Finding Truths in Fiction

As coursework gets lighter and classes come to an end, it is easy to want to put all of what I have learned behind me. However, to fully acknowledge the significance of these novels and passages, as well as the activities concerning them, it is important to meditate on what I absorbed from examining these works. From studying two book-length works to drafting essays and critical analyses on specific elements emphasized in those books, I appreciate the messages and lessons I have discovered throughout this course.

Swing Time, the acclaimed novel by Zadie Smith, was an incredibly intriguing novel due to its unconventional narrative and unique story. When writing my analytical essay, I chose to focus on the idea of the narrator’s role as a shadow, as she describes herself when saying, “A truth was being revealed to me: that I had always tried to attach myself to the light of other people, that I never had any light of my own…” (Smith 8) This struck me as a very meaningful and powerful realization, and from the rest of the book I realized how important culture, society, and the environment we grow up in is to the formation of our identities.


The first Robert Beatty’s most recent young adult series, Serafina and the Black Cloak, contains several suspenseful twists and turns and in-depth detail, which provides ample imagery for vivid imagination. In one crucial moment, Serafina decides upon her “mantra” which enhances her determination: “Our character isn’t defined by the battles we win or lose, but by the battles we dare to fight” (Beatty 223). The bravery that this fictional character musters in order to do the right thing makes her a heroine who can serve as an inspiration to young girls, as well as adults.

In conclusion, I have learned valuable lessons and pieces of advice from both of these works, as well as from other works we studied over the semester. The truths each of the novels portrayed became evident to me through the analyses (to which I am now grateful for). While I found Swing Time to me more interesting to me, both of the books peaked my interest. I believe now, I have a greater desire to read and study different narratives.



Works Cited

Beatty, Robert. Serafina and the Black Cloak. New York, Disney Hyperion, 2015.

Smith, Zadie. Swing Time. 2016. Penguin, 2017



Annotated Bibliography

Beatty, Robert. Serafina and the Black Cloak. New York, Disney Hyperion, 2015.

This novel depicts the adventures of a fascinating young girl who vows to find the mysterious Man in the Black Cloak to save children who had fallen victim to him. Beatty’s suspenseful narrative captivates readers by using detailed description and realistic imagery. The story focuses on the protagonist, Serafina’s determination to defeat the villain and discover her origin.

Lucas, Jane. Peeling Away the Window Dressing of History. 2017.

Analyzing a section of Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, Lucas examines the fallacies that Whitehead uses in his novel to contrast the true story of slavery in America. She mentions the “juxtaposition of fact and fiction” between the history presented in the novel and the real history, which demonstrates a deep understanding for the underpinnings of this book, showing how the central character is posed to reflect on history as the author creates it.

Lucas, Jane. Streetcar’s Unspeakable Desires. 2018.

In this critical analysis of the screenplay A Streetcar Named Desire, Jane Lucas describes the misfortunes of the character Blanche, especially at the hands of her brother-in-law, Stanley. The writer of Streetcar, Tennessee Williams, develops the story into a beautiful tragedy as the plot unfolds, and as Lucas comments, the “three-dimensional” humanness of those who commit acts of sexual impropriety can be seen in the behavior of the reckless Stanley.

Richtel, Matt. “Blogs vs. Term Papers.” The New York Times, 20 Jan. 2012. Accessed 28 Apr. 2018.

This New York Times article explains how the use of blogs in teaching and engaging students in writing is more beneficial and efficient than the traditional term paper style. Through using commentary from teachers and professors around the country, Richtel shows how implementing blogs in the classroom decreases the overall dread and agony that the paper writing process often inflicts.

Smith, Zadie. Swing Time. 2016. Penguin, 2017

Smith’s character-driven narrative focuses on the lives of two girls, who first grow close, then grow apart. Their journeys through childhood reveal differences in upbringing and abilities, which determine their adult lives. In the beautifully rhythmic swing of narrative, the main character (who is unnamed) accounts her story over the threshold, flashing back and forward from the past to the present.

Twenge, Jean M. “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” The Atlantic, Sept. 2017 [Boston] . Accessed 28 Apr. 2018.

In this passage, Twenge discusses the use of smartphones and devices among teenagers and its effects it has on this age of humans. Through her ample use of data, the author compares today’s generation, which she calls iGen, with the two before, giving perspective on just how much has changed from one to the next. Twenge explains how increased use of devices and social media has lead to higher rates of depression and anxiety.

