Sunday, May 19, 2024

An Update... (Jennifer Semple Siegel)

Countryside, North Macedonia

I retired from Academia in 2010, after closing my teaching career in Skopje, North Macedonia, where I taught for a year, so this site has been sorely neglected.

For the past week (May 2024), I have been going through my various websites, trying to decide what to keep and what to delete.

No way will I delete this site; I have enjoyed revisiting the creative work of my former students from Introduction to Literature, African-American Literature, and Creative Writing who produced fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, and drama. I pushed them to do their best, and they delivered – big time.

The Introduction to Literature students surprised me the most. These students, from various majors, were often the most reluctant scholars, so I decided to add in an optional creative writing component, certainly going against the overall mission of the course (so sue me – the statute of limitations has long passed).

Some students, not all of them English majors, took me up on it. Their resulting writing used literary works from our textbook as springboards, for example, writing sequels or prequels to famous (and not so famous) works. I figured if they could write a decent prequel/sequel to a work, then I knew they were reading the assigned work.

Sneaky, eh?

Some students decided to rewrite stories as poems and poems as stories.

Some garnered ideas from essays to write their own personal essays.

There are also some “graphic” representations of known works, long before the graphic novel and non-fiction trend in publishing.

The quality of their work really surprised me, so this is why I started this site – to offer them a chance to showcase their work. This, too, was optional; after all, these weren’t publishing courses. Some bowed out of publication and one writer wished to remain anonymous. I was fine with this.

Just a note: for the literature courses, I was not grading “quality” (whatever that means) of the creative aspect of their work, but, rather, how well they demonstrated their understanding of the original work. In that sense, I was accomplishing the original mission of the course – but through the back door.

The biggest surprise: how well some students wrote in their timed essays – 75 minutes or fewer. I marked these posted pieces as such. They were on fire!

So, if you come across this site, take a few minutes and dive in; if you are a teacher/professor, you might want to think about using this approach for your intro to lit courses. You might be delightfully surprised.

Retaining the students’ work intact, I have made a few minor changes in this site; I have added a gadget that lists each writer’s name and a link to their work(s) and deleted outdated announcements. I have also deleted my own work because I now have other sites where my work and links to my work appear.

To my former students: if you find this site, give me a shout-out in the comment section (you will need a gmail address) or email me at Jennifer [at] BanMyBook [dot] com. I’d love to find out what you’re up to these days!

I’d love to hear from you!

My home page:

Why I Write

Although I’m gray-haired and retired from teaching, I’m still quite active, writing and working in the digital space.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Hiroshima: Beyond the Numbers (Jennifer Butts)


Throughout my education, I have always heard about the bombing of Hiroshima. Nagasaki was also mentioned; how could it not be? But, the overwhelming majority of classroom discussions involving atomic bombs revolved around Hiroshima. After 12 years in the public school system, maybe 6 of them discussing the bombings in depth, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what happened to these cities.

Scientifically, I knew what happened. When these bombs were dropped, they basically turned small amounts of mass into relatively huge amounts of energy. The amount of energy can be found by using perhaps the most famous equation in all of scientific and mathematical history: E=mc2, where E is the energy produced, m is the amount of mass converted to energy, and c is the speed of light. We all know that light travels pretty fast, so when you square that number and multiply it by another number, even if it is small, it will produce a very large number. It was always quite easy to perform the calculations, and I have done them several times, once even this year in my physics class. However, the calculation can not tell you how much damage was done. Sure, our history books can tell us that the cities were leveled. They can tell us how many people died instantly in the blast as well as how many suffered and died from injuries related to the blast. But these are simply numbers. Numbers have no emotional significance. Math is known as being a very cut and dry discipline; answers are right or wrong, there is no in-between.

Unfortunately, life is not so simple. The decision to drop the bomb and release that much energy could not have been made lightly. Unfortunately, the impact of this single decision has been diminished from years of talking about the bombing as a purely academic problem.

