Monday, October 6, 2008

The Bean Trees (T/TH D)

Welcome to the discussion.

15 comments:

Sam said...

Individual Entry #1

The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver begins with Missy, a poor girl who grows up in Kentucky, telling a story about Newt Hardbine. She notes that Newt is a high school drop out who impregnates a girl, Jolene, and marries her. Missy gets a job at a hospital and continues Newt’s story by recounting the day that Newt is rushed into the hospital, dead, with Jolene with a bullet through her shoulder. Newt had shot both him and his wife. Missy then narrates the story of her leaving town. She bought a car and as she drives promises herself two things. First she promises that she will change her name to whatever town she drives to, and this is where Missy changed her name to Taylor, after Taylorville. She also promises herself that she will drive as far west as she can, and settle where she runs out of gas. This brings her to a Cherokee Indian reservation in Oklahoma. Here, at a bar, a stranger gives Taylor a baby to keep.
Taylor’s story is interrupted with the story of Lou Ann Ruiz. Lou Ann is a single pregnant girl living in Arizona. Her husband had left her because after his car accident the two lost their relationship. Lou Ann is at the doctor’s office for a check-up on her pregnancy when she returns home to find her husband gone with half of their things.
The story then returns back to Taylor and her life in Oklahoma with her new baby, Turtle. Turtle got her name because of her “firm grip.” Taylor and Turtle continue to drive from Oklahoma to Arizona when they get two flat tires and meet Mattie at a shop called Jesus is Lord Used Tires. Taylor is inspired by Mattie because Mattie understands cars and runs her and her husbands business. At the end of their visit Mattie shows Taylor and Turtle some purple beans that were given to her by her Chinese next door neighbor. Taylor doesn’t have much luck here in Arizona because she can’t find a job.
The story is again turned over to Lou Ann. Lou Ann has given birth to her new baby, Dwayne Ray, on January 1, just 45 minutes late of being the first baby of the year. She wishes that she had him earlier to get the year supply of diapers which would have helped her financially. Because Lou Ann’s mother and grandmother have come to visit, Lou Ann’s husband Angel has moved back in with her to keep the separation a secret from the family. Lou Ann’s grandmother suggests that Lou Ann baptize Dwayne Ray. She brings Lou Anne a bottle of foggy water from the Tug Fork River, in Kentucky, which drunken Angel pours out.

I choose the Bean Trees after a recommendation that the book was very good. I had also read several positive reviews that all supported this exhilarating book. So far I do not think the past four chapters are living up to my expectations. It is not as big of a page turner that I thought it would be. Even so, I am not bored with the book and I do have hope that the rest will be more entertaining, and live up to its highly recommended status.
The theme of this book applies to our first unit of work, class and identity. The main characters, Lou Ann and Taylor both come from poor families. Taylor buys a broken down car and just drives, where she can not afford to buy two new tires when they go flat. She is also very impressed and inspired by Minnie who is making an excellent name out of herself. Minnie knows cars and she knows how to run a business, while Taylor can not even get a job at this point. Lou Ann rides the bus everywhere, and wanted to rely on a year supply of dippers for her new son. Lou Ann is a very weak person who relies on others to help support her. She relies on her husband and she was hoping her child was born at the right time.
So far I do not think this book is as good of a read as I have heard, but I do have hope that it will get better now that the storyline has begun to unwind. The story could get very interesting and I hope that it will begin to become a page turner. At this point it is too soon to tell whether or not this book is of social or cultural value, or has artistic or literary merit. The story line seems to make it important and noteworthy as it describes typical single women of that time with a child. It was originally published in 1988. For the past 20 years it has been a classroom read so it will probably be a book that can stand the length of time.

Jackie Porter said...

Individual Response
Jackie Porter
Entry # 1

The Bean Trees, by Barbara Kingsolver, is a novel that has been comparing the life of Missy (Taylor) and Lou Ann from Tucson, Arizona thus far. The initial chapter begins with Missy explaining her concerns about inflating a tractor's tires. Missy claims, "I saw a tractor tire blow up and throw Newt Hardbine's father over the top of the Standard Oil Sign. I am not lying. He got stuck up there"(1). Newt Hardbine is a boy who is growing up in Pittman Country, Kentucky, the same town Missy is from. He is living under the same poor conditions as she is. Taylor attends high school with Newt Hardbine until he drops out some time later. Newt impregnates Jolene Shanks and, due to this, he resorts to marrying her. This incident leads Taylor to rule out any ideas of pregnancy in her mind.
A science teacher at Taylor's school suggests that Taylor applies for a job at the Pittman Country Hospital and begins working there. One day, while Taylor was working in the hospital, he saw Newt and Jolene Shanks being brought into the emergency room. Taylor noted that Newt was dead and Jolene was bleeding from a gunshot wound in the arm. "I didn't have time to think about what that meant before Jolene Shanks, or Hardbine rather, was rolled in on a wheelchair and then came a stretcher right behind her, which they parked out in the hallway"( Kingsolver 7). Hardbine had shot Jolene and himself. Taylor was affected by this incident, but still held her job at the hospital.
Taylor later buys a rundown 1955 Volkswagen so that she is able to leave Pittman County. Taylor rides the car until she is stopped due to the lack of gas in her car in Taylorville. Shortly after she finishes her car travel in Oklahoma, particularly Cherokee Nation, her car breaks down. Sometime after her arrival she enters a bar for refreshments and heads back to her car. There she is given a baby to take care of. Taylor takes off again and finds herself at a cheap motel and is allowed to stay there. She finds that her new baby has been abused and is covered in bruises. Chapter one ends with Taylor writing to her mother, informing her, "I have found my head rights, mama. They're coming with me"(23).
Chapter two begins when Taylor enters Tucson, Arizona and meets Lou Ann who is pregnant. Lou Ann's husband left her and she is struggling with the idea of raising her child alone. Lou Anne begins by explaining her story before her husband left her. First, Lou Ann must do a number of things to help her pregnancy develop healthy, including losing weight. Lou Ann resorts to getting assistance from anyone she can get it from. Lee Sing, a worker at a store for obtaining dieting food, informs Lou Ann that she will have a girl. Later Lou Ann sees that her husband has left her and taken worthless positions in her eyes. She reminisces about herself, weeping as she concludes her story.
It is Christmas time in the start of chapter three and Taylor stays with her baby in a hotel room in Oklahoma. Taylor decides to name her child Turtle and, soon after, Taylor and Turtle leave and drive to Arizona. Taylor gets two flat ties and finds herself at Jesus is Lord Used Tires. Mattie, the manager, invites Taylor and Turtle to snack on crackers and juice as a sign of her hospitality. Mattie explains a lot about herself. She informs Taylor that her late husband opened the shop. From clues arising in conversation, Taylor concludes Mattie is very familiar with the business.
Within chapter three the first mention of beans comes up. Mattie says, "They're originally from seeds she brought over with her in nineteen-ought- seven"(46). The purple beans are very essential to the Chinese culture and have been passed down through generations. Taylor stays in the Hotel Republic for a night's sleep. Taylor meets a nice girl named Sandy who is very enthusiastic about Kentucky, and Taylor feels comfortable with Sandy.
In chapter four, Lou Ann gives birth to Dwanye Ray. Lou Ann receives a great amount of help from her mother and grandmother. Lou Ann's mother is very religious and wants her great grandson to be baptized. Lou Ann's separation from her husband is a secret to her family at this time and her husband comes back to Lou Ann's home to pretend as though everything is normal with their relationship. Lou Ann's ex-husband was drunk and discarded the water Dwanye Ray's great grandmother gave him to be baptized.
The Bean Trees is a simple book with a complex plot. The reading is simple, but the two stories between Taylor and Lou Ann are simultaneous and both of their stories have numerous details that build into a larger story. The story is somewhat engaging and hopefully will lead into a wonderful story about how a teenager emerges into a woman. My expectations for the book are that it remains entertaining but not too complex that it becomes hard to follow. I also want all the characters to grow into working class individuals who become a help to the Tucson society where they live. The book should include some emergence of a significance of bean trees so that the title of the book and the story actually correlate. I am curious to see how the title will be incorporated into the book.
I chose this book because it sounded very interesting and I was intrigued primarily by the title. Olivia said that it was a great book that involved deep concepts through clear text. I also read the back of the book and it grabbed my attention.
The ongoing theme that I have seen present thus far is a significant emphasis on class. Taylor and her mother are very unfortunate and when Taylor leaves her home, she simply worsens the situation. The author constantly refers to the money and the lack of money possessed by the characters of the story, mainly Lou Ann and Taylor. Angel, Lou Ann's ex-husband, says, "The baby would have kids of its own before she could start saving that many pennies"(Kingsolver 33). Angel was referring to Lou Ann's lack of money. As it has been perceived, the majority of the characters are from the lower class. I am curious to see how the book will continue.
The book is very good as far as I can tell, and I am looking forward to continuing to read it. There are slow times in the book that are hard to get through; therefore, this is not a page-turner. The explanations of Taylor's road trip and circumstances she faced were much too long and carried on for a few pages. I am engaged to a small degree, but am desperately seeking what is coming in the book.
The book has social value and discusses the challenges of surviving in America as a teenager with financial difficulties. I hope that Taylor grows to be more successful in her finances and personal expenses. It is very hard to judge if the book is of artistic or literary merit because I need to be further through the book to make that conclusion.
This story could be a reality for some Americans in the 1980's and even today. Many Americans struggle to support themselves and I believe that many of these people are on the move in America and stay low-key to the public so they do not draw attention to themselves. The book could potentially be made into a movie from my perspective. It has a very complex plot that would be portrayed through a movie. The only problem could potentially be that it is a dull story, and I am truly hoping the book becomes more entertaining.
The author, Barbara Kingsolver, is most likely trying to send a message based on class through context clues. I am curious to see how the book will progress and am looking forward to continuing to uncover the major themes and how the plot will advance.

mdb1992 said...

Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees begins with the story of Missy Greer, who begins her life in Kentucky in the small, rural town of Pittman. Missy’s real name is Marietta, but as a child, she insisted on being called Miss Marietta. Missy explains, “I told my own mother not to call me Marietta but Miss Marietta, as I had to call all people including children in the houses where she worked Miss this or Mister that” (2). So, her mother began calling her Missy and the name stuck. Missy lives with her mother. Her father left when her mother became pregnant because he did not want a baby.
Missy has a goal to leave her hometown. She stays in school and makes sure not to become pregnant, as many other girls are pregnant in her town. Missy gets a job at a hospital and works there for over five years. She gives some of her earnings to her mother and saves some. While Missy is at work, two people are brought in for X-rays, which Missy helps with. Newt Hardbine, who is dead after shooting himself and his girlfriend, and Newt’s girlfriend, Jolene, who survives but is injured. Seeing these people makes Missy upset and even more determined to leave her town.
Missy buys an old car with the money from her job and begins driving west. Her goals are to give herself a new name, which would be wherever her car runs out of gas (this happens to be in Taylorville, so Missy’s new name is Taylor) and to stay in whatever town her car runs out of gas. She does stay in Taylorville, though. She keeps driving. Missy eventually reaches a bar in Oklahoma, where she buys a burger for herself. As she is leaving, an Indian woman who had been sitting in the bar gives her a baby. Missy must keep the baby and eventually reaches a hotel. She convinces the hotel worker to let her stay the night free of charge, since she does not have enough money to pay. Missy needs to stay at a hotel to give the baby a warm place to stay and dry clothes. When she is bathing the baby, who she names Turtle, she realizes that the baby had been sexually abused. Missy is dumbfounded by this but continues to take care of her new family member.
The book switches over in the second chapter to a story about a woman in Tucson, named Lou Ann Ruiz. She is pregnant and due in two months, and her husband, Angel, just left her, on Halloween. Lou Ann and Angel’s relationship had continually broken down since a car accident three years earlier, in which Angel lost part of his leg. Angel does not even tell Lou Ann he is leaving. He does not take much with him, but they do not have much to begin with. Lou Ann is left broken by Angel leaving her. Her feelings are felt clearly in the following excerpt: “She didn’t miss the books [Angel had taken] so much as she was hurt by the ugly empty spaces left behind, like missing teeth, the books on either side falling and crowding into the gaps” (33). Lou Ann’s feelings of hurt and loneliness make the reader feel sympathetic. The author’s writing makes the reader relate with Lou Ann and connect with her emotionally.
This book is meeting my expectations. I chose to read it because Mrs. Elliot and a student had recommended it, explaining how good it was when they read it. I picked up the book in the book store and, while it is said not to judge a book by its cover, the front cover of the book intrigued me, as did the title. Hearing the title made me want to see what this book would be about.
The theme of the book can definitely be seen as class. Both Missy and Lou Ann are poor with babies to raise. Neither have a male figure in their lives, either. These issues of single parenthood and being poor are related to class. Both women would be seen in society as part of the Lower Class, but it seems that they are making efforts to give their babies the best lives possible. Missy is making sure Turtle is bathed and put in clean clothes and makes this a priority. Sometimes, there are stereotypes in society that in the Lower Class, children will be neglected and not have good lives. Lou Ann tries to educate herself on her pregnancy by reading pamphlets on pre-natal care from the doctor’s office. This is also proving wrong a possible belief in society that members of the Lower Class are uneducated and stupid. Lou Ann is making an effort to eat right for her baby and prepare for her baby.
When I read the back of the book, where the description is, I was afraid this would be a story that has already been told too many times (clich├ęd), but so far, I am really enjoying the book. (I was afraid this would be more of a novel aimed at teenagers and not have much of a plot, but I am finding out that the story is very well developed, even from the beginning. The following quote from the back of the book is what led me to this assumption: “Meet Taylor Greer. Clear-eyed and spirited, she grew up poor in rural Kentucky with two goals: to avoid pregnancy and to get away.” I realized quickly that my ideas on the content of the book were completely wrong and am happy I chose this book to read.) I like the author’s style of writing and am looking forward to reading more of the book. The author drew me in right away. I like the tone of the book. It is conversational and helps me develop a good picture of what the characters would be like if they were real. The book is important because it draws attention to the Lower Class and, at least from what I have read so far, shows how the people in this book prove wrong those who make judgments about this class (i.e. the assumption that they are uneducated). This book seems like it will stand the test of time because it draws the reader in easily. One does not need knowledge of any past (historical) events to understand this book, for example, so it may easily be a timeless book.

Sam said...

Group Entry #1

Today’s discussion began as Jackie, Michelle and I laughed over the following quote, “We’re just starting a soy milk collective. A house requirement is that each person spend at least 7 hours a week straining curd.” While Taylor is looking to rent a room in a house she is first interview by a strange woman named Fei, who tells her this. Michelle, Jackie and I spent a few moments laughing at this quote because it is very random and bizarre. Fei tells Taylor that she will have to spend 7 hours a week straining curd. This is something that most people are not told on an interview.
Our discussion officially began when we brought up the connection of Taylor and Lou Ann. As I noted in my first individual entry I was waiting for the point in the book where both of their paths would cross. Jackie agreed with me but Michelle on the other hand was very surprised that their paths crossed. When Taylor moved in with Lou Ann, “the pieces of the puzzle” connected. Before this point in the book each chapter alternated telling the story of either Lou Ann or Taylor, and now that they are living together they are sharing the same story.
In our discussion today in class we compared the two main characters, Taylor and Lou Ann. We discovered that they are both very similar. Lou and Taylor were both born in Kentucky and happened to end up in Arizona under the same roof. They are both single “mothers.” Lou Ann has her son Dwayne Ray, and Taylor can be called the foster mother or caretaker of a girl named Turtle. Both of these women are from the poorer lower class. Lou Ann doesn’t have a job and is living off of the checks her ex husband Angel has been sending her. Taylor is having trouble finding a lasting job and at this point is currently working at Mattie’s tire shop. Mattie has taught Taylor to get over her fear of tires. Mattie is another important character in this book because she adds to the theme of working class. Taylor and Lou Ann work together in the book as the lower working class. Mattie on the other hand is trying to make something of herself. She is a woman who owns a tire shop and is very educated on the mechanics. Mattie acts as an idol for Taylor.
Jackie, Michelle and I were confused about Turtles story. We learned that Turtle has a growing defect that stunned her growth. While Taylor thought she was 2 years old she was actually 3. We didn’t understand how she could be so off. I imagined when Taylor was given Turtle that Turtle was a newborn. I imagined her being wrapped up in blankets, and we didn’t understand how her age could not be recognized at this point.
Turtle often talks about vegetables and beans. Mattie had mentioned to Taylor the story of her purple beans. It will be interesting to see how much the bean trees play in this book.

Sam said...

Individual Entry #2

Much was read from Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees in the past week. Our group discussion consisted of chapters five through eight. Taylor has been having some troubles settling down in Arizona. She is having a hard time finding a job and when she finally gets one at the Burger Derby, she ends up getting fired because of conflicts with her boss. Taylor then finds herself looking for a room to rent for herself and Turtle. In chapter 5 Taylor and Lou Ann’s stories are joined together when Taylor rents an extra room in Lou Ann’s house. The two women immediately connect with their laughter.
Now that Taylor has a place to sleep all she needs is a job. Mattie returns in the story and offers Taylor a position at Jesus is Lord Used Tires. At first Taylor is hesitant to accept this job because of her fear of tires, but eventually does. She gets over her fear of tires quickly. Mattie even gives Taylor two new tires for the ones that she blew out on her way to Arizona. Lou Ann and Taylor’s relationship begins to become odd. Taylor goes to work and Lou Ann cooks and watches Dwayne Ray and Turtle.
Two new characters, Esperanza and Estevan are introduced at a picnic in the next chapter. Esperanza, Estevan, Mattie, Taylor, Lou Ann, Turtle and Dwayne Ray are out for a picnic lunch. Here Estevan tells Taylor that Turtle reminds them of a child they knew back home, in Guatemala. On the way home Turtle makes her first sound which was laughter, and then later says her first word, bean.
It is evident in the next chapters that Turtle enjoys to say the names of vegetables such as beans, and cabbage. At this point when Taylor takes Turtle to a doctor she finds out some disturbing news. Turtle has a growth condition, and while it appeared that Turtle was two years old, she was actually three. More information about Turtle comes out when Lou Ann mentions the month of April and Turtle turns to look at her. Lou Ann and Taylor conclude that Turtles real name is actually April.
Chapter nine begins with the news of Esperanza’s attempted suicide. Taylor and Estevan have a long conversation filled with many stories while Esperanza is in the hospital, and Taylor cannot help herself from being attracted to him. Taylor finds out why Estevan and Esperanza moved to America. In their country they held valuable information about the teacher union which the government wanted. The government took Esperanza and Estevan’s child as a ransom for the information but the couple would not sell themselves out so they left the country. They later found out that their daughter had been adopted by a family. That night Taylor begins the night off sleeping on the couch with Estevan but moves to her bed when she remembers how much Esperanza suffered that day.
The next day Lou Ann and Taylor sit and talk at a park while Dwayne Ray and Turtle play. Turtle, still finds pleasure with vegetables, looks up at the vines on one of the trees, sees the flowers becoming pods and says “bean trees.” That day Taylor goes to visit Esperanza and the two end up having an emotional conversation. Taylor tells Esperanza to never give up hope for finding her lost daughter. Taylor is happy to find out that Lou Ann is finally out searching for a job. In her interview that day a man called her sweetheart and kept looking at her.
In chapter 11 Lou Ann finally gets a job, and even promoted to floor manager, at a salsa factory and brings home salsa and recipes every night. Taylor has now taken over the role of making dinner and taking care of the children after work. Lou Ann also receives a package and letter from Angel. Angel wants Lou Ann and Dwayne Ray to live with him. While Lou Ann struggles with making a choice, Taylor beings to worry that Lou Ann will leave her and also that Esperanza and Estevan will get deported back to Guatemala.
Mattie, Taylor, Esperanza and Estevan celebrate “New Years” in July with the first rain. Mattie tells them that when the first rain came down it would be the New Year for Indians. They rain fell for a while and then stopped and moved on. When Taylor returns home from work that day she comes home to a very upset Lou Ann. She finds out that that day Turtle was attacked and beaten by someone while she was with Mrs. Parsons, who is blind. Because Mrs. Parsons is blind she does not know what happened. Investigators come and find Taylor badly bruised, but no signs of molestation. Taylor is upset and begins to go in a state of depression where she has stopped eating and started to spend more time working.

