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Give two examples of each of the following elements of fiction and nonfiction from the texts you’ve read in Units 1, 2, and 3.
Point of View:
Argue a case for either the usage of hyperbole or understatement. Which do you think is more effective? More humorous? Explain your opinions, citing examples from the texts.
Cite examples from the texts you’ve read in Units 1, 2, and 3 to briefly explain the answers to the Big Questions.
A. Unit 1: Can tXXXXX XXXXXe?
B. Unit 2: Is conflict necessary?
C. Unit 3: Is knowledge the same as understanding?
Discuss the role of love in three of the texts you read in Units 1, 2, or 3.
Explain the author’s use of symbolism in three of the texts from Units 1, 2, or 3.
THE GIANT'S HOUSE" BY ELIZABETH MCCRACKEN UNIT ONE
James took out books on astronomy, ornithology: sciences at once about tininess and height. He approached the desk with books he’d liked and asked for more—he knew it was easier to find more books with a good example in hand.
Then one day, in the first months of 1955---I remember looking over his head at some awful persistent Christmas decorationAstoria had stuck to the ceiling--- he came to me without books. His height had become unwieldy: he reached out to touch walls as he walked, sometimes leaving marks way above where the other teenage boys smudged their hands. ”I want books about people like me,” he said.
I thought I knew what he was talking about, but I wanted to be cautious. “What exactly about you?” I asked. I made myself think of all the tings he could have meant: Boy Scouts, basketball players. Never jump to conclusions when trying to answer a reference question. Interview the patron.
“Tall people,” he said.
“Tall people? Just tall people in general?”
“Very tall people. Like me,” he said, clearly exasperated with my playing dumb. “What they do.”
"Okay," I told him. "Try the card catalog. Look in the big books on the table— see those books?" I pointed. "Those are books of subject headings for the card catalog. Look under words that you think describe your topic." James was used to me doing
this: I gave directions but would not pull the books off the shelf
for him. My job was to show people—even people I liked—how to use the library, not to use it for them. "Dig around," I said. "Try height, try stature. Then look in the catalog for books."
He nodded, leaned on the desk, and pushed off. An hour later he headed out the door. "Did you find what you needed?" I asked.
"There isn't anything," he said. "There was one book that sort of was about it, but I couldn't find it on the shelf.""There's something," I told him. "Come back. We'll look for it together."
That night after closing, I hunted around myself. The only thing under stature was a book about growth and nutrition. I tried our two encyclopedias under height and found passing references. Not much.
In truth, my library was a small-town place, and this was a specialized topic. Still, I was certain I could find more. I got that familiar mania—there is information somewhere here, and I can find it, I have to. A good librarian is not so different from a prospector, her whole brain a divining rod. She walks to books and stands and wonders: here? Is the answer here? The same blind faith in finding, even when hopeless. If someone caught me when I was in the throes of tracking something elusive, I would have told them: but it's out there. I can feel it. God wants me to find it.
That night I wandered the reference department, eyed the bindings of the encyclopedias, dictionaries, atlases. James was so big I almost expected to locate him in the gazetteer. I set my hands upon our little card catalog, curledmy fingers in the curved handles of the drawers. Then I went to the big volumes of subject headings.
Looking under height and stature turned up nothing; anthropometry was not quite right. Then I realized the word I was looking for: Giant.
Giant described him. Giant, I knew, would lead me to countless things—not just the word, located in indexes and catalogs and encyclopedias, but the idea of Giant, the knowledge that the people that James wanted to read about, people who could be described as like him, were not just tall but giants. I sat in a spindle-backed chair in the reference room, waiting for a minute. Then I checked the volume of the Library of Congress headings. Giant. See also: dwarfs.
We did not have a book, but I found several encyclopedia entries. Nowadays I could just photocopy; but that night I wrote down the page and volume numbers, thinking I could not bear to tell him the word to look under. Most of the very tall people mentioned in the encyclopedia had worked in the circus as professional giants, so I went to our books on the circus.
