Saturday, July 3, 2010

Lily Wilson, National Geographic Exercise

Lily did a really great job on this exercise. She googled Kurdish names for her characters and did some research on Kurdish weddings.
Photo by Ed Kashi

I look past Mama’s camera to the engaged couple dancing behind her. Mama doesn’t notice this, despite her unofficial role as photographer in my sister’s wedding, which is why this particular dance isn’t being documented carefully in pictures. Samal, my sister, won’t mind though – my mother pretty much assigned herself the position as photographer. Sam said that all she needed to remember her rehearsal dinner were her memories.

Then again, she also said that nothing would change once she got married – “Ajda, I promise, everything will stay the same! The only difference will be that I’ll live with Sarif down the road, while you stay with Mama and Papa. We’ll be closer than ever, I swear,” she’d said. She shouldn’t have sworn that, and I shouldn’t have believed her. It would never be true.

Already, I could almost see things changing, right before my eyes. Yes, Sam would live right down the road but in a big, fancy new house with her fancy, new husband. Things had started changing soon after they got engaged. I remember the day they announced their engagement to his extended family, as well as ours. It was in our small, dinky house that our immediate family shares with my four grandparents and two aunts, and I remember thinking, “Well, at least he knows what he’s getting himself into. At least he won’t be surprised when she tells him that we’re poor.”

I was sitting on the floor, because all the chairs had been taken by grandparents, when my sister and her fiancé just came out and said, “Well everyone, we’re engaged,” simply, as if it were that easy. Immediately, the tension in the air, dormant for at least a little while, had become palpable. While our family looked overjoyed, his did not. In fact, they’d looked downright upset! I could almost feel the tittering of his aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Sarif’s parents only sat disapprovingly on out weathered and sunken couch, almost blending into the dull pattern.

“Oh my, how did she get him?” “How could he have made such an… unwise decision for his bride?” Of course, no one actually said anything that rude, but I could see they were dying to. It wasn’t that Sam was ugly, she’s actually quite beautiful, it’s just that most of our culture believes that people should marry other people in the same “class”. Sarif’s family is quite wealthy, which obviously makes him in a higher class than us. Despite Sam’s great heart, beauty, and intelligence, she is still, according to Sarif’s family, unworthy of him. How silly.

Of course, I had known for several days of my sister’s engagement. Late at night in the bedroom that we shared, she had whispered to me across the room, “Sarif asked me to marry him today.”

“Oh my god! What did you say?”

“I told him yes,” she giggled nervously. Then, I had been immensely excited, but that, too, had changed. I was beginning to realize that this wedding marked not the beginning of an era, but the end of one.

I start to remember the day after my sister announced her engagement. That afternoon, after I was done helping Mama with washing the dishes, Samal had struck up an unexpected conversation with me, about her love life of all things. Wasn’t that pretty much set in stone by now?

“I’m worried about Sarif,” she’d said. She rested her hand on her hip, something she always does when she’s nervous or worried.

I didn’t notice that, though, so without looking up from my homework, I had grumbled, “Umm. Why?”

“Because when I saw him this morning, he was just… I don’t know, distracted. And kind of…. angry? I tried to talk to him about it, but he didn’t want to.”

Not really interested and being distracted myself, all I said was, “Huh.” Actually processing what she had said, I asked with more enthusiasm, “Wait. Do you think that has to do with what his parents said to him last night when you guys told them you were engaged?”

“He said they were fine with it. They didn’t say anything to him last night,” she’d said, almost questioningly. I doubted that; I knew what I’d heard, but I wasn’t about to debate my sister on her own fiancé and his parents.

What Sarif’s parents actually said to him was something along the lines of, “Sarif. You’ve disappointed us. This girl- “

“Samal,” Sarif interjected.

“Well, yes. She seems like a very nice girl… but she is not right for you.”

“And how exactly do you know that?”

“Sarif, we only want the best for you. Did you see her shoes? They have holes!”

“They’re called sandals, Mother. They’re supposed to have holes,” said Sarif tiredly. From my spot behind the door, I could clearly hear Sarif sigh. His mother continued as though she hadn’t even heard him.

“And do you see this house?” she had whispered loudly, waving her arms around our dingy, dimly-lit kitchen with gusto. “It’s like they don’t even… well, it doesn’t matter. Sweetheart, try as you might, no amount of money is going to make that girl tame, and we have your sister’s wedding to worry about paying for.” At this, my jaw dropped. Why should my sister be “tame”? What does that even mean? Sam is the gentlest, sweetest girl they were ever likely to meet and Sarif was lucky to have her. In fact, I was expecting him to say exactly that to his parents. What he did say though, surprised me a lot more.

