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I found Kristin Valdez Quade’s “Mojave Rats” very interesting- the main character, Monica, in particular. Throughout the short story Monica makes many comments and has many thoughts about how much better she is than those around her; how much more sophisticated and of better breeding (only her, she never really goes into much detail about her family being any better). On page 32 she says “The place caught people like trash in a wire fence, damaged, discarded people blown out of the bright tree-lined towns of America, held here until the wind came up. Mojave rats, Elliot called them, these denizens of the dust.” Later on this page there is talk of how “determined that people understand she wasn’t like them… She told herself again and again that her time at Shady Lanes was only prelude to her real life…” and these, along with several other lines in this short story, showcase Monica’s character as being extremely condescending and arrogant.
There was also the subject of Monica’s “enormity of disloyalty to Elliot” (pg. 49) and the strained relationship between her and the older daughter, Cordelia. “For all his flaws, Peter would never have found himself in Elliot’s position,…” though she later attempts to make amends for this thought, it was her immediate response to her situation. Peter, though abusive and overbearing, would never have dragged her to a place like Shady Lanes, a place our main character so obviously loathes. There was also the instance that she handed over her prized possession-the three hundred dollar dress- to Amanda, despite having just told Cordelia, her own daughter, moments before, that it should have been hers one day. Again, she feels guilt for her actions and thoughts, but it seems her first response to an uncomfortable situation is self-preservation and pride, despite being a mother and wife with a second chance at a loving husband and family.
The strain on this Mother-daughter relationship is also very present on page 33, when Cordelia is too close to the road as a truck barrels past. When Monica yanks her oldest daughter by the arm, she says “‘Don’t you ever-“ she started, not caring how much she hurt Cordelia-glad to hurt her, even-‘“. When I read this sentence for the first time, I felt confused; surely she meant glad to hurt her because she was putting herself in danger? But as I finished the story and read Monica’s conclusions about Cordelia, or, more accurately, her projections of what the little girl would be, it did not seem such a selfless, motherly thought. Monica recognizes that her daughter is now an outsider in the family, that “Monica herself had put her there,..” (pg. 56) but in the last sentence makes a statement that rings with bitterness to me; “…and she wouldn’t even notice that she was finally warm.” (pg. 57) Despite the conclusions she had only just come to about the misfortune of her daughter’s circumstances, she still finds fault with her. With everyone, but Monica herself. For all of the looking down and judging that she does on the rest of Shady Lanes, the “Mojave rats, and even her own daughter, it seems to me that the only real rat in this short story is Monica herself.

Throughout the short story “Mojave Rats,” I felt vibes of discontentment. The main protagonist, Monica, grapples with many issues; ranging from caring for her family in a new and unsatisfactory place to her conflicted feelings toward her current life and her eldest daughter. She is struggling with the path her life has taken.

No longer the wife of a rich and sophisticated but abusive husband, she battles with who she was and what she’s lost. She had status and material possessions–a life she dreamt for herself, when with him. Without him, she is no longer abused and belittled. She is a woman with two children, a love for literature, no degree and a Ph.D. earning husband. Seems satisfactory, right? To Monica, she is struggling as she was before her ex-husband. She has nothing to show for her dedication and work. She loves her children and adores her husband, but this earns her no status, no financial security. While her husband is attempting to earn his degree, funding has dried up and progress is hard to come by. She is miserable and feels stuck. Adding to this is her contention with her eldest daughter. Within her family unit, there is the baby, Elliot and herself as well as her eldest daughter Cordelia. Sharp with her wit and tongue, as well as very observant, Cordelia strains the comfortability Monica has with herself. As the last lingering piece of a puzzle, Monica has already rid herself of, Cordelia is a constant reminder of the darker days in her life. She does not fit well in her new puzzle.

How do you raise your child knowing you will become more distant and resentful towards each other? How do you become satisfied with a life you never wanted to live? Are you selfish? Are you mean? Are you projecting complex feelings and expectations onto others– writing their fates before they can begin to live? Monica asks herself these questions and doesn’t have an answer. She is conflicted and that confliction is disconcerting and resonant to the reader.


