Noticing Myself

As a writer “my job is to notice” the work provided to me by the professor, thoroughly read over articles and books from class, and deeply reflect about the work in order to fully comprehend and make connections to the course learning outcome. The readings that I read over the semester, “Fortune’s The Manumission Requiem Bones” by Marilyn Nelson, “Zulus” by Percival Everett and “A Political History of America’s Black Reparations Movement” by Darity and Mullen were all works that I was able to relate to in terms of the character’s growth or finally realizing their true self. 

In the beginning of the semester, I did not speak up in class often because of my shyness. Speaking in large groups makes me nervous because all eyes are focused on me. This puts more pressure on me and sometimes makes me forget my thoughts. During discussions, I found it difficult to rephrase someone else’s thought that I was going to say. For instance, when talking about the book, “Fortune’s The Manumission Requiem Bones”, we discussed the quote “Fortune was born; he died” (Nelson, 13). Many of my classmates thought that even though the doctor did many procedures on Fortune’s body he could not take away his identity from him. I agreed with this but did not want to repeat what anybody had already said. Sometimes I would have a good thought in my head and try to phrase it in a way that makes sense, but by the time I do this someone else already spoke up on it. This has been the main issue for me throughout the semester. In the book, “Zulus”, it states, “you will be treated as the thing you are” (Everett, 104). Achitophel was only seen as a fat person, which made her view herself as an ugly person, lowering her self-esteem. Reading books like this made me realize that people will only view me as a person that does not speak up in class and nothing else. Once I started to realize this it made me question how I viewed myself as a person. I did not want to end off the semester without at least seeking other ways to participate in class discussions.

It took a while for me to speak up, but I can say that I’ve grown from the first day of class. I started being more comfortable with my classmates once I got familiar with their faces. Most people that I worked with in groups, I had already worked with before, so it was easier for me to talk to them. For instance, in my previous group, I was familiar with seeing Tommy, Dineen and Rebecca faces because I had already worked with them in small groups. I spoke up on evidence that could be used in the essay and made connections to the prompt and book. Also, this group acknowledged my thoughts which I appreciated because other groups that I were in made it difficult for me to speak up at times. Sometimes I just felt like my points were not worthy enough to put into the essays. The few times I did speak up, I felt like my ideas were disregarded as well. Similar to Achitophel, I started to feel unworthy and unimportant. However, throughout all of this I noticed that I worked better in small groups because there is less pressure on me and less faces watching me as I speak.

In the article, “A Political History of America’s Black Reparations Movement”, it states, “America must acknowledge its roots in the slavery empire, apologize for it . . . and work on some plan to compensate” (Darity and Mullen, 19). Similar to how Americans must understand the struggle of blacks and help them, it is important that I too understand my struggle of speaking up. However, it is my job to notice this behavior and “and work on some plan” (Darity and Mullen, 19) to overcome this challenge or grow as an individual. I can definitely say that I learned a lot as a reader and gained awareness of my true self as I slowly began to be comfortable and confident in speaking up. With that being said, it is essential that Geneseo students practice the skill to reflect on their changes in order to gain awareness and learn about themselves. 

Works Cited

Nelson, Marilyn. Fortune’s Bones: The Manumission Requiem. ISBN: 9781932425123

Everett, Percival. Zulus. ISBN: 9780932966971

Dye, Keith A. “From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century by William A. Darity Jr. and A. Kirsten Mullen.” Journal of Southern History, vol. 87, no. 4, 2021, pp. 759–761.,

