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3.6: Essays

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    This chapter is brought to you by Sybil Priebe.

    “I thought I was going to write fiction, but I fell backwards into non-fiction. It started when I got locked out of two apartments in one day and I told the story to some friends, one of whom worked in the 'Village Voice' and asked me to turn it into an essay.”

    – Sloane Crosley

    “Essays32 are brief, non-fiction compositions that describe, clarify, argue, or analyze a subject. Students might encounter essay assignments in any school subject and at any level of school, from a personal experience ‘vacation’ essay in middle school to a complex analysis of a scientific process in graduate school.”

    I’ve written essays about all sorts of topics. I’ve written an essay about whether shaved heads on women are attractive, I’ve written an essay about Chuck Klosterman being a god and theoretically having his own religion (serious, it’s even in a BOOK), and I’ve written essays about everything in between.

    My point is that the range of topics for the genre of ESSAY is varied beyond belief. Just as the topics for any given essay in any given writing class are varied, so are the lengths, the audiences, and the formats. You might have one instructor who tells you that the fiveparagraph essay is the and then the next instructor will say, “Be creative! Ditch that five-paragraph crap!”

    How to Write an Essay33

    Traditionally34, the parts of an essay consist of three parts: the introductory paragraph or introduction, the body paragraphs, and the concluding paragraph. An essay does not need to be this simple, but it is a good starting point.

    • The introductory paragraph accomplishes three purposes: it captures the reader’s interest, it suggests the importance of the essay’s topic, and it ends with a thesis.
    • Each body paragraph begins with a topic sentence. If the thesis contains multiple points or assertions, each body paragraph should support or justify them, preferably in the order the assertions originally stated in the thesis. Thus, the topic sentence for the first body paragraph will refer to the first point in the thesis sentence and the topic sentence for the second body paragraph will refer to the second point in the thesis sentence.
    • Every body paragraph uses specific details, such as anecdotes, comparisons and contrasts, definitions, examples, expert opinions, explanations, facts, and statistics to support and develop the claim that its topic sentence makes.
    • The concluding paragraph usually restates the thesis and leaves the reader something about the topic to think about. If appropriate, it may do one of the following four items: issue a call to act, give a warning or piece of advice, predict the future, or evaluate the topic at hand.


    Imagine growing up in the United States, being exposed to many ethnic groups and cultures, coming together and getting along with no issue or problem at all. Wouldn’t that be amazing? If ALL races from many cultures came together and rose above with one another? Well here in this lovely country of The United States of America – shit like that does not fly by that easily. This is a snapshot of my story of being born on this soil of hatred, racism, sexism, in a misogynistic country. I hope to share this piece with you, the reader, the audience, whomever you are – please read and inhale what I am gifting to you. Writing this piece was an intense moment for me. My former professor at Minneapolis College asked me to write a piece about my run-ins with racism and hatred from others when I shared one of my stories from my past in class one time. It took a lot of courage and strength to write this, but I do hope this does give you an eye opener that racism is real and has been alive for centuries. I hope one day we do change this and put it to death and move on from it. No good comes from evil.

    The first time that I am speaking of is my first encounter with racism. This is something I did not even know existed or heard of. This was something that did scar me for a very long, long time and my innocence was taken from me. Let me break it down for you what happened, this may shock and “wow” so just be aware. I was at a park, happily playing on the playground area and sliding the down slide over and over again, swinging back and forth as the air pushed me, each sway and a sun kiss each time I swayed forward. Just being a kid – with no worries or negative thoughts in the world but something dark always interrupts the fairytale. This, the first time.

    I was playing on the playground and this girl that was my age approached me and asked if I wanted to play with her. I said yes because I was told to be nice and kind to those who are nice and kind toward me. I remember what she looked like and what she was wearing but her name is a blur to me. She was blonde, blue eyes like the water. I swear if you stared too long you might drown in them, pale and fair skin with a pink shirt and yellow and polka dotted shorts. She was cute and a fearless young girl. We played and played, laughing out loud like this could be the best day ever, but it turned for the worse. Her grandfather was an older man with blonde and white hair, pasty and burnt skin color, and blue eyes like the little girl’s but his eyes had red veins in them. Like he hadn’t slept for days and days or was mad as Hell at someone. He was mad-- at me. He told his granddaughter “they” had to go because it was getting dangerous. She looked around and pulled back from him. I was looking around because I got uncomfortable with what was going on. It was sad seeing this girl dropping her face, and her smile disappearing. I was focusing on her and did not realize her grandfather pushed me away from her and called me names and spat on me.