The Bean Trees is starting to rise up to my expectations. It was recommended to me and originally I could not see why and I did not care for the plot, but sometimes you have to read a few chapters into the book before the book begins to become exciting. Each chapter presents a new story in the lives of Lou Ann and Taylor. In each chapter the plot begins to strengthen and keeps me turning the pages. As I was told, the book is a page turner and is also very easy to read. It is a very good book to read that is easy to get through. There are not any parts in the book where I reach boredom.
The ongoing theme of class is still apparent throughout the book. Both Lou Ann and Taylor are struggling to survive off of what they have. Luckily they have each other to conspire with. The two have to overcome the place that they hold in the lower class. Over the past few chapters the theme of work is also starting to become more apparent. We find out that Lou Ann has now finally started a job, and Taylor continues to work at the Tire shop. The two have to work to provide for their families. They work during the days and then again at night, at home, while they take care of their children. Both work and class are evident themes in this book.
After getting through the first four chapters I have changed my opinion on this book. I began to enjoy it around chapter 5 and now at chapter 12 as the plot strengthens it continue to become even more of a good read. It is very entertaining and provides me with a story of the lives of people who struggle with their class and working. In these chapters Turtle keeps speaking of beans and the bean trees. I am very curious to find out how the bean trees will become so important that they named the book. Every chapter interests me and I can now call this book a page turner. It is very engaging and interests me on a different level. Novels like The Bean Trees are not books that usually catch my eye; in fact this is the first book of its kind that I have read. It is very engaging and brings about a new genre of books that are of interest to me. This book stands to be a book with social value. The Bean Trees is a story of two young women’s lives in America as they try to overcome to difficulties of their class through work. It is noteworthy because it alters the view of different classes in America. A lot of times we do not know of the experiences people like Taylor and Lou Ann struggle with. This book will definitely stand the test of time for the reasons that it gives an alternate view on classes in America. We hear of people who are rich, successful and then those in poverty. But the stories of those in between are not always clear to us. This book provides me with a new view on the American class system.

Michelle said...

Michelle Blair
Individual Blog Entry #2

In the past week of reading Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees, the plot has taken an interesting turn that I did not expect. Instead of chapters alternating between Lou Ann and Taylor, their lives cross paths and the story is instead told (for the rest of the book) from Taylor’s point of view. Taylor decides to move out of the hotel she has been staying in and look for a place to stay and pay rent. She interviews two different sets of people: a group of roommates who told Taylor she must be “open to new things” and to Lou Ann and Dwayne Ray’s household. Taylor decides she would not fit in with the first household, in which she would be expected to donate a minimum of 7 hours a week to straining curd for soybeans. She moves on to Lou Ann’s house, and they get along well
enough and a living arrangement is made.

Taylor knew she needed a job (after getting fired from the local burger restaurant), and Mattie offered her one at Jesus is Lord Tires. She is afraid to take the job but takes it anyway and begins to overcome her fear of tires. Turtle is learning to speak and focuses on naming vegetables. Both Turtle and Dwayne Ray are generally quiet children. Taylor knows Turtle observes a lot, and even though she does not speak much, she retains what she hears. Lou Ann is constantly worried about Dwayne Ray, always fearing the worst.
Taylor and Lou Ann go on a picnic with Mattie and her friends, Estevan and Esperanza. Esperanza constantly watches Turtle on this trip, which is puzzling to Taylor.
Taylor also meets two neighbors, Mrs. Parsons and Edna Poppy. At first, Taylor complements Edna Poppy on her completely red outfit, having no idea that Edna is in fact blind.

Taylor, who admires Estevan, bonds with him after he shows up at her house, announcing that Esperanza has tried to commit suicide by swallowing an excessive amount of baby aspirin. The situation seems not to be isolated, which Taylor does not understand at first. She wonders why Esperanza tries to take her life when she has Estevan, who deeply cares about Esperanza and treats her well. Estevan explains to Taylor that he and Esperanza had a child, named Ismene, who was taken away from them in Guatemala. Turtle reminds Esperanza of Ismene, which is why she was so interested in Turtle at the picnic. After this discussion, Taylor feels compassionate for both Estevan and Esperanza and is sad for them. She eventually goes to talk to Esperanza, asking if she is doing alright. She explains to Esperanza how beautiful she thinks Esperanza’s name is. Taylor tells Esperanza that she must not lose hope in the following quote: “I don’t know how you go on, but I really hope you’ll keep doing it. That you won’t give up esperanza. […] Esperanza is all you get, no second chances. What you have to do is try to think of reasons to stick it out” (156). This advice can be applied to Esperanza as well as other characters in the book. Taylor seems to follow it as she tries her best to raise Turtle. She could have not even tried to raise Turtle and could have left her on the side of the road, but Taylor chooses to hope for the best. Lou Ann seems to be attempting to follow this advice as well. She constantly criticizes herself but tries her best to raise Dwayne Ray, even as a single parent. She also is relentless in the search for a job (and eventually finds one at a salsa factory). Mattie also perseveres in fighting for immigrants and letting them stay in her house, giving care to those who are not cared for. What she is doing is something she could get into trouble for but is very noble, and she hopes everything will work out. Even Turtle hopes for the best, even though it is hard to know her thoughts since she does not speak much. However, she must hope that Taylor will take care of her and relies on her from the beginning.

Angel contacts Lou Ann and asks her if she would like to move to Montana and live with him again because he misses her. It seems that Taylor knows Lou Ann will leave eventually, but Taylor does not seem happy about this; Taylor has come to like Lou Ann more over time and, based on the text so far, would miss Lou Ann if she left.

One day, when Taylor is on her way into the house after work, she sees Lou Ann waiting on the porch for her and realizes immediately that something has happened. Lou Ann explains to her that she does not know what exactly happened to Turtle but that the sparkle in her eyes is gone, leaving her eyes as “two cups of black coffee” (173). Edna had taken Turtle outside but knew something had gone wrong. She knew she had to take Turtle away from the situation and heard struggling sounds from her as she was (most likely) being molested. Taylor is shocked and upset by this. A social worker questions Taylor on the ways she is parenting and upsets Taylor even more. She is worried about not only Taylor but also those who are neglected in society, explaining that “nobody feels sorry for anybody anymore, nobody even pretends they do” (180). It seems Taylor is worried about being a good mother to Turtle and knows how much Turtle relies on her. If it were not for Taylor, Turtle would be one of the many that no one feels sorry for anymore.

Mrs. Parsons’ attitude toward immigrants illustrates her racist attitude when she sees Estevan and Esperanza, who are from Guatemala. Mrs. Parsons rudely refers to Estevan’s situation as a “disgrace,” saying, “Before you know it the whole world will be here jibbering and jabbering till we won’t know it’s America. […]They ought to stay put in their own dirt, not come here taking jobs” (111). This quote relates to our class unit of Work, Class, and Identity because it is a clear example of racism, which relates to identity. No respect is given to Estevan because he is of another race, and Mrs. Parsons sees his race (and others) as inferior to her own. The area of Tucson that this story takes place in is not particularly rich, which shows that racism is an issue present in all classes.

Lou Ann’s job at the salsa factory (called Red Hot Mama’s) is another example of how this book relates to Work and Class. Conditions at this factory are rough and strict. Everyone had to work extremely hard for little pay. Hot salsa that had spilled on the floor would ruin shoes and cause ankles to burn. Taylor views the factory as a sweatshop: “Half the time the air conditioner didn’t work at all, and half the time the fumes made everyone’s eyes water so furiously that contact lenses could not be worn on the premises. […] Lou Ann loved her job” (159). Even though pay is very low in this factory, workers put up with unfair conditions and wages because they need to pay their bills somehow. This is an example of how our society is often unbalanced in giving employees of jobs that do not require much education the appropriate wage and behavior.

