9. Gil Cuadros’ City of God (Part 1)


Gil Cuadros' City of God (book cover)March 26
1. READ: Gil Cuadros, City of God, (p. 3 – 52) City of God (Part 1)
2. Susan Sontag, “AIDS and Its Metaphors” (Part 1)
3. PRESENTATION: Desiree Wimberly & John Wilkison

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March 28
1. READ: Gil Cuadros, City of God, (p. 53 – 99) City of God (Part 2)
2. Susan Sontag, “AIDS and Its Metaphors” (Part 2)
3. PRESENTATION: Lauren Carabetta & Sorlyz Pagan

53 Responses to 9. Gil Cuadros’ City of God (Part 1)

  1. City of God: Pages 3-53

    Indulgences: This opening short story was sharp and burning. Unfortunately, I have the feeling that this first chapter will end up setting the tone for the rest of the book. The part where cousin Evelyn sexually harasses/absuses the (main protagonist who is never mentioned by name?) by asking him for a “favor” and then goes to kiss him and grab his penis, making him run away and vomit (8-9). Cuadros hints that the boy may be gay, and the fact that his older cousin does this to him makes the scene even more uncomfortable because his sexually makes it even more apparent that it was nonconsensual.

    Reynaldo: I was surprised how long it took me to realize that the short chapters are unrelated. In my defense, this chapter was set up in a really funky way. I think this is what was happening: Reynaldo, a man suffering from AIDS, is asked to go and take care of his dying grandmother by his family. He writes about this experience in the present form (bolded text). The regular, non-bolded text is some type of flashback to when he was younger, visiting his grandmother, and being visited by a ghost who had a really strong connection to his grandfather. The letters are back and forth between the “ghost” (Reynaldo Jesus) and his grandfather. It is hinted that the boy, Reynaldo was gay (hence how he probably contracted AIDS.
    I know we are not supposed to summarize in our posts, but I just wanted to be clear on what was happening for my own (and possibly others’) sake, because this chapter was jumping around a lot.

    Chivalry: I liked this chapter because of the imagery of the hot sun and the cool darkness of the grandmother’s room where she and the cousins would prey. There was some definite erotic relations going on between the young cousins which hinted at being both consensual and nonconsensual. I didn’t know what to make with the “strawberry field” brother’s pact that they made, but I got a the sense that this chapter is meant to shed light onto the “coming of age” period of various men before they really start to become experienced sexually and emotionally.

    • Sabryne Vidal says:

      Christopher, I also enjoyed this chapter, mostly because I understood it the most out of the three so far. As for the two cousins, I agree with what you say about the two boys making a pact in the strawberry field, and it probably does have something to do with their “coming of age” where they’re both trying to get in touch with their bodies. This could be just something for them to do to help each other as cousins, there may not be anyone else around so they use each other and it may be perfectly normal and innocent. I want to say that David is completely innocent throughout this intimate/ expressive experience but I cannot say for sure. However, I do sense that for the narrator it has more of a deeper significance, almost like there’s intention behind it. Like he knows what he wants to happen, and he surely does hope for something to happen between every time they’re both alone. As you say in your post, coming of age period is essential before men start to become experienced sexually and emotionally, I think that this applies to David, as for the narrator, I feel like he’s already certain of his sexual preference.
      ~Sabryne Vidal

    • Brittany Demers says:

      I think you right about the first scene with Evelyn setting up a tone for the rest of the book. Not really sure how to word this, but a tone in which the narrator seems uncomfortable. I think that the narrators family is the main source of his uncomfortableness at this time. I was also confused by the brother pact because some of what they did seemed sexual and not something that brothers would do. I also agree that this experience could have been a coming of age. I feel that the narrator felt he was learning things from David.

    • In Chivalry, I really enjoyed your interpretation of the ‘strawberry field’ incident. I was also confused and didn’t know exactly how to interpret it or what to make of it. The events leading up to this made you believe that they were simply kids exploring their sexuality. However this portion was more sensual then it was sexual. Instead of exploring their sexual sides of their relationship, I think this was to mark the emotional side of their bond that had officially been created throughout the summer.

      • i agree with your point about sensuality vs. sexuality, Victoria! I now see it as something that was more about belongingness and relationship bonding instead of sexuality. I think my perception was skewed by the earlier, more sexual events of the story. Good analysis and point about the summer relationship between the two boys.

  2. Amber Jones says:

    1 Short Story:
    I felt extremely uncomfortable when I read that his cousin sexually harassed him. I really could not come to terms with the fact that a family member could do such a thing to another family member.From personal experience I know of a lot of latinos who unfortunately were sexually abused by someone within their family. This act does not only disrupt the victim mentally but it also creates confusion within their sexually.

    I mostly find people who have been sexually abused by someone are more likely to be attracted to the opposite sex. For example, if a young man is sexually abused by a woman they tend to later be attracted to the same sex and vice visa with women. If a young girl is sexually abused by a male they sometimes go towards the same sex as while. But through personal experience with others I find more men take this route than women. In reading this section we all could insinuate that the boy was already attracted to men but I wonder if the act that his cousin displayed upon him intensified his desire for men and dislike for women?

