Losing the most of your family, and then move to another country, where people are almost scared of you, because you are black. That is not easy, and that is something Baluta experienced. “Fireweed” is a short story written by Skye Brannon, and it is about an ordinary day in Baluta’s life, and how he manages to get through day despite his difficult situation of being an immigrant and losing his family.
The story is told in the third person, where Baluta is the main character. It starts in medias res because we get thrown directly into Balutas day “It was a remembering day for Baluta” (p.1, l.1). The story follows a chronological storyline, but with some flashbacks to when Baluta starts remembering old memories from his life in Liberia in West Africa, however the main story takes place in America.
The setting takes place in three different environments. The first one is in America, where he lives in the ghettos with his brother Jato, and his sister-in-law Sama, “Baluta washed in the shower, cold after his brother and sister-in-law had had theirs. Cold like Kqatawee Falls back home, Baluta thought” (p.1, l.8). The second environment is when he lived in Liberia with his whole family before the episode, “… it made Baluta remember his father’s monkey traps. They were just small boxes with a drilled hole and a nut inside”. This example indicates that he lived a poor life in Liberia, but a very happy life in the way he talks about this particularly memory. The last environment is in Tiffany’s home, “… and moved through the large entryway, into the extravagant kitchen” (p.3.l.76). This is a big and rich house, and it is the opposite in what Baluta is used to, and we also see that in the way he describes her home.
As said Baluta used to live in Liberia, but he moved to America together with his brother Jato. Now he lives in the ghettos with Jato his brother and Sama, who is his sister in law. It does not seem like they have much money, because for example, “Baluta heard the wind whistle through them as he drove through the ghettos of his neighborhood” (p.1, l.20), so this example can lead to the fact that they might not be wealthy.
He calls himself Joel, which is a name Jato came up with “Dese Americans, Jato said, if you tell dem your Mandika name, dey look like you’ve given dem a riddle. You tell dem your name is Bob, and dey are all smiles” (p.1, l.11). If they would use their real names, the rich people would treat them as immigrants, but if they have an English name, then they will treat them more like Americans. In his Flashbacks, we hear how tough his childhood was, and how he ended up losing most of his family. It happened when the men with guns and machetes killed his father, his Grandma and his little sister Alanso. It is really clear that he misses his family and especially his little sister, because he easily starts remembering old memories from his childhood, and many of those are about his little sister Alanso. We are not told how long Baluta and his brother Jato have been in America, but some information in the text could indicate, that they have not lived there for a long time. Firstly Jato and Baluta still have a bit of a strong foreign dialect, compared to when we hear Tiffany speaking. We can hear a difference in their dialects, and we assume Tiffany have lived in America for her whole life. Secondly Baluta still uses a lot of his time remembering his life in Liberia, and this could also indicates that he is still affected by the incident in Liberia, so he have not learned how to move on.
Baluta is a very thoughtful person, because he cares about the other people around him, “Baluta felt awful for this, but he has to work to get a car, and needed a car to get to work.”(p.1, l.17). He feels bad about the fact that Jato and Sama need to take the bus early in the morning when he has a car. The fact that he feels so awful about it really shows us what a big heart he has. Another example, which supports it, is when he meets Tiffany for the first time. “Did you need something? She called out. Baluta smiled a wide smile, standing still next to his car. Hello der, Miss! I am Joel, the carpenter” (p.2, l.53). This quotation, indicates that he is very thoughtful and polite. Even though Tiffany is almost scared of him, when she first sees him, he still shows her his best version of himself, and he meets her with a big smile.
The main theme in the story is lost because overall the story is about how Baluta lost his family in Liberia, and how he is trying to move on, but it will always follow him. The story starts with a happy flashback of his sister Alanso laughing, but every time he got a new flashback, it gets worse, and his last flashback is where his family is dead, “Fear had frozen him. From the ant pile, he saw the dust surrounding their shanty. He saw jeeps and men with guns and machetes” (p.4, l.133). Even though he is tries to start a new life, his past end up taking control over his day.
“Fireweed” is a story that makes you set your own life in perspective, because the fact that Baluta has been through so much with the murdering of his family and starting a new life as an immigrant, he still makes the best out of his situation. You get an insight of what an immigrant can be going through. This is not just something that happened for Baluta, but is happening to a lot of people in the real world.