The story by 11-year-old Nate Sheehan, “Conrad and Fate” is about prejudice based on a student’s ethnicity. This story, set in the late 1950s is about prejudice against Japanese people, something that was very strong in in the United States during and some time after World War II, which ended in 1945.
If you follow the news at all, then you know that today (in 2019) there is a big rise in prejudice in the United States and in other parts of the world. People trying to come to the United States for a safer and better life are being stopped at the Mexican border. People who get caught sneaking through are being put in prison. This includes children. Adults and children are being treated badly. And in our schools, and on our streets, there is increasing intolerance for people born in other countries, or whose parents were born in other countries, especially if their skin tone is not “white.” And also an increase in prejudice against people who are not Christians.
It is very easy to write an essay that talks about why prejudice against others is bad. But essays rarely convince people. Fiction can be a more effective way of arguing for things you believe in. Empathy, the ability to share and imagine the feelings of others is one of the most powerful human emotions. Empathy is what makes it possible for a writer to create convincing fictional characters. Your job as an author highlighting how it feels to be discriminated against is to make your readers identify with the character so that they can imagine what it would be like for this to happen to them.
In this writing activity we want you to write a story from the viewpoint of a person who is thought of as “other,” like the Japanese boy in the story “Conrad and Fate” published in the January/February 2015 issue of Stone Soup.
Write about what it feels like to have to fight for acceptance because of something you have no control over–your religion, where you were born, or where your parents were born, or because of the color of your skin. Perhaps you have had personal experiences of prejudice of these kinds–I have. It has been fifty-five years since I was in middle school and bent down to pick a penny up off the concrete in front of a classroom only to discover it was glued down, and that I was surrounded by a group of boys shouting “Jew!” and laughing. This memory is fresh, like it happened yesterday. Think about your own experiences and the feelings you had at the time, and try to imagine them happening to someone else.
What does it feel like to be mocked, teased, excluded, or worse, because you are not seen as a person by other students? This is a story, so show us what it feels like.