In the second part of the eighth chapter of The Book of Night With Moon, Arhu has a sobering lesson in entropy. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Feline Wizards.
Trigger Warning: For extended conversation about homelessness and poverty, mental illness
I never doubted it, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that Rhiow is the best-suited teacher for Arhu, and this entire section is evidence of that. Take the first conversation after the split point! Arhu expresses a very understandable frustration with himself over his behavior in the Downsides. He believes he froze up and then didn’t contribute at all. Rhiow, is a very practical character, doesn’t lie to Arhu, but instead, gives him some beautiful honesty. He may not have intended to help, but he still did. His visionary warning to the group most likely motivated Saash to operate more quickly, and they probably survived because of him. Not every positive act is a fight, and that’s something Rhiow has to understand. Still, it’s a nice moment between the two of them and a great sign of how his education is progressing.
So while this was Rhiow’s chance to reflect on something that had happened in the past, what happens immediately after this is something that is occuring presently that Arhu gets to reflect on. It is an incredibly sad scene, one that hit me particularly hard because I have a history with homelessness, both as a teenager and in my early 20s. Did it manifest like this? Not in every way, and not in either bout of them. There are still similarities, and I felt that Duane did a fantastic job of both portraying Rosie as someone deserving of sympathy and understanding while also being honest about certain elements of this experience. It’s sad, yes, and being homeless is a sad thing. It comes from both sides!
Rosie’s story is real in other regards, and as our world further tips into despair and financial ruin, we’re seeing more homeless people than ever in dire need of services, and that’s in terms of housing, health services (physical and mental), financial help, with substance abuse problems, and that’s not even addressing all the homeless people who exist because they were escaping something, like I was in my case. I fled homophobia and abuse. How many others were fleeing as well? How many other narratives are there? The common one—and the one I encountered the absolute least when I was on the street, when I was couch-surfing and living in different places from night-to-night—is that people just choose to be homeless without any extenuating circumstances. Those people exist, and it would do a disservice to homeless activism to ignore that. But it’s such a prevalent one that I constantly had to fight against the notion that I was lying about what I’d been through or the reasons that left me without a home. The second time it happened, it was financial, and rather than have people help me, I’d get lectured about all the poor decisions I made (many of which I didn’t make, but when people are certain about your life, they’ll just ignore what you’re telling them). That’s a frustrating thing, and I’m glad Duane completely avoids it.
In fact, Duane doesn’t even delve into the original impetus for Rosie’s homelessness, and in the end, it doesn’t matter. I mean, it always matters, because we need to be conscious of the reasons people are pushed to homelessness. Rather, it’s that Rosie is a sympathetic character in an extremely sad and realistic situation, and it shouldn’t matter how they got there. They need help, and they deserve help.
If I have anything here to say that’s even slightly negative, I did feel like Rosie was a bit of a lesson rather than a story. It doesn’t really bother me, mind you, and I think that if Duane had written such a convincing portrait, I might have had something meatier to say. I REALLY DON’T. Yes, Rosie is a lesson in entropy for Arhu, but it’s treated so tenderly. Rhiow promises to get food for Rosie and helps clear out his lice, and she even immediately counters Arhu when he comes in with some low-key boostrap nonsense about solving problems by yourself. So it’s clear in the text that Arhu’s behavior isn’t acceptable, and that’s all I could ask.
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