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House on Mango Street

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    War Torn Guys:

    A Comparison of Two Immigrant Cousins in America

    Shadow of the Dragon by Sherry Garland takes place in the year 1992 in Houston, Texas. The story tells the tale of two immigrant cousins, Danny Vo and Sang Le Ly, and their way of surviving in the United States. Sang Le is the one who has suffered the most negative affects of coming to America.

    The physical appearances of the two boys are strangely opposite. Danny is a muscular, tall, dark and handsome. By this quote, "Girls are always telling him he has gorgeous eyes and a cute smile," it is obvious that Danny is the handsome one, whereas Sang Le is not handsome.(15) Another quote, "Was he really skinny? Wearing last years throwaways?'' says that his body features are small with not a lot of muscles and no six-pack.(55) That has to do with him being in prison in Vietnam. When you're in prison, you're not exactly getting full course meals. So he wasn't getting the vegetables and nutrients that his body needed to grow strong, while, since Danny was living in America at the time that Sang Le was in prison in Vietnam, he was able to get a healthy start and work on his exercise from an early age.

    Sang Le has no parents and Danny does. The only family that Sang Le has now is Danny Vo's family in America. Sang Le lost his parents at an early age. He knows how it feels to not have them. On the other hand, Danny doesn't, so most likely he doesn't realize what a blessing it is to have family, simply because he doesn't know what it is like not to have them.

    Danny Vo has lived in America much longer than Sang Le. He arrived in America at the age of six and is now sixteen, so he has been in the United States for about ten years. Sang Le has just arrived at the home of the Vo family. He hasn't had a chance to adapt to the things around him, including streets and cars and freedom. When he arrives at the airport, he runs to the roof to see freedom. "I had to see what freedom looks like."(59) This shows how eager and excited he is to be free.

    The education status for the two boys is exactly opposite also. Danny Vo is the brain; he stays up all night with his friend to work on his science project and he makes sure that he is always on top. Sang Le is willing to try, but the family has to remember that Sang Le comes from a hard background. He had no money to afford schooling in Vietnam, plus he was spending half of his life in prison so he came here poorly educated. Another reason he is doing badly is that it is difficult for him to learn English at the age of eighteen. This ends in him dropping out and his not being able to speak the language. If he can't speak English, how is he going to learn the English subjects? So, after a while, he gets all stressed out. "Sang Le plopped onto the floor and lit up a cigarette…"(148) Because of the stress of not being able to speak the language and doing badly, he smokes. You can also tell that Danny's worried about him, "Sang Le, you're never going to graduate from high school with those grades you're bringing home."(180)

    Cultural heritage is one of the main topics in this book. Being able to be yourself and not let go of where you came from is something that Danny has lost. He's got so tied up with trying to be like everyone else in America that he has lost his roots. "Danny hated to admit it now, but back then he used to pretend like he was Chinese just so kids and even adults wouldn't ask him about the war, or about being a Vietcong, or living in a grass hut or accuse him of having dog meat in his lunch box."(10) He has gotten used to being an American rather than a Vietnamese. Although Danny isn't in touch with his background and culture, Sang Le is all for it. "Sang Le bowed his head to Tiffany."(111) That action shows a little bit of what he does to prove that he is in touch with and still believes in his old ways. When you bow in front of someone, you are showing respect in the Vietnamese tradition.

    The family responsibility rests on the shoulders of Danny the one who sacrifices for the greater good of the family. He dumps a date with Tiffany to go look for Kim, his runaway sister. Tiffany is the girl who he has loved for his whole high school career. He finally starts to date her and gets a date with her and he can't go because he has to look for his sister. If he were any other kind of person, he would have forgot about Kim and just would have gone on his date, but since he loves his family and knows how important one person is to the whole household, he gathers the courage and the responsibility to take action and look for her. Also, he gives up his weekend to help Sang Le find a job. It's obvious that Danny is sort of the family healer. Whenever there is a problem, he has to solve it. That too shows responsibility. It shows that he can take control and be a good leader. The responsibility level for Sang Le is at the all-time lowest. He does nothing. In my opinion, the family still has it registered that Sang Le is a guest, but he's still family, and it's like they don't want him to have any burdens, like doing the dishes or washing clothes, because they want to provide the best environment for him and treat him like he's a king simply because he spent half of his life in prison and in a re-education camp. That is not fair. Leaving all of the worries and responsibility to one person is wrong.

    The romantic situation for Danny is good; he has everything he's wanted for a long time. He's with Tiffany; they're really into their relationship. "Danny removed his small black velvet box from his coat pocket and flipped the lid open. A tiny red ruby ring winked in the candle light like red wine."(259) Danny cares about Tiffany so much he bought her a ring to show his love and friendship. That's one of the reasons they are together, because they're friends at the same time. While Danny's love life is booming, and Sang Le's is still stuck at the bottom of the barrel. He does have a way with the ladies, but just not the one he wants. He really likes Hong, but Hong really likes Danny. So, when Sang Le finally gets a chance to be with someone who understands his past and his culture, he can't. He can't because the only girl who he has eyes for has eyes on his cousin. This makes him feel lonely inside and lowers his self-esteem, lower than it already is.

    The racial issue is the same for both Sang Le and Danny, but since Danny is

    dating the sister of a white skinhead, the pressure is mostly on him. "That'll be your head next, gook. Let's get him, Brian. Let's teach him a lesson for messing with our white women."(262) This quote describes what happened after Danny and Tiffany's date that night. It's confusing where Frank and his boys get their rage and anger. The fact of the matter is that they hate every race except for whites. The only reason they kill Sang Le is because Frank sees Sang Le talking to Tiffany at the grocery store. It also has something to do with the threat that Frank makes to Danny the night he beats him up. He says, "Don't you ever come near my sister again, chink, or you're a dead man."(262) In my opinion, Danny should have called the police right when he got home and pressed charges against Frank and his boys for a gang hate crime, but he doesn't even tell Sang Le what Frank said. Sang Le doesn't even know not to talk to Tiffany. The relationship between Danny and Tiffany goes downhill after Danny finds out that Tiffany knows about the Sang Le's murder and doesn't say anything.

    After Sang Le's death, light comes back in Danny's life. He realizes who he really is. He remembers where he came from. "Yes, I did remember something, sir. I remembered the blood of a dragon flows through my veins. An honorable, brave dragon that will do anything for his family no matter what the cost. Yes, sir, I did remember something. I remembered who I am."(303) By thinking that at the end of the book, the reader knows that because of Sang Le's death, Danny will no longer shun the culture of his past and who he really is, a Vietnamese.

    I believe that the reason Sang Le suffered the worst result of coming to America from a war torn country is because he never got to live in America. . The same year he comes to America is the same year he ends up dead. He never gets to experience the things that Danny experiences.

    Indeed, we will have a new breed of immigrants coming from all different parts of the Middle East and I hope that they are treated with respect and love. We have to realize they are not the enemies. They should be treated like any American.

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Urban Dreams
OUSD Curriculum Unit
Shadow of the Dragon
by Sherry Garland
Subject: English/ELD
Grade Level: 9th

Lesson Plan Author:
L. Delaney
School: Skyline High