The two books tell a story of two people from different races living in America. The two talk about the challenges they underwent to get the society to view them with regards to their individuality rather than their race and ethnicity. In the story, "black boy" Richard the author narrates his own story. According to him, he is a victim of his own surrounding and environment. His environment is racist. According to him, he has limited choices in life because he is black, but despite all this, he believes that he can individually conceive of the world. It is this belief that leads him to leave the south. Richard accepts that he is different and an individual. Likewise, in Pomegranates and English Education by Shirley Geok-lin Lim, the concept of individuality is vastly discussed. The author talks about how they were always many yet just like the pomegranate seed which are many in the fruit, they eventually end up alone to bear a tree.
Both these stories act as autobiographies, and they tell the stories of two individuals who live-in America and have had to put up with a hostile society that only considers their race. They have been brought up in a society that has embraced racism and discrimination. However, the two rise above the stereotype and they strive to let others know of their individuality. Furthermore, they are not only fighting against the whites who refuse to accept them as equals, but also against people from their race. This is because; these people do not understand why the two want to be any different yet the trend has been going on for years. These are some of the challenges that make the two feel disconnected from their own people, yet at the same time they feel connected at a spiritual level to their culture.
Culture is the backbone of each individual identity. Both these writers use writing as an art to tell their stories about their transnational journey in a society that only focuses on their race. Through their writing, we get to learn of the challenges experienced by different races in America as they struggle to fit in, and be accepted. However, the greatest challenge they experience is how to adapt to a society different from theirs, and still maintain their identity and culture.
One common theme in both literatures is the concept of Race and Racism. In the book, “Black Boy”, race is not necessarily the theme rather it refers to the environment that shapes the author's story and life. In this story, the author tries to highlight the impact of the Jim Crow system had on the society. Furthermore, the novel shows the individual, personal opinion of Richard regarding racism. According to the novel, the world described is racist, and this shapes the attitudes and perceptions of the people living in that community. For instance, Richard himself has to accept that he is black and not equal to the white people. Richards’s main concern is that racism is too deeply rooted into the American society to be uprooted. Throughout the book, we get to see Richard reflecting upon racism and the impact it has on the society around him. Racism is so deeply rooted into the society that his own society recognizes him as “black boy”, meaning his color alone is his identity. His black, color hinders others, including other blacks like him, from identifying his individuality and gifts. Likewise, in the book, “Pomegranates and English Education by Shirley Geok-lin Lim”, the author revolves around a Chinese family and the hardships they endure to survive. (Wright 116)
The second common aspect is individuality vs. society. In both stories, the authors or speakers in the autobiography are struggling with their individuality in a society that only recognizes them through their race. In the book, black boy”, Richard desires to join the society as an individual and on his own terms rather than blindly following the people in the society. (Wright 118)To achieve this, Richard has to struggle to be heard in a society that is extremely dominated by the whites. To make matters worse, his own black comrades do not support him since they just do not understand why he feels the need to go with the flow just like the others in the society. He defies the norms in his society where he neither conforms nor goes against the societal expectations; rather, he forges his own path. He always seems to reject situations where he has to conform because he does not take this approach. (Lim 114)However, though Richard wishes to remain an individual, his spirituality makes him feel connected to the rest of humanity. On the other hand, Shirley Geok-lin Lim also craves individuality. She is a Chinese girl in an American society and culture. Everything that she has learnt is through the colonialists and people from other cultures. She talks of a Chinese shell that she wishes would break. She compares life to the Pomegranates, whose fruits bear so many seeds, but in the end, each seed grows into a tree individually. She harbors anti-traditional opinions regarding the culture and society. Thus, just like Richard in black boy, she challenges the norms in her society to perceive her as an individual instead of basing her identity on her race. (Wright 119)
Ignorance is evident in both societies depicted in the books. The people in the society are ignorant and traditional limiting them to the societal constrains. Instead, they ought to perceive each individual based on their identity and personality rather than their race. However, culture is one particularly key aspect in the two books. No one should have to abandon their culture to fit in the society; instead, the society ought to adapt to the various cultures present and welcome them into the fold.
However, not all themes in the book are similar. For instance, Lim discuses gender equality in the society. When she refers to “the shell of being Chinese and a girl”, it brings to light the aspect of being a woman in a community that considers women as insignificant or unequal to the men. For a very long time, the female gender has been considered the weaker gender and their roles have been limited to home, and to obey the man always. These are some of the notions that Lim is challenging in her society. Eventually, she has to compromise between her nontraditional and traditional ideologies of being female. (Lim 107)
Finally, Lim and Richard towards the end realize and accept that despite the various cultural challenges they face and their deep need to be considered individuals, they still are connected to their original culture spiritually. Thus, culture is what defines what people are but it should not determine their identity and free will to live in a society that accepts them for their individuality rather than their race.