Until this class, I had never even heard of Hiroshima, by John Hersey, let alone read it. Reading the stories of those six survivors really presented a brand new side of an event that I have heard about in school for several years. This book told the stories of six people who survived the bombing of Hiroshima. These people were civilians; they were not directly associated with the war. In school, we were always told that the bombing was necessary to end the war. It is true that after the two bombs were dropped, the war ended very quickly. It seems like our textbooks wanted us to believe that our country took the appropriate action at the time, perhaps so that we do not grow up thinking that our country is a heartless killer. What we never really learned was the extent of the damage to individuals. We were told that the victims suffered from severe burns and radiation. It was also mentioned that it was difficult to treat such injuries because they came into existence with the atomic bomb. So, not only were these people devastated by the loss of their city, they suffered from injuries that even the best doctors did not know how to treat. The stories of the people in this book really brought depth to an event that I had always thought of as cut and dry: the United States dropped the bombs, and Japan surrendered, which brought an end to the war. I had never really ever given much thought to what the people directly affected by the decision of a single person, the president of the United States.

All of the people whose stories are told in Hiroshima suffered a great deal, but one story stood out beyond the others for me: the story of Miss Toshiko Sasaki. She had gone to work just as on any other day. However, it would be a day that changed her life forever. The actual blast caused a bookcase to fall on top of her and severely broke her leg. She was trapped underneath the wreckage for several hours, and when she finally was pulled out, she was left for two days without food or water. After being sent to several different hospitals, her leg finally healed. Unfortunately, it was three inches shorter than her right leg. This is just one example of the hardships suffered by survivors of the bombing. People like Miss Sasaki are generally considered the lucky ones because they survived. However, it could be argued that the survivors were, in fact, the unlucky ones. Life is precious, of course, but how special is it when you suffer for years because of the events of a single day, events that you had no control over. Would you consider yourself lucky if your country discriminated you because you survived? Hiroshima reveals that the people of Japan did not want to associate with the survivors, primarily because they were prone to bouts of weakness and it was uncertain what all of the long-term effects of the bomb were. Maybe the lucky ones were the ones who died instantly. They may have seen a bright light, but was just about it. If they felt any pain, it was minimal. Although they lost their lives, perhaps they were better off than the survivors who suffered for years and faced discrimination in the place they called home.

As I said before, this was my first time reading this book, and it really opened up a new facet of the bombing of Hiroshima. It really made me think about the horrific events of that day, and how so many people suffered because of the actions of a few people in power. Perhaps every person who possesses any kind of power should read this book just to be reminded of the effects their actions can have. Although atomic bombs are an extreme case, the stories certainly remind people that our actions can have consequences that severely affect others.

LIT160 Introduction to Literature--Spring 2008.

Posted with author's permission.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Smile of Accomplishment (Jennifer Butts)


Night descends upon the city. The moon rises higher and higher as if trying to get a better look upon the city's inhabitants. As night creeps on, there are still people out and about. Men sneaking behind their wives' backs, even some women sleeping around being unfaithful to their husbands. None of this is new to the moon, for she has risen night after night. She has seen many a betrayal, and often the fights that ensue. She has seen mothers tending their children, who can't sleep because of nightmares. The moon is rising, watching over her domain. Nothing seems out of place; everything is as it should be. But then something catches her eye. It is a mother, wandering about her kitchen, seeming to fret over her children.

Intrigued, the moon focuses on this one house. The woman inside has prepared a pitcher of milk and a plate of food for her children. Nothing particularly strange, until the bottle of sleeping pills is seen beside the pitcher. The woman has a handful of them, debating whether or not to put them in the milk. Drawing closer, the woman can be heard muttering to herself, arguing with herself about what should be done with her children.

"Should I take them with me?" the woman says. "I deserve death, it is all I want from my life now. I simply want to be released of the burden that has become my existence. But my children? They are young, with many years ahead. Perhaps they will find joy in a world where I found only sadness. But will they? Without a mother, will they be able to grow up and function in society? Perhaps it would be better if I just ended it for them tonight. It wouldn't be difficult, just give them sleeping pills in their milk, and when they have fallen asleep, keep them by the oven, letting them breathe the gas that will claim their mother's life. No! I can't. I will leave that up to my children. I cannot kill them. Taking my own life is one thing, taking my children's lives is murder. I will leave them the milk and food, and I will depart this world hoping that my children find more joy than I ever did."

The moon watches overhead. She watches the woman carefully set out the milk and plate of food for her children. Watches as the woman reenters the kitchen, placing a towel at the base of the door, taking great care to seal the crack as tightly as possible. The moon watches as she places her head inside, the smile of accomplishment on her face as she breathes deeply. She keeps sucking in the poisonous gas. Slowly but surely, soon the breathing is slow and calm. Her back rising ever so slowly and gently. All too soon, the breathing stops. The moon continues on her way now. Nothing more to see. The woman's family will find her, and bury her in the ground. This is nothing new to the moon, for she has seen much death. She has been watching over people since the beginning of their existence, suicide is nothing new.


