Before ReadingUs and ThemPersonal Essay by David SedarisWhat’s reallynormal ?KEY IDEA Imagine a town where everyone dyes his or her hair purpleand spends free time either at puppet shows or raising ferrets. Ifsomeone moves in who has brown hair and loves video games andsoccer, would he or she be considered normal? What we mean bythat word often depends on where we are and who we’re with. Inthe selection you are about to read, a young boy is fascinated by afamily that doesn’t seem normal.DISCUSS How do you define normal? Think about things likethe way you and your friends and family dress, the music you listen to,and the activities you participate in. Create a definition for the wordnormal based on these observations, and compare it with classmates’definitions. Is everyone’s view of normal the same?716

literary analysis: ironyHave you ever stayed up late to study for a test, only to find outthat the test was postponed? Many people would call this turnof events ironic. Irony is a contrast between what is expectedand what actually exists or happens. Irony can make a pieceof literature tragic, thoughtful, or funny, depending upon thewriter’s goal. Types of irony include situational irony, which is a contrast between what isexpected to happen and what actually does happen verbal irony, which occurs when someone states one thingand means another dramatic irony, which happens when readers know more abouta situation or a character in a story than the characters doAs you read, record examples of irony in a chart as shown.ExampleType of IronyWhy It’s IronicReview: Tonereading skill: evaluateWhen you evaluate, you make judgments about the author’sopinions, actions, or statements. Forming opinions on what youread makes you think about what’s right and wrong, and why.As you read, judge whether the young David Sedaris’s thoughtsand actions seem sensible, fair, and accurate.vocabulary in contextThe way Sedaris uses the following boldfaced words helpscreate the ironic tone of his story. Use context clues in eachsentence to figure out the meaning of the boldfaced terms.1. Lucy doesn’t merit an invitation to my party.2. Don’t imply that you believe me if you really don’t.3. Carmen, don’t inflict your terrible music on me!4. Although I disagree, I won’t interfere with your decision.5. I attribute John’s grades to hard work and dedication.6. Taylor tosses her papers indiscriminately into her bag.7. There’s no way Mom can accommodate all of us inher tiny car.A Man of Many JobsDavid Sedaris has hadseveral odd jobs overthe years, includingapple picking,house painting,performance art, andapartment cleaning.But a humorousessay he wrote abouthis experiencesworking as an elfDavid Sedarisin a departmentborn 1957store’s holiday displaylaunched his writing career. After reading“The SantaLand Diaries” on National PublicRadio, Sedaris became an instant hit, andsince then his books have sold millions ofcopies. His inspiration comes from thediaries he has kept for over 30 years, inwhich he records his intelligent, funny, andemotional observations on everyday life.Literary Rock Star Sedaris frequently toursthe U.S. and Europe, reading his essays andshort stories to sold-out concert halls. Theseappearances give Sedaris a chance to meethis fans and also to improve his writing. Heoften reads unpublished essays, revisingthem based on the crowd’s reaction.Family Secrets Many of Sedaris’s essaysare about the people in his life. His bookDress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim,from which this essay was taken, containsthoughts on his family and childhood.In one essay, he writes that his family isafraid to tell him anything important forfear that their stories will end up in his nextbook. Most of their conversations, he says,begin with the words “You have to swearyou will never repeat this.” Fortunatelyfor his readers, Sedaris doesn’t make thosepromises.more about the authorFor more on David Sedaris, visit theLiterature Center at If you provoke me, I will likely argue with and them717

