Letters About Literature 2017 Level 2 Winner: Cynthia N. Onyiorah

Hi my name is Cynthia Onyiorah and today I’m going to read you my essay entry for Letters About Literature. Letters About Literature holds essay writing competition and this writing competition that I entered was based upon writing an essay to an author that has impacted your life with the book that they wrote. So, I wrote my essay to Jodi Picoult about the book “Nineteen Minutes”. I’m going to read you my essay. Dear Jodi Picoult, just the other day I was pondering about my life and the decisions I have recently made. Every day I am faced with tough obstacles that break me down. Diligently, I tried to overcome them and be strong, but through the course of my life I have learned that in order to succeed I have to dust myself off and keep going. I’ve spent too much time playing my moments of weakness like a broken record in my head. I dwelled on those moments rather than fixing the problem until I read your book, “Nineteen Minutes”. I, like Peter Houghton, have been teased and verbally provoked at school. My sixth grade year, I remember going to my counselors office roughly over seven times to report racial harassment. I vividly remember being told that my skin was too dark, being called the name that I never imagined I would ever be called. This impacted my self-confidence and image. I also started to view the world in a different perspective. You can only look one way to “fit in” or be socially accepted. Being a female Afro-Latina and growing up in a community where there isn’t much diversity made it very difficult to make my way through a day without having an offensive comment being tossed in the air. I felt ashamed of the color my skin. I would go home and cry into my pillow wishing for the prejudice to stop. Alone and trapped, having no way to turn to and no body to talk to, i continued my year miserably. My family however, gave me tremendous support through the drama but I didn’t have friends who took my situation seriously. They brushed off these occurrences and gave me annoyed looks when I turned to them for help. Cruelly, they remarked, that racism happens everywhere. There was no way to stop it and that I should just ignore it. I was backed into a corner with my problem crumpled like a piece of paper and thrown aside like it didn’t matter. In this exact moment I felt like Josie Cormier. Jersey throughout the story is pushed around and told how to feel, act, and what to look like. Josie and I unfortunately didn’t do anything about the mistreatment. An average of over 3.2 million students are victims of racism and discrimination each year. All these students are oppressed for something as simple as color. We’re not given the choice to choose our race and ethnicity. We should all be proud of the blood running through our veins and our skin tone. At the end of the day are intelligence, ambitions, kindness, and perseverance will be the components that define us. Your book helps me realize this. The heartwarming wisdom written in bold text helped open my eyes and unclog my ears. I’m need to fight for what I believe in and put an end to the bullying. Children at school should be educated to treat others with respect. Daily bystanders witness this torment and keep their lips sealed. Josie felt pressured to fit in. Her social status is more important than Peter being picked apart each day for being different. This ruined her relationship between her mom and potential friendships with people who would actually care about her. Every time she turned her back on Peter and let the bullying happen, it pushed him into bringing a gun to school and doing what he did. “Nineteen Minutes” helped me make the right choice. Throughout the book several messages are conveyed that have shaped me into the person I am today. Such as, social statuses and stereotypical judgments ruin self-image and that no matter how small the comment is, if it makes you uncomfortable or upset you should take it seriously and report it. I also learned that at the end of the day bullying always has its consequence. The weight on my shoulders was lifted and I could finally breathe again. Thank you for writing such a powerful book that made me realize that the girl staring back in the mirror is beautiful, for helping me accept and love who I am, for giving me the opportunity to be able to discuss this with other children struggling, for helping me comprehend that I’m worth fighting for. Sincerely, Cynthia Onyiorah. This is my essay for the 2016-2017 Letters About Literature or Letters to Authors essay competition. I am so grateful that I actually placed first place in the state with this essay. I would like to thank my parents, my teacher, for helping me push through and writing this essay that I hope will inspire other kids and help them to keep fighting, and that it will all be ok at the end. Thank you and I hope to see you again soon.

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