Following the Railroad Tracks

The train station manager saw Mi Yun wandering around the empty train station, knowing she had been there for several hours. She had previously told him that she was waiting for her uncle to pick her up. He said, “‘You cannot wait here. Do you hear me? No one is coming for you!’ Hanging her head in confusion and alarm, [Mi Yun] obeyed. The thumping in her chest started again. Tears burned her eyes as she stumbled back to the ox cart… Mommy, I need you!” After being abandoned on a train by her mother, four-year-old Mi Yun spent her childhood on the streets of war-torn South Korea, scavenging for food, warmth, and love. Because her father was American and her mother was Korean, no Korean would accept her, and she was repeatedly beaten, tortured, and purposefully starved because of her origin. However, every time she was near death or so cold and hungry she wanted to die, someone would be placed in her path to remind her to never stop trying to survive. In her book She Is Mine, Stephanie Fast uses differing perspective, realistic details, and heart-wrenching events to communicate that Someone had a plan for Mi Yun no matter what happened to her.

Throughout the book, I felt as though I was in the mind of Mi Yun because Fast uses differing perspectives based on the age of Mi Yun to unfold the details of the story. When Mi Yun is young, the thought process in the book portrays that of a very young girl, who cannot understand what is going on as her mother puts her on a train alone; a girl gullible enough to believe after several days of being abandoned that her mother would still take her in if Mi Yun could only get back to her. As she sat in the cardboard box she had called her home for several days, while waiting for her uncle to pick her up, “She repeated again, ‘It will be all right. It will be all right. I will find my way back home… I will get back to my mama” (60-61). Then, as more and more people hurt her, beat her, and torture her, Mi Yun’s innocence turns to fear and hate. She stops trying to get help from the local villagers and instead hides as much as possible in shacks, burrows, and caves, stealing food and warmth whenever she could. Each encounter she has with strangers, I was immediately placed in the mind of the young girl, reading her words, thoughts, and fears. On one particular occasion when Mi Yun is caught stealing, she is grabbed by a farmer. As the farmer drags Mi Yun down the street and into a crowd of angry villagers, she cries, “‘Please don’t hurt me… I will leave… Just let me go.’ …Is there any kind person here… someone who will stand up for me, someone who will protect me? She could only see hatred, anger, and disgust on the faces of the villagers” (101). This switch between dialogue, Mi Yun’s thoughts, and narration made me feel thoroughly engrossed in the book, as if I were right there alongside the little girl.

In addition to differing perspectives, Fast also uses realistic details that kept me thoroughly engrossed in the story. For example, there are accurate descriptions of the Korean countryside scattered throughout the book, so I could picture where the events were taking place: “She saw the train tracks running along the rugged mountains… She looked to the right… and scanned the train tracks surrounded by the grass, rice paddies, and more mountains. Turning, she saw behind her only the empty countryside and even more mountains” (75). There are also many descriptive portrayals of Mi Yun: “She was tiny and beautiful in a way that was both Western and Asian. Her eyes were a bit rounder than the other children… Her hair, lighter in color than the rest, had a soft curl to it” (37). These are two of the many examples of Stephanie Fast’s excellent descriptions in She Is Mine. There are also depictions of Mi Yun’s encounters, the places she goes, and the experiences she has. These depictions allowed me to visually picture the characters and scenery, so I could imagine what Mi Yun saw as she suffered.

Finally, there are many events in this novel that caused me to deeply empathize with Mi Yun. One time, when she was caught stealing from a farmer, Mi Yun was dragged to a water mill and tied to it, and the water mill was then turned on. “[Mi Yun] didn’t quite know what was happening, except that the wheel was moving. Its slow rotation took Yoon Myoung to the top, where a flood of water spilled into her face, causing her to sputter and choke…With no time to catch her breath, she was thrust under the murky water as the wheel continued its rotation. Scraping along the graveling bottom of the pond, she felt her face being cut and bruised by the mud and gravel” (103-104). She was raped, beaten, run out of villages, suffered a fall from the hands of strangers that killed the baby she was taking care of, and nearly died from sickness. Many times, I found myself mentally yelling at the other characters, aghast at the inhumanity of the Koreans that Mi Yun encountered. However, no matter how much she went through, someone was always put in her path that cared for her, encouraged her, and helped her to keep going.

The story of Mi Yun is one that captures the interest of every reader, as they learn about the horrors she endured as a result of her origin, from being abandoned by her mother to being refused food by villagers. However, the reader is constantly reminded that someone is watching out for Mi Yun through the little things that happen to her along the way. The end of the story renews one’s confidence that God is always watching over us, no matter how hard life becomes. But, if you would like to know what this incredible ending is, you will have to read Stephanie Fast’s She Is Mine.

Written by Michelle

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The Unique History of Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it’s time to prepare for family, feasting, and football. Timeless traditions surround this holiday, and it seems as though every American is aware of its origins. As a kid, I remember dressing up as a Pilgrim or Native American to celebrate a Thanksgiving feast just as they did in 1621. We learned that these two very different people came together to celebrate and feast together, which is the reason why we celebrate the same thing today. But, there are many facts about this historical event that the average person, including me until I wrote this blog, does not know.

