Yellow Sweater

United States

Zinnia | she/her | bi | agnostic | 18 | WA

2021-2022 Seattle Youth Poet Laureate

Elitist Atlantic Subscriber (jk, but I do think the Atlantic does some awsome journalism)

I don't necessarily agree with my own assertions

Message to Readers

The segues are intentionally strange but unintentionally awkward.

White Trash (footnotes)

April 5, 2021

FREE WRITING

23
My grandma dated James Dean. He took her on a drive down State Route 46 in his Porsche. The same road on which he crashed a couple of weeks, months, years later. We Americans have a strange hobby: mapping our heritage. It’s easy to feel lost in our land of swollen traffic lanes and busy highway intersections. It’s easy to lose yourself.  

I am a daughter of English debutants and the Danish Avant-Gard. I am a daughter of Balkan Nationalism and Balkan slums in Chicago. I am a daughter of the American Revolution and “The Revolution”. I am a daughter of Fish-Town and London-Town. I am a daughter of capitalists and socialists, fascists and communists, psychologists and preachers and poets, Puritan pilgrims all. 

While the English have become disenchanted with their long-rotten Victorian class system, Americans are secretly infatuated with the notion of class. After all, classicism is much more glamorous than racism. We grew up with Disney princesses and our however-many great-grandparent’s immigrant stories. But here class is a game. It’s impressing your friends by revealing that, however tenuously, you are somehow related to royalty. Sadly, racism is much more real. 

One of the most popular conversation topics at Amerian slumber parties was ethnic makeup. I’m Irish and Italian. I’m Dutch and Romanian. We are all English (my town is very white). It never occurred to us that we were all American. My friends always told me I was lucky to have such an interesting family history, to be able to say that my grandma dated James Dean. But the truth is I just have a well-recorded family history. 

Next year, I’m am most likely going to attend the University of Washington Honor’s College with a full-ride scholarship, but however irrationally, I can’t help but feel like I am destined for the Ivy League. There is a paragraph about my grandfather in a book chronicling the achievements of Yale graduates. We discussed literature around the dinner table. You are defined by how you place yourself within the cosmically convoluted cloud of American culture, by the constellations you form out of your family tree.  And when your family tree is as messy as twentieth-century European history, it takes some serious mental gymnastics to avoid the label “White Trash”.
So, I have avoided writing about my personal American identity, because, well, I am about as white as they come. And the world really doesn't need another exploration of white American identity. But goodness, it's just so easy to write about yourself (especially when you're writing satire:) 

Also, I make a lot of unfair generalizations to preserve the aesthetic of this piece. I really hope no one is offended. If I was writing a serious essay about American Identity this is not how I would go about it. 

I have just discovered a profound truth. It's terrifying to post satire because I am afraid that it will be taken seriously. 
 

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10 Comments
  • SunV

    Hey! So, I was reading your comment on @Nyla's piece, and I was wondering, does the complexity of writing really increase with age? I definitely have seen improvement in my writing, but I find it's always been with very simple wording and not much flowering, and honestly I'd really want to improve on that.... How did you? Your writing is really poignant (see, I don't use such words usually, and I have to think for a while before writing it) and yet it sounds really, welcoming (I really don't know what I'm saying). I've seen so many writers here with higher level writing, and umm.... Well, to say, Shakespeare has really interesting writing, while I struggle to read Agatha Christie because I have to sit and decipher what she's saying (but I loooovvvveeee the mysteries)

    Anyways, my question is, does the level of complexity in writing improve with age?


    6 months ago
  • Nyla

    Cosmogyral just told me to check this out cause of my latest piece and I'm glad she did because this has such a strong message and is written in a very nice way that idk, just makes one think I guess. Anyways, great job!


    6 months ago
  • Paisley Blue

    hah i missed reading your satire :) i love the fourth paragraph the most, i think; because it is a really common topic, and we really are all american. and an interesting family history vs a well-recorded one... :) yeah i missed reading your stuff.


    6 months ago
  • MostlyBananas

    Brilliantly written.


    6 months ago
  • SunV

    Re: Thank you so much for your comment on my piece. It was hard to publish it, and I'm happy to know there are other people out there who support (me).


    6 months ago
  • don't you see the starlight (#TS)

    fascinating, compelling, vivid piece also the fact that your grandma dated james dean is pretty interesting! and in your op-ed, didn't you say she survived the blitz in london? you sound like you have a lot of family history!


    6 months ago
  • Charisse Marison

    This whole piece just spoke to me! Whenever people ask me about what ethnicity I am, I have to say, "I don't know," because my family tree is so complicated!
    Also, good luck in college!!!!


    6 months ago
  • _Delphiruns2theocean_

    I can really relate to this....it's like I'm Italian, German, and Swedish, and I look pretty white, I've been called the "generic white girl" a lot. Which I don't understand, seeing as I don't think I fit that picture...anyways I love the piece though :D


    6 months ago
  • Cosmogyral

    re: ugh, that's what this whole new collection is about, i get it. also, using the fact that your grandmother dated james dean was incredible, really set the tone for the title. i love this more than i can explain <3


    6 months ago
  • Cosmogyral

    satire is a touch and go with readers but OH MY GODS GIRL YOU ARE AMAZING!!!


    6 months ago