The photographs showed enormous people. Not just tall, though of course they were that, often with an ordinary person posed beside them. The tall people looked twice as big as the ambassador from the normal-sized, as if they were an entirely different race. The books described weak stomachs and legs and bones. Sometimes what made them tall showed in their faces: each feature looked like something disturbed in an avalanche, separate from the others, in danger of slipping off.
Anna Swann, the Nova Scotia Giantess, married Captain Bates, the Kentucky Giant. As a young woman at Barnum's Dime Museum in New York, Miss Swann had been in two fires; in the second she had to be lifted out by a crane. No ordinary over-the-shoulder rescue for a woman better than seven feet tall. She and her husband retired toOhio, to a specially made house. Their church installed an extra-large pew.
Byrne, the Irish Giant, lived in fear of a certain doctor who lusted after his skeleton; he imagined the doctor's giant kettle ready to boil his bones.
Jack Earle was over seven feet tall, traveled with the circus for years; after his retirement he wrote poetry.
I took comfort in Anna Swann and her husband. They were solid-looking people. Respectable. They'd had two children, though neither survived. The book described them as in love, and you could believe that from the pictures:their complementary heights were just a lovely coincidence to their love affair. I found myself that late night a little jealous of Anna Swann and her handsome, bearded captain.
The books said that giants tended to exaggerate their heights for exhibition purposes. I did not know it then, but every person I read about was shorter than James grew to be.
The worst book was called Medical Curiosities. I say worst now. That is hindsight. The night I looked, I thought, in fact, that it was the best book—not because it was good or even accurate, but because it had the most pages on the subject I was researching. I found it under the subject heading Abnormalities, human. A terrible phrase, and one I knew I could not repeat to James. It was a late-nineteenth-century medical book, described two-headed people and parasitic twins and dwarfs. And giants. Not exactly information, but interesting: giants who had enormous or usual appetites; ones who grew throughout their lives or only after adolescence; professional giants and private citizens.
So I took that book, and the circus books, marked the pertinent places with the old catalog cards I used for scrap, and set them aside. Ready for him, so that he did not have to look in the index, or wander through the pages at all.
"Your tall friend is here," Astoria said to me the next week. I was in my office, reading reviews. "He's looking for you."
James waited for me at the circ desk. "You said we could—"
"I looked," I said. I'd stowed the books beneath the shelf. "Try these out."
He took them to the big table in the front room. Read them. He made the sturdy chair, the same chair I'd sat in the night before, seem tiny.
Afterward he came up to me.
"How were they?" I asked. "Would you like to take them home?"
He shook his head.
"No," he said. "Thanks."
"Nothing useful here at all?"
"No," he said.
I tried to catch his eye. "Close?"
"Close. I guess." He pointed at Medical Curiosities. "I guess that's close."
I picked up the book and opened it to where the marker was, but he'd moved it to another page. A line drawing of a double-bodied baby looked up at me. Horrible. I snapped the book shut.
"I meant medical books," he said. "But new ones. Ones that say what goes wrong. How to cure it"
"Cures," I said. "Oh." Cures for giants? No such thing. No cure for height. Only preventive medicine. I said it as a question. "Cures? For tall people?"
"Yes," he said.
All I wanted was for him to explain it to me. It seemed presumptuous to come to any conclusions myself. I knew what he was talking about. I did. But what he wanted, I couldn't help him with.
Darla, the shelver, came rattling up with her metal cart. "Shelve these?" she said, pointing at the books. The catalog cards I'd used stuck out from the pages; James had lined them up, like a pack of cards he'd shuffled into them. "Hi, Jim," she said.
"Hi." He squinted down at her.
She stared at me; I waited for her to get back to shelving.
"Peggy. Shelve them, or not?"
“Not yet," I said. She sighed and pushed the cart off.
James stood in silence on the other side of the desk. He looked ready to leave.
“You mean how to stop growing," I said.
"Yes." Now he looked at me. "Medicine, or operations, or something."
