Print & Book Arts at Foothill College

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Book as Inspiration
Influences of The Tortilla Curtain

The scenes we enjoy near Foothill College in the Los Altos hills of Northern California are not unlike those near Southern California's Topanga Canyon, the setting for T.C. Boyle's The Tortilla Curtain. Spanish-styled buildings with red tiled roofs encroach ever nearer unspoiled hillsides previously inhabited only by indigenous species; stands of oak and pine lead into canyons that offer refuge and water to wildlife and the occasional human visitor.

In his novel, Boyle looks at life around Topanga Canyon from two distinct perspectives, and in his descent into the canyon, he reveals its details as they are perceived from these two vantage points. The canyon's ecosystem like the character's lives' is precariously balanced, and as the physical and emotional details are revealed, we explore the light breezes of beauty, hope and excitement as well as the dark undergrowth of fear, hate and alienation.

The characters in the book are our neighbors and friends; they want the same things for their families as we want for ours - safety, the security of a home, healthy children and a good life. When subjected to events that threaten them, their reactions could reflect our own and the fragility of our morals, beliefs and behaviors is exposed for examination.

Part of what The Tortilla Curtain offers that allows for study, discussion and celebration in communities such as Foothill, is its erosion of the layers of complicity in our daily lives, and the revelation of the underlying truth of the potential within each of us to surprise ourselves with a disconnect between our beliefs and behavior. While this possibility may disturb us, there is also a sad beauty in the opportunity to recognize and overcome behaviors born of fear.

The Tortilla Curtain hints that ultimately, we all need to reach out and make a positive connection with another human being and, in this act, we can choose to further define our lives.

Foothill Printmakers
March 2008



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