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Book Review on Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

Troubled youth have a very special place in my heart. As an “urban school” student, I know first-hand that many of the teachers there have no faith in the children, and they set them up for failure. Not all, but most of the teachers think of these kids as criminals, and assume they will never get to college. With recent “reforms” in the education system, it has only continued to get worse. This is why, reading a book like Hag-Seed is so entirely refreshing and even though it is a novel, it can be truly inspiring.

Hag-Seed is the retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. I have never read The Tempest, so I looked it up to read up on it before really getting into the story, but there was no need. Atwood does a wonderful job at really hashing the two stories together.

Hag-Seed tells the story of Felix, a victim of treachery, who is fired from his job as the Artistic Director of the theater. At first, I wasn’t sure whether he was sane or not, and blamed him for construing the so-called treachery in his head. After some time, Felix accepts a job as a literacy teacher at a prison under a false name. He teaches the convicts through Shakespeare and has them perform elaborate shows that gained so much recognition that it was brought up to the attention of the officials who had destroyed his life. Felix stews in his ideas of revenge for 12 years, before he is given the opportunity to act on them. As the story unravels, you begin to see the parallels in the characters, and are taken through a retelling of the story, through modern times.

Felix treats the convicts as actors, not as criminals. He earns their respect and transforms the barely-literate into Shakespeare-performing actors. The outcome is a very inspiring. It got me thinking of all that urban kids are capable of, if they have the trust of an adult who truly believes in them. Some kids never find that adult, and these convicts found their light while they were already in jail. Is Hag-Seed falsely optimistic? I don’t think so, but then again, I guess I can be an optimistic person as well.

I took a verrrryyyyy long time to read it, but I’m not sure why. It was well-written, engaging, and I really loved the retelling. 5/5

Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

On recent world news…

When I heard about our new president’s immigration ban over the weekend, I cried. Not immediately, because I was on a train full of people, but I did take a moment once I was home. As stated on an earlier essay, I am a child of immigrants. I love this country more than anything in the world because it was able to give us the opportunity we would not have had anywhere else. This country gave my dad, a Salvadoran war vet, a chance to start a new life away from the horrors of war. It gave my mom a chance to restart a life in a country that was not torn and impoverished by a horrifying civil war. Where would they be if our borders had been closed then? I don’t know. It’s a thought I never had because we were always the country to help those in need.

As a person, I am not friendly. I am never the ray of sunshine in a room. I am rough around the edges, and one that most people never get to know personally. Some people try really hard to be liked, but I don’t try at all. Despite my size, I can be intimidating because I give off what I call a “fuck you vibe” I know what I am, and I can list off all my flaws; I am very aware of them. But underneath my bad attitude, I am always among the first to offer you my help when you need it. Know who taught me that? This country. I always look out for the little guy because I can. I was taught to help those truly in need. We will get through it together. If you don’t want my help, that’s cool too. More power to you, but my offer will always stand.

My father is a great man, even though we used to fight like cats and dogs. Now is the time where I would usually flatter myself and say that the reason for this is that we’re similar, but I’ve grown to realize I am nowhere near as brave and awesome as he is. He went to war at the wee age of 18. War is a terrible thing. It brings forth unspeakable horrors, it has been well documented throughout time. This particular war was especially brutal from what I understand. My dad never talks about it, I never did any research on it. I would honestly rather not know. I don’t want to know what children were forced to do for a war they did not truly understand. I would rather not know the horrors witnessed by all involved. I told you, I’m not as brave as my dad.

My dad had a childhood friend on the opposing side of the war, just like in so many war novels and movies, except that this was real. He was a part of my early childhood, and he was always so proud of us. He truly was one of the smartest people I knew. I remember he would tell me fascinating stories that would have me at the edge of my seat. Little did I know, he was teaching me History. He knew all about world history and he also knew about literature. He was truly an intellect, but he was also a homeless alcoholic who had fought against my dad in a horrific war.

I love my dad for being the bigger person. Meanwhile, I can hold a grudge for the rest of my life. I will really nurse that grudge and it will be nearly impossible for me to put it aside. (You broke my Cerulean crayon in 4th grade Manny Sivas!!! It was my favorite color, and you broke it and then tried to hide it! I remember, you bastard! This really happened by the way and I recently told someone about it [Brit] see? I’m not lying.)

Anyway… back to the topic at hand, my dad being the bigger person… he remained friends with him, and not only that, but repeatedly tried to help him. Every time he said he was ready to sober up, my dad was there to help in any way he could. After many years, his sisters got involved and moved him far away where they could keep an eye on him. He did sober up, and he called my dad to thank him for being a true friend, and never giving up on him. He died not too long after. It was a sucker punch to us, really. Wherever he is now, I hope he knows he is remembered by me as an intellect, for his laugh, for his story-telling abilities, and not by his vices.

Moral of the story: if two people who were so fundamentally different helped one another, why can’t we? I understand some people will take this story as a reason why we shouldn’t bring in more people, but guess what? Had there been PTSD help available, his story may have turned out a little differently.

When I heard of the ban, so many thoughts came to mind, and I cried knowing that so many refugees would be turned away from a country they would grow to love more than their own. My family is my world. The thought that families will be separated breaks my heart. I could never imagine having to go through the pain and trauma. I am not a religious person, but I pray for the hate to end. I pray for the ignorance to end. I pray for our country to heal. I pray for the human race to come together and look out for one another.