UsThemandDavid SedarisW1020hen my family first moved to North Carolina, we lived in a rentedhouse three blocks from the school where I would begin the thirdgrade. My mother made friends with one of the neighbors, but one seemedenough for her. Within a year we would move again and, as she explained,there wasn’t much point in getting too close to people we would have to saygood-bye to. Our next house was less than a mile away, and the short journeywould hardly merit tears or even good-byes, for that matter. It was more of a“see you later” situation, but still I adopted my mother’s attitude, as it allowedme to pretend that not making friends was a conscious1 choice. I could if Iwanted to. It just wasn’t the right time. aBack in New York State, we had lived in the country, with no sidewalks orstreetlights; you could leave the house and still be alone. But here, when youlooked out the window, you saw other houses, and people inside those houses.I hoped that in walking around after dark I might witness a murder, butfor the most part our neighbors just sat in their living rooms, watching TV.The only place that seemed truly different was owned by a man named Mr.Tomkey, who did not believe in television. This was told to us by our mother’sfriend, who dropped by one afternoon with a basketful of okra.2 The womandid not editorialize3 —rather, she just presented her information, leaving herlistener to make of it what she might. Had my mother said, “That’s the craziestthing I’ve ever heard in my life,” I assume that the friend would have agreed,and had she said, “Three cheers for Mr. Tomkey,” the friend likely would haveagreed as well. It was a kind of test, as was the okra.merit (mDrPGt) deservea IRONYReread lines 6–10.When Sedaris says hecould make friends if hewanted to, what doeshe actually mean?ANALYZE VISUALSNote the colors used inthis painting. Why do youthink the artist chose tocontrast the inside andoutside of the house inthis way?1. conscious: deliberate.2. okra (IPkrE): edible pods used in soups and as a vegetable.3. editorialize (DdQG-tôrPC-El-FzQ): to give one’s own opinions on a topic.718unit 6: style, voice, and toneDetail of Outside In (2004), Ryan Kapp. Oil oncanvas on panel, 18 24 . Ryan Kapp.

30To say that you did not believe in television was different from saying that youdid not care for it. Belief implied that television had a master plan and that youwere against it. It also suggested that you thought too much. When my motherreported that Mr. Tomkey did not believe in television, my father said, “Well,good for him. I don’t know that I believe in it, either.”“That’s exactly how I feel,” my mother said, and then my parents watchedthe news, and whatever came on after the news. bW405060ord spread that Mr. Tomkey did not own a television, and you beganhearing that while this was all very well and good, it was unfair of himto inflict his beliefs upon others, specifically his innocent wife and children.It was speculated that just as the blind man develops a keener sense of hearing,the family must somehow compensate for their loss. “Maybe they read,” mymother’s friend said. “Maybe they listen to the radio, but you can bet yourboots they’re doing something.”I wanted to know what this something was, and so I began peering throughthe Tomkeys’ windows. During the day I’d stand across the street from theirhouse, acting as though I were waiting for someone, and at night, when theview was better and I had less chance of being discovered, I would creep intotheir yard and hide in the bushes beside their fence.Because they had no TV, the Tomkeys wereforced to talk during dinner. They had no ideahow puny their lives were, and so they werenot ashamed that a camera would have foundthem uninteresting. They did not know whatattractive was or what dinner was supposedto look like or even what time people weresupposed to eat. Sometimes they wouldn’t sitdown until eight o’clock, long after everyoneelse had finished doing the dishes. Duringthe meal, Mr. Tomkey would occasionallypound the table and point at his children witha fork, but the moment he finished, everyonewould start laughing. I got the idea that hewas imitating someone else, and wondered ifhe spied on us while we were eating.When fall arrived and school began, I sawthe Tomkey children marching up the hill withpaper sacks in their hands. The son was onegrade lower than me, and the daughter was onegrade higher. We never spoke, but I’d pass themin the halls from time to time and attempt toview the world through their eyes. What mustit be like to be so ignorant and alone? Could anormal person even imagine it? Staring at an720unit 6: style, voice, and toneimply (Gm-plFP) v. toexpress indirectlyb IRONYReread lines 29–30.What’s the differencebetween what themother says and whatshe does?inflict (Gn-flGktP) deal out somethingunpleasant orburdensome; toimpose