Jennifer wrote this short piece in response to an essay question on a test:

Using the title “The Smile of Accomplishment,” rewrite Sylvia Plath’s poem “Edge” as a short story.

For your story, you should NOT create your own story, but simply rewrite Plath’s poem in story form. You may add details, of course, but they must be plausible within the parameters of the original poem and what you know about Plath’s life and death. NOTE: I am not looking at your creative writing ability here. I am looking at how you can extrapolate the future outcome of a character’s life based on textual clues offered in her current reality.


Interestingly, before setting pen to her exam booklet, Jennifer jotted down some notes on the poem Edge:

Lines 1-4:

Write from first person p.o.v.(I).

Smiles as she places her head in the oven, awaiting death to claim her, ending the misery.

Lines 5-8

Walked through life for 30 years. At 10, lost her father. At 20, failed to end her life. Not this time. Too much misery to go on. Melancholy consumed her life; no happiness to be found. She will not fail.

Line 8 ("We have come so far,/") was underlined, with this notation: 30 years, 20 w/o father. Line 8 ("it is over.") also underlined, with this notation: suicide/death

Lines 9-12

Should I take my children? Wouldn't be hard, just lock the door, a smidgen of sedative in the milk. I would feel no pain, but do they deserve it?

Lines 15-16

Turns on the gas, breathes deeply, inhaling the sickly sweet gas. She smiles...(top).

Lines 17-20

The moon, a silent onlooker. She has already seen much death. What is one more?


In order to fulfill the essay requirements for an exam (75 minutes total), Jennifer has written a fine derivative short story based on a poem; however, based on what I have seen here, I'm willing to bet that she could write her own original stories and do a very good job, indeed.


LIT160 Introduction to Literature--Spring 2008

Posted with permission

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Supporting Characters from "The Loneliness of the Long-distance Runner"

For an in-class point-of-view exercise on Alan Sillitoe's "The Loneliness of the Long-distance Runner," I gave students the following instructions:

You already know protagonist Smith's take on life, but what about supporting characters? We are about to find out, for each group will assume a first-person ("I") character point-of-view of a supporting character and write a one-page passage.

Your first-person passage must be supported by textual clues; thus, you can't just write any old thing and claim success. Your "guess" must have a basis in fact. Also, don't quote original dialogue from the novella; the idea is to understand the nuances of the text by creating LIKELY opinions of and ORIGINAL text from your character. Besides, nabbing existing text is the lazy way out, and I want you to stretch your intellectual capabilities.

----------Group 1: Smith's father

----------Group 2: Governor at Borstal

----------Group 3: The copper

----------Group 4: Mam

----------Group 5: Mam's "fancy-man"

Students read their passages in class.

Also, they were asked to designate a representative from their groups to post their passages in the comment section of this blog.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Creative Response to "No Name Woman" (Nichol Fake)

Alexis was sitting in the nursery of her church on Sunday morning. As she was watching the children play as she had every week for the last nine years she began to think back to her junior year in high school. She thought back to her friend Jessica. It was weird because over the years she rarely thought about those days. Jessica was such a distant memory it was almost as if she never knew her, but that day watching those kids and their reaction when their parents came to pick them up just hit her that day.

It was their junior year Jessica and Alexis were best friends. They had been joined at the hips since first grade. But as the year went on and Jessica began dating Brandon her time for Alexis seemed to be less and less. As the school year when on Alexis began to notice little changes in Jessica. Then a few months before school would be over she noticed that Jessica had been missing school a lot and when she was there she seemed to always be sick and going to the bathroom a lot. When she confronted Jessica she said it was just the flu. Then a few weeks later she noticed Jessica had not been to school in days, and the other kids in school were starting to talk. The rumor was that Jessica was pregnant and that she would not be back to school.

Alexis knew that in the small town they lived in, a girl being pregnant or even having sex before being married was looked down upon, especially when the girl was so young. In fact, this was the first time it had ever happened in their town. Alexis knew she had to found out the truth. She tried calling Jessica all weekend but her parents just kept saying she was not home and Alexis was too afraid to tell her parents why she needed to talk to Jessica so bad. So Monday Alexis decided she had to confront Brandon in school and find out what was going on. He told her that it was none of her business and that he had broke up with Jessica awhile ago.

