DeShaun’s Voice is Like A House of Popsicle Sticks

The first section of Tayari Jones’s Leaving Atlanta contains instances of child-like paraphernalia that are realized through the characters’ voices. The descriptions of the voices are not phrases commonly used. When talking about the fictional creature with Tasha, DeShaun says “‘You could tell me. I won’t tell anybody.’ DeShaun’s voice collapsed like a house made out of Popsicle sticks falling in on itself” (Jones 43). A voice is collapsing like a house and that house is made out of Popsicle sticks. Throughout the first section, Jones plays with the child-like attitudes in her narration and the Popsicle sticks insert themselves as a child-like device. Furthermore, Jones imparts sound on this inanimate object and, then, that inanimate object imparts sound on a human voice. The line between the physical, the Popsicle sticks, and the intangible, DeShaun’s voice, blurs and a child-like lens is created. A Popsicle stick has many uses but to create a house out of one is, usually, an activity reserved for school projects or a play date after school. The verisimilitude of the Popsicle company lends itself to the child-like paraphernalia that the narrator creates throughout Tasha’s section. DeShaun loses her innocence slightly and the metaphorical house collapsing signals that loss. Insinuating that the house was built on Popsicle sticks originally also signals that DeShaun’s innocence could easily be broken or ruptured. Moments before the aforementioned quote, a single sentence paragraph is stated when Tasha is trying to placate DeShaun’s anxiety about the creature coming to get them, but DeShaun sees through Tasha’s deception. “DeShaun was getting smarter” (42). DeShaun’s “house” (voice) collapsing becomes either her innocence collapsing or her intelligence increasing, which may result in a stronger house in the future.

The decision to compare DeShaun’s voice to a house made out of Popsicle sticks that collapses asks the question if all houses are created equal. Would Jashante’s house be stronger because he is a boy? Would a white girl’s house be stronger than both of theirs because of her privilege to access and mobility? Or would it be weaker because she does not face as harsh injustice relative to a Black boy or girl?

Discussion Questions:

How do we compare this “loss of innocence” to Indigo when she asks her Hilda Effania if she should stop playing with dolls in Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo on page 44? Is there a clear correlation when Indigo begins to talk about how hard it is to be a grown colored woman?

How does this compare or contrast to earlier in the text when the narrator compares Daddy’s voice to a melted crayon on page 15? What changes when a child-like instrument like a crayon is imparting on an adult’s voice?

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