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Vickie Nguyen

E. Grant
University Writing
UWRT 1101-032
Wednesday 10 September 2014
Literacy and Culture: Three Vignettes From My Literary Journey
My Culture and My Speech Literacy
I was born into a Vietnamese family just nine months after my parents
arrived in the United States. Sadly the only thing really Asian about me is my
family name, Nguyen. But even that has been Americanized on the west coast.
My parents, or rather my father and my mothers father had believed that the
American Dream was very much so alive and well and thought that coming to
America would help them live a better life with brighter opportunities for their
future and their childrens future. They did not realize the complications that
came with moving to a completely foreign country. Coming from poor families
themselves, my parents were stripped of the opportunity to learn English in a
formal learning institution. This created a rough start for not only theirs but also
my own literacy journey. Because my parents did not know how to speak any
English, Vietnamese then became the dominant language spoken within my
family. When I started Pre-K at the age of four, the only language I could speak
was Vietnamese. As far as I knew, Vietnamese was the only language and that it
was spoken by everyone else. I have an elder brother and an elder sister. They
both went to school and took ESL (English as a Second Language) classes and

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learned how to speak English there. When they would come home from school,
English was their choice of language with communicating to one another. I could
not differentiate English from Vietnamese. It was all scrambled up in my head.
When I began to develop my speech, I believe I was the first in my family to
speak Engnamese. Engnamese is not only mixing English and Vietnamese
words, but also mixing up the word parts as well. (i.e. putting the -ing particle at
the end of a Vietnamese verb) It was not until I started going to school when I
learned how to break the two languages apart. Just as my brother and my sister
did, I spoke English to them and Vietnamese to my parents. At this very premature stage in my life the people who contributed the most to my speech
literacy were my family, my teachers, and my friends at school.
Reading For (Not So) Fun
When I was five years old my kindergarten teacher had created a
competition for reading. The competition served as a motivational drive for kids to
read by rewarding students in the top three of each class to attend an ice cream
party at the end of each academic quarter. I hated reading. A lot. I was very
competitive though. And I loved eating ice cream. (What kid didnt?) My
competitive nature overpowered my distaste for reading, so I read a lot of books.
They were small books. The books that were only about eight pages long and
had only one or two sentences on each page. They were short, but for someone
that hated reading as much as I did, it was very painful. I have always been a
slow reader. My eyes had to soak in the words for a little bit before it would
register in my mind and make sense of the word, then the sentence as a whole.

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It hurts my brain to read, was what I would used to say to my older sister when I
was at home. She would look at me funny for a moment, and then laugh. She did
not understand why I felt that way. She loves reading. My sister is what most
people would categorize as a typical, over-achieving, Asian nerd. She loved
books almost as much as she loved being smarter than everybody else. I tried to
be like her. I tried emulating her. I tried to put myself into her mindset of loving
books. It was very difficult. But I read and read my way to being the top reader in
the class and beating my nemesis, Mallory Duncan (a tall girl that came from a
very privileged family).
It was not until I was in the seventh grade when I started to really enjoy
reading books. At Eastern Guilford Middle School, our library was very limited
with fictional books. It was in that little itty bitty collection of bookshelves that I
came across a series of books that I liked. They were suspense novels by Lois
Duncan. I would always check out the books three at a time, and sometimes I
would pick up ones that I have already read just to read them again. When
reading these books I would get so lost in the story and get wrapped up in it as if
I was a neighbor to the characters and watching their lives play out right before
my eyes. I would get emotionally attached to certain characters and stop to cry or
cringe at what was occurring in the books. I do not know if it was her way with
words or my vivid imagination, but the one thing I knew for sure, was my distaste
for reading each and everything shrunk down to just not wanting to read
textbooks, but still enjoying my novels.

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Writing vs. Me
Fourth grade sucks, seventh grade was a pain, and tenth grade was just
as bad. What do the three grades have in common? The Writing Assessment
Test. Writing was not my forte. Essays, summaries, and academic papers have
always made me feel discouraged. I can go on and write a rant that is worth
about three pages in a word document. But I could not stick to any one subject or
topic to save my soul. I could show people how to format an academic paper, but
I could never produce content for the paper. I believe my grammar is up to par
with most people my age, but I could not, for the love of God, form a coherent
paragraph without deviating from the topic. I blame it on my scatter brained-like
personality. While I am talking to someone about something, I tend to find myself
thinking of something else in the back of my mind and that usually causes me to
have an a-hah! moment, when I realize the answer to a question that was
asked two weeks ago or finally understand the punch line to a joke told three
hours before hand. Even as I am typing this vignette, I am thinking about what I
will be eating tonight after I get back from grocery shopping. I am not sure if there
is anything that can help with this problem of mine, but regardless, when it comes
to writing I am very much so incompetent. Throughout all of my high school and
even into my college career, I have always put off writing my papers until the very
last minute. I just do not like looking at the products of my inability to write a good
paper. I have actually written papers for classes and decided not to turn it is just
because I was so ashamed of my poor writing. My teachers usually assumed I
was just too lazy to do my assignments. And the sad part is that I let my own fear

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of disappointment stop me from getting the help I needed to learn how to

produce a decent essay. I even allowed my grades to suffer for it. Even to this
day, I do not think I have ever written a good paper. Nor do I think I will ever
produce a paper that I deem worthy of a passing grade. I am saddened by the
fact that I feel this way, and I hope that one day it will change. As for now, my
confidence in my writing ability is pretty much non-existent.

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