1942 was the year that Rose and Angela became best friends.
The two women had more than they thought in common. After having both come from the Ukraine to start a new life in New York City the two became neighbors in their building on the Lower East Side. The two ladies were born in the winter of 1870, they both met their husbands in school and got married at the age of 20, and they each had one daughter and two grandchildren.
They were neighbors for 42 years and had only ever smiled at each other in the hall and exchanged hello’s and small talk about the weather. But all that changed in the spring of 1941 when their daughters began working again.
Naturally, Angela and Rose had offered to look after their grandchildren while their daughters headed to work in the clothing factory they had just started in. Now with two little young kids running around the small apartment, the only peace and quiet the two ladies could find without leaving the place was at their fire escapes which served as a combination of a window sill and a balcony in New York City.
At first, they two had laughed off the coincidence of encountering each other at the red staircases on the exterior of their apartment, but then the visits became more frequent and the topics of conversation got more personal.
So each afternoon, at exactly two, Rose and Angela had their favorite interactions of the day with one another as they spoke about their life back in the Ukraine, their husbands, the daughters, their grandchildren, and their interests.
All the stress the ladies carried was relieved with the advice they gave each other and the laughs they shared.
Pitch Black by Youme Landowne and Anthony Horton focused on the life of a homeless man living in the darkness of the NYC Subway tunnels.
The comic book’s main character was a young black man living in the streets of NYC. After having been abandoned, he found himself trying to survive in the streets of this jungle and he finally made his way to a homeless shelter. At the homeless shelter, life was worse than it was in the street. It was so terrible that he made his way back onto the streets to avoid all that happened in there, eventually making his way to the Subway tunnels.
If I were to discuss or teach this comic book to either High School or College students, the discussion would be focused around the environments of homeless shelters in the city and how the government seemingly turns a blind eye to the epidemic.
If life inside a shelter is worse than outside, what does that say about these shelters? The book showed the reader how people would die everyday in the shelters, how there would only be a certain day of the week where the food wasn’t bland and disgusting, how the homeless people would just practically be thrown in a room and left to their own devices. Conflicts arise in those rooms, government officials bring up the issues of shelters or the growing number of homeless people but they never seem to actually do anything about it.
I would bring up past issues with homeless shelters and people in them, I’d even bring up today’s issue of our Mayor’s dilemma with the old hotel in Queens being turned into a homeless shelter and both sides of the story. There is a wide variety of subtopics to cover when it comes to homelessness, but the rates in NYC are going up and that can only mean the hellish shelters are bound to become even worse. Focusing on life inside of said shelters seems like the most reasonable thing to discuss with students.
For my Academic Service Learning I took a stroll down to the Queens Library on Merrick Blvd in Jamaica, Queens.
I had never been to that library before, but according to some other fellow SJU students that I met, the place got an unbelievable makeover. The entrance to the library is beautiful and the whole first floor is a rotunda. The children’s part of the library is off to the right with a first floor and a second floor, that is seemingly reserved for all the loud activities like the homework helping I was taking part in.
Clearly homework help doesn’t sound like it’s meant to be a loud task, but with at least five kids at each table it is. I had imagined I was going to be helping these kids out one on one, but I was stuck with a minimum of five at the table and I was to help them all simultaneously with all different types of subjects.
The first time I went was exhausting and I ended up staying an hour later than intended just to help two little sisters out with their math. I enjoyed getting to influence the little kids in making sure that they understood that their education comes first and to stay on top of all their school work. I was a lot of help with the Hispanic kids when their mom’s came around and I got to actually speak to them and they were relieved and pleased to have things explained to them.
The second time I went, I had help from a fellow SJU student at the table I was sat at. I had some of the same kids come back to me cause they really liked how I had helped them the time before. There was one kid cheering when we got his homework done in twenty minutes. He was going on to his other friends who had just arrived that he got his homework all done so early and now he had time to go buy a guitar at a music shop with his mom.
The experience was beyond memorable because although I only got to see these kids twice and help them with what they seem to struggle the most with, I thought back on how my mom would always sit me down and make sure I did all my homework as soon as I got through the door when I arrived home. The first thing I’d do was my homework, all by myself, and I never needed help but this experience made me realize that not all people are the same. I learned how to be patient, what with six kids on top of me asking me English and Math questions, and how to communicate things better to them and even their parents.
I like to think that I helped these kids out in some way, mostly by passing on the ideals of education coming before anything else. I even tried to explain to a kid how reading is the most fun thing anyone could do, as a bibliophile I was not exaggerating. It was a wonderful experience and I’d like to go back on my free time someday. It’s not everyday that you get to sit at a table and teach an eight year old something while they teach you something back.
In Will Eisner’s A Life Force, the reader encounters numerous characters living in a tenement in the Bronx in the 1930’s. The characters span from a newly poor young man to a Rabbi with a wife who isn’t quite well in the head.
