Our KHC book TALK series is kicking off in August! The series this time is called Between Fences, and the first book is Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston.
Fences can either keep us out, or in. “Good fences make good neighbors,” Robert Frost famously declared in his poem “Mending Wall,” but not all fences do. In the same poem, Frost notes nature’s own resistance to man-made boundaries: “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.” Fences mark our territory, define our boundaries, limit our movement, and convey our sense of property. We define ourselves and our space with fence. Metaphorically, fences can mark different states of being – ins and outs, the included and excluded, the sacred and taboo, and even life and death. There must be some kind of enclosure for there to be a need for “pearly gates.” Throughout history, fences have defined human accomplishments and claims. Building fences is one of the defining acts of civilization, establishing the boundaries between civilization and barbarism. The fencing off of property with barbed wire transformed the economies and the ecologies of the Great Plains in the nineteenth century. The most familiar single episode in the classic American tale of boyhood, Tom Sawyer, is the whitewashing of a fence. The white picket fence has become the symbol of postwar American suburbia.