When the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe joined together to feast in Plymouth, Massachusetts, they had no intentions of celebrating on a yearly basis. For them, it was just a big get-together where everyone brought a dish of food to share. So, this was technically the first American potluck during the colonial days. The Pilgrims often dedicated days of thanksgiving to God when harvests or other good things occurred. When they finished feasting on their harvest with the neighboring Indians, they dedicated themselves to acts of thanksgiving.

This custom grew as the colonies expanded, and by the 19th century, many U.S. States adopted the holiday as an annual event. Abraham Lincoln selected the final Thursday of November as the day to celebrate Thanksgiving in 1863, but Franklin D. Roosevelt changed it to the fourth Thursday of November in 1939 to increase the shopping days before Christmas. Every U.S. president has delivered a Thanksgiving proclamation of some sort. However, the common pardon that is given out to one turkey did not begin until 1989 with George H.W. Bush. This tradition calls for the U.S. president to pardon a domesticated turkey from the Thanksgiving Day festivities for the rest of its life. Ever since, the turkey pardon has been an entertaining and enjoyable tradition for all to watch, unless you’re a turkey.

The large amounts of food are one of the best parts of Thanksgiving. Every year, I eat far too much and usually regret it, but isn’t that what Thanksgiving is all about? Every family dines differently on this day, but the most popular food for Thanksgiving is turkey. I grew up eating turkey every Thanksgiving, so I cannot imagine one without it. Despite this popular practice, there is no record of turkey being eaten by the Pilgrims in 1621. Instead, they ate venison as the main dish. Also, the popular Thanksgiving dessert, pumpkin pie, was not on the menu during the first Thanksgiving either. The Pilgrims were really missing out.

Perhaps the oddest part about the history of Thanksgiving is the various towns that claim to have started the Thanksgiving tradition before the Plymouth settlers. A small town in Texas called San Elizario makes claims for having the first Thanksgiving in America. In 1598, a Spanish explorer led a group of settlers across the Mexican desert. When they finally reached the banks of the Rio Grande River, they celebrated with thanksgiving. This Texan town is not the only place to declare its Thanksgiving claims. Berkeley Plantation in Virginia also argues that they started the tradition in 1619, just two years before the Plymouth settlers celebrated. Both towns reenact their own Thanksgiving Day events and defend their claims as the original location of Thanksgiving.

Regardless, thanksgiving has been a huge part of our culture. Many things have changed, but the values remain the same. It’s a time when we can relax with others and slide into a coma from all the delicious food. More importantly, it’s a time when everyone can reflect on their lives and give thanks for what they have been blessed with.

Written by Jack

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Works Cited:

Shenkman, Rick. “Top 10 Myths About Thanksgiving.” History News Network, 2001. https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/406.

History.com Editors. “Mayflower Myths.” HISTORY, 2009.https://www.history.com/topics/thanksgiving/mayflower-myths.

Bathroom Readers Institute. “6 Things Everyone Believes About Thanksgiving That AreAbsolutely Untrue.” Reader’s Digest, 2018. https://www.rd.com/culture/thanksgiving-myths/.

Monkman, Betty C. “Pardoning the Thanksgiving Turkey.” The White House Historical Association, 27 September 2018.  https://www.whitehousehistory.org/pardoning-the-thanksgiving-turkey.

Rosenberg, Jennifer. “How FDR Changed Thanksgiving.” ThoughtCo., 2017. https://www.thoughtco.com/how-fdr-changed-thanksgiving-1779285.

Veteran’s Day and the Ethics of Honor

President Wilson’s words at the commemoration of the first Armistice Day in 1919 ring true to this day: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.” Germany and the allied nations signed a peace treaty known as the Treaty of Versailles, ending World War I on November 11th. That day was declared a day to not only remember World War I veterans, but to observe and maintain world peace as well.

Armistice Day gave birth to Veteran’s Day in 1954. Though many hoped and even proclaimed that World War I would be “the end of all wars,” World War II followed and brought that hope to a tragic end. Furthermore, a great number of soldiers, airmen, sailors, and several other military personnel were deployed for this war, leading the 83rd Congress to replace the word “Armistice” with “Veterans” to honor veterans of all wars.

Veteran’s Day is often easily confused with Memorial Day. While Veteran’s Day is a day to honor the living veterans of all wars, Memorial Day was established a year after the Civil War to honor those who fell in active duty. Both holidays are celebrated in a similar way and can even be interchangeable, but what they each stand for possesses distinct uniqueness. Moreover, Veteran’s Day honors men and women who have served in the military, regardless of whether it was in combat or not. Several people go out of their way to celebrate Veteran’s Day; from decorations and gatherings, to free goods and services for veterans, there are many ways people choose to express their gratitude and appreciation.

Most people agree that war is brutal and ugly, but when a nation is faced with the question “why are we going to war?” the answers vary, which makes it a rather controversial topic that garners some serious reactions from people across the political spectrum. Though Veteran’s Day is a national holiday, those who served aren’t always treated with the honor and respect they deserve. For instance, veterans of the Vietnam War were not fortunate enough to get a festive reception. This was due to the fact that the US neither had an objective or declared war beforehand, which caused the rise of an extremely contentious political climate during the war.

