the family since they basically needed to start from scratch and ask for favors from other family members if they could stay under their roofs. In Amy Tan's book, Lena one of the immigrant's child is only 10 years old when her father is promoted. He moves the family across the bay to San Francisco, where they take an apartment at the top of a steep hill. Lena's mother is not happy with the apartment; she feels that it is "not balanced," and that all their good luck will vanish.

In "Barrio Boy," when a child of a neighbor was dying, Doña Tránsito called the curandera; a woman who practices folk medicine with herbs, unguents, compresses, poultices, and a little prayer, and much faith on the part of the patient. In the story "the healer laid on a side table an assortment of bundled weeds, small glass jars, candles, and paper bags tied with strings. On the floor next to her she placed a canvas satchel.......The electric light was turned off. She opened the satchel and took out a framed picture of the Virgin of Guadalupe, which was hung on the all over the sick child's head." She continued with the ritual but unfortunately the child died in the morning. These two situations that happened in the books has much to do with culture and traditions that the immigrants in the stories believe in and still practiced, no matter where they resided. Lena's mother felt that having a house too high up could ward of good spirits and would not bring good luck to the family, which is commonly known as the practice of Feng Shui. In Ernesto's case he witnessed a prayer ritual for those who are very sick, participated in this because his family members believe in a higher spirit and using the Virgin of Guadalupe as a median and symbol for spiritual enlightenment.

In Amy Tan's book, the daughters experienced relationships with American men, and even married some. In Rose Hsu Jordan's case she met Ted Jordan and started to date him. When Ted invited Rose to his family picnic, Mrs, Jordan took Rose aside and confided that Ted's future did not include a wife who was a member of a minority race. Unfortunately Rose experienced racism even though her spoken English was perfect.

Ernesto experienced a racist situation in reverse. Ernesto wanted to send a letter to his mother but it was turned into a telegram in because it needed to be sent in English. As far as his signature at the bottom, he wrote "Little Ernie," but the clerk "refused to destroy my Mexican cultural image, returned the sheet and told me to sign Ernesto." Since Ernesto is living his young adulthood in a barrio: a neighborhood within a city containing an underground society of young males who regarded the area as their exclusive territory, his experiences are that of a large family where each and every person understand what it is like to migrate from another country and have to adapt to the society and people of North America.

The immigrants in these books have both tolerated a society that is new to them and eventually adapted to it. Where the main characters decided to reside is part of California, even in the capital of California. The characters in "The Joy Luck Club," grew up in an environment where a town was named after their race, "Chinatown" therefore they were fortunate to make friends of the same race and talk about their experiences journeying to America. In "Barrio Boy," Ernesto actually lived around many Americans and worked with them and for them, he developed a good friendship with them too. He had many family members around him to support him and to help him understand that although he was considered "jefe de la familia," he still had to obtain his high school diploma, which till now is very important to achieve. I think it is important to recognize that these families in both books converged with other members and helped each other out. Since California is near many other countries the expectations of other immigrants is to get by and also to live in a society where there is a grand mix of races and eventually live together in harmony. As America is considered and California is too, it is a great melting pot where many races can all live.