This was one of my favorite stories we have read so far. I loved that it read as a  simple piece, but had a lot going on and was able to tie the past, present, and future into the story within three pages which in and of itself is impressive. I enjoyed Tallen’s use of repetition and parallel structure as devices of delay in this story. There is also an abundance of contrasts, such as his wife driving exactly 55 miles per hour while he typically does 80. There is also a great contrast shown between the narrator and Jack’s visions for the future, which makes sense since in situations like this. One person is much more attached than the other which I feel many of us can relate to. Overall I thought it was interesting to get an inside look at what it is like to be in the husband and mistress’ shoes since we typically only see the wife who is being cheated ons side of the story.

I enjoyed reading Belle Boggs, “Good News for a Hard Time” because it was an intriguing story with lots of detail and new perspectives. Although I’ve never been in the position of the narrator, I was able to feel how she was feeling because it was relatable. The author’s use of detail made it easy to envision all of the settings and surroundings. Her detail also made it easy to envision the characters and their attitudes. For example it was easy to picture the characters like skinny or the people living in the neighborhood. The story contains a running problem of the narrator having to tell her husband that she is pregnant and this issue is never resolved. While reading the story I felt myself distressed by the stress the narrator was feeling. The narrator is also dealing with the issue of her husband having his arm amputated and getting situated with his new lifestyle. This story contained many little background stories inside of it. For instance the story about Ronnie’s mother running off to hollywood or the story about Ronnie dropping out of college. In such a short story, the reader is able to understand very complicated things about the narrators life.

I really liked this story because I found it to be very relatable even though it is fictional. Myself, as the reader, can definitely relate to being in a relationship with someone of a completely opposite personality and knowing it isn’t going to work out. Another thing I found interesting was the way the author laid out Jack’s wife, without ever actually saying it she showed the reader that the wife was boring and safe; always driving the speed limit, making meatloaf for dinner, etc. Tallent sneakily hints things about the characters through creative word choice and dialogue. When reading it the first time I didn’t pick up on the speed limit and meatloaf thing meaning it was implying that the woman was boring but the more I read it the more I picked up on things such as these. This is a clever way in which the writer has a deeper meaning in simple things.

I really liked how this story was told in a way that makes it real and relatable to the reader (it dealt with emotionally complicated and tough situations that many people in the real world go through and can relate to). For example, Ronnie (the main character in this story) must learn to cope with her husband’s injury (he was a soldier who lost a limb in the line of duty). In addition, Ronnie struggles with being unhappy in her marriage, ending up just like her mother (marrying someone because it was the right thing to do and ultimately ending up being stuck on the reservation, the one place she swore she would move away from as soon as she was old enough), and with her unexpected and untimely pregnancy. Boggs develops a clear voice throughout this story and uses lots of imagery to help establish the setting. The narrator uses this imagery as a metaphor for her loneliness as well as her yearning for freedom from the conformities of the life she is living.

The author did a really great job of establishing a clear picture right in the beginning of the story. For example, the paragraph,

Last night Monica Vigil-Rios had lain awake, listening to the wind whip across the salt flats and buffet the trailer, imagining intruders with dark intentions outside. They were living in a piece of aluminum foil, Monica thought. That paltry lock wouldn’t withstand a can opener.

allows the reader to automatically acquire some understanding of the family’s struggles. The author also gave each character a clear voice. You could really feel Monica’s internal struggles, Cordelia’s anger and resentment, and Elliot’s love and commitment to his family. I thought the scenes surrounding the dress were very interesting because the dress held so much of Monica’s past, yet she was so willing to give it away. It was a symbol of so many emotions and relationships that were at one time important to her. She realized that it was time to let it all go because her life has changed so much. I assumed she was going to give her dress to Cordelia, but instead she gave it to Amanda. Monica knew Amanda’s family had less of a chance for a successful future than her own family did. The fact that she then worries and somewhat regrets this decision gives so much depth to her character that the reader didn’t quite get before. It may have seemed like she had completely resigned her past, but she actually had not. I really enjoyed this story!