Aging Through Dark and Light


The acclaimed novel Swing Time by Zadie Smith recounts the story of two childhood friends who both grow up with the dream to dance in the spotlight. Their fragile friendship eventually falls apart and each continues on in their adult lives, but it is never truly forgotten. While one, Tracey, makes her way to the stage, the other begins working as an assistant to Aimee, an international superstar with an far-fetched philanthropic aspiration. As the narrator presents her difficult transition from girl to woman in the back-and-forth narrative characteristic of the book’s title, Smith develops the main character’s realization of the consciousness of her own position of influence in her interactions and her world—as a shadow.

Growing up along side the fierce, talented, and adamant Tracey in one way motivates the narrator to demand more of herself, but her dissatisfaction was evident in the many ways she felt overshadowed by the natural. On one occasion, the disproportionate progression of their dancing abilities was divulged. Reflecting on defeat, the narrator “looked at [her] stupid feet, that couldn’t do wings” and “began quietly to cry” (55). Comparison and self-doubt are often commonplace in during adolescence, and certainly appear as driving emotions during this stage of the two girls’ lives.

As the narrator finds herself displaced among classmates, she becomes part of the gothic lifestyle; a member of the small group, yet never fully feeling the belonging. After an upsetting event in which she spotted Tracey in medical danger from apparently taking a fatal mix of drugs, the main character saw her being in a new light. While passing an open hospital bathroom, she “caught a reflection of [herself] in the mirror…” (234). This moment signified both an end to her childhood and an end to the harshness of passing over the threshold.

The elaborate but carefully fashioned chronology of this story may either serve as inspiration or be modeled by the many expressions of rhythm, dance, music, and time found in this novel. Several of the musical numbers mentioned support this unmistakable feature, such as Michael Jackson’s pop hit “Thriller”, the dance of the kankurang in the streets of the African country, and the historic scenes from “Swing Time”. The music and dance provide a backdrop and keep the tempo for the characters moving through time. The story, presented to readers straight from the protagonist’s history, demonstrates an independent perspective from other characters and a more subjective account of interpersonal struggles.

In light of the author’s vision to contrast the narrator with those whom she stands behind, the conception strikes her that people, from all walks of life, are just shadows until they are truly set free. While it may have been the feeling that existed through the Belle Époqeu or années folles, in the City of Lights, she finds that they became, “finally, here, in Paris, no longer shadows but people in their own right” (428). Though she has not found her own light as the plot closes, the formative years of her middle passage provide insight to possibilities of the sources, which could deliver the shine that she so longingly admired.

Work Cited

Smith, Zadie. Swing Time. 2016. Penguin, 2017

Learning to Fly

I never really found myself interested in sports. My lack of coordination, as well as a mild phobia of objects flying at my face, were the main reasons I tended to play on the swings at recess. As I grew older, I realized that being involved in a physical activity was important and almost necessary at my age in order to have at least one thing to say whenever a person asks, “So, do you play any sports?”

In the summer before my first year of high school, I signed up for a week-long aerial silks class on a whim. The only exposure to aerial silks I had ever had was a Cirque du Soleil show that I saw with my family. Basically, my reasoning for learning to use aerial silks was that “it looked cool.”


My early days

But at the end of the week, I was the most physically drained and challenged that I had ever been in my life. For three hours a day, five days a week, I learned the basics. Climbing, seemingly the easiest task to do on the fabric, took weeks to master. From all the pain and torture I endured, it wasn’t enough to make me quit. So, I signed up for another week of camp, started classes at the beginning of the school year, and continued.

At first, I underestimated what I was capable of whenever I was on the fabric. Even though I had little fear of heights, facing the floor and being told to let go was convincing my body that the impossible was possible. But I let go. And now I have the strength to show it.


“Straddle Slide Drop”

The hard work paid off, but it surely hasn’t stopped. At the studio where I attend classes, I am the student assistant of aerial silks. I lead warmup and stretches at the beginning and end of classes, and I teach, learn, practice, spot, and experiment with new tricks and poses. This position has really pushed me to grow in leadership and discipline, which I am so grateful for. I am also grateful for the muscle I have gained (Biceps, I see you.)

Aerial silks has been one of the few aspects of my life where I have grown to be truly proud of myself. Saying that I am able to perform something that few people know about, and even fewer people do, is an incredible feeling. And sometimes, being up there really does feel like flying, one of the greatest feelings in the world.

“Basic” Split