This book continues to live up to the high expectations I have had for it. The author combines humor with serious issues in an appropriate way throughout the book. I have not come up to any “slow” parts of the book yet, and it does not seem that I will. Characters are developed well, and I have come to know the personalities of the characters and am always interested in what will happen to them next.
I still see this book as one of good quality. It is readable and enjoyable to read. I could certainly see myself rereading this book on my own time later. It has an important message to persevere no matter how tough a situation seems to be.

Jackie Porter said...

Jackie Porter
Individual Entry # 2
ill on 10/17/08
knee surgery

Overall, The Bean Trees, by Barbra Kingsolver, has been an intriguing book about two women with parallel lives who are both in the lower class of American society. In the previous "individual entry" I expressed what happened throughout chapters one through four and expressed my initial opinions of the book.
Chapter five begins with Taylor working at Burger Derby shortly after she meets Sandi, an employee at Burger Derby who is also raising a child in the lower class of America. Sandi and Taylor become better friends when they start working together. They both have children and, at the mall, they are able to find a suitable child care facility for their children. Taylor only uses the free facility for a short time because, no sooner does she begin her job, then she gets fired. She begins to dispute with her boss and gets dismissed.
Soon after her dismissal, she rummages through newspapers in hopes of finding an affordable place to rent. The first place she comes across is a unique place that is home to three hippies, La-Isha, Timothy, and Fei. These hippies have a fascination with soy-milk and collect it as a passion and way of income. Each of them dedicate several hours preparing the milk by tending to the curd put into the milk. Taylor is a bit overwhelmed by these hippies and feels even more uncomfortable when the hippies question her ability as a mother. La-Isha expresses her concern with Taylor's child, Turtle, consuming hot dogs on a regular basis. La-Isha comments to Taylor, "At least four different kinds of toxins…In a hot dog…were you aware of that?" (Kingsolver 70). This slight confrontation urges Taylor even more to keep considering her options for a new home.
Finally, Taylor goes to her second choice and surprisingly it is Lou Ann's house. Taylor and Lou Ann suddenly bond and feel that they have much in common because of their past in Kentucky. The two spend a lot of time conversing and laughing about the hippies and their soy obsession, which eventually leads into introducing their children to one another. Eventually, Taylor confesses that she lives with Lou Ann, and Lou Ann invites Taylor in with the greatest hospitality. The two are simply satisfied and are happy to be together.
In continuation, chapter six begins on Valentine's Day when Tucson experiences their first frost of the year. Mattie, the owner of Jesus is Lord Used Tires, offers Taylor a job position, but Taylor is hesitant. Taylor is haunted by the tractor incident from her past and with the help of Mattie, who eases her fear, Taylor slowly gets past the accident. Taylor begins work at the shop and learns a lot about the Spanish culture that Mattie assists. Mattie openly accepts some of these people for for the sake of helping them get on their feet. Mattie protects them in any way possible. At one point Mattie informs Estevan, "Be careful now…The last thing we need is to get stopped"(Kingsolver 95). Mattie takes every precaution to protect her neighborhoods.
One day after Taylor comes home from work, she is outraged that she and Lou Ann act like they are married. Taylor begins consuming alcohol and expresses to Lou Ann that she no longer wants her assistance. Lou Ann seems upset and tells Taylor that she does not drink, so she is fully aware of what she is doing at all time. Lou Ann tells a story of her and Angel, her ex-husband, to make a point of how drinking can make someone do something unintentional and make either of them look ridiculous in the act. For a while Taylor and Lou Ann discuss how Angel would disregard Lou Ann and she realizes how thankful she is to have a friend like Taylor.
Chapter seven begins with Taylor and Turtle, Lou Ann and her son, Dwayne Ray, and Mattie going to the creek to eat. There they meet up with Esperanza and Estevan, friends of Mattie's. Esperanza becomes fascinated by Turtle and claims that she reminds her of someone she once knew. During this meal Taylor is overwhelmed by a number of things that are happening, Turtle laughs for the first time, which significantly reassures Taylor's parenting skills, and Turtle says her first word, bean.
A few nights later, Lou Ann expresses to Taylor that sometimes when she believes she will do something wrong, she will eventually do it. Lou Ann brought up examples of her contemplating jumping from a cliff or shouting something rude during mass. Taylor experiences these same feelings and can side with Lou Ann in an attempt to comfort her. Later, two neighbors and Esperanza and Estevan come to Lou Ann's house and are all anxiously waiting for Mattie to appear on television. Mattie speaks on behalf of fairly treating immigrants and an attempt for non-violence. Sadly, Taylor does not understand what Mattie is trying to say. Mrs. Parsons, the neighbor at Lou Ann's, follows the television broadcast by issuing her racial remarks. She believes that all of these Hispanic people should stay where they came from and stop taking jobs in America.
Chapter eight begins with Lou Ann and Taylor discussing how Taylor's mom is set to remarry Harland Elleston. Taylor is reassured by Lou Ann that her mom will be happy and that Taylor should be happy for her, but Taylor is not. Soon after, Mrs. Parsons and her neighborly friend walk by to inform Lou Ann that her ex-husband was in her house while she was out. Lou Ann notifies Taylor that if Angel wanted to more back in, Lou Ann would let him.
Another day comes along and Taylor feels obligated to apologize to Estevan for Mrs. Parsons' racial slurs against him and his race. By conversing with Estevan for quite some time, Taylor realizes why Mattie calls her house a sanctuary. Mattie goes out and looks for those of Hispanic descent who need to be hidden and she makes it her responsibility to do so.
One day Taylor takes Turtle to the doctor's where she finds some heart-wrenching news. Turtle, her daughter, has stopped growing due to prior abuse. Taylor is horrified and refuses to accept the news and the doctor reassures her that the baby is suffering from the "failure to thrive" condition. After Taylor departs from the doctor she meets Lou Ann at the local zoo. Lou Ann tells Taylor that her ex-husband, Angel, is leaving her and if he ever returns, Lou Ann will dislike Taylor for siding with him. During their conversation, Taylor says April a few times, referring to the month, and finds Turtle's real name is April.
In chapter nine, a sudden shock hits Taylor. Esperanza attempts suicide by consuming a container of aspirin. Estevan informs Taylor, and Taylor comforts Estevan by attending to his needs. Taylor realizes she is extremely attached to Estevan throughout this time and finds comfort telling him stories. Taylor also resents that Esperanza attempted to take her own life although she had someone by her side who loved and cared for her. Estevan counterattacks by explaining that Taylor has no idea what Esperanza has been through and the torture she has endured. He explains that, being a part of the teacher's union, they are a prime target for the government. They have their only child, Ismene, taken from them. They know that someone would take good care of their daughter; thus, they did not go in search of her. Instead they came to America. Taylor cries, is emotionally upset, and reminiscences on all that Esperanza experiences.
The Bean Trees is exceeding my expectations. I could not have asked for a deeper plot that is easy to follow through my reading. I am enjoying the book throughout its entirety as it continues to develop, particularly as Taylor grows and recognizes life-altering experiences through people such as Esperanza and Estevan, who have endured such pain due to race. She also has grown a lot through her experiences as a parent, witnessing her child's first word and experiencing the horrifying news regarding her child's growth defect. I enjoyed how Lou Ann and Taylor finally met and found some many things in common, such as where they grew up and that they both are raising children. I appreciate the complexity of the book and am looking forward to how it progresses.
Overall the theme of class is reoccurring and has been brought up several times. Taylor struggles to find an affordable home and is subjected to living with Lou Ann. Also, typically immigrants are in the lower class of America and, now being introduced to Estevan and Esperanza, I have gotten a taste of the difficulty of Hispanics struggling to live in America and their home towns. Estevan tells Taylor, "In Guatemala City the police use electricity for interrogation. They have something called the 'telephone', which is an actual telephone of type they use in the field" (Kingsolver 134). The abuse to race is usually subjected to those is the lower class society. Also the theme of work was brought up as Taylor begins work at Burger Derby and then does some work at Jesus is Lord Used Tires.
Thus far, the quality of the book is great and keeps me very entertained. I find myself picking up the book at every opportunity I have and, surprisingly, I am enjoying it very much. I like the book for the plot and I consider it an "easy read." I believe that the initial transition into the book was slow, but it is progressing into a page-turner. I am very interested by the plot and am curious to see where it goes.
In my previous post, I mentioned that the book had social value dealing with the lower class of social status in America. I believe that the book continues to address social status and is now addressing culture status which provides cultural value. The topic of immigrants has been brought into the book and has provided some notable situations of harassment in America and back home for these Hispanic immigrants. "They were members of Estevan's teachers' union. He told me what condition they had found the bodies"(Kingsolver 136). Some Hispanics are tortured like this in their own home towns and flee to America for help, but do not receive it. The Hispanic culture is appreciated by Mattie and Taylor eventually recognizes its importance. The Bean Trees provides an excellent example of cultural value thus far.
I believe that the book has literary merit since it has been around for several years. It is a good story that has a great plot and is easy to understand. It expresses both social and cultural value that would be helpful for students to understand culture and class. I believe that this plot could truly happen, thus it would be a great example to give to students.
I believe that the author is trying to send a consistent message on class and how it relates to culture, particularly in the lower class of America. I believe that the author has an underlying message that I am still trying to uncover. I am hoping that all of the messages in the story are revealed to me as I continue and eventually finish the book.

