Rachel Karyo
Yorktown Heights High School
Grade 12 Period 7
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

Then Nancy Drew Mysteries
By Mary A.

The Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene were always a favorite of mine. Growing up, Nancy gave me the opportunity to go on adventures every single day. Together we would solve the toughest of crimes and the hardest of mysteries. I was so enamored by Nancy Drew, I wished that I was her. During St. Patrick's Day in third grade, my friend and I were determined to find a leprechaun and catch it. We took clues from everywhere and pretended we were Nancy Drew in order to help us solve the mystery.

Every young girl from the 60's until today aspires to be Nancy Drew, she was and still is the epitome of "cool." Maybe it was that our lives were so empty of adventure and her life seemed jam-packed with controversial and interesting things that helped us through the everyday monotonous routine of our own youthful lives. It seemed that even after all the suspense and close calls, everything in Nancy Drew's world ultimately ended up fine. (Well at least before Cam Jansen came along.) Just the premise of your typical fiction children's book. I mean what would this world come to if a children's book did not end happily.

The legacy of Nancy Drew has lasted a long time, I remember my mother first introducing me to the books telling me how she had read them when she was a little girl also. At first I just thought it would be old fashioned and stupid, but I started reading more and more and became an avid fan. Till this Day I still look back fondly on those days when nothing but yellow and blue books covered my shelves.


Goodnight Moon
by Keri

Goodnight moon by Margaret Wise Brown is a perfect bedtime story for all children and it was definitely one of my favorite stories when I was younger.  Goodnight Moon is a fun, picture book that makes good use of rhymes. There is a lot of rhyming and repetition which helps to make younger kids understand it better and it makes it a lot of fun. The illustrations are also great in Goodnight Moon. There are many objects in this book that is made reference to and many objects are said "goodnight to" such as the kittens, the mittens, the socks, the clocks, etc. Many of these things attract children's attention and is very fun to read and look at. The book involves very little reading and is relatively short, but it is my all time favorite book.

    My mom read Goodnight Moon to me before bed every night and I enjoyed it every time she read it. I always found myself searching for the objects that are located in the pictures. This book definitely can relate to the way I am now. This book is creative and it is written in poetry. I have always been interested in art and poetry every since I was little. I loved to draw when I was a kid and I liked reading children's poems, which is why I read this book over and over. Even now, I enjoy art and literature and when I'm older, and have children, I will definitely share this book with them. 


A Bronx Tale
by Steven S.

A Bronx Tale, which was released in 1993 is a movie about a boy named Calogero and his father Lorenzo who find themselves in many difficult situations, being that they were living in a time period when Italian's and Black's were segregated in the inner city of the Bronx..  Sonny, the local mob boss begins to have a huge impact on the boys life throughout the movie.  After Calogero refuses to finger Sonny to the police after he witnesses Sonny shoot another mobster, Calogero, or "C" (a nickname given to him by Sonny) is taken in by the guys. With names like JoJo the Whale, Frankie Coffeecake, Eddie Mush, Jimmie Whispers and Tony Toupee, they force Calogero to grow up too quickly. This again, did not go over well with Calogero's father, Lorenzo. Lorenzo tried very hard to keep Calogero away from the "bar" where all the guys hung out because he knew what would happen, but it could not be prevented.   He and Sonny began to get into little scuffles and eventually end up not talking to each other the rest of the movie. Like any kid "C" makes good and bad decisions.  The story goes back and forth with Sonny and Lorenzo basically tugging at Calogero, indenting different aspects of life into his head.  It wasn't all that bad when you think about it because not only was he book smarts, and followed in his fathers steps of being a working man, but  he learned how to be street smart as well, which only benefited him in the end.  Lorenzo said it best, " The saddest thing in life is wasted talent."

 After seeing this movie for the second and third time, I came to realize that this movie was one of the all time greatest movies in which they show to every extent what its like to be an Italian family.  This really only applied to me because I also come from and Italian background and as I sat there and watched the movie it made more and more sense to me.  The reason I found this movie so interesting was because the way Robert Di Niro (who played Lorenzo) portrayed the way Italians lived in the early 60's on the streets of the Bronx.  My family lived in the Bronx for many years and this is why I became more interested in watching this movie.  When I think about it A Bronx Tale is one of my favorite movies because of all the excitement Di Niro brings out of an ordinary day in the Bronx, and it is very accurate to my knowledge.  The music and the characters also have a huge impact on the greatness of this movie because it gave you the feeling that you were in the 60's again listening to all the old music.  This movie was a stepping stone to all the great Italian mob movies, and will go down as one of the best ever to be made.


