28th Discussion: Christian Burch’s Hit The Road, Manny

Biggest turn out in the history of the book club. Thank you, Raj, for the wonderful pre-Chinese New Year BBQ. Timmy moderated the discussion.

Characters:

1. Manny: Timmy liked how Manny forms a social family that is unrelated to him. Aaron couldn’t stand how meek the Manny is, unable to stand up for himself when faced with homophobic slurs. Melissa, however, thought that Manny is a realistic portrayal because he obviously has issues he needs to deal with. Glenn and Ernest were convinced that Manny is a sad person and uses humor to mask his melancholy. Helmi asked, “How sad can he be when he has a family who accepts him and when he is married?” Aaron claimed that although it is true Manny may have experienced some sad incidents in his life, it doesn’t mean that he cannot deal with it happily and it doesn’t mean he cannot be happy: your situation doesn’t dictate your fate. Ernest liked Manny because he represents both the masculine and feminine side: he can be nurturing to the kids and yet he is not afraid to play the role of a disciplinarian with regards to Belly’s behavior towards another girl.

2. Belly: Melissa’s favorite character. Timmy said that Belly reminded him of Mel and Teri.

3. Keats: Alexius found Keats annoyingly immature.

4. Lulu: Ernest detested her because she’s a mean bitch. Timmy said, “But she’s just like a fag hag.” Aaron disagreed with Ernest because Lulu is just authoritative and follows rules but when she is fun, she is really fun. Lulu simply acts as a contrast to chill India.

Themes:

1. Acceptance of family:

(a) Raj felt that the acceptance of Manny’s parents of his sexuality is too facile. Aaron agreed, stating that it is only after Manny helps the birthing of a calf that the father accepts him. Immediately after the calving when the cow accepts the calf–usually they don’t accept after difficult births as explained in the book–Manny yells, “There will be no rejection of children by their parents today!” (182) And at this moment, “He and his dad looked at each other eye to eye, like they were speaking telepathically” (182). Aaron felt that it is silly that the father accepts his son’s sexuality after he helped him in the delivery. Helmi, Glenn and the rest of the group disagreed that this is the watershed moment and postulated that perhaps Keat’s mom and Manny’s mom have spoken to the Father prior to the birth.

(b) Raj insisted that Keats’s parents should have spoken to the kids about Manny’s sexuality although the rest of the group (such as Mel, Helmi and Aaron) didn’t feel like there is a need on the parents’ part. Manny and Max kiss in front of the kids; the parents trust Manny to be the kids’ manny — isn’t that enough?

2. Sexuality: Is Keats gay? Teri said no, he’s just a campy straight boy, while Helmi said yes, he’s a campy gay boy who shows no interest in girls. Mel said he is just a kid coming to maturity. Aaron said that the question is important because it would make the novel more complex by making a statement about gay parenting/ gay influence.

3. Family:

(a) Ernest appreciated that this is a family that give gifts that multiply… like herpes. For instance, India is given a present of a sewing machine, which she in turn uses to make clothes for the family.

(b) Timmy brought up the issue of weak/absent father-strong/caring mother.

(c) Alexius liked the social aspect of the family, of how Keats’s family could interact well with other families, such as at the RV park.

(d) Mel liked to be brought up in such a loving and open-minded family but Aaron thought the family is very ANTM, you’ve to have a fierce personality to stand out or you’ll be neglected and unloved.

Literary Devices:

1. Names: Why is Manny’s name revealed only much later? Timmy explained that Manny VS Matthew is like J Lo VS Jennifer Lopez. Ernest elaborated that the Manny is slowly actualized as a real person.

2. Realism VS Idealism: Raj contended that the plot is cliche and stereotypical. “Really? A wedding at the end?”

3. Humor: Roy and Aaron liked the humor.

4. Target Audience: Helmi questioned what the target audience is, and, in turn, questioned the efficacy of the novel. Straight people wouldn’t pick up the book and teens may not get the pop culture references although some members (such as Melissa) contended that people do grow up with such a culture and the pretty cover is attractive to all kinds of people.

5. Road Trip: Teri noticed that the road trip symbolizes a journey of growth while Glenn noted pragmatically that if there is no road trip, there is no story.

6. Narrator: Aaron said that the author is very manipulative to use a child’s voice so that the readers could trust the point of view of the narrator. The other members–such as Mel and Raj–said that if other voices were used, the novel wouldn’t be as effective or as easy to write.

7. Silver Money Clip: Ernest read out a passage: “My silver money clip doesn’t have any moeny in it, just phone numbers and old movie tickets. And Sarah’s and Scotty’s school pictures” (31). He found it a poignant symbol of childhood: as you grow up, these memorabilia will be replaced with money.

Ernest argued that the insidious novel presents complex ideas in a simplistic form and liberates the minds of the narrow-minded. A hook-and-catch method. On the other hand, Helmi thinks that this is merely a feel-good book without much depth.

Just want to mention a few other people who came and socialized with us: Gavin, Isaac, Gil, Estee, Javin, Roy, Sejin, G-an, and Lydia. Thank you very much, your presence made the affair more jovial and convivial. Your presence is much appreciated. We hope we got everyone down. Please tell us if we miss out your name.

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Filed under Christian Burch, Family, Gay, Love, USA, Young Adult

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