“I’m not sure we have anything here," I said. That was a lie. I knew we didn't. “A medical library somewhere, perhaps. Or a university library. But really—" I pulling the bookmarks from the books. I tried to sound gentle. "Really, you should ask your doctor."
“I have," he said. "I've asked a lot of doctors."
'THE JADE PEONY" BY WAYSON CHOY UNIT 2 '
When Grandmama died at 83 our whole household held its breath. She had promised us a sign her leaving, final proof that her present life had ended well. My parents knew that without any clear sign, our own family fortunes could be altered, threatened. My stepmother looked endlessly into the small cluttered room the ancient lady had occupied. Nothing was touched; nothing changed. My father, thinking that a sign should appear in Grandmama’s garden, looked at the frost-killed shoots and cringed: no, that could not be it.
My two older teenage brothers and my sister, Liang, age 14, were embarrassed by my parents’ behavior. What would all the white people in Vancouver think of us? We were Canadians now,Chinese-Canadians, a hyphenated reality that my parents could never accept. So it seemed, for different reasons, we all held our breath waiting for something.
I was eight when she died. For days she had resisted going into the hospital . . . a cold, just a cold . . . and instead gave constant instruction to my stepmother and sister on the boiling of ginseng roots mixed with bitter extract. At night, between wracking coughs and deadly silences, Grandmama had her back and chest rubbed with heated camphor oil and sipped a bluish decoction of an herb called Peacock’s Tail. When all these failed to abate her fever, she began to arrange the details of her will. This she did with my father, confessing finally: “I am too stubborn. The only cure for old age is to die.”
My father wept to hear this. I stood beside her bed; she turned to me. Her round face looked darker, and the gentleness of her eyes, the thin, arching eyebrows, seemed weary. I brushed the few strands of XXXXX, XXXXXttle hair from her face; she managed to smile at me. Being the youngest, I had spent nearly all my time with her and could not imagine that we would ever be parted. Yet when she spoke, and her voice hesitated, cracked, the sombre shadows of her room chilled me. Her wrinkled brow grew wet with fever, and her small body seemed even more diminutive.
“I – I am going to the hospital, Grandson.” Her hand reached out for mine. “You know, Little Son, whatever happens I will never leave you.” Her palm felt plush and warm, the slender, old fingers boney and firm, so magically strong was her grip that I could not imagine how she could ever part from me. Ever.
Her hands were magical. My most vivid memories are of her hands: long, elegant fingers, with impeccable nails, a skein of fine, barely-seen veins, and wrinkled skin like light pine. Those hands were quick when she taught me, at six, simple tricks of juggling, learnt when she was a village girl in Southern Canton; a troup of actors had stayed on her father’s farm. One of them, “tall and pale as the whiteness of petals,” fell in love with her, promising to return. In her last years his image came back like a third being in our two lives. He had been magician, acrobat, juggler, and some of the things he taught her she had absorbed and passed on to me through her stories and games. But above all, without realizing it then, her hands conveyed to me the quality of their love.
Most marvellous for me was the quick-witted skill her hands revealed in making windchimes for our birthdays: windchimes in the likeness of her lost friend’s only present to her, made of bits of string and scraps, in the centre of which once hung a precious jade peony. This wondrous gift to her broke apart years ago, in China, but Grandmama kept the jade pendant in a tiny red silk envelope, and kept it always in her pocket, until her death.
These were not ordinary, carelessly made chimes, such as those you now find in our Chinatown stores, whose rattling noises drive you mad. But making her special ones caused dissension in our family, and some shame. Each one that she made was created from a treasure trove of glass fragments and castaway costume jewellery, in the same way that her first windchime had been made. The problem for the rest of the family was in the fact that Grandmama looked for these treasures wandering the back alleys of Keefer and Pender Streets, peering into our neighbors’ garbage cans, chasing away hungry, nervous cats and shouting curses at them.
“All our friends are laughing at us!” Older Brother Jung said at last to my father, when Grandmama was away having tea at Mrs. Lim’s.
