Profile Reflection

Unlike for the previous pieces we wrote, I knew for the most part who I wanted to write about. Around the same time, my friend Anthony Fortney told me he was going to join the army and the news really confused me. The profile piece seemed like a great way to get to know him better and eventually figure out why he chose the army. I think this piece was really interesting in that because you needed to conduct an interview before writing the piece there was a lot more brainstorming involved. Whereas the other pieces I sat down and let my thoughts carry from one direction to another, I had to have a good idea of what I wanted to talk about before the interview.

A very interesting thing that happened while I was interviewing was that I could see how I was going to write my paper as the interview went on. I don’t know if I got lucky, but the answers he gave me all had an underlying connection, and even his appearance and the setting seemed to fit with the direction of the paper. I left the interview with an introduction in mind and a point to drive home.

The hard part about the paper came though in the actual writing. I had never written so much about someone I knew, and I noticed that as I talked about him, I idealized him a lot. The words that naturally flowed described more of a movie character that resembled Anthony. I had to go back and edit many times parts of the piece that were too idealistic. I just kept on reminding myself that I was writing about Anthony and not a caricature.

Overall, I loved writing this piece because I had never written anything like this and I learned so much about my own writing style and a good friend of mine. I think it’s also great that Anthony will be able to read this and see what people think of him. The person that he portrays to the world might be different than who he is inside and he might find that out by reading the piece. I was also thankful that I got to know Anthony deeper and hang out with him in a different setting. I will definitely miss him when he goes to the army so I’m glad we could do this before he left.


Writer’s Event: Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton

Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton is a professor of psychology but his writing style is far less academic than I expected. In fact, he prides himself on his ability as a writer to tell a story. He talks about in the interview how he grew up fascinated with crime novels because of what it revealed about people. In the same way, Mendoza-Denton writes his pieces as personal narratives that then talk about something scientific. As a blogger, he includes in his writing rich description about the setting, his feelings, and everything he noticed. I felt there with him in every piece. Combining his knowledge of psychology and his impressive writing style, he creates beautiful stories that are all personal and informative. He writes a lot about his experiences as a parent and uses these experiences to clarify a psychological phenomenon. At the end of his pieces, I learned a lesson but didn’t feel like I was being lectured. I felt as if I learned it alongside him as he did when it actually happened.

His thoughts on blog writing were interesting as well. He talks about how the instant gratification was a nice contrast to the 10-year waiting period of academic writing. He also liked being able to interact with the audience through comments. However, he did say that seeing the number of hits each video would get and being disappointed at times discouraged him to write more blogs. He brought it back and said though that it is always about the writing. To him, the blogs were his diary, which is evident in the writing style as well, and his way of making science relevant. The stories he told were good hooks to draw the readers in and we come out also having learned something scientific. For him, academic writing is burdensome but he really wants to get that information across, and in a way, these blogs allow him to do that.

Overall, I really liked his writing style and process. It was very interesting to see someone who was not a professional writer talk about the way writing is a tool for him in his field. It makes me glad that I took this narrative class because now I feel more comfortable about writing about my personal experiences and one day it might come in handy!

Cultural Commentary Blog Post

At first, I had a hard time figuring out what I was going to write about. While I often talk about cultural issues with my friends, it was difficult to choose a topic I felt passionately about. Then, I remembered the interview and how often I would talk about my experience. One day, I was talking about this to my friends and started to get frustrated when I realized that this was what I needed to talk about. The Storify format worked in my favor because I was able to easily showcase the great works of our generation. In addition, the experience gave me a way to start the piece.

Initially, I wanted to include a bunch of examples. I researched and easily found a lot of ones to include. After some advice, however, I narrowed it down to only two examples. I wanted the piece to be concise and to the point. So, I chose two examples that I thought were different enough to showcase a variety of positives from our generation. Malala was an easy choice because I love her work and her passion for using her voice (and technology) to share her dream. As I narrowed down to choose the second example, I remembered the ALS challenge and how it perfectly encapsulated the power of technology. I thought it would work well to show the potential of combining technology and our generation’s understanding of it.