    • Sabryne Vidal says:

      Amber, I completely agree with you. I too know many people who have been sexually abused by their family members, especially within the Latino community. Sadly, these individuals do become disturbed not only emotionally, but also sexually. They begin to question their own sense of identity especially when it corresponds to sexuality. This could result in them confusing sexuality with protection/security, like with your example- a man who continually sexually abuses a woman. This could lead the woman to believe that this man loves her, and that she must love him in return because there is no one else in the world who will love her and protect her like her abuser does. This does not only apply to heterosexual situations but could also arise under homosexual circumstances as well. Just like a woman falls prey to the man’s manipulation, a man could to. If the abuser is frequently assaulting another male, then those same feelings that the vulnerable women develop could also be replicated in a vulnerable male. I think that this is when the sexual identity is lost. Male victims begin to develop a sense of twisted love and security at the hands of their abuser and I don’t think those who were heterosexual realize that they’re engaging in homosexual acts. From personal experience, I’ve seen some victims who become “hypnotized” after abuse. It really all depends on who the abuser is, the mental state of the abused victim, and his or her age at the start of abuse.
      ~Sabryne Vidal

      • I also agree with you. I felt very uncomfortable reading this passage, I can’t understand how Evelyn could be so inappropriate toward any person let alone a young male family member. He is clearly vulnerable and she could see that so she tried to take advantage of it. I think that her actions absolutely intensified his feelings in regards to his sexuality.

    • Desiree W. says:

      I have to agree with you Amber, I didn’t know how I should feel after reading the first chapter. I felt a little annoyed that the whole family was so set on believing that a family member had killed another member. I also agree with your statement about sexual abuse. It is true that in some cases people who are sexually abused tend to act out in sexual ways because of the trauma they suffered. I think the family over looks this a lot and this could be due to the culture, that a child should take their place as a child. (i.e. the narrator is hushed at the table discussion about Evelyn.)

      • I don`t necessary think that all cases work this way although I know that`s not what you are saying. When people are sexually assaulted their reactions can be very different from one another. Some individuals may become hypersexual whether with the same sex or the opposite where others may restrain from sex all together. However, I agree with the idea that sexual assault causes distress and lost of trust especially when someone you trust is the one inflicting the assault. In this short shorty in particular I think Evelyn is acting out possible because of something that may have happened to him.

  3. Sabryne Vidal says:

    In City of God by Gil Cuadros, there were a couple of instances in which I noticed repressed sexual/feminine tendencies among the main male characters or narrators rather. It probably stems from the typical male stereotype they’ve been exposed to or have come to know through their own personal life experiences. For instance, in “Chivalry”, there is a subtle implication that the male narrator’s uncle Steve does not like his son David, who also happens to be the narrator’s cousin- to be jumping up and down with excitement as they’re both approaching the farmland. In the following quote, “his father sucked in his breath, a tinge of disgust that his fourteen-year-old would act like this” suggests that David’s father disapproves of his non-masculine display, especially when he urges for him to stop “what did I tell you, David, just what did I tell you?”(Cuadros 39). Uncle Steve’s preoccupation with David’s unconventional demeanor implies that it is an unaccepted way to act in front of others, especially because he is male. To us it would seem as if he’s acting girly, overcome with all kinds of emotion. However, males under the masculine stereotype are not allowed to show emotion or act in such expressive ways like David had and for this reason they become repressed and withheld. Another instance in the text where I also caught an example of this sexual repression was when David and the narrator cousin were both alone in the farmhouse sharing “secrets”. This is when David shares his pornographic magazines with his cousin, however, the narrator pretends to care about the naked women on the page but what he’s really interested in are the naked males as he gives a very detailed description of what he’s gazing at. The following quote, “what intrigued me were the men, the abundance of hair around their dicks and asses, how many different shapes they came in, these strange musty odor off the pages themselves…I wanted to hold their crotches to my nose, let my tongue taste the magazines…” suggests that the narrator is obviously more interested in the male physique opposed to that of females, however he must conceal this since it falls out of everything that is masculine and heterosexual and within the scope of what is homosexual (Cuadros 42).

    The details are so explicit that it’s clear to the reader how profound these sexual desires have become overtime. It’s not something sudden, it seems like something that’s gradually developed especially since the narrator happens to know and understand his own feelings in relation to other men, he knows what he wants to do to them as he explicitly mentions in the text about grabbing their genitals. I think that he’s perfectly aware of what his sexual preference is, and that it’s not like he’s keeping it from himself or out of conscious awareness in that sense, but socially repressed would be a better way to put it. He doesn’t want other people to see or notice it, so he hides/ denies it by staring at women in the magazine when other male figures are present like David. He so desperately desires for David to make a move, and he wants to feel the same passionate urge from his own cousin but only will he open up and display his sexual tendencies if David initiates. It seems like he’s on the edge every single time he’s with David, but he does not allow himself to show his true colors for fear of rejection. In these examples, I feel like masculinity has taken over the narrator’s and David’s true form of identity, because when the narrator tries to identify with his homosexual tendencies- he cannot for his fear of probable rejection or non acceptance from his family and Latino community. In the beginning of the chapter, the narrator describes his own personal experience of having cut himself with a vivid description of the blood running down his wrists. If at first he mentions how his cousin is “half-retarded” and assumes that there must be something genetically wrong with him that even his family can’t figure out, I suspect that he may be suffering from depression, suicidal depression that is. I think that all his life he’s been having to repress his sexual compulsions, and that is why “they [family] got annoyed when I spoke, thought I whispered intentionally, kept things hidden” (Cuadros 37). All along he’s been either hiding thru his whispers, so that people aren’t able to hear his thoughts. It’s very apparent that he is gay but will not take the initiative to show himself in that light. In this case, masculinity masks his own sense of sexuality and what emerges is this innate personal conflict and state of depression. I feel like the tendency of constantly hiding from the family, from hiding the truth, and repressing his sexuality, all results from the social stigma placed on men to act a certain way- will be the death of him. As for with David, he seems to be unable to control his so called feminine tendencies and is urged to hide them by his parents; so essentially he keeps them concealed since it doesn’t apply to the prototype his father perceives as masculine. This could also prevent him from expressing his sexuality in the future that is if he does happen to be gay.
    ~Sabryne Vidal 03/25/2013

    • You make a really good point in regards to his repressed feelings. I think that he is completely aware of who he is and he accepts himself, he just does not feel as though anyone else would accept him. He has to be a completely different person in his social life which is stressful and confusing. He badly needs someone to connect and relate with him.