7080Elmer Fudd4 lunch box, I tried to divorce myself from5 everything I alreadyknew: Elmer’s inability to pronounce the letter r, his constant pursuit of anintelligent and considerably more famous rabbit. I tried to think of him as justa drawing, but it was impossible to separate him from his celebrity. cOne day in class a boy named William began to write the wrong answeron the blackboard, and our teacher flailed her arms, saying, “Warning, Will.Danger, danger.” Her voice was synthetic and void of emotion, and we laughed,knowing that she was imitating the robot in a weekly show about a family wholived in outer space. The Tomkeys, though, would have thought she was havinga heart attack. It occurred to me that they needed a guide, someone who couldaccompany them through the course of an average day and point out all thethings they were unable to understand. I could have done it on weekends, butfriendship would have taken away their mystery and interfered with the goodfeeling I got from pitying them. So I kept my distance.6 dI90100n early October the Tomkeys bought a boat, and everyone seemed greatlyrelieved, especially my mother’s friend, who noted that the motor wasdefinitely secondhand. It was reported that Mr. Tomkey’s father-in-law owneda house on the lake and had invited the family to use it whenever they liked.This explained why they were gone all weekend, but it did not make theirabsences any easier to bear. I felt as if my favorite show had been canceled.Halloween fell on a Saturday that year, and by the time my mother tookus to the store, all the good costumes were gone. My sisters dressed as witchesand I went as a hobo. I’d looked forward to going in disguise to the Tomkeys’door, but they were off at the lake, and their house was dark. Before leaving,they had left a coffee can full of gumdrops on the front porch, alongsidea sign reading don’t be greedy. In terms of Halloween candy, individualgumdrops were just about as low as you could get. This was evidenced by thelarge number of them floating in an adjacent dog bowl. It was disgusting tothink that this was what a gumdrop might look like in your stomach, and itwas insulting to be told not to take too much of something you didn’t reallywant in the first place. “Who do these Tomkeys think they are?” my sisterLisa said.The night after Halloween, we were sitting around watching TV when thedoorbell rang. Visitors were infrequent at our house, so while my father stayedbehind, my mother, sisters, and I ran downstairs in a group, opening the doorto discover the entire Tomkey family on our front stoop. The parents lookedas they always had, but the son and daughter were dressed in costumes—sheas a ballerina and he as some kind of a rodent with terry-cloth ears and a tailmade from what looked to be an extension cord. It seemed they had spentthe previous evening isolated at the lake and had missed the opportunitycTONEReread lines 43–71. Whatwords and images revealSedaris’s attitude towardthe Tomkeys?interfere (GnQtEr-fîrP) create an obstacled EVALUATEDo you think Sedaris isright to keep his distance?Explain.4. Elmer Fudd (DlPmEr fOd): a cartoon character who is always chasing after Bugs Bunny; Fuddmispronounces the r sound as w, as in “wascally wabbit.”5. divorce myself from: separate myself from.6. kept my distance: kept myself emotionally and them721

