In Their Own Words: student writing on identity

I wanted to include a few examples of the student writing that came out of the identity unit. the writing workshops produced a wide range of pieces, both in terms of student skill level and genre. with their permission (and under their chosen pseudonyms), i included a sample of each student’s writing in the print version of the project. here, i’ve included three pieces that stood out to me: a poem on racial identity and self-determination, a detailed narrative on a gendered play experience, and a portrait of home, distant and indelible.

Who I Am

By Faith

Who I am

African American or black

I say I’m black

But society wants to hold me down to just

African American

My race

My thinking

Who I am

Shouldn’t be bound down to just

African American

I’m American




Who I am

People of society can’t tell me

I am strong willed

But that doesn’t matter to society

They don’t think it describes

Who I am

Telling me I’m African American


Who I am

Telling me I’m black


Who I am

No one can tell me

Who I am

So I have to tell myself

I am Black


The Toy Dinosaur

By Sara

One morning I was happy to wake up and go to Sunday school. I knew that today was going to be a special day, Toy Day. I arrived at the small building and started playing with my friends.

Everybody had already gotten there toys. I noticed how all the girls were playing with the same dolls, and the boys were playing with the same action figures. I figured out that I should probably get a Barbie or something. I looked in a box to find something to play with. I saw dolls, Barbies, Polly pockets, action figures, and more. I reached my hand to the bottom to see what else there was. My hand searched through it. Then I accidently hit a button that made a toy dinosaur rawer. I thought this was an awesome toy, a lot better than a Barbie. I took it out, and went back to all my friends.

I was playing with it for about a minute when my friends started staring at me. They saw what I was holding and were very surprised that I wasn’t playing with a Barbie or something. They asked me why I choose that toy out; I just shrugged and explained to them how I thought it was awesome. Some girls thought it was weird, but others thought that the dinosaur was cool.

A boy arrived late and there were only a few Barbies left. He looked around the room then saw what I was playing with. He walked over to me and said that I had to give him the dinosaur. He told me that there were no more “boy toys” left and I should go and get a “girl toy.” At first I told him “no” and that I liked the toy. But then he called me “weird” and “freaky.” I didn’t understand why I was weird and freaky, but I didn’t want to be called that. I sadly gave the toy to him because I obviously wasn’t allowed to play with it. At this time I was only six and I was already learning the “rules” of being a girl or boy.



India – I am From

By Ayjay

I am from India,

The place I was born,

And brown skinned.

The night is so dark there,

I can’t see my hands in front of my face.

The stars are like

Tiny suns in the night,

Where I did everything

Until I was two,

I am here,

People everywhere

And I am Indian.

India – I am From

I am from India,

The place I was born.

Where there are people of all colors,

But many people don’t know it.

White people, brown people

People from around the world,

Where there are rich cities,

Poor cities,

Many of them flourish,

Some kids work all day,

Some sit idly

Anyway they both work hard,

And most get a reward.

Food like the heavens there,

But some food is okay to share,

Actors everywhere,

Religions all ‘round

You’ll hear everyone’s sound

In India, my hometown.

2 thoughts on “In Their Own Words: student writing on identity

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