Building off of this year’s FYRE book, "The Book of Unknown Americans" by Cristina Henríquez, First Year Experience (FYE) is sponsoring an essay contest for first-year students to receive scholarships for the Spring 2020 semester.
- You must be a first-year, incoming freshman for fall 2019.
- Submit an 800-1000 word essay addressing one of the two prompts by Monday, August 26 at 5 pm via email to email@example.com.
- Submissions should be in a Word document, 12 point font and include your name and student id number.
Recipients can win one of several awards between $100 and $1,000 in scholarship. Those students selected to receive a scholarship will also be invited to a special, private recognition dinner with the Provost on Friday, November 1 at 5 pm.
Cristina Henríquez invites us to become acquainted with several characters who are recent immigrants from Latin America. Readers cannot help but bear witness to the struggles and sacrifices as well as celebrate their small victories on the path to a new homeland and culture. The stories of these new Americans remain largely unknown due to their invisibility in our political and cultural systems as well as in media and popular culture.
Borrowing from personal experience share with us if you have ever felt “invisible” or “unknown” based on your identity or life experience. How did that make you feel? From the familiar “wallflower” that most introverts identify with to the more destructive isolation, any of us can experience due to who we are, what we believe in or what we choose or not to do, remaining “unknown” is detrimental to the individual and society. What is the importance of ensuring that people do not feel invisible? How did the stories of the unknown immigrants in the book remind you of the experiences of feeling invisible? What are ways that you work to help others overcome not feeling invisible?
Towards the end of the novel, Maribel’s father Arturo ponders “maybe it’s the instinct of every immigrant, born of necessity or longing: Someplace else will be better than here. And this condition: if only I can get to that place” (p. 268). As the characters, almost all immigrants, struggle to achieve the life they aspire to, Cristina Henríquez invites us to consider the enduring appeal of the American Dream and to reflect on its meaning: What is that place people are trying to get to? How does one get there?
Share what your definition of the "American Dream" is. How do you think it should be measured or described? Is it real? Does it exist? What should one be required to do to have access to the "American Dream?" Have you personally encountered roadblocks or obstacles towards achieving your own aspirations in the context of the “American Dream” and how are you working to overcome them? What lessons have you learned that might influence how you approach your first-year at Salem State University?
As with any college-level writing, FYE encourages you to format your essay as if you are submitting for a class assignment. Make sure you do a spell and grammar check before you submit.