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Huynh, S.

If you were to talk to the author, what would you want to know?

posted Jun 13, 2010, 5:57 PM by Savanna Huynh

If I were to talk to Anchee Min about her novel, Becoming Madame Mao, I would probably ask about how much of her book is real. The book is written as an autobiography of Madame Mao's life and how she got to her position. However, it doesn't seem like all of it could be true since there is so much detail embedded in the story. From what we learn in class about the history of China, I can see that many of the events that take place in the book are in fact real. For an example, the great leap forward was an event that Mao commanded. Both Madame Mao Jiang Ching and Mao are real people in history who were in powerful positions. But to what extent does this story hold truth? Also, if I were to be able to speak with Anchee Min, I would want to know how she feels about Madame Mao. Does she think that Madame Mao is a good or a bad person? Because as I see it, she could be both. She's a talented actress who loves operas and is actually quite deep. All she wants is to be loved and taken care of since she has been neglected by her mother. However, Madame Mao can come off as a bad person. She loves power and everything about it. She loves to be at the top and even has people killed because they disrespect her.   In the book, it seems as though both of these perspectives of Madame Mao are shown clearly but which one does Anchee Min believe is true? Or is she simply just informing about both sides? Is that her purpose for writing this book? To persuade the reader to believe something about Madame Mao?

If you were to talk to the main character, what would you want to know?

posted Jun 6, 2010, 2:51 PM by Savanna Huynh   [ updated Jun 6, 2010, 3:04 PM ]

If I were given a chance to talk to the main character, one main thing I would ask is ' why do you change your name so much? ' I've noticed that a lot through out the book. She has many different names and I don't know what to address her by except for Madame Mao which is not even her real name. I've noticed that she likes to change character a lot. She likes to play different things and switch lives. When she first changes her name, she explains that she wants to start a new life that's fresh and free of anything bad. I don't know if it's because she is an actress? As an actress, she has to change herself a lot and get into different moods to play in someone else's shoes. I just find it strange that she changes her image so much. I could never change my whole name and just become a totally different person. It'd be a weird feeling and it seems as though she can do it just like that. In the book, when Madame Mao gets married to Mao, he even changes her name for her. At the start of chapter 12, she says, "Jiang Ching is my new name. It is a thoughtful gift from my husband. I am no long Lan Ping - Blue Apple...I have parted from my old role." It seems so normal to her to do this and so I would want to know why she does and how she bears with it. I know I wouldn't be able to do that.

Overall—how did you experience the book while reading it? Were you immediately drawn into the story—or did it take a while? Did the book intrigue, amuse, disturb, alienate, or irritate, you?

posted Jun 6, 2010, 2:37 PM by Savanna Huynh

I have not yet finished reading the book Becoming Madame Mao but from what I have read so far, I can honestly say that it is a very irritating book. From just the first few pages, I was very confused. I didn't know who was talking or who was who. Is this Madame Mao speaking or is it her daughter? Or her mom? Or her mom's mom? It was just very confusing and I didn't know what was going on. In the prologue Madame Mao narrates, "I don't blame her. There was no trace of that passion left on Mao's face after he entered the Forbidden City and became a modern emperor. No trace that Mao and I were once lovers unto death." This makes the reader believe that the whole book is going to be in first person perspective with Madame Mao narrating her own story. It then switches within just one paragraph. The book continues to say, "The mother tells the daughter that both her father and she hate cowards. The words have no effect. Nah is too beaten. The mother thinks of her as a rotten piece of wood that can never be made into a beautiful piece of furniture." This confused me. All of a sudden it's in 3rd person. I didn't know that there was a pattern and I had to continue the story while rereading most parts until I got it. I have now become used to it but for people starting the book it can be very irritating. It's definitely a unique sense of writing style but just hard to adjust to.
 

What kind of things does the main character like/dislike? What evidence from the book supports your statement?

posted Jun 6, 2010, 2:22 PM by Savanna Huynh

We are now reading a book titled Becoming Madame Mao written by Anchee Min. The story is about a woman and her life as Madame Mao, the emporer's wife. Throughout the whole beginning of the book, I noticed that she's had plenty of relationships. That's actually what the whole book is about. It's about her and her love life. She thinks that she's falling in love with a man and then the next page will be a description of her hate for them. The next page after that would probably be about her pain and longing for a man. It's actually quite repitive. So in answering this question, I at first thought that the main character liked love but after reading ahead, my opinion started to change. I think that Madame Mao is in fact obsessed with power. That's her main goal. She wants a relationship with a man who wants power. It can even be seen in the book when she says "A woman's biggest wish is to be loved - there is no deeper truth." This supports my first opinion but a few paragraphs later she says, "But I won't let go. I am holding on to my title. I won't let the magic of my character fade away. Hope guides me and revenge motivates me." She's attached to her title. She also speaks about how her and Kang Sheng have one main thing in common which is to rise above Mao some day. This also proves that she just wants power and not love.

