Writing has always been the one thing I took much pride in. From a young age I was told you write very well, very articulate and so I figured this was my calling. However, the following statement was always you must read a lot and I would timidly reply, not really. At this point, it was clear that I would have to push myself to read more but specifically, read material that would challenge my intellect. I mastered this craft in high school by being exposed to a variety of texts ranging from the Odyssey in freshman year to Paradise Lost in my senior year.
I remember sitting at the dinner table bawling tears because I could not understand what the characters were saying and my father said to me, “Do you want me to transfer you out of this school?” and for a second I thought to myself this is my opportunity to get out and then I thought to myself you can’t give up so easily. So I wiped my tears and began to dissect each sentence by defining each word or phrase that I did not know. This technique helped me to not be afraid to read complex stories and to do whatever I could to understand the text, after all, how could I write about something that I didn’t understand?
Entering college I felt as though I was already equipped with the tools I needed in order to be a successful reader and I was. Although, there was one thing that I learned this semester that I had not learned in high school, and that was how to analyze images. We divulged in a series of comic books that forced me to think beyond the words and incorporate what I saw into the major ideas that I would formulate. For essay 2 about Ms. Marvel, instead of just talking about what was being said in the text, I also described what I saw on the page.
“Kamala’s power to embiggen allows her to defy the stereotype that Muslim people are dangerous and Muslim women are submissive. In the panel where Kamala has embiggened in front of the police officers, she makes a statement. Rather than shape-shifting back into the expected Ms. Marvel, Kamala throws on a mask and firmly states, “I’m Ms.Marvel”. In addition to appearing as herself, when Kamala embiggens and is now looking down at the officers, her stance is very assertive. This panel is a message to law enforcement, the government, and society saying that not all Muslims are dangerous and violent. Despite that she is a young female, she is still powerful.”
By including the visual aspect of the comic book into my writing I was able to elaborate on my idea and write a much more specific and stronger analysis.
In “My Life’s Sentences,” Jhumpa Lahiri writes “Constructing a sentence is the equivalent of taking a Polaroid snapshot: pressing the button, and watching something emerge. To write one is to document and to develop at the same time.” The idea here is that with writing you take it one word at a time so that when all of the sentences are complete and connected you can appreciate the final word more than the first. By then you would have pieced together a cohesive message, whose sentences act as stepping stones along the way developing the idea over time.
After reading the first chapter of El Deafo by Cece Bell, I sympathized with Cece because she was suddenly diagnosed with hearing loss and instantly lost her self-esteem once she realized that she would have to communicate differently from others. In a short response I wrote:
“I understand Cece’s frustration with her mom trying to persuade her to learn sign language. She feels that if she’s seen signing with someone or vice versa that people will look at her different. However, I feel like her mom should have a conversation with her where she explains that whether or not she’s deaf, people will always find something to talk about. Cece has to build tough skin and learn to not be concerned with what everyone is saying all the time because she’s going to drive herself crazy. Once she learns how to be content with herself and her disability, what others have to say won’t matter as much.”
Although it was short, this response was one that took me some time to write because I had to think about the advice that I would give to Cece as someone who does not have a disability, but as someone who has struggled with self-esteem my entire life. Each sentence prompted me to think a little bit deeper about Cece’s situation eventually leaving me to create a thoughtful yet, universal message.
In “If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me What Is?” James Baldwin wrote that language is “a political instrument, means, and proof of power. It is the most vivid and crucial key to identity: It reveals the private identity, and connects one with, or divorces one from, the larger, public or communal identity”(781). Through the reading and writing that we have done this semester, I believe that both my reading and writing have connected me to the greater world. Prior to this class I was never interested in reading comic books because I thought they were all based on superheroes and things of that nature but after reading Ms. Marvel, El Deafo, and Soon I Will Be Invincible I realized that I should consider expanding my interest and experiencing new material in literature, as those three novels connect to universal ideas. By analyzing and discussing the major themes in each text I have been able to view the issues that people face through different perspectives which have improved my reading and writing skills.