    I was numb. The girl began to cry and pushed her grandfather, which woke him up, realizing how badly he fucked up. I turned around and went to my Dad with spit and sadness drenched into my pores and soul. My father looked at me and wiped the spit off me and asked what happened and who was responsible. I kept my head down and did not want to talk but I found it in me to point at the old man. My father walked toward his direction. I remember my brothers running toward them. You could hear them arguing and yelling at each other. Next thing, my father pushed the old man over the playground and had his fist up but saw me looking at him and walked away. The little girl was crying and crying, and nothing made it right. The old man started to feel guilty and ashamed as the bystanders shook their heads at him and he looked at his granddaughter. That was the first time and day racism made its presence in my life. This is something that made me scared to talk to any other race other than my own but even my race was mean to me.

    I lost faith in humankind at a young age and that should have not been the case. Kids learn from us. Kids can see what is going on and comprehend a little bit. Just a little bit could hurt that child for long time – like it did me and many others who experienced this act a young age. Many of you are wondering what happened afterwards. Well, we did not call the police, and the police did not show up. We simply left and did not go out for many weeks to parks, lakes, or malls. We simply avoided any area that White people were in. I would not talk to one or even look at them in the eye. I had a fear of them. I was scared to approach any kids or adults that were White. I struggled a lot in school, but I tried my hardest to not show it at home. My father felt powerless after the event. He started to withdraw from everyone that was not family or close friends. He simply did not like to talk to anyone unless he had to.

    My father told me a story about when he first to the United States in the ‘80s, and that was it was different. People were calmer, nicer, more welcoming, and simply did not mistreat you by the color of your skin. It just did not happen at all.

    I had a hard time believing it because of my experience with it. He stated that during the Reagan Administration, he felt welcomed here. He was excited to come here and get all the opportunities that he could and provide for himself and his family back home. My father’s story was very similar to my mothers’ as well. She too came here during that era. They stated they never faced racism at all until my experience. I felt like there was some root of evil that was birthed hundreds of years ago but is now making its appearance again in this era. But it starts with one man, our “amazing leader” – Mr. Number 45 himself. I refuse to mention his name. It disgusts me to my very core.

    When the 2016 Presidential Elections happened, it was saddening and shocking to see all the hatred, bigotry, homophobia, and racism be birthed again. It was sad to see where America was heading. We were going to a dead end – fast. Watching all the ridiculous and irrational candidates on both sides was funny and sad at the same time. I could not believe that these individuals could have a job that gave them power. The rest of the individuals were just as foolish as he was. 45’s facial expressions would get to me. I wonder how his family could stand the sight of him. I wonder how anyone can? I always questioned what was so great about this man? There was nothing amazing about him at all. He did not seem like he was a man that could lead a company because he was bankrupt. But how did we let him be in charge of our country? I was devastated with the outcome of the elections.

    When this man was running, all presentations at each state were heart wrenching to watch. I could not believe that people were there to support him! I was sad to see children and women there. This man nationally and internationally said, “GRAB THEM BY THE PUSSY.” Like who the fuck says that shit? That is so nasty and not what a president would say. It’s not their demeanor. This man has children of his own – daughters. What would make it okay for someone that is going to lead a nation to be taken seriously like that? What would make it okay for a nation to think this is funny and stand behind him? What would make it okay for someone to say bigoted and racist things where the minority population is growing? HOW? Can someone please to explain to us?