“We are not poor,” Oldest Brother Kiam declared, “yet she and Sek-Lung poke through those awful things as if -” he shoved me in frustration and I stumbled against my sister, “- they were beggars!”
“She will make Little Brother crazy!” Sister Liang said. Without warning, she punched me sharply in the back; I jumped. “You see, look how nervous he is!”
I lifted my foot slightly, enough to swing it back and kick Liang in the shin. She yelled and pulled back her fist to punch me again. Jung made a menacing move towards me.
“Stop this, all of you!” My father shook his head in exasperation. How could he dare tell the Grand Old One, his aging mother, that what was somehow appropriate in a poor village in China, was an abomination here. How could he prevent me, his youngest, from accompanying her? If she went walking into those alleyways alone she could well be attacked by hoodlums. “She is not a beggar looking for food. She is searching fo-r for ….”
My stepmother attempted to speak, then fell silent. She, too, seemed perplexed and somewhat ashamed. They all loved Grandmama, but she was inconvenient, unsettling.
As for our neighbors, most understood Grandmama to be harmlessly crazy, others that she did indeed make lovely toys but for what purpose? Why? they asked, and the stories she told me, of the juggler who smiled at her, flashed in my head.
Finally, by their cutting remarks, the family did exert enough pressure so that Grandmama and I no longer openly announced our expeditions. Instead, she took me with her on “shopping trips,” ostensibly for clothes or groceries, while in fact we spent most of our time exploring stranger and more distant neighborhoods, searching for splendid junk: jangling pieces of a vase, cranberry glass fragments embossed with leaves, discarded glass beads from Woolworth necklaces …. We would sneak them all home in brown rice sacks, folded into small parcels, and put them under her bed. During the day when the family was away at school or work, we brought them out and washed every item in a large black pot of boiling lye and water, dried them quickly, carefully, and returned them, sparkling, under her bed.
Our greatest excitement occurred when a fire gutted the large Chinese Presbyterian Church, three blocks from our house. Over the still-smoking ruins the next day, Grandmama and I rushed precariously over the blackened beams to pick out the stained glass that glittered in the sunlight. Small figure bent over, wrapped against the autumn cold in a dark blue quilted coat, happily gathering each piece like gold, she became my spiritual playmate:“There’s a good one! There!”
Hours later, soot-covered and smelling of smoke, we came home with a Safeway carton full of delicate fragments, still early enough to steal them all into the house and put the small box under her bed. “These are special pieces,” she said, giving the box a last push, “because they come from a sacred place.” She slowly got up and I saw, for the first time, her hand begin to shake. But then, in her joy, she embraced me. Both of our hearts were racing, as if we were two dreamers. I buried my face in her blue quilt, and for a moment, the whole world seemed silent.
“My juggler,” she said, “he never came back to me from Honan . . . perhaps the famine . . . .” Her voice began to quake. “But I shall have my sacred windchime . . . I shall have it again.”
One evening, when the family was gathered in their usual places in the parlor, Grandmama gave me her secret nod: a slight wink of her eye and a flaring of her nostrils. There was trouble in the air. Supper had gone badly, school examinations were due, father had failed to meet an editorial deadline at the Vancouver Chinese Times. A huge sigh came from Sister Liang.
“But it is useless this Chinese they teach you!” she lamented, turning to Stepmother for support. Silence. Liang frowned, dejected, and went back to her Chinese book, bending the covers back.
“Father,” Oldest Brother Kiam began, waving his bamboo brush in the air, “you must realize that this Mandarin only confuses us. W e are Cantonese speakers . . ”
“And you do not complain about Latin, French or German in your English school?” Father rattled his newspaper, a signal that his patience was ending.
“But, Father, those languages are scientific,” Kiam jabbed his brush in the air. “We are now in a scientific, logical world.”
Father was silent. We could all hear Grandmama’s rocker.
