The tortilla curtain
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THE Tortilla Curtain. By T.C. Boyle. About the Author. Born: December 2, 1948, in Peekskill, NY as Thomas John Boyle Changed middle name to Coraghessan @ age 17 Married + 3 kids. Education & Teaching Career. State University of New York at Potsdam, B.A. in English and History

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THE Tortilla Curtain

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The tortilla curtain

THE Tortilla Curtain

By T.C. Boyle


About the author

About the Author

  • Born: December 2, 1948, in Peekskill, NY as Thomas John Boyle

  • Changed middle name to Coraghessan @ age 17

  • Married + 3 kids


Education teaching career

Education & Teaching Career

  • State University of New York at Potsdam, B.A. in English and History

  • University of Iowa, Iowa City,  M.F.A. in Fiction

  • Univ. of Southern California, Ph.D. in British Literature

  • Taught high school for 4 yrs.

  • At U of Iowa

    • served as fiction editor for the Iowa Review

    • 1977 received a Creative Writing Fellowship from The National Endowment for the Arts. 

    • Assistant Professor, 1978-82;

    • Associate Professor, 1982-86. 

  • At USC

    • since 1986 Professor of English, University of Southern California


He has written

He has written…

  • 9 novels

  • 12 books of short stories

  • Many pieces of nonfiction

  • Winner of the 1987 PEN/Faulkner Award for World’s End.

    • The PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction is a national prize which honors the best published works of fiction by American citizens in a calendar year.


The tortilla curtain1

The Tortilla Curtain

  • Major Issues:

    • Politics of Immigration

    • The “Haves” vs. the “Have Nots”

    • Environmental awareness

    • Crime

    • Social stratification by social class & ethnicity

    • Racism

    • Social and physical boundaries

    • Humans vs. the environment

    • The American Dream


The u s and immigration some basic information

The U.S. and Immigration Some Basic Information

  • History suggests that those who truly yearn to come to America and stay will find a way to do it. (Newsweek, August 9, 1993)

  • The Department of Homeland Security reported that illegal immigrant population dropped to 10.8 million in 2009 compared to 11.6 million in 2008. It was the second consecutive annual decline and the largest in at least three decades. (US News, July 2010)


Con t

(con’t)

  • In 1994, California passed Proposition 187, a bill that denies certain social privileges, mainly welfare, public schooling, and non-emergency medical care, to illegal immigrants. (The New York Times, November 11, 1994)

  • This also makes California the state with the highest proportion of foreign-born population, with 26.8 percent. California's high immigrant population accounts for over one-quarter of the total U.S. foreign-born population. (U.S. News, July 2010)


The u s and immigration a call to follow the law

The U.S and Immigration A Call to Follow the Law

  • "All Americans...are rightly disturbed by the large numbers of illegal aliens entering our country.... We are a nation of immigrants, but we are also a nation of laws. It is wrong and ultimately self-defeating for a nation of immigrants to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws. (President Clinton, "We Heard America Shouting," Address to Joint Session of Congress, January 25, 1995)

  • "Our immigration policy is a measure of who we are as a people. I believe we are a people who draw strength from our diversity and meet our challenges head on. I believe we want and deserve immigration laws that favor those who play by the rules." (Bill Bradley, former U.S. Senator, New Jersey, The New Jersey Record, June 8, 1995)


Who comes here

Who comes here?

  • About 800,000 people follow the rules and enter the United States legally as immigrants each year.

  • An additional 200,000 to 300,000 come to the country illegally. (San Francisco Chronicle, December 5, 1995)

  • Half of illegal immigrants do not cross the borders unlawfully—they enter legally and overstay their visas. (San Francisco Chronicle, March 18, 1996)


In the words of t c boyle

In the words of T.C. Boyle

Relevant tidbits from an interview with Penguin Books.


The tortilla curtain

What is your view on immigration?

  • “I feel that, on the one hand, we do have a right to be a sovereign nation and to protect our borders. Illegal immigration makes a mockery of legal immigration, and no other country in the world allows this sort of thing to happen. On the other hand, what I object to even more than that is this kind of demonizing of a whole race and class of people, as in considering all Mexicans, all Guatemalans, all Salvadorans to be bad because they're invading our country as impoverished and ignorant individuals.”


The tortilla curtain

Do you see The Tortilla Curtain as a political novel?

  • “This book isn't a political novel in the sense that it takes a position and is meant to have people agree or disagree with that position. It's political in a different sense. I don't think political novels work because they have "an ax to grind." If you have "an ax to grind," then you have to sacrifice aesthetics and the discovery of the book in order to make your point or to make people join your party or to see your point of view.”


The tortilla curtain

Critics and readers on both sides of the immigration issue had mixed reactions to The Tortilla Curtain. Why do you think the book generated so much controversy?

  • “I'm not presenting any answers, and I think that's why the book was very controversial. People want a polemic. They want to raise their fist in the air and say, "Yes, you're on our side." Well, I'm not on your side. I am presenting a fable, a fiction, so that you can judge for yourself. . . People want things to be very clear-cut. Here's the issue and here's how I stand on it. But I think it's much more complex.


The tortilla curtain

Do you think there is such a thing as the American dream?

  • “. . . Well, the American dream is, "you pull yourself up by your bootstraps, you make it, you have a house, you live in the suburbs, and you drive a new car." What is that? That is a material dream. If you have nothing, then you have material dreams. Presumably, if you have an education and you have enough to eat, then you can have aesthetic dreams or humanistic dreams. Easy for me to say. I have every material thing I could want.”


The tortilla curtain

 As an epigraph to the book you use a quotation from The Grapes of Wrath. Did you have John Steinbeck's novel in mind when you wrote The Tortilla Curtain?

  • WAIT! What’s an epigraph???

  • In literature, an epigraph is a phrase, quotation, or poem that is set at the beginning of a text. The epigraph may serve as a preface, as a summary, as a counter-example, or to link the work to a wider literary canon, either to invite comparison or to enlist a conventional context.


T c boyle uses this epigraph

T.C. Boyle uses this epigraph:

from, The Grapes of Wrath

  • They ain’t human. A human being wouldn’t live like they do. A human being couldn’t stand to be so dirty and miserable.

    • John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath


The tortilla curtain

Back to the original question…

As an epigraph to the book you use a quotation from The Grapes of Wrath. Did you have John Steinbeck's novel in mind when you wrote The Tortilla Curtain?

  • “I'm not trying to re-write Steinbeck in any way. I chose the epigraph from him because I wanted to see how the ethos of the 1930s, and the traditional liberal ethos of providing for everybody, is applied to today.”

  • ETHOS = (sociology) the character or disposition of a community, group, person, etc.

  • Interview courtesy of Penguin Books


Is tortilla curtain a piece of satire

Is Tortilla Curtain a piece of satire?

T.C. Boyle is well-known for his use of satire in his writings!

  • What’s satire again?

    • A literary or artistic work holding up human vices and follies to ridicule or scorn

    • Wit, irony, or sarcasm used to expose and discredit vice or folly

    • Satire often shows the ridiculousness of an issue, or proposes a ridiculous solution to a problem

      www.Webster.com + American Heritage Dictionary (2001)


Other big items for consideration

Other BIG items for consideration

  • Luck v. Fate

  • The weather

    • How is it used to fuel plot AND develop setting?

  • Understanding character

    • How do they change?

    • What are their motives?

    • What are their core beliefs?

  • The symbol of the coyote


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