“Mother, Father… no. Please, don’t. I love her…” his voice trailed off.

“Think about what we have said,” his father asked. His parents both kissed him on the cheek and walked out of the room, leaving Sarif standing, bewildered, in the middle of my kitchen. Had they really just threatened to disown Sarif if he married my sister? That’s… That’s… it’s just ridiculous! Well, it doesn’t matter anyway; they would never actually do that to their precious baby. I shook my head to clear it, and quietly crept away from the door to my room.

Over the next couple weeks, I’d almost forgotten about the conversation I overheard between Sarif and his parents, and figured that his parents had just decided not to go through with their threat. Maybe I shouldn’t have assumed that, but I had more important things to worry about. Like the actual wedding. Sam was getting more and more stressed by the hour, and I was, of course, the one who was forced to deal with her mood swings and screaming rants. Both were happening longer and more often, now that the wedding was tomorrow. I couldn’t blame her for it; I was sure I’d be the same way when my time came. We were sisters after all.

I come up to Sam and Sarif and say, “Oh dearest Sam, may I have this dance?”

“Well, fine, but you know I’m taken,” she giggles. We twirl around the dance floor for a few minutes, joking and laughing.

Suddenly she says “Sarif’s been acting weird. Kind of like he’s… undecided, somehow, about our wedding. I mean, he asked me to marry him! How many doubts could he possibly have? It’s the night before our wedding; he probably just has wedding jitters. Do guys get that?” I could see her hand slowly inching it’s way towards her hip, so I decided not to tell her about the conversation between Sarif and his parents that I’d eavesdropped on. It would only cause her worry, and it wasn’t like anything would actually happen. My sister would marry Sarif, she and her husband would live together and eventually have teeny babies together and live happily ever after. That’s how life worked, wasn’t it?

I realized my sister was still waiting for me to answer her, so I said, “Yeah, I’m sure that’s it. He loves you.”

“Where’d he go, anyway?”

I looked around me, and sure enough, he was gone. “I don’t know, probably to the bathroom.” I wasn’t too worried; he was a big boy and could take care of himself.

Fifteen minutes later, I was getting a little nervous, where was he? Sam was getting on edge too, after all it was her rehearsal dinner and her fiancé was missing. I tried not to worry too much; he had probably just gone off for a drink or something. When it came time to make the toasts though, I was really uneasy. I went off to find him while my sister socialized with her guests.

First I checked the bar, then I ran down the street to his house, and then to the park. But he’s nowhere to be found, and I’m on my way back to the rehearsal dinner when I pass the train station. Sarif is there, huddled by a ticket kiosk.

“Sarif!” I yell. He immediately looks over and recognizes me.

“Ajda, hi… what on earth are you doing here?”

“No, I think the better question is what are you doing here? Why aren’t you at the rehearsal dinner with your fiancée?”

“I just… I can’t do it. I need to leave,” he says miserably.

“Umm… why?” I ask angrily, although I’m quite sure I already know the answer.

“My parents would disown me! I wouldn’t be able to provide for Sam, I couldn’t… I just couldn’t do it to her.”

“You know what, Sarif? I really don’t think your leaving for her. You know that your leaving will hurt her more than it will hurt you. But you don’t care, because you value your money over Sam.”

“Ajda, please. Try to understand! I would have nothing, I would be no one… What am I supposed to do? Honestly, Ajda, it’s the best thing for everyone.”

“Don’t you love her?”

“Yes, but sometimes love isn’t enough!” he says, clichéd and predictable as always. Excuses.

“You’re weak,” I say, and for a moment I almost pity him. Then I turn on my heel and walk away.

Lily Wilson

Southampton Intermediate School, grade 8

Friday, July 2, 2010

Lia from Ross School - National Geographic Exercise

In this VOICE exercise, Lia experimented with writing it in dialect and with no punctuation. I love the result.

People who come through this city don like it much. Mostly they drive through here to get to someplace else. Our buildings like our people. Same on the outside. Chipped paint broken shingles cracked windows and the rooftops all caved in but see this only the outsides of ‘em. Inside we stop being rickety ole’ paint chipped beings and start being homes. Different on the inside. Guess that’s how it always is aint it?
People who pass through callin us poor. Never know quite what they mean. Know the basic definition of the word but then again I never left this city so I aint really got much to compare poor to. Never really seen no opposite of poor. Everyone round here lives just like me and my family do.
I keep my head high like my papa taught me. Even if the air thick with heat and smoke. Keep it high. The small children skip past. Their bare feet slappin against the cracked stone their shrills of laughter almost touching the sky but falling just before they make it. The little girls flower print dress dash past me so quick all the flowers blur into one big pool’ a bright colors swirlin, dancin with each other. Two boys try to catch her All giggles they are. The boys dirty white collared shirts hang off their bodies swishin in the wind as the rush past.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Emily Johnson and Julia Leef moments after participating in the WLIU panel on the latest Harry Potter movie, with Bonnie Grice.

