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The unit "Memories of Childhood" (a short five minute read) is on my curriculum; I think it consists of excerpts from two different books, one by Zitkala-Sa and one by Bama, presented together.

But what I fail to understand is why has this been done. These two are seemingly unrelated. While the first one talks about an issue where a girl complaints about getting her hair cut short forcefully, the other goes about the social issue of caste-system and prejudice against the untouchables.

These are seemingly unrelated, but as they are presented together, I believe they do have some purpose. Can some explain me what exactly it is?

  • The linked text begins, "This unit presents autobiographical episodes from the lives of two women from marginalised communities who look back on their childhood, and reflect on their relationship with the mainstream culture." Does this not answer your question? – Gareth Rees Aug 14 at 7:39
  • @GarethRees This part was actually not in the text that I had. I just searched the internet to put a link here Thanks for pointing that out. But how is the American girl from marginalised community. I don't know a lot about American system and what kind of discrimination there was. And why was she in a dorm. Can you tell me a bit about that. Even a link to her caste and their history and all would suffice I suppose – RandomAspirant Aug 17 at 19:31
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The first extract (‘The Cutting of My Long Hair’) comes from the autobiographical essay ‘The Schooldays of an Indian Girl’ (The Atlantic Monthly, February 1900). Zitkála-Šá was a member of the Dakota Sioux nation. The year of her birth, 1876, was the year of the defeat of the Sioux by the army of the United States. The military campaign was followed up by a campaign of cultural assimilation, and in 1884 Zitkála-Šá was taken from her family and tribe to be educated at a missionary school in Indiana. The story of the cutting of her long hair exemplifies the cruelty of the institution and symbolises the way the pupils were cut off from their heritage and culture.

The second extract (‘We Too Are Human Beings’) comes from the autobiography Karukku (1992; translated into English by Lakshmi Holmström, 2000). Bama was born into the Dalit caste in Tamil Nadu. The extract describes an experience in her childhood when she first became aware of the prejudice against her caste, through the imposition of ‘untouchability’ by members of ‘higher’ castes.

So the extracts have multiple points in common, as explained in the introduction to the unit:

This unit presents autobiographical episodes from the lives of two women from marginalised communities [that is, Dakota Sioux and Tamil Dalits] who look back on their childhood, and reflect on their relationship with the mainstream culture [that is, white Americans and higher-caste Indians, respectively].

In particular, both extracts describe the point in the author’s childhood when they first became aware of the cruelty and prejudice of the mainstream and how it would be deployed against them.

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