Students on university campuses and in the academic society started an anti-Vietnam War movement; soon, protests became more prominent and drew people’s attention to the reality of the war. When the soldiers that fought in the Vietnam War returned home, they didn’t get a hero’s welcome. Several veterans testified about being mistreated, insulted, and in some cases, assaulted. Another war that was ethically, morally, and politically controversial was the Iraq War. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq due to their alleged possession of “weapons of mass destruction,” an idea that was not clearly verified. Both wars took so many lives and nearly destroyed nations for reasons that are not clear to this day, which is why many felt the need to protest and oppose.

Some might begin to wonder if there is an instance where one should or shouldn’t honor a veteran. Most of the people that decide to either protest or refrain from celebrating holidays like Veteran’s Day have probably wondered the same thing as well. The answer to the question depends on the individual, but there are some factors we can consider to help guide us towards it. Sometimes, men and women in armed forces can decided whether or not they wish to serve; however, like in the Vietnam War, many had no choice but to serve and were simply following orders from their superiors. Therefore, despising them and blaming them for everything doesn’t change the situation.

Everyone has the right to agree or disagree with the government’s decisions on wars, and they have the freedom of speech to express that too. However, political criticism should be the last thing veterans get considering the several challenges they face that are often unique to their circumstances and background as former military personnel. On Veteran’s Day, the focus should be on the bravery and will of the human spirit displayed through ordinary men and women who exhibit extraordinary courage. The least we can do is to put our politics aside, take time out of our day to give back, and help make them feel appreciated.

Written by Kenean

Sources

Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs. “Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs.” Learn to Communicate Assertively at Work, 20 Mar. 2006, www.va.gov/opa/vetsday/vetdayhistory.asp.

IowaPublicTelevision. “Experiences of Vietnam Veterans Returning Home from War.” YouTube, YouTube, 21 Oct. 2015, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6t9jchhVRg.

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The Fulcrum of Academic Writing

There is one aspect of academic writing that has confused writers for centuries. One sentence has initiated the rise and fall of papers, caused worried high school and college scholars to lose sleep at night, and affected the comprehension of papers everywhere the English language is written. As authors near the end of their introduction paragraph, they are faced with the daunting task of writing the sentence that, in many ways, determines the success of their paper: the thesis sentence.

As a writing consultant, the most common question I receive is “what is a thesis?” Second to this one is the question, “Why does my thesis matter?” If a student writes a paper with a good introduction, body, and conclusion, can one sentence really be that important?

The answer to those last two questions is a most definite YES! Think about it this way: Have you ever been listening to a friend ramble on and on about some subject, but you have no idea what his or her point is? This has happened to me, and sometimes, after a few minutes, I want to say, “Just get to the point!” And I’m sure others around me often feel the same urge! Or, have you ever read a paper or book, but, at the end, been unaware of what the author want to you learn from it? Well, the purpose of the thesis is to clarify said point. Papers are similar to such long verbal explanations. The thesis allows the main idea, the attitude regarding this idea, and the main sub-points that are going to be discussed to be introduced early in the writing.  This sentence allows the reader to know what he or she is getting into, so to speak, when this person begins to read your paper.

In order to avoid such ramblings, you may ask how to compose a thesis, which is such a necessary aspect of your written masterpiece. There are three important components of a strong thesis: the main idea, the attitude or indication of the writer’s position on said idea, and the reasoning (2-3 main points) that support said attitude.

Let’s look at an example: “Cats are amazing because they have an independent disposition, playful tendencies, and adorable behaviors.” Whether you agree with this statement or not, we have our topic (cats), our attitude (that they are amazing), and our three points (disposition, tendencies, and behaviors), and it would be my job as the author to prove this point to you in the rest of my paper. A strong thesis statement will not only excite our readers about what is to come but also help us, as writers, to follow a logical order in our writing process.

Of course, there are many ways to write theses; the one above is just the simplest way to do so: subject first, followed by the attitude then the main points. We could also flip that sentence around to say, “Due to their independent attitude, playful tendencies, and adorable behaviors, cats are clearly the most amazing pet to own” OR “Their independent attitude, playful tendencies, and adorable behaviors cause cats to be the best all-around pet.” These theses communicate the same message but emphasize the topic and sub-points in different ways. Each style is used to stress a particular part of a thesis or to relate parts of the thesis to each other in a unique way. However, the order of the components of the thesis pales in comparison to the importance of actually including these three parts, arranged in a logical manner.

In scientific terms, the thesis is the hypothesis attempting to be proved by the experiment of your paper. It is the position of your debate, the climax of your story, and the blueprints to your building. It is the fulcrum of academic writing, and you must learn the importance and “how-to’s” of thesis writing, as it will determine the comprehension, flow, and success of every paper you write for the rest of your life.

Written by Michelle

For more information on thesis statements and other writing subjects, check out our Writing a Thesis handout and the Quick Reference Flyers page of our website!