“What about Sek-Lung?” Older Brother Jung pointed angrily at me. “He was sick last year, but this year he should have at least started Chinese school, instead of picking over garbage cans!”
“He starts next year,” Father said, in a hard tone that immediately warned everyone to be silent. Liang slammed her book.
Grandmama went on rocking quietly in her chair. She complimented my mother on her knitting, made a remark about the “strong beauty” of Kiam’s brushstrokes which, in spite of himself, immensely pleased him. Allthis babbling noise was her family torn and confused in a strange land: everything here was so very foreign and scientific.
The truth was, I was sorry not to have started school the year before. In my innocence I had imagined going to school meant certain privileges worthy of all my brothers’ and sister’s complaints. The fact that my lung infection in my fifth and sixth years, mistakenly diagnosed as TB, earned me some reprieve, only made me long for school the more. Each member of the family took turns on Sunday, teaching me or annoying me. But it was the countless hours I spent with Grandmama that were my real education. Tapping me on my head she would say, “Come, Sek-Lung, we have ourwork,” and we would walk up the stairs to her small crowded room. There, in the midst of her antique shawls, the old ancestral calligraphy and multi-colored embroidered hangings, beneath the mysterious shelves of sweet herbs and bitter potions, we would continue doing what we had started that morning: the elaborate windchime for her death.
“I can’t last forever,” she declared, when she let me in on the secret of this one. “It will sing and dance and glitter,” her long fingers stretched into the air, pantomiming the waving motion of her ghost chimes; “My spirit will hear its sounds and see its light and return to this house and say goodbye to you.”
Deftly she reached into the Safeway carton she had placed on the chair beside me. She picked out a fish-shape amber piece, and with a long needle-like tool and a steel ruler, she scored it. Pressing the blade of a cleaver against the line, with the fingers of her other hand, she lifted me up the glass until it leanly snapped into the exact shape she required. Her hand began to tremble, the tips of her fingers to shiver, like rippling water.
“You see that, Little One?” She held her hand up. “That is my body fighting with Death. He is in this room now.”
My eyes darted in panic, but Grandmama remained calm, undisturbed, and went on with her work. Then I remembered the glue and uncorked the jar for her. Soon the graceful ritual movements of her hand returned to her, and I became lost in the magic of her task: she dabbed a cabalistic mixture of glue on one end and skillfully dropped the braided end of a silk thread into it. This part always amazed me: the braiding would slowly, very slowly, unknot,fanning out like a prized fishtail. In a few seconds the clear, homemade glue began to harden as I blew lightly over it, welding to itself each separate silk strand.
Each jam-sized pot of glue was precious; each large cork had been wrapped with a fragment of pink silk. I remember this part vividly, because each cork was treated to a special rite. First we went shopping in the best silk stores in Chinatown for the perfect square of silk she required. It had to be a deep pink, a shade of color blushing toward red. And the tone had to match – as closely as possible – her precious jade carving, the small peony of white and light-red jade, her most lucky possession. In the centre of this semi-translucent carving, no more than an inch wide, was a pool of pink light, its veins swirling out into the petals of the flower.
“This color is the color of my spirit,” she said, holding it up to the window soI could see the delicate pastel against the broad strokes of sunlight. She dropped her voice, and I held my breath at the wonder of the color. “This was given to me by the young actor who taught me how to juggle. He had four of them, and each one had a centre of this rare color, the color of Good Fortune.” The pendant seemed to pulse as she turned it: “Oh, Sek-Lung! He had white hair and white skin to his toes! It’s true, I saw him bathing.”She laughed and blushed, her eyes softened at the memory. The silk had to match the pink heart of her pendant: the color was magical for her, to hold the unravelling strands of her memory.. . .