Alexis knew the rumor had to be true. She was scared for her friend; she could only imagine what must be going through her head and what she was going through at home. She decided to stop by Jessica’s on her way home that day. When she arrived at Jessica’s she noticed that her car was not there and when her mother answered the door she said Jessica had gone to stay with her grandparents for awhile. Alexis asked her why and she just said “she needed to get away from this town and the people.” She continued to tell her that Jessica would be getting her GED while at her grandmother’s and they were not sure when and if she would be coming back.

All night Alexis kept replaying the day in her head. None of it made sense. If Jessica was going through all of this why didn’t she come to her? Why didn’t she let her try to help her through it all? She didn’t know what she could do, if anything. But she wanted to be there for her friend.

It was about a year later when Alexis got an email from Jessica. She was so surprised and a little upset that it took her so long to get in touch. But once she read the email she just felt sad for her friend. The email read:

Hi Alexis. I am sorry it has taken me so long to get in touch with you. As I am sure you have heard I had to leave school last year because I was pregnant. I just could not face the town and what they were saying about me. I could not stand looking at my parents and seeing nothing but disappointment on their faces and knowing I was the cause of it. They told me that I had to get rid of the baby, that there was no way I could keep the baby. They made sure I knew that if I kept the baby they would have nothing to do with me or the baby. They made sure I knew there was no way that I could ever take care of my child or give him/her the life they deserved. After listening to this every night I started to believe them. I felt like the only thing I could do was to have an abortion. So I told them I would move to my grandmother's, get my GED while I was there and have the abortion. I have to be honest; when I first got here I was hoping that my grandmother would not agree with them. That maybe by some chance she would not feel that I was some kind of embarrassment, that maybe she would help me to make a decision that was based on my feelings and not the opinions and feelings of others. But she felt the same. That a girl my age having a child and not being married was one of the worst sins a person could commit. So I finally gave in and put my feelings aside and went to the clinic here. I was not showing yet so no one in the town knew of my “condition” and still don’t. I was able to get my GED and I am starting my new life here. I work full time and I am attending the local community college. I moved out of my grandmother’s recently because even though I did what everyone wanted I could tell they had not forgotten and would not forgive me. I found a small apartment and I am doing well. I wanted to come to you in the beginning but I knew that you would be supportive and that would make it even harder for me to ignore the voice in my heart telling me to keep the baby. So I just had to distance myself from everything. I hope that you can understand. I know that you are not a supporter of abortion but hope that you can find it in your heart to someday forgive me for going through with it. I am sorry I was not a good friend to you and I pushed our friendship aside when Brandon and I got together.

Alexis found herself in tears as she finished reading the email and she was unsure what to write back. So she simply replied, “Jess, I hope you know that I would have been there for you. And I could never hold what you have been through against you. I am glad to hear you are doing better now. Keep in touch.”

That was the last time she had any communication with Jessica until that Sunday after church. Alexis was driving home from church with her own son in the back seat. As she looked back at him and thought about the other kids in the nursery it made her think about how her life would be if she had been in Jessica’s shoes. She thought about all the amazing times she had with her son and the wonderful feeling that motherhood gave her and it broke her heart to know that Jessica missed out on all of that because of the way people reacted to her when she was pregnant. So she sent Jessica another email to try and see how she was doing, but she never heard back from her. It was as if Jessica had just disappeared again.


Nicol Fake decided to respond to Maxine Hong Kingston's "No Name Woman," a non-fiction excerpt from The Woman Warrior (1976). Nicol decided to borrow an incident from this assigned work to write a piece (story) of her own.


LIT160 Introduction to Literature--Spring 2008

Posted with the author's permission.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Modern Girl: A Rewritten Work (Chelsea Rosenberger)

