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Teaching Multicultural Literature : A Workshop for the Middle Grades
Workshop 1 Workshop 2 Workshop 3 Workshop 4 Workshop 5 Workshop 6 Workshop 7 Workshop 8
Workshop 1: Engagement and Dialogue
Overview
Authors and Literary Works
Julia Alverez
Biography
Work
Gish Jen
Biography
Work
Tina Lee
Biography
Work
Khot T. Luu
Biography
Work
James McBride
Biography
Work
Lensey Namioka
Biography
Work
Lensey Namioka
Biography
Work
Key References
Video Summary
Teaching Strategies
Commentary
Student Work
Resources
Interactive Workbook -- Explore two poems using strategies from these workshops. Go.
Channel-Talk -- Share your views on the discussion board. Go.


Authors and Literary Works
"The All-American Slurp"

Readers of Lensey Namioka's story can both feel the pain and embarrassment of the Lin family and be amused by their tentative efforts to adjust to perplexing Western eating customs. At a dinner party given by their welcoming neighbors, the Gleasons, the first obstacle is raw celery. How to remove the strings discreetly so as to avoid getting them caught in their teeth? "Z-z-zip" sounds come from the four Lins. The teenage daughter, who narrates the story, suddenly realizes, "There was dead silence except for our zipping. Looking up, I saw that the eyes of everyone in the room were on our family." The next danger zone was the dinner table itself -- heaped with food, but not surrounded by chairs. The Lins pulled up their own and sat down, only to be apprised of the concept of a "buffet." Abashed, the family retreated for the rest of the evening.

Other things were going well for the Lins. Their English was improving, and they were learning how to dress "American." Mr. Lin received a promotion, and decided to take the family out for an elegant dinner. But the dining-in-public demons were summoned again. "As any respectable Chinese knows, the correct way to eat your soup is to slurp." In the decorously quiet dining room of the Lakeview Restaurant, the "shloop, shloop, shloop" of the Lins brought conversation to a dead halt. It was an indelible episode of embarrassment for the Lin daughter/narrator. "Even now, I turn hot all over when I think of the Lakeview Restaurant."

But later the Lins were able to regain the culinary high ground. When Mrs. Lin included the Gleasons in a dinner party, it was quickly apparent they didn't know the first thing about eating a proper Chinese dinner. Meg had been "taking food from a second dish before she finished eating her helping from the first!" Mrs. Gleason dumped the rice from her bowl to her dinner plate, and then mixed everything together "the way you mix sand, gravel, and cement to make concrete." Mr. Gleason chased a pea around his plate with chopsticks, and finally picked it up with his fingers. "He really did! A grown man!" Seeing her daughter's reaction, Mrs. Lin sent a subtle signal. "I understood the message: The Gleasons were not used to Chinese ways, and they were just coping the best they could. For some reason I thought of celery strings."

Later, when the daughters went to the Dairy Queen for dessert, it was revealed that on certain occasions, even Americans can slurp their food. As Meg was finishing her milkshake, "She pulled hard on her straws and went, 'Shloop, shloop.' 'Do you always slurp when you eat a milkshake?' I asked, before I could stop myself. Meg grinned. 'Sure, all Americans slurp.'"

back to top Next: Naomi Shihab Nye: Biography
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