Tuesday, August 9, 2011

30 Days of Books, Day 25.

[A character you can relate to the most.]

I want a Jacob. *This* Jacob, not a Pedowolf Jacob.
Josephine Alibrandi, of Looking for Alibrandi fame, was always going to win this one. I don't think I've ever identified with a character so much. I saw the film of this book first (doesn't begin to do it justice) and thought, "Huh. Her family's sorta like mine, except they speak Italian."
Read the book, and Josie was exactly who my fourteen year old self longed to be when I hit eighteen. And re-reading the book as I did when I was eighteen, I think I'm far too close to there. Not that I'm complaining, of course.

The cultural issues - who am I? "Technically," Josie says at one point to a fellow student, a typical Anglo, "I'm older than you are, and I was born here. If anyone's the New Australian, it's you."
I laughed so much at that line, and tucked it in my mind for future use.
Knowing where you come from is an interesting thing. So interesting, they make a point of asking it of you on a Census. "What's your cultural background? Where were your parents born?" I'm partly Chilean, partly English and Welsh, wholly Australian. And for Josie, I suspect her cultural makeup was much the same - that despite the roots, what mattered was the Australian part. Yet you can't really run from those roots; they'll hold you as tight as they can. In high school, identifying myself was hard - I wanted to run to Chile and see if I fit. I wanted to escape here, because in my family - an eighties-clad version of Chile, clashing with Australia - I didn't fit. I was too white. At school, it wasn't huge as some kids would get, but I was told that there was a difference between my life and everyone else's. No one else would bring sopapillas or empanadas to school, or carry massive flasks of green tea with a strange combination of herbs that Nana would subtly ask Mary to bless before she slipped them in my Thermos. (She knew how I felt about Mary.) Other kids' fathers didn't have accents like mine supposedly did.
And Josie Alibrandi was the same.
Crazy nonna (seriously, are hers and mine the same woman?!) and traditions that aren't practised at all in the home country. Rules, so many rules, that other people just don't get.

The way Josie navigated her life was how I imagine I'd do it, and not out of my old desire to emulate her. It's because Josie was a real character - or at least, very real to me. There'd be the ups, and the downs, and the walking around for forty years in the desert because you're trying to figure out what the heck you're supposed to do. 
And the eyeroll. My mother probably thought I was possessed,
I did this so much.
And at the end, acceptance. Because no matter what you do, your heritage won't change. She and I aren't defined by that, but enhanced by that.
And we also come up with lines that in hindsight make you facepalm. "Don't say that! You're not an idiot, you idiot!"

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