110120130140150to observe7 Halloween. “So, well, I guess we’re trick-or-treating now, if that’sokay,” Mr. Tomkey said.I attributed their behavior to the fact that they didn’t have a TV, buttelevision didn’t teach you everything. Asking for candy on Halloween wascalled trick-or-treating, but asking for candy on November first was calledbegging, and it made people uncomfortable. This was one of the things youwere supposed to learn simply by being alive, and it angered me that theTomkeys didn’t understand it. e“Why, of course it’s not too late,” my mother said. “Kids, why don’t you . . .run and get . . . the candy.”“But the candy is gone,” my sister Gretchen said. “You gave it away last night.”“Not that candy,” my mother said. “The other candy. Why don’t you run andgo get it?”“You mean our candy?” Lisa said. “The candy that we earned? ”This was exactly what our mother was talking about, but she didn’t wantto say this in front of the Tomkeys. In order to spare their feelings, she wantedthem to believe that we always kept a bucket of candy lying around the house,just waiting for someone to knock on the door and ask for it. “Go on, now,” shesaid. “Hurry up.”My room was situated right off the foyer, and if the Tomkeys had looked inthat direction, they could have seen my bed and the brown paper bag markedmy candy. keep out. I didn’t want them to know how much I had, and so Iwent into my room and shut the door behind me. Then I closed the curtainsand emptied my bag onto the bed, searching for whatever was the crummiest.All my life chocolate has made me ill. I don’t know if I’m allergic or what,but even the smallest amount leaves me with a blinding headache. Eventually,I learned to stay away from it, but as a child I refused to be left out. Thebrownies were eaten, and when the pounding began I would blame the grapejuice or my mother’s cigarette smoke or the tightness of my glasses—anythingbut the chocolate. My candy bars were poison but they were brand-name, andso I put them in pile no. 1, which definitely would not go to the Tomkeys.Out in the hallway I could hear my mother straining for something to talkabout. “A boat!” she said. “That sounds marvelous. Can you just drive it rightinto the water?”“Actually, we have a trailer,” Mr. Tomkey said. “So what we do is back it intothe lake.”“Oh, a trailer. What kind is it?”“Well, it’s a boat trailer,” Mr. Tomkey said.“Right, but is it wooden or, you know . . . I guess what I’m asking is what styletrailer do you have?”Behind my mother’s words were two messages. The first and most obviouswas “Yes, I am talking about boat trailers, but also I am dying.” The second,meant only for my sisters and me, was “If you do not immediately step forward7. observe: to celebrate.722unit 6: style, voice, and toneattribute (E-trGbPyLt)v. to relate to a certaincauseeEVALUATEIs Sedaris’s reaction tothe late trick-or-treatersappropriate?

ANALYZE VISUALSWhat’s the first thing younotice in this photograph?Now look at the photomore carefully and tellwhat new details you see.160170with that candy, you will never again experience freedom, happiness, or thepossibility of my warm embrace.”I knew that it was just a matter of time before she came into my room andstarted collecting the candy herself, grabbing indiscriminately, with no regardto my rating system. Had I been thinking straight, I would have hidden themost valuable items in my dresser drawer, but instead, panicked by the thoughtof her hand on my doorknob, I tore off the wrappers and began cramming thecandy bars into my mouth, desperately, like someone in a contest. Most wereminiature, which made them easier to accommodate, but still there was onlyso much room, and it was hard to chew and fit more in at the same time. Theheadache began immediately, and I chalked it up to 8 tension. fMy mother told the Tomkeys she needed to check on something, and then sheopened the door and stuck her head inside my room. “What . . . are you doing?”she whispered, but my mouth was too full to answer. “I’ll just be a moment,” shecalled, and as she closed the door behind her and moved toward my bed, I beganbreaking the wax lips and candy necklaces pulled from pile no. 2. These werethe second-best things I had received, and while it hurt to destroy them, it wouldhave hurt even more to give them away. I had just started to mutilate a miniaturebox of Red Hots when my mother pried them from my hands, accidentallyfinishing the job for me. BB-size pellets clattered onto the floor, and as Ifollowed them with my eyes, she snatched up a roll of Necco wafers. gindiscriminately(GnQdG-skrGmPE-nGt-lC) adv.without making carefuldistinctions or choicesaccommodate(E-kJmPE-dAt) v. to makeroom forfIRONYWhat actually causesSedaris’s headache?Tell why this is ironic.g EVALUATEWhat positive or negativequalities is Sedarisdisplaying?8. chalked it up to: identified its cause or source and them723