    This man called Hispanics “criminals, rapists, and thugs” and said Middle- Eastern people should be banned. Everything was being reversed that the Obama administration was trying to do or get done. We are being oppressed and challenged under this administration. I felt targeted even though I am from here. I was being asked by people if I was born from here or if I had DACA because I am a minority. I was disgusted with both genders belittling me because I was shade darker than them. I was tired of being called names or of having people ask me if I enlisted to become documented; it pissed me the fuck off. I was scared to go out because of the possibility of encountering one of these mad people. I did not even want to speak my foreign language because I did not want to be targeted anymore; I was scared to take my child with me. I was sad that she came in the era where racism comes in all ages and shades. I was scared of it. I did not want her to be exposed to it while being out in public with me. I mean who would? Who would want to have kids in this time? It is not a time to be alive. It is not a time where progress is being made. It is not. I never felt so ashamed to be in the skin color that I am until I came to this college. I always felt so targeted before I came here. This school was a safe haven for me. Like it probably was for many others. I love everything about being a minority. Being Latina. I am a rose in the making and will establish my roots deep in this world. For those of my own to carry it on.

    45 will never silence me. He pushes me to be the hardest, strongest, and ambitious Latina. I promised my daughter that I will not let this man stereotype us and oppress us. I will rise above it all. The stereotypes, the statistics, and those who are believing that we are just “greasers that take everyone’s jobs,” – that was something that I could not stand hearing because no one was taking anyone’s job. My people would work the shit jobs that require hard work and long days. I remember my parents working these jobs before they got better jobs that they have now. When you go on the streets of the Twin Cities and the surrounding suburbs of these cities, you see mainly Caucasian men or women on these streets begging for money instead of a job. This is a fact that we never address at all, but we can acknowledge Hispanics coming into this country “stealing jobs and doing crime” here on the news, or wherever else. I never felt we were stealing jobs or doing crime – some of us do but not all of us do. Therefore, I feel we should not be stereotyped by these stigmas at all. It is rude and arrogant to do.

    I always worked hard since I was sixteen-years-old because I got tired of depending on my hard-working parents, and I wanted to see what it was like to work and go make my own money. When I was a junior in high school, you think of the future a lot because there’s pressure in America to know what you want to do with yourself by the start and end of your senior year. At the beginning of senior year, there was a staff waiting at this board where all seniors are supposed to go and write down where they were going after high school. I did not have anything until I was the last to put on there that I was going to the military. Oh yes, I went off to the military – how chaotic and insane of me, right? I legit thought that I was going to be a badass and saving this country from our “enemies” overseas but in reality, our enemies are on this land of ours. Do not get me wrong, it was an amazing experience because I learned about myself a lot and made a new family but there were some low and ugly parts of this world that I wish did not exist.

    Let me fast forward you to the day that I met my new leader; he was pretty cool at first and seemed like he was going to care for me but as the years went on and on, he became more of a prick. An asshole. Of course, you cannot say a thing to your superiors because you are “supposed” to show respect to them, however, I do think you should give respect when it is earned. I mean isn’t that how things should be? But as the 2016 Presidential Elections came around, I did see a whole new side to this individual that I did not like at all. I started to not like going there; I felt uncomfortable there. The family that I did make had a different side to them that I thought would never exist. I did not like this reality of these people as they would state their opinions of 45’s speeches and how they did agree with him. I started to hear “I am not trying to offend you but......” That saying would irk and make my blood boil quickly. Hearing that did make me change my ways and views on those that would say and make excuses about 45’s speeches, talks, and policies. Trust me- -- seeing and hearing the way these people would talk about him like he was some God was disturbing. “He really cares about the people.” Oh yeah? What people? Here is the best one yet, “he is going to take care of the military and refund us a lot of money. He is going to give us a raise and better bonuses.” I know what you are feeling, you just want to say “wow” or just want to laugh. Trust me, I laughed so hard in these people’s faces. This was the nature that I was exposed to after this man was running for president and became president. I don’t even acknowledge him as the president because that is something that he is far away from. A president is supposed to be a leader, a rational person, and someone who cares for those that help and build more opportunities in their homeland. The lovely individual that we are stuck with, is not; this man is filled with animosity, hatred, racism, and bigotry.

    If I could go back and not enlist, I probably would if I knew what the future was going to hold. I wanted to go all out and prove to those that I could become someone, and that, I still am doing. Do not get me wrong. I did meet some amazing individuals along this process, and it did teach me a lot about myself in this journey.

