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Identity Changed Me and I Changed Identity

I discovered my identity as a woman when I was eight years old. I was obsessed with the movie Tarzan and loved the idea of running wild with all the animals and just being free in every way. I would run around my house in my ballet skirt and bare chest so I could be just like him. I had no concept of “girl parts” and “boy parts,” so I didn’t see a problem with what I was doing. I was just being a kid and imitating my favorite character from one of my favorite movies.

I have two boy cousins who are like brothers to me. When we were little, they would always come over to my house. One day, I was doing my usual thing and pretending to be Tarzan when they came over. As soon as they walked into my room, they were horrified. They wouldn’t look at me and I didn’t know why. I was so confused. I saw them walk around without a shirt on all the time and I was never shocked or mortified by it. I asked what was wrong, and my older cousin told me that girls aren’t supposed to walk around without shirts, that is only a guy thing. This really struck me. I never understood a difference between girls and boys, or between me and my favorite cousins.

After that, I began to see how differently I was treated because I was a girl. I couldn’t play in the grass for fear that I would get my clothes too dirty or that my hair would get too messy. For the first time I realized that I would not be able to do all the things that the opposite sex could do. I fully realized my identity as a girl, and understood how this identity would affect my life every day after that. I began to change my behavior to fit this “girl standard.” I changed my favorite movie from Tarzan to Beauty and The Beast, and instead of playing around outside I started to paint my nails and do other things my girl friends did. I wasn’t trying to be a “tomboy” before—I didn’t even know what that meant. I never knew there was such a clear distinction between being a boy and being a girl.

My aunts and uncles began to judge me based on my appearance while my boy cousins would get away unscathed. “Wow, looks like you’re gaining a little weight,” and “What are you going to do with your hair?” were things that I heard more and more often while growing up. I know these things weren’t intended to hurt me but, somehow, they always did. Commercials, TV shows, and movies that reinforced the idea of femininity were constantly shoved down my throat. I began to doubt myself a lot and I was no longer the confident, strong girl I was when I was little. Where did that girl go?

I was so sick of struggling with my identity that, around age eleven, I began to really question who I was. I would ask myself, Do I have to be a girl? Is there any way out of this?  I wanted to escape me. I was constantly craving acceptance from people who expect so much. It took me years to figure out that my gender identity doesn’t completely define what I like or who I am. As a girl, I can still like Tarzan and Harry Potter, have messy hair, and be myself without being heckled or told that who I am is wrong. I should be able to strut around, pounding on my chest without being judged or accused of “not being girly enough.” I could also like American Girl Dolls and painting my nails because material things don’t define me. I define me. After learning that, I accepted myself. I was at peace. I could finally rest.

My Black

My Black were slaves to the white race,
Brutally killed, if we had a word,
Forced to assimilate,
And economically taken advantage of.

My Black is classified as the “n” word,
Let alone everyone believin’ what they have heard,
Saying they’re irrelevant or their skin is too dark.

My Black has been gunned down,
Kicked to the ground,
Having constant thoughts of being nonexistent,
Nobody even caring if we’re offended.

NOW YOU TELL ME WHETHER OR NOT THAT’S HARDSHIP?

My Black is not afraid anymore.
My Black is stronger than before.
My Black are leaders, believers, and dreamers.
My Black will take no more,
And for that, we will soar.

My Black is prideful.
My Black rocks.
With strong heads and big lips,
We have a word and we will be heard.

My Black is my brothers and my sisters.
My Black is proud.
With the ability to achieve,
We will believe, and we will proceed.

My Black is beautiful.
My Black is divine.
With curly hair and dark skin,
We will shine and we will rise.

AMEN“

Who Wants Love?

Love is a great thing because it’s made out of hearts and beauty and handsomeness and awesomeness. And POW!

Love goes slow. Love is ridiculous. Love is fast like a pony with a wizard costume on and a green mustache. Love is sad. Love is crazy. Love is around the world. Love is a deck of cards. Family Love is happy and cool. Boyfriend and girlfriend love is yuck and nasty.

When it comes to love, a man has to have a job, a good diploma, and has to have an eight-pack. And he has to cook and has to look handsome. He probably has to be in his 30s.

Excerpt from “Oasis”

CHAPTER ONE

    The moonlight glowed bright over the singlewide home, a lone streetlight the only other illumination in the dry heat of the night. The house was dark except for a single lamp on the floor, next to a wooden crib. Between the bars, a baby lay sleeping. She was curled in a tiny circle, like a puppy would sleep to ward off the cold.

A soft thump sounded from down the hallway and a light switched on in another room. The small child squirmed in her crib, starting a soft-but-piercing cry that floated through the silence of the night. Down the hallway, there was a cacophony of sounds. Heavy things being lifted and set down. A single pair of feet stomping around the room. A crack of static sounded from behind the door, then the loud sound of a radio announcer filled the house.

The channels flipped vigorously, then settled on a station playing music that pulsed and swayed. The radio was turned all the way up and the baby cried a yawning scream, drowned out beneath the thumping bass.

