Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Four Centuries of Mormon Stories -- "Oaxaca" is here today!




I happy to be hosting today’s discussion of one of the 12 finalists in the Four Centuries of Mormon Stories contest from Everyday Mormon Writer. You can find the text of today’s story “Oaxaca,” by Anneke Garcia, here. Please click on the link, read the story, and the come back to discuss! (If you’d like to check out the other stories posted so far, click here.)

As I think about "Oaxaca," I’m influenced by my own experience as an expat attending non-English speaking units of the church, certainly as a missionary, but also with my family in Latin American and in Asia. I find myself wondering how the Relief Society president would think of me and my family.

As you read the story, think about what resonates with you and tell us about it in your comments.

How does “Oaxaca” present universal themes despite (or because of) its remote setting?

How would the story change in a different setting (for instance if this were a story of a North American Relief Society president with immigrants in her U.S. ward)?

What issues of an increasingly international church does the story reveal?

How do themes of isolation and unity reveal themselves?


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BTW, you can find my latest post at Real Intent, “Venus & Mars and the Empty Bucket,” here.



12 comments:

  1. This story was beautiful. At first I was kind of nodding my head about the seemingly silly things we in leadership positions worry about like the need to please everyone. But as the story progressed I realized that the problem was much deeper and ultimately much more spiritual in nature. I belong to a small ward that is spread out over a vast area. Among our members are a group of individuals who speak Spanish only. As a ward it has been difficult to include them, mostly because the do not attend regularly but language and culture should not be a barrier to charity. With my new calling I am going to be given a great opportunity in this area and I am so grateful for the reminder that we are all God's children and we can all learn from each other. Melody Burris

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  2. Another theme the story raises is about what comfort the gospel and the church can bring in times when events are out of our control. The larger political events, though in the background, mirror the smaller interpersonal issues that Hna Rodriguez also cannot control.

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  3. .

    Something I anticipated being tricky when reading he 21st-century stories and that is clearly an issue here is figuring out if the tale is based on historical events or is occurring sometime in the next ninety years. Which can be a bit distracting in the first read. I haven't reread it yet, but having solved that mystery, I think that second read will be much more impressive.

    I like how Anneke has made the Americans the immigrants. I wanted more international flavor from the contest finalists and this is (speaking of the editorial decision regarding how the stories are arranged) a pretty brilliant way to start that move outside US borders. Anneke throws me as an American Mormon into a foreign environment while letting me maintain my identity.

    I also like how the story is political without seeming political. By which I mean the story makes a comment on current US policies and politics without taking a stand on either side.

    Instead, she focuses on the spiritual health of this small flock and let's us feel lost in this new world. But it's not a postapocalyptic nightmare as much as it is real people dealing with disaster in the same way any of us would have to.

    Anyway. I intend to read it over again. I hope these unedited remarks hold together.

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  4. Comment posted on Facebook by Mark, reposted here:
    I'm sure I'm not the only one who wonders what's happening down south--I mean, up north. (Sorry, I'm Canadian.) Did China finally invade? (I predicted that fifteen years ago.) Or is the remnant of Jacob running wild like a lion's whelp and taking back the land?

    Anyway, I like this story: the casual juxtaposition of a quaint church-unit crisis and a dramatic (if invisible and vague) politico-military crisis, the realism of the conflict, the smooth texture of the text.

    Language is key to integration, I think. Here in Kaohsiung City, we have a few foreigners now and then who get by on the locals' English, but the foreigners who consistently contribute are the ones who learn the language and can make a decent show of serving in any calling.

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  5. I enjoyed this story, it brought back memories of my days in a largely Spanish speaking inner city branch. We had pot lucks after church every fast Sunday. At first they were hard to get used to, they started late, the food was odd, and I wasn't sure who I could talk English to because I didn't know much Spanish. By the time we left all of those concerns had resolved and I miss the branch dearly.

    It was an interesting spin to make the Americans (we were called "Anglos" in the branch) the immigrants. I think if more of us lived the golden rule, by treating others the way we want to be treated, a lot of our practices concerning language/tradition/culture would change.

    (BTW- I'm not fond of your comment set up.)

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  6. "I like how Anneke has made the Americans the immigrants. I wanted more international flavor from the contest finalists and this is (speaking of the editorial decision regarding how the stories are arranged) a pretty brilliant way to start that move outside US borders. Anneke throws me as an American Mormon into a foreign environment while letting me maintain my identity."

    Second this. It's a very deft way of letting us (white Anglos) empathize with a racial and linguistic minority group. I've seen similar things done in an alternate history setting, but near future works just as well (and maybe better, given the constraint in length).

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  7. Doh! So that's what the picture was for.

    I'm sure I'm not the only one who wonders what's happening down south--I mean, up north. (Sorry, I'm Canadian.) Did China finally invade? (I predicted that fifteen years ago.) Or is the remnant of Jacob running wild like a lion's whelp and taking back the land?

    Anyway, I like this story: the casual juxtaposition of a quaint church-unit crisis and a dramatic (if invisible and vague) politico-military crisis, the realism of the conflict, the smooth texture of the text.

    Language is key to integration, I think. Here in Kaohsiung City, we have a few foreigners now and then who get by on the locals' English, but the foreigners who consistently contribute are the ones who learn the language and can make a decent show of serving in any calling.

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  8. I'd like to thank all of you who took the time to read and comment and especially Paul for hosting our discussion here. It was especially interesting to hear the different perspectives and background experiences you had coming to this story and realize how many of them were similar to what I'd had in mind while writing it. This summer I lived with my in-laws in NYC and attended their Spanish ward, and shortly afterword moved to China where we're attending an ex-pat ward and this ended up being a story I couldn't not write.

    My biggest concern was that the underlying political themes of the story would turn people off or seem belligerent or preachy even though they weren't intended that way. So I'm glad to hear that no one felt that way about them, though who's to say what reactions there might have been from those who didn't comment?

    And Mark - that's neat that you're living in Kaoshiung. I lived and worked in Hsinchu a couple years ago. Howdy from across the strait! :)

    - Anneke

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  9. Anneke, thanks for chiming in! Which branch are you in? I attended the branch in Pudong for a few months in 2011. And, Mark, we lived in Taipei from 2007-2009 (our nephew was in Kaoshiung on his mission during the same time).

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    1. We're in Nanjing for the semester, and will probably be moving to Shanghai after the new year. So neat to be meeting so many other Asia Mormons :)

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  10. Yes, I like the inversion with the Anglos being displaced and a minority. It invites people from dominant cultures to empathize with outsiders.

    My husband served Spanish speaking in central CA, so he had some experience watching groups of people struggle to adjust to one another. Also, we had a number of Hispanic families move to WV about 7 years ago, enough to set up a Spanish-speaking Gospel doctrine class. I talked a lot with the bi-lingual sisters about the pressures on them to help unite sisters from each language / culture.

    Anyway, this story helps invoke issues such as these and recognize that we are an international church and one with immigrants moving across all kinds of borders. (But I must point out that we have native-born people in the US who still have strong cultural identities that are not Anglo. We are a multicultural church by many definitions.)

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