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Rachel Udin
05-11-2013, 11:00 PM
Title might not be clear, but plots that are difficult to write if someone is a n00b to writing PoCs OR that are inherently racist anyway that you'd recommend against. Or even for people within our community...

The ones I can think of so far are:
- Reverse Racism plots.
Basically done well, it looks like Margorie Blackman's Noughts and crosses.

Done poorly it looks like the crapfest called Victoria Foyt. I don't think there is an inbetween. You either fail epicly, or you do beautifully.

As a PoC, I wouldn't touch this with a ten foot pole, even educated, because it's really tricky to do well.

- Perfect family that's secretly corrupted.
You know, usually the pod people set up. The smiling suburban neighborhood filled with perfect people. It's your Desperate Housewives set up.

The thing is that because mainstream media tends to write "perfect" as White, middle class (Working class for the Brits), straight, etc family. It auto kicks out any diversity at all, even if that's not the truth of most successful families.

And when there is diversity, it's "the big deal" because that person is secretly _whatever_.

*twitch*

The all White cast in a very diverse city set up.
I also have problems with Death of a Salesman, Friends, Seinfeld and Sex in the City, for the fact that they are set in NYC and not a bit of diversity among the main cast. (It's a what gives? moment). (Though I admit I loathe Sex in the City for other reasons... the TV show).

I'd ask for an end to such things.

EMaree
05-11-2013, 11:48 PM
Not exactly a PoC plot, but fantasy takes on racism and slavery often come across as a bit heavy-handed to me. It's usually either too idealised (sidecharacter A is a slave but maincharacter conveniently doesn't approve of the slavery standards followed by every other person in the world and treats sidecharacter A as an equal) or too one-sided (the enemy side are violent savages with no redeeming qualities or humanity).

They have their place, though. They can be a nice introduction to these concepts for younger readers, or if done with subtly a nice kick-in-the-teeth to older readers.

Polenth
05-12-2013, 03:39 AM
The thing is that because mainstream media tends to write "perfect" as White, middle class (Working class for the Brits), straight, etc family. It auto kicks out any diversity at all, even if that's not the truth of most successful families.

Working class is the poorest class in the UK. It also includes most recent immigrants, so it's a diverse class. Middle class is middle class. The Stepford Wives are middle class to upper class by UK standards. If a story did display working class as a perfect ideal, it'd be a subversion of the trope.

lolchemist
05-12-2013, 05:35 AM
I'm from New York City and it's certainly normal to see people who exclusively hang out with their own race, including white people (not just immigrant whites either, whites whov've been in America since Pilgrim times) but I don't necessarily like having it portrayed that way on TV.

Mara
05-12-2013, 06:46 PM
The whole "outsider comes in, finds people enslaves, rallies them to revolution because apparently nobody ever thought of that and needed an outsider to say them" trope seems especially problematic to me for numerous reasons.

It misrepresents just how damn hard that slaves in various cultures--especially black slaves in America--were already resisting, and how skilled they were at it. It promotes the idea that what minorities really need is an outsider coming in to tell them how to do things, which is already a problem most advocacy groups have faced for a long time. And it completely ignores the internal damage of slavery, promoting the narrative that, "Okay, we killed the slavers and you're free, so now everything is perfect and you can forget all about it because 'that was a long time ago' and you need to 'get over it.' You're welcome!"

And judging from some other white people I've spoken to, that whole narrative really has an appeal and they often believe real-life was like that. I probably bought into it a little when I was younger, too. I think going through transition and anti-LGBT legal oppression sorta disabused me of some of those notions.

KingAlanI
05-12-2013, 10:10 PM
I figure it could be hard to invoke stereotypes in a non-offensive manner, but it seems realistic that some PoC characters would engage in some stereotypical behavior.

@EMaree: However, fantasy (or sci-fi) can be great for addressing modern/real world issues by putting them in a different context.

@Mara: Sounds like the 'white savior' problem. A 'help them help themselves' angle seems like an improvement.

kuwisdelu
05-13-2013, 12:36 AM
The whole "outsider comes in, finds people enslaves, rallies them to revolution because apparently nobody ever thought of that and needed an outsider to say them" trope seems especially problematic to me for numerous reasons.

