GWRIT 102D Fall 2001
Essay Assignment #1

Essay Topics

Both Rodriguez' and Ruiz' essays are personal narratives, but they are also historical pieces that represent a very unique "way of seeing." When we read these pieces, we bring our own histories to them and, in this way, make them our own. For this first essay, I'd like you to represent yourself through your history. I am asking you to take an approach similar to Rodriguez' or Ruiz' (or, most likely, some combination of the two). Remember these histories will represent your way of seeing at least a portion of what has made you who you are. And remember, also, that we (your audience) will be bringing our own ways of seeing to every word you write!

Try, in whichever essay you choose, to bring in at least three outside "sources" that you will cite to MLA specifications. Three sources are required. You may, however, use as many outside sources as you'd like. This will require that you include a "Works Cited" list at the end of the essay.

Choose one of the following:

1. In "The Achievement of Desire," Richard Rodriguez tells stories of home but also stories of reading, of moments when things he read allowed him a way of reconsidering or revising the stories he would tell himself about himself. It is a very particular account of neighborhood, family, ethnicity, and schooling.

At the same time, Rodriguez insists that his story is also everyone's story-that his experience is universal. Take an episode from your life, one that seems in some ways similar to one of the episodes in "The Achievement of Desire," and cast it into a shorter version of Rodriguez's essay.

Try to look at your experience-your history-in Rodriguez's terms, which means thinking the way he does, noticing what he would notice, interpreting details in a similar fashion, seeing through his point of view; it could mean imitating his style of writing, doing whatever it is you see him doing characteristically when he writes. Imitation, Rodriguez argues, is not necessarily a bad thing; it can be one of the powerful ways a person learns.

You will want to try to focus your essay on an overarching thesis. Be sure, also, to provide details and examples to back up any generalizations. Try very, very hard, in fact, to avoid using any generalizations at all!

2. In "Oranges and Sweet Sister Boy," Judy Ruiz weaves a history with flashbacks (some that are actual, some that are made up, such as the scene of her conception), present observations philosophies she has developed as a result of her experiences, and quotes from articles and experts. Like Rodriguiz, she also occasionally refers to herself in the third person. Although her essay, at first glance, appears to be a random collection of events and observations, the piece is actually highly focused.

Try to write an essay about something that you have experienced or learned or observed using something along the lines of Ruiz's approach. One of the rhetorical techniques that Ruiz uses to keep her essay unified is that of an ongoing metaphor-the orange. See if you, too, can develop a metaphor that represents the history you will recount in your essay.


o 1000-1500 words, 12 pts., typed, double-spaced, with a title.

o Three outside sources. Only two may be from the internet.

o Stapled and pages numbered!

o Correct citations and correctly formatted "Works Cited" list placed at the end of the essay if outside sources are used.

Reminders from our syllabus:

The Draft: Reminder-this is a DRAFT!! Expect to make significant changes or additions to it when you revise. Feel free to test things out and to experiment with writing techniques. I will of course be looking for a general focus, good mechanics, and so on, but I will also be looking for original thinking and honest, deeply considered responses.

1. It has a main idea--a conceptual framework--although it is all right if this idea is not yet fully formed. I'd prefer that you use your draft to work toward figuring something out--perhaps something that will be crystallized upon revision.
2. The main idea is developed with concrete details and examples.
3. All quotes or paraphrases are cited to MLA specifications (including references to WOR essays and references to Webboard postings of other students in the class).
4. It should fulfill the word requirement (approx. 250 words per page) with a type size of 12 points.
5. It must be written on a word processor
6. On the day that your draft is due, you must bring 20 extra copies if it is your turn to have a whole-class workshop.

The Revision: The revision should represent a substantial rewriting of the draft based on class discussion, peer editor advice, and my comments. You will need to produce a thorough re-vision of your earlier draft, not simply a corrected or slightly amended version. If you hand in a revision with only simple corrections, you will most likely receive a lower grade than you did on your draft. We will talk more about revision versus correction in class.

Note: Drafts must be handed in with revisions in order for you to get credit.


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