Excerpt from James McBride’s The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to his White Mother

When I was fourteen my mother took up two new hobbies:1 riding a bicycle and playing piano. The piano I didn’t mind, but the bicycle drove me crazy. It was a huge old clunker2, blue with white trim, with big fat tires, huge fenders, and a battery-powered horn built into the middle of the frame with a button you pushed to make it blow3. The contraption would be a collector’s item now, probably worth about five thousand dollars, but back then it was something my stepfather found on the street in Brooklyn and hauled home a few months before he died.

I don’t know whether it was his decision to pull out or not, but I think not. He was seventy-two when he died, trim, strong, easygoing, seemingly infallible, and though he was my stepfather, I always thought of him as Daddy. He was a quiet, soft-spoken4man who wore old-timey clothes, fedoras, button-down wool coats, suspenders, and dressed neatly at all times, regardless of how dirty his work made him. He did everything slowly and carefully, but beneath his tractor-like slowness and outward gentleness was a crossbreed of quiet Indian and country black man, surefooted, hard, bold, and quick. He took no guff and gave none. He married my mother, a white Jewish woman, when she had eight mixed-race black children, me being the youngest at less than a year old. They added four more children to make it an even twelve and he cared for all of us as if we were his own. “I got enough for a baseball team,” he joked.5 One day he was there, the next—6stroke, and he was gone.

I virtually dropped out of high school after he died, failing every class. I spent the year going to movies on Forty-second Street in Times Square with my friends. “James is going through his revolution,” my siblings snickered. Still, my sisters were concerned,7 older brothers angry. I ignored them. Me and my hanging-out boys were into the movies. Superfly, Shaft, and reefer, which we smoked in as much quantity as possible.8 I snatched purses. I shoplifted.9I even robbed a petty drug dealer once. And then in the afternoons, coming home after a day of cutting school, smoking reefer, waving razors, and riding the subway,10 I would see my mother pedaling her blue bicycle.

Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell

But 11 at that moment I glanced around at the crowd that had followed me. It 2 was an immense crowd, two thousand at the least and growing every minute. It blocked the road for a long distance on either side. I looked at the sea of yellow faces above the garish clothes-faces all happy and excited over this bit of fun, all certain that the elephant was going to be shot. They were watching me as they would watch a conjurer about to perform a trick. They did not like me, but with the magical rifle in my hands I was momentarily worth watching. And suddenly I realized that I should have to shoot the elephant after all. The people expected it of me and I had got to do it; 3 I could feel their two thousand wills pressing me forward, irresistibly. And it was at this moment, as I stood there with the rifle in my hands, that I first grasped the hollowness, the futility of the white man’s dominion in the East. Here was I, 4 the white man 5 with his gun, standing in front of the unarmed native crowd — 6 seemingly the leading actor of the piece; but in reality I was only an absurd puppet pushed to and fro by the will of those yellow faces behind. I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys. He becomes a sort of hollow, posing dummy, the conventionalized figure of a sahib. For it is the condition of his rule that he shall spend his life in trying to impress the ‘natives’, and so in every crisis he has got to do what the ‘natives’ expect of him. 7 He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it. 8 I had got to shoot the elephant. I had committed myself to doing it when I sent for the rifle. A sahib has got to act like a sahib; he has got to appear resolute, to know his own mind and do definite things. To come all that way, rifle in hand, with two thousand people marching at my heels, and then to trail feebly away, having done nothing — no, that was impossible. The crowd would laugh at me. And my whole life, every white man’s life in the East, was one long struggle not to be laughed at.

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My Mom Couldn’t Cook by Tom Junod

My mother was a good mother. I was a good son. My mother was a betrayed woman—I think I knew that, from an early age—and so I was careful never to betray her, as she, by instinct, never betrayed me.9 But now I felt betrayed, and I betrayed her in return, by learning to cook. No: by cooking. No: by marrying a girl who had no interest in cooking, and cooking for her. No: by cooking for my wife as I wished my mother had cooked for me.2 No: by cooking as my father would have cooked, had he taken up the toque—by cooking unyieldingly, despotically, ball-bustingly, hungrily, not just selflessly but also selfishly, as an assertion of prerogative.3 When my mother came to visit, I made her chop, according to specification. “How’s this?” she’d ask, showing me the cutting board of haphazardly chopped broccoli, and when I’d say she had to chop it smaller, finer, more uniformly, she’d say, “You’re some pain in the ass” or “What a pill.”4 I was perversely proud of her exasperation, perversely proud to be addressed in terms heretofore reserved for my old man. A pill? I had never been a pill before. I had always been, in my mother’s estimation, “a good egg,” but now I’d become a pill by insisting that my eggs taste good. My mother wasn’t college-educated, but she wasn’t stupid, either. She knew what was going on. When, much later, I wrote a flattering profile of my father for a magazine, she dismissed it tersely: “Don’t forget who raised you, kid.”5 But my cooking—my decision to cook—was a rejection of the way I’d been raised, a rebuke of the way she’d raised me.6 I had been on my mother’s side, but now, unforgivably, I was on my father’s, by taking my mother’s job.