Consider the ending. Did you expect it or were you surprised? Was it forced? Was it neatly wrapped up—too neatly? Or was it unresolved, ending on an ambiguous note?

posted May 17, 2010, 9:44 AM by Savanna Huynh

I thought that the ending of the book, Q & A, was actually quite surprising and not expected at all. Throughout the whole book, Ram explains a story for each question to prove that he has not been cheating on the game show. I thought that he had been trying to get billion rupees the whole entire time. I actually thought that the money was to buy his love out of prostitution. However, it turns out that he's been trying to kill Prem Kumar, the game show host. The author gives no hint at all that he had a grudge against the talk show host or any idea about killing him. At the end, when they take a break before the next question, Ram brings out a gun and points it at Prem Kumar who is very confused. He doesn't know why it is that he was being put into such a predicament. Turns out, he was the one who abused Neelima a long time ago when Ram was her stay in servant. Not only that but he was also the one who abused Nita, the love of his life. He knows this because they both had the same bruises and cigarette burns. Prem Kumar offers to give him the answer to th last question and Ram eventually decides that it'd be smartest to take the money instead of his life. Ram gets the money himself with no help from Prem Kumar who actually tried to trick him into losing it all. I thought that this ending was pretty unexpected and it made the book make more sense. Everything tied together to make an interesting end to a interesting story. http://www.indiewire.com/images/uploads/iw9/biz/2008_slumdog_millionaire_005.jpg

Ram has a recurring dream of a tall woman with black hair that obscures her face. Why?

posted May 7, 2010, 3:17 PM by Savanna Huynh

In this book, Ram has the same dream of a tall woman that has black hair obscuring her face. However, each time he does have this dream, it's somehow different and has something to do with the situation. For an example, Ram tries to sniff glue at one point. When he does this, the dream happens once again except there is a scarier image of her appearance. This encourages him to stop immediately. The reader comes across this so many times in the book that he/she has to think about who she might be. Although the book doesn't have any specific explanation of who she is, I believe it is Ram's mother. It represents his only mental image and lasting memory of her. Ram lost his mother at a very young age. In fact, it was when he was just a baby. Basically, he grew up without a mother and anyone in this same situation would probably have a longing to be with her. He didn't really know that he had a mother or think about why until he was stumped with why his skin color was different than Father Timothy's. When he asked about it, Father Timothy was able to tell him exactly why. He gave Ram the story about how his mother had to leave him for some unknown reason and just left him at the steps of an orphanage. With this story, Ram pictures it as much as he can in his head and that's how this recurring dream came up. This is how he pictures her to be at that exact moment that she left him. I also think that this dream represents more than just Ram. I also believe it represents all the mothers that have "left". The reason is because in Shankar's situation, he was always talking about his mom (in gibberish, of course). He even drew pictures of her in his journal which Ram comes across. Even though his mother did not really walk away and leave him, his mom had left him mentally. She didn't care for him or even acknowledge that he was her son. Both Ram and Shankar feel the same pain and just wish for their mother to be with them again.http://farm1.static.flickr.com/109/267604077_905dff13b3.jpg

Which part of the story best describes the setting? Why?

posted May 4, 2010, 10:50 PM by Savanna Huynh

In the book, Q & A by Vikas Swarup, I think that the setting is described very well in the beginning. It gives the reader a general idea about India and it's slums. The story starts off by Ram narrating about how he was taken away for supposedly cheating on the game show. On the first page, he narrates, "Arrests in Dharavi are as common as pickpockets on the local train. Not a day goes by without some hapless resident being taken away to the police station." He explains that there pickpockets on a train station are completely normal suggesting that crime rates are probably extremely high. Also, he mentions that there are people always getting dragged off by the police which also supports the same idea that crime is common in India. He continues on the second page saying, "With bleary eyes they would have watched the spectacle, made some trite remark like "There goes another one," yawned,  and promptly gone back to sleep. My departure from Asia's biggest slum would make no difference to their lives. There would be the same queue for water in the morning, the same daily struggle to make it to the seven-thirty local time." This explains that the neighboring people simply wouldn't care for anyone who was being taken away by the police because it's just that common. Their lives wouldn't be affected in the tiniest bit and they would continue doing the same routine. This one section of the book definitely gives the reader a picture and a sense of imagery. It helps to set the rest of the book in Ram's adventure around India, the biggest slum of Asia.
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Why did the author(s) choose to write this book?

