How To Write About
Chris Schillig & Jonathan Smith
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Earlier this year, I assigned Binyavanga Wainaina’s essay, “How to Write about Africa,” to my Advanced Placement English Language and Composition students. The goal was to teach them an appreciation of irony and satire.
For readers unfamiliar with the essay, it is a lengthy list of stereotypes disguised as a how-to manual for writing about the continent. Wainaina advises writers to “treat Africa as if it were one country,” filled with people who “have music and rhythm deep in their souls, and eat things no other humans eat.”
He cautions writers to avoid any scenes of domestic tranquility and focus instead on “naked warriors, loyal servants, diviners and seers.” Wainaina’s point is that Africa is far more diverse than the hackneyed scenes in most movies and books.
After reading and discussing the essay, students wrote their own pieces, emulating Wainaina’s style and “snark” but focusing on different issues. I’ve seldom seen a class attack a writing project with such gusto. They were excited to ferret out examples of subjects that are portrayed unfairly and to explode stereotypical thinking.
The results, featured on the following pages, are stellar. They certainly expanded my consciousness on issues ranging from professional athletes and Christianity to Wiccans, rape, and normative gender roles. Some content may not be suitable for younger readers.
I hope readers find them as fascinating and informative as I do.
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- Category: Language Arts & Disciplines
- Published: Mar 15, 2016
- Publisher: Jonathan Smith
- Seller: Jonathan Smith
- Print Length: 38 Pages
- Language: English
- Version: 1.0