It misrepresents just how damn hard that slaves in various cultures--especially black slaves in America--were already resisting, and how skilled they were at it. It promotes the idea that what minorities really need is an outsider coming in to tell them how to do things, which is already a problem most advocacy groups have faced for a long time. And it completely ignores the internal damage of slavery, promoting the narrative that, "Okay, we killed the slavers and you're free, so now everything is perfect and you can forget all about it because 'that was a long time ago' and you need to 'get over it.' You're welcome!"

This one pisses me off to no end, and I don't think I've ever seen it done in a way that wasn't bothersome on some level.

ellio
05-13-2013, 01:07 AM
Two things that annoy me a bit,
Firstly is the "By the way, they're black" - when a PoC is written and it is constantly mentioned throughout the novel that they are a PoC but any social or cultural factors that might affect them because of that is neglected. This can be fine, but the white characters who behave exactly the same as the PoC don't have their race constantly referred to as well. Okay, brown people are just like everyone else. We get it. Thank you for that.

Secondly is "But this is just what they're like" - When a writer tries so hard to avoid the above that they don't mention race at all. Instead they just pile on loads of stereotypes to their PoC characters and expect the reader will get the references. I won't offer any examples because I think we all know what racial stereotypes are. Especially grating when it applies to dialogue as well. Zadie Smith does dialogue very well when it comes to PoC characters, but I've very often read authors that dumb down their PoC characters in their dialogue to try and imitate slang.

Rachel Udin
05-13-2013, 03:18 AM
Adding: Inherent imbalance in romance power base between the couple.

I supposed it could be done well, but it's really difficult. It's kinda at the level of a German soldier falling in love with an inmate during the Holocaust. That sort of plot. I suppose it happened, but then, how does it not read like rape or Stolkholm Syndrome?

Also coupled with slavery and it's just difficult to pull off without making me squirm.

JoNightshade
05-13-2013, 03:43 AM
The all White cast in a very diverse city set up.
I also have problems with Death of a Salesman, Friends, Seinfeld and Sex in the City, for the fact that they are set in NYC and not a bit of diversity among the main cast. (It's a what gives? moment). (Though I admit I loathe Sex in the City for other reasons... the TV show).

I'd ask for an end to such things.

Haven't seen the other ones, but I wanted to point out that Seinfeld is about Jewish people in New York. They do have encounters with other racial groups/people, but the central cast is intentionally part of the NY Jewish community. So... definitely a minority group.

Kitty Pryde
05-13-2013, 03:48 AM
Haven't seen the other ones, but I wanted to point out that Seinfeld is about Jewish people in New York. They do have encounters with other racial groups/people, but the central cast is intentionally part of the NY Jewish community. So... definitely a minority group.

Jerry is Jewish (and barely observant), but Elaine, George, Kramer, and a majority of their love interests and minor friends are not.

JoNightshade
05-13-2013, 03:54 AM
Jerry is Jewish (and barely observant), but Elaine, George, Kramer, and a majority of their love interests and minor friends are not.

No, George and his parents are Jewish. Also this goes into the debate over whether Jews are a religious or ethnic group, which I am sooo not touching.

ETA: Anyway, regardless of who is or isn't Jewish, my point is that the show is not really exclusively "white."

Kitty Pryde
05-13-2013, 04:14 AM
No, George and his parents are Jewish. Also this goes into the debate over whether Jews are a religious or ethnic group, which I am sooo not touching.

They aren't Jewish. They celebrated Christmas when George was little, and then his father invented the nondenominational holiday of Festivus because he was upset at the commercialization of Christmas. His father is Italian, belongs to a Catholic fraternity, and used to sell Christian artifacts. There is no Seinfeld canon to point to George being Jewish.

And yes, I am a little embarrassed that I know this much about Seinfeld.

JoNightshade
05-13-2013, 04:16 AM
They aren't Jewish. They celebrated Christmas when George was little, and then his father invented the nondenominational holiday of Festivus because he was upset at the commercialization of Christmas. His father is Italian, belongs to a Catholic fraternity, and used to sell Christian artifacts. There is no Seinfeld canon to point to George being Jewish.

And yes, I am a little embarrassed that I know this much about Seinfeld.

Ha! Okay, well, you need to get onto Wikipedia and make some changes, then. ;) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Fictional_American_Jews <--George is on this list.

(And sorry for the thread derail!)

