Sunday, 14 January 2018

GINS: Global Issues Novel Study

“Most days I wish I was a British pound coin instead of an African girl. Everyone would be pleased to see me coming. Maybe I could visit you for the weekend and then suddenly, because I am fickle like that, I would visit the man from the corner shop instead - but you would not be sad because you would be eating a cinnamon bun, or drinking Coca-Cola from the can, and you would never think of me again.” (Cleave 1)

This is the very beginning of Little Bee. As I’m sure you can see, it’s very well-written. It’s lighthearted on the surface, making it possible to read through the horrible events it depicts. These issues, like the oil and gas business in Nigeria, illegal immigrants, mental illness, and more are explored in Little Bee, not leaving out details. It makes the reader appreciate how terrible they really are, gaining understanding and hopefully, caring about them. As I understand it, that’s the point of this novel study.

One of the reasons I felt Little Bee helped me understand illegal immigration was by telling Little Bee’s story through many different perspectives. For example, “‘It doesn’t matter how you talk, does it?’ she said. ‘You’re a drain on resources. The point is you don’t belong here.’” (Cleave 246) This is an immigration officer who works for the government talking. Lawrence, a citizen of the UK and civil servant, thinks it’d be ideal if there weren’t refugees in the first place. He’ll acknowledge it’s good to help them out, but thinks it’s pointless because there’s too many and helping them puts you in more danger than it’s worth. “Save her and there’s a whole world of them behind her. A whole swarm of Little Bees coming here to feed.” (Cleave 207)

“He is also saying that young people who are running away from trouble in other countries will be allowed to stay in this country so long as they work hard and do not make any fuss.” (Cleave 184) This perspective is that of a refugee. This is Little Bee’s ideal, that refugees can contribute to economies and countries. They can’t go back to where they came from. There are more perspectives too, and many other issues in this book, illegal immigration is just one example. (Though the most thoroughly explored.)

If you want to read a book that will teach you a little bit more about the world, I’d suggest reading Little Bee. It might not be exactly enjoyable, but you’ll learn a lot. You can also look at the page above to see more books that I think relate to global issues and could also be included in this novel study.

“Recognize yourself in he and she who are not like you and me.” - Carlos Fuentes

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

What is an Adventure?

What is an adventure? That depends on where you are starting from. Little girls in your country, they hide in the gap between the washing machine and the refrigerator and they make believe they are in the jungle, with green snakes and monkeys all around them. Me and my sister, we used to hide in a gap in the jungle, with green snakes and monkeys all around us, and make believe that we had a washing machine and a refrigerator. You live in a world of machines and you dream of things with beating hearts. We dream of machines, because we see where beating hearts have left us. “ (Cleave 211)

This is the quote that, repeated many times, makes up Little Bee’s face in this drawing. What does the quote mean to you? Already, I’m sure you can tell it’s about perspective, from the different viewpoints of people raised in different places. On the surface, it means that people raised in a village without much modern technology would dream of it and people surrounded by our modern amenities would dream of the wild. Both would be considered an adventure because both are a departure from their normal.

Let’s think deeper though. Along the same lines, you could say that all people crave what they don’t have, always wanting more. But all people appreciate an adventure, all people have an imagination and all people, especially children, can appreciate many different circumstances. At a most basic level, all people are the same. We all imagine things, love people and want what’s best for ourselves and our families. The difference is what we want, which is largely based on what we have.

Little Bee was raised in a small village in Nigeria. She was chased out, lived in an immigration detention center, and lived in the UK with Sarah and her son, Charlie. She has a lot of different experiences that she can draw from, as she’s seen evil and kindness, generosity and greed. She has a good handle on what it means to be human. Nothing is black and white and no human is just one thing. We’re all an intricate web, with strings from the things we’ve experienced, people we’ve met, opinions we have and so much more. Our webs change based on things currently happening to us. I used pencil in this drawing to symbolize how dynamic people are. Parts can be added and changed. Nothing is permanent.