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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Then at last, when he could stand it no longer, he would peel back a tiny bit of the paper wrapping at one corner to expose a tiny bit of chocolate, and then he would take a tiny nibble –7 just enough to allow the lovely sweet taste to spread out slowly over his tongue. The next day, he would take another tiny nibble, and so on, and so on. And in this way, Charlie would make his sixpenny bar of birthday chocolate last him for more than a month. But I 2 haven’t yet told you about the one awful thing that tortured little Charlie, the lover of chocolate, 3 more than anything else. This thing, for him, was far, far worse than seeing slabs of chocolate in the shop windows or watching other children munching bars of creamy chocolate right in front of him. It was the most terrible torturing thing you could imagine, and it was this: 4 In the town itself, actually within sight of the house in which Charlie lived, there was an ENORMOUS CHOCOLATE FACTORY! Just imagine that! And it wasn’t simply an ordinary enormous chocolate factory, either. It was the largest and most famous in the whole world! It was WONKA’S FACTORY, owned by a man called Mr Willy Wonka, the greatest inventor and maker of chocolates that there has ever been. And what a tremendous, marvelous place it was! It had huge iron gates leading into it, and a high wall surrounding it, and smoke belching from its chimneys, and strange whizzing sounds coming 5 from deep inside it. And outside the walls, for half a mile around in every direction, the air was scented with the heavy rich smell of melting chocolate! Twice a day, on his way to and from school, little Charlie Bucket had to walk right past the gates of the factory. And every time he went by, he would begin to walk very, very slowly, and he would hold his nose high in the air and take long deep sniffs of the gorgeous chocolatey smell all around him. 6 Oh, how he loved that smell! And oh, how he wished he could go inside the factory and see what it was like!

 

My Ántonia by Willa Cather

Book I: The Shimerdas

I

The engine was panting heavily after its long run7. In the red glow from the fire-box, a group of people stood huddled together on the platform, encumbered by bundles and boxes. I knew this must be the immigrant family the conductor had told us about. The woman wore a fringed shawl tied over her head, and she carried a little tin trunk in her arms, hugging it as if it were a baby. There was an old man, tall and stooped2. Two half-grown boys and a girl stood holding oilcloth a bundles, and a little girl clung to her mother’s skirts. Presently a man with a lantern approached them and began to talk, shouting and exclaiming3. I pricked up my ears, for it was positively the first time I had ever heard a foreign tongue4.

Another lantern came along5. A bantering voice called out:6 “Hello, are you Mr. Burden’s folks? If you are, it’s me you’re looking for. I’m Otto Fuchs. I’m Mr. Burden’s hired man, and I’m to drive you out. Hello, Jimmy, ain’t you scared to come so far west?”

I looked up with interest at the new face in the lantern light. He might have stepped out of the pages of “Jesse James.” He wore a sombrero hat, with a wide leather band and a bright buckle, and the ends of his mustache were twisted up stiffly, like little horns7. He looked lively and ferocious, I thought, and as if he had a history. A long scar ran across one cheek and drew the corner of his mouth up in a sinister curl8. The top of his left ear was gone, and his skin was brown as an Indian’s. Surely this was the face of a desperado. As he walked about the platform in his high-heeled boots9, looking for our trunks10, I saw that he was a rather slight man, quick and wiry11, and light on his feet. He told us we had a long night drive ahead of us, and had better be on the hike. He led us to a hitching-bar where two farm wagons were tied, and I saw the foreign family crowding into one of them. The other was for us. Jake got on the front seat with Otto Fuchs, and I rode on the straw in the bottom of the wagonbox, covered up with a buffalo hide. The immigrants rumbled off into the empty darkness, and we followed them.

(Online Text)

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

August is the Sun.12 Me and Mom and Dad2 are planets orbiting the Sun.3 The rest of our family and friends are asteroids and comets floating around the planets orbiting the Sun. The only celestial body that doesn’t orbit August the Sun is Daisy the dog, and that’s only because to her little doggy eyes, Augusts face doesn’t look very different from any other humans face. 4To Daisy, all our faces look a like, as flat and pale as the moon.

I’m used to the way this universe works. I’ve never minded it because it’s all I’ve ever known. I’ve always understood that August is special and has special needs. If I was playing too loudly and he was trying to take a nap, I knew I would have to play something else because he needed his rest after some procedure or other had left him weak and in pain. If I wanted Mom and Dad to watch me play soccer, I knew that nine out of ten times they’d miss it because they were busy shuttling August to speech therapy or physical therapy or a new specialist or a surgery.

