black men in public space


Assume that your next college requires an admissions essay in addition to your transcript and application. Your essay should be the result of thoughtful self-exploration on your topic.

Often, college admissions committees want to know more about you as an individual than can be determined by examining your college transcript and application form. In addition, the committees want to see how well you write. Your admissions essay adds value to your transcript and application form and lets the admissions committee hear your voice. Your essay is an opportunity to present a good image of yourself.

Here is the writing prompt the admissions committee has given to you for your essay:

In at least 750 words, write a thesis-controlled expository essay. Select any passage (one to three sentences) that you find in one of the essays listed below on the broad theme of self-identity. In each sample essay consider what contributes to the author’s self-identity, the author’s thesis, persona, and strategies of development. These essays should lead you to explore your own identity as it is shaped by language, race/ethnicity/culture, gender, and/or personal values.

Make personal connections with the passage you select in terms of your own life experiences, observations, and beliefs. Develop your thesis with an introduction and at least three topic sentence paragraphs with appropriate strategies of development. Incorporate a quoted passage from one of the essays below into your introduction and let that quote lead to your thesis.

Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue”
Brent Staples’ “Black Men in Public Space”
Judith Ortiz Cofer’s “The Myth of the Latin Woman: I Just Met a Girl Named Maria”
Leslie Marmon Silko’s “In the Combat Zone”
Judy Brady’s “I Want a Wife”
Jhumpa Lahiri’s “My Two Lives”
Bharati Mukerjee’s “Two Ways to Belong in America”
Stephen Carter’s “The Insufficiency of Honesty”


Writing an expository essay offers an effective means of exploring and thinking through a topic and presenting your idea about that topic to an audience. The expository essay informs and explains. “To inform” means to give information. For example: Today more women enroll in college than men. “To explain” means to clarify, enlighten, interpret, and account for the information. Therefore, to explain why more women are in college today, you might write, based on your experiences and observations that young women want to assert their independence and secure satisfying, high-paying jobs requiring a college degree.


Select a passage from one of the expository essays in this unit and make a personal connection. You might begin your introduction as in the following examples:

In her essay “Mother Tongue,” Amy Tan writes, “I am someone who has always loved language. I am fascinated by language in my daily life.” I, too, am fascinated by language in my daily life. I speak three languages: English, French, and Spanish. I use these languages daily at home, on the job, and at school.

In his essay “The Insufficiency of Honesty,” Stephen Carter writes, “The first point to understand about the difference between honesty and integrity is that a person may be entirely honest without engaging in the hard work of discernment that integrity requires; she may tell us quite truthfully what she believes without ever taking the time to figure out whether what she believes is good and right and true.” I agree with Carter. I have noticed that some of my friends appear to be honest but sometimes lack integrity because they have not taken the time to understand what they believe to be true concerning politics, religion, and sexuality.


Essay #2 also involves a study of topic sentence paragraphs. Your essay must have at least three topic sentence paragraphs to help you extend, expand, and develop your thesis. These paragraphs begin with a topic sentence that contains a controlling idea. Limit each topic sentence paragraph to the exposition of one idea related to your thesis.

A topic sentence is developed with support sentences. These sentences might develop through strategies of narration, description, examples, definitions, cause/effect and comparison/contrast.

These topic sentence paragraphs that constitute the body of your essay must exhibit unity and coherence. Unity means that all sentences belong; no sentence diverges, gets “off track” or rambles from the topic. These paragraphs also exhibit coherence in that the sentences have a smooth flow due to transition words and repetition of key words.

Break up the standard five-paragraph essay model (introductory paragraph, three body/topic sentence paragraphs, and concluding paragraph) with special function paragraphs such as the one-sentence paragraph (short simple sentence for dramatic effect), transitional paragraph(s), rhetorical question(s) paragraph, and dialog paragraphs. Use the readings in this unit to find examples of these special function paragraphs.


You will also need to compose carefully an effective introduction, one that engages reader interest and introduces and (not develops) your thesis. For this essay, your introduction should include a passage from one of the sample expository essays studied in this unit. Use the passage as a springboard by connecting the passage to your own life experiences, observations, and beliefs.

You also want to give closure to your essay by composing a conclusion that helps frame your essay by pointing back to the title and/or introduction. For your conclusion, refer back to the passage you chose from one of the required essays for reading in this unit.


1. In “Mother Tongue,” Amy Tan explains her use of language, specifically all her different “Englishes” in her daily life. She uses several narrative examples to prove her thesis.

2. In “Black Men in Public Space,” Brent Staples explains how racial stereotypes have caused him to feel alienation. Like Tan, he uses several narrative examples to illustrate his thesis and draw conclusions.

3. In “The Myth of the Latin Woman: I Just Met a Girl Named Maria,” Judith Ortiz Cofer also explores the harmful results of racial stereotyping by narrating personal examples of incidents when she felt a victim of the “myth” that some feel towards Latinas.

4. In her essay “In the Combat Zone,” Leslie Marmon Silko explains how violence towards women by strangers has placed her and others into “the combat zone,” where she finds herself a predator’s target. Like Tan, Staples, and Ortiz Cofer, Silko uses narrative examples to prove her point. She also uses strategies of definition and classification.

5. In “I Want a Wife,” Judy Brady defines the word “wife” by explaining how extensive a wife’s job is. After noting all the work, roles, and challenges imposed on a wife, she decides that she, too, wants one. Brady employs definition, classification, and examples.

6. In “My Two Lives,” Jhumpa Lahiri defines her cultural heritage of being Indian-American. She explores through comparison and contrast how she is both American and Indian. Her dual cultural heritage is at the center of her identity.

7. In “Two Ways to Belong in America,” Bharati Mukerjee compares and contrasts her and her sister. Mukerjee contrasts how they live differently in America. She also compares how they were before they came to America. The essay on the expression of identity is also an exploration of the issues many immigrants in America must face.

8. In “The Insufficiency of Honesty,” Stephen Carter defines the terms “honesty” and “integrity.” Using examples from everyday life, he explains how honesty is not enough; honesty requires integrity.

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