Never wash the colors with the whites; don’t throw your jeans in the dryer if you don’t want them to shrink; bleach is for whites only; don’t let the dishwasher make you lazy; keep a clean house, but not so clean that company feels unwanted; don’t lay in your bed without showering; wash your sheets every two weeks; if you use conditioner everyday it will make your hair look particularly greasy; always wash your hands before you eat; this is how you get blood out of a shirt; this is how you set the table; this is how you set up a doctors appointment; this is how you make Nanny’s infamous pound cake; this is how you get rid of ringworm—soak a penny in vinegar until it turns green, then tape it to the ringworm; this is how you keep a straight face when all you want to do is laugh; this is how you say “I love you” to a friend; this is how you say “I love you” to a lover; but I’m too young to be in love; tables are for glasses, not for asses; never put your feet up on the table—no one wants their food tasting like a foot; when wearing a dress, cross your legs, unless you want everyone to see your panties; always wear panties with a skirt or dress because if you don’t, you’re asking for it; don’t pour salt on a slug or feed a bird Alka-Seltzer; this is how you speak to a man; this is how a man should speak to you; this is how to cover your cough; this is how you check eggs to make sure they aren’t cracked; but what if they’re all cracked?; you mean to tell me you’re going to be the kind of woman who can’t find a good egg?


(Chelsea Rosenberger says, "I rewrote [Jamaica Kincaid's] 'Girl' because when I read the poem, I immediately pictured all of the little bits of advice my mother has shared with me over the years.")


LIT160 Introduction to Literature--Spring 2008

Posted with permission.

Poetic Response to "Hills Like White Elephants" (Meghan Daly)

Simple he says,
But what is simple?
He says it’s easy,
But how would he know?
A life in my hands,
And he says it’s simple.

The choice should be easy
Do I want it or no?

He says we’ll be happy,
But how does he know?
If I keep it he says that he’ll stay,
But I don’t believe him,
For if he would stay
He wouldn’t be trying
Trying so hard to get me to do this

Simple he says,
But what is simple?
Easy he says,
But how would he know?

The choice should be easy.
Do I want it or no?


Meghan says, "I did this from the point of view of the girl [Jig]. I figured that she is probably going through a lot trying to figure out whether or not she truly wants to abort the baby or if she wants to keep it. I also felt like the guy was saying anything to keep her happy while still trying to get her to go through with the abortion. I tried to incorporate that into my short poem when I said, 'If I keep it he says that he’ll stay,/ but I don’t believe him,/ for if he would stay he wouldn’t be trying,/ trying so hard to get me to do this.' I just felt like the girl needed more of a voice than the original author gave her so I wrote her this."


LIT160 Introduction to Literature--Spring 2008

Posted with permission.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Ballad of the Tenant (Dan, Clint, Evan) (A Group Project)

Tenant, Tenant,

I've come for my money
I want my dough
You haven't paid me yet
So now I must spit this flow.

Tenant! Tenant!
Why you gotta front
You know I saw you on that corner
rollin' up that blunt.

Ten bucks is what you owe me
I want my ten bucks now
You say you don't know how you'll pay me!
I say you should figure it out how.

That's right I got your Eviction Notice
Damn right Ima cut off your heat
Oh you can't find your furniture
Try lookin' on the street.

Hell, yea, you gonna pay me
My point, you ain't gonna miss
'cause I'll put some lipstick on my fist
and throw you a kiss.

5-0! 5-0!
You'll never catch me, pig.
Ima run, son
I will never go down for this gig.

Police dogs
Echoes of the Gat

Cell Door Slams
Presses Print
Headlines Read

Shots Fired


Suspect Caught


Criminal in Jail


Justice Served

(Note: In a 30-minute in-class group project, Jennifer Semple Siegel's Introduction to Literature students were asked to rewrite Langston Hughes' 1951 "Ballad of the Landlord" from the landlord's perspective, while attempting to retain the original structure and cadence of the original poem. After reading their poems to the class, the students discussed how the shift in point of view changes the poetic perspective. The class also discussed how attitudes toward African Americans have changed and not changed since 1951.)

LIT160 Introduction to Literature, Spring 2008

Ballad of the Tenant (Chelsea Rosenberger and Ashley Clousher) (Group Project)

Tenant, tenant,
I know there is a leak
I called the roofing company
They'll be here next week.

Tenant, tenant,
You must give me time
I need money to fix these things
And you haven't given me a dime.

Ten bucks you owe me,
Ten bucks past due.
Do you think that's enough
to fix this house up brand new?

I don't want to evict you
I don't want you to be cold
I don't want you to come back
to see your furniture has been sold.

Blame me all you want
Keep cursing my name
Threaten to silence me
But my face you will not maim.

Police! Police!
Take this man away.
He's trying to force me out.
I have no place to stay!

This man is a liar
I wish not to kick him out
He threatened to hurt me
Don't listen to him shout.

Lock him up
Teach him something
He can't walk around owing money
And acting like it's nothing.