Mom and Dad would always say I was the most understanding little girl in the world. I don’t know about that, just that I understood there was no point in complaining. I’ve seen August after his surgeries:5 his little face bandaged up and swollen, his tiny body full of IVs and tubes to keep him alive.6 After you’ve seen someone else going through that, it feels kind of crazy to complain over not getting the toy you had asked for, or your mom missing a school play. I knew this even when I was six years old. No one ever told it to me. I just knew it.7

Dune – Frank Herbert

‘Both open battle and secret,’ the Duke said. ‘There’ll be blood aplenty spilled before we’re through.’

‘ “And the water which thou takest out of the river shall become blood upon the dry land,” ’ Hallack quoted.

The Duke sighed. ‘Hurry back, Gurney.’

‘Very good, m’Lord.’ The whipscar rippled to his grin. ‘ “Behold, as a wild ass in the desert, go I forth to my work.” ’

8 He turned, strode to the centre of the room, paused to relay his orders, hurried on through the men.

Leto shook his head at the retreating back. Hallack was a continual amazement 2  – a head full of songs, quotations, and flowery phrases 3…and the heart of an assassin when it came to dealing with the Harkonnens.

Presently, Leto took a leisurely diagonal course across the lift, acknowledging salutes with a casual hand wave. He recognised a propaganda corpsman, stopped to give him a message that could be relayed to the men through channels 4: those who had brought their women were safe and where they could be found. The others would wish to know that the population here appeared to boast more women than men.

The Duke slapped the propaganda man on the arm, 5 a signal that the message had top priority to be put out immediately, then continued across the room. He nodded to the men, smiled, traded pleasantries with a subaltern.

6 Command must always look confident, he thought. All that faith riding on your shoulders while you sit in the critical seat and never show it.

He breathed a sigh of relief when the lift swallowed him and he could turn and face the impersonal doors.

They have tried to take the life of my son!

Mrs. Dalloway — Virginia Woolf

“Yes,” said Peter. “Yes, yes, yes,” he said, as if she drew up to the surface something which positively hurt him as it rose. Stop! Stop! he wanted to cry. For7 he was not old; his life was not over; not by any means 2. He was only just past fifty. Shall I tell her, he thought 3, or not? He would like to make a clean breast of it all. But4 she is too cold, he thought; sewing, with her scissors;5 Daisy would look ordinary beside Clarissa. And she would think me a failure, which I am in their sense, he thought; in the Dalloways’ sense6. Oh yes, he had no doubt about that; he was a failure, compared with all this—7the inlaid table, the mounted paper-knife, the dolphin and8 the candlesticks, the chair-covers and the old valuable English tinted prints—9he was a failure! I detest the smugness of the whole affair, he thought. Richard’s doing not Clarissa’s; 10 save that she married him. (11Here Lucy came into the room, carrying silver, more silver12, but charming, slender graceful she looked, he thought, as she stooped to put it down.) And this had been going on all the time! he thought; week after week; Clarissa’s life; while I—13he thought; and at once everything seemed to radiate from him; journeys; riders; quarrels; adventures; bridge parties; love affairs; work; work, work!14 and he took out his knife quite openly—his old horn-handled knife which Clarissa could swear he had had these thirty years 15 – and clenched his fist upon it.

What an extraordinary habit that was, Clarissa thought 16; always playing with a knife. Always making one feel, too, frivolous; empty-minded; a mere silly chatterbox, as he used 17 summoned, like a Queen whose guards have fallen asleep and left her unprotected (18 she had been quite taken aback by this visit – it had upset her) so that any one can stroll in and have a look at her where she lies with the brambles curbing over her, summoned19 to her help 20 the things she did; the things she liked; her husband; Elizabeth; her self, in short, which Peter hardly knew now, all to come about her and beat off the enemy.

All the Light We Cannot See- Anthony Doerr

Zero
7 August 1944
The Boy

Five streets to the north, a white-haired eighteen-year-old21 German private named Werner Pfennig wakes to a faint staccato hum. Little more than a purr. Flies tapping2 at a far-off windowpane.

Where is he? The sweet, slightly chemical scent of gun oil; the raw wood of newly constructed shell crates; the mothballed odor of old bedspreads—he’s in the hotel. Of course. L’hôtel des Abeilles, the Hotel of Bees.

Still night. Still early.3.

From the direction of the sea4 come whistles and booms; flak is going up.

An anti-air corporal hurries down the corridor, heading for the stairwell. “Get to the cellar,” he calls over his shoulder, and Werner switches on his field light, rolls his blanket into his duffel, and starts down the hall.

