How May I Help You?

The book starts off with Deepak describing his job and talking about an encounter with a rude customer. He wonders what it would be like for an American to suddenly move to India and have to work without knowing the local language well, the inverse of the situation he’s in.

In chapter 2 he talks about growing up in India. We see a story about his grandfather, and how his parents ended up together. We also see Deepak describe going to business school and getting a job with BBC, and eventually finding his wife Holly and finally moving to America.

The third chapter focuses on Deepak’s travel to America. We see details of the airport journey and his optimism and then his doubts and worries starting to creep in as he heads home with Holly.

In chapter 4 Deepak reflects on his struggles with adjusting to Holly’s American mannerisms. Things are different here than they are in India, in different ways than Deepak had expected. However, towards the end of the chapter Deepak reflects on how he felt then compared to how he feels about those events now, being more understanding of the position Holly was in.

Chapter 5 sees Deepak and Holly making a long journey to West Virginia to get Deepak fingerprinted. Then Deepak waits for several months to get work authorization. When it finally comes, Deepak looks around but cannot find a job that he has relevant experience for. He eventually manages to get an interview at the store he describes working at in the beginning chapter of the book. In chapter 6 he gets the job, but has another waiting period for his background check. After he is cleared he has training but is worried about not fitting in in the new work environment. Some of his fears are realized in chapter 7 when his first day of sales does not go smoothly. An indian couple comes in and he feels ashamed of where he is working, and his coworker Ron humiliates him instead of helping. Things only get worse when Deepak lets his fear get the best of him and gets put on a one month notice.

Deepak recounts his childhood again- this time under the lens of learning english- after Ron tells him that he needs to learn english. He also recalls a worker who worked for his family back in India, and draws similarities between her problems and the problems that his coworkers are facing. Eventually some muslims come into the store and Deepak is able to help them, which leads to Cindy learning about Deepak’s background. When another customer shows interest in Deepak’s background, he learns a new strategy to selling more expensive items. Deepak gets his big break when he helps an Argentinian customer who in turn recommends a bunch of his friends to come buy a phone from him.

In chapter 15 Deepak talks about his name and how people call him other things without checking if those nicknames are okay. I also found it interesting that the way Deepak says americans pronounce his name, “dee-pack”, is exactly how I had been reading it in my head up until this point. Deepak then describes his first experiences meeting gay people.

In chapter 18, Deepak reflects on an important lesson he learned when he unknowingly upset Ron by calling him the same name he had heard Jackie call him. He spends some time recalling what it was like to be high-caste in India. After facing bigotry in America, Deepak’s Indian mall friends decide to head back to India.

After learning of his father’s heart condition, Deepak becomes extremely anxious and begins to believe he has one too. After becoming top salesman, Deepak visits India.

Southern Stalemate Summary

Southern Stalemate begins by describing the events surrounding the schools’ closure in Prince Edward County. Local government felt it was better to have closed schools than desegregated ones, so the schools were closed for years. Much of PE County’s history is described in this chapter, such as it’s relation to the confederacy’s surrender, and the existence of “black belt” communities. The reading explains that “context is crucial” when it comes to how people reacted to the civil rights movement. White people in areas with lots of black people were more hesitant to desegregate than their counterparts.

The first chapter talks about resistance, namely black resistance to white supremacists. Refusal to segregate on public transport resulted in Morgan v. Virginia, where the mandate was struck down. White Virginian’s take pride in not being “as bad” as other states in terms of treatment of their black counterparts, because of an anti-lynching law. In reality, the acts of segregation and racism are just less overt. Virginius Dabney questioned the Jim Crow laws in place. VA played a large role in the NAACP’s fight against segregated schools. R. R. Moton was at double capacity but white leaders still refused to build more structures for the black school. Violent threats were made at the suggestion of desegregating schools to solve the problem. Students went on strike, but were not taken seriously.

Brown was decided, but the governor of VA decided he would do “everything in his power” to keep schools segregated. Schools were defunded and was made not compulsory. Schools were people tried to integrate were made to close. Brown II ordered local governments to continue with integration as quickly as possible. Fundraising was done to keep teacher’s jobs safe. The Gray Commission pitched their extreme measures and the Southern Manifesto was created and signed. Arlington was the first place to come up with an integration plan. The NAACP remained the main target for the general assembly.

All states bordering VA began to integrate. Warren schools were closed after an appeal by the NAACP was one to admit 29 black students. Local favor preferred integrating the schools instead. Schools in VA continued to close. Courts stated public school funds could not be reallocated to private school tuitions. That decision didn’t last forever.

School closings were rules to be a violation of rights. Schools were opened back up, although it was a process.

Chesapeake Requiem Summary

Chesapeake Requiem is a narrative story about Tangier Island that follows journalist Earl Swift throughout his interactions with Tangier Island. In the introduction we see Carol Moore exploring ruins after a storm. We learn that the island is losing half an inch a day, and the whole island is only 3-5 feet above sea level.

In chapter one we read about people fleeing the island for the mainland in the 1900s. The island is flooding, and people are being forced out. We are introduced to the mayor while he is crabbing. Tangier’s location in relation to VA, MD, the Chesapeake Bay, and the ocean is described. We are taken on a bit of a mail boat tour and hear more about soft shell crabs. Pictures are taken of evidence of erosion, and we learn that some people on the island don’t think it’s man’s fault that the island is sinking. An even higher sea-level rise is predicted, and it’s said that Tangier Island could be the first climate change refugees in the country.

