A Death in the Family by James Agee

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Personally, I would say that this is definitely a book that I didn’t hate about the reading list I have to go through for school. It captures the authentic emotions of the main character, Rufus, who had to confront his father’s death. But as a very little kid, Rufus doesn’t really know much about what it means to die and how feels like to have someone intimate to you die. Therefore, the author does an amazing job at portraying the internal thinking processes of the characters.

Moreover, what I really loved about this book was the focus of religion. Unlike some of the other novels, delineating Christianity and God as deities that cannot be offended or questioned, this novel, on the other hand, exemplifies characters who don’t believe, or even curse the reality of religion and hold a suspicious attitude toward the existence of Jesus.

Lastly, the detailed expression of the characters’, especially Mary, Rufus’ mother. She was generally seen as a feminine character who takes very good care of Jay, her husband, and the two children. However, when the breadwinner of the family dies, she was forced to confront the harshness of reality and be both the father and the mother to her children. Similarly, this reflects an aspect of our modern society where women can be psychologically strong and support their children even without the help of men in cases of divorce, death, and others where the male influence is missing.

-Coreen C. 

A Death in the Family by James Agee is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Written in 1898, The Awakening follows the main protagonist Edna Pontellier. Edna begins to feel somewhat out of place and out of touch with the morals and customs typically followed by the other women in her community. Her view on femininity and her roles as a mother begin to deviate from the norm, making her feel even more out of place from the other women. The novel follows her journey into discovering herself and her attempts to break free from society as she slowly becomes “Awakened”.

Under the surface of this novel, however, is a discussion of women’s roles in society during the late 1800s / early 1900s. Kate Chopin uses various characters– Edna herself included– throughout this novel to help reflect some of the social norms and attitudes to women’s place in society during the time she wrote the novel. Oftentimes hailed as one of the earliest works and novels on feminism, this book clearly highlighted to anyone that read it that women were being subjugated and that there were plenty of women who were unhappy with the traditional motherly role expected of them. Because of Chopin’s controversial portrayal of this fact, the novel would often be censored. Over time, however, this novel would grow to become recognized for its brilliance and its importance in discussing femininity and women’s roles in society.

-Kobe L.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library