      • There is a lot of repressed emotions in just about every short story presented in this book. I think you did a great job with analyzing David`s character and how he clearly is comfortable with who he is ( ex. scene where he brings his cousin to the strawberry field and proceeded to rub strawberries on himself) . David doesn`t want to be looked as as different so I believe that is why he isn`t open with his family. I think their religious background has a lot to do with why he represses his emotions as well.

  4. Amy Hahm says:

    AIDS and It’s Metaphors was an interesting read, educating the public on HIV and Aids. This articles touches upon Aids as a metaphor between the body and society. I thought it was really interesting how they brought up Rudolf Vichow, the founder of cellular pathology and how he used political metaphors to talk about the body. He expanded on how the cell is the fundamental unit of life and how there are other more complex structures. I really enjoyed how he used metaphors, as how organisms are “multicelluar” and how our society is “multicitizened”. It was a great example how the body can be seen in terms of the structures of a state. This metaphor between the body and society was amusingly very parallel. This was one of my favorite metaphors in the reading.
    John Donne was someone who focused on illness. The reading suggested that illness was a metaphor for mortality. Donne believes that an illness is some what like an invader. He brought in the aspect of military to body politics. Donne compares disease to an “invasion of alien organisms which the body responds by its own body operations.” (156). Its interesting that Donne brings it up this metaphor because it sheds light on how our society perceives those who are sick and battling disease and other conditions. This article brings up how society is filled with misconceptions and assumptions about the body and disease. There are several myths circulating in our society about how diseases such as Aids and HIV are contracted or spread. I enjoyed how it brought to attention how our culture perceives disease as metaphors.

    • Lauren Carabetta says:

      I agree that the article brings attention to myths that surround AIDS and HIV. I never thought about the language we use when we talk about illness. I didn’t realize how the military language was applied to illness before reading this article. It also provoked thought about how we perceive illnesses and diseases, like you said. I never thought to compare the way we perceive cancer to the way we perceive HIV and AIDS in society. It is interesting to think about how illnesses and diseases impact masculinity in terms of physical image and strength.

    • John Wilkinson says:

      I think what’s interesting about the inclusion of Jon Donne’s poetry is that it often is filled with ironies and paradoxes and that it tends to be viewed as a self-containing body. The importance of “bodies” within the article relating to HIV/AIDS and other disease is self-evident. The paradox and irony of AIDS is that the syndrome takes the cells used to fight infection and turns them into the cells that attack the body. Something foreign enters the body and turns something of the body – the very thing fighting infection – against it.

  5. There were a few things that really stuck out to me in this reading. For example, when Evelyn was harassing the narrator in the story verbally and physically, it made me feel really uncomfortable, not just because her behavior was completely inappropriate, but also because the narrator didn’t have the courage to confront her or even tell any of his other family members what had happened.

    It seems as though he feels very out of place in his family. He is repressing his feelings and he is afraid that if he his family will judge, ostracize, and possibly even hate him, the same way they did to Evelyn. ” I stared outside , wondered if my family would ever turn on me, where would I go, who would I love.” (p. 14)

    The narrator is clearly struggling with his sexuality, and he is constantly being pressured by his family who is always asking him about what girl he likes or if he has a girlfriend. He is made fun of by his peers who call him a “fucking sissy” because they don’t think he is masculine enough and because he is friends with mostly females, who think of him only as a friend, but he doesn’t seem to mind. Being at home with his family should be his comfort zone or safe haven, but he feels just as judged at home as he does at school.

    • I too felt uncomfortable when Evelyn was coming on to her younger cousin, partly because of the age difference, partly because of the family ties, and mostly because of the nonconsensuality (I just made up a word, bear with me.) Definitely agree that he should have felt empowered to stand up to her and to tell his family what had happened. But I also understand putting aside certain things in the face of larger life-occurrances, such as death.

      • Sabryne Vidal says:

        I completely agree with your analysis, and I too believe that the narrator should have stood up to Evelyn. I felt like she was abusing her power as an older family member, and it wasn’t fair how she took advantage of him. I didn’t understand why she did this in the first place, I mean she’s being accused of having killed Papa- I don’t think she needs to put herself at risk for yet another strong accusation that could really set the family off. It really disturbed me how the narrator could not find the courage to stand up for himself in this uncomfortable situation, and it’s like she almost targeted him because was already so vulnerable. But then again as Christopher said, it was not the right moment for such confrontation and he probably felt like it was his obligation to not start anything during an event in which you are only to show the utmost respect for those who have passed.
        ~Sabryne Vidal

    • Amber Jones says:

      I believe the fear he possessed encouraged the repression of exposing his true self. Fear is a powerful thing and can keep a person shielded for months and even years. Family is an essential institution that helps in the progress and growth of a person and provides love and care. He was afraid that if he exposed himself he would be ostracized from his family. The discussion we had in class I believe relates to this notion as well. I remember someone stating that if they found out that someone had HIV/AIDS or that they were homosexual they would push them away and not want to be associated with them any longer. In many cases this is true, I would love to think that family members would not shun away their own flesh and blood but this action is prevalent. The only reason why I think family would do such a thing is so that they can make the other feel left out and somewhat force them to abide by what they believe is right.

