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Teaching Multicultural Literature: A Workshop for the Middle Grades

Research and Discovery: Edwidge Danticat, An Na, Laurence Yep, and more Student Work

This section features drafts of “Where I’m From” poems written by Kathryn Mitchell Pierce’s students in Workshop video 4. The students were asked to write from the point of view of the main character in their novel. (See Teaching Strategies: “Where I’m From?” Poems.)

As you review the student’s work, consider the following questions:

  • What do you notice that this student did well?
  • What questions might you ask this student about his or her work?

Poem 1

“Where I’m From” poem
A Step From Heaven, An Na

Ju where are you from?
Where are you from Ju?

I am from bowls full of rice and lukewarm tea.
I am from sliding paper doors and the bubbling sea.

I am from happy summer days playing with my dog Mi Shi.
I am from a loving family.

I am from a great big bus that bounces and rolls as it soars through the sky.
To Korea I have to say good-bye.

Heaven, here I come. Heaven, here I come.

I am from struggling to learn English.
There is never enough to eat.
In my father’s anger, it is us he turns to eat.

I am from cracked family.

Poem 2

“Where I’m From” poem
Behind the Mountains, Edwidge Danticat

Celiane, Celiane, where are you from?

I am from cool rivers and the warm sun.
From the mountains and the clay pots.
I am from starry nights and old stories.

Celiane, Celiane, how did you come?

I came in a metal bird,
wings stretched high into the snow out of the sky.

Celiane, Celiane, where are you from?

I am from family dinners and family fights,
new machines and stormy nights.

I am from a Creole-only class,
new friends and streams of my dreams.

Poem 3

“Where I’m From” poem
Dragon’s Gate, Laurence Yep

Where are you from, Otter?
Otter, where are you from?

I am from the smell of opium and odd women.
From evil Manchus trying to kill us all.
I am from the jealous Lion Rock lady.
I am from changing China.

I am from being smart and having a wealthy family.
From eating rice and vegetables and using chopsticks.
I am from odd Uncle Blacky to good spices.
I am from cool China.

I am from white-faced demons and people with whips.
I am cruel bosses and hard labor.
I am from friends being blown up and being tormented.
I am from awful America.

I am from great opportunity in the place of future.
I am for listening to my friends playing moon guitar and dozing off while they’re singing.
I am from working hard and getting paid.
I am from equality.
I am from amazing America.

Poem 4

“Where I’m From” poem
At Her Majesty’s Request: An African Princess in Victorian England, Walter Dean Myers

I am from schoolyards and best friends
From seasickness and thin air.
I am from waves and anguish
From ocean to land.
I am from queens and palaces
From royalty and wealth.
I am from going back and making friends
From learning and from Africa.
I am from wealth and happiness
From marriage and home.
I am from immigration.