Study Guide

The Orange Houses Friendship

By Paul Griffin

Friendship

These Americans were wonderful people. She was hesitant at first to answer their questions, to accept Mik's invitation. But now she was glad she came. Back in the camps she told herself she would be fine on her own, but now she knew she had been lying to herself. She missed her sister. (10.13) 

There's no doubt about it: Fatima is independent and strong. But even go-getters like Fatima need friends, and here she confesses how much she misses her sis back home and wants to hang out with Mik for the company. 

Life was getting complicated. Now she had three friends to worry about. She gave him half her PBJ. They ate in silence. (24.15) 

After Gale gives her the pen, Mik thinks about the fact that she went from zero to three friends super fast. She might complain about it here, but we know she was getting lonely before Gale, Jimmi, and Fatima came into her life. Bonus: Friends come with gifts like a swanky pen. 

Crew Shanelle rolled up the sidewalk. "Deaf b**** can't get no real friends, she stuck with a Zulu terrorist." Shanelle got in Fatima's face. "You ain't nothin'." (27.31) 

Shanelle is certainly mean, but she's not all together wrong about Mik—she <em>didn't </em>have any friends before the novel begin. Even NaNa casually makes fun of her for being lonely. We can't help but wonder if we get this info to see just how far Mik has come with her new BFFs. 

The girls were doing it, creating the only thing that mattered— not the mural, though that was stunning with its flying Liberty. The only thing that mattered was what had made them paint it. (31.14) 

The thing that made them paint it? Friendship. Jimmi recognizes how unique it is for people to find real friends. He certainly has a tough time keeping them himself, and he sees the mural as a testament to the friendship that Fatima and Mik share. 

"Make Brother Joe Knows happy, child," Mom said. "Make us happy. Fatima, this money? It's nothing until you let us put it to this." (32.10) 

Fatima can't believe it when Mik's mom wants to pay for her immigration paperwork, even though it will cost all of her savings and then some. She's used to making it on her own. Real friends don't need to be asked to help their buddies out, though. 

"The Liberty we painted on the PD garage? It wasn't that good."

He shook no. "You still haven't figured it out. The bombs can fall and waste us, but what you two made will last forever." (38.10-11) 

Here, Mik can't figure out why Jimmi loves the mural so much. Check out what he says about bombs and lasting forever. We know the mural won't last forever, but to Jimmi, the fact that the girls painted it in the first place—because of their friendship—will endure bombs and then some. 

Their hatred stunned him. He knew these men, their brothers, mothers, sisters, daughters, helloed them daily in these streets surrounding the hospital. They were his neighbors, his friends. Why now did they kick him? (38.19) 

Jimmi <em>thinks</em> the peeps who hang around the neighborhood are his friends, but he quickly learns they are most definitely not. The book gives us portraits of close, meaningful friendships, and then contrasts these with these fickle ones so we can appreciate the difference. 

"I have so many friends, Mom. They in the camps will rejoice at my homecoming. With the sign my sister Mik taught me, they will ask me to lead a new school. There are many who will be eager to know what I have learned here. This is a remarkable opportunity for me. I will send you many letters and tell you of my progress." (42.7) 

Fatima lies through her teeth when Mik's mom says goodbye to her. She wants Mik and her mom to be comforted, and she does this by painting a picture complete with loads of friends. To Fatima, that's what happiness looks like, even if it's not the truth. 

Fatima signed, THANK YOU FOR BEING MY FRIEND. (43.6) 

Need we say more? Fatima is grateful to have met Mik and we know the feeling is mutual. It's even more touching that she signs this instead of speaking it since this way, only Mik gets the message. Besides, it's the language that Mik taught her when they became friends. Aw. 

The project Jimmi said we were working on? The most beautiful thing in the world? He meant friendship. Sister, this is a lovely country. You have peace here. One needs only a little food, a warm place to sleep and dream, and someone with whom she can share a laugh. I was most fortunate to know these three beauties. They will last forever. (43.14) 

Mik finally gets it: The mural isn't about the fabulous paint job the girls did or the Statue of Liberty, although those things are cool. It's more about the friendship the girls share that will never be erased. Even though the book ends on a sad note, it reminds us that this is a real friendship that can continue, long after the book ends. 

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