The tenant learned his lesson
To this he can attest.

(Note: In a 30-minute in-class group project, Jennifer Semple Siegel's Introduction to Literature students were asked to rewrite Langston Hughes' 1951 "Ballad of the Landlord" from the landlord's perspective, while attempting to retain the original structure and cadence of the original poem. After reading their poems to the class, the students discussed how the shift in point of view changes the poetic perspective. The class also discussed how attitudes toward African Americans have changed and not changed since 1951.)

LIT160 Introduction to Literature, Spring 2008

Ballad of the Tenant" (Group #3) (Group Project)

Dead beat, dead beat
Where is my rent
Are you telling me
it has been spent

Dead beat, dead beat
The money is due
You are late
and this is nothing new

Give me what you owe me
But keep this in mind
the rent is going up
the next time.

If you can't afford it
I'll kick you out fast,
out on the street
I'll throw your lazy ass

Don't give your complaints
I don't wanta hear it.
Your rent is more important
than doing all this shit.

Help me, help me
I didn't do anything wrong
This man is the bad one
He is the one that doesn't belong.

Don't treat me like an animal
Don't throw me out on the street
I deserve more than that
I'm not a dead beat.


(Note: In a 30-minute in-class group project, Jennifer Semple Siegel's Introduction to Literature students were asked to rewrite Langston Hughes' 1951 "Ballad of the Landlord" from the landlord's perspective, while attempting to retain the original structure and cadence of the original poem. After reading their poems to the class, the students discussed how the shift in point of view changes the poetic perspective. The class also discussed how attitudes toward African Americans have changed and not changed since 1951.)

LIT160 Introduction to Literature, Spring 2008

Ballad of the Tenant (Jessica Cunningham, Danielle Boyer, Shana Mallory) (Group Project)

Tenant, tenant,
Your house is just fine.
You call me every week
Stop calling my line.

Tenant, tenant,
It's not my fault your steps are broken.
You have parties every night
People call me because they are awoken.

You always pay late
Rent's never on time
Your checks always bounce
You're committing a crime.

What? You're reporting me to the state?
You're gonna try and end my career
Ha, that's funny,
but I have no fear.

No way! You're gonna treat me like this.
I work hard at my job
Treat me with respect
You are the slob.

Lawyer! Lawyer!
Come and try this man!
He's not keeping up with his end of the lease!
Put him in the can!

Gavels bang!
Bam! Bam! Bam!
Verdicts reached.

License revoked.
Headlines in press:

Bad Landlord.

Landlord Loses License.

Judge Gives Landlord Time in Jail.


(Note: In a 30-minute in-class group project, Jennifer Semple Siegel's Introduction to Literature students were asked to rewrite Langston Hughes' 1951 "Ballad of the Landlord" from the landlord's perspective, while attempting to retain the original structure and cadence of the original poem. After reading their poems to the class, the students discussed how the shift in point of view changes the poetic perspective. The class also discussed how attitudes toward African Americans have changed and not changed since 1951.)


LIT160 Introduction to Literature, Spring 2008

Ballad of the Tenant (Jennifer Butts, Tasia Colbert, Katie Fulbright) (Group Project)

Tenant, tenant,
You say your roof has sprung a leak,
I surely hope that you don't think
that I remember what you said last week.

Tenant, tenant,
You say your steps is broken down.
And yet when I come up myself.
You don't see me fall down.

Ten bucks you know you owe me.
Ten bucks you know is due.
So until I get those ten bucks,
the problems are up to you.

You know I can evict you.
I have access to your heat.
I can take your furniture
and sell it on the street.

Yeah, I'm talking high and mighty,
I'm gonna talk 'til it gets through,
You're not gonna lay a hand on me,
I'm gonna duck and dodge you.

Police! Police!
Help me keep my land.
He's trying to keep my furniture
and sell it to the white man.

Broken lights.
Water stains
What he said was true.

Broken stairs.
Frozen pipes.
I should have fixed it new.

New flyers say:
We have a vacant space
But if your word goes against me,
I'll put you in your place.


(Note: In a 30-minute in-class group project, Jennifer Semple Siegel's Introduction to Literature students were asked to rewrite Langston Hughes' 1951 "Ballad of the Landlord" from the landlord's perspective, while attempting to retain the original structure and cadence of the original poem. After reading their poems to the class, the students discussed how the shift in point of view changes the poetic perspective. The class also discussed how attitudes toward African Americans have changed and not changed since 1951.)


