About three years ago, I was sitting in my office–basically a bull pen with six other people–and I started to talk with one of my office mates about the abysmal prospects for the job market. My colleague suggested I look into applying for a Fulbright award. At the time, the idea intrigued me; however, I did not necessarily want to apply when I did not know where I would be the next academic year. I was an adjunct at that point, and I was neck deep in job ads trying to find a more steady income. Fast forward two years, and I was still on the job market, looking for the ever elusive Tenure Track position that feels like a search for the Loch Ness monster. It was at this point, with a little more stability, when I decided to apply for a Fulbright.
Reading Junot Díaz’s “Drown,” my mind constantly kept going back to texts such as Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun and James Baldwin who said, “Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.” Along with these items, I also thought about the power structures that keep Yunior de Las Casas in subjugation and essentially strip him of the power to even dream beyond the confines of his own environment. It is these aspects that I want to briefly discuss today.
Throughout Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, one character hovers over the entire play as a specter of the past. This character is Big Walter, Lena’s husband and Benetha and Walter Lee’s father. Even though he does not appear on stage in the script, he exists as an important part of the narrative. His death, which we do not see, causes the action within the play because the entire family awaits the $10,000 insurance check from the passing of the family’s patriarch.