      I remember seeing a movie where a young man expose his secret to his parents that he was gay. His mother was distraught and kept telling herself that it was only a phase. In seeing his mother so distressed he decided to agree with his mom that it was a phase when it really was not. In order to protect hurting his mom he decided to take the route where he was pleasing another instead of himself. I find this very hard to grapple with because to live a life where you’re unhappy internally can be very damaging to one’s psyche.

  6. Lauren Carabetta says:

    Something that stuck out to me in the first part of City of God was how the boy described that his family was always asking him when he was going to have a girlfriend (7). His family assumed he would follow the heterosexual norms. They didn’t ask him when he was going to have a boyfriend they told him what they expected through how they asked him. His mother even “begged him to find a girl soon” and called him unnatural for not having found one already (7). It is sad that his mother puts so much pressure on him to have a girlfriend. What if he was attracted to boys instead of girls? What if he wanted to be by himself? His mother has communicated that he will be a man if he has a girlfriend, so if he does not have a girlfriend he is not a man in her eyes.

    I think it is really sad that the family instills these expectations in the boy instead of encouraging him to establish his own identity. He shouldn’t feel like he can’t be himself. He should be told that he is loved whether he has a girlfriend or a boyfriend. Families should be supportive of their children no matter what, especially when they are growing up and developing their identities. It is sad that the boy wonders how his family will treat him and if they would turn on him the way they turned on his family member who was a lesbian (14). He is not sure that he will be loved if he does not follow his family’s norms and ideas about masculinity.

    • Sabryne Vidal says:

      What you’ve touched upon in your first paragraph also stuck out to me. I felt like he was extremely pressured by his family to find a girlfriend and I thought it was just so insensitive to prioritize finding a partner rather than focusing on the happiness of their son. Also to add on that last part about him not being a man if he cannot find a girl, that just goes to show how some parents are just parents when they get what they want, or when its to their own convenience. It’s absolutely selfish of them to want to create his identity for him, and if it continues there is no way that he’ll develop his sense of self. It’s really sad how he lives with that fear of abandonment and disownment at the hands of his family- leading this kind of life is no way to live, it’s no way to trust or feel loved. I just think it’s such a shame how a family could make one of their own feel so intimidated and fearful when family is supposed to support and love unconditionally.
      ~Sabryne Vidal

    • Amber Jones says:

      I completely agree with you about the family pressure. I think many times we disregard how the family plays such an immense role in the formulation of our sexuality. By the mother continuously asking her son when he was going to get a girlfriend must have really made an impact on him. He understood that he was not attracted to girls and by his mother pressing him to be with a girl must have made him feel as though he was a disappointment. The ability to please your parents is one that most children possess and the fact that he would not be able to please his mother was distressing.

      When you brought up the fact that the mother was pressuring him to get a girlfriend without really knowing his preference made me realize something. I don’t blame the mother for pressuring him to get a girlfriend because most parents just assume that their children are heterosexual. It was somewhat sad that his family was trying to make him follow one path of sexuality but its very normal. I know when I was growing up my mother would do the same thing where she would playfully joke and ask when I was going to get a boyfriend. I just think its the society we are in. I don’t think the parents were doing this as a means to harm him though. I honestly think that the family is essential in composing a healthy insight of sexuality for for their children but I also think the child has to be strong enough to hold tight to what they believe fits them the best when it deters from what the “norm” . The ability to do this may take time but it nonetheless has to occur.

  7. Skylar Smith says:

    “AIDS and It’s Metaphors” is a great informational read about illnesses and the metaphors society uses with illnesses like cancer and AIDS. The author describes in detail how illnesses and diseases, specifically cancer in this case, is “synonymous with evil, having cancer has been experienced as shameful, therefore something to conceal, and also unjust, a betrayal by ones body” (Sontag, pg. 112). Although on a different level, it seems as if the metaphors associated with disease and illness can be compared to the narrators thought of his sexuality. The narrator believes that feeling the way he does is not acceptable and even evil in the eyes of others when he says: ” I stared outside, wondered if my family would ever turn on me, where would I go, who would I love” (p.14). The narrator has seemed to be hiding throughout his life because of his sexuality which compares to the idea that having cancer is something to be shameful of.

    I am curious to see how this book evolves through its expressiveness and use of metaphors. In “AIDS and It’s Metpahors,” it continues to talk about how having AIDS has now become the main disease or illness associated with death, instead of cancer. These are simply metaphors that society has placed on these illnesses and diseases and the author tries to get the point across that one should not think “why me,” or feel guilt at the expense of their disease. I feel that the narrators main belief of negativity and the burying of his sexuality within are already strong metaphors that he has played in to. As the book continues, it will be interesting to see how big of a role metaphors play in all of the characters beliefs.

  8. AIDS is something that most people automatically are on an alert as soon as they find out someone may be infected with HIV or AIDS. I believe this idea about it is mainly because we are misinformed about it and how someone with AIDS can still live a normal life. I was able to see from the reading that people will say they have cancer rather then saying that they are infected with HIV.
    Even if a person is informed about the risks and knows that you can’t get AIDS threw body contact or that it takes gallons of saliva to become infected with AIDS. We still shy away from them as if were going to get it from just standing next to them. I was able to see this threw the basketball player Magic Johnson he was the first athlete to become infected with AIDS and was told to quite the team because many of the players didn’t want to play basketball with her. This was not only affecting him playing athlete but it was also affecting his emotional life to. He wasn’t allowed to do his job and the thing that he loves just because players didn’t feel comfortable playing with him. This relates back to that we are still ignorant about HIV and AIDS even though they knew they couldn’t become infected playing basketball.

