Round Rock New Neighbors is a social organization of women welcoming women in the Round Rock area since 1978. Both "new" and "old" neighbors are welcome. For more information: rrnewneighbors.org [Barnes & Noble requires that RRNN's book club be open to the public, so you do not need to be an RRNN member to attend book club, and both men and women are welcome and do attend. ]
The Friends of the Georgetown Public Library’s Hill Country Authors Series events will be listed here.
Round Rock Public Library Book Group meets monthly at 7:00-8:30 PM. Check the library website for more information, or ask Carla.
Sunday, May 21, 2017
The Tortilla Curtain - Not about a Mexican Restaurant
The Tortilla Curtain, by T.C. Boyle, was a well-written, easy-reading page-turner about tough topics that made the reader stop and think, even amid the exciting episodes in the story. The story centers around illegal immigrants from Mexico and Americans, living and crossing paths in the hills, forests and suburbs in California. The story opens when a main character, American Delaney, hits another main character, Mexican Candido, with his car. Morna also opened our discussion with this scene, asking us how we might feel if we hit a Mexican and whether we would feel differently if we hit an American. In the story, Delaney did stop and offer help, but Candido gathered himself, asked for money only, and ran off with the $20 Delaney gave him. Our brief discussion indicated that both the readers in our group and Delaney figured out that Candido refused help because he was afraid of deportation. Most of us seemed to agree that the mixture of anxiety and fear and finally anger and frustration about the situation that Delaney experienced would have been similar if we were in Delaney’s shoes. It seemed difficult to differentiate how one might have felt had it been an American who suddenly appeared from the woods and seemed to be trying to be run over.
Morna next asked us whether we had sympathy for the main characters, Candido and Delaney and their wives. Dennis spoke up to say that he didn’t like any of the characters. He said the coyote was his favorite character, giving us all a laugh but also provoking thought as to the characters of the characters. Quick on the draw, Morna asked what the coyote in the story represented. A brief Google search on this topic indicates that the coyote symbolized the Mexican illegal immigrants. The best answer I saw said that both the coyote and the illegal immigrants hide in the forests and scavenge the edges of populated and legally civilized areas; the coyote for food and the Mexicans for food and work.
Feelings toward the immigrants that were attributed to the Americans living in the subdivision called “White Canyon” that sat at the edge of the forest were a major theme of the book. We discussed why the Mexicans chose the dangers and difficulties of living in the USA illegally. The homeowners of White Canyon voted for and proceeded to build a wall around their neighborhood during the story. Clearly, the author created themes for thought by showing the Americans building a wall to keep the immigrants out and then hiring the same immigrants and inviting them in to build the wall.
In discussing the very problematic situation of Candido and his wife and all the illegal immigrants who arrive in the USA in poverty, Amy said it is part of the human condition, that people are born into the extreme poverty. Marilyn said that some of the misadventures in the story were also caused by bad decisions. In many cases, aspects of poverty can be caused by bad decisions, one being when the Mexicans pay liars and crooks for help crossing the border and then are robbed in Mexico before they cross. Pam asked why these Mexicans were in the USA, and Marilyn said they were desperate and had hope to better their lives by immigrating. Linda H. said that the USA had a reputation for being good to immigrants.
We steered away from in-depth discussion of the current political situation, as it had no influence on this book, which was published in 1995.
Toward the end of our discussion, Joyce said that she had noticed that the story indicated a lot of crime that Mexicans committed against Mexicans. She thought the Mexicans might have had fewer misadventures had they bonded together as a community and helped each other more, in their shared experience of deprivation. Amy said the kind of lives we were reading about involved individuals focused on themselves; thus, no room for establishing community. Further illustrating the point that community is lacking, Dennis gave the example that American contractors sometimes break into the homes where they have been paid to work, as the immigrants did at White Canyon. Carla mentioned the man who organized the job-distributing in the parking lot in the story, saying this showed that this was an example of characters in the book, and people in general, have good and bad traits and behaviors.
We discussed the ending of the book, which left it to the reader to guess at the futures of the characters.
The Tortilla Curtain was exciting but essentially a story about a sad situation.