Elevating ordinary into exceptional.
Introducing a New Style of Writing
Vignettes are short, descriptive pieces of writing that capture moments, scenes, memories, people, and places in vivid detail. Because of their attention to detail, vignettes transport readers into immersive worlds, stories, and lives the authors want to depict.
This brings us to a very different sort of English class at Los Angeles City College (LACC). Students were asked to read “The House on Mango Street,” a novel by the poet Sandra Cisneros. The novel depicts the growing pains of child immigrants living in America — a story not directly related to, but nonetheless relatable to the experiences of international students experiencing growing pains in a new country. The style Cisneros used to convey her stories in great detail is the “vignette” style.
After reading Cisneros’ book, LACC students came to appreciate her style, laying the groundwork for this project.
Bringing Stories to Life Through Vignette Writing
As a lesson in descriptive writing and to foster a greater appreciation for the English language, instructor Haira Chang encouraged students to draw upon their own experiences for this project. Students were encouraged to replicate The House on Mango Street using their own growing pains as inspiration. What resulted from this lesson were beautiful, captivating pieces of writing that tell the students’ stories.
Talar Silahli: A Place for Me
Talar reminisces about chestnuts roasting by the fire.
“The tiny house where I was born stood on a narrow street in Istanbul. Little but cozy because it was my home. I was sharing a small bedroom with my elder sister and my brother. The big stove in the living room was there, keeping us warm, but it was more than a heating source, it was bonding us as a family. On cold winter nights, after dinner I remember my father roasting chestnuts and telling us stories. All of us gathered around the stove, like moths flying toward the light. We were feeling safe and happy.”
Kei Kinoshita: Spotty, But Perfect
Kei speaks on happiness, self-discovery, and finding peace.
“My classmates always seemed ahead of me. They had everything they wanted. I had nothing but naiveness. I was a lone, black duckling in the sea of white swans. They looked happier with life more exciting than mine. So, I wanted to be like them. One day I decided to be a badass because they looked like they had no fear, worry, or loneliness. I thought it would put me ahead of my classmates. I began skipping school, staying away from home, smoking, drinking, piercing, clubbing, stealing, threatening, working illegally — anything I could come up with to be fearless badass.
The conclusion first. I did not turn into a badass. I still do not have things my classmates had. I think I am still naive.
But I have learned what made me happy and what didn’t. What was necessary to me and what wasn’t. I also have learned how to take care of myself and found the one who loves me. Now I have peace within me. I now realize this was what I really wanted all along when I was a small black, lonely duck.”
Marina Laklakian: A Tale of an Unknown Girl
Marina details a most magical night she won’t soon forget.
“Never have I was so enthusiastic about going to a party until the announcement. The school board just announced a Christmas party for the entire school. For some reason, I was very excited about this one, which was unusual for me, considering what a shy girl I was.
I wanted to look my best, so cutting my hair short was what I did. The big day arrived. I had to wear my best outfit. A green sweater with black long arms and a picture of a Tweetee on it plus my black wide pants. That was my best outfit, lest I forget the last but very critical touch of putting on my dark blue fancy jacket. No one could have ruined this terrific feeling I had inside.
Walking into the Bal Sal was exquisite. I was a Queen. I was the fairest of them all.”
Miguel Avalos: No Winter Lasts Forever
Miguel describes an elaborate plan to soften the hearts of his bullies.
“We didn’t have the bibles and we didn’t have the money to buy them, and telling our parents was not an option. It would be very humiliating for them to find out their children had bullies on their back. So, our best idea was to steal a pair of jewelry from our parents and sell it to a jewelry store, and so we did. We were completely ripped off by the jeweler, but we were happy because the money was enough to buy a couple of bibles for our bullies.”
Sunhee Ihn: The House with a Vine Tree
Sunhee confirms the age-old principle that no one can resist shiny things.
“Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way! It’s the season of Christmas and the coming New Year. The song rang out all over the streets crowded with people and fascinating sculptures. What a fantastic world it was! Despite feeling crammed and worrying about losing my dad in the crowds, I couldn’t be happier.
It was the day in a year when my dad took my siblings and me to a department store, which was rare and thus special, to buy stationery goods for new school year. He never gave us gifts on our birthdays except that day. That’s why I waited for the day for around a year. Notebooks, pencils, pencil cases, erasers, rulers, and anything else needed for school were given to me as gifts. Everything was sparkling, new and neat.
When heading back home, a tiny twinkling object on the shelf captivated my attention. A pink snail brooch spiked with cubics. When my friends see me wearing it, they will surely die of jealousy. What a deliciously tempting imagination it was!”
Ichan Jung: The Tunnel on Main Street
Ichan finds hope in an unexpected little friend.
“There was a rabbit in the small cage that wanted freedom. Only one I could understand. I have lived in the city since 9. However, my parents decided to move to the countryside. There is nothing. No apartments, no many people, and even my friends. There was only one rabbit in the cage at my elementary school. The rabbit gets around in the small cage. He tried to escape from the cage through a small hole. He never succeeded, but he tries with eyes that want to find freedom. Everyday he tries, tries, tries again. Whenever I get tired and depressed, I see the rabbit. Rabbit, who keeps holding onto the hope of finding his life.”
The Value is in the Details
Vignette writing has the power to transform the mundane into the extraordinary. It’s not a special skill, nor is it a unique ability. Each and every one of us holds the keys to create breathtaking worlds, captivating works, and unforgettable stories. LACC students would be the first to say, the value’s in the details.
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