Not so long ago, the Hotel of Bees was a cheerful address, with bright blue shutters on its facade and oysters on ice in its café and5 Breton waiters in bow ties polishing glasses behind its bar. It offered twenty-one guest rooms, commanding sea views, and a lobby fireplace as big as a truck. Parisians on weekend holidays would drink aperitifs here, and before them the occasional emissary from the republic—ministers and vice ministers and abbots and admirals6—and in the centuries before them, windburned corsairs: killers, plunderers, raiders, seamen7.

Before that, before it was ever a hotel at all, five full centuries ago, it was the home of a wealthy privateer who gave up raiding ships to study bees in the pastures outside Saint-Malo, scribbling8 in notebooks and eating honey straight from combs. The crests above the door lintels still have bumblebees carved into the oak; the ivy-covered fountain in the courtyard is shaped like a hive. Werner’s favorites are five faded frescoes on the ceilings of the grandest upper rooms, where bees as big as children float against blue backdrops, big lazy drones and workers with diaphanous wings—where, above a hexagonal bathtub, a single nine-foot-long queen, with multiple eyes and a golden-furred abdomen, curls across the ceiling.

Over the past four weeks, the hotel has become something else: a fortress. A detachment of Austrian anti-airmen has boarded up every window, overturned every bed. They’ve reinforced the entrance, packed the stairwells with crates of artillery shells. The hotel’s fourth floor, where garden rooms with French balconies open directly onto the ramparts, has become home to an aging high-velocity anti-air gun called an 88 that can fire twenty-one-and-a-half-pound shells nine miles.

Her Majesty, the Austrians call their cannon, and for the past week these men have tended to it the way worker bees might tend to a queen. They’ve fed her oils, repainted her barrels, lubricated her wheels; they’ve arranged sandbags at her9 feet like offerings.

The royal acht acht, a deathly monarch meant to protect them all10this appositive helps the reader understand the significance of the acht acht where they otherwise would have glossed over it. It’s description helps the reader see the vital importance of these two unfamiliar words[/fragment].

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1775: A Good Year for Revolution by Kevin Phillips

The Patriots of 1774, too ready to consider both pullbacks as proof of the colonies’ new stature and commercial muscle, would have done better to pay close attention to the March 1770 parliamentary debates. North had emphasized the need to end a seven-year pattern of inconsistent policy tied to ever-changing ministries and policy-makers[1]: “Our conduct has already varied greatly with respect to America. These variations have been the greatest cause of difficulty.” George Grenville, [2]the architect of the ill-fated Stamp Act, agreed: officeholders, he thought, had “given way from one step to another, from one idea to another, till we know not upon what ground we stand.” To Wedderburn, [3]the solicitor general, even the partial repeal bill they were debating was “a step further in that repeated contradiction which has obtained with America.” Such “fluctuations of administration,” agreed another Cabinet member, [4]Henry Conway, had sapped government credibility. That was certainly true.[5]

The incessant politics of faction had also contributed. The Whig rivals who had displaced Grenville and come to power in 1766 were younger and inexperienced, as well as relatively pro-American. They had repealed the Stamp Act more readily on both counts. The 15 percent decline in exports to North America was only one factor.[6]

In the 1770 debate, North freely acknowledged that the 1767 Townshend Act levies, the brainchild of an earlier ministry[7], had been commercially misconceived. Proponents had naively sought “American” revenue by placing duties on certain products—paper, lead paints, and glass, for example[8]—principally manufactured in Britain. Besides, as some repeal-minded petitions pointed out, such added levies only encouraged the colonists to think about making these items themselves. North’s new regime was rectifying another ministry’s mistake.

[1] Colon, Ind. CL before and after colon, first to set up quote with summative background. Adds ethos bc author is able to understand primary source and have it support his argument.

[2] Appositive, to give pertinent info. about noun, pointing out that this person has experience in failed policies, even being the author of one, first character mentioned means prob. more important person to mention

[3] Appositive identifying another prominent authority that agrees with what’s been said and supports author’s argument.

[4] Appositive less important authority, but used for fourth emphasis of agreement. Bc name came after as appositive, it emphasizes first words like “another” and “Cabinet” to make it seem like the whole Cabinet agrees about it.

[5] Short sentence, paragraph closer. Ending with author, reigns in the external quotes as part of his opinion, makes him sound smart.

[6] Short paragraph following long paragraph, gives reader clearer understanding, paragraphs more focused on one idea, variation in length keeps readers attention.

[7] Appositive Renaming, suggests condescension for term, suggests it was bad without explaining about it in detail.

[8] Dash—to show examples that the reader might ask about while reading through the sentence in a brief way. Use to break up monotony of many appositives. Use when not discussing main subject, a quick tangent. Discussing objects.