    • Lauren Carabetta says:

      I also think it is sad that society treats you differently once you are labeled with something. Like you said, when people find out that someone has AIDS they change how they view that person and how they act around them. I think this does take an emotional toll on those who are labeled because they are made to feel shame and they are ostracized when they need support the most. There is so much stigma associated with illnesses and that becomes all other people see when they look. Everyone stopped talking about how great Magic Johnson was at basketball and focused on how he had AIDS and how they didn’t want to get it from him. An illness or disease shouldn’t define you, it is a part of you but it isn’t who you are.

    • I completely agree that people are ignorant about aids and what the disease truly is. However, my brother works in the medical field and even then doctors are uncomfortable and less willing to be with a patient who has HIV/AIDS. It’s interesting because doctors are the ones who should be aware of how it is contracted and they are prepared with the necessary precautions to deal with that patient, yet, they are still uncomfortable with it.

  9. Audrey Allyn says:

    HIV and AIDs is a controversy that has put a lot of people on edge. The disease itself is dangerous to your immune system and people’s knowledge about the disease has increased from when it first became a problem. The majority of the population has a fear of those that are infected with the illness because of the stigma that is attached to it. There is a inherent paranoia about even the chance of someone with AIDS. We talked about in class about how you are automatically dismissed from giving blood if you are gay or have had gay sex. Segregation towards people is a moral thing, where it shouldn’t be. We need to be aware of the situation and what this does to other cases. There are certain circumstances dealing with how they received AIDs and there shouldn’t be exclusion towards all those that are infected.
    I think the whole concept of getting tested for HIV is something that is important. We should be more open about HIV because it is such a serious disease. I think that it would change your perspective of the person that has contracted it but there needs to be awareness. The hardship for people comes with the fact that they would automatically be placed in a category that would change their lives. If we were more open it would make it less of a burden for those who are infected with the disease.

    • I completely agree that people need to be more aware of the disease in order to be comfortable with it. I think that the reason there is such a stigma against HIV/AIDS is that it is one of the most deadly diseases that can be prevented 100%. Whether through frequent testing, abstinence, or protected sex- there are multiple ways to prevent it. However I think many people are scared to get tested for it because of the stigma that is placed on it. Even if they are going to get tested solely for themselves many will view them as ‘dirty’ because they are getting tested.

    • Nelson Veras says:

      I also feel the more open we are about talking about the disease the more comfortable people with the disease feel. As a society we speak so negatively about the disease that we make these people feel uncomfortable. This leads to shame and guilt, which at its most severe case leads to suicide. If we make these people feel as if we can help them rather then making them feel as we are their enemies a difference can be made. A strong support system goes a long way and a great atmosphere with positivity can be a factor for recovery.

    • I also do agree with you because people are truly not aware of what AIDS is. I believe that people think of AIDS as something that someone has developed by not being protected having sex but AIDS can be caused from other then unprotected sex many people may be born with it and other people may of been infected with HIV from a medical mistake. Even if a person may believe that they are infected with HIV they may be scared to get a test and see if they truly do because they may be judged by the conductor of the test. As a society we feel extremely uncomfortable being judged and I believe that truly scares people from being tested positive.

  10. Imaani Cain says:

    Like was previously stated by my classmates, I felt extremely uncomfortable when Evelyn began propositioning the narrator. However, I wonder why the narrator didn’t tell his mother or anyone else. Is it possible he thought they wouldn’t believe him, or that he felt guilty? I just was interested in knowing the reason behind his thought process, as the whole family seems to despise Evelyn and seeks to stick her with the blame at every opportunity. He could’ve been supported by his family members, but he still said nothing. It is this moment that connects with the narrator saying that he feels worthless, or does that have to do with his disease? This reoccurs with the narrator’s life with his cousin David, and his cousin approaches him a sexual manner. There is a mention in the beginning of the narrator feeling as though he is worthless–I wonder if it’s due in equal parts to these instances and his illness.

    I also felt emotionally touched when I read the part where he seems to have told his mother about having HIV and she instead tells everyone that he has cancer. It brought me back to our class discussion where we talked about cancer being the more ‘masculine’ disease, and that it is thought of being something that unfortunately happens to you instead of being the punishment that AIDS is thought of. There is a sense of ‘forgiveness’ that is coupled with AIDS, as though you have to be seen as a human being in spite of your illness (such a moralized stigma doesn’t come with cancer).

    As for gender, the narrator seems to embrace ‘femininity’ in a much clearer sense than the males from the other novels we read did. The narrator is open about his fascination with his male classmates, and talks about his kinship with women (both girls his age and his mother–the father is not mentioned that much in the first 52 pages). Is this due to his sexuality, where he finds himself so abjectly different from the men in his life that he spends more time with women, or does it have to do with a more comfort-based reason?

    • Brittany Demers says:

      I also questioned why the narrator did not tell anyone about what Evelyn did. I think that he was extremely embarrassed about what happened because she was teasing him about girls before she assaulted him. Maybe he didn’t want to bring the subject of girlfriends up to his other family member while explain what happened? I think that the feelings of worthlessness might stem from his family badgering him about girls. I feel like at that point it could have made him also feel unaccepted. Maybe he felt like he was being forced to fit into something hes not?