Kitty Pryde
05-13-2013, 04:21 AM
Ha! Okay, well, you need to get onto Wikipedia and make some changes, then. ;) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Fictional_American_Jews <--George is on this list.

They always told me wikipedia had mistakes, but I never believed them...until today. It's like they let anybody edit that thing :tongue

Back to the original topic though, the Jews as they are portrayed on Seinfeld can "pass" so I don't think we can count them as PoC. I am trying and failing to think of non-'passing' Jewish characters (IOW Jews that don't "look Jewish" or "act Jewish" for however one might define those phrases) on a major TV show, aside from Wolowitz on TBBT (a diverse show that loves to mock people of all backgrounds).

Cyia
05-13-2013, 06:11 AM
Adding: Inherent imbalance in romance power base between the couple.

I supposed it could be done well, but it's really difficult. It's kinda at the level of a German soldier falling in love with an inmate during the Holocaust. That sort of plot. I suppose it happened, but then, how does it not read like rape or Stolkholm Syndrome?

Also coupled with slavery and it's just difficult to pull off without making me squirm.

Stories like your Holocaust example usually work best (or at least in a less squicky way) if the lovebirds are in love, or at least acquainted, before the Holocaust. A secret affair between a guard protecting the girl he's loved since childhood, or a commandant's wife doing the same for a guy. Even a connection from a young childhood encounter. To escape the stockholm syndrome scenario, the initial contact has to precede the paradigm shift.

You're not likely to find that in a slavery story set-up, unless it's *very* early America settler days or not set in the US, when you can have a story set in both pre and post slavery with the same characters.

kuwisdelu
05-13-2013, 06:26 AM
Stories like your Holocaust example usually work best (or at least in a less squicky way) if the lovebirds are in love, or at least acquainted, before the Holocaust. A secret affair between a guard protecting the girl he's loved since childhood, or a commandant's wife doing the same for a guy. Even a connection from a young childhood encounter. To escape the stockholm syndrome scenario, the initial contact has to precede the paradigm shift.

I think it could probably work without being too squicky if the person in power approaches the relationship platonically until the power imbalance changes.

kuwisdelu
05-13-2013, 06:38 AM
The whole "outsider comes in, finds people enslaves, rallies them to revolution because apparently nobody ever thought of that and needed an outsider to say them" trope seems especially problematic to me for numerous reasons.

It misrepresents just how damn hard that slaves in various cultures--especially black slaves in America--were already resisting, and how skilled they were at it. It promotes the idea that what minorities really need is an outsider coming in to tell them how to do things, which is already a problem most advocacy groups have faced for a long time. And it completely ignores the internal damage of slavery, promoting the narrative that, "Okay, we killed the slavers and you're free, so now everything is perfect and you can forget all about it because 'that was a long time ago' and you need to 'get over it.' You're welcome!"

And judging from some other white people I've spoken to, that whole narrative really has an appeal and they often believe real-life was like that. I probably bought into it a little when I was younger, too. I think going through transition and anti-LGBT legal oppression sorta disabused me of some of those notions.

On the topic of "how these problematic plots might work," the biggest problem with this one is that of "the power group always knows best". You often have the outsider "going native" and ultimately "out-native"-ing the natives. See Avatar for example. Why the heck is the white human dude the one who ends up riding the biggest Toruk? It's basically saying "see, I'm better at being your minority and understanding your difficulties than you are." The sovereignty and self-determination of the minority group is even further marginalized.

To make a plot where an outsider comes in and tries to help a minority population, that kind of thinking must be completely thrown out. I think it's fine to have an outsider as the main character, but one must avoid the "outsider-becomes-a-Gary-Stu-for-the-minorities" situation, because it's ridiculous and patronizing. Having an outsider "save" them is ludicrous. Helping and learning and assimilating is fine.

The other major difficulty to overcome is the over-exoticizing and idealizing the minority culture. This one's even more insidious, because probably lots of people will look and not see any problems because "hey, I'm showing how cool and awesome this minority culture is!" But it's just exoticizing and fetishizing it, which doesn't help, either.

I'm trying to think of a story that does this well, but I'm having trouble. I feel like I've seen at least one.

calieber
05-13-2013, 07:41 AM
I'm from New York City and it's certainly normal to see people who exclusively hang out with their own race, including white people (not just immigrant whites either, whites whov've been in America since Pilgrim times) but I don't necessarily like having it portrayed that way on TV.