Sam said...

Individual Entry #3

The excitement of The Bean Trees continues in chapter thirteen. Taylor and Turtle have been meeting with a social worker a few times a week for quite some time now. In their meetings, the truth about Taylor’s gain of Turtle slips out and the social worker, Cynthia, tells Taylor that it is illegal to claim a child. Taylor learns that because there were no legal documents that gave Taylor rights to Turtle, Turtle belongs to the state. Lou Ann and Taylor try to do all they can to work around the law, but in the end Taylor’s depression makes her give up hope to keep Turtle. Taylor goes back to talk to Cynthia, and question the laws about Turtle’s custody. Cynthia helps Taylor out by giving her the number of someone who is more knowledgeable on legal issues. Taylor decides that she will drive to Oklahoma, back to the bar where she was given Turtle. Taylor hopes to find Turtles real parents and then be granted legal custody over her. This decision will also help out Esperanza and Estevan, because Taylor decides that she will drive them to Oklahoma so that they will not be deported back to Guatemala. All fear of Taylor’s trip to Oklahoma while transporting illegal immigrants and carrying an illegal child disperses when a cereus bursts into blossoms is called a good omen.
The trip to Oklahoma continues in chapter fourteen. Taylor, Esperanza and Estevan become very anxious and nervous as they prepare to pass through an Immigration check in New Mexico. Taylor learns that Esperanza and Estevan are not Guatemalan but Mayan. Taylor is astonished by the amazing people there with her, (Estevan and Esperanza). When they arrive back in Oklahoma they find the bar where Turtle and Taylor first met. Inside everything has changed and no one knows anything about Turtle’s family. She is told by a girl at the bar that the Cherokee Indian reservation is not too far, and exists unlike Taylor imagined. After asking Esperanza and Estevan if they would like to go to the reservation they return to the road.
Once they arrive in the Cherokee Nation Taylor begins to feel as though she stands out. Turtle is Indian, and Esperanza and Estevan are Mayan, which leaves Taylor to be the only white person in view on the reservation. Taylor’s nerves increase when Turtle shouts “mama” out of the window when there is not even a woman in view, only a cemetery and a gas station.
At the lake on the reservation Estevan and Taylor go out for a boat ride. Taylor immediately cries and tells Estevan that she will miss him. To calm her down Estevan come up with the idea to make wishes. Instead of coins Taylor uses bear bottle tops to make two wishes.
Back on land, Taylor, Turtle, Esperanza and Estevan have lunch. Taylor watches as Turtle buries her doll. At first Taylor’s impression is that Turtle thinks the doll will grow so she explains how bean seeds will grow but dolls will not. But when Turtle cry’s out “mama” Taylor realizes that Turtle is recalling her mother’s burial. She knows that there is no hope for finding Turtle’s mother to gain custody, but she will do whatever she can to keep Turtle forever.
At this point the book has now reached my expectations. The plot has become more complex and I can feel the emotion that the characters especially Taylor feels throughout the book. I understand why Taylor is depressed and how she longs to keep Turtle forever. When Taylor found out that Turtle’s mother was gone forever, I felt her sadness. She loves Turtle and as of now, legally there is nothing that she can do about it.
The Bean Trees continues to incorporate the themes of work and class. Throughout the book the main characters, Lou Ann and Taylor struggle to find a nd keep a job. Even when Lou Ann finds a job she has to put up with the harsh working conditions of the salsa factory. The two work hard to provide for their families. It is evident that Lou Ann and Taylor are women of the lower class. It is hard for them to provide for themselves and their children, especially because they are both single mothers.
The Bean Trees continues to be a good book. As I mentioned before every chapter provides a new story that Lou Ann and Taylor put themselves in. At this point, Taylor is driving across the country with an illegal child and illegal immigrants. This book provides a scenario of two lower class Americans who struggle in life to provide for themselves and overcome their hardships. Though this book doesn’t have as much cultural value it does have social value as it explains the hardships of these two women. It is an important and noteworthy book because it provides a realistic story of lower class single women. I still think this book will stand the test of time because it is a realistic story.

Michelle said...

Michelle Blair
Individual Entry #3

The plot of Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees continues to surprise me as I learn more about Taylor’s character in the next few chapters. After the incident with Turtle (possibly being molested when she was with Edna), Taylor and Turtle began meeting with a social worker, Cynthia. Turtle began to act normally again fairly quickly after the incident. Taylor had been bringing Turtle when she met with Cynthia and did not think it was fair that Turtle should have to listen to adults make plans about her future, so the next time she met with Cynthia, she left Turtle at home. Cynthia alerted Taylor that since she had no legal papers documenting that she was the legal guardian of Turtle, she would possibly have to give Turtle up. Taylor was unsure of how to respond to this. She did not know which would be better for Turtle: to give her up to the state or fight to keep her. Taylor was worried about taking care of Turtle correctly, questioning, “Why should I think Turtle’s better off with me than in a state home? At least there they know how to take care of kids. They won’t let anything happen to her” (184). Lou Ann responds frankly by saying, “Well, that’s sure a chickenshit thing to say” (184). It seems that Taylor is afraid to believe in herself and fears she will mess up trying to take care of Turtle. She also tells Mattie about her worries, saying, and “I realized I had no business just assuming I could take the responsibility for a child’s life” (186). She also has the feeling that Cynthia is not on her side and does not want to help her get legal possession of Turtle.

The theme of class and identity appears again. Taylor notices at one of their meetings that Cynthia seems to dress well and in a proper way that is too proper for Taylor. It seems Taylor has the impression that Cynthia is rich and uptight when she sees what Cynthia is wearing, thinking, “In this hot weather, when everybody else was trying to wear as little as they could without getting arrested, Cynthia had on a pink-checked blouse with the collar pinned closed. […] The pin at her throat was an ivory and flesh-colored cameo that looked antique” (183). The way Cynthia dresses affects people’s impressions of her, and to Taylor, Cynthia’s proper way of dressing comes off as an arrogant attitude. Cynthia appears to be wealthy and is perceived (at first) by Taylor as someone who just wants to take Turtle from Taylor. When Taylor meets with her again, she notices her eye shadow and hair, commenting to herself, “I started to lose my nerve again when I saw her in the office, her eyes made up with pale green eye shadows and her hair pulled back in a gold barrette. […] Put somebody in high-heeled pumps and sit her behind a big desk and age is no longer an issue—she is more important than you are, period” (188). This quote is significant because it demonstrates how much appearance makes a difference in terms of how one is treated. If one dresses well and properly, one may be assumed to be a member of the Upper class and may be seen as arrogant and tricky; if one dresses in ripped clothes and looks scruffy, one is more likely to be seen as a member of the Lower class and may be looked down upon by society. However, as Taylor learns in time, Cynthia has, despite her appearance, good intentions. She tells Taylor that she will do everything she can so that Turtle stays with her (Taylor). Taylor is surprised but relieved about this. She even finds out that Cynthia’s fancy cameo was actually only bought for a dollar. In learning this, Taylor seems to like Cynthia better. It is interesting how class (by basis of appearance) determines one’s opinion so much about another.

Taylor stays up one night to decide what to do with Turtle and decides she must take Turtle to Oklahoma to try to get papers signed (and information on Turtle’s family) so that she can keep Turtle. She also takes Esperanza and Estevan so that they can live safely in Oklahoma, among other Indians. It was extremely dangerous for Taylor to be taking Esperanza and Estevan but all were willing to take the risk. They invented a story about who they were so they would be prepared during questionings.

On the road trip to Oklahoma, when passing a cemetery, Turtle shouts out “Mama!” (216). Taylor is confused by this as there are no people where Turtle is pointing. After making it past routine road checks, Estevan, Esperanza, Taylor, and Turtle decide to take a day for a vacation in the hills of Oklahoma. None of them have ever had a vacation so this is a different experience for all. While there, Turtle is playing with a doll, which she begins to bury. Taylor just laughs this off, thinking Turtle thinks planting dolls will produce a doll tree. However, as she buries the doll, she adds, again, “Mama” (220). Taylor is puzzled by this behavior and begins to make connections. It is a slow process of finding and putting puzzle pieces together, and Taylor is not sure she will figure out anything at all.

Also while on their mini-vacation, Taylor and Estevan spend time together on a rented boat. Taylor realizes how much she wants Estevan to be hers but knows that he cannot be. She also realizes how much she will miss Estevan, telling him, “I’m going to miss you a lot. All of you. Both, I mean” (219). Taylor’s interest in Estevan is bittersweet because while they both like each other a lot, Estevan still loves and is committed to Esperanza. This makes Taylor sad. This issue also, in a way, relates to the issue of class. The problem of wanting someone who is off-limits is not limited to Upper or Middle or Lower classes. Although this may seem trivial, this issue is present in all classes. This point shows that members of different classes in society, which are clearly evident, all deal with the same issues and problems because we are all human. Class is insignificant because it sets society apart by money, and what people need to realize is that members of different classes are not very different at all. Every human has struggles, and many (although not all, the exception being money matters) have no relevance or relation to class, which is important for humans to realize if they want to have any unity in society at all.

