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Comparison-Contrast ARTICLE REVIEW Essay


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This paper compares and contrasts the themes and approaches in two articles. The two articles are How Mr. Dewey Decimal Saved My Life by Barbara Kingsolver and Lying in the Tall Grasses Eating Cane by Opal Palmer Adisa. The main theme that this paper explores in the two readings concerns the different ways in which the two authors acquired an interest in writing and developed their passion and skills in the field. Both Adisa and Kingsolver encountered significant challenges in their development as authors and approached these problems in different ways to become skilled writers. This paper explores the critical factors that served as foundations for the authors’ successes, the processes of their development as writers, and their approaches towards the issue and process of empowering writers in modern society.

One key theme in the articles concerns the challenges that both authors experienced early in their lives that threatened to disrupt their talents as future writers. Kingsolver notes that by age 16, while she was in high school, she was already disillusioned with life and academics. The school that she attended offered uninteresting courses and subjects without “fancy” ones such as Latin and Calculus (Kingsolver 131). The school also offered segregated courses for boys and girls. Kingsolver observes that as an adult, she has still not found a way to put the skills that she obtained from the Home Economics course at the school to good use. At 16, Kingsolver could not identify anything in the school curriculum that was exciting and inspiring enough to keep her from engaging in the businesses and activities of the streets. By the third year of high school, Kingsolver was in a state of unrest: she was certain that she had all the knowledge there was to acquire from school (Kingsolver 131). Nonetheless, a fortunate encounter with a librarian in her school eliminated the risk of engaging in wayward behavior with peers and set her on a path of discovery of her passion for books and the art of writing.

For Adisa, the challenges that threatened to disrupt her talent as a future writer related to the oppressive forces of colonialism in her native Jamaica. Adisa observes that, as a young girl, she found nature, the relationships among people, and the daily routines of others in her society intriguing. The zest for life in her society enthralled her, but she lacked the words and language with which to convey her feelings and experiences. She observes that British education denounced her native Jamaican cultural ethos and belittled local history, thereby undermining her confidence about the validity of her society’s nature and experiences as things about which she could write. British education and colonialism influenced Adisa’s perceptions that her history, society, and language were erroneous, inferior, and unworthy of focus in her writing (Adisa 185). All the poems and books that she read were British or American, and none was attributable to a black author. A transformation in Adisa’s attitudes towards courage to capture the reality of her cultural and social background in Jamaica happened when she read an inspiring text by a writer named Tooner, whose characters and people reflected the Jamaica of her childhood. This assessment indicates that both authors experienced challenges early in their lives that threatened to disrupt their talents, but in different ways.

A second theme in the two articles concerns the unique experiences and perspectives of the two authors about life and their environments at a young age. These unique experiences and perspectives were critical foundations for their courage and efforts in the path towards their current statuses as skilled authors. Kingsolver writes that during her high school years, she resisted the wayward and irresponsible ways of her peers and stuck to school curriculum activities despite their boring nature. When the librarian at her school took a keen interest in her and recruited her on the "project" of cataloging and shelving the books in the library that "nobody ever looked at", she began discovering exciting facts and experiences about the books and their content (Kingsolver 132-133). While others took no interest in these books, Kingsolver found them stimulating. This new experience opened up her path towards a passion for literature and writing. Adisa also experienced her environment and society in a unique way. As a young child, she would spend hours lying on the grass alone, watching clouds, birds, cows, and other animals. She started composing poems and stories on paper, enjoying the experience, although she did not share them with anyone (Adisa 183). She experienced banana fields, cotton trees, cane farms, forests, various animal species, the beach, colors, ocean waves, and sounds in unique ways. She found the daily routines of women and people in her neighborhood enthralling. These unique experiences of society and the environment around her indicated a special orientation and perceptive skill and ability in Adisa. They formed the basis of her written poems. Later, after finding inspiration from the text by Tooner, Adisa's ability to experience society and her culture and environment in a unique way set her on a path to success as a writer and poet. These assessments show the critical roles of both authors’ unique experiences and perspectives at a young age in laying a strong foundation for their successes as authors.

The two authors approach the issue of empowerment of authors and the development of their writing skills in modern society from different perspectives. Kingsolver approaches this issue from the perspective of the need to empower children to apply their imagination and achieve their potential through widened reading opportunities. Adisa, on her part, approaches the issue from the perspective of the need to empower minority communities (particularly Blacks) to accept, appreciate, and incorporate their cultural backgrounds in writing. Kingsolver argues against the overly protective and misguided effort to restrict what children learn, watch, read, or do, pointing out that it is important to let them experience diverse issues in modern society to feed and stimulate their imagination, creativity, and hence innovativeness in writing. Adisa encourages minority communities and their members to emerge from the oppressive dominance of western works and narratives and focus on representing their cultures, histories, and identities courageously in written work. Both perspectives have important contributions towards inspiring new writers and advancing the quality and diversity of literature in modern society.

The discussion above has compared and contrasted two articles by Barbara Kingsolver and Opal Palmer Adisa in terms of the foundations for their successes as authors, the challenges they faced in developing as writers, and the approaches in their articles towards opportunities and processes for the development of writing skills in modern society. The key finding from the analysis concerns the value of the two authors' determination, focus, passion, and awareness of the self and the environment from early in their lives in the effective development of their writing skills. The two articles also contribute significantly to debates about the need to allow greater diversity in children's reading and activity experiences in schools and in terms of incorporation of minority identities, cultures, and histories to allow greater imagination, creativity, and innovation in written art.


Works Cited

Adisa, Opal Palmer. Lying in the Tall Grasses, Eating Cane. In The Eloquent Essay (pp.183-190), 1998.

Kingsolver, Barbara. How Mr. Dewey Decimal Saved My Life. In The Eloquent Essay (pp.130-137), 1992.

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