The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Teacher Lesson Return to "A Short Cut to Independence"
A Short Cut to Independence
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Lesson for “A Short Cut to Independence”

Anita Chikkatur writes about how she finally got up the nerve to have her long hair cut and about the reactions of family and friends.

Anita unwittingly follows some famous American authors in writing about haircuts: Ring Lardner’s story “Haircut”, Hubert Selby’s gruesome barbershop scene in Last Exit to Brooklyn, and the trauma of the woman’s haircut in O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi.”

What makes it work? We have no formula for good stories but consider these points:

1) Anita is not afraid to take an everyday event, something some people might consider trivial and boring, and take a close look at it. Although she realizes her haircut has larger implications for her sense of self, she doesn’t throw big ideas at her readers.

2) She writes about what she knows and uses details to great effect. We can all appreciate her anxiety at hearing the “crunchy sound” of the hair cut. Those of us who wear glasses will appreciate the sense of helplessness as she sits in the chair and has no idea what the barber is doing.

3) She focuses her writing on one incident. She might have lumped three or four ways she asserted her independence into one story: wearing clothes, listening to new music, cutting school one day, etc. But providing details on one incident makes her story more vivid.
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