Make Your Home Among Strangers

Make Your Home Among Strangers is a novel by Jennine Capo Crucet about Lizet a Cuban-American struggling in her freshmen year of college and struggling in her home life. The novel follows Lizet through the holidays and the end of her freshmen year of college and her interactions with her family as the case of Ariel Hernandez occurs in the background. Lizet throughout the book finds herself contrasting with her culture and the Americanized culture and how going to a predominantly white college might have changed her. Much like many of the previous novels, we have read Lizet has an internal struggle with how her family fits into her life and how they contrast the differing views she has.

Unlike many of the other novels, the culture of her college is not treated as an equal aspect of Lizet’s life but rather represents how white Americans treat people of color and how educational systems in many ways provide more benefits to white Americans. It’s interesting how the novel shows the many ways that racism affects Lizet’s life and how it is not always inherently malicious. The way her roommate treats her is inherently malicious but she does undercut Lizet’s opinions on certain topics and uses her identity as a characteristic of Lizet. The school is also not inherently malicious but it does look down on schools that do not provide proper education and condescends Lizet for not having the same education provided to her. These smaller forms of racism show the more systematic aspects of it and how it can affect people of color in general. However, it was frustrating reading how Lizet’s roommate Jillian believes that because Lizet is Cuban she does not have the same say in the Ariel situation and how she undermines what Lizet says about Cuba.

The situation of Ariel Hernandez is about a boy who, along with his mother, went on a raft to travel from Cuba to the U.S., but only Ariel managed to get to the U.S. alive. The question of what will happen to Ariel stirs up the Cuban-American community and how Ariel deservers asylum. It is clear that Ariel does need asylum and that he shouldn’t be sent back, but the conflict for Lizet revolves more around her mother’s involvement. While many characters express their sympathy for the Ariel situation there is also an understanding that they cant necessarily do much aside for showing support, but Lizet’s mother becomes involved with the movement for Ariel’s asylum and even becomes close to the family. However this affect her to the point where it seems obsessive how much Lizet’s mother contributes to the cause and how in many ways she pushes Lizet aside to focus on the Ariel situation.

In regards to the book-burning, I could see how it could have happened. Crucet’s book honestly depicts the ideas of white privilege and how their experiences are vastly different from those of people of color. While I would assume that most people would have some issues with these aspects of the book, I would not have believed that they would go so far as to burn the book. In many ways, I related to Lizet’s struggles so for me I did not read these aspects of the book the same way those students did, and seeing how people can have such a negative reaction to what is a reality for many is upsetting.

3 thoughts on “Make Your Home Among Strangers

  1. I was also really struck by how condescending her school could be, like the mandatory ice cream event for minority students, where Lizet felt “ashamed that some important people at Rawlings felt we needed this meeting, needed to hear things that, the moment after they were said, seemed painfully obvious” (83), and the plagiarism hearing, where they mocked her high school for not having a code of academic integrity and looked down on Lizet for signing a form without reading it first. For a college that seemed to want to expand their study body beyond just white and wealthy, they failed to adequately support and understand Lizet and other students like her.

  2. I also found this book interesting to see the culture shock experienced by Cuban and how they lived in American society. While trying to integrate into a world disconnected between their home life and the life in a distance university with a different culture and social economic class.

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