I have never written in a format like in this piece and it was definitely a learning experience. I struggled with finding the right balance between ranting and academically criticizing. I thoroughly enjoyed this assignment, however, because it forced me to think and write in a different way.

Cultural Criticism in Two Different Ways

Cultural criticism pieces are difficult to write because they have to be both captivating and informative. As opposed to the freedom of being able to be lost in a narrative, cultural criticism has a very strong point in mind. At the same time, that point cannot be simply told through facts, but must do so in interesting ways to keep the attention of the audience.

Obviously there are multiple ways to write a successful cultural criticism. From the website, Words Without Borders, a writer by the name of Yoko Tawada accomplishes a cultural criticism piece through fiction. On the other hand, David Foster Wallace in his piece “9/11: A View from the Midwest,” which can be found on the website, Nieman Story Board, achieves one through creative nonfiction.

In “The Far Shore,” Tawada creates a fictional world where the potential problems of today’s society have come to realization. Her vivid descriptions captivate the readers and her choice of perspectives guides the reader smoothly throughout the story. Since her piece is fiction, it is very low on the level of abstraction with many quotations and vivid descriptions. She writes from multiple perspectives to give the readers the entire scope of the problem. She clearly possesses the talent to connect readers to fictional characters even with a single paragraph because as I was reading this story, I imagined people in my life.

Her main goal is to give readers an insight into the problems of every day life if a nuclear reactor blew up. Therefore, she carefully makes sure not to give the character too much insight into the magnitude of the problem. Each character assumes different levels of damage in his or her life, but added up, the reader can picture the entire impact. She did an amazing job of convincing me not to vote for any nuclear reactor plants in my hometown.

In contrast, Wallace uses a single voice, his own, to speak about the distortion of the events of 9/11. The audience believes everything Wallace says because it is from his perspective. Similar to Tawada, Wallace shows the story through only his eyes meaning that he doesn’t include the entire picture all at once. He writes instead the effects to himself, and we, as the readers, translate that to the rest of America.

His voice and writing style is very educated, and so there is a level of trust already built into the story. He moves throughout different levels of abstraction, which helps the reader connect the details in his life to the cultural criticism Wallace is trying to make.

Both pieces achieve a successful cultural criticism through very different means.


Five minutes of silence passed before either of us said anything.

“So? What are you going to do?” my mother asked.

“I don’t know.” I replied.

Two main trains of thought monopolized my mind at that moment, as they always had my whole life. I could choose to listen to my parents or I could do what I wanted. I never knew which side to pick, but I hated the feeling of making my mother sad. So, I usually went with listening to her. She’s never wrong, but she isn’t always right.

Anxiety. The month of March my senior year will always been seen as that. Anxious. You could feel the tenseness in the air from the college applications, rejections, and acceptances, and on top of that, normal school work, and it seemed like our lives were constantly being bumped from one path to another. Days of consoling were followed by days of celebrating. But for me, a couple rejections sedated me into a numbness of little worry and even less excitement. I was not amused anymore by the emotional roller coaster that seemed to never end. As I systematically walked through the blur and haze of the college admissions season, the news of one particular university broke me out of my zombie-like state.

Vanderbilt University. The routine checking of my mailbox was surprised with a golden envelope boasting an enormous “V.” I had applied on a whim after realizing that there were no extra essays I had to write or questions to answer. But it suddenly became a beacon of hope for me It was different, and at that moment I needed change. Instantly, I empowered it with greatness. My future was there, and as I held the acceptance envelope in my hand, I mentally committed myself to the school.

I rushed inside, and with a glow I had so rarely felt before, I exclaimed to my mom the good news.

“Mom! I got into Vanderbilt!”

“What is Vanderbilt?”

“The school in Tennessee that I applied to!”

“You applied to a school in Tennessee?”