It was just six months before she died that we really began to work on her last windchime. Three thin bamboo sticks were steamed and bent into circlets; 30 exact lengths of silk thread, the strongest kind, were cut and braided at both ends and glued to stained glass. Her hands worked on their own command, each hand racing with a life of its own: cutting, snapping, braiding, knotting.. . . Sometimes she breathed heavily and her small body, growing thinner, sagged against me. Death, I thought, He is in this room, and I would work harder alongside her. For months Grandmama and I did this every other evening, a half dozen pieces each time. The shaking in her hand grew worse, but we said nothing. Finally, after discarding hundreds, she told me she had the necessary 30pieces. But this time, because it was a sacred chime, I would not be permitted to help her ie it up or have the joy of raising it. “Once tied,” she said, holding me against my disappointment, “not even I can raise it. Not a sound must it make until I have died.”
“What will happen?” “Your father will then take the centre braided strand and raise it. He will hang it against my bedroom window sothat my ghost may see it, and hear it, and return. I must say goodbye to this world properly or wander in this foreign devil’s land forever.”
“You can take the streetcar!” I blurted, suddenly shocked that she actually meant to leave me. I thought I could hear the clear-chromatic chimes, see the shimmering colors on the wall: I fell against her and cried, and there in my crying I knew that she would die. I can still remember the touch of her hand on my head, and the smell of her thick woolen sweater pressed against my face. “I will always be with you, Little Sek-Lung, but in a different way . . . you’ll see.”
Months went by, and nothing happened. Then one late September evening, when Ihad just come home from Chinese School, Grandmama was preparing supper when she looked out our kitchen window and saw a cat – a long, lean white cat – jump into our garbage pail and knock it over. She ran out to chase it away, shouting curses at it. She did not have her thick sweater on and when she came back into the house, a chill gripped her. She leaned against the door: “That was not a cat,” she said, and the odd tone of her voice caused my father to look with alarm at her. “I can not take back my curses. It is too late.” She took hold of my father’s arm: “It was all white and had pink eyes like sacred fire.”
My father started at this, and they both looked pale. My brothers and sister, clearing the table, froze in their gestures.
“The fog has confused you,” Stepmother said. “It was just a cat.” But Grandmama shook her head, for she knew it was a sign. “I will not live forever,” she said. “I am prepared.”
The next morning she was confined to her bed with a severe cold. Sitting by her, playing with some of my toys, I asked her about the cat: “Why did father jump at the cat with the pink eyes? He didn’t see it, you did.”
“But he and your mother know what it means.”
“My friend, the juggler, the magician, was as pale as white jade and he had pink eyes.” Ithought she would begin to tell me one of her stories, a tale of enchantment or of a wondrous adventure, but she only paused to swallow; her eyes glittered, lost in memory. She took my hand, gently opening and closing her fingers over it. “Sek-Lung,” she sighed, “hehas come back to me.”
Then Grandmama sank back into her pillow and the embroidered flowers lifted to frame her wrinkled face. I saw her hand over my own, and my own began to tremble. I fell fitfully asleep by her side. When I woke up it was dark and her bed was empty. She had been taken to the hospital and I was not permitted to visit.
A few days after that she died of the complications of pneumonia. Immediately after her death my father came home and said nothing to us, but walked up the stairs to her room, pulled aside the drawn lace curtains of her window and lifted the windchimes to the sky.
I began to cry and quickly put my hand in my pocket for a handkerchief. Instead, caught between my fingers, was the small, round firmness of the jade peony. In my mind’s eye I saw Grandmama smile and heard, softly, the pink centre beat like a beautiful, cramped heart.
