Who is Marci’s cousin Raylene, and why is her story significant for Marci?

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laurniko eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What Night Brings by Carla Trujillo centers on Marci, an eleven-year-old girl in a Chicano working-class family in California. It's set during the 1960s.

One of the most important aspects of Marci's struggle in the novel is that she is attracted to other girls. Because of this, she wishes at night that God could change her into a boy. As a boy, she believes she could express her affections in a way that would be acceptable. 

Marci says: 

When night comes, that's when everything is best. Right before I go to sleep, I turn into Supergirl. Don't be surprised. It feels good to be her. ... Who needs blonde hair anyway when it's easier being Supergirl? Every night I dreamed I saved beautiful girls. Usually a mean man was hurting the girl. I'd beat the man up, then carry her away. She would be so happy I saved her, she'd want to marry me. I'd say yes and the dream would end with me kissing her neck and feeling her chiches.

Because her sexual orientation is not accepted in her community, she fantasizes about being a boy. Being a man would make it okay for her to be attracted to women. When she falls for another girl, Marci believes that being a boy would make it possible for her to marry that girl one day. One of the reasons she believes it's possible is because her cousin, Raylene, was born a male but is a female during the time Marci is experiencing these feelings.

Marci says: 

Anything can happen. It happened to my cousin, right here in my own backyard. Raylene is a girl. But when she was born, she was a boy. Her parents named her Ray, after her daddy and dressed her in baby overalls and a little Oakland A's baseball cap. After one year, though, the doctors found out she wasn't a boy. She was really a girl. Mom didn't tell me until now.

"What happened?" I asked.

"Quien sabe. I guess the doctors made a mistake."

"How do you make that kind of mistake? You're either a boy, or a girl. Couldn't they tell it was a boy? Didn't she have a birdy?"

[. . .]

My cousin is two now. She moved to Montana three months ago with her mom and dad. We never go there so I didn't know how I was going to find out the truth about how she changed into a girl. I wanted to see what she looked like, and if she still acted like a boy. I wondered if she was going to like girls like me. It's not fair, they should have let her keep her birdy. She might want it later.

Marci's own struggle and hopes are personified in Raylene, who has done what Marci hopes to do for most of the novel—change genders. She thinks that "just like Raylene, it could happen to me." Marci does eventually come to terms with herself, as she and her sister escape their abusive father and flee to their grandmother, who promises to protect them. 

teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

We are told that Marci's cousin Raylene was born a boy and that she was originally named Ray.

It is implied in the story that Raylene becomes a girl after undergoing sex-reassignment surgery. Raylene's story is significant for Marci because it gives her hope that she can realize her own dreams of becoming a boy. 

From the text, we learn that Marci has long had aspirations to be a boy. She prays about it and asks God for help to change her gender. Marci's motivation to become a boy is actuated by her attraction to a girl named Raquel. Marci wants to marry Raquel when she comes of age, but she thinks that Raquel would rather marry a man. As a result, Marci concludes that she needs to change her gender in order to increase the probability of the two marrying.

As life progresses, Marci comes to the realization that her prayers will not be answered. In due time, she befriends a girl named Robbie. Both girls decide to become blood sisters and promise to share their secrets with each other. When Marci tentatively admits that she is attracted to girls, Robbie confesses that she harbors the same inclinations. Even though Raylene's story is significant for Marci, our protagonist comes to realize that her path in life may diverge from Raylene's.

psyproffie eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Within the book What Night Brings the main character Mexican-American girl named Marci who wants god to change her into a boy and to get rid of her father due to his extensive physical abuse of Marci. The story focuses on Marci’s struggle to maintain her identity which is that of a male not the female she was born as. As you read the book you learn that Marci had a cousin Raylene, however when Raylene was born was known as Ray. Marci wishes to have the same gender transformation as Raylene. It is the knowledge that this was something that Ray achieved in life that leads Marci to pursue her dream and in the end find love with her neighbor Raquel.

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What Night Brings

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