Rachel Karyo
Yorktown Heights High School
Grade 12 Period 6
Yorktown Heights, New York

It has been said that if you want to know who someone really is, browse through their book collection. For many of us, what we read both shapes and reflects who we are. This semester in the Literature of Identity elective at Yorktown High School, we took time to reflect on the role of literature in our personal development, and then as an extension project created web pages documenting some of our most valued literary encounters. We hope you enjoy browsing our collection, perhaps finding some new texts to add to your own library.  If you have any questions about this project feel free to contact me.
Literature of Identity
White Oleander by Janet Fitch is about a mother Ingrid, a poet imprisoned for murder, and her daughter Astrid. The young daughter Astrid has many struggles throughout her life in this novel. In the beginning of the novel Ingrid and Astrid had a very strong relationship. Ingrid was always teaching Astrid about life and the world that surrounds them. After her mother murdered her boyfriend using a white oleander flower and putting the stem in a glass of milk, Astrid was put into numerous foster homes and had a horrible experience throughout her journey of being alone, and away from her mother. Throughout each foster home something horrible always happened to Astrid. Her first foster home was in a poor neighborhood. The mother was always drinking and only took in foster children for the money. Astrid began to have feelings for her foster mother's boyfriend. they developed a sexual relationship. When the mother found out she treated to kick Astrid out of the house. The mother was always drinking and one night she got into a fight with Astrid and took out a gun and shot her in the arm. Then it was time for the next foster home. She moved in with a struggling women trying to become a movie star. They women became really depressed when she found out that her husband had been having an affair with another women. The mother took a bunch of pills and killed herself. Another foster home Astrid was home alone and the family dog attached her. Astrid moved into many other foster homes and had many other dreadful experiences. Along the way she meet a boy, he helped her along the way to realize who she really was and what Astrid's true identity is. If you want to know more about Astrid's life read the novel, it is an extremely impacting book, with a great ending that I don't want to give away.

         This book can relate to me in several way. It shows the relationship with a mother and a daughter. My mother and I have a very strong relationship. Like Astrid and Ingrid, my mother and I talk about everything. She has and will continue to teach me about life and the obstacles that will come about in my life. Another example of how this novel shaped my identity is the feelings of being alone and being loved. Astrid throughout this novel felt very alone when her mother was taken away from her and she also felt very loved when she found a home that she thought helped her to grow as a person. I have felt alone at times and also have felt loved. The time that I feel most alone is when my family and I fight. Just like every family we fight but we always make up, its just at that moment during the fight, one doesn't know how to feel but the feeling of being alone. Making yourself happy and doing what one thinks is best for your life is another example of how this book shapes my identity. Astrid tries to do the right thing, and so do I. I feel that in order to make my life right I have to make the right chooses. This novel has helped shaped my identity and make me realize all the things the life can make one feel.

Harry Potter

Growing up I really didn't enjoy reading all that much, until I came across one of  JK. Rowling books  Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone. The story took place in London where a boy named Harry Potter was rescued from the outrageous neglect of his aunt and uncle. While his great destiny proves his worth while attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. At the school Harry becomes friends with Hermione who busies herself with studies, Ron who loves chess. Harry learns that his mother and father were at once famous in the wizarding community.  His mother and father were killed by Lord Voldermort, the most powerful dark wizard in their community. While attending school, he becomes an expert flyer and is allowed to play Quidditch for his house Gryffindor's team. Draco Malfoy is a well known trouble maker around school, and continually tries to get the Gryffindor kids in trouble, by setting them up and dragging them away from their beds at the wrong time. On top of Harry learning about his parents death, he also learns that one the school groundskeeper is removing something  top secret from the wizarding bank, Gringotts. Harry forgets about the top secret removal, until one day, Ron and Harry come across a large troll in the school and rescue Hermione from his menance. The three believe that the troll was placed in the school by the dark followers in an attempt to remove what they believe is the Sorcerer's stone, and what was removed from the bank. From then on, the threesome spies on Snape and Quirrell, two professors working at Hogwarts, and seek to discover the secrets at Hogwarts. They realize that the Sorcerer's Stone is at Hogwarts and in fact is being hidden by a three-headed dog at Hogwarts and is the secret to eternal life created by Nicholas Flamel. They believe Snape is the culprit behind the evil and try to stop him from destroying Harry and Hogwarts. One day they find that the three headed dog that is guarding the the stone is sleeping and the trap door is wide open, immediately the three assume it is Snape trying to steel the stone.  The three go down the trap door and land in the Devil's snare, a plant that strangles anyone who lands in it. They make it past the plant, and land on another challenge, Ron is faced with a giant chess board and wins. Lastly Harry has to find a key for the door, by riding a broom. He gets the key and makes it into the door only to find that it is not Snape trying to get the stone, but rather it is Professor Quirrell. Potter defeats Quirrell and does not let Lord Voldemort come back into power.

     Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone is one of the most inspirational books I've because it opened the doors for me to become more creative and imaginative as a writer. JK. Rowling has inspired me to become a better writer and a avid reader. Reading her books makes me feel that I'm in the story. By Christine


The Catcher in the Rye

I may not be much of a heavy reader but one book that really stuck out was The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Catcher in the Rye was a story of a teenager running away from his life and going to New York City on his own. The reader goes into great depths to see how the main character; Holden, thinks and acts along his journey throughout the city. Holden had to deal with problems that an average teenager goes through in their life and one major difference is he actually tries to do something about it. Most of the time it is not noticeable what decade the story takes place and feels like it can occur at any time. This book has shown me that the way I act and think must not be all that different from everyone else. Holden was a very lonely person that really only needed a good friend at the time. The story was very unique because it almost seemed like you were inside Holden’s mind and wasn’t just a straight forward story. I became more appreciative of the things I sometimes take advantage of after seeing what Holden didn’t have in his life.

For interesting observations and some fan fiction click here.

For a recent article on The Catcher in the Rye go here.  

Sleepy Hollow

In May of 2000, I was living in Ohio and stumbled upon a newly released movie called Sleepy Hollow, starring Johnny Depp. I was naturally curious mainly because of its intriguing cover with the headless horsemen on his horse with an axe in hand. I had never known the legendary tale, I had only seen tv shows or episodes based on the story. There was an "Are you afraid of the dark?" episode on Nickelodeon that tried to retell a modern version.

Two months later I found myself in Westchester county New York house hunting. My father became a new executive at Bayer Healthcare in Tarrytown. While driving around with the family one afternoon I looked up on a hill and saw Sleepy Hollow High School. Could this be the real Sleepy Hollow? I knew nothing of the town and until questioning thought it was simply made up. But it was a real town, and I was in it. Oddly, I found it very fascinating. It took a little researching online to realize what had happened. On my map the town was still labeled “North Tarrytown,” apparently the town had been recently renamed to its former name. When I got back to our apartment in Tarrytown I ordered the book
“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” from Amazon.com and gave it a good read.

Set in Sleepy Hollow in the early 1800's, Ichabod Crane is in love with Katrina Van Tassel, but is frightened away by another man with a deep infatuation for her, Brom Bones, who is the headless horseman.

I thought the movie was created very well and the story seemed plausible. A noticable difference is how Icabod Crane is portrayed. In the book he is a school teacher, but the movie made him an investigator sent up the Hudson river from New York City to find the cause of mysterious deaths. It wasn’t one of these attempted Hollywood failures that strayed far from the original book or tale. The movie had extra special effects and conflicts to make it more exciting. I highly recommend it to anyone that wants a scare and flowing adrenaline.

Peter Pan
by Fawn F.

One of my favorite Disney books/movies of all time is without a doubt, Peter Pan. There are many different ways that it has helped to shape my identity. When I was younger I had always wanted to fly to Neverland with Peter, Wendy, Michael and John. Neverland was a magical place, where kids could stay kids forever. They never had to worry about growing up or what was going to happen to them if they did. They got to fly though the air using only their "happy thoughts" and a little bit of pixie dust. Some of my favorite characters in the book are the Lost Boys. They're the ones that have no desire what so ever to grow up. Even though I knew as a young child that I would have to grow up at some point, I kept wishing and hoping that one day, before I grew up, that I could travel to Neverland. Wendy eventually had to grow up, and that book taught me a lot about having responsibilities that you're eventually going to have to take on. Aside from just that, she is a motherly figure to the Lost Boys, who had never had a real mother before. She reads them bedtime stories, and cares for them as if they were her own. I think that I've grown up to be the person that I am today, very well rounded and good with young children, partially because I absolutely loved Peter Pan. I realized at a young age that responsibility is important and life isn't always about fun and games.

Check out the newest version of Peter Pan that came out in 2004.


©  Susan Silverman - Literature Circles Extension Projects