Readergirlz Roundtable: Red Glass
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Current Song: You Remind Me by Fisher
Red Glass by Laura Resau, our May selection for readergirlz, takes readers on a journey with Sophie, a teenage girl scared of change but full of sisterly love for a little boy her family took in after a tragedy. Pablo is only five years old - and the only survivor of a group that crossed the Mexican border in search of a better life in the United States of America. A year later, when they discover Pablo has living relatives still in Mexico, Sophie, her great-aunt Dika, Dika's boyfriend and his son, Angel, accompany Pablo back to his hometown. It's a trip that will change all of their lives - and their families - forever.
Lorie Ann Grover: I was so happy to find Red Glass as I was reading works with Latina content and those authored by Latinas. The book's 3 starred reviews made me jump to find a copy. I love the content it is bringing to our group, from a girl finding her freedom from fear to life in a small Mexican city. However, the individual, vivid characters are what ring so powerfully to me.
Little Willow: Anyone want to share their background or nationality? Are there any immigration stories in your immediate family?
Lorie Ann: I know my German grandfather left Germany right before WWII. The other side of my family came from Switzerland.
Shelf Elf: On my mom's side, we've been in Canada for a bunch of generations, but originally from Britain. My dad came here on his own from Belfast in his twenties.
Holly Cupala: My side of the family has been in the U.S. for generations (originally from Wales), but my husband's parents immigrated from India in the 70's. Their story is fascinating to me.
Little Willow: Who were your favorite characters in Red Glass?
Lorie Ann: Dika and Nola. Weren't these ladies such great examples of loving your body shape and being comfortable in the world?
Little Willow: Indeed they were. I admired Nola's strength and determination. I liked Sophie as the narrator because she was seeing everything with open eyes and she had such an open heart. I felt for her whenever she spoke of her fears and worries.
Shelf Elf: I admired Dika a lot, the way she continued to love life and see reasons for joy even after having lived through war. I agree that Sophie had such a good heart. She'd be a great friend.
Holly: I think Dika, but I felt so close to Sophie, seeing the world through her eyes. Pablo reminded me of someone I know. It's hard to choose one.
Little Willow: What was your favorite scene?
Lorie Ann: I think the graveyard scene will linger in my mind most. There's such resolution and beauty. I find rather than whole scenes I carry striking images: light streaming through red glass, Dika's abundant folds, Nola as a rag pile, the white dress, underwater jewels, mirrored sunglasses. Also, what struck me, were the sensory details of man. There's an acceptance of dirt under nails, urine, mustiness, and sweat. Laura embraces what most consider unattractive as simply aspects of a rich life.
Shelf Elf: I agree, Lorie Ann. So much of this novel stayed with me long after I finished. For me, one of the most memorable scenes was the description of one of the "Midnight Parties" in Sophie's backyard when her family came together to help the immigrants who needed food and a safe place to rest. This scene revealed so much of this family's strength and integrity and love. I loved the fact that Sophie kept the broken eggshell to remind herself that it hadn't all just been a dream.
Little Willow: What did you think about Sophie's aunt Dika?
Lorie Ann: I absolutely love Dika. I need her in my life!
Shelf Elf: I think Dika is such a complex character, so full of lightness but she is also vulnerable. She seems wise. Someone I'd like to listen to.
Holly: Yes! She is the kind of influence I think everyone could benefit from - loving and wise.
Little Willow: Sophie and the book at large definitely benefited from Dika's presence, her history, and her boldness. Dika is a refugee from the Bosnian war. Has any war touched your family or yourself, personally?
Lorie Ann: My husband served in the army in our early marriage. I thank and support our soldiers and family who serve for our freedom.
Little Willow: My grandfather served in World War II as well. Sadly, he passed away a decade before I was born. I wish I had had the chance to know him, and apparently, I have some things in common with him. Just last year, I learned that a special day in my life (not the year, obviously, but the month and day) matches one of his service milestones, and that made me smile.
Shelf Elf: Both of my grandfathers were active in the Second World War. One was a pilot and the other built aircraft engines. My grandmother lost her first husband in that war. Thankfully, my family has not been directly affected by war since then.
Holly: My grandfathers were both too young for WWI and too old for WWII, but my dad served in Vietnam. My brother and sister's father (they are technically my half-siblings) was killed as a pilot when my mom was really young, just 22 with two little kids. I'm proud of my mom for her strength and faith and compassion through what must have been incredibly difficult circumstances (love you, Mom and Dad!).
Little Willow: Pablo is not related to Sophie by blood, but she quickly becomes his surrogate big sister. I have two close friends I call my brother and sister-in-law. Do you have any surrogate siblings?
Lorie Ann: The rgz team members are sisters!
Shelf Elf: Here, here!
Little Willow: (breaking into song) Sis-ters! Sis-ters!
Holly: Yes! I love that. My friends, definitely. Being a transplant, it's been important to me to grow a family around me.
Shelf Elf: Since I was a kid, I always wanted a "bosom friend," ever since I read Anne of Green Gables. After a lot of years of waiting and wondering, I found that friend. She is as close as a sister to me.
Little Willow: That's wonderful, Shelf Elf. Anne and Diana's friendship was so strong. In Red Glass, Sophie becomes extremely close to Pablo and starts to call him "Principito," or Little Prince. Do you have any nicknames for your siblings or other loved ones? Do they have any for you?
