In Mr. Neck’s class, a great debate ensues. He has written on the board the word IMMIGRATION and tells the class that his family has been in the USA for over two hundred years, has fought in every war, voted, and paid taxes. He asks a rhetorical question: so why can’t my son get a job? Mr. Neck, whose son had been turned down as a firefighter, believes it is the result of reverse discrimination. Then, he writes on the board the debate question: should America have closed her boarders in 1900?
The debate turns into one where there are those who are like Mr. Neck and have been in this country for a long time and those whose families immigrated after 1900. The suck-ups take his side, also, and argue to throw out the “foreigners.” One girl says they are all foreigners and only Native Americans can claim ownership of our country. She is quickly buried under disagreement. Another student points out that his son may not have gotten the job, because he might be lazy or not good enough or the other guy was better than him. The pro-immigration faction hoots and hollers in support of this comment which makes Mr. Neck warn the student to watch what he’s saying about his son and that everyone should get their books out.
The whole time this debate has raged, Melinda has been listening, but at the same time trying to draw a tree for the 315th time. So, she doesn’t notice at first that her lab partner, David Petrakis, is standing up. He protests to Mr. Neck that he can’t close the debate just because it’s not going his way and that everyone, no matter when they entered this country, has the same rights to speak out. Further, he tells Mr. Neck that he is protesting his lesson as “racist, intolerant, and xenophobic.” Mr. Neck tells David that he should either sit down or he’s going to the principal, at which point, David picks up his books and leaves the room. Melinda observes that his leaving the room says a million things without saying a word and that she has never heard a more eloquent silence.
Given that Melinda is unable to find her own voice and protest what has happened to her, she is awe-inspired by David’s ability to stand up against an authority figure who proclaims racist ideas while stifling any commentary against him. It’s obvious when she notes to herself that she is going to study David Petrakis, that even if she is not yet aware of it, she wants to find her voice.
This chapter is also a good example of how those in authority can misuse their power and impact on those younger and more impressionable in an unacceptable way.
Melinda discusses Thanksgiving at her house by noting that the Pilgrims gave thanks, because the Indians saved them from starving, but she gives thanks, because her mother goes to work and her father orders pizza. She describes her mother’s frenzy at this time of year, given that she must deal with Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving or the first day of Christmas shopping. Melinda feels her mother sets unrealistic goals for her store and therefore, sets herself up for failure. They always beg for her not to cook Thanksgiving dinner, but she feels pressured to do so, because she’s the “MOM.” This year, she forgets to thaw the turkey until Thanksgiving morning, and then, she tries numerous crazy ways to get it ready to cook. Meanwhile, the phone keeps ringing from the store and she becomes more and more stressed.
Finally, after a simmering argument between her mother and her father, her father takes the turkey outside to the chopping block and whacks it to pieces. Her mother finally leaves for the store and her father tries to cook the meal himself. Of course, he is totally inept, too, so Melinda parks herself on the couch and watches an old movie, while he tries to make turkey soup. He ends up burying the mess in the yard beside their dead beagle and then calls for pizza.
This chapter is both poignantly sad and hilarious at the same time. The reader can vividly picture the mess these two adults make of a family Thanksgiving. Melinda, in the meantime, is like a camera catching the hilarious and silly Kodak moments. But these Kodak moments are not what they seem, because this is a totally dysfunctional family. We get the sense that Melinda would love to have a regular family Thanksgiving, but that she has resigned herself to pizza every year. In spite of how funny it is, it is also heartbreaking.