Reflecting Through Writing

The essay “writing autobiography” by bell hooks tells how she has always longed to remove the memories of her troubled childhood, and found the task more difficult as she tried to write an autobiography. She goes on to explain that she has a desire to write about her memories, yet would not since it would involve her confronting them. hooks then recalls certain memories and explains how the sights and smells of these “acted as a catalyst, breaking down barriers” (hooks 32) and was able to finally write her autobiography. Lastly, she recalls some more memories and how she has interpreted them for the significance in her life. By expressing these memories she has revealed the early part of her life she previously tried to suppress.

“Writing autobiography” reflects on memories hooks has long tried to suppress from her childhood. Reflection is a rhetorical concept that not only hooks uses but also many other writers to incorporate past experiences into the subject they are writing about. A past experience can frame the viewpoint of the author, which enables the reader to learn the story behind the writer, giving a better understanding of why he has his certain opinions. It also encourages the reader to relate his own past experience to the matter being discussed; making a connection between the author and the reader and gaining sympathy for his argument is the main goal for an author.

Putting reflections in an essay is a good way for an author to give background to his life and basis for his viewpoints. It is easier to assume the author’s perspective on an issue if we know what his family life was like or what his political views are. For example bell hooks tells us she had the “particular experience of growing up southern and black in segregated communities” (33) which is different from my experience growing up white at the beginning of the 21st century in Cincinnati; I need her reflection, on her experiences, in her writing so I can get a better understanding of her views. hooks even states in her essay that her grandmother would make guests and playmates give an autobiography and this was the way “we would come to know our own and one another’s family histories” (34). A different perspective is good to have, but the perspective of the author must be know to truly understand the context in which the author is writing.

Reflections also might persuade others to relook at the issue and possibly change their view of the subject. The thesis of a paper sometimes provides a thought provoking argument, yet other times the reader’s views may be questioned by a supporting statement. A reader should also read “against the grain” of the essay and question the arguments the author makes. A personal reflection included in an essay might have the power to persuade someone to agree with the author’s viewpoint even though he might not normally. It is always easier to write to an audience that has the same background like heritage and education since they will have a better understanding, which is why a good author tries to find situations in his own life that would apply to his target audience.

Lastly, reflections can be very appealing to a reader since they bring fresh stories into a quite possibly dry essay. I’m sure many would agree that it is much more interesting to read someone’s own personal experiences than a research essay. The essay, which provides information with appropriate anecdote, makes a much more appealing paper that will hook the reader. For example, bell hooks gives the sights and smells of her experience like the odor of the cedar hope chest. She even agrees that it was amazing and frightening to listen to her grandmother (Baba) ask others to recall their life experiences. A personal story that relates to the topic of the essay will almost always make it more appealing to the person reading it and might be less critical of it.

Stories must be considered carefully if they are included in an essay; if they are not relevant, they will bore readers and turn them away. A story that contains offensive subject matter might place a barrier between the essay and a potential audience. Reflections, as long as made appropriate for the writing, will usually allow people to understand your perspective, change their perspective, or just make it an overall more enjoyable experience for those who want to take time and read it.

Works Cited
hooks, bell. “writing autobiography.” Essays on Writing. Ed. Lizbeth A. Bryant and
Heather M. Clark. New York: Longman, 2009. 29-35. Print


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