My Family’s Slave by Alex Tizon

      The text My Family’s Slave is a biography, or it could consider as a memory of Alex Tizon’s life with Lola. As Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson in the book Reading Autobiography illustrate that “remembering involves a reinterpretation of the past in the present… the remembering subject activity creates the meaning of the past in the act of remembering… memory is an interpretation of a past that can never be fully recovered” (22). The text My Family’s Slave represents the memory of Alex Tizon with Eudocia Tomas Pulido or what they called her Lola. She is a Filipina woman was given to his mother at the age of 12 as a gift from her father. Lola worked to Tizon’s family for 56 years without pay, in another word, she lived with the family as a slave. Lola lived in the Tizon family’s house in inhumanity conditions. Tizon starts his essay from the memory of his visit to Lola village after her death holding her ashes box in his hands.
The text involves a group of Lola and Tizon’s family pictures as an “alluded to but absent, or stand in the place of an absent” as Smith and Watson indicate in the book Reading Autobiography that “artists have also pursued photographic experiments to reconceptualize the very nation of self-portraiture”(175). The family moved to the United State on May 1964 and Lola with them before that for 21 years. The high education and the social states did not stop Tizon’s family from the poor treatment that they treat Lola with. The cultural mores imposed that treatment on them. However, life in the United State did not change them. The historical and cultural force made the family feel careless about Lola and made what they doing to her acceptable to them as the PRI web site illustrates in the article Five things to consider if you are reading ‘My Family’s Slave’ by Marnette Federis. It is popular in the Philippines’s culture to have domestic workers, it’s not limited to rich people only, even people from the middle class can have domestic workers too. But what is surprising to me that Tizon’s family lived in America for a long time but that does not change their thinking? Tizon’s mother even when she was in her death bed did not regret her bad treatment to Lola. Tizon’s essay tone is full of regret and contrition, but we see that only from his side, not from his mother’s side, and there is an absence of his siblings in this situation. This scene leads the readers to think if Tizon’s mother doesn’t feel any contrition toward Lola or if she doesn’t want to admit that? It is confusing how she feels at that time, and what about Tizon’s siblings what they feel about Lola’s situation?
After the mother died, Tizon took Lola to his house, asking her to relax and rest for the rest of her life, but she was not used to living in such a life. She kept working and helping in the house until she died. Tizon tried to compensated Lola for all the sorrow that she faced in his family house. He took her back to her village to visit her relatives or at least the remain one of them. However, Lola did not find herself there, everything has changed, and she didn’t have any memory for that place. Lola asked to go back to America, where she has what she considers a family. The text shows that Tizon tried to do a lot of things for Lola since he was a kid until her death, and that makes us wonder if what Tizon did for Lola is enough? What the motive for all that? And How is the hero in this story? Lola or Alex? Tizone ends his text in the same way he started. Giving Lola ashes to her family in Filipin and saw her family’s grief of losing Lola made Tizone feel some comfort for what he did.
In some way readers can designate Tizon’s text as a narrative of grief, on the other hand, some readers can designate it as a narrative of witness. It’s confusing what is the real reason that leads Tizon to write this text about Lola. Is it to grief and mourning her? Or to confession all the violence against Lola from his family? It could be a combination of both. It could be a narrative of grief and witness. As Smith and Watson indicate in the book Reading that the lines between a narrative of grief and a narrative of witness are not clear. However, the text reached a high number of critics and readers. The view of the critics and readers varies between appreciation of his courage to admit his family action and others were perplexed about the reason for his text. From a personal point of view, I think Tizon is a courageous man, he wanted to admit his family’s violence behaves toward Lola to not feel guilty. And to mourn his mother and Lola at the same time.

 

Cite Work

Smith, Sidonie, and Julia Watson. Reading Autobiography: a Guide for Interpreting Life Narratives. University of Minnesota Press, 2013.

 

Tizon, Alex. “My Family’s Slave.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 26 June 2018, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/06/lolas-story/524490/.

 

“Five Things to Consider if You Are Reading ‘My Family’s Slave’.” Public Radio International, https://www.pri.org/stories/2017-05-19/five-things-consider-if-you-are-reading-my-family-s-slave.