Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

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Have you ever thought about the future- what you plan to be and how you plan to get there? Well, unfortunately, this book puts a sad twist to the future and paints it in a gloomy way.

Willy Loman, your typical, average man, is down on his luck. He isn’t getting enough salary even though he has been with his company for 35 years, despite his brother in law being in a different company for the same length of time, and somehow is so much richer than him. While his son hates him, Willy sometimes blames it on his son’s laziness, and the other times the fact that his son is working too hard and doesn’t know what he wants.

So what does he do? Well, he’s a traveling salesman, so he sells the only thing he has left. Guess.

There are a couple of things to note about this novel. First, it’s a play, so the dialogue is easy to stand out, and one can know who’s talking. And thankfully, unlike Shakespeare’s plays, this play is only two acts long, which was just over a hundred pages in the copy I had, so it was easy to read.

Second, the theme. I won’t even talk about the fact that the author considers the American Dream fading, or even his interpretation of capitalism. No, I will instead talk about the other characters. Willy’s wife, Linda Loman, is down on her luck too, as although she gives Willy everything, including her undying loyalty no matter what he does, he still treats her without love. The son that hates Willy, Biff, is just a man like us teenagers (except he’s 34) that tries to talk to Willy, but gives up because Willy wouldn’t listen to him. And Willy’s second son, who is often forgotten about by Willy, has to face abandonment issues not only from his father, but from his mother too, in which not even him saying that he was getting married made them happy.

Overall, Miller claims that we all know a Willy Loman, and although his story ends in tragedy, it does not have to be this way for us.

-Megan V, 12th grade

Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

American Street by Ibi Zoboi

In her new novel, American Street, Ibi Zoboi creates a different type of story which is both full of truth and meaning.  The first thing I noticed when I picked up the book, however, was the names.  And how much Zoboi was able to do with them.  Our protagonist, Fabiola Toussaint, shares an inspiring story through narrated as well as journalistic chapters, and I loved all of it.  Though not based on a true story, the author has taken the voice of each character and has written from their own fictitious hearts, almost as if she were interviewing them.  Blending the American lifestyle of today’s Detroit and a coming-of-age teenager’s story from Haiti made for a truly extraordinary read.

Fabiola:

According to my papers, I’m not even supposed to be here.  I’m not a citizen.  I’m a “resident alien.”  The borders don’t care if we’re all human and my heart pumps blood the same as everyone else’s.

Not only does this message strike home for my beliefs, but it is truly and utterly relevant.  Fabiola, conned ‘Fabulous’ by friends at school, was born in Haiti to a life supported by her American aunt. The story starts out as Fabiola leaves the airport without her mother, detained by the immigration officers.  This vulnerability reaches the reader on a deep level.  If this scene was cut from the novel, Fabiola would be treated as any other modern-day damsel in distress finding her way around twenty-first century Detroit.

What makes her story so special was the way it spoke to the reader.  It was unlike many other novels recently released, in that the reader felt something more than joy or sadness.  At some point in one’s life, they will experience being in a new and unfamiliar place.  Nothing seems to stop to allow one to catch up.  It is as if nobody else cares.  Zoboi captured this shared human feeling stunningly.

On a scale of ‘one’ to ‘amazing’, I would definitely rate American Street ‘amazing’.  Readers can also learn something new about cultures and their collision on the corner of American Street and Joy Road.

-Maya S.

American Street by Ibi Zoboi is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library