The drawing is all hand drawn (which took a long time). So much of the book is based on people’s actions that I felt this also really needed a human touch. It’d be wrong to do it using a computer or other machine and take focus away from the quote and drawing.

Little Bee is an incredibly intricate person. She notices things that others don’t usually notice. In London, she could appreciate the beauty of a diverse population, of multiracial families, or the joy of children playing together. But she also understands racism, like what the taxi drivers wouldn’t pick her up from the immigration detention center. She understands how brutal people can be, going to any and all means to accomplish what they want to accomplish. In this drawing, Little Bee herself symbolizes human nature, the good and the bad. But I’ll let you read Little Bee and see what you can draw from it.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Little Bee Though the Eyes of a Four-Year-Old

He said, “That’s the Joker, isn’t it?” “No Charlie. That is the prime minister.” “Is he a goody or a baddy?” I thought to myself. “Half the people think he is a goody and the other half think he is a baddy.” Charlie giggled. “That’s silly,” he said. “That is democracy,” I said. “If you did not have it, you would want it.” We sat and watched the prime minister’s lips moving. “What’s he saying?” said Charlie. “He is saying that he will make ice-cream snow.” Charlie spun around to look at me. “WHEN?” he said. “About three o’clock in the afternoon, if the weather is cool enough. He is also saying that young people who are running away from trouble in other countries will be allowed to stay in this country so long as they work hard and do not make any fuss.” Charlie nodded. “I think he is a goody.” “Because he will be kind to refugees?” Charlie shook his head. “Because of the ice-cream snow,” he said. (Cleave 183 and 184).

Charlie is a minor character in Little Bee. He is Sarah’s four-year-old son and Little Bee is now living in his house. He’d like to think he’s Batman. As you can probably tell, his thoughts and ideals vary a lot from those of an adult. So, I’ve tried to rewrite the story so far from his perspective. Here it is:

I has a new friend now named Bee. And I is knowing she is a goody because she is helping me beat the Joker so he doesn’t eat all Mommy’s flowers. I think Bee and Mommy is good friends too, because mine Mommy saved Bee from the Puffin a long time ago*. Mine mommy is a goody, but Puffin is a baddy. That evil Puffin, he took her one finger, so now mine mommy is missing one finger.

The baddies, they is getting my daddy too. They sent him to heaven. Mommy said he is happy there, so there must be lots of other goodies, and lots of ice-cream, but I is wanting mine daddy to come back to me. Maybe he will be coming back soon, before I get a new daddy. I think Lawrence will be mine new daddy, but he’s actually a baddy, and only I is knowing this**.

Bee is saying she is not from here, and she is not from Gotham City (London). I is knowing she is from a place filled with baddies, like the Puffin and the Riddler. They is tried to take what she liked. Maybe, Bee is coming from a place with lots of ice-cream and then the Puffin, he coming in and taking it from her. But Bee is getting away because Bee has a secret underground bunker and she is jumping in her batmobile and driving all the way to mine house while mine mommy distracts the Puffin.

But mine mommy is saying that Bee is not supposed to be here. She says there are important people that don’t want her living here because they don’t know she’s a goody. That’s okay though, because Batman (me) is protecting Bee, so the baddies will never get her, no they won’t.

Now Bee is mine friend because mine mommy fought the baddies to save her and mine daddy is stuck in heaven with Bee’s daddy and mommy and sister***. And Bee is gonna live with me and help fight baddies who is never going to get her again.

I didn’t put any quotes from the book directly into Charlie’s story because I felt it interrupted the flow. The stars relate to these quotes: *“Your  mummy saved my life, did you know that? She saved me from the baddies.” Charlie looked at his mother. “Like Batman?” he said. Sarah smiled… “Like Batmum.” (Cleave 147).
**“Batman stood and walked up to Lawrence. He stared at him. His bat senses must have told him something. “Is you mine new daddy?” he said. (Cleave 171).

