Project #2

Justin Liang

ENG 2001 – D536

Prof. Rosen

Spring 2018

Project #2

Dear Hathi Trust

Hi Editors, my name is Justin Liang and I’m writing you this letter about a digital book your organization has. This book in particular is called Quicksand and I would like to say that you have done a really good job. The book really shows the struggle of Helga Crane in a period where people of color aren’t treated fairly. I would also like to say that the way you portray Helga not being satisfied in one area is really astonishing. But I do think that if you were to add a digital annotated edition of the novel it would really help readers really understand certain things mentioned in your book.`

Throughout your book it was pretty easy to know what was happening but trying to understand why certain things happened was the troubling issue. For example, in your book readers are confronted with the fact that Helga doesn’t feel comfortable staying in her own community due to her color.  This example can be taken from Chapter 7 Page 89 where Helga arrives in New York and has thoughts of turning back. This thought of turning back is due to the fact that people of color during this time weren’t treated right. I did some research on color and race during a time where people of color were being treated unfairly and found an article written by Sarah Thomson. In this article she talks about her reactions to your book and she says that “as we witness her trying and failing to transcend the issue of race in each community she inhabits”. This article helps readers understand what the issues were if you were a person of color living in a white community.

Another area that I think a digital annotation would help readers is when Helga reaches Harlem. We see that when Helga first comes to New York she wants to turn back due to her skin color. New York back then was mostly a white community, so she felt she wouldn’t fit in. But when she arrives to Harlem she is feels satisfied. Why? I did some research on Harlem and found out that it is a black community in Upper Manhattan. When I learned this, it solved my question to why she felt safer living in Harlem and not anywhere else in New York. Helga must have felt safer since she would be living in a black community and not a white community. I’m sure if you added this annotation to the digital copy of the book it would help readers understand why Helga Crane liked Harlem.

The last place I think a digital annotation would help readers is when Helga leaves Denmark to go back to Harlem. We know that Helga has been moving all over the place because she isn’t satisfied once she stays wherever she is for a while. This part of the story really made it hard to understand Helga. I always wondered why she would move when the things happening to her is good. In Harlem she was with a black community where she could feel safe. She also goes to Denmark and meets her white neighbors who like her. She was even going to be married to Axel! But she moves back to Harlem which confused me even more! So, I did some research to clear things up and help me understand Helga. In a summary I found on the internet it says that the reason she did not marry Axel and left Denmark was because she didn’t want to be away from the colored people forever. Reading this sort of made me understand why she would do that. I can relate to Helga because I wouldn’t imagine myself moving somewhere forever and not returning to where I originated. After reading the summary it helped me understand more of what was going on in Helga’s mind.

As you can see the use of a digital annotation can help readers understand the text more. When I was reading the book without annotations I couldn’t understand certain actions that Helga was doing. I didn’t understand why she wanted to turn back and not stay in New York. I found an article written by Sarah Thomson which helped me understand that colored people weren’t welcomed by white people during that time. When Helga stayed in Harlem it was weird because she was still in New York. I found some info on Wikipedia which helped me see that since Harlem was a black community it helped Helga feel safe. Finally, Helga leaving Denmark and not marrying Axel made me think why! I found a summary online and then found out that she wanted to be with her own people and not stay away from them. After finding these annotations it helped me understand your story and I hope that you will include a digital annotation edition of your novel so that other readers like myself can really understand your wonderful book.


Justin Liang



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