When you hear the phrase “coming of age” I imagine that most people think about the transition from childhood to adulthood. There are all kinds of stories on different streaming platforms and in books that have a coming of age plot to them and for the most part, they are all pretty wholesome. There have been some stories involving symbols of coming of age, whether it be from religion with bat or bar mitzvahs, or cultural events including quinceañeras, sweet sixteens, etc. Those specific moments are more perceptible to the audience but coming of age stories aren’t just limited to them. There’s also more hidden symbols of coming of age including a character having to overcome a big moment or challenge in their life. Sometimes it can be about love and relationships or it could be about their peers and friendships. A lot of the time there’s also subplots within the main story which could be about a sport or academic struggle. There’s so many things you can do with a coming of age story and as we read the book, Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia Butler, we get to see how Butler puts her twist on it.
The story is about the relationship between two distinct species: the Tlic, Space aliens that resemble something similar to a centipede, and the Terrans, humans inhabiting the alien planet. We are introduced to the main character Gan while he is eating eggs which possess the ability to prolong life. We explore the contrasting lifestyles between the Terrans and the Tlic through Gan’s point of view. This moment, in the beginning of the story is significant because he refers to it as his last night of childhood. We find out the reason why later on in the story. Shortly after, the story introduces T’gatoi, who is described as having some political power within the Tlic world. T’gatoi’s relationship with Gan is interesting. They appear to be very close and find comfort in each other. In a world that wasn’t created for the Terrans, T’gatoi, in a couple ways, serves as a support to Gan’s life. T’gatoi keeps Gan’s family safe and provides them a sense of security and reassurance due to the power she has.
We later learn about the breeding process for the Tlics and it’s not the prettiest thing. The price of the Terrans being allowed to live symbiotically with the Tlics is the body of one of their children. The process appears to be very similar to a symbiotic relationship like a parasite, similar to lice. Lice lives in areas on human bodies that have hair. They feed on blood and lay their eggs underneath the skin surface. It’s very gross and not very fun to think about. Though, the Tlic do a similar thing by laying their eggs inside the human body. T’gatoi cut open a character named Lomas and took out a bunch of grubs from his body. Similar to the reproduction process with sea horses using males to carry the children, the Tlics use biological male human beings to hold onto their offspring but then perform a sort of cesarean section to birth their young.
Some people could probably argue that rather than them having a parasitic symbiotic relationship, they actually have a mutualistic relationship. Meaning that they both benefit from each other when they work together. They aren’t just taking risks and rent paying, they’re also gaining a reward. In the breeding process itself, it definitely seems purely parasitic but when you look at the big picture, it’s only a price they pay in order to come to an agreement with the Tlic. The Terrans have to surrender their lives/bodies and their freedoms, including: weapons like guns and freedom of mobility to explore the Tlic planet. In return, they are fed eggs that are capable of extending life along with providing them with youth. They also get the feeling of comfort and security by being a part of the family. T’gatoi being in the position of having political power also gives Gan’s family political protection. To take away from this, their relationship could be considered mutualistic because the Tlic get to reproduce and the Terrans are provided with a sense of safety.
There will always be risks and rewards when going to a new place. Some of the risks involving going into the unknown are feeling unprepared and being scared of adjustment. The summer before 7th grade, I moved to Syracuse, New York and throughout the years I’ve made very close friends. Moving to SUNY Geneseo reminds me of how I felt at the time, all over again and one of the things that I have to adjust to is making new friends again. Having a supportive friend group is something that I value and need to help me feel like what I’m doing is worth doing. When bad things happen, it really helps lighten things up knowing that I have a group of people supporting me, wanting me to succeed. Moving to a new place again and losing the support of my friends and family is one of the things that I’m giving up in order to be here.
Besides just friends and family, there are some more tangible things that have been given up in return for these new experiences. Although not everyone will undergo the same exact situations, there are some that other people can probably relate to. Moving to college could possibly lead to losing a room in your home. I’ve heard about parents turning the old room into something new, usually an office, sometimes a gym, anything you could think of. With that, most people don’t want to bring every single thing they own into their college dorm, so there’s a lot of stuff that gets thrown out or donated which can make it feel like you’re leaving your childhood behind. Even though there are probably an endless amount of things that could be thought of that students give up when they move to college or any new place in general, in the end there’s always going to be a benefit or reward when you come out of it.
Coming to Geneseo is definitely pushing me out of my comfort zone. I’d argue that being forced to live outside of my comfort zone is my reward because it allows me to experience new things, meet new people, and get me started on my future. In “Bloodchild”, the Terrans are in a new world and everything is unknown. Putting yourself into new situations like that helps a person gain new perspectives on the world and become a more sympathetic person. It’s ironic because in the story, the Terrans gain a place of security and comfort but here at SUNY Geneseo, I feel like I’ve lost it. Something I’ve been thinking about every single day since I’ve been here is I can’t wait to create a space where I feel comfortable and able to be myself. I’ve never really had one consistent place I can call my home and I believe the reward of going through college will be finding myself a secure job and a place to have a home with the people I’ve met along the way.