Make Your Home Among Strangers is written by Jennine Capo Crucet and focuses on the struggles faced by Cuban immigrants in Miami, on a personal and large picture scale. Through the following of Lizet Hernandez, we are able to grasp an understanding of the personal scale struggles faced by individual Cuban-American immigrants. Lizet is one of the two daughters of Ricky and Lourdes Hernandez, along with her sister Leidy who has her son Dante. On a personal scale, the story follows Lizet navigate her struggles as life continues to throw curveballs in her direction, her parent’s recent divorce, adjusting to college as all students must with the additional struggle of adjusting from her life in Miami to her life in the elite community at Rawlings College, as well as other personal issues. As the book goes on the reader is informed of the much larger issue looming over all of America and especially the immigrant community regarding the young boy, Ariel Hernandez. The story involving Ariel is in regard to a young boy who has come to America from Cuba but is the only passenger to survive his journey to America, meaning he had lost his mother on this journey. These struggles unfold and begin to involve much more than just the young boy and his struggle for immigration to the United States without his mother, these involve extensive immigration policy and legal debates about the correct proceedings to address what is happening in this situation. The story unfolds with the narrative of struggling to protect Ariel who many, especially Cuban-American immigrants felt was their duty to protect as he had lost his mother and was facing these extensive legal issues as a young boy.
I began to look into the issue of this book at Georgia Southern, where students burned this book after it was assigned as a summer/first-year reading, much like we have here at Mary Washington. These students seemed to have more of an issue with Jennine Capo Crucet rather than the book itself and the book was the material time they took this out on. Crucet gave a speech at the school and informed these students that they must look at their own “whiteness” and the privilege that is associated with it in order to address these problems in the United States. This was met by much opposition by these students and therefore decided to burn the book, which was defended by the school as freedom of speech and expression. Crucet spoke out stating that many students may feel unsafe in the wake of this situation and called for the school to do something about this. I think this issue deals with the inability of some people to acknowledge their own privilege from being white and is an issue that must be addressed.
I agree that the book-burnings seemed to be stemming from people either having a complete misunderstanding of privilege or people who did not like the discussion about privilege. The book does show some underlying themes of white privilege and how it has affected Lizet’s life both socially and educationally. But I do see why people used the book as more of a physical representation of Crucet’s ideas and how they had a problem with her explicit discussion on white privilege. It was upsetting reading about how many people felt unsafe after the incident and how many people of color felt that their experiences with white privilege were being undermined. I read that many people told Crucet how they related to the book and it says a lot about how these discussions still need to be had because people are still affected by it.
Like you and another commenter said, I completely agree with the issue at Georgia Southern being about the author and what she represents rather than the book itself. Although they go hand-in-hand because the book most likely shares some of Crucet’s experiences, the physical book was easier to throw hate at. I believe that the response and thoughts that the students at Georgia Southern had to what the author said are more common than we think they are…