Lorie Ann: My brothers never gave me a nickname! Although my dad called me Dumplin' Spinner. No explanation. I didn't name my brothers either. I do call my daughters Bean and Bologna.
Shelf Elf: Same here, Lorie Ann - no nicknames from my sister, but my dad was a crazy nicknamer. I was "Lizard," for Elizabeth, my middle name.
Little Willow: I have a zillion nicknames - some from my family, some from my friends, some obvious, some silly.
Holly: I have accumulated nicknames, too! Many of them silly or personal or just plain weird.
Little Willow: Sophie feels out of place when they first arrive in Pablo's country, as he must have felt when he arrived in hers. Have you ever been to a friend's family reunion or family gathering? Were you uncomfortable, or did you immediately feel like one of the family?
Lorie Ann: Yes! [I felt] totally out of place at my husband's family reunion. Eek! The key is to ask people about their stories. You'll find you are soon woven into the fabric.
Shelf Elf: I'm pretty good at settling in with a group of strangers. I find that I'm sometimes less inhibited with people I barely know than I can be with family.
Holly: Being a somewhat shy person, I always feel a little out of place in any large gathing, whether it's my family or someone else's! It's gotten easier as I get older, but there's always an element of terror for me. I love Lorie Ann's advice!
Little Willow: I have never been outside of the country. Have you ever traveled far from home or immersed yourself in another culture?
Lorie Ann: Yes! I lived my first year of married life in South Korea, fifteen minutes south of the DMZ. Later I gave birth to our first daughter in Puerto Rico and lived there a year. They were very different experiences!
Shelf Elf: I'm mostly a homebody, but I have done a little traveling - Europe, US, parts of Canada - just nowhere very exotic. I guess one of the most unusual travel experiences I've had was when I was a little kid, we took a train way up north in Ontario to a town called Mooseonee, with a mostly Native Canadian (Cree) population. It was so remote. I remember being amazed by this completely different community, and how isolated it was. I was kind of stunned that my parents would choose the place for a vacation. But I sure remember it. The only way you could get there was by train or plane.
Holly: I would really love to live in another country someday. Husband and I have talked about it. India, Greece, Australia, England...
Little Willow: Let's talk about the origin of the title, the symbolism of the red glass . . .
Lorie Ann: I love the hope, forgiveness, light, future, and past that Laura blew into the red glass. I really related to Sophie feeling there was a piece of an object in her innermost self, whether twisted metal, light, or even hummingbirds. Angel's search for his mother's jewels corresponded perfectly with Sophie's search for her true spirit. And it's Sophie that uncovers them. "The red sheres were bursting with light. There was something magical about this, finding jewels in the darkness." The examples of beauty beside or within darkness were rich and full. "And yes, there were bones beneath our feet. Land mines and ashes of homes. But around us were crickets and fruit trees and flowers and sunshine and warmth." Brilliant!
Shelf Elf: Laura created such a memorable metaphor with the red glass. I thought that the glass suggested the idea that often the things in life that keep us going, that inspire us and help us remember true beauty are so fragile.
Little Willow: Sophia, like me, is easily worried. I wouldn't say that I fear things like she does, though. How do you work through your fears?
Lorie Ann: I could relate to Sophie and her fears. My mind seems to travel on similar paths, and I have to work to redirect fears. Ultimately it is my theology that puts them to rest.
Shelf Elf: Oh, yes. I'm one of those worrying types. If something can go wrong, chances are I will have imagined it. I've found that putting myself out there and trying to do the things I find scary really helps me to realize that almost all of the time, everything works out fine in the end. Surrounding yourself with calm folk is another good strategy.
Little Willow: Feel the fear and do it anyway! Courage comes when you face a fear, stare it down, and push through it.
Holly: I try to think about where the fear is coming from, and if there is truth in it and if what I know and believe is stronger than the fear. It seems like I revisit fears in life, but every time it's a little different, and I learn a little bit more about how to respond to it.
Lorie Ann: "Your heart in my heart" - Does this ring true for you? Absolutely [for me]. I feel I carry my family, present and deceased. I carry my friends. Even my pets. My heart has many pockets. :~)
Shelf Elf: I love that sentiment. To me, it's one of the best things we can aspire to as human beings, to care so deeply about other people and creatures that they become a part of who you are always.
Holly: Beautiful. I hope it resonates with other readers, too.
Little Willow: Does anyone else have a special relationship with the book The Little Prince?
Lorie Ann: It brings my grandfather to mind who first showed me his copy. It seemed magical to me!
Holly: The first time I read it was out loud to my husband. I look forward one day to reading it to our little one!
Little Willow: Enjoy each and every book you read together, Holly. Closing thoughts on Red Glass? Lorie Ann?
Lorie Ann: Kudos and thanks to Laura for being brave and sharing a culture not specifically her own, and then to doing so with such beauty, honor, and care!
To learn more about Red Glass, read the May 2009 issue of readergirlz. We hope that the website and this roundtable will encourage you to pick up the book and give it a read. We invite you to the readergirlz blog, where other readers and the author herself will be discussing the book's plot, themes, and characters all month long!