A Semester of Self-Discovery

Throughout this challenging, yet rewarding course, I have learned the importance of many things. While English has never been my strongest subject, I feel that I have been able to flourish in this class. From reading interesting books and truly dissecting them and pondering the meaning behind the words, I have been able to identify better and understand racial struggles as well as social insensitivities from diving into Zadie Smith’s Swing Time. Also, I have altered my perspective on technology as well as adjust the manner in which I use my cell phone daily from reading Jean Twenge’s article, “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” as well as writing letters on pen and pad. Both of these aspects have had positive impacts on my life as well as my outlook on the future.

When reading the novel, Swing Time, I came to realize just how ignorant we as human beings can be, without even having malicious intentions. The narrator herself has her own, personal instances of cultural ignorance. I realized just how easy it is for us to stereotype and generalize ourselves, while not even realizing we are doing so. On a plane traveling over Togo in Africa, the narrator questions Fern (an employee of Aimee’s, the narrator’s celebrity boss, who is knowledgeable of the town the charity school is being built in as part of Aimee’s charitable endeavor) about his time in Africa. When Fern relayed back that he had no idea what Togo was like, the narrator brushes it off by assuming that all of Africa was the same, or at least similar enough to categorize into one experience. Fern rebukes, “If we were flying over Europe and you wanted to know what France was like, would it help if I described Germany?” (Smith, 194). This quote from the narrator is easily something that casually I would potentially say, and not even realize how ignorant it in fact was. Reading this has made me more aware of what I say in casual conversation. I certainly think about what is going to come out of my mouth more carefully than I previously did.

While Swing Time, was incredibly eye-opening, most impactful on my life was Jean Twenge’s article, Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? Reading this article assigned to us during the first weeks of the semester has indeed changed my outlook on life. That may sound like a clichéd statement. However, I find myself more aware of how much I use my phone. Once I discovered how much I use electronic devices, I was determined to combat my attachment to them. I began curbing the use of my cell-phone as much as possible. During the day, I have been leaving my phone in the car when eating at a restaurant with a friend or shopping. At night, I charge my phone on the kitchen counter instead of my bedside table, to prevent staying awake for an additional hour, mindlessly scrolling through social media. I have even gone as far as purchasing an alarm clock to forgo the need for my cell-phone to be near. This refrainment has resulted in more extended periods of rest at night and a quicker time of getting out of bed in the morning. From reading and taking advice from this article, I have rediscovered the joy of not having my pockets vibrate at all times, and thus do not have the immediate need to check on what was notifying me. In a way, I have improved my mental health and gained more freedom.When discussing the state of mental health, Twenge writes, “Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011. It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones” (paragraph 6). After reading this, if I was able to alter just a tiny bit of my actions with technology, others can too, thus potentially improving the current state of mental health and suicide rates.

Concerning Twenge’s article regarding the abandonment of screen time, I felt that writing letters with pen and paper were extremely beneficial. Putting my cellular device and concentrating on what I wanted to say to the person receiving the message helped my ideas flow and enabled me to focus on solely that person. I was hesitant to this method when we first discussed it at the beginning of the semester, but it surprisingly became one of my favorite activities that we did. I cannot speak for the rest of my classmates, but I for one will continue to write letters periodically, forgoing an email or text message.

This semester has indeed been one of great, yet surprising discoveries. Going into a creative writing class fairly begrudgingly at the beginning of the semester, I quickly realized that I had the wrong attitude. Reading and discussing ideas and interpretations as a class helped shape new ideas for me from different perspectives. This class shaped up to be one of the best of my spring semester, and I learned many valuable lessons and enlightening self-realizations.

Works Cited

Smith, Zadie. Swing Time. Penguin Books, 2017.

Twenge, Jean M. “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” The Atlantic, Sept. 2017,


Annotated Bibliography

Beatty, Robert. Serafina and the Black Cloak. Disney/Hyperion, 2015.

A tale of a hidden girl, unknown to the world aside from her Pa, Robert Beatty’s Serafina and the Black Cloak enraptures readers through heartwarming adventures and fiendish crimes. Serafina struggles with her identity and state of life throughout the book as she is in search of the villain stealing the souls of children, while still remaining hopeful for friends and a life of happiness. Throughout the book, her confidence begins to flourish as she battles the demons within the walls of Biltmore, as well as within herself.