I really like this story and how the characters’ amount of life experience (and lack thereof) is demonstrated in the way they interact with one another. Jack, who is older, has a more realistic outlook on the future than the narrator, understanding that certain things, especially love, don’t last forever and don’t always turn out the way you want: “In two years you’ll write, ‘I wonder what that old guy’s name was, the one with the curly hair and the filthy dirty pickup truck and time on his hands.'” The narrator, on the other hand, is a young girl in love, and so has a much more idealistic plan for the future: “In two years I’ll write, ‘Jack should be home by now. Little Jack is hungry for his supper. He said his first word today besides “Mama” and “Papa.”‘” While they may both hope for their fairy tale happily ever after, at least one of them is being realistic about the fact that it may not ever happen. They are both at completely different stages in life and so see and understand the world in completely different ways. It may even help the reader to come to a similar understanding about “idealism vs. realism” or “love vs. infatuation” as well, having been shown more than one perspective on the topic.

I really enjoyed the detail that went into describing the relationship between the seemingly single father and his children.  I was able to get the sense of how much the father cared for them and enjoyed being a dad with all the dad corniness that comes with it.  I think the author did a really good job at characterizing the dad’s simple enjoyment of his children by the use of bad dad jokes sprinkled throughout the story, and the listing of normal, everyday activities.  The everyday activities bring the story to life because it provides to us, the reader, an insight and different perspective to actions that we may take for granted in a way because they seem so common and every day to us.  It is these common everyday interactions of taking a drive, of eating out for lunch, killing time with jokes that aren’t necessarily funny, of sibling bicker, of toughing out a storm together in sleeping bags that help turn something simple into something heartwarming and real.

Write a short story (of three or so double-spaced pages) in which one of the characters below shows up and changes the lives of those he or she encounters. Place the story in the Fiction Exercise 1 folder on Google Drive. Don’t forget that your document should be named in this manner: YourName.CRWR106.FictionEx1.docx. Also, don’t forget this (from the syllabus): Assignments that suggest a lack of substantial effort and those plagued by persistent or egregious errors will be returned for revision and proofreading.

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I personally liked this story because I felt like I could relate to it in a way because we go to an all-girls school. On this day every year all of the boys, except certain boys, skip school and go hunting because it is the beginning of hunting season. The story’s narrator talks about the school’s campus just having a softer, lighter feeling, and I can see how that would happen. The story is written in third-person omniscient, which means the narrator knows the thoughts and feelings of all of the characters in the story. I liked reading it that way because we can get to know what everybody is feeling and doing, and it’s not just from one perspective. We can see different people’s struggles like ones we don’t usually think about like the secretary or the teacher. There is really no story line other than the girl goes to school and she can hear the gunshots from the boys hunting. Rather than the story having one large problem, it has many little issues from all different people. The story kind of ends leaving you wondering if there was more to it. But it made you think about the deer in the end who comes onto the school campus but won’t realize that it is safe there until it is too late.

Boggs’ “Deer Season” was very interesting to read. I really enjoyed the shift of perspective throughout; to me it had a sense of stream of consciousness, but with more direction. The examination of a single point in time through the different lenses was both interesting and enlightening. The descriptions and narrative made me feel like I had an understanding of the school at large, with a small glimpse at a few people who weren’t even a good sample of the school’s population. With every shift in perspective, there was a clear shift in voice, which made me believe there was a new narrator.

            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.


I appreciated the way Boggs used point of view to make her short story stronger. I had never read anything where each paragraph is written from a different character’s point of view, and I think that because this story was short, it worked beautifully and wasn’t overwhelming. That being said, I don’t think that this would work for a longer piece because it would become impossible to keep up with. By giving the audience an look inside the minds of the people left behind on opening day, Boggs is portraying how the men who left that day affect the lives of each and every person in the school in one way or another. The part that really stood out the most to me was the last paragraph where the character the audience is living through is a young deer. This was memorable because it is fairly unusual to see this being done, unless in a Disney movie or children’s book, and especially only over the span of a single paragraph. I feel as though I got a massive amount of information out of a four-page story, which greatly impressed me, and shows the immense talent Boggs possesses in regards to the way she is able to portray a series of events in a brief, yet effective manner.