    • Imaani, I appreciate your questions about how the narrators’ motives and feelings about their sexualities intertwine with their interactions with the people around them. I also like your analysis of the moralized stigma being associated with AIDS and not with cancer.
      I just want to point out that the narrators are different for all of the chapters, and each chapter is like a short story. So the their motives and family connections will be quite different throughout the book. I too questioned the lack of cohesiveness in the plot!

    • Joseph C. Sokola says:

      I certainly agree that the narrator should have told someone about Evelyn’s advances on him. I do not think he feels guilty as much as he feels awkward about the whole situation concerning his lack of a girlfriend and the fact that his parents really want him to acquire one, perhaps as a way of proving to themselves that their son is straight. If he were to mention what happened with Evelyn, this would have caused more issues and questioning of his sexuality by his parents and family, and it seems as though the narrator would rather just avoid all of it.

      When he says that he is “worthless,” I believe that it is the result of a combination of both his disease as well as his sexuality, neither which is accepted by his family. The fact that his mother pretends that he has instead of HIV proves this. It also shows that there truly is a stigma against HIV, and the misconception that HIV and AIDS is only a disease for certain people such as homosexuals, because the disease can happen to anyone, despite their sexuality.

    • John Wilkinson says:

      I think one of the reasons the narrator did not tell anyone was the confusion about his own identity and sexuality as well as his family pressuring him. With his family constantly asking him about getting a girlfriend, his identity is already at odds with his family’s wishes. His reluctance to admit his identity is likely indicative of knowing his family wouldn’t support him. The lack of support is shown in the same insistence that he find a girl. Telling his family about his sexual harassment may have brought family support, but knowing he can’t count on it already, he is afraid to say anything.

  11. Amber Jones says:

    I found reading “Aids and Its Metaphors” to be very interesting. One thing that I would like to highlight from the text is the contradictory feeling between one who suffers from cancer and one who has contracted AIDS. In the text it stated that cancer patients usually ask the question “why me?” and the one who contracted AIDS is more or less shameful and a feeling of guilt overwhelms them. In reading this I wondered why these reactions occurred? Why do people with AIDS feel guilty and inflict self hate? Many would say because they bought the disease upon themselves by not being responsible, whereas cancer patients just get the disease. This guilt partly comes from their identity loss they encounter when they contract the disease, ” The illness flushes out an identity that might have remained hidden from neighbors, job workers” (153). They are now vulnerable to the world; the once unspoken part of them is now spoken for people to see and judge. This can be very harmfull because they not only have to deal with their own guilt and hateful emotions towards themselves but they now have to deal with others stereotypes against them.

    In class discussion I remember someone saying that the topic of AIDS/HIV has became somewhat irrelevant. When society first became aware of it, it was seen everywhere and now that time has progressed it has not been as evident. Due to the lack of information being shown it leaves open for people to create stereotypes. Some of the stereotypes that were said in class such as people thinking they can not eat from the same spoon or fork as someone with AIDS was very disturbing to hear. The only way to eradicate these stereotypes is by everyone doing their research to get educated on this topic and I also believe the government as a whole should do more to educate the public ( more public announcements on TV, billboards, etc).

    • Nelson Veras says:

      This was a great post. Your second paragraph is very interesting. AIDS/HIV is starting to become a topic in which Americans are starting to feel more comfortable about. Because of cases like Magic Johnson, people’s view point on AIDS/HIV altered because before Magic people thought your life was basically over if you contracted the virus. Now, Magic made everyone believers and they’re ways to treat the virus before it becomes very severe. Public schools should do a better job in educating students about this because it all starts within the education system to educate the public.

  12. Brittany Demers says:

    When the narrator was assaulted by Evelyn I felt really bad for him. Like many others have said, this made me feel uncomfortable. She had no right to do that to him. I also feel bad that the narrator was nagged about having a girlfriend. “I felt embarrassed. My whole family was always asking when was I going to get a girlfriend. My mother begged me to find a girl soon, not to be so shy, said it was natural for me to like girls.” (Cuadros, 7). I felt so bad for the narrator thinking back to this quote. I feel that this was his mother trying to tell him that he should be attracted to girls. It seems like she might have been worried that he was gay and just tried to cover it up with by telling him not to be shy.
    During the loss of the grandmother it seemed really hard for the whole family. I know it can be hard when you watch a family member fade away. It is also a big responsibly to take care of an elderly person and commend the narrator for that. I guess I felt a lot of sympathy for him because I also felt bad when family members showed up to the house asking to take her belongings before she died. I think that was rude and uncalled for. I feel that this behavior would be ok if the grandmother accepted her own death already and welcomed people to come take her possessions but that was not the case.

    • crestrepo1991 says:

      Great post! I agree that Evelyn actions can be characterized as an assault, not just because there was physicality involved but rather because she completely attacks the narrator’s character an psyche in every way, shape, and form. While he couldve displayed more self-respect and defend himself, her actions are uncalled for and to not be respected due to the amount of ignorance they have

  13. Desiree W. says:

    The first short story touched me the most because I felt bad for the narrator of this short story. He is a 14 year old boy who is sexually frustrated with his own identity right from the beginning of the story due to his implications and expectations from his family. It is suggested that he is battling with his sexuality and I find it hard to believe that at the young age of 14 a little boy should have these feelings. He is constantly asked if he has a girlfriend and is pressured/begged by his mother to get a girl friend. This is painful to watch, and due to culture and society we tend to do this naturally without any thought about the high expectations we place on our children growing up.