Goal Setting Essay- To Notice

My job is to notice…and to notice that you can notice.”–Dionne Brand

At first when this quote was introduced to me in class I thought that professor McCoy was going to present different types of works to us and see if we can recognize the same ideas as her. However, after unpacking these readings and engaging in class discussions I began to reevaluate this quote. Now I think this quote means that as a student it is my job to notice specific details, quotes, and key terms in order to effectively perform well during class discussions. One incident that made me come to this conclusion is when I asked professor McCoy about when I will need the next book for class and she told me to look over the canvas module. At first I thought why she could not just tell me, but looking back on this conversation I can see why she told me this. McCoy wanted me to notice the modules that were presented on canvas before asking her because as Dionne Brand mentioned “My job is to notice”. After looking over the modules I then realized I have to start reading the next book, Home, by September 17.  This is where the following phrase “and to notice that you can notice” comes in. By allowing myself to notice the modules in canvas and interpreting it, I can perform the task that needs to be done, which shows the importance of this epigraph. In the following paragraphs I will unpack readings such as “Home” by Toni Morrison and Fortune’s “The Manumission Requiem Bones” by Marilyn Nelson to discuss how the structure of these texts connects to my personal life (breaking down things for better understanding).

Fortune structured his book, The Manumission Requiem Bones, into small sections with a few words on each page. Diving deeper into these sections, Fortune uses detailed and vivid words to describe Fortune’s life. The line “Fortune was born;he died ” (Nelson ,13) was so small yet big simultaneously.The meaning of this line can be interpreted in so many ways and that is what made it powerful. When I first read this line I thought it meant that Fortune was menatlly alive, but he was physically dead. However, after spending almost an hour on this single line with Professor McCoy and the rest of the class, I heard different perspectives that made me second guess my thoughts. People mentioned that although Fortune was born, his legacy died with him. I was surprised at how individuals in class can reflect on the same line differently. In the beginning I thought that going over this single line was just wasting time, but after hearing the voices of my classmates It made me go back and reevaluate the line. Now if you were to ask me about this line I would say Fortune, who was a slave, was born into this world to work under authorities and was stripped of his identity with nothing left to offer to his community. Furthermore, Fortune’s states ““For I am not my body. I am not my bones, I am not my body.” The author constantly repeated “I am not my body” to showcase that although one can live inside of a body, it may not really be who they are. It is like judging a book by its cover. You can not see the life of Fortune’s mistreatment and hard work through his bones. 

Moreover, Toni structured her book, “Home”, into larger sections that included chapters. In these chapters she chooses to have some chapters shorter than the rest like seen in chapter 7. Morrison discusses  the childhood of Frank’s life as she mentions, “You never lived there so you don’t know what it was like”(Morrison,84). Similar to Fortune’s bones, Frank believed that no one could really know his life if they never lived it. Frank refers back to his childhood and explains to readers how horrible it was to live there. However, as a reader I began to question why Frank would recall a moment that he hates so much. It is here that I began to reveal my job of “noticing”. Noticing the repetition of Frank’s childhood experiences in the book made me curious. In the book Frank states, “Nothing to do but mindless work in fields you didn’t own, couldn’t own, and wouldn’t own if you had any other choice” (83-84, Morrison). Frank explains how poorly his family was treated back at home. After reading this passage I began noticing things from a different perspective and that where “to notice that you can notice” (Brand) comes in. Then I came to a realization that Morrison purposely structured some chapters short to abruptly explain violent or devastating events that were still important for readers to know. This heightens the importance of structure.

Each book is broken down into a specific way. Marilyn Nelson incorporates short poems by writing into small sections, whereas Toni Morrison has lots of chapters where some are long and short sections. However, both books talk about the mistreatment of both Frank and Fortune. After carefully evaluating both sources I believe that one main goal for myself would be to break down passages, vocabulary words and phrases so that I can critically analyze each part and fully understand what is going on. Another goal for myself would be to ask more questions when I am confused because although I can deeply think about it, my classmates may have some great points that I can reflect on. So with that being said this course epigraph, “My job is to notice…and to notice that you can notice.”–Dionne Brand” is a great way to critically analyze, interpret, and give feedback to my peers.


Nelson, Marilyn. Fortune’s Bones: A Manumission Requiem. Asheville, N.C: Front Street, 2003. Print.

Morrison, Toni. Home. New York: Vintage Books, 2012. Print