I really enjoyed reading this story because it really drew me in and pushed me to keep reading until the end. It had moments of darkness in it that caught my attention and left me wanting to know more. When the narrator wants to know the truth, the reader also wants to know the truth. The story always kept me in suspense, and even after finding out the truth, I found myself wanting to know more.  The story narrates a person’s entire childhood in such little time but still manages to precisely explain hows she’s feeling. Being not that much older than the character and the same gender, I could relate to the story at times. It reminds me of the innocence and confusion of my childhood and the things that I was unaware of as a child but now completely understand. Even just having sisters, I found the story relatable. It also reminds me of the people I have grown apart from between now and my childhood. The entire story is very easy to visualize in my head. All of the settings I see as the home and buildings I spent my childhood in. I can easily visualize things like the cracked doll or the wings the main character was going to wear. Overall, I very much enjoyed reading this story and wished that it was even longer.

It was interesting how the author presented a few characters and gave insight to their perspectives. It felt strange for such a short story to have so many different perspectives, but the author did a great job in clearly separating the characters so it was never confusing. They all talked in different ways about how the absence of the hunting boys effected them. It gave the remaining people time to think and reflect on more than they usually would have because they normally have to keep their guard up. When reading this short story, I had flashbacks to when I was in high school. The first week of hunting season was a time when most people could relax and not have to worry about getting catcalled or spoken down to, and the teachers would use this time to do more ‘fun’ projects that would have most definitely been made fun of by the hunting boys. At the end of the story, the point of view switches from a person’s mind to an animal’s mind, specifically a deer’s mind. It makes the reader realize that the few times the boys are gone from terrorizing and controlling the school, they terrorize the wildlife. The destruction isn’t gone, it’s just been redirected. Except this time, it’s okay for them to kill.

I find Quade’s “Nemecia” extremely intriguing. As the reader, I love how there is no certainty given (through the entire first half of the story) to the clarification of whether Nemecia has actually killed her mother and father. Quade adds suspense to the story by having the reader rely on Nemecia’s (just like how Maria had believed her) story of how her mother and father died. The reader can almost feel the same tension during confrontations between Nemecia and Maria as much as Maria does.

This is a coming-of-age story that shows how certain life circumstances shape the person one becomes. Due to the violent acts Nemecia has seen her father commit towads her mother, Nemecia grows up lashing out uncontrollably, not knowing how to control her emotions, and in a way, she is abusive towards Maria both physically and verbally; she takes on the abusive characteristics of her father. This story shows how a child might act when they have repressed his/her feelings and does not know how to express their emotions in a healthy way.

As Maria and Nemecia get older, there is always competition between them. Maria is jealous of how Nemecia receives favorable attention from her own parents and does not understand why Nemecia is almost favored more than she is (especially when Maria still believes that Nemecia is a murderer). During a heated discussion between Maria and Nemecia about the Corpus Christi procession, Maria exclaims that Nemecia is the one who killed her mother and father. This statement begins the divergence between Nemecia and Maria that will change their relationship forever.

As Maria and her family arrive in California to see Nemecia’s wedding, the reader sees how time has changed Nemecia.

“Nemecia, hijita,” my mother said. She stepped back and looked at my cousin happily. “Norma,” my cousin said. “My name is Norma.” (23)

This quote shows how time and distance between family members helps each member of the family grow in a way that they otherwise might not have been able to. At the end of the story, the reader is able to see how Nemecia’s character has clearly shifted from being abusive and emotionally unstable to happy and peaceful. However, the ending sentence reveals that, although Nemecia appears to be calm and collected on the outside, she is still a troubled person who feels shattered and broken on the inside.

