The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

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Running Head: THE BEAN TREES

This book report deal with the Native American culture and how a girl named Taylor got away from what was expected of her as a part of her rural town in Pittman, Kentucky. She struggles along the way with her old beat up car and gets as far west as she can. Along the way she take care of an abandoned child which she found in the backseat of her car and decides to take care of her. She end up in a town outside Tucson and soon makes friends which she will consider family in the end.

Historical Context
From as early as the time of the early European settlers, Native Americans have suffered
tremendously. Native Americans during the time of the early settlers where discriminated against and still are today. At the arrival of the Europeans there was an estimated one million to eighteen million Native Americans (meaning living above Mexico) in population. There is also said there was about three hundred languages spoken at the time. Anthropologists have tried to summarize “the cultural practices and reduce the cultural complexity and they have come with twelve major cultural areas. But, material artifacts and mode of subsistence give a geographical area rather than on social organization or a people’s way of life, including their family relationship.” ( Mindel, 1998, p.382) The similar family structures can be traced in almost every Native American family from their basic family structure to marriage rituals. Europeans introduce disease to the Native Americans. The introduction nearly killed the total population. Diseases like the small pox, measles, chickenpox, influenza, and many other help to the extinction of almost half of the languages known today. When Europeans settle in the Native American land the quickly tried to acculturate them by taking their land, fighting them for land, and later using reservations to almost incarcerate them for the outside world because the did not want to live like the white man. Native Americans did not like the way they were being treated. Every generation that passes, there would be fewer and fewer Native Americans around the Americas. The Native Americans saw what the Europeans were doing to their land, they wanted their old way of life, and they wanted the Europeans to leave.
The Europeans were relentless in their attempts to get rid of the Native Americas the attitude of the Europeans was felt among the Native Americans.

