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Write an essay that answers the question, “Who are you?” or “Who you be?”

You may have questions about this assignment. Questions like: How long should the essay be? What format should it be in? Should the writing and tone be academic or informal?

I have some answers, but I also offer you flexibility.

You just read that Gerald Graff was great at debating baseball and could come up with all kinds of evidence and support for his ideas about baseball, but that great skill he had wasn’t “seen” in an academic setting, and you also read that bell hooks realized that “talking back” was an important skill in navigating political, social, and academic settings as a Black woman, and you read that the writers of the essay believe that the “separation between so-called low and high cultures is falsely hierarchical, racist, and damaging.” And you read all of that in a class for college. And now you’re going to write your first essay, answering the question, “who are you/who you be?”

So what approach would


like to take? Is there a way that you can bring all of your selves here, to this class?

You might still have some questions. Like, how long should this essay be? I would be surprised if anything shorter than a page offered real insight and felt like an actual essay. I also imagine that anything longer than 3-5 pages probably would not be polished enough for you to submit.

What do I mean by polished? I mean that you have thought about what you’re going to write and you have thought about me, the reader. You are writing something that you think a reader will enjoy reading – maybe because it expresses some truths, maybe because the writing flows and is a pleasure to read, maybe because you have tried to bring your own self and your thoughtfulness to this assignment.

How would you do that? One thing we do with writing we care about is write in drafts.

This means we write a draft of an essay, and then reread it and work on it some more. When we like it, we might reread it a few times, quietly and aloud to make sure it all flows together. We want to be sure a reader can follow what we have to say. Also, we might proofread it so that there aren’t a lot of little mistakes. Those mistakes can confuse a reader and, if there are a lot of them, make it feel like we don’t really care about the reader. That all takes time. It takes time to do for a short essay, and it takes time to do for a long essay. So you choose the length, and you set the standard. What I care about is that this represents your thoughtful decisions about how you want to express yourself and I care that you submit something that feels good to you. If you would want to maybe show this to a friend you care about, maybe even to someone famous you admire and respect, and maybe one more person – someone totally different – well, then you know I’m also going to be excited to read it!

Formatting? We’re going to be learning MLA and APA formatting in this class. If you want to practice with this essay, that would be great. If so, go ahead and use

MLA formatting


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