Engl 111 Core Essay

It is now nearing the end of the spring 2024 semester for my English 111 class. Compared to how I started in the beginning I developed a lot, especially my view of N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy. At first, I wasn’t excited to read the books, especially since there were 3 with lots of pages. It was also a genre of book I hadn’t read since I was a kid, so I was a bit wary of how the book would be once I had to start reading it. However, as I started to read the first book, The Fifth Season, I started to enjoy it a bit. This was able to help me write my first essay for this class, the Lithosphere essay. In my essay, I focused on how Jemisin uses racialization to create the setting and characters in her first book. 

However, I feel like this changed as I continued to read into the second and third books, where Jemisin started to focus on characters that weren’t as prevalent in the first book and when she started to focus on deeper issues like generational trauma within the characters. For example, Schaffa, who was Damaya also known as Syenite’s guardian. I would like to mention that Damaya, Syenite, and Essun are all the same person, the reason for the different names is due to the period of her life. Damaya is in early childhood, Syenite is in early adulthood, and Essun is in late adulthood. Back to Schaffa, he was seen as someone abusive and manipulative towards Damaya and Syenite in the first book. One instance was when he first met Damaya and broke her hand, but he also said he loved and cared for her. This will, later on, twist her view on what love is, affecting the way she raises her firstborn, Nassun. This can be seen in the second book, The Obelisk Gate, where we now get a point of view of Nassun’s story, a character that wasn’t seen or talked much about in The Fifth Season. Through her story in The Obelisk Gate, she tells us how her mom has broken her hand, similar to what Schaffa has done to her mom. Schaffa’s toxic love affected the way Nassun was raised by her mother, which created a sense of hatred inside Nassun toward her mother. I found this part interesting, since in our world, this would be called generational trauma, which is trauma that a previous generation experienced that gets passed down to the next, affecting the new generation psychologically with symptoms of anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, etc (American Psychological Association 2023). The way Jemisin incorporates generational trauma into her series started my love for this trilogy, especially since it adds realism and depth to her characters, which makes them more relatable. 

Another thing I like about Jemisin’s work is her word choice surrounding sensitive and emotional topics like love and sexual assault and how she showcases them in her book that fits into the storyline. For example, in my previous essay, I talked about Alabaster and Syenite’s physical connection, however, in the second and third books, we start to see more of an emotional connection, especially on Alabaster’s side. To give more context, in the book The Fifth Season, Alabaster can be seen as stubborn and honest, paired with Essun, and the two tend to misunderstand or yell at one another. In the first book, when the two were paired to go on a mission together and instructed to have sex with one another, this brought feelings of resentment and negative emotions (Lavallee 2022). This feeling of resentment is more seen with Syenite, where I mentioned in my lithosphere essay that when she’s done having sex with Alabaster she feels disgusted and “takes a shower, methodically scrubbing every bit of flesh she can reach until her skin burns,” (Jemisin 2015). This move by Jemisin in her first book was an eye-opener for me because it made me think about how in our world many victims of sexual assault end up feeling “dirty” within themselves and take multiple showers to feel clean (Loyola University Maryland n.d.). Jemisin’s careful word choice to show how the characters feel during certain moments in their life is once again a touch of realism that she does, to connect with the readers more. 

However, as we continue to read the trilogy the negative feelings the two shared have started to become more positive and romantic. In The Obelisk Gate, Essun quotes, “You hated him, loved him, missed him for years, made yourself forget him, found him again, loved him again, killed him. […] The loss of Alabaster is simply… a thinning of who you are,” (Jemisin 2016). Meanwhile in The Stone Sky, Alabaster writes in his diary, “Syen, I love you, I’m sorry, keep me safe, watch my back and I’ll watch yours, there’s no one else who’s as strong as you, I wish so much that you were here,” (Jemisin 2017). Jemisin’s words that she shows through her characters remind me to take care of and appreciate the important people in my life even if some are no longer present. 