LIT160 Introduction to Literature, Spring 2008

Sunday, January 27, 2008

John Hersey's Hiroshima: Graphic Adaptation of Mrs. Nakamura's Experience (Emily Morris)


(Note: I have included a text transcript for each panel; however, if you wish, you may click onto to each page, and you will load a large and readable version of each page.)

Page One (Above)

Panel 1:

(Home of Mrs. Nakamura, widowed mother of three; 3/4 of a mile from center:)

MRS. NAKAMURA (Thinking.): Tearing his house down. What a shame--Soon he will have nowhere to live.

Panel 2:

AIR DRILL: Warning! Warning! Warning!

Panel 3:

MRS. NAKAMURA (Thinking about the night before, when she and her children had fled to Asano Park): Everyone is so tired. Maybe I can let them sleep this time.

Panel 4:

(Mrs. Hatsuyo Nakamura chose not to wake her three children that morning. They have been to the shelter many times in the past few days, and they were tired. It may have been this decision that saved their lives.)

Panel 5:

(Center Hiroshima during the explosion.)

Panel 6:

CRASH! Boom!


Panel 7:

TOSHIO: Mama, I'm scared.


YAEKO: (Sobbing.)

MRS. NAKAMURA: Hush, darlings! I don't know what happened--I think we need to get to safety, then ask questions. Don't cry--it'll be okay soon.

Panel 8:

(Before leaving for Asano Park, MRS. NAKAMURA chose to keep her only source of income safe. Her husband's old sewing machine was how she provided for her family. When this was all over, she would need to make money to feed her children.)

MRS. NAKAMURA: (Thinking as she tosses her sewing machine into the Water Reserve Tank.) This should be safe in here.

Page Two (Above)

Panel 1:

(Many neighborhoods had safe areas they were to retreat to if there was a bombing. MRS. NAKAMURA followed a neighbor through the wreckage of her community to Asano Park, outside of town.)

Welcome Asano Park

Panel 2:

MYEKO: I am so thirsty.

MRS. NAKAMURA: Here, sweetie, drink this.

YAEKO: I don't feel so good, Mama.

Panel 3:

(After drinking from the river, MRS NAKAMURA and her children became very ill and spent the next few days with stomach sickness. As they lay ill, many in the park lay dead or dying. Some seemed healthy one day and perished the next. The scene was horrific and no help ever came. MRS. NAKAMURA had to make a decision to move her children away from the park to a nearby shelter.)

Panel 4:

(Six days later [the Nakamuras] left the shelter [Novitiate] to stay with her sister-in-law.)

Panel 5:

MRS. NAKAMURA: (Crying.) I am so ashamed. I can not go anywhere looking like this. My hair is gone. I am a Bald Dreadful woman. UGLY! I am ugly. BALD!

Panel 6:

(MRS. NAKAMURA lost all her hair due to nuclear radiation exposure. Her youngest daughter had a cut on her arm that took months to heal. MRS. NAKAMURA could not afford a doctor's visit so they waited their sickness out and soon MRS. NAKAMURA was planning for their future. She had sent her brother to her old house to retrieve the sewing machine she had stored in the water tank. When he returned it was with bad news.)

Panel 7:

MRS. NAKAMURA: It's useless--This will never work again! It has completely rusted! What am I going to do now?

Panel 8:

MRS. NAKAMURA: (Thinking.) Please, God. Give me strength. I need money desperately. Please?

Panel 9:

BANK CLERK: (Handing money to MRS. NAKAMURA.) MRS. NAKAMURA, this is how much the bank has for you. Have a nice day.

Panel 10:

(At the Machine Repair shop.)

MRS. NAKAMURA: (Crying.) How much is this [sewing machine] worth?

OWNER OF SHOP: It's junk--all rust!

MRS. NAKAMURA (Still crying.) Please--whatever you can give me.

Panel 11:

(After selling everything she owned, MRS. NAKAMURA moved her family into a small wooden shack, their new home in Hiroshima. MRS. NAKAMURA scavenged for supplies and did all she could to provide for her family.)

Page Three (Above)

Panel 1:

MRS. NAKAMURA: (Thinking.) This has all been my bad luck. My fate, that I must accept. This suffering is my test of faith. I must survive. My children rely on me and only me.