Bettelheim, Bruno. The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales.

Vintage Books, 2010.

In this excerpt from an expose on the importance of fairytales, The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales, Bruno Bettelheim depicts how fairytales are part of a child’s life foundation. By using surface-level characters with a clear distinction between good and evil, fairytales help shape a child’s notion of right and wrong.

Collins, Billy. “Snow Day by Billy Collins.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation,


Billy Collins takes the reader on a familiar journey through the activities of a town ridden with the delight of a day in the snow in his poem, “Snow Day.” The narrator of the poem is clearly content with the hindrance the snow brings to the town and basks in the lazy day it offers. He takes us on a tour of the town and the reader observes the activities that take place in a town that is still for just a day.

Richtel, Matt. “Blogs vs. Term Papers.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 20 Jan.

2012, www.nytimes.com/2012/01/22/education/edlife/muscling-in-on-the-term-paper-tradition.html.

Matt Richtel brings an important analysis of stylistic teachings in the classroom in his article, “Blogs vs. Term Papers”, as well as the pros and cons that go along with them. Richtel relays teacher testimonials in regards to the results they see in a more laid-back, casual environment, versus a formal essay format full of structure and strict rules.

Smith, Zadie. Swing Time. Penguin Books, 2017.

In Zadie Smith’s book, Swing Time, is a recollected tale of two African-American girls and their journey through childhood into adulthood, told through the lens of an unnamed narrator. Smith depicts the narrator’s life as extremely complicated, bouncing through different periods in her life which include her childhood in London, as well as the difficult profession of being the pop-superstar, Aimee’, personal assistant. Gradually the reader sees exactly what happened in her life to both of the girls, and how these experiences lead to where she is now.

Twenge, Jean M. “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” The Atlantic, Sept. 2017,


In Jean Twenge’s critical analysis of the ever-growing connection in mental health degradation and the attachment to mobile devices in the youth of today, one comes to realize the seriousness of the matter. Twenge uses statistics and data trends to show a decline in dates, social interaction, and sex drive from a polarizing topic in today’s technology-driven culture. Through Twenge’s graphs and polls, individuals can assess their own attachment to technology, and perhaps link in depression or other negative aspects, and correct their mistakes.


Swinging Through Appropriation

Soon after experiencing the sudden termination of her assistant position (verging on friendship through blurred lines) for a global superstar, Aimee, the narrator begins to reflect on the past quarter-century of her life to come to grips with where her life is now. Time hopping through an imaginative autobiographical depiction of a girl struggling with growing up in the all too common complicated childhood, culminating into complicated adulthood, we as readers learn of the numerous instances of ignorance during her lifetime. While reading the novel, a theme of ignorance is repeatedly noticeable throughout Zadie Smith’s Swing Time through multiple characters participating in cultural appropriation.

Most obviously liable to cultural appropriation in Smith’s, Swing Time, is the luminary pop culture icon, Aimee. In Swing Time, the instances of appropriation are plentiful with this legend of the music industry. Smith brings this to the reader’s attention when the narrator tells of one of the ways that Aimee is “inspired” by the narrator’s habitual reading. The narrator recollects on this as she is waiting for Aimee to finish a dance rehearsal by internally pondering, “sometimes she took ideas from the books I gave her – a period or a character or a political idea – which would then end up, in a flattened and vulgar form, in one video or song or another.” (Smith, 132). Probably being the most clearly stated form of cultural appropriation in this novel, Zadie Smith signifies that Aimee is taking ideas from someone else and passing them on as her own, in a crude representation.

Throughout the novel, the narrator herself has her own instances of cultural ignorance. While on a plane traveling over Togo in Africa, the narrator questions Fern (an employee of Aimee’s who is knowledgeable of the town the charity school is being built in as part of Aimee’s charitable endeavor) about his time in Africa. When Fern relayed back that he had no idea what Togo was like, the narrator brushes it off by assuming that all of Africa was the same, or at least similar enough to categorize into one experience. Fern rebukes, “If we were flying over Europe and you wanted to know what France was like, would it help if I described Germany?” (Smith, 194). It is clear that ignorance can transcend many cultures and status levels, not simply the rich and famous.

