My wife and I began reading A Tree Grows In Brooklyn since we ourselves are living in Brooklyn. The book is an account of a life in poverty at the turn of the century. I began thinking – how would this account differ if written today? Well, here is how it might go:
Francie was a poor child. Her father had no cultural sense of responsibility and her mother bravely rejected the shackles of marriage for single motherhood. Francie was forced to live in a 4 bedroom government housing unit, twice the size of her middle class friends at half the rent. Everyday Francie played video games and became fatter and fatter as she lived on a steady diet of government food-stamp-sponsored microwave dinners, Crown Fried Chicken, and McDonalds. On holidays, Francie would not be like the man; she would not be a suit arrogantly earning wages and possessions. No Francie would have to sacrifice those middle class cost cuts and bargain hunting in favor of a Government check to buy Prada purses and sneakers which uniquely match the hue and color of each outfit she owns.
Francie wasn’t very smart. She couldn’t read or perform well at school. But being cool among her peers was far more desirous than grades. Every day Francie thanked Uncle Sam for not allowing her to shop her education and attend a school with a track record of success, but instead allowing her to remain where she could be ignorant and cool. She didn’t need smarts, because she wouldn’t need a job. Uncle Sam would take care of her as he always had.
Francie’s mother worked in a medicaid office. It was a good job which allowed her to make disgusted faces at clients plus all the time she needed to paint her nails, catch up on cell phone conversations… It was a recession and the job was easily expendable to the operation, but Francie’s mother need not worry about performance or streamlining the operation. She could never be fired – she worked for the Government. Not like those evil, middle class who consider job performance a fireable offense…