The Asian Disease by Simone Lazaroo
In The Asian Disease by Simone Lazaroo we have the theme of struggle, suspicion, racism, discrimination, fear, acceptance, confusion and pride. Narrated in the first person by a woman called Miss Nazario the reader realizes from the beginning of the story that Lazaroo may be exploring the theme of struggle. Emanuel is suffering the later stages of Parkinson’s and he struggles to speak and eat. However this does not stop the narrator from buying Emanuel take-away curry. It is simple treats like this that help Emanuel make it through the day. Even if she has to fed him the curry herself. The narrator will do so as she loves her father and is prepared to do anything for him. If anything the narrator and her visits are something or probably the only thing that Emanuel has to look forward to as his life nears to an end.
The theme of struggle is further explored through Emmanuel’s childhood during WWII in Singapore. He was malnourished by Japanese forces and his sister believes oddly enough that this is why Emanuel divorced the narrator’s mother. It is a strange opinion to have and untrue. Though its entry into the story is deliberate as Lazaroo may be suggesting that superstition (of sorts) plays a part in Asian life. Discrimination also plays a part in the story with the policemen arresting Emanuel because they believe he robbed a pharmacy. Basing their opinion on nothing more than Emanuel’s skin colour. Similarly the narrator’s maternal grandmother does not like Emanuel or more particularly she believes Asian people carry diseases. If anything the grandmother is being unreasonable and narrow-minded. Just as the White Australia Policy may have been. Discriminating against people who were not white.
There may be some symbolism in the story which might be important. As mentioned the food that the narrator buys for Emanuel can be seen to represent love, unconditional love. There is no bitterness between the narrator and Emanuel after he divorced her mother. If anything the divorce could symbolize everyday life and acceptance. Just as the narrator divorces his wife. So do other Australians. Regardless of their skin colour. Asian people are no different to Australian people. Some marriages work out and some don’t. Though again Emanuel’s sister’s appraisal is ridiculous and should be seen as such. The ham-faced nurse (real or not) could represent fear and her introduction into the story suggests that even when he is dying. Emanuel is afraid. Unable to let go of the past. The policemen being an example. The scars that mark Emanuel’s body serve to symbolize the struggles that Emanuel has had to endure. He remains permanently marked by his life experiences.
The end of the story is interesting as Lazaroo appears to be exploring both he theme of acceptance and confusion. The narrator as she looks at her body matches her scars to her Emanuel’s scars. They are unique to their family due to Emanuel’s fear of disease. Symbolically it also suggests that the narrator identifies with being Asian-Australian. She is a product of both her parents. However what confuses the narrator is her inability to understand what her father may have meant when he was waving to her. It is as though his body will not provide the narrator with the answer. She does however remain proud of Emanuel. For all he has achieved in life. Though he has been maltreated at times in his life, Emanuel holds no real bitterness, but he does still remain afraid that what has once happened to him. Will happen again.