Study Guide: A Hope In the Unseen by Ron Suskind - Online Notes|
10. A Bursting Heart
Towards the end of November, Zayd asks Cedric to go with him to College Hill to hang out at the mall. Zayd talks about growing up in New York, being one of the few white kids in a Harlem public school, and getting beaten up by black kids. Cedric is amazed that Zayd didn't grow up to hate black people, while Zayd remains astonished by his friend's brutally frank opinions and questions. They discuss Clarence Thomas as well as Cami and Camoun, two French girls Zayd knows back home. When Zayd confides that he wishes to see both girls over the upcoming Thanksgiving break, Cedric tells him that he's developing bad practices in the way he breaks people's trust. Zayd then talks about going hunting, which is a family tradition his parents abhor, and Cedric is amused as guns reminds him of D.C.
For Thanksgiving, Cedric is invited to the Boston home of Donald Korb, his personal benefactor. This is only the second time Cedric meets Korb, and he does not expect it to be a huge gathering of Korb's family and friends, all of whom pay special attention to him. Cedric calls home to speak to his mother, who reminds him to watch what others do during dinner so he doesn't commit any etiquette mistakes. There are two tables for the meal, and Cedric sits next to Donald's daughter Cindy, along with the other younger members of the family.
During the break between dinner and dessert, Cedric speaks with Donald's Aunt Miriam, a ninety-two-year-old woman who was one of the first women to graduate from New York University Law School. Cedric warms to Miriam, who notes that he must miss his mother, as well as questioning an earlier claim he'd made during dinner about having three majors. Aunt Miriam then encourages Cedric by confiding that "saying things can sometimes make them happen." Cedric plans to sleep at Harvard with friends from the MIT program; when it is time for Donald Korb to drive him to Cambridge, Miriam whispers to Cedric that he'll be fine and gives him a hug. Once at Harvard, Cedric cannot find the dorm where Mark and Belinda McIntosh are staying. When he finally finds his destination, he's frustrated and uses the word "nigger" when greeting Mark.
At the end of the semester, Professor Tom James meets with Franklin Cruz during office hours to discuss an independent study project. James admires how polished a student Franklin is, able to use his ethnicity when needed but also to fit in well with the mainstream of academic life; as someone who has written several books on the education of minorities, he finds this process fascinating. Towards the end of office hours, Cedric drops by to get a signature for a class next semester, Fieldwork and Seminar in High School Education. The contrast between Franklin and Cedric is jarring for James, as it's clear that Cedric keeps too much of his past to transition smoothly into Brown. James offers encouragement to Cedric, who is largely unmoved by the attempt.
The chapter opens with a narrative tangent on tutor Helaine Schupack, who understands the double-edged
sword of Cedric's academic situation. On the one hand, he clearly lacks the intellectual distance to create the
kind of analytic work expected of him. On the other hand, what he does create are intimate, revelatory essays
that play into higher education's bias towards authentic experiences, especially of marginalized individuals such
as himself. Schupack knows that such expression has a limited shelf life for a young scholar, however, and
seeks to guide Cedric along the right path. At the end of the chapter, Professor Tom James considers the same
thing, but in broader sociological terms.
Cedric's Thanksgiving experience broadens his perspective in two distinct ways. First, the dinner with Donald Korb and his family makes him privy to the life of highly affluent white people. Second, he receives heartfelt encouragement from another academic trailblazer, Aunt Miriam. The surreal nature of this dinner is such that he is desperate to return to "his" people - the McIntoshes art Harvard - and uses the term "nigger" when in any other situation he would resist the term. In this context, however, it's a cry for help and the desire to be back in his comfort zone.
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. 09 May 2017