Monday, May 21, 2007

A Letter to John Hersey Regarding Hiroshima (Sarah Moser)

(Note: In Jennifer Semple Siegel's Introduction to Literature class, students are offered the option of writing a letter to an author, dead or alive, to ask questions and comment on their works. Sarah Moser chose to write her letter to John Hersey, author of Hiroshima, a non-fiction/journalistic account of six people who survived the a-bomb in Hiroshima.)


Dear Mr. Hersey,

What made you decide to turn [The New Yorker] article into a book? How did you even come about writing the article in the first place? Was it your idea? How did putting a face on the [Hiroshima] victims make you feel? Were you proud to be able to do this or did you just feel sad and ashamed? (You had to talk to the very people that we knowingly dropped a bomb on and tried to kill.) How did it feel to have everyone in the country talking about the book and the accounts within it? Why was distribution discouraged in Japan? Were they against the book being made, or was it just to be sensitive to their feelings about the past? Was the American occupation government trying to protect their feelings and not make them relive the event? Did you form a bond with the six people in the book or was it merely a professional interviewing relationship? I don’t know that I could hear these stories and not become attached. How did you feel about the bomb being dropped? Did this change at all while you were writing the article? After meeting these six people and getting to know them, did you keep in touch? How did they feel about you personally? I just can’t imagine being friendly to someone from the country that tried to kill me.

I know I’m asking a lot of questions, but history intrigues me, and I want to understand what the feelings at the time were like for both parties.

How do you think the Cold War affected the release of your book? Do you think that it was positive or negative? Did you hope that your book might cause people to learn from their mistakes and be more wary of similar situations in the future? With the climate of the world during the Gulf War/Desert Storm, did your opinions on nuclear weapons change at all? Do you think that the world view, or at least the American view, on nuclear weapons has changed at all because of Hiroshima? Will there ever be a day that this devastation is unleashed again?

I think you did a wonderful job on this book. Following these individuals from beginning to end humanized what happened. It now serves to make younger generations understand the situation. I feel that this book was written just at the right time—long enough from the event that people could read it in a different perspective.

Thank you for doing such a good job!


Sarah Moser


LIT160 Introduction to Literature, Spring 2007

Published with permission.

Janie Crawford Watches God and Children, a sequel (Joel Trimmer)

(NOTE: In Jennifer Semple Siegel's African-American Literature final exam, students were offered the option of writing a sequel to Zora Neale Hurston's novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. Joel Trimmer wrote his sequel in about an hour.)


[After Tea Cake’s death] Janie [Crawford, Killicks, Starks, Woods] went back to working the General store, as she always had. Hezekiah was happy for her return. It was if while she was gone, nothing changed in Eatonville. The men still gathered on the porch to play checkers and argue over anything that could be argued. It seemed as though a replacement for Jody Starks was even in place. Every day that passed made Hezekial more and more like Jody. He even smoked his cigar the same. Janie watched as the young man mused. Jody was the most respected man in Eatonville before he died. He set her up for the wealth and prosperity that she now lived. She had made peace with him. So if Hezekial wanted to be another Jody Starks that was as good a man as any to emulate.

In the coming years, Janie spent a lot of time reflecting. She sat on the porch like one of the man. She even swapped stories time to time like she would at the muck. She thought about Tea-cake most often. Every day she thought about Tea-cake. He gave her the opportunity to be fine. Janie felt isolated for years until tea-cake came and set her free. Janie also went fishing, just like tea-cake taught her. She fished for hours thinking about that first night Tea-cake too her fishing…

In all the reflecting that she did, she discovered she had no regrets. When looking back on her life, she was satisfied. Not many people can say that about their life, and Janie truly believed it.

