Theme for English A

Caroline Dowell-Esquivel

My high school English teacher once said,

Go home and write to me

            About how your story

            Has impacted you as a writer.

Is it easy enough to put it into words?

I am eighteen, Hispanic, born in Miami Beach.

I went to school in South Miami, then Coconut Grove, then here

to this Institute on the West side called Georgia Tech.

I was not the only “second-generation” Cuban-American in my high school class.

Unlike here at Tech, I was the majority.

The steps from Freshman Hill above the center of campus lead down into Tech Green,

through the Student Center, then I pass Ferst,

Boggs, Love, Burger Bowl, and I come to Armstrong,

the HeftyStrong of Georgia Tech, where I take the stairs

up to my dorm, sit down, and write this paper again:


Who am I? It is not easy to know for you or me

at my age, at eighteen.

Am I Cuban? Am I American? What does it mean to be Cuban-American?

How is my story different from others?

How is it the same? But I guess I’m what

I feel, see, touch, smell, taste, and hear, Atlanta, I hear you.

Hear you, hear me—we two—you, me, talk on this paper.

(I hear Miami, too.)


Atlanta and Miami: where a minority is the majority.

The two cities still differ completely

and I am completely different in them.


As a college student in Atlanta,

can I even claim to know Atlanta yet?

It is a mystery to be unraveled my next four years.

A new place to learn, think, and discover

myself in a new context,

away from what I know

and those who knew me,

where I am a minority.


Miami is filled with second-generation Cuban-Americans.

Just because my story is similar to others

does not make it “invalid.” Does it make it worth less? Me—who?


Well, I like to laugh, talk, eat, and have crushes on boys.

I like to experiment, read, learn, and reflect on my life.

I like a BIRD for a Christmas present,

or a streaming service account—Netflix, Hulu, or Disney +.

I guess being Hispanic doesn’t make me not like

the same things my classmates like who are of other ethnicities.

But I also like Cuban Cafecito, croquetas, arroz con pollo,

dancing salsa, listening to reggaeton.

So will my page be a different color from my father’s?

Being him, it will be white.

Being me, I don’t know what to label myself.

In the U.S. it will be white. Hispanic is not a race.

But in Cuba or Spain, I am not white.

How do I define myself so I don’t betray my mother or father?

How do I define myself so I don’t betray my “true” identity?

What do I identify myself as?

How do others identify me?


All I know is my story will be a part of you, teacher.

You are Filipina, from a family of immigrants too,

a part of me, as I am a part of you.

That’s American.

That’s what both our grandparents fought to come here for.

Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me,

nor do I often want to be a part of you.

But we are. That’s the truth.

As I learn from you and respect your creative voice,

I guess you learn from me and respect mine—

although you’re older—and wise—

and know what is considered “good” writing,

a “unique” story.

And you somewhat know yourself better than me. Do you?


This is my page for English A.