I mostly hang out with white people, but I'd find it more than a little unsettling if I didn't see any PoC over the course of the day, unless I didn't leave the house.


Two things that annoy me a bit,
Firstly is the "By the way, they're black" - when a PoC is written and it is constantly mentioned throughout the novel that they are a PoC but any social or cultural factors that might affect them because of that is neglected.
That means I'm going to have to make sure the Japanese-American character in my WIP is Japanese-American, huh?

It really is something I'm concerned about, the Scylla of a racist portrayal and the Charybdis of informed ethnicity. This is actually my second run at this story; I'm pretty sure there was a reason he was of Japanese descent the first time around, now it's just a legacy and I have to admit I'm tempted to rename Kusahara to Leigh.


Back to the original topic though, the Jews as they are portrayed on Seinfeld can "pass" so I don't think we can count them as PoC.
I'm Jewish and I'm very, very hesitant to include Jews as PoC. I don't see a lot of evidence that people don't have white privilege due to being Jewish.

lolchemist
05-13-2013, 07:51 AM
They always told me wikipedia had mistakes, but I never believed them...until today. It's like they let anybody edit that thing :tongue

Back to the original topic though, the Jews as they are portrayed on Seinfeld can "pass" so I don't think we can count them as PoC. I am trying and failing to think of non-'passing' Jewish characters (IOW Jews that don't "look Jewish" or "act Jewish" for however one might define those phrases) on a major TV show, aside from Wolowitz on TBBT (a diverse show that loves to mock people of all backgrounds).

I think the only MC on Seinfeld who is specifically mentioned to be Jewish is Seinfeld himself, Elaine and Kramer's religions aren't mentioned. Just his last name alone is enough to tell the world that he is Jewish so no, he doesn't "pass."

I'm not sure how much you know about Jews but Ashkenazim typically look white, I'm talking blue eyes, blonde or even red hair. It's not about "passing," because that would be like saying that a Norwegian can "pass" as a Frenchman. And of course Norwegian consider themselves a completely different race/bloodline of white people than the French and vice versa. I think in America we tend to forget that Europe isn't just a giant blob on the map called Whitelandia and all white people aren't the same just like Japanese and Chinese and Korean aren't the same thing. Jews have minority status no matter what they look like on the outside.

ETA: Sorry, I don't mean for this to come out as an argument so please don't take it that way.

kuwisdelu
05-13-2013, 07:58 AM
Jews have minority status no matter what they look like on the outside.

Jews are minorities, but that doesn't automatically make them PoC. Some are and some aren't.

lolchemist
05-13-2013, 08:39 AM
Jews are minorities, but that doesn't automatically make them PoC. Some are and some aren't.

I definitely wasn't trying to argue that white Jews are PoC, so sorry if it came off that way. My point was only that since only 14 million or so Jews exist on the entire planet, I'm not going to begrudge them a few TV shows just because the actors might look white. I'd like there to be more Arab and middle eastern Jews on TV for sure but that's a different topic for a different day.

Kitty Pryde
05-13-2013, 09:09 AM
I think the only MC on Seinfeld who is specifically mentioned to be Jewish is Seinfeld himself, Elaine and Kramer's religions aren't mentioned. Just his last name alone is enough to tell the world that he is Jewish so no, he doesn't "pass."

I'm not sure how much you know about Jews but Ashkenazim typically look white, I'm talking blue eyes, blonde or even red hair. It's not about "passing," because that would be like saying that a Norwegian can "pass" as a Frenchman. And of course Norwegian consider themselves a completely different race/bloodline of white people than the French and vice versa. I think in America we tend to forget that Europe isn't just a giant blob on the map called Whitelandia and all white people aren't the same just like Japanese and Chinese and Korean aren't the same thing. Jews have minority status no matter what they look like on the outside.

ETA: Sorry, I don't mean for this to come out as an argument so please don't take it that way.