Similar to Aimee’s form of appropriation, Hollywood movies do these imitations all the time. Representation of this misappropriation comes about in Smith’s novel through the real-life film, Ali Baba Goes to Town. While it is a classic, it features many culturally insensitive stereotypes. Ali Baba is a film that the narrator loves and watches over and over. However, even she recognizes the stigma attached to the film. While depicting the film she paints the image of white characters in blackface and wearing Hollywood Arabian clothing. The narrator watches the scenes and describes, “Excited, Cantor starts blacking up, right then and there, painting his face with a burned piece of cork” (Smith, 191). By using a movie from 1937 appropriating cultures, Smith shows that the same practices are continuing today, through celebrities such as Aimee.

Cultural appropriation and ignorance are seen more and more in news-headlines today. From white students at universities with dreadlocks to models caught in the cross-fire of sexualizing a Native American headdress, appropriation is becoming an increasingly prevalent topic of debate. While appreciation for other cultures is fantastic, it is important to do so respectfully, and not in a vulgar manner or in poor taste. By using these instances of appropriation in Swing Time, Zadie Smith manages to showcase the different forms of cultural naivety through her variety of characters.

Works Cited

Smith, Zadie. Swing Time. Toronto: Penguin Canada, 2016.

Nightmare Realities of an American Horror Story

Shortly after Viviene Harmon faces the burden of delivering her unborn child in a dismal hospital room, she discovers her beloved husband, Dr. Ben Harmon, having an affair with one of his college students. Outraged and heartbroken, the family moves from Boston, across the country to Los Angeles, along with their daughter, Violet, to start anew. Once there, however, their nightmares are just beginning. Following the Harmon’s plunge further into chaos, the television-show phenomenon, American Horror Story: Murder House enraptured viewers across the globe in its sensational ability to deliver important, close-to-home life lessons of infidelity, betrayal, and heartbreak wrapped in a terrifyingly twisted bow.

Easy to come across as simply a shock and scare horror series, American Horror Story may seem like something of little substance. However, when taking a deeper look at the underlying themes, one soon realizes the genius behind the macabre. Following the Harmon’s relocation to a nostalgic neighborhood of old Hollywood, things immediately turn awry. While plagued with actual demonic and spiritual presences of the home’s past, it appears that the actual demons that come out to play are the secrets that Ben harbors from the family for many months.

Despite Ben’s numerous attempts at rekindling his marriage with Viviene, it is apparent that he has not been completely forth-telling with Viviene since their departure from Boston. His infidelity has continued, with his younger mistress, and he has even traveled back to Boston to provide emotional support through her abortion procedure, without telling his wife, in attempt to avoid any more drama than the family already faces.

Symbolizing Dr. Harmon’s debauchery, the maid of the home, Moira (a spirit trapped in the house along with many others), takes on the form of a promiscuous French maid to lure Ben into additional sexual traps, while appearing as an innocent, elderly woman to the women of the house. Moira, herself, was raped and killed in the house out of retaliation by her employer in the 80s and has made it her eternal mission to unmask the perversions of men. Ben manages to resist her temptations and eventually comes to terms with how extensive the consequences of his actions have affected his wife.

As we as humans face the grizzly realities of life and relationships day to day, we realize that the horrors that Dr. Harmon and Vivien face on this show of fiction are far too real. With marriages on the brink of disaster appearing more and more frequently from one-night indiscretions, one can appreciate, and perhaps learn, from the candor and honesty this morbid tale of betrayal and heartbreak presents.


Work Cited

  • Britton, Connie, Dylan McDermott, Taissa Farmiga, Denis P. O’Hare, Jessica Lange,

Evan Peters, Lily Rabe, Ryan Murphy, and Brad Falchuk. American Horror Story: The Complete First Season., 2012.

Musical Appreciation

Music has always been incorporated into my life in some form or fashion. From the time I was three, I began taking part in piano lessons and cultivating an appreciation for classical music. Recitals and practicing consumed many of my afternoons following school, and to be honest, for a few years I despised the activity. It felt more like a chore than a leisurely pastime. As I acquired more skills and began branching out into different musical styles and genres,  I began to enjoy the piano much more.

While I am not taking lessons anymore, I still play anytime I get the chance. It is indeed a skill that comes in handy, and I am incredibly grateful to have obtained that talent.