***“I want mine daddy,” he said. “Your daddy is dead, Charlie. Do you know what this means?” “Yes, in heaven.” “Yes.” “Where’s heaven?” “It is a place like this. Like a nursery or a detention center, or a strange country far away. He wants to come home to you, but he can’t. Your daddy is like my daddy.” “Oh. Is yours daddy dead too?” “Yes Charlie. My daddy is dead and my mummy is dead and my sister is dead too. All of them are dead.” (Cleave 144).

Friday, 15 December 2017

Rights and Freedoms in Little Bee

In the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, under legal rights, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.” (Canadian Charter section 7). This is a right that we all have, guaranteeing our safety. In Little Bee, it doesn’t exist at all. “And my father and my uncle lived very happily in that place until the afternoon when the men came and shot them.” (Cleave 83).

Heinous, I know. There’s also no fundamental justice. It’s almost as though the Nigerian government doesn’t care at all for its citizens in Little Bee. Isn’t that a government’s entire job; to ensure the wellbeing of its citizens? Where’s the law enforcement?  “I saw his machete go up, I saw the blade flash in the rising sun, I saw a tiny flinch - that was all the guard had time for. The blade went into the guard’s throat and it rang. It rang when it struck the bones of the neck.” (Cleave 110).

We never see any consequences whatsoever about this. Little Bee’s sister also dies in that scene. Or maybe, the government doesn’t really care about a small, poor village in the middle of nowhere. If this is the case, it would violate another of our Charter rights in Canada. Under equality rights, “Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination…” (Canadian Charter section 15). 

The village gets destroyed. The people were killed to access the resources underneath it. “in that village we did not yet know was built on an oil field and would soon be fought over by men in a crazy hurry to drill down into the oil.” (Cleave 78). I get that the Nigerian government was down on money and that a big oil field would really boost their economy. Desperate people often resort to desperate measures. But that doesn’t mean it’s right. Killing people who are in your way is not even close to the right thing to do. Why didn’t they use diplomacy instead?

Honestly, I have a hard time believing this. I’ve lived in Canada my whole life, with a government I trust and believe in. How would it feel to be abandoned completely by your government, just because you happen to be located on top of an oil field, or just because you have a low economic status?

This isn’t the only discrimination they face. In England, Little Bee and her friends are trying to call a taxi from the immigration detention center. “she said, Taxi man said he no pick up from dis place. Then he say, You people are scum.”(Cleave 12). It just incenses me. 

Imagine if the entire world had the same rights and freedoms that we have in Canada. Life would certainly be better for Little Bee, her friends and family. If people keep fighting for it, maybe someday it could happen. 

“The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.” (Canadian Charter section 1).

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Good People

Life isn’t fair. How many times have you heard that? Probably, a lot, because it’s true. We are often at the whims of society, the price of oil, the government, or even plain old luck. It sucks. But what really makes me mad, as illustrated in Little Bee, is when people actively make life worse for others.

Little Bee has told more of her story at this point. We now know that she left her village in Nigeria because it was built on a patch of oil that ‘men’ wanted to sell. (I think when talking about men, Little Bee’s referring to corporations as well, not just individuals.) Before they came, it was a good village. She had siblings, her parents and her uncle. There was happiness. Then men killed everyone in her village to get at the oil under it. There could be no survivors or witnesses. “This is the trouble with all happiness - all of it is built on top of something that men want.” (Cleave 78). That is not fair. Why shouldn’t they get to be happy?

“It made me very unhappy to watch those hens. The way they moved and the noise they made, this is exactly how it was when Nkiruka and me finally left our village back home… we ran off into the jungle one morning and we walked until it was dark and then we lay down to sleep beside the path… In the night we heard gunshots. We heard men screaming like pigs when they are waiting in the cage to have their throats cut.” (Cleave 64 and 65).

There are so many people who put their greed or power before the needs of other individuals. If there were more good people, more kindness and compassion, I don’t think we’d have half the problems that world is facing right now.