It's not solely about looks, as Jews look like all people in the planet. We can call Jerry a minority, but he is shown on the show doing few Jewish religious or cultural things and rarely behaving in what I would consider a Jewish manner. Being offended by his dentist's Jewish jokes and being savagely guilted by his mom are the most Jewish things he does. He is white and he 'passes' in the sense that everyone seeing or meeting him doesn't know he's a minority based on looks or behaviors. He's not portrayed as much of a cultural/religious minority as he does few cultural/religious obligations obligations. It's not a show with a PoC or minority representation. I have the same experience as his character: though I consider myself a minority as a Jew, most people don't identify me that way and so I 'pass'. It has nothing to do with various cultural groups of white people. It has to do with institutionalized oppression of anyone other than white people in the US, and whether it adversely affects a person.

Jews who can't pass: Jews of color, various kinds of ultra Orthodox Jews who don't wear average American dress, or Jews who are extremely observant. I would love a sitcom about Hasidic Jews, however I don't see it being made ever.

lolchemist
05-13-2013, 10:37 AM
It's not solely about looks, as Jews look like all people in the planet. We can call Jerry a minority, but he is shown on the show doing few Jewish religious or cultural things and rarely behaving in what I would consider a Jewish manner. Being offended by his dentist's Jewish jokes and being savagely guilted by his mom are the most Jewish things he does. He is white and he 'passes' in the sense that everyone seeing or meeting him doesn't know he's a minority based on looks or behaviors. He's not portrayed as much of a cultural/religious minority as he does few cultural/religious obligations obligations. It's not a show with a PoC or minority representation. I have the same experience as his character: though I consider myself a minority as a Jew, most people don't identify me that way and so I 'pass'. It has nothing to do with various cultural groups of white people. It has to do with institutionalized oppression of anyone other than white people in the US, and whether it adversely affects a person.

Jews who can't pass: Jews of color, various kinds of ultra Orthodox Jews who don't wear average American dress, or Jews who are extremely observant. I would love a sitcom about Hasidic Jews, however I don't see it being made ever.

We're definitely going to have to disagree about this then. Jews don't universally all act in a specific manner and I think Seinfeld just being on his show and just living his normal life is a perfectly valid depiction of a typical Jewish person. I know you don't mean that he should be a walking Jewish stereotype and rush to the Synagogue and wear a yarmulke and everything but I'm not sure exactly how Jewish you would like him to act? For me, he doesn't have to do any stereotypically Jewish thing at all. Tying this back into books and writing, to me, it's the same as Dumbledore being gay. The author said he was, and that's good enough for me. I don't need to see him French kissing Snape or anything like that.

And the thing is there are a lot of racist groups out there where even the whitest blue eyed blonde haired Jew will never be 'white enough' for them and will always be discriminated against no matter how much they 'pass'. For Seinfeld, just his last name is enough to mark him as a Jew besides the fact that he has made it known that he is Jewish. Personally, I'm Jewish on my mom's side with a big old stereotypical honker to go with it and every time someone just looks at it and goes 'So... You're Jewish huh?' I get this feeling of being 'othered' that is very unpleasant. For a lot of (non-Jewish) white people out there, Jewish means 'not one of us.' If you personally live in a very inclusive place where people treat you like an actual human being rather than a cultural identity, that's great, but coming from NYC I can tell you that's not the personal experience of a lot of Jews. For people who have prejudices against Jews, even Italians, Greeks and Middle Easterners who kind of look Jew-y will get the 'Oh, you're one of those people...' treatment. In the same way, a Jewish person who looks like a Scandinavian princess will also get the same treatment if their last name gives them away or if they make the mistake of telling they are Jewish to the wrong person.

TL/DR racist people ruin everything.

LJD
05-13-2013, 06:47 PM
I'm from New York City and it's certainly normal to see people who exclusively hang out with their own race, including white people (not just immigrant whites either, whites whov've been in America since Pilgrim times) but I don't necessarily like having it portrayed that way on TV.

I live in a very diverse city. I went to a very diverse high school...and race essentially dictated social groups. This didn't happen in elementary school, and for the first semester or so of high school, people were hanging out a lot with others from their elementary school, but by the end of grade nine, race seemed to be the dominant factor in determining cliques. It's not that people of different races hated each other, and they got along just fine in class, but outside of class...you just didn't see it much. I know, it was high school, but from what I can see on my Facebook feed? It hasn't really changed.

I'm not sure I like seeing it portrayed like this on TV either, and the other thing is that this is used to justify an all-white main cast, but never, say, an all-Asian main cast.