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Summary of Book
The dilemma brought forth to Marietta (Taylor) in the novel The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver, is that growing up in Pittman, a small rural town in Kentucky a town in which pregnancy was common among the youth. It was also a town where not many people were educated and not many would want to live. Marietta was one who did not want to be one of the youth mentioned because she is much smarter and better than that. She then decides to leave her hometown soon after high school in an old beat up 1955 Volkswagen ending up in the outskirts of Tucson, Arizona. The plan did turn be as simple as it sounded. Along the way she acquires an Indian child abandoned in the backseat of the car. But the trials and obstacles along the way create an experience that far exceeds anything possible.
Rough times. Problems that arise cause a person to think that they are not capable of overcoming the obstacles of life. Taylor leans that strength in a time of suffering is an important part of surviving periods of hardship. The suffering is easier to deal with when you have people around you that can relate to your troubles and help teach you how to overcome them. Financial problems are faced by many people and everyone can relate to it. Everybody has had those times where they need every penny that they have, except for those luckily enough to be born into money. Taylor had to suffer threw the dilemma of being broke, extremely broke. You can educate yourself by budgeting, but you can learn to adapt to deal with the problems brought forth to you. Taylor did hotel cleaning, worked for her friends, and worked a fast food place to have money for her and newly acquired child. She wants to get as far as her car will take her, no matter how hard it is to continue she will. Eventhough, Taylor was broke, it does not discourage her to get side tracked from her plans to go to Oklahoma or in the end as far west the car will take her. Taylor also learns has a lesson that most people do not have to learn until they are older. She learns that money is not needed to be happy and that friends and family are the most important in someone’s life. Well it is safe to say that Taylor struggles in this transition but she strives to make the best of it.
The Journey to the west and womanhood. Normally, it takes any woman nine months to have a child, it took Taylor just one day after a stop in Oklahoma. She had an instant birth, her role in life took a hundred and eighty degree turn, she was no longer the student of life she is now the a teacher of life to a child. To be able to take on the responsibility of a child shows how willing Taylor is to learn the role of motherhood eventhough she was running away from it in the first place. Most people given the same situation would refuse to accept the child. After much thinking and confusion she takes the child in and later names Turtle because she hangs on to things. Taylor has gone from living with her mother to being on the road by her self to taking care of a child she had not expected. It seems that the road has more bumps than anticipated. Taylor finally gets as far west as she can she settled in a small town outside Tucson where she meets two of her future friends, Lou Ann and Mattie. Through their help Taylor feels at more at ease because she had meet this people to whom she can relate to, especially Lou Ann. Lou Ann and Taylor get along by the simple fact that both are from Kentucky and they are special to each other because both had a child, both were learning from each other, and both were helping each other get on with life. In addition, she learns that a child worth having because it is someone to share her love with. Later she meets a pair of Guatemalan political refugees Estevan and Esperanza who later help in a child welfare problem concerning Turtle. Finally, there is Mattie the owner of Jesus Is Lord Used Tires who familiarizes Taylor with town and later finds out is involved in transporting refugees into the United States. Taylor soon learns that being able to share your problems and your love with those that you are close to is an important part of life. When Taylor was on the road she was for the most part alone, once she was settled and in constant contact with Lou Anne and Mattie her problems began to become lessen. This is not a coincidence when you are with people who you share feelings with the same problems you faced before do not seem as hard or complicated. Over her journey the most important lesson that Taylor did learn was how to love and how to use love as a pad and a blanket from all the things that alone would be so hard. When Taylor is on the brink of getting Turtle taken away by child services there is no doubt that she is facing a great problem. But with the help of her friends the problem lessened and the weight of the problem concerned the group as a family not an only the individual family member facing it. In the end she keeps Turtle thanks to the help of Estevan and Esperanza. Turtle might have had to go through social services and maybe end up in a group home or living with another family.
Final thought about book. Life is all about what you learn, but there is a point where you can realize that it has been worth it. Taylor had to gone through many hardships that not many people may not experience in a lifetime. Once you see what she has experienced your life may seem like a breeze, so just sit back and relax and enjoy life to the fullest. As Forrest Gump put it best, “Life is a box of chocolate, you never know what you’re gonna get”. The book makes the reader think what life would be like for Taylor if she stayed her hometown in Kentucky and had not become an adoptive mother. Although the story makes you feel better since we know that her journey turned out better than expected.
View of dominant culture in relation to narrative
Taylor’s mother has somehow deviated her from the destiny that would await her if she stayed in her hometown. Taylor values working hard to earn money and learns the value of family through her mother and the people that surround in the town she settled in. She is so full of confidence yet, very naïve to the world since she had not been exposed to the world outside her town much. She does have of sort like fear of men because of what happened between her mother and father that she does not really mention any kind of attraction other than the fact that she finds Estevan sweet and intelligent. She often worries about Turtle and wonders if she is doing the right thing to better Turtle’s well being. Lou Ann is going against the dominant culture by getting married to a Mexican who in her mother’s mind they are almost like a wild animal that have many kids because it is their nature to do so. Mattie is part of the dominant culture yet, she helps Guatemalan political refugees and gives them a haven until they get on their feet. In dominant culture eyes the abandonment of Turtle would be considered as not wanting the responsibility of the child when instead, the mother was protecting her from the abuse she was enduring.
Thoughts on the novel
Some of my feeling, responses, and attitudes are written throughout the paper. Although, I do feel glad that things turned out for the best for both Taylor and Turtle. I also feel that Taylor did have the courage to leave her hometown because that is not something that everyone can do and know that from experience. I am one of five to leave my little hometown (outside of El Paso) who right now I am one of three that has not gone back home except to visit. Since the Native Americans families are so close knit just like the Hispanics, I know she and her mother would have been ridiculed because one, she was leaving the family, two, they probably said she did not care for her family, and third, what in the world is she going to do out there by herself. But, knowing this is said about you, you feel the need to prove yourself to everybody and prove them wrong. When you do you have succeeded. I can not imagine leaving in an old car and hoping it gets me where I need to go that would have been hard on a person especially, knowing you are on a tight budget and to top it off you are given this little person to take off when you can barely take care of yourself. But, I am glad she found people to surround her that were very helpful in her starting a new life. Everybody needs someone like that. It is amazing to see caring, willing, and intelligent she was made out to be. Though there was times were I thought Taylor was just a bit to naïve and caring that she did not notice things. I can also relate to Lou Ann in some odd way… I am going to get married outside my culture and eventhough I have not heard any bad comments about I can sometimes see when we clash culturally and it can make a world of difference. My fiancé is American and of course, I am Hispanic we both are close to our families yet, the way we were raised causes problems between us. We can say it does not cause problems but, it does and things can be uncomfortable. My parents worry that his family has a prejudice against Hispanic and vice versa but, I think it is only natural to have a bit of suspicion of each other. Mattie I like simply because she is fighting for what she believes in and in some weird kind of way she is advocating for the rights of others. I think she would have been a good social worker. In all the novel was good even though I got a bit bored with it at times.
Implications for Social Work
We must have an understanding of the Native American cultures and their historical background in order to work effectively with the client to make sure their needs are met. The needs to be met are the culture, value system, communication style, education levels, family structure, rituals, and resources available for this particular group of people. A good starting point is to know how communicate and know what to communicate to the Native Americans. For example, do not talk about your accomplishments because it is considered to be rude. Their children are not raised to be competitive and only live on what is needed, they have no needs for a lot of material goods. Time is not an issue so they will come in late because they are in no hurry. Their religion is always with them, all aspects of life are touched by spirituality, and you must accept things the way they are. To treat the client you must become aware of the multigenerational disruption of positive development because there are not many Native American role models. Acknowledge there is oppression in their history and they may need to grieve over the lose of their tribe, language, and other things important to them by teaching them coping strategies.
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