Another part of the trilogy that shifted my thinking was the parental relationships Nassun shared with Jija, her father, and Essun, her mother. As I’m writing this essay, it made me re-read and reflect on the book. In The Obelisk Gate, we see more of Jija and Nassun and their relationship as they travel together. At the beginning of their relationship, we see that Nassun prefers her father over her mother since Jija doesn’t abuse or scold her like her mother. He was also a safe place for Nassun when she was younger, with him hugging and petting her hair/head. This got me thinking about how dads are usually stereotyped as the “fun parent”. Meanwhile, mothers are usually tasked with raising and disciplining their children, making them seem like the less “fun parent” (Grose 2020). This made me think about how I may have viewed my parents growing up and if those stereotypes were true in my household. 

Another example of a family dynamic in the book is the guardians and orogenes. In Jemisin’s blog titled “On Family”, she talks about the family the Fulcrum has created, and that the love created in this environment was conditional. Jemisin quotes, “Obey the Guardians, pass the tests, follow the rules, and receive love and respect as a reward. Disobey and receive broken bones, whippings, public humiliation, and potentially torture and lobotomization in a node chair,” (Jemisin 2015). Reading this blog post got me thinking more about the book and the types of love written, whether it was conditional, toxic, one-sided, etc. It also got me thinking about the family dynamic within Asian households. Though what’s said next isn’t true for every Asian family, it does hold true for some. In Asian culture, parents put immense pressure on their children to do well in school and have reputable careers like becoming doctors or lawyers. This can give off the message that the parents will only love or be proud of their children if they achieve something great, which shows conditional love, and if the child does not perform up to those standards there is little love (Huynh 2024). This once again got me thinking about my childhood growing up and the type of love I may have received from my parents. 

Jemisin’s Broken Earth Trilogy series taught me tremendous growth, and reflections on my own life through her writing. From the beginning, her writing taught me a lot about race and society, but later on, it taught me more about character and personal growth. Thinking back on it, Jemisin’s writing also seemed very personal from her own experiences in life, which can be read from her blog posts. Since she’s also a woman of color her writing resonates with me, making her writing very personal. In conclusion, the meaningful words and real-world connections she makes in her book inspired me to think more about my life and the world I live in, which made me love and care more about this series than I originally thought. 


American Psychological Association. (2023). Apa Dictionary of Psychology. American Psychological Association. https://dictionary.apa.org/intergenerational-trauma

Grose, J. (2020, April 29). I don’t want to be a fun mom. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/29/parenting/fun-parent.html

Huynh, L. (2024, March 20). Dysfunctional Asian Family Dynamics: Asian therapist explains. San Jose Marriage Therapist & Counselor. https://liahuynh.com/dysfunctional-asian-family-dynamics-asian-therapist-explains/

Jemisin, N. K. (2015, October 30). On family. Epiphany 2.0. https://nkjemisin.com/2015/10/on-family/

LaVallee, Z. (2022, May 18). The reality of balance and Love in the broken earth trilogy. ImPossibilities. https://morrison.sunygeneseoenglish.org/2022/05/18/the-reality-of-balance-and-love-in-the-broken-earth-trilogy%EF%BF%BC/

Loyola University Maryland . (n.d.). Common reactions to sexual assault. Counseling Center | Loyola University Maryland. https://www.loyola.edu/department/counseling-center/services/students/concerns/sexual-assault/reactions.html#:~:text=In%20some%20instances%2C%20guilty%20feelings,referred%20to%20as%20survivor’s%20guilt.&text=Self%2Dimage%20frequently%20suffers%20as%20a%20result%20of%20the%20assault.

Ye, E. (2024, February 23). Lithosphere essay (the fifth season by N.K. Jemisin, Engl 111). ImPossibilities. https://morrison.sunygeneseoenglish.org/2024/02/23/lithosphere-essay-the-fifth-season-by-n-k-jemisin-engl-111/

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