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Exile According To Julia: The Essence Of Home

1005 words - 5 pages

Gisele Pineau’s novel Exile According to Julia is all about a sense of belonging, of home. As this novel demonstrates, home is not always a place: sometimes it is a person. For the young narrator of this story home is embodied in her grandmother Julia (affectionately called Man Ya). This is a story of immigration, exile, alienation, and of discovery of home and self. The novel details Man Ya’s ‘exile’ from her home in Guadalupe to Paris to live with the narrator and her family. Depressed and constantly longing for home, Man Ya eventually returns to Guadalupe leaving the narrator and family bereft. After her departure, the narrator continuously writes to Man Ya as years go by. She never ...view middle of the document...

Throughout the novel the narrator makes many remarks about Julia’s strength. She thinks, “She embodies, without words, the idea that strength lies in the mind, not in the body” (58).
One particular instance when Julia demonstrates her strength and fearlessness is when she and the narrator’s younger brother Elie enthusiastically set out to go see the Sacré Cœur basilica that she has long wanted to see. Despite her tired feet and getting lost, Julia persists fearlessly. The narrator thinks, “But what can stop Man Ya?”(64). Not tiredness, a lack of faith, or even “[t]he blinding vision of the folly of her expedition” would have stopped Man Ya (64). She was used to working hard and enduring, had strong faith in God, and was “drifting in joy” (64). After they had returned home, having successfully found the basilica, Julia exclaimed “I believed, I overcame! I am ready for other trials . . .” (66).
Another anecdote which beautifully demonstrates Julia’s good qualities is when she waited out in the rain for hours at the school gate so that the children would have someone there for them. Despite the rain falling down on her, and people “looking[ing] at her strangely, “she stays and waits, because “it’s better that she rather than the children catch a cold” (49). In this moment Julia truly proves her endurance as she stands strong in the face of heavy rainfall and racism, because she is selfless. She was only thinking about the children.
The instance of racism in this particular moment demonstrates another important way in which the narrator was impacted by Julia’s presence. Throughout the novel the narrator tells how both she and her grandmother faced racism in Paris. In reference to this particular incident the narrator states that “[Man Ya’s] spirit is not troubled by whites” (49). She consistently describes her grandmother as a strong, freethinking woman guided by her...

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