Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Nelson: Run. your Birth-mate is Assimilation

What if the suicidal woman near the end of “Assimilation” had been the wife of Mary Lynn’s fling? This would have dramatically changed the conclusion. The moral would not have been akin to the sacredness of family ties across the constructed lines of races. Rather, it may have been “don’t cheat on your husband, or someone will die.” What drives a person to commit suicide in front of a crowd; a life of loneliness culminated by a memorable, socially-involved death?

“Nelson’s Run” has a disturbing mixture of race as related to (bordering on incestuous?) sexuality. Nelson’s appropriates his father’s identity of bigotry, and misogyny into his own. His father identifies with Jefferson (a racist, an owner of 250 some odd slaves), but, at the same time he sees manliness, and a consanguine relation to himself, as above his son’s “racial” status as Native American. Where is the humor in this story? Although well-written, and enjoyable, it seemed more depressing than humorous.

The author of “Birth-mates” cleverly leads the character and the readers into letting their guard down upon Art’s recognition that he is in a “welfare” hospital. The former tensed situation--caused by the description of Art’s fear through his actions (e.g. double locking the door, using the telephone as a weapon, not being able to sleep)—fades into a seemingly innocuous one because the residents are children. The character and readers are then surprised by the next, humorous but sad, element of the story: Art getting knocked out by a gang of small children.

--Lee Ellen

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