Throughout the three weeks of summer school I have been having my students write short (very short) personal memoirs. The emphasis has been more on writing to express oneself than on grammar and technical proficiency and most of then entered into the exercise with enthusiasm, if not exactly flair. If there is one thing that is universal it is that people like to talk about themselves (*cough* blogs *cough*).
The final drafts have been trickling in to me over the last couple of days. None of them would win any awards, god knows, but there is a certain raw power to some of their prose. I always start any major writing project with the adviso that everything that is produced will be peer edited by other members of the class, by me and potentially by other faculty members, and that they should not write about anything that they are not comfortable having others read. Given this, I am always surprised by the intensely personal writing that is sometimes turned in to me.
Below are some excerpts from various students’ memoirs this summer. I have left all of the spelling and grammar as it was turned in to me. [sic] should be assumed.
“My childhood days were good! I never got in trouble like I do now. Well you might think that was because I was a little kid, but I don’t think so. Maybe it’s because different people have different opinions. Now since I have grown up from being a little kid I have become a whole lot smarter. I know you are thinking “But you are only a baby.” You have to look on the bright side of things.”
“Well when I was about eleven my mama and my daddy sat me down and told me that the man I thought was my daddy, who had been there when I was growing up and was with my mama since I was born was not my real daddy. He had met and married my mama after she was already pregnant. It was really hard for me to hear this and I was sad for a long time. I met my real dad and I talk to him and my other half brothers and sisters. I don’t think of my daddy or my brothers and sisters as steps- they are like my real family to me because I grown up with them.
“I made it! I made it to High School. [School] is so crunk and full of drama I could not have even imagined it. Other than being called “fresh meat” my first year was pretty cool. When everything starts to get crunk, is in the hallways while changing classes and at lunch. At lunch you have to fit in to have fun you have to have a little crew, because lunch at [School] is WILD!!!! If you are not having a fun time then something has got to be wrong with you, or you are just plain dumb.”
Most of those are fairly standard as far as the writing that gets turned in to me. Sometimes, however, I get one that just makes me put down my editing pen and sigh. I’ll be cruising through, crossing out “well”s and changing “to” to “too” and “4″ to “for” and I’ll read a passage that just takes my breath away and shows me a situation that I can not even imagine.
“Living with my grandma was fine at first, and then things got bad. My dad came to live with us after two months and he and grandma started doing drugs heavily. They also started to beat me all the time. I never went to school I always skipped. They sent me to get their dugs for them and then I started to sell drugs. Everyday I got deeper into the game; it is not fun as people say. I had to run from cops and fight all the time. I stopped going to school and sold more drugs. Then my grandma and my dad got busted with drugs. I moved in with my cousin [...] at thirteen. Then child services came and got me and took me to my moms.”
This student ends their memoir by saying, “I still love them even though they put me through alot. I wish the best for both of them. I have had a hard life but the way I look at it like there is someone has a harder life then me.”
The end. Yikes.