NYC257 cover image See all stories from issue #257, May/June 2017

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ISBN: 9781935552017
Contest #237 - Runners Up
Write a letter to the author responding to their story
Writing Contest Winners

Dear Editors,
Being a child of a veteran has taught me many great things, including what it truly means to live in a free country. "View Me as a Human Being, Not a Terrorist," by Yousef El Emary, has reminded me that every true soldier fights for all the people in his/ her country, not just the ones who were born here. America is supposed to be known for its diversity and united in honor, as my own father put his life on the line for every citizen in this great country. "The land of the free," is what we say, but how can we be free if we are discriminating against our brothers under God? I believe we are all created equal in this country. I stand for people like Yousef who are ashamed and persecuted because of the very things we, as Americans, fight for.

Brook McMillan, 18, Sylacauga, AL

Dear Joel Rembert,
Your story, “Shedding My Shame,” inspired me to want to tell mine. My name is Ash, and I’m 18 years old. Growing up, I went to a “ghetto” school in East Harlem and back then, I didn’t even know what the term “bisexual” meant. I was just told boys are supposed to be into girls. Like you, I kind of hated myself. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as confident in my sexuality back then as you were. I was mainly just confused. I hated myself because I was different. I was just trying to live my life as “normally” as possible.

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I’m the first in my family to be born in America, and my older brother started school here as a 10-year-old immigrant. He was bullied and harassed because he was different. When I finally started going to school, he made me fear being myself. Of course, when I started middle school, I couldn’t help but stick out being the only Bengali kid in the entire grade, with a name no one could pronounce. I tried to tell myself it was OK to be different but I hated myself anyways. I threw myself into my studies and climbed to the top of my class; that didn’t help, it actually just made me stick out more. Now if that wasn’t bad enough, there was one more thing that made me different: my lack of interest in girls.

Whenever I felt any attraction to any guy at all, I just ignored it and told myself I wanted to be friends is all. I spent my entire time in middle school confused and repressed. Why? One word: fear. I was scared of being judged and I resented that part of me because I was told I was only allowed to be interested in girls.

I hated myself so much that I allowed my best friend to suffer alone. Every day he would be harassed by the bullies, being called “gay,” or “faggot,” (even though he was straight) and I did nothing. I’ve told him how I felt and the guilt still eats me up, regardless of his forgiveness. But I was so scared of being judged that I didn’t stick up for him. Instead, I let him get bullied for being something he isn’t so that I wouldn’t be harassed for being something I am.

I hated myself for being different and kept that side of me repressed for so long. However, eventually I told my best friend about it, he accepted me and told me he understood. He was the first person to tell me it was OK to be different. My middle school days were some of the unhappiest I can recall, but today I am open and proud. I’ve been in a few relationships since then, with both guys and girls, and I’m in a good place. I’ve learned to accept myself and not be ashamed of the part of me that’s different. I embrace my peculiarity. Simply said, I’m happy.


Dear Wendy Herrera,
Upon reading your story, “Please Don’t Deport Us,” I connected almost immediately. You stated that after Donald Trump’s win for presidency, you didn’t know what to tell your sister. The negative image that this man has painted of so many groups: Hispanic people, immigrants, the LGBT+ community, and so many more, leaves me heartbroken. As a Muslim I must endure Trump’s hateful words on the regular, so I understand your struggle.

I am sorry to live in a place where children as young as 9 years old, such as your sister, have to worry about things like deportation when they should be worrying about being a kid. You were right to tell your sister to not worry, because there are indeed many others, besides Trump, who take part in the decision making process when it comes to immigrants. But as we take a look further into Trump’s presidency, we must realize that an abundance of white, privileged male Republicans hold the House and Senate and are taking many of these matters into their own hands.

Furthermore, you’re right again when you say that we, as a nation, have worked hard to end bigotry in this country. But I believe we can work even harder.

So tell your sister the truth. Tell your sister that yes, it will be difficult, but you refuse to give up to the man who has done nothing but spread negativity in our world. Tell your sister that she is strong. That the United States is now more united than ever before. With things like the women’s march, and the Muslim ban protest, humanity continues to surprise me every day. Tell your sister that we, whether we are Hispanic, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, an immigrant, Muslim, Mexican, or black, are worthy of our rights. And tell your sister that we all weld together to rise up strong in the face of adversity. I stand with you, Wendy. We all do.

Anonymous, 15, Herndon, VA

Dear Mario,
I read your story “Telling Myself Who I Am.” I enjoyed reading about how you overcame your fears and decided to be honest with yourself. You taught me that accepting myself is the first step to happiness. You said that you wanted to be honest about who you are, even though you know there will be consequences. I believe that this is an important lesson.

I can relate to your story, because accepting yourself the way you are is complicated when so many people are disgusted by it. In the article, you said “I knew I was gay because I was attracted to guys and not girls, but I hadn't consciously acknowledged it to myself yet.” I can identify with this because, since I was young, I knew that I wasn’t like other boys. At first I refused to accept it, because I believed that if I kept denying it, then it wasn't true. I was also unhappy, because I became the person everyone wished I was.

Instead of coming out to friends and family, the first person I told I was gay was my therapist. It was hard just saying it, even though it was confidential. But the day after, I actually felt happy. I felt like I could tell anyone, although I haven’t yet. I’ve never had a friend or family member I could confide in. There is one friend I want to tell, but I’m waiting for the right moment. Some people know now without being told, so I’m not as closed as before, but you taught me that being open about who I really am will lead me to happiness. So I’ll try and follow in your footsteps. However, I will be making small steps.

Anonymous, 17, Brooklyn, NY

Dear Editors,
Americans Don’t All Look Alike,” by Melvin Pichardo rings true to me, because America is a country full of immigrants. Like the author, I’m from the Dominican Republic but was raised in the United States. I believe no one can make me feel ashamed of who I am because everyone in this country has a different origin. Melvin felt like this also, which is why he had the courage to speak about New York’s new life and fast gentrification in Trump’s America.

I can relate to how the writer feels about our new president and about himself when it comes to being a minority. A lot of tension and racism has been on the rise since the election, and the events leading to the election showing how much the white population is threatened by our fast-growing Latino population. I come from a Dominican family where I was raised to embrace my culture, not hide it in case Trump or his men want to send my parents back.

The other day I was walking around the Times Square subway station, looking for the 1 train. I saw many white and Asian faces, but very few Latinos. Everyone is scared to go out and get harassed or stopped by cops. The police are posted next to a table in almost every main train station ready to stop you and ask for identification. I’ve been getting looked at like a thug by whites and police officers all my life, but this year I’ve been harassed the most. The cops stopped me, frisked me and only let me go because I had a school I.D. Just last week, I saw a Mexican lady fixing her bag on the platform while waiting for the train. A white man was walking when she bumped him by mistake while standing up from fixing her bag. He called her all sorts of names and told her to go back to her country.

That is why I make music and share my personal truth with others, just like the author uses acting and writing to share his stories and experiences. I’ve been in this country since I was 2 years old, and I’ve been going to school here all my life. I refuse to be treated like an alien in a place I call home. My family and I are here to stay in Trump’s America until America is done with Trump. This is the land promised for the world, so why can’t the world be accepted in it?

Robert Acevedo, 18, Bronx, NY

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