Juanita Rodgers Comfort
Black feminist writers always struggle with the problem of making their writing speak to people who maybe don’t want to listen. They have to identify with an audience and think, “Who is the writer and why should I believe anything that they say?” They they have to try and answer that question, provide their ethos. One way of doing this is by bringing in personal stories, disclosures of sorts. But they don’t do this by making the whole piece narrative. Instead, they strive to seamlessly weave in their persons with the argument that they are working with.
For example, one writer began to identify herself with the notorious Mike Tyson. This initially put of one reader, who accepted her as a fellow female feminist, but then struggled to identify with her as a black women who grew up in a lower-class area. But by exploring her difficulties with the pieces, and establishing her own person through disclosures, the put-of reader learned about herself and how to again relate with the writer.
It is so easy to tell students that they can not inject their personal stories into their essays. The minute you let them, they seem to fall back on that instead of reading into the text and the mixture of the two comes off as clunky and contrived. But why not teaching them how to write using a narrative? Why simply forbid it? By disallowing it, we are simultaneously removing the student writer’s ethos from the piece. And if they can’t show that they care about it, how will others care?