Pigs in Heaven Essay

A Family Of Two Worlds When one is raised in a single family, life appears simple. The person has developed an attachment to their parents. He or she is also familiar with one particular society, and the norms of that society are established in their mindset. However, when a second family from an entirely different culture enters the picture, the simple life becomes more complicated. The cultures of the two families are so different that they clash with one another, leaving the one person between it all. It is a dilemma that a six-year-old girl named Turtle Greer must experience in the novel, Pigs In Heaven, by Barbara Kingsolver.

Turtle is a young girl who was adopted by a loving mother named Taylor Greer. The two had lived together since Taylor was given Turtle by a woman in a bar, and they have grown a fond mother-daughter relationship with each other. However, since Turtle is Cherokee, the adoption is brought to the attention of the Cherokee Nation, and they claim that the adoption is invalid. They say that Cherokee children must stay within the tribe, that they must be given to a close relative if the biological parents are unable to care for them.

The conflict heats up as Taylor tries to defend her right to be Turtle’s guardian and Nation lawyers search for relatives of Turtle. The solution that would seem right for this situation is that if Taylor shares custody over Turtle with Turtle’s blood relatives. If Turtle’s custody were to be split between Taylor and the Cherokee people, Turtle is likely to face some challenges. The first issue regards Turtle and her belonging to white society, where her adoptive mother comes from. Because she will be surrounded mostly by white people on a day-to-day basis, she will be subjected to bullying or racism.

Children at her school will either call her “…ugly names connected with her racial identity” (Kingsolver 148) or isolate her from their groups, giving her a sense of inferiority and lack of self-confidence. Another problem involves her place in the Cherokee Nation, the society of her bloodline. Since she will be spending most of her time with Taylor, her exposure to Native American culture will be limited. She will not have enough understanding of the traditions and lifestyles of her people to actually feel like a part of the tribe. Again, she will feel out of place within that society.

This leads to the third issue, where Turtle will undergo confusion of where she fits in. If she feels like a fish-out-of-water in both cultures, she will experience a lowering of self-esteem and sense of identity. It is also likely that she, like other transracial adoptees, “…will not be comfortable with [her] own racial culture” (Adamec, par. 6). All of these challenges relate to Turtle’s conflict of self-identity and belonging to a particular culture. The shared custody also provides some positive outcomes. One of them is that Turtle will not be separated from Taylor.

Taylor has been a loving, caring, and supportive mother to Turtle. She also has been “…the only mother [Turtle has] ever known for the past three years” (Kingsolver 337), thus there is a strong attachment between the two. Separating them would cause long-time traumatic effects on Turtle, so the split custody will allow the mother and daughter to stay together. Another positive outcome would be that Turtle will gain all the benefits of being a Cherokee Indian. As a member of the tribe, she will have certain advantages that people of white society will not be able to obtain.

Such benefits include receiving free health care at tribe-run clinics and hospitals, and having government money pay to buy and remodel homes for Cherokees. Turtle might also earn scholarship money simply by being Cherokee. It is said that “college students can score $1,000 per semester, with preferences given to those closest to graduation” (Tsai, par. 3). With her mother Taylor struggling to make a living, these advantages could help Turtle in the future. The third positive outcome of a split-custody arrangement is that Turtle will have a fuller understanding of both white and Cherokee cultures.

As she is living with both families, she will celebrate different traditions and learn the histories of both nations. Doing this will also eliminate stereotypical views of either side. She will be able to share information about one culture to people of the other, increasing their understanding as well. These results highlight the idea that the split-custody arrangement not only benefits Turtle, but the members of her family as well. So the best choice in this matter would be for Taylor and Turtle’s relatives to share the custody over Turtle.

That way, Turtle can have access to both cultures and develop an understanding of them. Certain benefits will also be granted to Turtle while she lives in the Cherokee Nation, yet she will remain with her adoptive mother. Even though she will feel a sense of not belonging to a particular society, she will have her family to love her and look after her no matter what. The custody arrangement will prove to be a learning experience for the family as well. They, through Turtle, will gain better knowledge of each other’s cultures and lifestyles.

So whenever a person finds him or herself stuck between two clashing families, the best thing he or she can do is become the link that brings them together as one. Works Cited Adamec, Christine. Transracial Adoptions. Family Education. 2nd Edition. Pearson Education, Inc. n. d. Web. 14 November 2009. . Kingsolver, Barbara. Pigs In Heaven. New York: HarperPerennial, 1994. Print. Tsai, Michelle. Cherokee Perks: What’s So Good About Being A Native American?. Slate. 1st Edition. Washington Post Newsweek Interactive Co. 5 March 2007. Web. 15 November 2009. .

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