An Essay on

Nasira Beck’s Personal Narrative

As humans we have the desire to congregate with people that we feel comfortable around. We usually spend time with people who have similar interests or those with whom have an emotional connection. Culture also plays a large role in which group you feel most comfortable with. People of similar backgrounds have an easier time connecting and accepting each other. But "culture" does not always mean "race." Being of the same race as someone else does not automatically mean that an individual will be accepted into a group. In many groups, there is a pressure to conform to the majority. This can be seen in Nasira Beck’s short narrative, "story." In this piece, the author shows how cultural differences can divide two people of the same race.

If two people share the same race, it is not safe to assume that they share the same culture. Simply because two people have the same skin color, it’s not fair to clump them into the same group. In "story," the author describes Starr and her search for a community in a group of people with the same race as her. When she is invited to join the Black Students group, she jumps at the chance, saying, "These are your people. You belong here (2)." Her initial response shows the human desire to be surrounded with people one feels comfortable with. Her excitement fades when she realizes that even though she shares the same color of skin as the group, their culture is drastically different. She tries to change herself by agreeing with the group members in hopes of being accepted. She is afraid to ask questions because she doesn’t want people to think she is different.

" well, I’m not quite sure that I understand the theme. at first-"

"What, are you saying you don’t get it?"

"something like that,’ starr mumbled." 2

The reaction Starr receives from the group shows how the group sees her as an outsider. She lacks the connection that holds the others together. This connection is impaired by the cultural differences between Starr and the people in the Black Students group. Starr’s reaction also shows how people ignore their first responses in order to be accepted by a new group. She tries to cover up her differences so that she will be more likely to be admitted into the group. Starr is trying to be accepted, but her cultural identity is a hindrance. She is dressed differently and speaks differently as well.

" …Are those Tommy Jeans?"

"no, kikwear.’

  • "What? Whatever. Must be a California thing. ‘cause you talk like a

    Valley girl." 3

  • These differences, no matter how minute, are some of the foundations that people build relationships on. Relationships with other people help us to define and refine our character. The fact that Starr isn’t accepted right away does not mean that she is of lesser character than the girls in the Black Students group, but of different character. These variations between them show their individuality. Starr’s contemplates being called a valley girl, "is my California background really that obvious? but then, i can’t see how I would talk like a valley girl if i were home-schooled. i talk like myself (4)."

    She is trying to fit in with this group of people, but her cultural differences separate her from the rest. Her dress, her speech, her west coast background, even the fact that she was home-schooled; all these things are different cultures that her peers have not experienced. Her experiences that are results of her culture have shaped her into the person she is in the story.

    To reinforce the differences between Starr and the other members in the Black Students group, Beck writes all of Starr’s dialogue and inner monologues in lowercase letters. The rest of the story and all the lines spoken by the group members are in uppercase. This simple act of writing clearly distinguishes Starr from the rest of the story. The way her thoughts are recorded on paper gives life and a whole new meaning to her character. All the times Starr speaks, her words are smaller then the person’s she is talking to. This creates a sense of low self-esteem and nervousness around Starr. Her persona is shown as small and inferior to the others who talk in uppercase. One can get a strong feeling for Starr’s uneasiness. The lowercase lines also reflect Starr’s character. She is timid when she speaks, but her inner thoughts show that she is trying to cover up her differences in order to be accepted.

    In Nasira Beck’s short narrative, "story," the subject of race and culture is discussed. Throughout the experiences of a high school girl, one begins to gain an understanding that people are not their skin color but their culture. Where, how, when, and what you grew up with plays a more defining role in creating a person then race, and it also influences with whom one spends time with. Similar cultures and experiences dictate who one forms a community with more then any other influence. This connection is what allows all humans to be human.






    Works Cited

    Beck, Nasira. story. University of Puget Sound 2000