posted Apr 26, 2010, 8:23 PM by Savanna Huynh

From the notes in class, I know that the author, Vikas Swarup, wrote Q & A because of two different inspirations. He made a plotline about a young Indian boy who won a billion rupees on a gameshow but is questioned about his knowledge, taking the reader through different parts of his life. The first inspiration was from the real life story of a man who was accused of cheating on a similar gameshow. Tapes of the show were watched over again and the audio showed coughing in the audience. Suspicion started to rise and many people believed that the contestant's wife had been part of a plan to win the money by coughing whenever the correct answer was read aloud. They denied this plan but had their grand prize taken away. In the story, Ram is accused of cheating as well. Another inspiration for the story is from a researcher who put a computer in a community where kids have never even seen a computer before. He made observations and noticed that they were able to learn how to navigate by themselves with no help at all. He found it quite interesting and repeated the same experiment in other places to find the same result. This shows that even though they didn't have a teacher, they are still able to learn and pick up things by themselves. In the book, Ram is just a waiter and no one believes that he can answer all twelve questions correctly. However, he managed to do it from life experiences. He just happened to pick it all up as he grew. Both of these were reasons for the author writing the book as well as to show readers the life in India which is described as a slum. With all of these ideas combined, Swarup was able to write a very successful book.

Do any of the characters do things you think are good or bad? What do they do? Why do you think this is good or bad?

posted Apr 19, 2010, 7:31 PM by Savanna Huynh   [ updated Apr 26, 2010, 8:40 PM ]

In the book, Q & A, the main character Ram Mohammad Thomas, does something that stands out to me. Even though I haven't gotten far into the book yet, I can see that he has done something good for himself. The plot of the story has already unraveled and we can see how it is laid out. Basically, he has won a billion rupees on a popular game show in India which wasn't planned to happen. The people in charge of the show are not willing to give up the money just yet so they're trying to prove that he is cheating. Each chapter revolves around a different piece of his life that helped him in answering one of the twelve questions. I think his actions are good. He's fighting for his money. He knows that he won the money fair and square so he's going all the way til the end proving that he really deserves it. Even though they treat him badly, he's willing to put up with it all. It's also really good that he's not letting them walk all over him. He's used to just being called the waiter from the slums. Despite the fact, that his life has nothing successful about it and he hasn't exactly been lucky in life at all ever since birth, he's still not letting these people tell him he's wrong and worthless. He may not be academically smart but he sure is street smart. He knows what's going on around him and learns from every event that takes place in his life.

What problems develop almost immediately when Enrique is reunited with his mother? Do these problems surprise you?

posted Apr 12, 2010, 6:13 PM by Savanna Huynh

Throughout the first part of the story, Enrique pretty much spends most of his time thinking of ways to successfully reunite with his mom and eventually, that's exactly what he does. He stays with his mom, her new boyfriend, and daughter in the U.S. which is what he has dreamed of ever since he could remember. At first, it seems like a fantasy. However, problems start to develop quite rapidly. Enrique's behavior starts to change and his bad habits start to return like drinking and sniffing paint. He's also always finding a new way to make his mom unhappy resulting in unnecessary fights. In my opinion, this was a very surprising result from Enrique finally arriving in the U.S. First off, that was what he had been wanting the most the whole time. It's surprising that he would just choose to act that way in front of her. Also, it's surprising that he chose to act that way even though Lourdes does so much for him. It's like he doesn't even realize what she tries to do for him. She made her way to the U.S. so that she could provide a better life for him but once he came to the U.S., she saw that he didn't come out to be the son she expected. He disappointed her but of course still loved him just as much. I think that Enrique's judgment on his decisions were very poor. It's sad that he made a conflicted relationship with his mom so quickly. Thankfully, Enrique realized who he had become and started to clean himself up so that in the end, everyone was happy.

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