Lauren Perugini, Asst. Producer (SUNY SBS intern) and commentator for the show that day with the YAWP students and Bonnie.


Well done Emily and Julia!

Not only did you have a far superiour critical perspective than the party line from the webmistress at Leaky Cauldron, but you contributed points about the books versus the movie that got our minds whirring as quickly as Harry on a broomstick.

If you missed us on the radio you can hear a replay of the show at

From one of our audience members and SUNY faculty, Stephanie Wade:

We loved the reading on Friday! Those young women did such a wonderful job, were so composed. Kudos

Friday, July 10, 2009

Knick Knacks from the Past and Growing Up in the Present


Beanie Babies, their coats being worn out from so much use sit right next to the Barbie Dolls, some of them missing clothing and others missing body parts. They stand side by side as one. It is a remembrance of the past, as they lay in hiding for someone new to use them instead.

And then there are the old books that line the shelf; the ones where there are only pictures instead of words, and colors instead of fonts. Their pages being torn and folded over, not realizing as a young child the importance of chapters in your life and how each one needs to be treated with delicacy and care.

The petite sized t-shirts and sweaters that would fit better on the Beanie Babies and dolls then they would on you, stay in there as well. The old play make up that would be neon pink or turquoise blue that none of us would think about wearing, now stay stored away underneath the clumps of clothes.

Memories of jump roping contests and tea parties with friends we thought we would never forget get warped in as well, plastering themselves to the walls of the room. But where did the people go and did they bring our innocence with them?

Baby shoes, jewelry, yo-yos, stickers and signed baseballs from our favorite teams. Crayons, markers and a stack of white computer paper. Most of it got lost amongst the room, paper that had an assortment of colors and scribbles all over, symbolizing the highs and lows of life. They are drawings that changed from our moods as a child, some black with X’s and others pink with hearts. It is the blank paper that is left, the blank paper that is found, waiting for more scribbles to be drawn because with growing up, comes our new experiences.

What you put inside comes out differently, or might not come out at all. It might stay in this lost and found forever, collecting dust, waiting for someone to walk in and pause. For even though everyone grows up, you should always pause to relive the experiences that you have stored away and never ever forget them. Memories are sometimes lost, due to aging, a process that we try to stop but never succeed to do. Because just like growing up, aging is a natural process as well. And it’s all about growing up, digging, uncovering, and storing away. It’s about reliving, experiencing the new as well as experiencing the old.



Store Rant

There are times when I just can’t stand Southampton, and nothing annoys me more than the twisted, money-sucking corporation that is the clothing industry. Pick a store, any store, and I guarantee that you will not find a single piece of clothing there whose price tag carries less than three digits. I couldn’t care less about brand names and companies. Clothes are clothes. If it fits, and it looks good, I’ll wear it, even if I don’t have to take out ol’ Benjamin to pay for it. Especially if I don’t. I’d rather spend that money on more important things, like food and bills; things that you absolutely need to pay for in order to survive (or to avoid foreclosure), especially in today’s economy.
Another problem with Southampton’s clothing stores is a serious poverty of manners. Poor unfortunate high school students suffer through the slave driving antics of both employers and customers. Just like Cinderella, it’s work, work, work, nag, nag, nag, without hardly a please or a thank you to get through the day. A friend of mine had such problems recently, when a woman came into the store to make a purchase. She took several outfits with her into the dressing room, decided that she felt much too claustrophobic, and so then proceeded to toss the articles of clothing one by one out over the top of the dressing room door. My friend, being the wonderfully mistreated employee that she is, then went to pick up the pile of neglected clothing and folded them all up again, without hearing a single apology for such savage behavior.
Like any high school student, the only reason teens undergo that kind of torment is to earn money so that they can pay for college, save up for a car, or buy those really nifty shoes sitting in the display window. Judging from their salaries, after a few weeks of saving up, they may have just enough to buy the shoelaces.
In our current economy, I can’t afford to pay the outrageous prices demanded of me. It’s just not possible. If my Prince Charming never comes along, I hope he brings a big, fat paycheck with him instead of a lousy old shoe.