Your task in this essay is to analyze, as Malcolm X does in "Coming to an Awareness of Language," how reading and/or writing has played a role in your life. We are all language users, and language permeates almost every aspect of our existence""school, work, relationships, leisure time""but we often take our use of language for granted, not thinking about how language affects our lives, our selves. We learn language first in our homes as babies and toddlers, and then our first years of schooling""and school years after that""concentrate in large part on teaching us to read and write for public life. Learning to read and write at various levels constitutes a major "rite of passage" in contemporary American culture, and this learning can be fraught with difficulty, triumph, shame, pride, revelation, boredom, positive experience, and negative experience. We have all had experiences in kindergarten learning our alphabet and bringing papers home for the refrigerator.
We have gotten gold stars for performing well or detentions for failing to perform.
We have been placed into groups according to our reading ability and felt cool or proud or embarrassed or indifferent about our placement. We have read things that impressed us and read things we hated. We have produced writing we were proud of and struggled to write things that wouldn't turn out right despite our best efforts. These sorts of experiences affect our emotions and alter our attitudes in ways we are seldom very conscious of. In this essay, your job is to become conscious of how a particular experience of reading and writing has affected you emotionally or attitudinally.
This excerpt from the autobiography of Malcolm X given in his straight forward style, effectively communicates many complex ideas. Malcolm recalls his wasted life before prison as an average hustler...