Tag Archives: english

Woman in the Canary Dress

5 Jun

It happens to every writer: That magical moment when the words of another  changes your life forever.

For me, it occurred seven years ago. I was a junior in high school about to enter an Advanced Placement course taught a notoriously tough English teacher.

“Don’t take her. You’ll regret it,” classmates cautioned.

Their words echoed in my head as I shuffled into class and sank into the nearest desk. After a hasty hello, packets of pages lined with the following words from Toni Morrison’s Tar Baby were passed around:

“And when the vision materialized in a yellow dress Jadine was not sure it was not all a part of her list—an addition to the coconut and tamarind, a kind of plus to go with the limes and pimiento. Another piece of her luck. The vision itself was a woman much too tall. Under her long canary yellow dress Jadine knew there was too much hip, too much bust. The agency would laugh her out of the lobby, so why was she and everybody else in the store transfixed? The height? The skin like tar against the canary yellow dress?

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Eating the N-Word

24 Jan

“This n—-.”

“That n—-.”

 “My n—–.”

The notorious noun peppered the words of a group of Hispanic teens on the city bus. It’s a word I’ve heard countless times: from the rowdy kids on the corner, from my grandma as she dismissed a sketchy passerby, from a Black college president deriding the pettiness of naysayers. I’ve used the term myself from time to time, especially when referencing a certain ex.

In all honesty, Blacks in my generation have adopted the n-word like an ugly step-sister–someone we can tease, mock and deride all day long, but won’t dare let anyone else utter a word against. We dress her up, gave her a quick makeover by dropping the ‘er,’ adding an ‘a’ and supplanting the ‘g’s with ‘c’s’ and voila: She’s ours. Continue reading


21 Sep

“Ah-pe-yee-do?” I read, dragging the word out in a way that would make any Spanish teacher cringe.

“Doesn’t that mean last name?” I asked the CVS cashier who had just handed me a reward card application. . .in Spanish, and pointed out the areas I needed to fill in.

I was embarrassed. Not only had my three years of high school Spanish failed me, but I was being reminded of its loss in a public. Can’t I get a frigging form in English?

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