She still got scowls from all the women in town. Janie was through weaving bonnets and tying her hair up. She was happy in blue overalls and loose fitting dresses. She was beyond trying to accommodate others. The next chapter in her life was to be dedicated to Janie. Janie used all her experience and knowledge of the world and shared it. She was as influential and controversial as she ever was. Suitors came and went. Janie said she was off the market, but deep down, she knew she was powerless to deny love if it came to her. She would have to follow her own teachings. When the young children of Eatonville gathered on the porch of the general store, Janie always gave them a freezie-pop and a story. Their favorite was the story of the hurricane. She always told them to follow their love. She told them never to settle for anyone. Love would find them if they kept their eyes open. This kind of talk stirred up all kinds of fussing in Eatonville. Parents were scared because their kids kept talking, “Miss Janie this…”, or “Miss Janie that.” That was Janie, though, and the people knew she couldn’t be talked down. The Janie that returned to Eatonville was a proud, strong woman. For all the grumbling, the townspeople still respected her. They also feared her. They saw her as a loose cannon, and worse, their children loved Miss Janie. The townspeople were terrified their children would run off to the ocean first chance they got.

Janie wanted her story told. Telling these stories made her feel good. She wanted the children to know what they could be for themselves. Janie had also never had kids herself, so this was her way of passing on her legacy. She spoke about her passions and freedom and loving life. She became a grand mother figure for all the children in town. She was beloved by many, and respected by all.

LIT203 African-American Literature, Spring 2007

Published with permission.

Graphic Version of "August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains" (Andrew Herr)

Text: Follow the arrows.

Panel 1: Tick-tock, 7 o'clock! Time to get up!

Panel 2: Seven-nine, breakfast time, seven-nine!

Panel 3: Nine-fifteen, time to clean!

Panel 4: Five O'Clock!

Panel 5: Six O'clock!

Panel 6: Eight O'clock!

Panel 7: FIRE!! FIRE!! FIRE!! FIRE!!

Panel 8: Today is August 5, 2026!!

Artist/Writer's note:

This graphic version of Ray Bradbury's short story "August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains," coupled with some of the actual text, makes the reader to visualize the story line. The point of view changes when the reader reads the text, then looks at a picture of an actual house on fire. The shift from plain text to a text with visual representation makes the reader visualize what's going on in the story, the pictures acting as clues and reminders. The timeline style portrayed by the graphic version allows, in minor detail, for the reader to follow along during certain hours of the day as described in this piece of fiction.
LIT160 Introduction to Literature, Spring 2007
Published with permission.

What happens When We Grow Old? (Kate Updegrove)

(Note: In Jennifer Semple Siegel's Introduction to Literature class, students are offered the option of writing a creative response to a poem, story, or play. Kate Updegrove chose to write a poetic response to Langston Hughes' poem "Harlem.")


What happens when we grow old?

Does our memory shrink
like a dried up sponge?
Or create a colorful canvas ---
And then smudge.
Do we laugh the same?
Or develop a lion’s roar
With a big mane?

Maybe we don’t move
Like a sloth in the wild.

Or do we reminisce our lives as a child?


LIT160 Introduction to Literature, Spring 2007

Published with permission.

The Game of War (Erin Collins)

(Note: In Jennifer Semple Siegel's Introduction to Literature class, students are offered the option of rewriting a story, poem, or play in another genre. Erin Collins chose to rewrite Tim O'Brien's short story "The Man I Killed" as a poem.)
the game of War

the face of a faceless man
staring back at me.
one eye shut
the other a hole,
looking deep into my soul

the face of a faceless man
haunts my dreams.
nose unbroken
hair clean and black,
glistening under the sun.

the face of a faceless man
I never did see.
his fingernails clean
skin smooth and freckly.

a butterfly rests
on the face of that man.
a man who is unknown to me.

what would have become,
should have become
of the man with no face?

a scholar or soldier?
teacher or lover?
maybe neither, maybe both.

all I knew
was what I saw:
the face of the faceless man.
fragile and beautiful
in life and in death.
LIT160 Introduction to Literature, Spring 2007
Published with permission.

I’m Not Afraid of the Coppers, a sequel (Ashley Stahle)

(Note: In Jennifer Semple Siegel's Introduction to Literature class, students were offered the option of writing a prequel or sequel to a short story. Ashley Stahle chose to write a sequel to Alan Sillitoe's novella The Loneliness of the Long-distance Runner.)