The novel that left the greatest impact on me was without a doubt The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. by Mark Twain.  The book has a great message built in that Mark Twain beautifully wrote in to the great story.  It made an impact on me.  Despite the message society gave Huck, he still followed his heart and put his neck on the line for something that during his time, was reason to be thrown in hell.  Despite this, Huck rejected this and did what he felt was right.  In my opinion, he did a very noble and righteous deed.  I felt he had strong character and a keen sense of the bad society he was living in.  During the novel he learns how a black slave, who he thought at first was an animal, is a caring and kind person who relates to Huck very well.  Huck realizes that Jim is a normal person just like himself and that what he learned from people in his society was twisted and untrue.  This impacted my identity.  I realized how important it is to stand up for what you believe in despite what others say and that you should follow how you feel, not how others feel.

by Chris B.

Catcher in the Rye

This book is a story of a troubled boy, Holden Caulfield and his teen adventures as he discovers who he is.  I was first introduced to this book when I listened to a song "Who wrought Holden Caulfield" by Green Day.  The song, like the book, described a teen who finds himself through his adventures through a city.

    The story begins in Pencey Prep, a boarding school in Pennsylvania.  This is where Holden finds he is once again expelled from school.  This has been the fourth school he has failed out of.  By this stage in Holden's life, he begins to feel alone and depressed.  He generally believes people fake and two faced.  He hates the conformity of school and the rules that oppress him.  He knows he is capable of being a great student but his lack of motivation limits his academic ability.  He decides to leave the school, without permission and spend some time by himself.  He takes a train to New York City where he comes across many different people and realizations. By the end of the novel he still has the same views but is able to cope with the reality of the life he lives.

    I love this book because Holden Caulfield is the quintessential teenager.  He feels constricted by school and hates the conformity and rules he must abide to.  I think this book addresses all the issues teenage boys face.  Holden addresses issues like individualism, sex, drugs and identity.  I hated reading it in school until I found out how ironic it is.  I found all the anti-school and morals of the book to contradict the major ideas of High School.  I think this book is a great coming of age and everyone at some point can relate to their own lives.

by Greg B.

      The Cat in the Hat

Dr. Seuss's whimsical rhymes take you off to another place, a place where there are no people just colorful characters, and magical lands.  It is easy to take Dr. Seuss's stories at face value but there is almost always a hidden message, or moral to the story.  In Dr. Seuss's "The Sneetches and other stories,"  the books focus is on racism, prejudice, and even stereotypes.  This being a children's book sends an excellent message to young children to be accepting of all people regardless of physical differences.

      This book was my first experience learning about racism and prejudice.  This book taught me that it is not right or even fair to judge someone exclusively on their race or religion.  The Sneetches and other other stories taught me that everybody is an individual and their physical appearance doesn't make them who they are or how they act.  This is an excellent book for all people including adults, and it should be read and studied by all people.    

by Mark D.

The movie Scarface is a about a Cuban refugee named Tony Montana (Al Pacino) who comes over to America as a political prisoner and went from nothing, to something.  Montana comes to America with absolutely nothing and struggles to get  his citizenship.  Once a citizen he starts working in a low pay job cleaning dishes for a diner in Miami.  Tony's friend Manny tells Tony that they can get jobs in the cocaine game and they can get very rich.  Tony starts to do jobs in this drug game and is starting to make a lot of money.  Once Tony is starting to gain money and power the man he is working for Frank is starting to get jealous and the two have disagreements and start to have problems and they end up going their separate ways.  Frank sends his men after Tony and try to kill him but they failed, and they all got killed.  Tony confronts Frank and ends up taking over his business once Tony tells Manny to shoot him.  After this Montana starts to gain a lot of power and money, he believes that he is invincible.  He starts getting high off his own supply and and starts to mess up a lot of the time.  He kills his friend Manny because he was seeing his sister, and he messes up this job for a Columbian Drug lord, so the drug lord sends a hit squad after him.  They eventually kill Montana and that shows the rise and fall of Scarface. 

    I believe that this was one of the classics movies which flopped in the movie theaters but became much more appreciated a few years later.  I would give this movie five stars out of five because it is a timeless classic movie.  Al Pacino played the Renegade character Tony Montana excellently and really made you believe what Montana was even more.  The rest of the acting staff did a great job, and the story was very interesting.  The best part of the movie was when Tony's friend gets killed with a chainsaw, but Tony still finds a way to get the job done.  I recommend this movie to anyone, especially someone who enjoys gangster movies such as Goodfellas, The Godfather, and New Jack City.    

-By Dan

  Susan Silverman - Literature Circles Extension Projects