Introduction: This essay helped me practice on weak spots as a writer and continue with my strengths. One goal I had in mind when writing was to cut down on extraneous writing that was there to just give length, or if it was using multiple adjectives that I did not need.. My last essay had a lot of good ideas, and if I had organized and cut them down more, I feel I could have had my ideas conveyed more clearly and almost perfectly. Another goal of mine was to use a lot of descriptive writing in my scene, because I think I am good at writing analysis but could use work on writing stories. I am proud of how I was able describe the setting in my scenes. Lastly, I want to work on incorporating my quotes as evidence better. I like the examples I chose but I feel they could have been put in a better spot.
Reading South Philly
When the word, “Literacy” comes out of anybodies mouth, a thought pops into my mind; Can they read English? However when deeper thought is applied, I find that literacy means so much more than reading words on a paper. Reading beyond books, and reading the surrounding world is a form of literacy that can be just as important. If you understand the people and the places that surround your life, you are literate in at least one way. For me, moving to South Philly provided me with the knowledge to write this essay and show that by learning about a new environment, one is improving their self-awareness and expanding their literacy.
I have not been in my old room since April of my freshman year in high school. The last time I was there, I remember all the walls stood bare where there used to be bright paintings of animals, instruments, and sports players. I sat alone on my white carpet, the last thing left besides what made up the structure of the house. The room smelled dusty and I took shallow breaths. I was sitting on the floor, eating and waiting until it was time to leave and never return to the house I grew up in. It was time for change.
My new neighborhood felt comfortable, but was a shocker. Allow me to explain. Around my old house, I knew where every store was, every park, every bank, every restaurant, and transportation to anywhere I ever had needed to go. It had been my home since birth. Having this knowledge was no longer the case, so the stressful process of moving and to somewhere unfamiliar, felt strangely tiring, and threw me off my routine. I stayed optimistic, but I did not originally feel the comfortable qualities that “home” carries with it.
The new house was also smaller and farther from center city. I remember on the drive to see the house for the first time, I looked out the back window and the center city skyscrapers looked so far, it was like I barely lived in the city anymore, and I was just a kid who got to dream about being their now. The moment I saw the house, I knew it was small; or at least smaller than what I was used to. I opened my new screen door, and then front door. The living room was the first thing I saw, and piled almost as tall as myself was random artwork, bags, and furniture from the move. I kept making trips back and forth between the car and the house, unloading various things.
My new next door neighbor, a short Italian man in his 70s, approached my parents and said, “Hey, you moving in here huh?”
“Yes we are. How do you do?” my dad asked. We all got to chatting and after my Mom, Dad, and I walked back into our house, we all agreed Tony was a very nice man. A few minutes after the conversation, he came back knocking on our door and brought us, “Home made Pie”, which he has been bringing us ever since. The first weekend after we moved in, I decided I would explore the neighborhood. I wanted to know all the places to go and how to get around, just like I did near my old house. The first thing I discovered was that my house was not far from Geno’s Steaks, a cheesesteak place I had been to a million times. I walked down Passyunk ave, noticing the variety of shops and restaurants. I found two parks, a fountain, and loads more.
My optimism about my new home was increasing. I continued to look at the positives. I had a new neighbor Tony, who had a unique scope on the world that I could learn from. I had even more shopping and food near me now, and a huge variety of it that came with a lot of different culture. From the tourists to all the unique natives and their food, businesses, and homes, my home in South Philly broadened my awareness in life and helped me become more literate. Being able to see all these things allowed me to understand how people around my new area lived. There were definitely commonalities amongst the people and knowing about the life they were used to helped me understand them better. Knowing what my neighbors view of their physical world entailed when they look out the window mattered. I enjoyed learning about all the details that made up South Philly life because I wanted to adapt to it.
One of my favorite Author’s, Sherman Alexie wrote about his experience going through a similar experience. In his famous book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, he switches schools and has to adapt. On his first day of school, his mind is swirling with ideas and he thinks, “It’s Junior and Arnold. I’m both. I felt like two different people inside of one body. No, I felt like a magician slicing myself in half, with Junior living on the north side and the Spokane river and Arnold living on the south.” Like me, he started with a literacy for just his environment, but was adapting to learn his new one as well. This change did not mean we had to lose what we had become from our old environments, but we wanted to be literate amongst our new peers, and literate in regards to our surroundings. Sherman Alexie and I both gained literacy from the new places and people we gained contact with.
Another example is from Sherman Alexie’s story, Superman and Me. He talks about how he learned to read from Superman Comics. Excitedly, he is trying to understand the comic: “I look at the narrative above the picture. I can not read the words, but I assume it tells me that “Superman is breaking down the door”.” Here, Sherman Alexie is viewing the world of Superman. He does not completely know how to read this world yet, however he is able to soak up a lot by focusing on what he looks at and making inferences. In my new home, I experienced unfamiliarities and it took time to understand. However, eventually I learned the lingo and physical traits of my home’s environment.
Today, two years after I moved, I feel fully literate in my home. I still hold onto parts of me that the past created. I learned that being literate in your environment does not mean you need to act like everyone else. It means you need to understand and adapt, sometimes stacking characteristics. I feel unique because I have a literacy beyond what many of my neighbors do. Whether you can read and write exceptionally well, or you never even took a language class in your life; reading one’s environment is a form of literacy with value, and takes intelligence to learn.