‘The Gangster We Are All Looking For’: Chapter One “suh-top”
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
After leaving a refugee camp in Singapore, the unnamed narrator and her "uncles" migrate to California. A retired Navy officer named Mr. Russel sponsors the group's voyage, but passes away after the agreement is made. Mr. Russel's dying wish was that his son, Melvin, houses the immigrants. As compensation for room and board the uncles and the narrator's father, Ba, work for Melvin painting houses.
Melvin receives a collection of miniature glass animals that belong to his father, and asks the immigrants not to touch them. Despite this rule, the young narrator plays with the glass sculptures often, but in secret. She is especially transfixed by one of the objects, a paperweight with a butterfly inside. She pretends that the butterfly trapped within the glass is alive and dreams of its escape. Until one day, she attempts to make her dream a reality by throwing the glass butterfly at the cabinet, shattering that piece along with the rest of the collection. Ba and the four uncles run into the room. Ba says "suh-top" (35) when he arrives at the scene, demonstrating his limited English speaking skills. .
Important Elements of Chapter One
Specific Quotations Regarding the Narrator:
Page 19: “Was that where I had come from?" (when teacher points out Vietnam on a globe)
Page 20-21: “‘Go to sleep,’ the teacher would say . . . ‘Close your eyes. That will help’ . . . I stared at the ceiling and studied the shapes I saw there: a chair, a tree trunk, the worried face of an old man, a sliver of moon. I began to play with the ceiling, a game that I used to play with the sky when I was lying in the fishing boat on the sea. At that time, I thought that everyone and everything I missed was hovering behind the sky. The game involved looking for a seam in the sky, a thread I could pull..."
Page 24: “The butterfly was golden brown...”
Page 29: “I told the glass animals...”
Specific Quotations Regarding Language:
Page 35: “Shuh-shuh . . . suh-top!”
Beginning & Ending
Specific Quotations Regarding the Beginning and Ending:
Page 3: “Linda Vista, with its rows of yellow houses, is where we eventually washed to shore.”