Reading Beyond the Text and Taking Stock of Its Context

Planting a garden in one’s yard implies ownership of the home and the surrounding land.  Gardens seem to be preferred over manicured yards (notice the dandelion-like flowers growing in the grass).  There is a sense of freedom of movement due to the lack of fences demarking lots.  There are single-family moderate-sized homes.  All of these features indicate the middle-class socioeconomic standing of the community.

Some explicit assumptions:  The neighborhood is diverse – a variety of races and ages are represented.  Planting flower gardens is a project of beautification.  Everyone participates in gardening.

Some implicit assumptions:  The neighbors know one another, interact with one another, and are on friendly terms. There is a sense of acceptance here.  Planting vegetables could possibly be an economic necessity or a desire for culturally specific plants.

And some questions:  Is this a representation of a single mother?  Has the expression of the family’s biculturality changed from generation to generation?

Reading Beyond the Text

Pages 6-7 of "Ugly Vegetables"

The Ugly Vegetables. Text and illustrations copyright © 1999 by Grace Lin. Used with permission by Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc.


The mother writes in Chinese and plants Chinese vegetables, orienting the child to her material world.  The young girl seems not to be familiar with the Chinese characters the mother writes.  What factors might have contributed to the child not learning to read and write in Chinese?  What does the child understand about her family's heritage?


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