Well, I pulled my big job about two weeks ago, and the coppers haven’t started closing in yet. While that doesn’t mean I am in the clear, it is most definitely a good sign. It makes me smile to think about how the Governor would react if he knew about this last pinch. I like to think it stings when people like him find out they can be wrong, that just maybe someone like me can knock `em off their high horses even for only a moment or two.

The money from this last job will keep me going for a while, at least until I find myself a new mark. I’ve already got something in mind, but I need more information on it before I can decide if it’s worth the risk. It’s not that I’m afraid of gettin’ nabbed by the rats again. I know they’ll get me sooner or later; I just want to enjoy what I can get until that happens. For now, my plan is to just keep on running, fast and hard, see how far I can get, you know? It’s funny how the Borstal made me faster than ever when you think about it. They were supposed to be reforming me for the honest life. Instead, they made me harder to catch.

I haven’t seen my ma in a long while. Sometimes I wonder how she and the younger ones are doing. I still think about me pa, too. I remember how he slaved away doin’ honest work for them and gettin’ nothing in return. They’ll never get me like that, not me. They may catch me, stop me for a while, but they’ll never own me. I’ve found my own way, and though it’s not without risk, I’m making it just fine. Better off now than I’d be if they got hold of me for good.
I hid my take from this last job good. Even if they suspect me, those coppers’ll have a tough time hookin’ me for it. They’re not too bright, you know. With the set-up I’ve got, I expect they’ll have more than their share of work cut out for them. And no matter how hard they sweat me, I’ll never give ‘em a thing. I’m no fool; I know their tricks by now. They don’t know mine, though, and that’s all the edge you need most of the time. If you can just outthink ‘em, you’re golden ‘cause coppers, they think you and me are stupid, too stupid to hide from them for long. They underestimate us, and between you and me, they’re not doing themselves only favors that way.


LIT160 Introduction to Literature, Spring 2007

Published with permission.

Technology: Love or Hate Relationship? (Arielle Pringle)

(Note: In Jennifer Semple Siegel's Introduction to Literature final exam, students were offered the option of writing an essay that explored both the positive and negative aspects of technological advances. Writers were asked to use Ray Bradbury's "August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains" as a springboard. Arielle Pringle's piece is a first draft, written in about an hour.)

In the year of 2007, there are many technological advances that some people love and hate. Some advances in technology that we love is the cell phone and the computer. Others are TV and the DVD players. The negative impact that cell phones have today: they are a distraction to everyone. If the phone rings, then we jump to pick it up, or if we get a text message or voicemail, we hurry to either reply back to it or listen to it. We stop just to work with our cell phones anytime during the day. Just like in the story “August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains,” the house was a distraction for people. It made a lot of noise and it talked back to them (if anybody was in there). But a positive impact that the cell phone has made: it is a better way to get in touch with people. Also, the cell phone itself can do a lot of other things than just call out and receive calls. It can hold phone numbers so that you won’t have to carry around the usual address and phone book. It is also good to have when there is an emergency, but at the same time it may cause the emergency. Cell phones are both technology that people love and hate.

Another advance in technology that we have come to love and hate is the television and the advances in the screen look as well as the advances in the cable options. Back in the olden days, televisions were only in black and white and you could only get a few channels. But today television has advanced to have a bigger screen with better quality and look. There are now LCD screens and flat screens. Also, some people have the home theater system which makes your living room like a movie theater. The best movies are viewed in a home theater room. In 2007, we also can get over 500 channels, whereas back then there were only two. Satellite dishes are taking over. No more of the regular cable or the cable boxes; there has to be a dish sitting on top of your house in order for a person to be considered one of the best. That is also a negative look on today’s society with the advances in technology. People don’t look at your character or your integrity anymore; they judge you solely on what you have. If your house does not have at least one big screen in it, you are not qualified to be the best. My house has over 6 televisions in it, two of them being LCD 50” televisions. Does that make me a person of honor and integrity? Some people in this world would think so.