The assigned chapters end with Taylor hinting that Esperanza and Estevan are planning on helping Taylor with a favor. These three are becoming true friends. Esperanza’s true side is beginning to shine through as parting time (between the couple and Taylor) draws closer.

This book continues to live up (and exceed) my expectations. Each page continues to be interesting. I love that there are no slow-moving or dull parts, and I am definitely being exposed to a side of life that I do not know much about otherwise (description of Indian reservation and peoples). Barbara Kingsolver’s style of writing combines humor and serious issues in a way that, when read, is so well-written that it seems like someone’s personal account of actual events that have happened, not a fiction story. This book is one that I would encourage others to read and would enjoy talking to others about it. I am eager to finish the book and discuss with my classmates.

Jackie Porter said...

Jackie Porter
Individual Entry #3
10/20/08
Ch. 10-14

Chapter ten flows directly after chapter nine, in continuation, regarding Esperanza's suicide attempt. In chapter ten Taylor wakes up and feels remarkably better. She begins a conversation with Lou Ann and they talk about their house system and how they are getting past Angel leaving Lou Ann. Lou Ann went on a family vacation with Angel's family after Angel left Lou Ann. At the Ruizes' reunion, which is Angel's family, Lou Ann is assured that Angel is the meanest in the family and they consider Lou Ann a part of the family. Afterwards, Taylor and Lou Ann head to the park. There Turtle points out a tree that appears to have some sort of bean on it. Taylor is mesmerized by the tree that has blossomed from flowers to seeds.
Later, Taylor visits Esperanza and tries her best to comfort her. Taylor tells Esperanza that she reminds Taylor of her daughter, Turtle, because they both remember everything people say. Taylor also tells Esperanza that one day Taylor hopes Esperanza can find her child. Esperanza breaks into a cry. "She had tears in her eyes, but that seemed better somehow than nothing at all. 'It's terrible to lose somebody,' [Taylor] said. Taylor tries her hardest to comfort Esperanza and feels she has when Esperanza begins crying. Later, after Taylor leaves Mattie's house where Esperanza is staying, Lou Ann tells Taylor about a man who is interested in giving Lou Ann a job.
In Chapter eleven Lou Ann gets a job that she is extremely passionate about. She begins employment at the Red Mama's Salsa Factory where she works evenings, thus Taylor puts the children to bed. After the children are asleep, Lou Ann comes home and they eat dinner and converse. Lou Ann expresses her worries about her son surviving and feels that he is destined to die before 2000. Lou Ann tells Taylor, "I had this dream one day after [my son] was born…[the angel] told me my son would not live to see the year two thousand" (Kingsolver 155). Lou Ann articulates her fear of death and exclaims that when she was younger, she refused to imagine herself past her teenage years because she did not want to imagine herself dead. Taylor realizes that Lou Ann is very compassionate for caring so much about Taylor and her child.
A few days later, Lou Ann and her son receive gifts from Angel, along with a note urging them to come live with him. Lou Ann is contemplating the option, but Taylor is worried about Lou Ann keeping her job if she leaves. The community would be affected greatly if she left. Also, there is some drama regarding Esperanza and Estevan, including their safety in America and how they may have to go back to Guatemala. They do not have any evidence stating that they were in danger before they left. Mattie says to Taylor, "The only legal way a person from Guatemala can stay here is if they can prove in court that their life was in danger when they left" (Kingsolver 159). Taylor replies, "But they were, Mattie, you know it. You know what happened to them" (Kingsolver 159). Chapter eleven ends on a very serious note of illegal immigrants.
Chapter twelve begins when Mattie, Taylor, Esperanza, and Estevan go to the desert and see the first rain clouds. On their way back to the car they see a rattlesnake on the prowl for bird eggs. Once Taylor arrives home, she is shocked to see her child Turtle in a miserable condition. One of the neighbors, Edna Poppy, who is blind, was watching Turtle when she was suddenly attacked. Edna tries her hardest to fight back but fails in the attempt. Luckily, Turtle does not have any marks of molestation. Lou Ann ends up caring for the child while Taylor becomes preoccupied with a bird that struck their glass window. Lou Ann is ashamed of Taylor for this.
In chapter thirteen, a women, Cynthia, meets with Taylor and Cynthia finds out that Turtle has been abused and is not Taylor's biological daughter. Taylor is informed that Turtle actually belongs to the state. Lou Ann hears the news and tries to find a way to avoid the government. Taylor is too upset to even fight for Turtle. After Mattie and Taylor discuss the situation, Mattie feels that Taylor has to decide what would be good for Turtle. They also discuss the state of Esperanza and Estevan and feel that they have nowhere for them to go.
Taylor continues to struggle with the idea that Turtle may have to leave. She continues to contact Cynthia and is pleading to find some way to keep Turtle. Cynthia sides with her and gives her the name of a legal advisor. Taylor plans a trip to go to Oklahoma to meet with her legal advisor. Taylor agrees that she will take Estevan and Esperanza with her. Lou Ann panics because she is frightened that Turtle's biological parents or her real relatives will want Turtle back. Before Taylor's trip, a few of them gather to look at the cereus tree and the flowers on the tree are very rare to see. They only bloom once a year during the night; thus, Taylor, Lou Ann, and the neighbor feel they are blessed to see the flowers. The next day Taylor leaves and is nervous for the trip.
In chapter fourteen, on the way to Oklahoma, they pass through New Mexico. In New Mexico there was an immigration check where Taylor, Esperanza, Estevan, and Turtle get interrogated. Esperanza pretends that Turtle is hers and this makes Taylor upset. During the remainder of the trip, Esperanza entertains Turtle while Estevan and Taylor chat. Finally, the group arrives in Oklahoma and Taylor tells Estevan and Esperanza, who are eager to find a house, to leave her and Turtle. They refuse to leave until Taylor is situated with her legal troubles. The group heads to a bar in search of Turtle's relatives and she struggles to find them. Instead of continuing the search, Taylor proposes a vacation and they all agree to go.
The book has now gone above my expectations and surprised me with the drama concerning the government, Turtle, and the immigrants. I was not expecting the plot to unfold quite like this and I find it very adventurous and easy to follow. I enjoy how Mattie always provides a sense of ease, such as when she provides comfort for Taylor when Taylor first realizes her problem about Turtle and her true parents. I believe that this book is great and provides a clear problem with immigrants in America and their ways of avoiding the government. I chose this book because I wanted a simple read with a good plot, and the book is living up to my expectations for it.
The theme of class has become more apparent in the past five chapters. There is an ongoing struggle with safety of Esperanza and Estevan, who are of the lower class in America. Taylor is informed by Lou Ann of the trouble she can get in for assisting an immigrant, "She told me that if I got caught I could get five years in prison and a $2,000 fine for each illegal person I was assisting, which in this case would be two" Kingsolver 184). These immigrants are of the lower class and need as much help supporting themselves as possible and are helped by their neighbors, who put themselves in great danger. The theme of work was not as present in the previous chapters; however, a different type of work is introduced. All the characters are working toward doing something. Taylor is attempting to do the "right" thing with her child; Mattie is trying to help all of those in need; Estevan and Esperanza are desperately trying to escape the government; and Lou Ann is providing the best possible advice to all those who need it, particularly Taylor. Overall many themes are present, but the theme of class is seemingly more apparent thus far.
The book continues to be a page tuner and I am engaged on another level. I am obliged to say that the book provides me with a new view on immigrants and have witnessed the fear of living under the watchful eye of the government. It is a constant struggle for some in America who are constantly on the run and cannot find a job or house, thus relying on those around them. Through Estevan and Esperanza, a lot is portrayed about illegal immigrants in America. Further, the book has continued to keep me entertained, particularly the emphasis on struggling immigrants.
The book continues to show promise in that it has both social and cultural value. Socially, the book introduces the lower class of America and delves into the particular cultures of the lower class, including illegal immigrants. The illegal immigrants provide cultural value. As the book has evolved, I have learned a lot about the Hispanic culture and have come to appreciate it. Overall, the book is great and provides a clear example of people in the lower class of America. I believe that it will continue to stand the test of time and will also continue to provide goods examples of the lower and working class in America. It has literary merit and provides the reader with a great sense of struggle and overcoming struggle. This book could potentially be a reality or it has already been a reality; therefore, the book is relevant, real, and will provide a great sense of accuracy.
I am curious to see how the book will end and am anxious to pick up my book and complete it. It should be interesting to see how the book concludes. I believe that the book could be a motion picture due to its complex story line; however, the ending would make a difference in its success as a movie.
One message the author sends is that illegal immigrants need assistance. Also the author is expressing the significance of the connection between mother and child. Overall I am looking for a major message and am desperately seeking the end of The Bean Trees.

Michelle said...

Group Entry #2
Michelle Blair

Sam and I started out our 2nd group discussion discussing who Turtle’s parents possibly were because she explained that, in the beginning and middle of the book, she thought Estevan and Esperanza could possibly be the parents. I called Jackie later to find out her points of view on what we discussed. I thought the idea that Esperanza and Estevan were Turtle’s parents was a notable one because it would be an interesting way to tie all of the characters’ stories together. Jackie also had never thought of the idea. The turning point for Sam in the book was when Turtle buried her doll in the dirt when Turtle, Taylor, Estevan and Esperanza were on their way to Oklahoma. Once Sam reached the following excerpt in the reading, it was confirmed that Estevan and Esperanza were not Turtle’s parents: “Turtle…was hard at work burying Shirley Poppy in the soft dirt at the base of a pine tree. I…squatted beside her at the foot of the tree. ‘…Some things grow into bushes or trees when you plant them, but other things don’t. Beans do, doll babies don’t.’ ‘Yes,’ Turtle said, patting the mound of dirt. ‘Mama’” (221). This confirmed not only that Turtle’s mother was dead, but that Turtle knew this and remembered the fact. Sam was disappointed by this, but I thought it would be too perfect of a connection to occur, so I am glad Estevan and Esperanza were not the actual parents.

