Literacy Narrative Essay

Due in SES #6 or SES #8

(depending on which date you signed up for)

You have now read a number of pieces that deal with language development: Amy Tan in "Mother Tongue" writes of her mother's, and her own, use of different "Englishes"; Sherman Alexie writes of how his passion for reading "broke down" doors for him and led him to become a writer; Paule Marshall describes listening to the poetry in the speech of her mother and her mother's friends; Chang-Rae Lee looks back with pity on his mother's efforts to learn English and on her "mute" status when her English was poor; Marjorie Agosin writes of her dislocation into another language, another culture; Gloria Naylor addresses the power of language aimed not to her but at her.

All these examples can provide a starting place for you to write your own literacy narrative. How did you come into language? Whose rhythms of speech gave you a feeling of being at home? What languages enable you to express what you think of as your real and authentic self? In what languages do you feel muted or silenced or constrained? What reading practices defined you as a member of a particular culture? How has reading allowed you to escape the confines of your home culture in some way or other? How has it been a secure haven for you?

This is your first formal essay assignment for our class, but you don't need to use formal language to write it. Instead, try to think of ways you can represent yourself on the page—your voice, your personality. Those qualities always make for interesting writing. Remember that you are writing about yourself and your experiences here, so don't worry at all about using the "vertical pronoun," I.