180“Not those,” I pleaded, but rather than words, my mouth expelledchocolate, chewed chocolate, which fell onto the sleeve of her sweater.“Not those. Not those.”She shook her arm, and the mound of chocolate dropped . . . upon mybedspread. “You should look at yourself,” she said. “I mean, really look atyourself.”Along with the Necco wafers she took several Tootsie Pops and half a dozencaramels wrapped in cellophane. I heard her apologize to the Tomkeys for herabsence, and then I heard my candy hitting the bottom of their bags.“What do you say?” Mrs. Tomkey asked.And the children answered, “Thank you.”W190200210hile I was in trouble for not bringing my candy sooner, my sisters werein more trouble for not bringing theirs at all. We spent the early partof the evening in our rooms, then one by one we eased our way back upstairs,and joined our parents in front of the TV. I was the last to arrive, and took aseat on the floor beside the sofa. The show was a Western, and even if my headhad not been throbbing, I doubt I would have had the wherewithal9 to followit. A posse of outlaws crested a rocky hilltop, squinting at a flurry of dustadvancing from the horizon, and I thought again of the Tomkeys and of howalone and out of place they had looked in their dopey costumes. “What wasup with that kid’s tail?” I asked.“Shhhh,” my family said.For months I had protected and watched over these people, but now, withone stupid act, they had turned my pity into something hard and ugly. Theshift wasn’t gradual, but immediate, and it provoked an uncomfortable feelingof loss. We hadn’t been friends, the Tomkeys and I, but still I had given themthe gift of my curiosity. Wondering about the Tomkey family had made me feelgenerous, but now I would have to shift gears and find pleasure in hating them.The only alternative was to do as my mother had instructed and take a goodlook at myself. This was an old trick, designed to turn one’s hatred inward, andwhile I was determined not to fall for it, it was hard to shake the mental picturesnapped10 by her suggestion: here is a boy sitting on a bed, his mouth smearedwith chocolate. He’s a human being, but also he’s a pig, surrounded by trash andgorging himself so that others may be denied. Were this the only image in theworld, you’d be forced to give it your full attention, but fortunately there wereothers. This stagecoach, for instance, coming round the bend with a cargo ofgold. This shiny new Mustang convertible. This teenage girl, her hair a beatifulmane, sipping Pepsi through a straw, one picture after another, on and on untilthe news, and whatever came on after the news. h9. wherewithal (wârPwGth-ôlQ): ability.10. mental picture snapped: an imagined picture brought quickly to mind, like a snapshot, a quickly takenphotograph.724unit 6: style, voice, and toneprovoke (prE-vIkP) cause; to bring uph IRONYReread lines 198–210.Why is it ironic for Sedaristo say he felt generoustoward the Tomkeys?

After ReadingComprehension1. Recall Why did the young Sedaris begin spying on the Tomkeys?2. Recall Why were the Tomkeys unable to trick-or-treat on Halloween?3. Clarify Why did Mrs. Sedaris want to give her children’s candy to theTomkey children?Literary Analysis4. Identify Judgments The young Sedaris had strong opinions about manythings that the Tomkeys did or said. Look through the essay and find at leastthree places where he makes a positive or negative statement about thefamily. What do you learn about Sedaris from the judgments he makes?Is his behavior toward the Tomkeys fair? Explain your answer usingexamples from the selection.5. Analyze Irony This essay was written by an adult looking back on hischildhood. Review the chart you made while reading. Which examples ofirony show that Sedaris is making fun of himself and his family? Explain.6. Draw Conclusions Reread lines 164–168. Why is it so difficult for Sedaris toshare his candy with the Tomkeys? What might have happened if he hadchosen to share?7. Evaluate Attitudes Review the passages in which Sedaris mentions television.What are the good and bad things about the role it plays in his and his family’slives? Note them on a scale like the one shown. Then explain whether youthink there’s anything wrong with the way the Sedarises use TV.3.2.1.Good3.2.1.BadExtension and Challenge8. Speaking and Listening David Sedaris has said that he likes to “paint mentalpictures” for the people who listen to his essays on the radio. In a smallgroup, take turns reading portions of “Us and Them” out loud. As one personreads, the others should listen for images that particularly stand out to them.Then discuss whether it’s more fun to read the essay or hear it, and why.9. Readers’ Circle Comedian Joe Ancis once said, “The only normal people arethe ones you don’t know very well.” Do you think that Sedaris would agreewith this quote? Do you agree? Share your conclusions with the and them725

