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Posts Tagged ‘I’ll Give you the Sun’

I have signed up to participate in a few online communities this summer, two of which started last week while I was vacationing: #cyberpd and an online book club. This week Kate Messner’s Teachers Write virtual writing camp began. As I was thinking about Sara Ahmed’s book Being the Change (the book chosen for #cyberpd), I thought of a way I could connect ideas across all that I was studying. Let’s see if this works.

The first chapter of Ahmed’s book guides us to writing activities around identity as a way to begin to see our students and treat them with a kindness that comes from knowing them.

Identity has never been a problem for me, really. I grew up seeing a large portrait of my maternal grandmother holding her violin on her lap. She wore a flowing white gown and looked beyond the viewer in such a way that I felt her presence without judgment. I was named for her and have always thought she was my guardian angel. (She died 3 months before I was born.) This portrait still hangs in my parents’ dining room. Maybe it’s wrong to hang your identity on a portrait, but this heritage comes to mind when I think about who I am and who I came from.

In the Teachers Write prompt for Monday warm-up with Jo Knowles, we were asked to think about the identity of our character in our WIP (work in progress). Her exact instructions involved imagining a photograph of your character at the end of the story, but I made the leap myself to identity.

The character I am currently writing about is far from who I am. She was born on the heels of emancipation as a black woman. Her intelligence and education took her out of the South to San Francisco in 1901. My intuition tells me that she would have struggled with identity. She was a light-skinned black woman, and there is some supposition that she acted as white in San Francisco. If this is true, how did she feel about the denial she was living in? Was she proud of who she had become or ashamed at who she left behind? Identity can be complicated.

 

In the book I’ll Give you the Sun, one of the characters, Noah, is a boy of 14 coming of age and falling in love with another boy. His identity is rocked by this realization. His expression is his art. In what ways can creativity help us understand our identity? Can poetry, like art, help me write about my character’s identity as well as my own. How connected are we all when it comes to identity? How separate?

Sara Ahmed suggests an identity web for students to draw and come back to throughout the year. Can I use an identity web to better know my WIP character? An identity web is also a great tool for getting to know a fictional character like Noah.

Identity is important when it comes to valuing others for who they are.  We must value our own identities, accept them as OK; we certainly cannot change them.  And yet, when we are faced with new characters in our lives, either from fiction, from history, or our very own students, we should accept and honor their identities.  Our differences, our connections, our shared lives make this world an interesting and wonderful place.

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