A character I really liked in the graphic novel was Elton who was a victim of the Crash of 1929. He grew up in a wealthy family and was accustomed to money so he decided to venture out of the family business and find his own path. As soon as his father passed, Elton got rid of the family business and lived just on the stocks until the market crash where he lost his job, money, friends, basically everything in his life. From there he had to move to the Bronx to Dropsie Avenue in a tenement. Elton met Rebecca there, his soon to be wife, and her Jewish Family. Eventually, with support from Rebecca, Elton got a new job, moved up in the ranks, and got Rebecca’s father a business of his own and managed to make good money.
The Great Depression affected everyone and their jobs, economic status. Elton, for example was left without a penny after the business was gone, his neighbor had no jobs to do or was getting paid very little and split the pay with his other neighbor, and other neighbors were getting into communism after being failed by the democracy they trusted.
What I learned from Elton’s relationships with all the other people in the tenement is that they all stick together and help each other out. Living in such close quarters, everyone was always in everyone’s business but that never kept anyone from lending a helping hand when the time came.
In Unterzakhn, the two main characters are twin immigrants Fanya and Esther. The two are brought up in the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the early 1900s and their story is told in a back and forth fashion between the different lifestyles that they are each living and headed towards. Their choices mirror that of many young immigrant girls growing up in tenements and the same part of town by the lack of education they have and all that is kept from them.
What truly started each of the girls off in the paths that they ended up in was their mother. Since most immigrants are traditional, the twins’ mother oc culted a lot from them and in turn they never learned a lot about being a woman so they were left to try to figure that out on their own. Fanya was left to figure out the mysteries of sex and babies through her job with an abortion doctor while Esther was left to figure out sex as a job through her job at a brothel. Their mother didn’t want them to be educated and I could only imagine that that was the case for most immigrant’s growing up in the Lower East Side, so they were left to fend for themselves and discover things in not so good places. Most girls probably took the paths that these twins did just out of lack of knowledge or money and the graphic novel portrays the two lifestyles perfectly when juxtaposing them.
In the beginning of the graphic novel you get a sense of a mystery or tragedy that will unfold as you read along. I was enticed to say the least with this comic since I really love the idea of starting at the end or the middle then making your way back to piece everything together, so I knew I’d really enjoy this book.
One of the major aspects portrayed in the book was life on a steamboat and the Hudson. We met the crew members and got a sense of most of their pasts. Sailor Twain prides himself on being a good captain and Lafayette just followed in his family’s footsteps. Twain seems to let his title as captain rule his life since he constantly leaves his wife Pearl for long periods of time and seems to have no remorse. Lafayette as well doesn’t like to leave the boat and it just shows how life on the Hudson takes some people over completely. The passengers are also illustrated well in the beginning of the graphic novel. Life on the Hudson was portrayed well through the passengers and how rich they all were. Overall life on the Hudson and steamboats alike was portrayed mainly through the lifestyles and choices of the characters within the novel. Choices as leaving their loved ones behind, not leaving the ship at all, and getting on board as a crew member or passenger in the first ship just shows you what type of people those mentioned really are.
There is a huge theme of duality in Sailor Twain, Or The Mermaid In The Hudson and the readers most note it toward the end of the graphic novel.
All the characters in the comic have a dual image of themselves, the good and the bad side. For some, it might be literal (meaning they’re split in half) and for others their other half is a completely different character.
Take Pearl, Twain’s lovely wife, and the Mermaid. Pearl is the good side, she’s the light that is Twain’s genuine love, she’s caring and patient and the love of his life. The Mermaid on the other hand is his temptation, she has a certain darkness, and is completely selfish. While Pearl genuinely cares for Twain’s well being, the Mermaid just uses him and everyone else she encounters to get what she wants, a curse taken off her.
Captain Twain serves as Lafayette’s counterpart in many ways. Captain Twain is the responsible and bland captain that keeps to himself. He prides himself on being a better boss than Lafayette since all Lafayette seems to do is mess around with women on the boat. Lafayette is cheeky and all over the place and serves as what Twain wants to be and what all his temptation is leading him to while Twain is what Lafayette used to be and truly is beneath all his inner conflict.
Beaverton and Lafayette are also counterparts to one another, but not like the previous pair. Twain and Lafayette mirror each other in their ethics and way of life while Beaverton and Lafayette mirror each other as soul mates. Beaverton represents the life that Lafayette wants to lead, but he can’t since he’s bound to the sea. Lafayette is a marvel in Beaverton’s eyes since he’s living the life she writes so much about but doesn’t dare dwell in.
In the end of the book, the dualities of characters takes a literal turn and it is explained how half of a person is taken by the Mermaid to the sea if they hear her sing while the other half remains above. The theme is evident throughout all of the graphic novel and many characters act as another’s mirror, but the three pairs mentioned represent some of the deepest reflections of the characters and their morals.