BEFORE HIP-HOP WAS HIP-HOP' BY XXXXX XXXXX UNIT 3
Way back then, in what today’s ninth graders might call the ancient eighties, there was no MTV or VH-1. We found out about music by listening to the radio, flipping through the stacks at the record store, or buying “mix tapes” from local deejays at two dollars apiece. Back then, we carried combs in our back pockets and clipped long strands of feathers to the belt loops of our designer jeans. We wore our names in cursive gold letters around our necks or in big brass letters on our belt buckles. We picked up words and inverted them, calling something that we thought was really cool, “hot,” and something that had a whole lot of life, “def.”We didn’t know a whole new language was rolling off our tongues as we flipped English upside down and pulled some Spanish and even a few words from Africa into our parlance. We didn’t know that young people for years to come would recycle our fashions and sample the bass lines from our favorite tracks. We thought we were just being kids and expressing ourselves, showing the grown-ups we were different from them in a way that was safe and fun. In fact we were at the epicenter of one of America’s most significant cultural revolutions, making it happen. Who knew?Not me.When I moved from Washington DC to the Bronx the summer before seventh grade, I had one box of records, mostly albums I had ordered from the Columbia Record Club. In 1982, if you promised to buy a record a month for one whole year, the Club sent you eight records for a penny. I had Bruce Springsteen’s “The River,” REO Speedwagon’s “The Letter,” “Belladonna” by Stevie Nicks. I had “Stairway to Heaven,” by Led Zeppelin and the soundtrack from the movie Saturday Night Fever, which I played so many times I thought my mother would go crazy from listening to me belt out the lyrics with those lanky, swanky Bee Gees.Along with my albums I had loads of 45s, what today we would call singles, little records with just two songs on them, that I bought at the record store near my school for just a dollar a piece. I had Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman,” and Luther Vandross’ “Never Too Much,” and Chuck Brown and Soul Searcher’s big hit, “Bustin’ Loose.” I had XXXXX XXXXX’s “Rock with You” and even Aretha Franklin’s cover of “You Make me Feel Like a Natural Woman” which I sang along to in the mornings as I styled my hair.If you had asked me then about rap music I would have shrugged my shoulders and looked at you like you were crazy. Rap music? What’s that?But then I started seventh grade and my whole world turned upside down. At Public School 141, I went to classes with kids from all over the Bronx. There were kids whose families came from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, and kids whose families came from Russian and China. There were kids who were African-American and kids who were Irish-American, kids who were Italian-American and kids who were Greek-American. There were kids whose families were poor, kids whose families were well off, and kids whose families were somewhere in between. Some were Jewish, and others devout Catholics. Some were Muslim. Some of the Asian kids were even Buddhist.The charge created by so many different elements coming together was palpable. The school crackled with energy, and as you can imagine, things weren’t always smooth. There were some pretty entrenched cliques, and a few vicious fights on the schoolyard. But there was also so much “flavor.” You could hear Spanish spoken with a thick “Nuyorican” accent to a kid wearing a “yamulke.” A seemingly reserved Asian-American girl would get out of her parents’ car, wait for them to drive off, and then unzip her coat to reveal a fire engine red Adidas sweatsuit. A guy in a preppy, button down shirt would “sport” gold chains with pendants of every denomination: the Jewish Star of David, the Arabic lettering for Allah, and a shiny gold cross. He was everything, that was his “steelo,” and everyone gave him “props” for it.When I got to 141, I felt like a blank canvas. Nothing had prepared me for the dynamism, the screaming self-_expression of the place and its students. For the first few weeks I secretly studied the habits of the seventh, eighth and ninth graders with whom I walked the halls and shared the cafeteria. I was transfixed by the way they infused their words with attitude and drama, moving their hands and heads as they spoke. I was captivated by the way many of them walked and ran and joked with each other with confidence and bravado. I noted what they wore and how they wore it: the razor sharp creases of their Jordache jeans, the spotless sneakers with the laces left loose and untied.Slowly, I began to add some of what I saw into my “look.” I convinced my grandmother to buy me a name chain to wear around my neck, and my stepmother to buy me dark dyed designer jeans. I bought my first pair of Nike sneakers, red, white and blue Air Cortezes, with money I saved from my allowance.One by one, I started to make friends --Diane, Loida, James, Jesus, Maya. When James and Jesus weren’t making fun of me for being so “square,” they took me to parties on the Grand Concourse, the