“Mala wished she could go back in time and be a friend to this Pohpoh. Shou would storm into the house and, with one flick of her wrist, banish the father into a pit of pain and suffering from which there would be no escape. With piercing eyes, she would pull the walls of that house down, down, down and she would gather the two children to her breast and hug them tightly, rock and quiet them, and kiss their faces until they giggled wildly (pg. 142).”
This passage encapsulates many themes presented throughout the novel and is in response to the trauma that Mala experienced with her father. She yearns to have a motherly figure in her life and someone to protect her, she created Pohpoh, originally her childhood nickname, to represent her younger, freer self. Mala seeks to protect Pohpoh and envisions her through this outside lens, disassociating herself from the harsh reality that was her childhood. The passage shows the importance of Mala’s relation to self, as well as her relationship to Asha. Mala is projecting these dissociative scenarios to show her compassion and empathy towards herself and her sister. However, because Asha is gone and the girl Mala once was is also gone, she can only imagine a scenario where she is her savior.
One of the major themes presented in the novel is the concept of healing one’s identity. Mala is often disassociated from herself due to her childhood trauma and is unable to form a complete identity that is her own. She describes her compassion and love for the two girls because she wishes that she had a strong protective female presence in her life and understands that a female role model is important. In the passage, Mala describes Pohpoh as if she is her daughter rather than her younger self. Due to the emotional and physical trauma that she experienced; she is unable to create the strong relationships needed to form a stable family but based on her dissociative states she is showing growth in that she understands the importance of safe physical contact. She says “she would gather them to her breast and hug them tightly, rock and quiet them (pg 142)” this shows her emotional capacity despite her trauma. To Mala, being able to “save” Pohpoh and Asha is a way for her to save herself, by showing that if she was put in this scenario as an adult, she would continually protect the two girls.
Identity and healing are two important concepts that we have seen in this class and in our communities. This particular passage shows the need for protection, and we often feel that protection from our origin family. However, the LGBTQ community often feels rejected and neglected by their own origin families, so they seek out their chosen family within their community. This is similar in the way that Tyler sees mala as a familial figure and how mala sees herself as the familial savior. We often find ourselves stuck in a repressive and negative environment, but with this adversity beautiful relationships often form as we grow and find our independence. Mala and Tyler formed a bond that was extremely special and needed for their personal growth.