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The Role of the Maid Wake-Up Service and Cleaning Essay of Blanche Cleans Up

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The role of the maid: wake-up service and cleaning

In the Blanche series, the author Barbara Neely depicts a smart, humorous, strong black American woman, Blanche White. Blanche Cleans Up is a small book with grand perspectives. Through the eyes of the housekeeper Blanche, it shows the problems in American society. The name of Blanche (White in French) White is self-mockery. By using it, Neely's purpose is "to concentrate on the issues of race, gender and class in her fiction, And Blanche epitomizes all three" (Reese Diana, "Blanche White, maid turned sleuth in ’90s murder mystery series, is back").

Blanche White is a cook-housekeeper, also an amateur sleuth. In the third book of the series, Blanche Cleans Up, Blanche settles in the Roxbury section of Boston with the kids. She is filling in for her friend Miz Inez as cook and housekeeper in the home of gubernatorial candidate Allister Brindle and his wife Felicia. When Miz Inez's son, Ray-Ray dies mysteriously, Blanche tries to figure out whether it was a cruel accident or murder.

Social issues are well illustrated in the book: sexism in the black church, teenage pregnancy, vigilante justice, political corruption. The environmental issue discussed in the book is lead poisoning in poor urban areas.

The environmental issue is presented naturally along with the story moves on. It’s an effective strategy. As a detective novel, it's humorous. Finding out with Blanche who was the murderer and who was responsible for the lead poisoning is intriguing.

By describing the meeting of the environmental group, The Community Reawakening Project, Neely introduces the theme of lead pollution. Its organizer is Aminata Dawson. Her son was put in jail having violent tendencies caused by lead poisoning. Aminata is a determined woman. Through this character and her storyline, readers learn the knowledge about the lead poisoning: "Roxbury is the most lead-polluted community in Boston. We got to do something, and we got to do it now. I’m asking every one of you to have your kids tested for lead…By the time the poison gives your child stomachaches, or makes your child be tired or mean and irritable all the time, it’ll be too late to stop what happened to my son…he talked about the amount of lead in old paint and water pipes, and the harm that just breathing in lead dust could do to a young child, even one still in the womb" (Neely).

By the mouth of these characters, Neely provides the scientific information about the lead poisoning and tells the story of a broken-hearted mother who strives to inform others avoiding the tragedy of her son.

Also the Community Reawakening Project is inspired by a real project near Boston: Roxbury Environmental Empowerment Project (REEP). It was founded in 1995 as a way to engage Roxbury public school students and families in the environmental justice movement. In 1997, REEP launched the movement against diesel pollution in Boston with "Anti-Idling March" from Egleston Square to Dudley Station. Their effort led to the formation of the "Clean Buses for Boston" coalition and the transformation of the entire MBTA Bus Fleet off of dirty diesel fuel. Neely chose an interesting alternative but not less important, lead, instead of diesel. We will talk about the lead contamination in real life later.

The lead poisoning in Blanche Cleans Up and in real life involve environmental justice and slow violence.

One aspect of environmental justice is fair distribution of environmental benefits and burdens. Environmental justice claims that environmental quality should be fair. The reality in many developing countries is that the disproportionate numbers of polluting industries, power plants and waste disposal areas are located near low-income and minority communities. The situation is environmental injustice. And we should be aware of that everyone is responsible for environmental justice. There is always something we can do for creating a better environment around us. After finishing reading, the important thing is about taking the first step. We don't need to do extraordinary things like REEP has done. Instead, we can change our lifestyle like trying to save more water when using it.

As the lead poisoning is slow violence and has higher impact to the minority community, the writers play an important role. "By laying claim to the mobile rhetoric of environmental justice, the dispossessed may enhance their prospects of becoming visible, audible agents of globalization from below. It is in the quest for such visibility and audibility that writer-activists may play a critically enabling role" (Nixon). The minority deserves to have more influential speakers like Neely.

From Blanche Cleans Up, we can see that the genre novels can serve as informative and functional literature. It is easy to read but it also informs the readers what ought to do in real life. The narrative leads to empathy. We see the minority community suffer from the contamination. Reading Blanche Cleans Up, as a student who comes from a less developed region in the city, the author of this article recalls the memory living near the factories. The air and river of the community were constantly contaminated. It was an example of the environmental injustice. One of the functions of these environmentalism fiction is to awake people, at least telling them the mistakes we have made. Creating environmental awareness is one of the tasks of these novels.

In 2015, the Water Crisis in Flint, Michigan occupied headlines. Due to insufficient water treatment, lead leached from the lead water pipes into the drinking water.



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