CHAPTER TWO

    Fairytales are perhaps the least realistic stories we tell, but somehow they ring the truest. Tall tales of adventures sound impossible and beautiful when you hear them, but when they happen to us we don’t recognize them. The impossible and the beautiful get all mixed in with the everyday, with the ugly and the doubts in our heads.

Everyone’s got their own fairytale. Everyone has a happy place…  an island, somewhere they want to go. Everyone’s got a monster in their closet…  a bigfoot, a chupacabra, a fairytale. People knew about the island the same way they knew about fairytales, but they talked about it more like a destination vacation that they knew they could never afford. In China, they called it Měilì de Tiāntáng. In India, it was Pavitr Aaraam. Pacific Islanders called it Aiga Nofoaga, Yasawa, or Mokupuni Ohana.

They all translate to something similar; an island where you can be reunited with all the people who ever loved you. It has existed partially in science and through dozens of alleged locations around the world; hundreds of ancient maps reveal different coordinates. Skeptics, scientists, and historians have been locked in debate about the authenticity of the maps and plausibility of such a place.

Away from the lecture halls, research labs, and preserved documents, however, parents tell their children their own version of the island. Friends joke about booking a flight there for spring break. Weary strangers sit alone, weighing the possibilities.

CHAPTER THREE

    Carolina sat and swung her feet from the chair, her feet not yet grazing the ground. Her arms were propped up on the table and she focused on the bowl of cereal in front of her, watching the spoon as she slowly raised it and brought it to her mouth. Her father sat across from her, watching the small TV on the counter. Carolina slurped up the little Cheerios one by one, going cross-eyed trying to focus on the pool of milk left in the spoon. The TV played an ad where a beautiful woman made her son breakfast with Bisquick Pancake Mix, because no one knows breakfast like Bisquick. She glanced at her dad.

“Dad,” she began, waiting for his eyes to glance towards her. “Do you miss Mom?”

Her father grunted. Carolina stirred her cereal.

“I love her a lot!” she proclaimed. Her father looked at her for a longer moment.

“You didn’t know her.”

Carolina looked at the TV while her father looked at her. For a while, they watched as the soccer match came back on.

“Do you still love her?” Carolina asked, looking back at her father. On the TV, Colombia scored a goal and her father cursed.

“I don’t love anyone anymore,” he eventually groaned, “I’m too old for that now.”

CHAPTER FOUR

    There were always skeptics of the island, those who made it their agenda to mock those who studied rigorously to prove its existence. And then there were those like Carolina, who grew up hearing tales of the island through parents’ bedtime stories and teachers’ distracted tangents, or in rare books or document that crossed her path.

Nothing ever seemed concrete about the island except that fact that it was somewhere. News stories would pop up every few years — ships disappearing in search of it, passengers lost in the blue or washed up miles from their intended destination. These tales of tragedy at sea always competed for attention with the multitude of documents that seemed so sure of the island’s existence.

    It was often on nights like this one — after the breeze and crickets outside had been silenced by the long exhaustion of the evening — that Carolina found herself distracted from her homework and lost in her thoughts of the island. The room was dimly lit by an overhead fan that turned the air slowly, the yellow glow of the bulbs leaving most of the small kitchen in a fuzzy mix of shadow and soft light. Carolina dimmed the brightness on her laptop, her eyes dry and ready for sleep. The room was completely still as Carolina took a deep breath and refocused herself.

    Behind her, the silence was broken by the screen door banging open and her father’s muttering. He kicked off his sandals with a loud thud, then loudly creaked along the linoleum floor leading to his bedroom.

    CHAPTER FIVE    

    The scariest thing about it was that Carolina didn’t even know when it had happened. Her father was often gone — at work or hanging with the guys or who knows where else — so she didn’t think twice when she didn’t hear him come in at night or see him the following morning.

She left the house that day like any other, taking two buses and a train to get to work: a restaurant where she took orders, smelled like fries, and gave parents of screaming children their to-go containers.

    She didn’t know anything about the other driver. She didn’t even ask when the emergency room called. All they told her was that her father had been in a high-speed collision, and he hadn’t survived the impact. When she got down to the hospital, her head was spinning. The only things in focus were the facts that her father hadn’t been wearing a seatbelt, and that the hospital bill was much more than she could afford.

Carolina decided to use her vacation time from work to sit on the couch and think. For a week she thought, the fog in her head only growing. Unanswered phone calls from family and friends piled up and her voicemail filled.

Everything that was certain in her life had vanished, and the rest of the world felt wrong in how unchanged it was. The small house felt bigger than it ever had before. Carolina sat on her father’s couch, surrounded by the house and all the belongings her father had loved. She couldn't tell if she had ever been as important as those things.

She glanced at the huge book of maps that had been propping up the coffee table for as long as she could remember. For the first time since the emergency room call, Carolina picked up her phone. She dialed her father's number, letting it ring out until the answering machine beeped its familiar tone.

“Dad, Papi,” she said “I’m going on a trip. I’ll be gone a while, but I’ll see you soon.”

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