Other advances in technology that people would love and hate are the advances in home appliances. Now there are refrigerators that have the news and weather on them, washers and dryers that can sense how much water to use only by the size of the load of clothing, and microwaves that now grill and are convection ovens. These advances are great for some people but are a nightmare to others. Yes, to have these appliances in your house would be a big deal. To have a stainless steel, LG refrigerator with a big computer screen on the front would make your house nice. Also, to have the water and the ice on the door is an extra benefit. The high efficiency HEST washer and dryer are a big deal today, too. Being able to get rid of stains without even treating them before they go in is an extra benefit for some. Using less water in the load can save money as well. But what happens when the computer screen on the refrigerator breaks or the sensor on the washer goes bad? People are now wishing they would have the protection agreement at Sears. All the nice benefits of having these appliances are making the people love them, but as soon as it breaks down the people start to hate the fact they even considered changing their kitchen around. Having to go through the hassle of getting the parts to fix the appliance, then having a technician to come out to repair it is a whole other reason why people hate and love the advances in technology.

Yes, these advances are great for America and the world but it also creates problems that are unnecessary. Cell phones are a distraction to anyone, TV’s are over priced and home appliances are so advanced that it is taking place of another electronic in your house. People love to say and flaunt these advances in technology but they hate when something goes wrong. Then they have to worry about the consequences and the problems that come up. All the advances in technology have made a positive and negative impact on today’s society, as well as the society of tomorrow and other generations after the ones of 2007.


LIT160 Introduction to Literature, Spring 2007

Published with permission.

So Muslims are Terrorizing Americans (Andrew Costanzo)

(Note: In Jennifer Semple Siegel's Introduction to Literature class, students are offered the option of writing a creative response to a poem, story, or play. Andrew Costanzo chose to write a poetic response to Jimmy Santiago Baca's poem "So Mexicans Are Taking Jobs from Americans.")


Are we? Do we come in
with tanks and guns and say:
Be afraid, terror has come?

Do you put down your weapons,
and concede to terror, and then
wage your war?

I hear we are terrorizing your country,
do we come in, voice high, and
while you are invading another country,
terrorize yours?

Even as you watch TV, and
See the terror that your bombs
and your soldiers have wrought
on the world, you can safely say,
we are taking down the terrorists.

So I look, I look for these
So-called terrorists.

Everywhere I turned, I looked,
Do you know what I saw?
American soldiers, American bombers.
And at the feet of these “heroes”
were thousands of dead.

I see all this and I, no, we,
are the terrorists? Through your
words of hate, thousands die
through terrorism, and it is not us

Turn and look in the mirror,
and you will see the face
of terrorism.


LIT160 Introduction to Literature, Spring 2007

Published with permission

"I Stand Here Ironing," a poem (Adam Shurnitski)

(Note: In Jennifer Semple Siegel's Introduction to Literature class, students are offered the option of rewriting a story, poem, or play in another genre. Adam Shurnitski chose to rewrite Tillie Olsen's short story "I Stand here Ironing" as a poem. This writer has captured the female point of view--not always an easy shift for a writer of the opposite gender.)


The iron, heavy, I drag
Back and forth, back and forth.
The most wonderful gift, but
Timing is everything.

Two years, quickly pass,
She is a stranger to me,
But I have little time to notice.

She is my perfect child, oh,
To love her properly all over again!
She is alone, in the dark, scared.
I assure her that it will all be fine,
And as perfect as she is, never complains.

What price must I pay to win the love,
Of my so distant, sweet Emily.
Nothing I have done justifies,
My poor upbringing.

As I stand here ironing,
It hurts my soul, to drag,
Back and forth, the destructive
Iron. The iron which crushes my
Sweet child.

I was never there,
To ease her pain and sorrows.
I never saw her life escaping,
My loving touch. I merely saw
Myself, ironing, dragging slowly across
A wooden board.
She deserves more.


LIT160 Introduction to Literature, Spring 2007

Published with permission.