Literature often incorporates messages into its narrative. Many of these messages are aimed at specific social issues and provide commentary on them. Sometimes the commentary is timely and direct, or is commentary on a past issue used to highlight similarities in a present issue. Writers aim to persuade and connect with their readers over a particular issue, and thus use the medium of literature to make their point in a way that may take too long or would be impossible to do by any other means. For this essay, we will be looking at the social commentary provided by three works: “Straw Into Gold” by Sandra Cisneros, “Where Stars are Born” by Michael Farber, and “Becoming a Composer” by Lindsley Cameron.
In Michael Farber’s article, “Where Stars are Born”, Faber reports on the great home run race of 1998. Farber’s article centers on the up and coming baseball star at the time, Sammy Sosa Jr. Sosa was from the Dominican Republic, where many other talented baseball stars had come from. However, what was special about Sosa especially was that he was the first Latino to gain the public’s admiration. Farber’s point that he makes with the article is that, besides the home run stretch, Sosa had also helped to break down ethnic barriers and improve the standing of Latinos in baseball.
In “Straw Into Gold” by Sandra Cisneros, we are introduced to Cisneros and are told a story about how she was asked to make tortilla shells by some Latino friends of hers while she was studying in France. Cisneros tells of how she had never learned to make tortilla shells when she was younger. She then relates the story of her upbringing in a Hispanic family that for much of her childhood traveled back and forth from Mexico to Chicago. Cisneros’s personal story highlights the challenges of growing up in a poor, immigrant family. Yet she also tells of how she was able to excel in her love of writing to become a success. While Cisneros’s had a loving family, they were not wealthy in the slightest, and they had to move frequently as well.
Lindsley Cameron writes in “Becoming a Composer” about the story of Hikari Oe, a composer who was born with a brain defect, causing him to have a low IQ and develop autism early in life. At first, the doctors and some family members had suggested letting Hikari die before the operation to remove the brain defect. However, Hikari’s parents had felt that they wanted to raise him regardless of the difficulties. Hikari was discovered to have a knack for music. Despite his disabilities, Hikari was cared for and nurtured, allowing him to succeed. Cameron wrote about this because her adopted sister was sent back to an orphanage when it was discovered that she had a mental disability. This event left a impression on her, and the Oe’s story resonated with Cameron to write a book on the success story of a disabled child that many were ready to give up on.
The social commentary ranges in each story is different. In “Where Stars are Born”, we are given commentary on race relations and the rise of an immigrant to stardom. In “Straw Into Gold” we are told of the common life issues that are faced by a Latina immigrant who grew up in poverty. Finally, “Becoming a Composer” tells the story of the challenges faced by the mentally “deficient. The social commentary provided highlights the issues unique to these situations, and is thought provoking in light of the stories they tell.