Day 102: The Art of the Personal Essay

Ahmed, R. (2016, September 15). Typecast as a terrorist. The Guardian. Retrieved from:

What is Sacred:
Riz Ahmed is a British actor who gained some accolades in his documentary film Road to Guantanemo. He writes about his "otherness" and the common lessons he has learned from trying to get through the international airports as well as from trying to break into the American film industry not as another "Paki," but as a regular bloke. 

It turned out that there was no clear pathway for an actor of colour in the UK to go to stage three – to play “just a bloke”. Producers all said they wanted to work with me, but they had nothing I could feasibly act in. The stories that needed to be told in the multicultural mid-2000s were about the all-white mid-1700s, it seemed. I heard rumours that the Promised Land was not in Britain at all, but in Hollywood.

The reason for this is simple. America uses its stories to export a myth of itself, just like the UK. The reality of Britain is vibrant multiculturalism, but the myth we export is an all-white world of lords and ladies. Conversely, American society is pretty segregated, but the myth it exports is of a racial melting-pot, everyone solving crimes and fighting aliens side by side.
Connections to my Current/Future Work:
I think in the classrooms, we don't do as much with the personal essay. We are so hell bent to do some kind of formulaic writing BS that we have lost the art of writing - writing as personal expression versus writing as generic, mind-numbing product.

I don't know what to do about that. I just know that students in K-12 don't write nearly as much, and the writing in English 100 is often so atrocious as to be lethal and not useful for later writing. If you doubt me, audit an English 100 course at your neighborhood community college.

I want to read student pieces that sound like this, that have something both personal and profound to say.


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