Panel 2:

RADIO: ...Hiroshima Survivors, also known as Hibakusha... This just in. Our Government has just passed a new program providing health care options to all of our survivors...Please report to your closest agency to receive your card...

Panel 3:

MRS. NAKAMURA: (Handing someone a loaf of bread.) Your fresh loaf, Ma'am.

Panel 4:

MRS. NAKAMURA: (Handing someone a newspaper.) Your daily news, Sir.

Panel 5:

(Factory work: Moth ball belt)

MRS. NAKAMURA: (Holding a bowl of moth balls.) All good...Sir.

Panel 6:

(Although the Japanese Government provided assistance for their survivors, MRS. NAKAMURA's pride prohibited her from accepting any assistance for many years. She held many low paying jobs just to pay for food and rent. The long term effects of radiation made her have to take frequent resting periods throughout the day. In 1951 her family moved to a better home and she continued working at the Moth Ball factory until she retired.)

Panel 7:

(MRS. NAKAMURA's luck began to change. Life continued to happen. Things were changing all around her. The town eventually got rebuilt. MRS. NAKAMURA watched her children grow up. Eventually she began to accept Governmental services like health care and pension plans. It is noted that MRS. NAKAMURA completed her life one day at a time.)

(Her son got married...)



(MRS. NAKAMURA danced in a festival.)

Panel 8:

The End.


Emily Morris: I chose to pick only one of the main characters from John Hersey’s [account] and complete a graphic version of that [survivor’s] experience during the bomb drop on Hiroshima. The graphic version will be from the point of view of that [survivor] (first person) and contain only pertinent information to tell her story. The graphics will be selected based on the main events that tell the story of that [survivor] and the feelings or emotions that [she] must have felt during the bombing of Hiroshima and the aftermath. While I am aware that the [survivor] is Japanese and does not speak or even think in the same English context, I will need to summarize what I believe [she] felt in my terms.

Reflecting on the process. After completing the graphic representation of Mrs. Nakamura’s experience of the bombing of Hiroshima I feel a little less confident in my execution. It was difficult depicting everything in a graphic square without going overboard with pictures. I believe I chose the main events that Mrs. Nakamura went through; however, there were a few circumstances where I had to write a brief paragraph to place the readers where I needed them to be. This was a strip that spanned over many years; a lot of middle ground was tossed aside to illustrate only what was important. I’m not 100% positive that the reader would be able to pick up this graphic strip and know what really happened. Reading the stories of the Hibakusha (survivors) through a non-fiction account seems to me to be the best way to tell their stories.

I still enjoyed the challenge of completing this journal in a graphic version. It may not be perfect, but it was a good experience. I know now that I will not follow a career as a comic book artist.


LIT160 Introduction to Literature, Fall 2007

Posted with author's permission.

What is Fail-Safe? (a Poem by Samantha Colandrea)

What does "fail-safe" even stand for?
To make sure everything goes right?
Is it to make sure in the worst situation?
That the plane will still take flight?
It began when a plane was spotted from Europe
The SAC declared it as a possible threat
But they are not allowed to proceed without orders
So they left it alone without fret
The SAC declared for an attack code
They created a bomber group made up of six
The orders are misunderstood because of the radar
And now it is too late for a fix
The thought of nuclear war
Causes Colonel to send out the crew
The six flights go toward Moscow
He did not know what else to do
Groteschele makes the suggestion
That the U.S. should begin
An attack to make the Soviets
Surrender and give in.
They made the attack look accidental
This was actually pretty cruel
Except they didn't think it through
And ran out of gas and fuel.

All six flights went down
And landed them in the sea
The pilots were all dead
And the other plane went free.

The Soviets make an agreement
With the President of the U.S.
They decline his request at first
But ended up saying yes.

The air defense shoots down two
Of the six planes unarmed
But the sixth plane should be left alone
Because it will do no harm.

Because of another disagreement
The sixth plane gets attacked
This was a mistake
That they weren't able to take back.

The President tries to tell Grady
That there is no war going on
Grady doesn't believe him
And sees it as a con.

They sent a plane to Moscow
To destroy the city for the "good"
Except this causes a bombing on New York
The Soviets would do what they could.

The moral of these attacks
Is that war is not worth fighting
It causes all the authorities to argue
When we all should be uniting.

(Samantha Colandrea responded to the book and film Fail-Safe by writing a poem about it.)


LIT160 Introduction to Literature, Fall 2007

Published with author's permission.