On Little Bee and her friends too, acts of kindness touch deeply. “Mr Ayres laughed. “You ladies can stay,” he said. Then there was a sobbing from behind me… ‘Mebbe de girl jus ain’t used to kindness.’” (Cleave  63). They wandered down a road from the immigration detention center and met a farmer who was willing to take them in for a couple nights while they sorted out what to do. “The farmer’s wife was a kind woman. I asked her why she was doing this good thing for us. She said it was because we were all human beings.” (Cleave 77).

Little Bee and her friends had nowhere else they could go at that point. But it wasn’t their fault. They hadn’t been dealt a very good hand of cards. I think they deserved all the help they could get. Throughout the rest of the story, they’ll need more kindness if they’re going to get by, because I seriously doubt they’ll be able to survive on their own.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Strength of Character

“I stowed away in a great steel boat, but the horror stowed away inside me. When I left my homeland, I thought I had escaped - but out on the open sea, I started having nightmares. I was naive to suppose I left my country with nothing. It was heavy cargo that I carried.” (Cleave 46).

That is Little Bee talking. “Maybe yu’s right to be scared, Lil Bee, cos yu a smart girl.” (Cleave 19).

At this point in the story, you know that Little Bee, a Nigerian refugee, makes it to the United Kingdom. She’s an illegal immigrant and ends up living with a woman and her son after spending two years in an immigration detention center. We don’t know yet though, what exactly she’s faced in Nigeria.

Imagine having to run away from your home, your country, and everything you knew, with nothing but the clothes on your back. You’re trying to find refuge, a place that has some safety and security. A place that you’ve never been to, but has to be better than where you were. Now imagine how difficult it would be to keep your humanity, to still show kindness and strength, as Little Bee does. “Finally, it was Little Bee who went down… and held up my son for other hands to haul out.” (Cleave 43).

She comes to Great Britain and learns to speak “The Queen’s English” in order to try to gain acceptance. Such an amazing person should be allowed to come, especially if they are fleeing horrific circumstances, right?

I’d hope so. But it’s difficult. Right now in Canada , there are many asylum seekers trying to come into the country. Many of them, I’m sure, are great people, who would benefit everyone else here. We can’t let everyone in though. Canada just can’t support that many people. We couldn’t provide ample services for them all. Here’s a link to a news article about this. According to Little Bee, many people in the detention center she was staying at in the UK were deported back to the countries they came from. Is that fair?

The book, Little Bee, as named after the main character, is relevant to current issues in this sense. These people are survivors. “Because, take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived.” (Cleave 9).

As I read more about her, I’ll try to keep in mind her strength of character and find out more about the specifics of her past, however difficult those might be. I feel like I need to know more of Little Bee’s story, even if I am somewhat trepidatious about the details.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Little Bee

I’ve heard that the book Little Bee by Chris Cleave is amazing. I heard that it really makes you think about not only the characters and their struggles, but also about people and the situations we’re placing each other in, that it seems really genuine, despite being fictitious. Apparently, there are a couple really difficult scenes that I’ll need to get through in the book but in general, it’s a really good (not to sound like a broken record). Little Bee was even short-listed for a couple big literary awards, like the Costa Novel Award in the UK.

So, naturally, I chose this book as the one I’d do my global issues novel study about. The global issues novel study is a new individual novel study with a focus on different societies and problems that people face throughout the world. I’ve just started it at school and will continue with it, roughly, until the beginning of the new year.

I expect Little Bee will be different, as it’s set in a place that’s a lot different than I’m used to, living here in Canada. I think the struggles will be similar, in the sense that the characters will crave things that all humans do, such as love, safety and acceptance. But the situations that they’re placed in probably won’t be things that I’m terribly familiar with.

I’m excited to learn new things and see how this story unfolds, how the character will develop to cope with the various roadblocks facing them. Every book I read, everything I do, there’s something I can find out that I didn’t know before.

“I am still learning.” -Michelangelo, age 87