We also questioned whether Taylor disserves to be Turtle’s mother (or guardian). Jackie, Sam, and I all agreed that she should be. While circumstances are not ideal, Taylor does her best to take care of Turtle. We also agreed that Taylor should have taken Turtle somewhere where she would be taken care of, since Taylor did not have sufficient money (or even plans to make money), shelter, or food to try to raise a child. However, since the area she was driving in seemed deserted, she had no other choice, so she took care of Turtle well, considering the situation. Also, in terms of whether or not Turtle should be taken away from Taylor, Sam pointed out (and we all agreed) that it would cause too much emotional damage to separate the two of them, as they had already spent a few years together and had formed a bond. Taylor has already proved herself as a mother who is taking care of her daughter, so we thought it would be best that the two stay together. Also, I pointed out that a lot of new mothers have the same mindset and knowledge as Taylor and do not know what they are doing, but they learn through experience as they go, just as Taylor has successfully done.

I asked whether The Bean Trees would work as a movie. Sam immediately said yes, it would. Sam and I both thought there were no slow parts in the book, and it would possibly translate well into a movie. Jackie thought it could possibly work as a movie, but to convince her (and others) to go see it, she thought concentrating on advertising the parts of the movie when Esperanza and Estevan are brought into the story (pointing out that they are immigrants) and when Taylor receives Turtle would be the parts of the movie that would cause interest in the movie. While I did not think any parts of the book were slow and the book could possibly work as a movie, I thought it would be difficult. This is because I believe that there is not enough action in this book to translate into a movie that holds the viewer’s attention. I think it is better kept as a book. However, if the book was made into a movie, we all agreed it would be significant because it represents the lower class and struggles to make ends meet as a single mother (as Taylor does), and it is important to see families like Taylor’s and Lou Ann’s, who, while poor, are not at the bottom but closer to the bottom of middle class, which is a class not represented enough.

We also all gave input on our favorite characters. I declared that mine was Taylor because she shows incredible strength and perseverance to keep going, even when life seems impossible. Sam said her favorite character was Turtle and that she liked how Turtle’s character develops during the book, and she transforms to a talking little girl who is not afraid to show emotion. Jackie told me her favorite was Estevan, because he provides comfort for Taylor and gives the story an interesting twist, as Taylor seems to fall in love with him in the book.

One qualm we had about the book was the title. We all agreed that “The Bean Trees” was not the best title for the book. The subject of bean trees did not come up enough throughout the book to give it enough significance to make it the title of the book. However, in terms of making the book sound interesting and in terms of attracting readers who have not heard of the book before, this title is good because it is intriguing. I wondered what the book was about once I heard the title. However, we all thought Barbara Kingsolver should have chosen a different title that relates more to an idea that comes up more often throughout the book.

Sam said...

Individual Entry #4

Not to sound to excited, with Turtle’s mother out of the way, Taylor gains new hope for becoming Turtle’s legal guardian and mother. Taylor, Estevan and Esperanza, go to visit Mr. Armistead. Because Estevan and Esperanza look like they could be Turtle’s birth parents they go by Steve and Hope and act the part. Taylor is also there because she wants to adopt Turtle. Esperanza and Estevan tell Mr. Armistead that they can’t afford to care for their child and feel like Taylor will be a better provider for Turtle. As Esperanza spends the last moments holding Turtle, Taylor can tell that she really is having a hard time giving up the child. Finally Esperanza and Estevan sign legal documents that grant Taylor legal custody over Turtle.
In the final chapter of The Bean Trees Taylor says goodbye to Estevan and Esperanza when she drops them off at a church where they will be provided for. Taylor says goodbye to Estevan and tells him that this is the first time she has lost someone who she loves. They decide that the only way to stay in safe contact is through Mattie. Then Estevan kisses Taylor. When Taylor leaves she speaks to Turtle again and tells Turtle that her new name will be April Turtle Greer, and that she, Taylor, is her mother. The title The Bean Trees comes into play when Taylor and Turtle are at a library. Turtle spots a book with wisteria vines and calls out “Bean Trees.” Taylor reaches from the book and read out loud. She explains that the wisteria vines (Bean Trees) grow because of rhizobia, which are microscopic bugs that help the plant’s soil. Taylor connects the rhizobia to an underground railroad, where the bugs help the wisteria vines grow. This reminds Taylor of the way that she and Turtle have been helped. On the way home, to Tuscan, Arizona, Taylor calls Lou Ann. Lou Ann tells Taylor that although she is dating a new man she isn’t going to move in with him because Taylor and Turtle are her family. The book ends with Turtle singing her vegetable soup song on the way home, including the names of her favorite vegetables and also the important people of her life, Taylor, Lou Ann, Esperanza, Estevan and Dwayne Ray.
I really enjoyed the ending of the Bean Trees. I finally was able to connect the title to the rest of the book, and it was a nice way to end the story. The book has lived up to my expectations. Overall the ending was my favorite part, because it concluded a good story. In the end Taylor gets to keep Turtle, Lou Ann admits that Taylor is her family and Estevan and Esperanza are saved from being deported.
The themes of work and class do not play as big a part in the ending of the book. It is fair to say that the work and effort that Taylor made pulled off in the end, because she now was able to keep a loved one in her life-Turtle. Life doesn’t come easy for Taylor and it is because of her hard work and perseverance through life that allowed her to be rewarded.
Although this book started off very slow, it picked up only a few chapters in and continued to be a good book until the end. The ending was a great way to finish of the story. There are not any further questions or cliffhangers that were left unanswered.
The Bean Trees has both social and cultural value. Family plays a large part in the book, as well as the relationships between each character. To name a few, both Taylor and Esperanza loved Turtle, Taylor loved Estevan and Lou Ann was thrilled to have Taylor as a friend. These relationships made the book more interesting and less bland. The cultural value of the book relates to class. Taylor worked for almost everything she had, and it paid off.
Because the metaphor of bean trees and the underground railroad played a part in the naming of the book and the overall story, I think that The Bean Trees is a book worthy enough to stand the test of time. Through this book it is evident that with the help of others it is possible to grow in life.

Jackie Porter said...

Jackie Porter
Individual Entry #4
10/27/08

Chapter fifteen of The Bean Trees, by Barbara Kingsolver, continues when Taylor, Esperanza, and Estevan arrive in the Cherokee Nation. Esperanza and Estevan feel a sense of comfort and security within the Nation. On the car ride Turtle expresses signs of her mother. Turtle peers out the window and calls for her mom and shockingly there is only a gas station and cemetery. During this time "Turtle and Esperanza were becoming inseparable" and Taylor notices this on the car ride (Kingsolver205).
The beauty of the "Nation" is "where you could imagine God might live" (Kingsolver 206). They soon find a cottage and spend the day outside and Taylor notices how content Esperanza was. Later, Taylor goes for a boat ride and expresses to them, "I am going to miss you a lot…All of you. Both, I mean" (208). They later make wishes and use beer bottle tops to toss into the lake.
After the boat ride the group eats lunch and Turtle shows another signal of her mother. A dirt pile is present and Turtle points and calls out, "Mama." Turtle takes her doll and buries it, which reminds her of her mother. Taylor notes Turtle's compassion for her mother and Taylor now has the drive to permanently adopt Taylor.
Chapter sixteen begins when Taylor, Turtle, Esperanza, and Estevan go to Mr. Jonas Wilford Armistead's office and begin planning how Turtle will become permanently adopted by Taylor. Esperanza and Estevan pose as Turtle's biological parents and exclaim that they are willing to give up Turtle to Taylor; Esperanza sobs with real emotion and cries out how much she loves Taylor. Finally, Estevan and Esperanza sign the official adoption papers and Taylor feels a sign of relief.
Chapter seventeen follows the adoption when Esperanza and Estevan are offered a place to stay and Taylor must depart from them. The departure was difficult and "tears did come to [Taylor] it was a relief"(Kingsolver 219). Taylor and Turtle, and Estevan and Esperanza separated. Taylor thought to herself, "All four of us had buried someone we loved in Oklahoma" (Kingsolver 220). Taylor soon calls her mother in hope of finding comfort and does.
Taylor resorts to calling 1-800-The-Lord and discovers it to be a line where money can be offered. The number helps Taylor ease her pain, but she heads toward the library with Turtle to amuse herself. Taylor opens a book in which Turtle recognizes a bean tree and, although Turtle does not understand, she explains the tree to her daughter. After they go to the courthouse, Taylor calls Lou Ann and ponders if she is contemplating moving. Lou Ann exclaims that she feels that she and Taylor are a family and Taylor tells Lou Ann about Turtle, her official daughter. Turtle leaves Oklahoma and heads back to Tucson to be with Lou Ann.
The book has exceeded all expectations I had for it initially. With the turn of every page, I found myself becoming more engaged in the book and its plot. The book maintained my attention and I now understand the significance of the struggles of the lower class in America attempting to start a successful life for his or her self. The plot was very complex, but Barbara Kingsolver made it easy to follow providing a clear indication of what she was trying to portray.
The theme of work was slim toward the end of the book, but progressively the theme of class became more and more apparent. The struggles of Estevan and Esperanza were clearly representing the lower class immigrants in America who constantly live their life in fear and have not been permitted to work, live, or be in America. Taylor and Turtle are a perfect example of a mother-daughter relationship that develops over time, but there are several struggles that Taylor encounters that are a result of the lack of money, experience, and education she has due to her status in the lower class of America. Class is prominent throughout the book and the book gives a good perspective from the lower class.
The quality of the book is impressive and it is a "good read" that is appealing and draws the audience. The book continued to be a page turner and engaged me on another level of intelligence and complexity. Socially, the book provides a sense of lower class social status. Primarily, cultural value is significant. In my second individual entry I said, "The topic of immigrants has been brought into the book and has provided some notable situations of harassment in America and back home for these Hispanic immigrants". The cultural influence in America is huge and is sometimes disregarded. The Bean Trees provides an excellent example of this.
The book will stand the test of time and such as Sam said in the first entry, "It has been around for twenty years" thus far and will continue to be a good example of lower class society. Due to the feasibility of this book, it will continue to stand the test of time and be a great educational book.
The ending was simple, but provided me with a sense of ease, comfort, and control from Taylor who was initially struggling to raise Turtle, providing for her family, and being responsible as an adult. She seems content toward the end and is thrilled to have to Turtle as her daughter. The ending is very creative and follows the general pattern of storytelling in a conclusive manner.
The author, Barbara Kingsolver, send several messages within the book including: the abuse of immigrants, the struggles of lower class citizens, and everyday challenges of raising a child and providing for a family. Overall the author portrays all of these messages in a simple articulate manner that is enjoyable to read. The book was great and I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone interested in a pleasurable simple read.

