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            I found the continual air of mystery in Kirstin Valdez Quade’s “Nemecia” very interesting. From the beginning to the end of this short story, its peculiarity never wavers. Throughout the story, we come to understand (or not) Nemecia through the main protagonist’s interactions with her and information surrounding her. As the protagonist and Nemecia grow, so does the steepness of their oddities. At first, there are intense and polar interactions between the two in which the line between love and hate, of tragedy and trauma, is blurred. This is followed by more subdued but just as confusing and eccentric relations — where one refuses to acknowledge the other or small slights to one another occur. Through all of these interactions, ranging from the ritual scarification of the protagonist’s cheek to Nemecia’s refusal to accept a doll that the protagonist thought symbolized their childhood, the protagonist begins to understand herself within and without the context of Nemecia.

‘Who am I?’ the protagonist seems to ponder throughout this whole piece. Is she envious and filled with rage at her mother’s unconditional and extravagant love for her orphaned cousin– her surrogate sister? Or is she the pitying and saddened cousin who does not know how to manage grief and mystery and the strange fits of her traumatized relative?  Better yet, is she a child who grows up in a world of unknowns, who is marred and remolded, who is selfish and loving and trying?

She is all three.

To grow up is a complicated and strenuous endeavor. To do so within the confines and constraints imposed by another individual creates even more nuances within its complexity. To be a child who has a perspective on that individual as terrifying and exhilarating, as undeserving and befuddling, can make one angry and confused. To feel left out or less loved  in your own home by your family can make one deeply saddened and equally enraged. To feel continually slighted and await adoration or hate or something can be nerve-wracking.  To try to understand one’s self within these contexts, to try to understand others and love and grief,  is to understand that life is filled with uncertainties.  Many times ambivalence blankets life and we can only try.

 

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