Front Desk(by Kelly Yang); The Florida project(Movie) for 7th grader.
As an immigrant artist, I read The Front Desk with such intimacy and empathy that it felt like my own story. Just as Mia, the main character, first thought of America as a country where everyone could play football and eat hamburgers as much as they wanted in a large yard with a swimming pool. I too am here, where my efforts are fruitful and all opportunities are open equally to everyone. I thought it was a country of freedom and hope. In short, I imagined it like a dream when immigrants from Alice Island looked at the Statue of Liberty, a symbol of New York city, when they first arrived. Perhaps life in the United States is not so different from what many immigrants imagined at the time, when they made the long journey despite an uncertain future and risks. Like Mia, the girl at the front desk.
However, after Mia actually arrived in the United States, her mother, an engineer and intellectual, worked as a server at her restaurant, but accidentally lost her job and was forced to sleep in her car, making her imagination a reality in an instant. Still, when she and her family finally got a job at the Cali Vista Motel, looking at the pool from the front desk where she would be working, didn't she dream of another American dream? In any case, she realizes that she is in an unfortunate situation where she cannot even dip her toes in the pool in front of her.
The wonderful life and opportunities that she thought were open to everyone were not. I read her story and detailed descriptions with great interest as they seemed to represent the difficult lives of immigrants. Her story shows that the starting line is not equal for everyone. This is a story that awakens a sense of reality to children, especially children from immigrant families. If you take on a 7th grade class, there will probably be children among them who are immigrants or have actually just immigrated. They are real characters living real lives without even having to read this book.
What I want to focus on at this time is not just these children, but all the children around them who are included with these children. Does this book have something essential for everyone? Finding it is the key point. From this perspective, I absolutely had to see The Florida Project. Moonee, the main character of this story, also lives at the motel, like Mia, the 8-year-old at the front desk. At that time, in American society, after the 2008 economic downturn and the Great Depression, people who lost their residences lived barely in motels, paying rent on a weekly basis.
Moonee is a girl from a homeless family with a single mother who has no ability to make a living. But Moonee's mom tries to raise her child with everything she can. So the Magic Kingdom Motel near Disneyland doesn't look so miserable, with its beautiful pastel colors. However, the flawed social welfare system does not provide them with any real help. Moonee's mom ends up working illegally and she got arrested by the police. Moonee loses her mother one morning and runs recklessly with her best friend who shared her heart before she was taken to a children's shelter. The place they are running is Disneyland, which is just a few steps away from the motel where they live. When running here, the camera shakes wildly, as if children were tied together and running. And what they arrived at was the Magic Kingdom, a Disneyland specialty with the same name as their motel.
In this scene, I noticed a family lovingly taking family photos with their children before they stood in front of the Magic Kingdom. The children ran past them, but I recognized the family as if I were standing there. Because I also took a family photo there. The reason why I'm talking about this Florida project is because the front desk and this are very similar, even though they are different. In other words, this is because the children who are the most marginalized, miserable, and in absolute need of help live in the immediate vicinity of where we actually live. Haven't we all taken lovely, worry-free photos at Disneyland's Magic Kingdom? Could it be that there were children running around us at that time who were not receiving any protection from society? In this respect, the front desk can teach 7th grade children awareness of the society we live in through the three themes below.
First. Diversity and Inclusion. This part is so important that it cannot be overemphasized. We can never live alone. The society we live in is where countless and diverse people help each other with their talents and play their own roles. Of course, this help is rewarded by enabling us to make a living. In other words, we cannot enjoy a completely happy life without these big and small roles and help.
For example, what happens if someone doesn't run the motel, like Mia's family at the front desk? We may have to sleep on the street while driving. In a society where each member plays a variety of roles, we must recognize each other's diverse backgrounds, scopes, and differences and teach them the mindset to live together. I sometimes come across mothers who do not allow their children to interact with children of other races. It actually breaks my heart to see these racists. Because I know very well that those children will not be able to work in the United Nations, for example, or as human rights lawyers, or in community-based work. it is unfortunate when the adults limiting a child's mentality and destroying it so that they cannot live together. It doesn't matter whether they tease our children or not. Because their children will be as lonely as the life of a narcissist. If they want to interact and mingle only with people of the same race and appearance in the world, they have no choice but to create their own kingdom. But does such a place exist other than Amazon?
Second. It is about social awareness that cares for the underprivileged and lives together with them. Some people look at poor people and wonder about their laziness, incompetence, and intelligence. However, when I look at such people, I think it is clearly because they do not understand the social system itself fully.
Think about it. Everyone wants their life to be like the beautiful and wonderful Instagram celebrities. In this respect, the triangle fire coalition. Would a worker who worked so hard in that small space every day for his family live so hard because he wanted to become the protagonist of such a tragedy? Anyone can suffer from being in the blind spot of welfare like Moonee's mother in the Florida Project. In some ways, this is due to loopholes and lack of protection in laws, systems, and politics. So, I think it is more essential to inform them of this realistic perception and to be more considerate of the underprivileged class, to think together about why they have no choice but to live such a life, and to solve the problem. This front desk book tells the reality of why Mia's family had no choice but to live in a motel, and I think it is a great opportunity to explore each other's ideas on how we can help these families.
Third. It's about the power of literature (writing). As I read this book, I was moved by the detailed description of the shock that young Mia experiences as she discovers reality, the language barrier, and the life of an immigrant. In fact, Mia's school teacher and mother advise Mia, who wants to become a writer, that she should focus more on math instead of English. Because she decided that no matter how hard Mia tried, she would never be able to surpass Native. I too experience this language barrier every day. Looking at it this way, if this front desk book had been abandoned due to the language barrier, it would not have been published as a book that so many people could relate to. Through this book, I was encouraged to discover that literary writing is about honestly expressing one's world, and that perfect rhetoric and grammar only support this and are not everything. In fact, the author of this book, Kelly Yang, is working on a project to teach writing to Asian children. Above all, I think this is a good book to help 7th grade students who need to express themselves and create their own world discover the power and charm of writing.
With these three themes, if I were to teach a 7th grade literature class, I would teach the children to teach literature with an open mind, be considerate of the underprivileged, and create a society where we live together.
You can create a class like this, and I think Front Desk and the Florida Project are good materials.
Myungja Anna Koh