Rachel Udin
05-13-2013, 07:14 PM
No, George and his parents are Jewish. Also this goes into the debate over whether Jews are a religious or ethnic group, which I am sooo not touching.

ETA: Anyway, regardless of who is or isn't Jewish, my point is that the show is not really exclusively "white."

Not all, but most Jews in America (I having a white Jewish family (half of the inside of me)) are counted mostly as a white ethnic minority.

Which also Greeks, Italians, etc are thrown into.

This isn't to say there aren't PoC Jews--there are. (For example, Argentina, if IIRC.) But the majority that show up on television are actually considered white. Mostly because Jews spread into Italy, Russia, etc. So there are Russian Jews, who are pasty white. =P (quoting someone) and Hungarian Jews, and so on.

Seinfeld counts as white. (He's Austrian Jewish descent. Dude, that's white).

As someone who did come from a WHITE Jewish family, while Jews are considered an ethnic minority amoung whites, where they are white, I still see a lot of my relatives enjoy a lot of white privileges I simply cannot have. Sometimes I say something and automatically see the disconnect. Religious persecution, I definitely see judged for.

That's why I listed Seinfeld. I know what I'm getting into by stating that. If you want to go into it further, you can either PM me or start a different thread on the subject. =P Prevent a total derail.

Friends also had Jewish characters on it, but they still are considered white.

Jcomp
05-13-2013, 07:31 PM
Two things that annoy me a bit,
Firstly is the "By the way, they're black" - when a PoC is written and it is constantly mentioned throughout the novel that they are a PoC but any social or cultural factors that might affect them because of that is neglected. This can be fine, but the white characters who behave exactly the same as the PoC don't have their race constantly referred to as well. Okay, brown people are just like everyone else. We get it. Thank you for that.





That means I'm going to have to make sure the Japanese-American character in my WIP is Japanese-American, huh?

It really is something I'm concerned about, the Scylla of a racist portrayal and the Charybdis of informed ethnicity. This is actually my second run at this story; I'm pretty sure there was a reason he was of Japanese descent the first time around, now it's just a legacy and I have to admit I'm tempted to rename Kusahara to Leigh.


I don't think "informed ethnicity" or the like is necessarily a bad thing. I think ellio's post was more about gratuitously reminding the reader of a character's minority status when it otherwise has no bearing. I think people might overthink this one, writers and readers. If a character is established as Japanese-American, then the cultural or social aspects of that only have to be explored so much as it's actually relevant to what's written. I don't know the details on your WIP, but if exploring Mr. Kusahara's background isn't all that pivotal to the story, it's fine for him to still be who he is.

For instance, if someone was writing a story about me as a black kid growing up in Mississippi, then yes, there are cultural and social factors that obviously need to be explored in that story. But if someone wrote an Office Space style comedy about stuff happening to me at my 9-to-5, I can tell you that me being black would be irrelevant to the story, from a cultural or social factor standpoint. But I'm still black. I wouldn't want someone to change the character to a white dude just because my character's "blackness" is just a seemingly random feature and not an important part of the story. It's still who I am.

So if that's who your character is, then depending on the story, there's absolutely nothing that needs to be changed.

Lavern08
05-13-2013, 08:16 PM
... I think in America we tend to forget that Europe isn't just a giant blob on the map called Whitelandia

I'm sorry, but I found that ^ hilarious. :D

Kim Fierce
05-14-2013, 05:03 AM
The point about someone coming in to help free slaves really helps me. In Amelia's Revolution I have different groups working together in battle with at least three different results: one of which being slaves who came in on British ships are now free, and their sabotage is essential to the whole plan. I attempted to make sure all my characters involved--white, black and Lenape--were given equal credit with organizing the rebellion, but Amelia is the MC in this one, and she's white, and I definitely don't want this to be considered a plot fail.

I am planning to write a story from the POV of Nadine, Amelia's girlfriend who fought for her freedom. In the sequel coming out next month, Two-Spirit's Red Road, we find out that Nadine has some abilities in battle that the other characters are surprised about, but how she got her abilities don't get explained yet. I'm going to make sure I make a point in her story to show that she was actively working on her own rebellion already when this opportunity to work together with Amelia surprisingly came about. But because of this unexpected opportunity, Nadine has unfinished business. . . half her family is still across the ocean.