Michelle said...

Michelle Blair
Individual Entry #4

Much has happened since the last time I have written about The Bean Trees. Mot importantly, Taylor has gained full custody of Turtle. She did this by asking Esperanza and Estevan to act as Turtle’s parents who were allowing Taylor to adopt Turtle. Taylor was able to walk around the law and keep Turtle legally. When Esperanza pretended to be Turtle’s mother, she did more than just act the part. She cried and showed true emotion, and it seems this is because she saw Ismene in Turtle. When Esperanza pretended to give up Turtle and say goodbye to her, she was reliving the time when she had to say goodbye to Ismene. It was a difficult thing to do but it reminded Esperanza that once she and Estevan moved to their new location, they could possibly have a second chance at having a child. After Taylor gained custody of Turtle, she drove Esperanza and Estevan to the church that they would be staying at in Oklahoma. It was extremely difficult for Taylor to say goodbye to Estevan. This is because she was losing a good friend and someone she loved dearly. It seems that Estevan was the first love she lost. While she did not lose him permanently, after they said goodbye, contact would be limited, and it would not be possible to make this contact personal because it would be too dangerous to hold true conversations between the two of them. Taylor would only get to find out through Mattie that Esperanza and Estevan were safe. Also, Estevan seemed to be the first man Taylor truly loved; this is another reason why it was so hard to say goodbye.

Taylor ensured that Esperanza and Estevan properly said goodbye to Turtle because she had been left with no real goodbyes too many times. This is a sign that Taylor is really looking out for Turtle and is becoming a better mother every day. She wants Turtle to have the best life possible. Also, to set in Turtle’s mind that she has a mother, one who cares for her a lot, Taylor tells Turtle that she is the only person Turtle should call “Ma.” She reminds her that all the other people Turtle knows who care about her are her friends but not her mother. Taylor states that she is Turtle’s mother and reminds Turtle that Turtle is her number one priority. This is another sign that Taylor is a deserving mother who cares unconditionally for her child.

Taylor and Turtle only eat junk food on the way home. This is all they can afford. This issue relates to work and class. Taylor has barely enough money to provide necessities for herself and Turtle during the trip because she is in the lower class because of her low income. She struggles to make it through the trip. The only food available to the two is junk food. Those in the lower class today often do not have healthy food available to them because they are limited by their income and are able to find processed foods for a cheaper price than healthy foods. This contributes to an unhealthy society with increasing health problems. While Taylor is usually able to find and afford more nutritious food when she is at home, this is still an example relating to class because the poor have to resort to unhealthy food (because they have to take their child to the doctor and pay the bill, leaving them with barely enough money to get by, for example) because of a significant difference in pricing (between healthy and unhealthy foods).

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It met and exceeded my expectations. I would recommend it to others (and have recommended it to my mother, who is planning on suggesting it to her book club). I was interested the whole way through and definitely think that it is a book of high quality. The relationships and characters were complexly developed, which I appreciated. The relationships wove together. I loved that the characters helped console each other by bringing up their past and how it related to issues each person was having. This book was worth my time. I like that strong friendships were made and that by the end of the book, I felt that I really knew the characters well and would want to interact with them in real life.

I did not see enough significance in the words “bean trees” to name the book this until I reached the final few pages of the book, in which bean trees are tied back in to Taylor’s and Turtle’s lives. On the way back home, Taylor and Turtle must stop at one more location in Oklahoma to sing final papers. While they are waiting, Taylor and Turtle visit a public library. They look through a horticultural encyclopedia. Turtle spots wisteria vines, which grow the beans. These vines thrive because of little bugs that attach to them called rhizobia. The rhizobia and vines work together and help each other out. This symbolizes how when people are on their own, they struggle to survive (like the vines by themselves). However, when people help each other out, great things can be accomplished. Turtle was able to survive because of Taylor. Taylor was able to afford housing because of Lou Ann (and vice versa). Taylor was able to bring in money to support Turtle because of Mattie (and the job she gave Taylor). Taylor was able to adopt Turtle because of Esperanza and Estevan. Estevan and Esperanza were able to reach safety because of Taylor. As Taylor explains, “The wisteria vines on their own would just barely get by […] but put them together with rhizobia and they make miracles” (241). All the characters in this book were hopeless by themselves, but when they worked together to help each other out, they were unstoppable.

Jackie Porter said...

Group Entry # 3
Completed by-
Jackie Porter
10/28/07

Overall, Sam, Michelle, and I enjoyed The Bean Trees, by Barbara Kingsolver, greatly. It is a noteworthy novel that provides a good example of the difference among culture and class within America. Through the characters of Espinoza and Estevan, we readers, got a sense of the Hispanic culture and the difficulties of living illegally in a country with little sense of security. Taylor and Lou Ann are excellent examples of those financially struggling within America. The book provides a clear image of poverty and lower class in America.
During our discussion, ideas of dependency were brought up. We believe that "everybody depends on someone else to live and we require a push to thrive." When Taylor and Turtle are glancing at a book from the library, Taylor made a deep connection between the picture in the book and her life.
"But this is the most interesting part: wisteria vines, like other legumes, often thrive in poor soil, the book said. Their secret is something called rhizobia. These are microscopic bugs that live underground in little knots on the roots. They suck nitrogen gas right out of the soil and turn it into fertilizer for the plant.
The rhizobia are not actually part of the plant, that are separate creatures, but they always love with legumes: a kind of underground railroad moving secretly up and down the roots" (Kingsolver 227).
We believe that the rhizobia represents Taylor and the vine represents Turtle and their dependant relationship off of one another. Everything in the world interacts and helps each other to grow. For example, without Lou Ann, Taylor would be homeless and seeking help and without Estevan, Taylor would not have a sense of pure love. No one person is completely independent and The Bean Trees clearly portrays this message. We all agreed that the most significant part of the book is the bean tree analogy and it shows the central idea the author is expressing about the world being intertwined.
We each gave a particular "rating" for the book out of ten. Sam believed the book was an eight and-a-half out of ten and was "not as exciting as Harry Potter, but it was still a pleasurable read." Michelle believed that book was a nine of out ten and "overall was great, but I found the ending to be a disappointment because it did not conclude the story." I believed the book was an eight out of ten because it was a great read; however, I found the beginning to be slow. We all found the book to be good and engaging at a different level than what we had expected.
A memorable part of The Bean Trees was when Taylor moves back with Lou Ann at the end of the book; however, we found it unconventional, but overall good. We also found the significance of the bean trees to be very memorable. There are some who are rootless such as Estevan and Esperanza and received help from those around them such and Mattie and Taylor who provided their foundation. Initially, all of the characters are trying "to fit in" and find their place and, as the story concludes, they all find their place and are satisfied.
Several themes and motifs were brought up throughout the book. The theme of class emerged as the story progresses, introducing the reader to Hispanic culture, particularly of the lower class. The theme of family is omnipresent throughout the book and all of the characters who are initially strangers grow together to form a family, particularly Lou Ann and Taylor's relationship. The motifs of beans and vegetables are common. These motifs represent how the world is intertwined and works as one unit. The motif of cars and tires is also present through The Bean Trees. These motifs represent travelling and overcoming fear with facing new experiences. Overall the motifs reflect the main ideas of change and adapting to something new.
We would all recommend the book to any reader interested in the significance of the lower class struggling in America. Michelle said, "It is worthwhile if you have time." Sam followed by saying, "Yes, it is fantastic." I concluded by saying, "It is very engaging and easy to understand." The Bean Trees is a very realistic novel that portrays the lower class of America clearly and represents the evolution of a family unit.