Students in yours truly Jan Term course “The Art of Race: (Re) Imagining Ethnicity, Race, and Identity in Literature, Art, & Pop Culture” are working hard on their final project, which is a creative writing assignment to write poetry, short fiction, or a personal essay inspired by the artists, writers, musicians, and theorists we’ve studied on how race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality inspire and shape creative work and how the different forms of art can redefine and interrogate notions of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. We’re ending the term by looking at Junot Diaz’s Drown and his MFA vs. POC written originally for Dismantle: An Anthology of Writing for VONA workshops and later published by The New Yorker.
The students have really responded to and ran with the prompts we’ve been working with and requested a third and final prompt, which I’ve included below for you to have a go if you so choose.
Create a list of fifteen items, including objects, images, songs, movies, TV shows, magazines, albums, clothing, jewelry, toys, household items, etc. that remind you of your childhood. Don’t edit or over-think but try to list as many items that represent your childhood and adolescence then chose two or three and write about them in as full description as you can. What do they look like? What colors? What do they smell like? What do they sound like? What are the textures? Where are they soft? Scratchy? Smooth? Bumpy? What did it feel like to hold them? What kind of feelings surfaced when you engaged with them? Where did they come from? Who gave them to you? Do you remember when you first received them or noticed them? What kind of memories are they attached to? What kind of wonder do they spark? Examine each carefully as if it were a precious stone or a sacred relic. How would you describe them to someone who couldn’t see and who didn’t know what your childhood meant to you?
Taking a cue from both Junot Diaz and Barbara Jane Reyes, recall work day mornings with your parents or guardians and write a description of their morning ritual before leaving for work. What did s/he wear for work (tie, heels, uniform, cuff-links)? How did s/he prepare in the morning? What kind of ritual did s/he practice? Hurried? Slow paced? Make breakfast? Rush out the door before you were awake? What kind of expression did s/he usually have? Worried? Tired? Excited? What did s/he take with him to work (briefcase, purse, coffee mug, water bottle, packed lunch)? Did you have time to talk with your parent or guardian before you both left for school or work? What did you usually talk about? Was there a specific memorable morning you shared together, and if so, what made it memorable? Conversely, recall the evenings or afternoons when your parent/guardian returned from work? What hour? Was s/he tired? Did s/he need time alone to decompress? Did s/he start cooking dinner immediately? What was the ritual returning from work?
Inspired by Junot Diaz, pick a memorable moment with a significant other or close friend and recreate the details of that moment. What time of day? Where were you? What where you both wearing? What was the weather like? What time of year? Who else was there? What were they saying? What were they doing? What was the dialogue between you and your significant other? What kind of tension were you facing together? What kind of tension were you both facing individually? What were your fears at the time? What were your hopes? What were your significant other’s fears and hopes? How did his/her fears and hopes conflict with yours? How did they coincide? Now twist the moment. How would it have gone differently if you said something opposite to what you actually said or did something opposite to what you actually did? Would you still be together as friends or partners? How would you have fractured or mended the relationship? How would you have complicated or simplified the moment?
More to come on “The Art of Race”…