Nemecia held a wineglass up to the window and turned it. “See how clear?” Shards of light moved across her face. (26)

I really liked how Boggs used a different style in terms of point of view throughout this short story. The point of view of the story changes at the beginning of each new paragraph. Not only is this a different and interesting way to move the plot along, but it also provides more than one perspective/insight into the thoughts and feelings of various students and faculty members who attend and work at this school. I also thought it was interesting that Boggs included the perspective of one of the boys who stayed behind and did not go deer hunting. While reading this story, I was surprised and a little confused when Boggs started writing from the point of view of one of the boys who stayed behind because at the beginning of the story, the narrator says that “on the first day of deer season the high school is deserted by all the boys.” However, I later realized that there were probably a few boys who were not hunters and I liked how Boggs included this boy’s perspective because it gave the reader a sense of what it’s like to go to this school through the eyes of one of the boys and how the other boys (the “rednecks,” as the boy refers to them) treat girls and boys like himself who go to the same school. This short story is full of descriptions about the same class and the same school, yet they all differ because they are told from different perspectives, making the story more intriguing.

I found “Nemecia” very frustrating at first—the older girl bullying her younger cousin in such quiet, unnoticed ways and Maria never defending herself—but also intriguing in the fictional, yet supremely personal and complex bad blood relationship presented. There are moments in the story, especially in the beginning (Maria’s telling of how Nemecia permanently disfigured her face) that the language and inner monologue displace and confuse the anger and hatred that the younger girl will later feel for her older cousin—the “miracle child”. Sentences like “It only hurt a little, and what did I, at seven years old, care about beauty?” (pg. 9) draw attention to the fact that at the time, she was only seven, and didn’t understand a thing about scars or what Nemecia was really doing to her, and the better question; why she was doing it.

I also thought the name and title “Nemecia” were interesting; my first thought upon reading the word for the first time was that it sounded eerily similar to “nemesis” which is almost the relationship being described in this reflective narrative. Though we never get Nemecia’s perspective, it is present in the way she acts and speaks towards our main character (making Maria afraid of her by confessing to “murder”, maiming the little girl’s face, taking away her goal of getting to lead the Corpus Christi event) that these feelings of resentment are mutual.

Overall, I believe Nemecia is thought provoking and extremely well crafted. The title is a touch of foreshadowing, the characters believable and very present in the story (ie., the use of a picture to begin, describing the two main characters and their outward appearances) and the portrayal of resentment, jealousy, and eventually an almost understanding between the two, or maybe some form of acceptance. “Nemecia held a wineglass up to the window and turned it. ‘See how clear?’ Shards of light moved across her face.” (pg. 26) There does not seem to be any underlying tones of resentment left in this sentence, just a form of accepting who Maria’s cousin is. I believe this to be true because of the revisiting of the scar left on her own face from Nemecia when talking about the picture of the little group on the beach. “My scar shows as a gray smear on my cheek.” (pg. 24) This is not a story about the mending of a relationship between two girls, but their acceptance and understanding of themselves, and in a way, each other.

What I found most interesting about this story is the portrayal of liberation and how it relates to the boys in the story. The absent young men in the story are described as being very overbearing, constantly bullying the rest of the characters into conformity and submission–including the students in Mrs. Hayes’s art class. Art is supposed to be something freeing, something that allows the individual to express themselves without fear, but instead, the main characters find themselves being constantly ridiculed by the young men in the class for their own passion. In their absence, however, the remaining students suddenly find themselves free to let go and fully enjoy themselves for the first time; the art students are able to work in peace, the girls are able to dress comfortably, and the staff members are able to relax a bit as well, not having to deal with all the problems that they usually experience from the boys. Out of violence comes the freedom to truly be oneself, with the cost of this freedom being the loss of life. The boys act as both liberator and executioner; with them in school, the deer would be free and safe, but the other characters in the story would be repressed as usual. Without them, the other characters are able to be themselves, but the deer are hunted down and killed. Either way, someone is going to win and someone is going to lose.

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