    You can see that this identity struggle really does bother him because he knows it is something that he is expected to have. He is also sexually assaulted but a cousin, who is considered the outcast of the family because of her sexual behaviors. The thought of her behaviors and general upkeep along with her sexual advances on him disturbs him so much that he vomits. I found this be disturbing because scenes like this happen in real life all the time. And the fact that he was hushed and made to believe that his “little” story would hold no value at the dinner discussion is sad. Things like this cause children to grow up scarred into adulthood, because they will always thing that what they have to say is unimportant. Who knows Evelyn could have been sexually assaulted and that could be the reasons behind her behaviors, but since the family shuns her we won’t know. Leads to life of secrecy of what is done in the dark stays in the dark.

    • crestrepo1991 says:

      Very good post! I have to agree as well that the actions performed by Evelyn towards the narrator were vile, hurtful, and unacceptable. But I feel that the narrator couldve handled the situation better rather than to endure such negativity for her, as it was absolutely unnecessary on her part but nonetheless the narrator couldve defended himself and approach the situation with more dignity and self-esteem

      • Imaani Cain says:

        I think the above statement alludes closer to victim blaming than I am comfortable with. Evelyn should not have touched the narrator, and as he was a child, I think that saying that he “could’ve defended himself and approached the situation with more dignity and self-esteem” isn’t right at all. What was he meant to do? Evelyn is older and a family member; he was not expecting her to sexually approach him at all. Exactly what should his response have consisted of? Also, it occurred at a time where the family was in a state of upheaval because of the death of his grandfather; it’s likely that he felt it couldn’t be brought up given the situation that was already happening, or that his mother wouldn’t believe him.

    • Nelson Veras says:

      I agree with Imaani’s comment about the narrator not saying anything because it was the wrong time. There is a right time and place for everything and I felt that the narrator did the right thing in not saying anything. Evelyn should not have been touching the narrator considering it was her family member which was younger than her. This is how kids become scarred and have identity confusions later on. The narrator already has to deal with the pressure of his mom, so now this can be also convert into another personal issue.

  14. sorlyz says:

    Between pages 54 and 99 of City of God, there are six stories that seem to be of different people with completely different narrators. Although I found them to be interesting, I was still confused as to who was telling the story. In the chapter Holy, I found myself aggravated and annoyed with the neighbor who was consistently putting things on the narrator’s door. I was also upset that the landlord did nothing to stop the annoyance. I wondered if there was an obvious sign to the narrator that he might be ill. I also considered that maybe the neighbor was trying to help him by possibly praying for him. On the other hand, she could be praying that the narrator decides to move out if she continues with her harassments.

    The second interesting story within the section was Baptism. There were many sections in the story that felt unclear. I was not sure as to the purpose of the school scene where the teacher begins to cry about fallen soldiers. But I did notice symbolism in Angela’s almost drowning. Angela admired her cousin and her beauty and they shared a close bond. When Denise is the one to save her from her drowning, she is also Angela’s “savior” in changing her appearance and becoming who she truly wants to be. I wish this story had gone on for a few more pages because I wanted to know what happened between Denise and her father also if Angela’s father was actually happy to have a “little boy” once he sobered up.

    • Holy seemed to be the story that stood out most to me. While I do agree that her actions seemed to have a negative motive, there is a possibility that she meant it in a positive way. Instead of viewing her shrines as a way to inflict her religion, it could be viewed that she was using her shrines as a way to pray for the narrator. In the end the narrator ultimately felt relief from her chair so it is pretty difficult to decide whether or not the intent of the shrines were for malicious intents or not.

  15. City of God by Gil Cuadros has a bunch of interesting short stories that all either connect homosexuality with AIDs or depression. When I thought about these stories as a whole they all include one of these connections which I found interesting. There are a lot contradictions of normative behavior in terms of suicidal thoughts among religious individuals.

    I found the younger cousin in Reynaldo very interesting. He has pretty aggressive thoughts but appears innocent in the short short. The younger cousin obviously enjoys his cousin`s company and in some instances craves his older cousin`s touch. He hints at wanting to feel his cousin and being sexually aroused by him and although we (the audience) is aware of his thoughts, the actual activities in the story is directed by David who appears to be the aggressor and the one in control, the one wanting the sexual acts to happen. He introduces his cousin to pornographic pictures, and encourages him to do other activities although in the younger cousins mind he wants to do whatever David wants to do. I find this role model, “I want to be just like you” behavior confusing because the younger cousin also has sexual thoughts about this person who he appears to innocently follow around.

    Another idea I found interesting has a lot to do with homosexuality as a whole. Again with connections, there is the repetitive thought that homosexual men are predators. Like in Indulgences, there are scenes that hint at the idea that homosexuals are bad individuals because there aren`t any shorties that has the homosexual character be someone who accepts himself and doesn`t portray predatory behavior or isn`t depressed or sick.

  16. crestrepo1991 says:

    Within the novel “City of God”, we are exposed to the many difficulties that young adolescents tend to endure in regards to sexual orientation and the representations of masculine ideologies (such as machismo and social appearance), but what I liked most about these representations within the novel is the accuracy they hold in regards to how they are presented and encountered during adolescence. In the novel, the narrator is 14 years old at the time and while he is very unsure as to what exactly is his sexual orientation, he nonetheless must endure the many pressures and expectations from both his family members and social peers to fall under certain categories and labels in regards to his sexual orientation .