big boulevard lined with old apartment buildings and department stores that ran through the Bronx. The parties were incredible, filled with young people who didn’t drink, smoke or fight, but who just wanted to dance and laugh and ooh and ahhh over the “scratching” sounds and funky beats the DJ’s coaxed out of their turntables.A lot of the kids at the parties were “breakers” or “poppers and lockers,” which meant they could breakdance, a style of movement that blends the Brazilian martial art of Capoeira with a dance called the Robot, and incorporates classical dance moves as well. The “breakers” moved in “crews” that competed against each other. Standing in a circle we watched as members of the different groups “moonwalked” into the center, and then hurled themselves to the floor, spinning on their heads, kicking their legs into the air, and making elaborate hand gestures, each more intricate and acrobatic than the last. Everyone at the party who wasn’t “breaking” was a judge by default, and we registered our scores by clapping and yelling.When Loida and Diane weren’t “capping on” or making fun of my clothes, they were “hipping” me to Kiss 98.7 and WBLS, the radio stations that had started to slip some of the songs we liked into their rotation. Songs like Planet Rock by Soul Sonic Force and Take Me Home by XXXXX XXXXXsa and the Cult Jam. After school and on the weekends, they took me to the street vendors that sold the accessories we all coveted: the big knockoff Porsche sunglasses everybody wanted but not everybody could afford, and the heavy gold chains people collected around their necks like so many pieces of string. Loida and Diane also took me around the city on the bus, familiarizing me with the routes of the M1 and M3 and M7, showing me all the different neighborhoods like Little Italy and Chinatown, Bed-Stuy and Harlem.I remember looking out the big sliding glass windows of the bus at the lines drawn in concrete and glass and thinking that while the world outside seemed so divided, inside, in my circle, amongst my friends, those lines didn’t seem to exist. Loida was Dominican and Diane was Puerto Rican. Our friend Mary was Irish-American, and Lisa was Italian-American. Maya’s family was from Haiti. Julius was Russian-American. We were different ages, with different likes and dislikes, but we were united in our love of hip-hop. We loved the “dope” beats, the ever changing and ever expanding lexicon, the outrageous dance moves, the cocky swagger, the feeling that we were part of something dynamic and “fresh” that was bigger than any one of us. That world, that other realm that we created on the streets and in our minds, that streamed from the radio in the privacy of our bedrooms and coursed between us as we talked on the phone, that was where we lived.That was where we felt free.Looking back on it now, I can see that hip-hop was born of the diversity I found at 141. Unlike the hip-hop of today, it didn’t come pre-packaged from a marketing department with millions of dollars to spend. Our hip-hop was the product of a bunch of kids from a bunch of different places trying to talk to each other, trying to create a common language that could cut through the many languages people spoke at home. Intuitively, kids were making a community where there was none; we were affirming our sameness in a world that seemed to only emphasize our difference. That desire to come together irrespective of superficial differences and sometimes in celebration of them, was what gave hip-hop authenticity, that was what kept it honest and as crucial to our well being as food. It’s what kept it real.I can’t say much about hip-hop today, but I can say that old hip-hop, original hip-hop, changed my life forever. I only lived in the “Boogie Down Bronx” for a year, but those twelve months gave me so much. I learned that art could bring people together and make them forget their differences. I learned how good it could feel to move with a “posse,” a group of friends who had my back no matter what. I learned that I could express myself and communicate with others through what I wore and how I walked and what music I liked. I learned that it doesn’t take money or a special degree to transform the grit and drive and hardness of the city into something beautiful.Loyalty. Community. Self-confidence. Creativity. Hip-hop taught me more about real life than anything I learned that year in class.I hope when young people today look at shiny videos by their favorite hip-hop artists, they will see through the expensive cars and exotic locations, the women in skimpy outfits and the men trying to approximate a “gangsta” lean. I hope they will remember that hip-hop was born without a formula and without a lot of expensive props or violent undertones. I hope they will marvel at the fact that in the early days of hip-hop, young people were making it up as they went along, following their hearts, following what felt good. I hope they will think about what it takes to create culture that is unique and transcendent and honest, and I hope they will begin to dream about creating a new world for themselves.I hope hip-hop inspires you to make your own revolution.