Have you ever asked yourself where do I belong? Where do I fit in?
As I finish up the book, Signs Preceding the End of the World, which was translated into English by Lisa Dillman. It focuses on Makina, a young Mexican woman, as she travels from her rural village across alien towns, ice-green rivers, and black mountain searching for her brother north of the U.S.-Mexico border.
While reading, the author takes us on heroic journey that goes through many underworlds to get to the place where she finds her brother. Through the journey, one thing that had caught my attention was how the book is related to real-life problems with immigrants and how they don’t feel like they belong in a place they started life, but the life they wanted is no better than the life they once had.
In the beginning of the book, her mom sends her to give her brother a paper. While on her journey she was sent to a house. She had knocked and there stood a small man with glasses, wrapped in a purple bathrobe. He was black. And before she had said something, he beat her to it with, “I could put a blond wig on if you would like.” I think this is a good example of trying to belong in the world. He’s just a black guy living in a white world, and all you could really do is dress like a white person because there is not anything you can really do about it.
Another example of one trying to belong/fit in was with her brother. After she had found him on army base, he was too ashamed to return home, which is why he accepted the first job that came his way. His job was to help save a family, but I think it is him who needs saving.
His job was to pass himself off as the other, in return, the family would pay him sum of money. He learned by heart the answers he must give when he reported, the family taught him to copy the signature of the kid he is replacing, memorized his social security number, and they gave him pancakes with warm milk which they had treated him well.
I think that was the life he wanted and to belong in a life and family that has everything that may seem like the “American dream” but it is something he’s not going to be able to get. He realized traveling to where he is, may had seem like everything in the movie, but it’s not like that.
I think that why the author had used Makina as a heroic narrator. She strong, independent, problematic and can speak 3 different languages. From the beginning, she knew where she had belonged.
“She’d already arranged for her crossing and how to find her brother, now she had to make sure there would be someone to help her back; she didn’t want to stay there, nor have to endure what had happened to a friend who stayed away too long, maybe a day too long or an hour too long, at any rate long enough too long that when he came back it turned out that everything was still the same, but now somehow all different, or everything was similar but not the same: his mother was no longer his mother, his brothers and sisters were no longer his brothers and sisters, they were people with difficult names and improbable mannerisms, as if they’d been copied off an original that no longer existed; even the air, he said, warmed his chest in a different way” (p7)