“My Name” – Vignettes about You

By Maria Moss

Vignettes are won­der­ful! Some­times described as a slice of life, vignettes can be so short that they take away the fear of end­ing up with a white page. Unlike a short sto­ry, there’s no defined begin­ning, mid­dle, or end with a cast of char­ac­ters, mul­ti­ple con­flicts, and the ulti­mate res­o­lu­tion phase. Instead, the vignette’s impres­sion­is­tic scenes focus on one moment or give a par­tic­u­lar insight into one char­ac­ter, idea, or setting.

The Mex­i­can Amer­i­can author San­dra Cis­neros is the unchal­lenged queen of vignette writ­ing, and her col­lec­tion of 44 vignettes,  (1984) is a must read.


Recount­ing the life of Esper­an­za, a young Chi­cana, from ear­ly child­hood to young adult­hood, the book reads like a nov­el of devel­op­ment. Vignette #4, “My Name,” depicts Esperanza’s strug­gle – at the time a young teenag­er – with her name: “In Eng­lish my name means hope. In Span­ish it means too many let­ters. It means sad­ness, it means wait­ing. It is like the num­ber nine. A mud­dy color.”

“My Name” is always the first vignette I read with my stu­dents. Every­one has some­thing to say about their name, about some­one else’s name, or about a fic­tion­al character’s name. And since I like my stu­dents to cre­ate Cis­neros-style vignettes, I’ve come up with the fol­low­ing rules:

  1. entic­ing first sentence
  2. rep­e­ti­tions
  3. frag­men­tary sentences
  4. col­or

So let’s enjoy some of the “My Name” vignettes writ­ten by stu­dents in 2022:

“My Name” by Elis­a­beth Laub­meier (Studi­um Individuale)

My moth­er is a read­er. She gave each of us a name from a piece of lit­er­a­ture. My old­est sister’s is from a Jane Austen nov­el. (She hates it.) My sec­ond-old­est sister’s name is from a Richard­son nov­el. (She doesn’t mind it.) My younger sis­ter is Mark Twain’s wife. (She finds it amusing.)

My name, my moth­er told me, is from a Shake­speare play. Orlan­do. A fool of a youth blind­ed by love chas­ing his girl through the for­est, nev­er real­iz­ing she’s right in front of him, dressed in men’s clothes.

I don’t like the play but I like the sound of my name. Orlan­do. It sounds like a mys­te­ri­ous for­eign coun­try. Like rich pur­ple. Like rib­bons fly­ing in the wind. I like that you can­not make fun of it.

 

“My Name” by Fritz Lös­ner (Cul­tur­al Studies)

When you hear my name, you know I’m Ger­man. It is short. It sounds sharp. It stands out. Some­thing I would have liked to avoid in school. If it were a col­or, it would be yel­low. Peo­ple remem­ber my name and seem to like its unusu­al­ness. Fritz. An old name for sure. More often than not peo­ple smile when they utter it for the first time. It has some­thing fun­ny to it. I’ve grown into it. I like it.

 

“My Name” by Eve­lyn Pereval­ov (Teacher Training)

They named me god’s mes­sen­ger. Descend­ing spir­i­tu­al being they called me. White. Upon my birth, angel­ic words were engraved on my fore­head. Forced to be per­fect, I was crit­i­cized for every human mis­take I made.

I say my name means fake. It’s a blind­ing façade. A bind­ing title cho­sen by my elder­ly moth­er. She called me many names but none was angel­ic. Angelique. A con­nec­tion to my hat­ed French lessons, years of exhaust­ing stud­ies. Grey and dusty. The French teacher crit­i­cized my every error loud­ly and empha­sized Angelique until I could not hear it any­more. Ever since then I tried to avoid the name by giv­ing myself pseu­do­nyms: Nina, Lisa, Mina. A hun­dred words, a hun­dred names that worked fine in the world, but upon return­ing home they all fad­ed away.
Angelique. Not as mighty as my brother’s name. Leon. Our grand­par­ents called him their cute lit­tle lion. A brave child. Gold­en like the sun. Short and sim­ple to pro­nounce. Where­as my name tan­gles tongues.

I’d like to erase the mean­ing of puri­ty and shine and be true to my real col­ors: red, green, blue. Not angel­ic white.

 

“My Name” by Jus­tus Runte (Cul­tur­al Studies)

My par­ents had expect­ed a girl. My moth­er had wished for a girl. A girl she would dress in pink. With three boys, it was now time for a lit­tle girl. Accord­ing to the doc­tors, I had the heart­beat of a strong lit­tle girl. My name would be Charlotte.
I was not born a lit­tle Char­lotte but this did not change my mother’s plans. She dressed me up in skirts and let me play with dolls. For the first years of my life, strangers would com­pli­ment my moth­er on her sweet lit­tle daugh­ter, “with her big blue eyes, her rosy cheeks, and those long eyelashes.”

After my father died and my moth­er could no longer stay at home with me and my broth­ers, I had to go to kinder­garten. I think this is when I learned about my name. Jus­tus. Just-us. Jus­tice. A Latin name. An ancient name. With ancient mean­ings and expec­ta­tions that I would feel from now on when­ev­er I would answer the ques­tion: “Who are you?”

Jus­tus is a polite boy. Jus­tus is the per­fect boy next door. Jus­tus will make it in life. Jus­tus will mar­ry a woman and start a family.

So many expec­ta­tions for a lit­tle boy squeezed into a name.

Some­times I won­der. Who could I be? Who would I be?

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