    Another path of this journey of being exposed to racism happened recently at Target. Imagine joking and laughing in Spanish and turning to hear someone say, “why can’t people learn the language here.?” Yes, that did happen to me. I still remember the old hag that said that to me. I was pretty disgusted and ashamed of the human race. I tell ya, I wanted to punch life and soul out of that waste of a life human being. A mother who had 3 kids with her watching this. They looked embarrassed and ashamed that their own birth giver said those wrenching words as they knew their mother fucked up at that moment right there. My mother, she is pretty old school and does not take shit from ANYONE. She was enraged and went to the lady and yelled at her where another elder woman, who witnessed this, stepped in and defended my mother. The woman told her she should be ashamed in herself as she is teaching her children how to hate and that is not good. The elder woman did handle this case pretty classy you should say. I would have never thought to hear someone step in and show someone their true ugly colors. As the older woman was defending my mother, the offender’s husband came around the corner. He was confused and asked why his wife was being attacked. The older woman scolded him about his wife and the man looked embarrassed and grabbed the kids and left the store. Others looked at her in disgust as she just stood there in shame. The store manager came around the corner and asked her to leave. The lady asked and pleaded to finish her shopping and that she would not bother others; the manager refused and proceeded to tell her to leave and that they did not accept that type of behavior. The lady started to cry, stated that she was sorry, and left as we shook our heads at her. We hugged the old lady and thanked her for helping us out.

    I felt so powerless in that moment. That my daughter was there to witness this animosity. I was pretty silent and quiet after that event. I was very serious. I did little communication with my mother afterwards. My mother knew I was so upset and did not want to talk. I had no intentions anyway. I had no reason why I needed to speak anymore. I was scared to be scorned by another person for embracing my first language by using it. I feel like I’m seeing this happen everywhere else. Others feel as scared as I do to embrace who I am. Where I come from, I am not 100% American to the White culture. I wonder to myself, what is an American? Because when you think of it, America belongs to the Natives and Mexicans before the colonizers took it from them.

    This is just a piece of my story to you. I hope you take these small stories and learn from them. Learn to love your neighbor and appreciate them for who they are. This does go a long way as well. Being evil and filled with hatred does not benefit you in the long run. I learned a lot in these obstacles that I came across and overcame. I became very resilient and open to those around me. Whether you are Black, Asian, White, etc. I appreciate you all and I hope you learn to spread love and good from one and another. I hope one day all groups will be able to reunite and become as one and will rise together.

    Assignment Options

    • PURPLE SQUIRREL. Are you a purple squirrel? This term is being used to describe students who are able to do the technical skills of a job while utilizing soft skills like written and verbal communication, critical thinking and problem solving, customer service, conflict resolution, etc. Write a 500+ essay broken down into five paragraphs. The introductory paragraph should include a description of the job you'll attempt to acquire when you graduate from college. Each of the three body paragraphs should describe the skill you have (whether it's a technical skill or soft skill) or want to have when you enter the job force. Be specific and give evidence/examples. This question should be answered in your fifth paragraph, the conclusion: What sets you apart from other people who want that job?
    • CHANGE: What would you change about yourself? It’s not just looks or circumstances, but who you are inside. Are there habits you want to break, hobbies you’d like to take up, or life changes you want to make? Introduce the person who you would like to be in the future.
    • FEAR. What do you fear? Fear is a powerful motivator, as are love and duty. Your fears shape parts of your life. Do you fear concrete things, such as spiders or public speaking? Do you fear abstract ideas, such as being alone or growing old? Explain what you fear and how that has affected your life.
    • If you were disabled how would your life be changed? Explain at least three different ways your life would be different.
    • How do you think the community you live in can benefit from your education when you graduate from this college? Explain three different ways your community could be changed.
    • How would your life be different had you been born into a different ethnicity/race/gender? Explain three different ways your life would be altered.
    • What are five qualities of a horrible relationship or friendship?

    32 Fleming, Grace. "What an Essay Is and How to Write One." ThoughtCo, Sep. 18, 2019,

    33 “How to Write an Essay/Parts.” Wikibooks, The Free Textbook Project. 22 Apr 2016, 07:12 UTC. 16 May 2016, 14:59 . Licensed CC-BY-SA.

    34 Feel free to write nontraditional essays!

    35 Las Espinas de mi Rosa by M. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International license. licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/legalcode

    This page titled 3.6: Essays is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Sybil Priebe, Ronda Marman, & Dana Anderson (North Dakota University System) .

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