Chapter two talks more about crabs, and about their habitats being destroyed. The whole chapter builds on the theme that some humans care more for animals and their habitats than for the humans who are also being displaced. There’s also a funny part about a puffer-fish being bounced like a tennis ball.

Chapter three takes us on a tour of town. There’s a story about THE squirrel on the island. This chapter mainly focuses on the competing stories of Tangier Island’s history, like who discovered it (allegedly John Smith). It talks about being settled during the American Revolution.

In chapter four we see a funeral, and a graduation. The graduating class being seven students, only one of which is remaining on Tangier Island. Others opting instead to go off to college, or join the military. It’s explained that this is sad because those who leave will likely not be coming back, as there is little to no opportunity for someone with a degree on Tangier Island, besides working at the already shrinking school.

Finally, in chapter five we’re talking about crabs again. There’s an abundance of red moss in the water, which may be helping the smart crabs avoid the pots. The concern is brought up that the red moss may be due to poor water quality. We end with the happy scene of a wedding.

Virginia Climate Fever Summary

The reading starts out describing the life of coal and the effects of fossil fuels, namely how much CO2 they release and how long it sticks around. It brings up the controversy around climate change before shifting focus to VA specifically.

Even way back in the 1700s Thomas Jefferson was acutely aware of climate change. Julian Kesterson keeps track of the weather since January 1960, and his data also shows warming. VA has 6 climate zones but lately the weather is different than expected, and at times more intense. The reading talks about a demonstration where the Earth is a dish pan, which is an experiment I’m familiar with but has admittedly always confused me. Several graphs are shown depicting the upward trend in temperatures, ultimately reading at an alarming 6 degrees per century. However, it is explained that this data is not entirely in context, although once the data is put in context the shown result is still warming.

The next section discusses running climate models and different scenarios based on whether we do anything to combat climate change or just continue on with “business as usual”. The question “why wouldn’t I like climate change” is addressed, and we see more graphs, this time depicting how heat would likely be distributed across VA with the continuing rise in temperatures due to the build in greenhouse gasses, as well as predictions of rainfall.

The next section is about the Chesapeake bay. It starts off talking about an experiment done to simulate the predicted CO2 levels in the bay circa 2050 and 2100. Silt pollution from farming and land development are killing sea grasses by obstructing them from sunlight, and oysters are dying off from overharvesting. These two life forms are vital to balancing CO2 in the water.

After the bay, the reading discusses the ocean. Virginia has “no take” sanctuaries where things like fishing and drilling aren’t allowed to happen. However, only .02% of VA’s coastline is a no take zone. Plankton is used to study the Atlantic’s acidification, and paleo-oceanographer Barbel Honisch expects a decrease of .1-.3 in ocean pH by the end of the century. The destructiveness of fishing practices such as trawling are described. Even just regular fishing, when overdone, is detrimental in combination with climate change because the fish populations are having trouble bouncing back.

There are more than 900 threatened species in VA. You can’t protect threatened species without protecting the habitats they live in. Once things like climate change have reeked their havoc on a habitat, it makes it THAT much easier for invasive species to take over.

Finally three possibilities are discussed to mitigate a “big die-off”. First, some trees could adapt easier because they’re already somewhere a little too cool. Second, they may shift to somewhere cooler like out of the direct sun, or near a spring. Third, tree migrations, which can even be done manually by us humans.

The Virginia Way Summary

The Virginia Way starts out detailing Theresa “Red” Terry’s attempt to keep her family’s land in 2018. It talks about her being up in a tree and being refused food, drawing media attention to not just her but the pipeline issue in general, since she was going to be charged with trespassing on her own land. Pipeline construction was eventually paused in December 2018 when Attorney General Mark Herring SUED Mountain Valley Pipeline for more than 300 alleged environmental pollution violations.

The excerpts on Dominion talk about how Dominion is a monopoly in Virginia, covering 2/3 of the state’s power. They talk about some of the sketchier details of Dominion’s spending, such as their private jets and the fact that the CEO of Dominion, Tom Farrell was the highest paid utility executive in the US despite Dominion being ranked second to last in terms of energy-efficiency. These comments are compared in contrast to other public utilities like water treatment facilities. It’s also mentioned that Dominion somehow didn’t pay ANY federal income taxes in 2018 on about 3 BILLION dollars of profit. The excerpt then goes on to discuss Dominion’s control over government policies and how they are affected by them. The subject then moves to Dominion’s role in elections, and perhaps the most striking part of this reading is the mention of “Dominion’s Virginia Way”, when mentioning Dominion’s attempts to bribe legislators through campaign donations. Anti-Dominion political platforms became popular as a result, as many Virginians are sick of Dominion’s role in pollution across our state. Politicians continued to refuse money from Dominion and former Goldman Sachs executive Michael Bills even contributed money to people who agreed to go up against Dominion with the Clean Virginia Project.

As a result of all the backlash in VA, Dominion simply moved down to South Carolina. But Dominion did a poor job buying the lawmakers, and in a turn of events, a bill was passed in South Carolina to cut rates by 15%. Governor Ralph Northam pledged to put an end to corporate contributions to campaigns if he was elected, and then immediately accepted 50k from Dominion. Dominion introduced a bill that would allow them to double charge consumers, which immediately became everyone’s focus. An amendment was created to avoid this from happening, and Dominion actually lost for once.

In the end Dominion is still a monopoly. But people are starting to realize that the “Virginia Way” is really the Dominion Way.