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Copy of Rites of Passage: First Love

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Patrick Wilson

on 27 April 2013

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Transcript of Copy of Rites of Passage: First Love

First Love Rites of Passage Meet the Author Experiences Gary Soto This is an important collection of Soto's earlier short fiction that provides a reassuring look at growing up as it covers such themes as dreams, family, sports, coming-to-age, rites of passage, and first love. Stories like "Broken Chain," "Mother and Daughter," and notably "Seventh Grade" all address the complexities and bewilderment of not only rites of passage but also first love. Moments of Love Love Arrives Seize the Day He's a critically acclaimed filmmaker, teacher, and writer.

His works explore the lives of many, including his own, in the Fresno community where he lived in the 1950s.

He claims not to write with an audience in mind, but his conflicts and themes are universal.

He lives with his wife and daughter in Berkeley, California where he continues recreating treasured vignettes from his experiences as an adolescent. Visit Gary Soto's homepage to learn more.

http://www.garysoto.com/bio.html "Literature does not necessarily represent life as it actually is; rather, it reveals how life is experienced, felt, and understood. . . . It is from fiction -- novels, movies, and television shows -- that we learn what it means to grow up and embrace an uncertain future" (Steven Mintz 55).

We should read literature not only for its entertainment value or because it's required for class, but we should read it for the experiences an author shares through the sentiments of his or her characters. Characters aren't just fictional mouthpieces, for they reveal something more than just a surface narration: They reveal a slice of life of an author who tells his or her understanding of a certain life moment by reflecting on that moment, and they reassure us that this "odyssey of discovery" we're reading is a similar slice of our life, which we've experienced and felt or are feeling and experiencing (55). We can place ourselves in the shoes of an author or his/her characters and recall a notable life moment, or we live within a moment that coinciding in our life (e.g., one's first kiss or a divorce).

No matter how we slice it the life we live and that of an author will be different, but our experiences and feelings are served on the same plate. Gary Soto shares his plate and slices of life with us, and we relate to his stories because they give us a chance to reflect and begin an 'odyssey of rediscovery' since we view his protagonists "not only as passive victims but as active agents who . . . make profoundly consequential choices" (55). From the barrios to the fields, Soto's stories not only sustain a devotion to his Hispanic legacy, but also they display his strengths as a universal writer; they interweave cultures and generations that depict teens who "pass through a series of trials, temptations, and rites of passage" as they grapple with life and pace into adulthood (55).

We backtrack our youthful steps to whatever childhood problem Soto's protagonist is tussling with throughout the narrative, and we've a better understanding on "the transition to adulthood [that] has almost always been a circuitous and conflict-riven" as it's today (Peter McClure 167). "Baseball in April and Other Stories" (1990) "Seventh Grade" : A Rite of Passage Entering the seventh grade is a time when many adolescents start experimenting with new ways of expressing themselves. The seventh grade is a rite of passage we experience, especially the moment we fall in love for the first time.

As Kent Baxter states, a rite of passage is "an expression used by anthropologists to describe. . . events that mark. . . transitions in the development process" (3).

Thus, Soto's readers experience and feel or will recall the sentiments and experiences of their seventh grade year through his protagonist. Victor's Seventh Grade Soto’s protagonist – Victor – experiences the complications of first love during his first day of seventh grade. Victor tries to impress Teresa by pretending to speak French, a language he and his French teacher, Mr. Bueller, knows he can’t speak.

After Victor experiences different moments and feels various emotions throughout his day, Mr. Bueller decides to keep his secret. Teresa is duly impressed by Victor’s talent (or lack thereof) that she asks him for help on her French assignments.

The first day of seventh grade defines Victor as he begins his ‘odyssey of discovery’ of what it means to be young and in love for the first time. At First Sight Victor and Teresa share homeroom together; he hopes they'll share other classes together as well, especially French

Victor pledges that “[t]his would be his lucky year,” for he plans to make Teresa “[his] girl this year” (Gary Soto 52, 54). An uncomfortable, perfect moment occurs when their eyes meet for the first time: “Hi, Victor. [Teresa] smiled and said” to which a “blush[ing]” Victor says, “Yeah, that’s me” (55). From this initial moment, a series of awkward, embarrassing moments happen to Victor after their eyes continue to meet throughout the school day.

We can relate to Victor’s embarrassing moment, and we can identify with him as we reflected back on our middle school years and anticipated that moment where we tried to impress the opposite sex, only to have a foolish tongue-tied moment where our words got in the way of our feelings. Infatuation overload Victor’s loss of appetite during lunch prompts him to seek Teresa. At one point, he “[admires] how elegantly she walk[s]” (55). Teresa’s presence saturates his thoughts even if she’s not physically present.

Victor finally spots Teresa sitting under a plum tree. Awestruck by her presence and beauty, Victor is unable to approach her a second time, so he moves to a table near her and pretends to study math, a subject he hates, to justify his position. Victor’s infatuation is too much for him to focus on equations, so he “daydream[s] about taking Teresa on a movie date” (56).

As the bell rings for the next class, Victor’s perfect date vision is short-lived as his thoughts drift back to reality. For the second time, their eyes meet; however, Victor is speechless and frozen within that moment as Teresa “smile[s] sweetly” at him (56).

We can again relate to Victor’s period of infatuation, his loss of appetite, and the silly things we involve ourselves in to get close to someone we really like. Plus, we’ve all envisioned how we’d like our first date to be, and we’ve experienced that moment when our first love greeted us with a smile. Victor pretends to know French in front of Mr. Bueller and his peers as a last ditch effort to impress Teresa before the school day ends.

What would’ve been another embarrassing moment actually attracts Teresa’s attention.

Like Victor, Teresa doesn’t know French either, but she’s so impressed by Victor’s blunder [or is secretly in love with him too] that she requests his help on her French assignments. Of Love Overall, Mr. Bueller doesn’t let Victor’s secret that he doesn’t know French to spoil Victor’s experience or Teresa’s impression of him. Mr. Bueller realizes, as we do, that Victor and Teresa are experiencing moments of first: the first day of seventh grade, first impressions, and first love. We experience a natural rite of passage at that age and during that school year.

Mr. Bueller even recalls a time in college when he “dated a girlfriend in borrowed cars” (58). She though he was rich when he really wasn’t, which resembles Victor’s situation now – pretending to know a language, the language of love to impress a girl. It works! And from this day, it appears that Victor’s hope and dreams may be slowly coming true. Naturally, I believe it’s impossible for us to forget our first love, our first experience – no matter how good or bad the relationship was.

It’s still a good memory to reflect on, and for Soto to tell us because we’ve all been in the shows of Victor before; and his shoes will be filled again each year as long as teenagers enter the seventh grade and fall in love. Works Cited Baxter, Kent. "On 'Coming of Age'" Coming of Age. Ipswich: Salem, 2013. 1-15. Print.

McClure, Peter. "Patterns of Migration in the Late Middle Ages: The Evidence of English Place-Name Surnames." Economic History Review 32.2 (1979): 167-82. Print.

Mintz, Steven. "Coming of Age in History." Ed. Kent Baxter. Coming of Age. Ipswich: Salem, 2013. 55-68. Print.

Soto, Gary. "Seventh Grade." Baseball in April and Other Stories. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1990. 52-59. Print.
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