Gods Go Begging written by Alfredo Vea is a novel based in San Francisco, about a veteran lawyer Jesse Pasadoble. Jesse struggles with his own trauma and ptsd, its more prevalent when his daydreams of his old dead soldiers haunt him. Jesse believes that victims lie just as much as their attackers. Jesse is given the task of defending an illiterate local gangbanger who has been charged with gunning down the owners of a local cafe called the Amazon Luncheonette, which leads Jesse into the grittiest parts of San Francisco and into the darkest corners of his own past.
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The name of the person Jesse is defending is Bisquit Boy. Bisquit is charged with the murder of the local businesswomen Mai and Persephone. Jesse’s flashbacks of the Vietnam War are significant because Mai and Persephone lost their husbands during the Vietnam War.Mai and Persephone died in a tight embrace, mirroring the final embrace of their deceased husbands in the field.
Jesse’s investigation of Bisquit and the murder of Mai and Persephone brings him into a strange part of San Francisco where the women worked. Mai and Persephone opened their cafe in a part of San Francisco where a large community of Vietnam Vets moved to live together. This community that they live in is a steadfast, cynical and traumatized, community of survivors.
Many people in the community live in housing projects. Throughout the novel Vea displays the bond between Jesse and the veterans who speak in a beautiful, articulate way about the struggle of surviving the war, and the haunting memories that follow them.While Jesse investigates the housing projects, he finds himself in the deep working of the Vietnamese mob.Jesse finds himself drowned in a foreign world that forces him to consider the other side of the conflict, the enemy the Vietnamese, he realizes they suffered and lost just as much soldiers during the war.
As Jesse searches deeper into the case, he goes deeper into his own life and history.Jesse recalls playing a game called suppose with his fellow soldiers. To play the game, you have to imagine alternative pasts in American History, with this Vea shows insight into whitewashed America. In the novel the readers see how violence takes the place of love, expression, and creativity.In the beginning scene of the book, the two dead people,Mai and Persephone cling to each other as if they're hugging.
Vea states,“Pronounced dead on a cold city sidewalk, they held on to each other as the gurney rolled from cement to asphalt and into a waiting ambulance for a long, anonymous ride. In the end, it was clear to every onlooker that neither dying woman would ever let go of the other.”When the two women were shot in the street, the two women embrace each other as if it is an act of love. Physically their arms and fingers are connected, but spiritually now their soles and stories are now entwined with each-other.
The hug shared between the two women, is a symbol of how death replaced and took over love. The two now dead women watch, separated, and alone as their bodies are being dissected and taken apart at the coroners. They are embraced only when they're dead, the movements of their dead bodies mimic the movements of love to show how death has replaced love in the novel.The workers at the coroner’s office have been tainted by death.For example on page, the assistant medical examiner tells his associates that “he has dissected so many women so she thinks it'll make her body less special to him.
”This means that he has been touching and dissecting so many bodies that it has replaced touching his wife in any act of love. Another example is the chief medical examiner, he believes that his 'career would stalk him; it would take careful aim at his native curiosity, his romanticism, his passion.” Personification is used by the author to make the medical examiners career into a weapon that can harm him.Death has killed his dreams, but it is not just the medical examiner that death has affected. Death has affected many people throughout the novel, including Jesse, who is haunted by the death and destruction he saw during his time in Vietnam.
Throughout the novel, Vea illustrates the effect of poverty through Bisquit Boy. In the story, Bisquit Boy is accused of killing Persephone and Mai. Bisquit is from the projects and has little to no access to education.Because Bisquit is illiterate, this puts him at the hands of Inspector Normandie. Normandie makes Bisquit into signing a confession to the murder.Bisquit doesn't realize that if he admits to knowing Reggie’s intentions, that makes him an accomplice to murder.
When Jesse is assigned as Bisquit's lawyer, he wants to help him become literate. Jesse hands Bisquit a book, A Gathering of Old Men, and instructs Bisquit to copy a paragraph and mail him it each week. Jesse wants to teach Bisquit the power of words, and how the wrong words can destroy his future.Jesse states that poverty has made Bisquit’s motivation to better himself nonexistent. Jesse says that Bisquit’s world was a world without clocks, book, schedules, no reason to wake up in the morning, or a good reason to go home at night.Bisquit’s world is a world without specificity. In Bisquit’s world and other kids world living in the projects, school wasn't a thing, learning wasn't a thing.
The author uses a metaphor that states that “knowledge must be cultivated by a master gardener.” The author uses Jesse as the cultivator and the person who will “fertilize” Bisquit’s mind with knowledge that will save him in the future.Jesse teaches Bisquit the meaning of words so he can navigate his court trial with confidence. Further on in the book, the readers are given another example of how poverty creates aberrant conditions from which little can grow and survive.
Vea, the author, describes the ghetto as “a place where every gesture, every motive, every word, and every response to a word was an expression or an application of personal force a gesture of violence, possession, control, or aggression.” Poverty creates aberrant conditions because it supports little to no self-examination.The people who live in the ghetto are focused on survival on a physical level, not an intellectual level. The people of Bisquit's neighborhood knows that nobody writes, oral communication only.
The author states that” Bisquit’s neighborhood is free-fire zone... a place of oral communication only.”To survive you have to be street smart not book smart. This is called “functional illiteracy.” Functional illiteracy is reading and writing skills that are inadequate 'to manage daily living and employment tasks that require reading skills beyond a basic level”.This functional illiteracy is what enslaves the inhabitants of the people in the ghetto to poverty. This is why Jesse is teaching Bisquit and giving him a better education because he wants Bisquit to learn the importance of words so he can have a better future.
The repeated trauma the characters experienced made them incapable of being happy and experiencing human connection.We see an example of this with the chief medical examiner. The examiner is so used to death, he states “had become so completely empirical to him, so damned quantifiable.” The examiner loathes thinking about the people who use to inhabit the bodies he is examining. The examiner knows his job is sucking the joy out of him, he states, 'this career would stalk him; it would take careful aim at his native curiosity, his romanticism, his passion.” The author personified his career and imagines it as a gunman who can kill his happiness.
The trauma war creates makes people distance from each other.An example of this is the medical examiner, he served in Vietnam and grew to isolate himself from others. The author states,'As Captain of the graves detail in DaNang, he had gone for whole months at a time without speaking with a subordinate.”Since repeated trauma made him distance himself from others, the medical examiner longs for this removal from society.The other characters reacted to the repeat trauma with dark humor.
For example, the defense lawyers seen so much injustice they,'icy gallows humor, foxhole laughter soaked with dolor and with the great relief that remains when days and hours of mental trauma are now only harmless memories, though very painful ones.”Laughter and happiness has become sadness, according to the quote.T he laughter doesn’t cause joy but just brings a sense of relief.Since the trauma became so normal, the defense lawyers can only laugh with dark humor.The lawyers humor doesn't bring happiness, but just a second of relief.