Lesson 2 | Writing Identity Workshop (January 2016)


Note: Please click all the hyperlinks to watch or read content.

Today’s lesson will be focusing on the idea of Homeland. A homeland is more than just a physical space in which one traces back her or his own roots. The idea of having a homeland, versus identifying one’s nationality, weighs heavier, particularly but no limited to those living in some sort of exile, be it physical, spiritual, familial, etc. 

In his seminal work Imaginary Homelands, Salman Rushdie writes that “[i]t may be argued that the past is a country from which we have all emigrated, that its loss is part of our common humanity…human beings do not perceive things whole; we are not gods but wounded creatures, cracked lenses, capable only of fractured perceptions. Partial beings, in all the senses of that phrase. Meaning is a shaky edifice we build out of scraps, dogmas, childhood injuries, newspaper articles, chance remarks, old films, small victories, people hated, people loved; perhaps it is because our sense of what is the case is constructed from such inadequate materials that we defend it so fiercely, even to the death.”

For Rushdie, the past itself serves a homeland in which we cannot escape, or see clearly a larger picture, the true picture. Our perceptions, our own truths, are created from wounds and skewed visions. 

Reading Assignment#1 : “Shadow Cities” by Andre Aciman


In his essay, Aciman writes that “I had come here, an exile from Alexandria, doing what all exiles do on impulse, which is to look for their homeland abroad, to bridge the things here to things there, to rewrite the present so as not to write off the past. I wanted to rescue things everywhere, as though by restoring them here I might restore them elsewhere as well. In seeing one Greek restaurant disappear or an old Italian cobbler’s turn into a bodega, I was once again reminded that something was being taken away from the city and, therefore, from me—that even if I don’t disappear from a place, places disappear from me.”

What do you believe Straus Park ultimately represented to Aciman?


Reading Assignment#2: When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine” by Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri
Jhumpa Lahiri


After reading the story, consider the following questions:

(1) What does Mr. Pirzada himself symbolize?

(2) Why is national and religious identity in an issue throughout the story?

(3) What does his evolving relationship with the narrator’s family reveal about global events like The Partition?

(4) Why does the young narrator throw away  the candy at the end of the story?


Writing Exercises 

(1) Free Word Association: Without overthinking it, list the first 15 words that comes to mind when you think of “Homeland.”

(2) Now, list all the places you have lived. Even if you moved from a place at 6 months old, write it down.

(3) Thinks about how some of those places have changed; use Aciman’s essay “Shadow Cities” for inspiration. Choose a few, and explain how or why they’ve changed since you’ve lived (or still are living) there.

Once you’ve completed these exercises, review in depth your answers to all 3.


Writing Assignment #2

Using your answers from the previous 3 exercises, write a flash (short short) story about returning/not returning to a place the character(s) have lived before. It can be any sort of home/homeland– it is not limited to the idea of an actual space. The poem should be an exploration of how you define the word. It should be between 800-1000 words.


Guidelines, Submissions & Formatting for Writing Assignment 2

  • Due Date: Sunday, January 31th6 pm.
  • Submission Link: Submit to the FORUM (see below).
  • Submission Format: Attach an MS Word document. Please put your name, address, email, website (if applicable), and phone number on page one in the top right corner. Page two and forward should have in the top right corner your last name and page number. 
  • Forum: Upload your course-created work to your course and month forum so that the other students and I can read your work and give you feedback on your answers. Make sure to leave feedback for other students– you can leave questions, comments, suggestions, whatever you like. MAKE SURE YOU ARE UPLOADING YOUR WORK TO THE CORRECT FORUM AND COURSE.   
  • Please make sure to contact me directly with any questions regarding assignments and technology. Contact me at newyorkrosebud@gmail.com   


[bbp-single-forum id=29853]