    We can witness many examples of such situations that the narrator endured in his life, but 2 certain examples come to my mind when it comes to accurately displaying the difficulties that he endures. The first example I want to refer to is the interactions between Evelyn and the narrator, as Evelyn harasses and assaults him both physically and emotionally about the topic, but he remains silent and does nothing not just because of fear, but also because he himself is very unsure on how to respond and act in regards to it. Another example, and one that tends to be very common today in society, was the pressures from his family members (in this case his mother), about his sexual orientation and masculinity. She constantly interrogates him if he will ever have a girlfriend, why doesn’t he approach women more often, etc… In this case, it is not that his family has a lack of care or respect for him, but rather that they want the best for him and they feel that he must act a certain way as a man to promote a positive social image of himself, even though it would come in the expense of his beliefs, self-esteem and happiness. In general, this section of City of God was very interesting and it did a wonderful job displaying these situations of sexual orientation and masculinity

  17. In the Baptism, I was happy to finally see a female narrator. Angela seemed sad for the bulk of it, and had a fascination with wanting her hair to be cut off. The reason for wanting her hair cut off was largely unapparent until the end of the story when Denise finally gives in and starts to cut her hair (all the while crying.)
    When Angel’as father sees her, he is elated (and drunk) and kisses her and basically tells her happy he is that she looks like a boy now, so he can pretend he has a son. I think the element of masculinity in this short story lies in Angela’s father secretly wishing that he had a son, and Angela having picked up on this secret wish of his. I think this is why she is so sensitive to his wishes, and so sensitive to the beauty of her cousin Denise…perhaps if she felt as beautiful as how she saw Denise, then her father may accept her as his daughter. But since she doesn’t feel beautiful enough, she resorts to cutting off her hair to appear my handsome like a son. This obviously works.

    This entire post is pure conjecture.

    Thank you.

  18. In Chivalry, I was very interested in the homosocial relationship the two cousins shared. They seemed to both be attracted to one another but too scared to admit it to each other. If anything, the narrator was attracted to David when he was being laid on and said “…somehow I wanted to him to go farther, do something more to me, and I wondered if David knew what I wanted” (47). What the narrator is suggesting is that he isn’t just attracted to men but he is attracted to David. He enjoyed when they touched each others crotches and was more interested in the males in porn magazines than the women.

    While they both enjoyed each others company in homosocial ways, they had different ways of acting around each other. David would act as a leader and be the one to start events. He was the one who led the narrator into the field of strawberries or first touched his crotch. David was the leader while his cousin would simply follow along and wonder what to say/think next. In the beginning, David had been referred to as “half-retarded”. Maybe it wasn’t his mental capacity that was being questioned, but instead his sexuality. David seemed sure of who he was and his sexuality while the narrator, unsure of his sexuality, was annoying their family although they “couldn’t put their finger on it” (37).

  19. Another story that stood out to me was “Holy”. It was interesting because it was very vague, discrete, and was left for your own interpretation. I saw that the story could go one of two ways. Either the shrines left were positive because it was a symbol of the crazy neighbor praying for the narrator to recover from his illness, or it was negative because it was imposing her religious beliefs onto him because she didn’t agree with his actions. Personally I believe that this was done, or at least received as, a negative action. The narrator had felt that he was being harassed and the authority wasn’t doing anything about that. In the final page he even referred to him as “Joan of Arc”, which would never be a positive thing to relate to.

    What could ultimately change the views on this story would be to decide where the story is actually taking place. While it is referred to as an apartment, it could also be viewed as some sort of assisted living or nursing home. Several factors show this such as not having to pay for his taxi or even when the authority didn’t help him. Because the neighbor is crazy the authority might have just dismissed the complaint. This would alter the story greatly because how can you accurately judge the motives of a woman who was possibly instituted because she was insane?

  20. The main theme across these short stories seemed to be men and young boys having to hide their homosexuality. The first story indulgences was by far the most difficult story. When i was first reading about Evelyn I thought nothing was wrong with the way she talked about the narrator. I thought that it was just a pretty normal thing for older family members to talk about how handsome or pretty a young member of the family is, like my aunts used to do about me all the time when i was younger. But when she started to grab his leg things got strange, and when she grabbed his penis it was obviously molestation. This story also touched briefly on pressure of young men to make their family proud when the narrator talked about how his mom was always telling him to go meet women and asked doesn’t he want to make his father proud. Later in the story when everyone was discussing how they thought that Evelyn had killed the grandfather but the narrators mother stopped him from saying anything about what had happened between them i wasn’t sure if it was because the parents wanted to hide like others have said, or if they felt that dealing with her possibly having killed the grandfather was more important.

    The second story again dealt with men hiding a possibly homosexual relationship, between the narrators grandfather Jesus and his friend Reynaldo. The letters between them seemed innocent for the most part but the signing of them grew more and more affectionate as they went on. Then the last latter which told Reynaldo that Jesus had died mentioned that they had a “special relationship” which she was jealous of.

  21. Nelson Veras says:

    This book is compiled of numerous short stories that revolve around males of all ages having to hide their identity. Some stories were harder to understand than others, just as some were more disturbing than others. Indulgences was byfar the most disturbing one to read due to the imagery the authors sets in the readers mind. The narrator not only faces identity problems, but has to deal with his older cousin molesting him around the same time span the grandfather passes away. The narrator is constantly pressured by his mom to go out and get women to make his father proud but he doesn’t do so. He has to face this issue as well as having to keep away from his family that Evelyn has been molesting him. In conclusion, he has the pressure of his mother questioning his masculinity and the pressure of fear if he tells his family what Evelyn has been doing.

    A short story that was hard to understand was Holy. It is up to the reader to interpret what was the neighbors goal in the short story. I feel as if she was praying for the narrator, however it is easy to assume it was all a malicious act by harassing him. She used her religion as a way to reach out and help the narrator out but the narrator was actually relived when she stopped. I was confused what her intentions were but i do feel as if she was trying to help but was just too aggressive in doing so.

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