Guest Speaker Angela Hooks visited Professor Sweeting-DeCaro’s English class at the City College of New York’s Center for Worker Education. When prompted to speak about autobiographies, Angela shared writing tips and even segments from her own autobiography. By reading her most intimate experiences to the class, she demonstrated how honesty can be a powerful tool and inspired this group of students to express themselves in their writing.
“Thank you is too inadequate a feeling or word for what you did for us. Your transparency in allowing us to experience and touch, through your words, a time in your life that was daunting and ultimately uplifting is more than we were prepared for (judging by the amount of tears that were flowing). You truly touched us while we listened to your journeys, both in discovering your “lost” heritage and more so in the re-connection made with your sister.
By allowing us to piggyback on your feelings, you opened in each of us feelings and memories that we weren’t aware we had ourselves. The expressiveness that you use, the cadence of your voice, and your body language allowed us to see and be a part of the scene as unseen bystanders. This is what GREAT stories do: you make us want to know more! You make us need to know more! I am hopeful that you will soon pay us another visit and encourage us to share more with your generous and open spirit.”
“I have a number of stories that I’ve attempted to write but when I try to put it down on paper, I run into a roadblock. I think a big part of my problem might be that I try to alter the truth too much. The way you put yourself out there in your essays made it clear to me that honesty plays an important role in writing a successful autobiography.”
Tracy De Jesus Baez
“There were some students in the class who were strongly touched by your story because they have been through similar situations. Although I couldn’t relate, I felt as if I was reliving that moment by your side. I truly wish you a very successful career and I hope that you continue to write because your work is amazing.”
“Sometimes I fear that I am putting out too much and the reader might judge me. But you reassured me that if I have a story then I need to tell it. Your words gave me confidence in allowing my voice to be heard through my writing. Listening to your piece opened up my eyes in regards to making time for the people in my life. It brought back thoughts of my Grandmother who longed to see me, but I never went and her life ended soon after. I would love to see you back here at CWE.”
“Your writings are inspirational and transforming. As a Latina woman of color, I experience a lot of doubt and insecurity about who I am, and I don’t value enough what I have to offer. I realize this every time I hesitate to speak up or write. You’ve inspired me to stop hesitating. Thank you for sharing your life experience with us.”
“I can honestly say that your words touched me to my core; I too have lost many in my life. Throughout my years, I always thought that the feelings I pushed to the back of my mind were feelings of pain from losing someone dear to me. Not until I heard your story about your sister and your feelings of anger did I realize that I have never dealt with my own anger over losing loved ones.
I love to write but I always battle with the question you ask your students, “What’s wrong, you don’t want to go there?” I will never be able to truly tell my story if I am not honest about my true feelings. Thank you for teaching me a lesson far more valuable than writing an outstanding autobiography: to embrace the tool of honesty and dig deeper into my real emotions before I put my pen to paper.”