After she congratulated me, she mentioned Berkeley. I had completely forgotten about Berkeley. I got into Berkeley a couple months before and was even invited to interview for the Regent’s Scholarship, which would add to the culture and opportunities of a public school the benefits and treatment of a private school. Berkeley was the first of many I heard back from. Days within the good news of Berkeley, I sat in my car with my best friend, Hailee, as she read to me the outcomes of five other universities.

“Dear Ian, I regret to inform you…”

“Stop. Next one.”

“After much consideration, we have decided that you are not a good…”

“Stop. Next one.”

Three more schools were sorry and regretful that after much consideration they didn’t want me. The greatness of Berkeley became buried underneath all these rejections.

But that didn’t matter anymore because I had gotten into Vanderbilt. In a time when I was poor in spirit, I hit the golden jackpot. On the other hand, my mom saw the gold envelope as the shiny bait a fisherman would use to catch fish. And I was the simple-minded fish.

We fought for weeks and every time, we brought the same arguments to the table. We were equally stubborn. The slightest comment about colleges would trigger an explosive, anger-filled battle. It makes me sick when I recall the things I shouted and the words I heard back.

Then one night, my mom gave up. She started to cry. She sat down and wept. Everything in the world stopped. My heart sunk and I got weak in my knees. I made my mom cry once before, and my insides felt sick as if I were allergic to my own being. I promised that if I ever made her cry again, I would never forgive myself. It woke me from the trance that I placed myself in. I started to see the hook attached to the shiny gold envelope.

I knelt beside her, feeling closer to her than I had these past few weeks. Her now glossy eyes met mine and she told me that she hated herself for crying, for being weak. Before we only argued with reason because there was an understanding that an argument with emotions would cause more harm than good, but that day she gave up. As she sat against the wall of the hallway, she spoke softly, not from her mind but from her soul.

“밴더빌트는 너무 멀리와 다르다. 난 당신이 가면, 당신은 다시는 오지 않을 것을 두려워. 당신이 돌아 오지 않는 경우에도, 우리는 통신 할 수 없습니다. 난 당신을 잃고 싶지 않아.” She could feel the gradual separation that we both knew had begun between us. She chose to raise me in America but didn’t think I’d be American. That came consequentially, and now we both had to face the reality. In her eyes, Vanderbilt was the objectification of this idea. She feared that we would not be able to communicate anymore because of the distance and the culture.

College is a transition, in most families, for the child who had been taught independence his or her whole life to go and live out that independence. In practice, however, parents have a hard time letting go. My mother means the world to me and I value her opinion more than anyone else’s in the world. More often than not, she knows me better than I know myself, and that always makes arguing with her hard. At the end of the day, in my mind, college was four years but my relationship with my mother was forever. I knew I could be happy at both schools, and so as my final act of being my mom’s son in this stage of my life, I made a choice that day to attend the University of Berkeley.

To this day, I wonder if that choice was the right one. All I know is that there are principles and lines that I’ve set for my life, and if I don’t stick by them, then I live for nothing. Besides, after college ends, I’ll just get my Masters at Vanderbilt.

Narrative Essay reflections

I would like to start off by stating that this assignment has been incredibly influential on my writing. When I first realized that this class would be more reflective and narrative based, I freaked out a little. During the college admission season, I discovered how terrible I was at writing narratives. Usually, I had an idea in mind, but in practice, that idea got lost in an avalanche of details. When it comes to my own life, I find it extremely difficult to decipher what to and not to include in the piece. As I was writing this narrative, I came across the same issue. I was thrilled about the first topic I had in mind, but as I began to write, I realized how difficult it would be and how near impossible it seemed to get across an idea on paper in less than 1000 words. When I met up with my partner for the peer review, she helped me realize how pointless my essay was. As I began to write from scratch again, I came across a topic I had kept hidden away for so long. Without getting to personal, this narrative brought out in me, tensions I had buried deep inside. Writing about the topic was cathartic and I learned so much about myself. With the help of all the narratives we read in class, I was able to formulate this narrative and present my life in a manner that helped me internally and hopefully could help someone else.