4 Category 4: Multimodal

Levi Carter; Kiersten Man; and Stayton Grayce Sanders

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Levi, How Do You Feel?

Awarded to Levi Carter for work submitted in Fall 2021 to Dr. Kate Pantelides in ENGL 1010: Expository Writing

^Click to listen to Levi’s original song, “How Do You Feel?”

“Levi, how do you feel?” A question so simple yet I sit there halted, unable to answer. The words hide from me, but I know they’re there, they must be there, they’re supposed to help me articulate what it is I am feeling. You rework your question as if you are trying to help me solve this puzzle. “Levi, describe your emotions”. But when I want to tell you, no, proclaim to you these emotions I’m experiencing, all I can manage to squeeze out is a pitiful “I just can’t explain it”.

 

Ever since I was a kid, reading has always been a drag. I still struggle to motivate myself to crack one open and flip through the pages, but when I was younger, spending what little summer I had reading so-called “classics” was about the least important activity on my summer schedule. My mother often had to quarantine me in my room till I would read the required novels assigned to me. As a result of this mandate my teachers placed on me, whether factual or not, I became quite comfortable with the phrase “I hate reading”.

 

This blanket statement covered me through my years of schooling. I was bored by every book I read even before the conclusion of the epilogue. But how could they not? Because in my mind, I hated books before I could even judge their cover. What started as just a blanket just draped over my head had become a colossal stone tower, all four sides, surrounding me and preventing me from an open mind when it came to reading. Harper Lee, Ray Bradbury, and George Orwell, all tried tearing down its walls on orders from my teachers, but my mind couldn’t be changed, the equipment they brought just wasn’t strong enough.

 

Because of this lack of literature, I began to fall behind not just in my education, but in my ability to express myself. As a result of spending so much time alone inside my stone tower , I often found myself tongue-tied and my brain stumbling in social situations. What could have been an intimate conversation, a building block for a deep connection, or an outlet for my emotions, became no more than small talk through the tiny cracks in my stone walls. This lack of deeper relationships led to me experiencing feelings of loneliness and emotional isolation rooted in the idea that not even my closest friends knew the real me. I began to feel like I couldn’t relate to them, and even worse I felt that they couldn’t relate to me. These feelings stayed close beside me, bringing me company tucked away so deep inside those stone walls. I expected them to only get worse throughout high school, but that all changed freshman year, when I walked into my 5th period English Class.

 

Perks of Being a Wallflower, a book written by Stephen Chbosky, and assigned to me by my 9th grade English teacher, focused on a boy named Charlie and his life as a high schooler. Charlie battles with feelings of loneliness and alienation. But what stood out to me is that this book brought characters and themes that I could relate to. Never before had I seen myself in a textual character, or read a book that mirrored my life. And it was the first time I had ever felt that a book was written for me. Unlike those who tried before him, the tools that Chbosky brought were strong, strong enough to weaken the wall and strong enough for me to give reading another chance. What was once an intimidating cobblestone wall, had transformed back into a blanket, and the authors whose tools were too weak for breaking down my wall, were perfect for tearing hole in my blanket.

 

Sunlight stung my dilated eyes. With my hand above my eyes I looked around. All around me, the tower was reduced to rubble. At my feet, a blanket torn in two. In my hand, an open book. When my eyes finally adjusted, it hit me. For the first time since elementary school, I was outside.

 

I guess I owe it to Chbosky for helping me realize the value in books. Nowadays, when reading, I find characters I relate with and quotes that I can appreciate, even in the books I once naively scoffed at when I was younger. But the greatest door that Stephen Chbosky opened for me was the door that sealed away what I wanted so long ago all those years in middle and early high school, the access to language. And what I began to realize reading his book was that with the access to language you have the access to understanding yourself, but even more, the access to understand those around you. Before I couldn’t find the words to describe myself and my emotions, but now, I often become frustrated when I’m digging through the plethora of words I can deploy that when strung together could convey that fact that I’m just having a rough day. So in some ways, reading has solved my middle school problem while simultaneously presenting me with a new one. One that I face when connecting with people, connecting with texts, and connecting with myself. But when once again someone asks me “Levi, how do you feel?” I always have an answer.

 

Lyrics:

 

In an interview, I sat down with myself

A problem arose when he looked over at my shelf

He couldn’t believe that I changed

But I’m not the same

 

And as much as I tried

I could not shift his mind

Cause the protagonist isn’t there yet

He hasn’t been to 9th grade English

 

It was then that I read your book Mr. Chbosky

And It hit me in a spot like Rocky

Perks of Being a Wallflower was for me

It’s no surprise it was made into a movie

 

That’s when I read your book Mr. Chbosky

Not sure if I’m saying your name correctly

But your book did things for me socially

Now talking to girls doesn’t make me as sweaty

 

These days me and my younger self talk often.

I enjoy our time now that his pride is softened

And I can’t believe that he changed

But the fact is We’ve changed

 

And as much as I tried

I have shifted his mind

the protagonist has reached the summit

And I owe to 9th grade English

 

It was then that I read your book Mr. Chbosky

And It hit me in a spot like Rocky

Perks of Being a Wallflower was for me

It’s no surprise it was made into a movie

 

That’s when I read your book Mr. Chbosky

Not sure if I’m saying your name correctly

But your book did things for me socially

Now talking to girls doesn’t make me as sweaty

Uplifting Voices

Awarded to Kiersten Man for work submitted in Spring 2021 to Alyson M. Lynn in ENGL 1020: Research and Argumentative Writing.

An watercolor and pen drawing of a diverse group of people reading books sitting and laying on top of books and being uplifted by hands.

 

When we promote the spread of outdated children’s literature that contains racially insensitive depictions, we promote the spread of those prejudices. I believe that literature has the ability to lift young people up. That it has the power to bring kids of all backgrounds together. One day they will grow up and understand the bigotries of the past. But for now, let them read books that will help them grow to love themselves and their neighbor.

Media Attributions

  • Uplifting Voices

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The Gen Ed Magazine Copyright © 2021 by Levi Carter; Kiersten Man; and Stayton Grayce Sanders is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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