Chapter 1: Identity
A. Warm up
Think about the questions below to prepare you for the topic. Talk about your ideas with your classmate(s).
- What does the word “identity” mean to you?
- Do you spend a lot of time thinking about your identity?
- What are some important parts of your own identity?
B. Vocabulary Preview
Search for definitions and/or translations of the words. Review the new terms with your instructor and classmates.
- Identity (noun)
- Authentically (adjective)
- Narrative (noun)
- Code Meshing (noun)
C. Read all about it!
When we meet new friends, co-workers, or classmates, we often need to introduce ourselves. This is the start of sharing pieces of our identity. Think about the information you usually give in a basic introduction: your name, your occupation, where you are from, sometimes you might share a general fact about your favorite food or hobbies, etc. These are some basic pieces of our identity. But do we really know one another when we share only the basic information about ourselves?
In order to build community with one another, in order to learn with each other, we may need more time to develop relationships of trust and sharing. This can start with telling some of our story to one another, sharing what we think will help our listeners and readers connect and know us more authentically. Here is an example (written by the author of this textbook) of what a story or narrative introduction could look like. In this sample, the author talks about her strongest memories growing up and her experiences as an immigrant moving to a new country. You’ll also note that the author uses some words in her home language, Spanish, and uses italics to let the reader know she is “code meshing” (this means incorporating one language into another language to communicate an idea). This serves as a tool for expressing the writer’s identity more fully.
Sample Narrative Introduction:
Me llamo Inés (My name is Inés). I want you to know me beyond my title, my job, my name. I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The street name sticks to my mind like glue, a familiar sound with a rhyme and pattern that speaks of home. I couldn’t tell you how to find the street or what highway to take (we moved away when I was just 8 years old), but I can tell you the sing-song feeling of the name of la calle de Yapeyu.
My family moved from Argentina to a tiny town of Ayolas, in Paraguay, where we had to close the gates in front of our house before bed to keep the cows out of our yard. I would like to tell you about the downpouring rain of beetles, falling from the trees because of the Amazonian heat in that little town. And how those few years there formed me.
I would like to tell you about the day we got off an airplane that brought us to LA, where my mother’s side of our family, Mexican-American from Jalisco, welcomed us with open arms. Fierce and loving people I did not know yet. My tía fitting us in her pickup truck (was it all of us in one car? No recuerdo), and me staring up and out at the tall buildings, throngs of cars and sprawling freeways.
I want you to know about my living in my abuelos’ house, the grey stone burro that lived in the rock lawn of their front yard, greeting you as you walked up the steep steps, one ear missing but still cheerful. The quesadillas and chocolate milk I would have with my abuela at the kitchen counter, as me and my sisters talked about our school day.
The way my name would feel as it found its awkward way out of my white teacher’s tongue. AYE-NEZ. Pain, Immediate. Every first day of school. I could tell you about learning to challenge that pain and the spaces that caused it as I got older. It was a long journey of hiding, learning, forming so that I was neither yelling or whispering myself. Our LA life, so sudden, so magical, and so painful all at once.
I would like you to know me. My immigrant story because they are pieces of memory that make up my being. They are culture and identity, they are stories that we tell and retell and relive. They are me.
How does the sample narrative introduction contrast from the types of introductions we may be more used to? The above sample is just one way a writer might choose to introduce themselves and their story. The key goal is to share in a way that helps build community with your reader(s). Think about what your narrative introduction might look and sound like. What parts of your story would you like to tell? How would you tell your story?
Talk to your partner(s) about the following questions. Consider choosing roles for the discussion:
- note-taker (write down key ideas that come up)
- time-keeper (make sure you are on track with time)
- facilitator (make sure everyone gets a chance to share)
- speaker (share the key ideas from the discussion with the larger class)
- What do you think the word “narrative” means?
- What makes this introduction different?
- Briefly list some of the different parts of the writer’s story. What does she share about her life?
- What does the sample narrative introduction share about the writer’s experience of every first day of school?
- Why do you think it might be important to reflect on and talk about our stories and our identities?
E. Topics for Writing
Choose a topic to write about. Be sure to practice the five steps in “Getting Ready to Write” to get started with the topic(s) you choose.
- Write your own narrative introduction (this could be similar to or different from the sample narrative introduction). Tell your reader the different parts of your story that you want to share. Organize your story into different sections to help the reader better know you.
- Write about your name. This could be your chosen or given name, your family name or your first or middle name if you have one. Does your name have a special significance or meaning? What stories, traditions or family connections come with your name? How do you feel about your name? What experiences have you had with your name in school or socially?
- Write about the key parts of your identity that make up who you are and explain them with details and examples from your life. You may choose to use the Social Identity Wheel template in Part F to help you reflect on some of the parts of your identity.
- Think about your identity now and the identity you carried in the past (a year ago, two years ago, etc.). Has your sense of identity (the things that define you) changed or stayed the same? Write an answer to this question with details and examples from your life.
Reflect on the different aspects of your identity. Use the handout: Social Identity Wheel (template from the University of Michigan – Inclusive Teaching to help you). Make a presentation about some of the parts of your identity to your classmates and instructor.
G. Additional Resources
“My Identity is a superpower – Not an obstacle” by America Ferrera. TED2019. April 2019. CC BY NC ND 4.0 International.
“Gender Identity and Pronouns – What Will You Teach The World?” by © Onlea.