Vocabulary in Contextvocabulary practiceShow that you understand the meaning of each boldfaced word by decidingtrue or false for each statement.1. A small car can easily accommodate six passengers.2. Moving away can provoke homesickness.3. Winning a competition does not merit congratulations.4. If someone looks tired, we might attribute this to lack of sleep.5. To imply that someone is wrong means to tell that person, “You are wrong.”6. Work experience and confidence usually interfere with a successful jobsearch.7. Someone who buys shoes indiscriminately may not try them on first.8. If you inflict your views on others, you are forcing people to listen to ctinterferemeritprovokevocabulary in writingHow many people have you formed the wrong opinion about? Write a paragraphexplaining how your first impression of someone was wrong. Use at least twovocabulary words in your paragraph. You could start this way.example sentenceThe first time I met Richard, I attributed his unusual style to his being strange.vocabulary strategy: idiomsAn idiom is an expression that has a different meaning from its literal meaning.For example, in this essay Sedaris says that when he got a headache, he “chalkedit up to tension.” Chalked it up to is an idiomatic expression that means“identified the cause as.” There is no actual chalk or chalkboard involved.If you encounter an unfamiliar idiom, you can often use context clues tofigure out its meaning. Otherwise, look up the first word of the expressionin a dictionary, where you will often find idioms explained in the entry.PRACTICE Identify the idiom in each sentence and give a definition for it.1. We expected her to be shy, but she’d tell you her life story at the drop of a hat.2. Josh is definitely up to something—I can tell by the expression on his face.3. Although I was tired during practice, my coach told me to hang in there.4. Cynthia was unhappy with the store’s service, but her complaints fell ondeaf ears.5. In order to get the exhausted cast through the last hour of rehearsal,the director told them to take five.726unit 6: style, voice, and tonevocabularypracticeFor more practice, goto the Vocabulary Centerat

Reading-Writing ConnectionContinue exploring “Us and Them” by responding to the prompts. Then completethe Grammar and Writing exercise.writing promptsself-checkA. Short Response: Write a JournalA creative journal entry will . . .Sedaris often wondered what life must have beenlike for the Tomkeys. What did they do since theydidn’t watch TV? Write a one-paragraph journalentry from the perspective of one of the Tomkeychildren, describing a normal day in your household.B . Extended Response: Analyze the MessageWhat do you think Sedaris learned from hisexperience with the Tomkeys? What might he wantothers to learn? In two or three paragraphs, analyzethe message of “Us and Them,” using examples fromthe selection. describe the members ofthe Tomkey family use information from theessay to add details to thenarrativeAn effective analysis will . . . clearly state the messageof the essay refer to specific scenes, lines,and detailsgrammar and writingFORM COMPLEX SENTENCES A complex sentence contains one independentclause and one or more dependent clauses. An independent clause can standalone as a sentence. A dependent clause is a group of words that contains asubject and a verb but cannot stand alone as a sentence. Dependent clausesbegin with words such as after, because, even though, since, until, where, and who.By adding one of these words or phrases to an independent clause, you make itdependent. The dependent clause can then be combined with an independentclause to form a complex sentence.Original:We don’t own a television. My family still has fun together.Revised:Even though we don’t own a television, my family still hasfun together. (This is now one complex sentence.)PRACTICE In each item, change one independent clause to a dependent clause.Then combine the clauses to form a complex sentence.1. My family doesn’t have a TV. We spend more time talking to each other.2. We also spend time at the lake house. My brother catches a lot of fish.3. Sometimes I wish we had a TV. The kids at school make fun of us.4. We moved to this neighborhood last year. I’ve made a few friends.For more help with dependent clauses and complex sentences, see page R64in the Grammar and them727

When Sedaris says he could make friends if he wanted to, what does he actually mean? merit (mDrPGt) v. to deserve 1. conscious: deliberate. 2. okra (IPkrE): edible pods used in soups and as a vegetable. 3. editorialize (DdQG-tôrPC-El-FzQ): to give one's own opinions on a topic. Us Themand David Sedaris Detail of Outside In (2004), Ryan Kapp .