“180 Sumac” by Julia Scheeres tells the heart breaking story of a girl coming to terms with the
death of her brother. Her brother was adopted and abused by their racist parents because of the
colour of his skin. The story retells their childhood in flashback sequences as this, now much
older, girl goes back to their home, 180 Sumac, which she found was for sale. This story
expresses grief and the struggles of African American people assimilating into society.
Although we may think otherwise, nobody is ready for death of a loved one. Not when this death
comes due to terminal illness, and especially when the death happens suddenly, in the case of
David. Julia is heart broken and the fact that her last words to him were accusatory of thieving, is
something that will always haunt her. Through the things that remind her of him, she paints a
picture and illustrates a story of growing up with this funny, charming brother. All these anecdotes
are to remind her of the memories she did have of him, for example, “Now I stand in the spot
where David and i once sat cross-legged on the floor, baking polymer scorpions and tarantulas”,
is a unique childhood memory which she remembers as she walks into their previous home.
David was an adopted black child growing up in a predominantly white neighbourhood in a white
family. Because of this and the discrimination he faced, him and Julia had made a pact to move to
somewhere more multicultural than this rural town, somewhere where he could feel safe and
comfortable to find his own identity which had been stripped away from him from a young age.
He was never given parental love or guidance, “how is it possible that all the photographs I have
of David fit into a single shoebox?” And it’s quite clear, that their parents didn’t care for him and
saw him as nothing more than a nuisance, as he received inhumane abuse and beatings when he
was even slightly disobedient, screams that are expressed through auditory imagery, “David’s
screams from the basement workshop”.
Despite his life being littered with hardships, David made the best of what appeared to be a
hopeless situation. When the kids of their conservative primary school burnt David with a
soldering rod yelling “KKK” and “Let’s see how black skin burns!”, he wrote “victorious” in his
diary. Despite this act which was filled with tremendously ugly hate, discrimination, and vile
prejudice, David clung to his mantra of “laughter, the best therapy.” He never let racism and fear
define him and his life despite the large role it played in his upbringing. Many young, vulnerable
kids tend to find creative outlets for the childhood trauma they experience, David being one of
Julia also represents the guilt a lot of people feel, when they witness discrimination and blatant
prejudices, but are too afraid to do anything. She was only a child when her father would beat
David mercilessly, giving him sweltering hits, with scars that lasted a lifetime. But even now,...