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9 great first-person essays from 2015
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In 2015 we worked hard at Vox to explain the biggest news stories of the year with charts, maps, videos, and lots of explainers . And in our First Person section we turned to you — our readers, our friends, and the experts we trust most — and asked for your insight and personal experiences. Here are nine of our most unforgettable first-person essays from 2015.
"I'm a black ex-cop, and this is the real truth about race and policing" by Redditt Hudson
Many Americans believe that police officers are generally good, noble heroes. A Gallup poll from last year asked Americans to rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in various fields: Police officers ranked in the top five, just above members of the clergy. The profession — the endeavor — is noble. But this myth about the general goodness of cops obscures the truth of what needs to be done to fix the system. It makes it look like all we need to do is hire good people, rather than fix the entire system. Institutional racism runs throughout our criminal justice system. Its presence in police culture, though often flatly denied by the many police apologists that appear in the media now, has been central to the breakdown in police-community relationships for decades in spite of good people doing police work.
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"I live in Iran. Here's how sanctions have shaped my life" by Pedestrian
Those of us born after the revolution have lived our whole lives under sanctions. Following the November 1979 takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran, the United States imposed its first round of sanctions against Iran. Except for a brief period from 1981 to 1984, they have never been lifted. In March 1995, President Bill Clinton signed an executive order significantly expanding the scale of the embargo, preventing US companies from doing business with Iran.
I was 4 years old before we had a phone. When I was 5 we finally bought furniture — a table and two chairs. Throughout the war we heard news of young boys perishing on the front lines, entire families wiped out by bombs. For a while, street bombings became frequent in our neighborhood, and when my father left home in the morning, my mother remained fearful till nightfall, uncertain if he would return.
"I'm a doctor. Preparing you for death is as much a part of my job as saving lives" by Shoshana Ungerleider
I never knew Mr. Azarov, but I realized then that this man had been dying for a long time. He had a brutal, impersonal end, one he received by default. Who would die that way if they had a choice? Expiring in a hospital room, doctors screaming and scurrying and cracking your ribs, away from your friends and family — I wondered how many opportunities there had been to explain his end-of-life options to him or his family. Did they understand his prognosis? I'll never know. But as he lay there alone in the hospital bed, curtains drawn, still attached to machines, I felt as if we'd failed him.
"The internet is full of men who hate feminism. Here's what they're like in person" by Emmett Rensin
In the popular imagination, men's rights activists are "neckbeards": morbidly obese basement dwellers with a suspect affection for My Little Pony. But Max is remarkably unassuming in appearance, handsome enough and normally tall; equally imaginable in board shorts and a snapback as he is in the sort of graduation suit one wears to a first post-collegiate interview downtown. He was raised in St. Louis, one of two children. (He has a brother, younger: "He goes to school in Seattle. Kind of a hippie.") His parents are alive and married. Before Max was born, his father was a unionized carpenter in Newark, New Jersey, part of a long line of the same until the 1980s came around and Max Sr. followed the dawn of management consultancy into a white-collar job and the Midwest suburbs. When Max came to Chicago in 2006, it was for college ("not the first in my family to go to college but the first to go at the normal time" — that is, at age 18). Four years after graduating, he has a solid entry-level job at an area financial institution. "Plenty of women work there," he offers in the middle of a preliminary biographical rundown. "They're getting paid the same as me." We had not yet begun discussing politics.
"9 things I wish I'd known before I became a stay-at-home mom" by Lisa Endlich Heffernan
When your kids are tiny, you don't foresee the day when they will see you as something other than just their parent. Yet the day arrives when they remark positively on a mom who is a teacher, an executive, or a doctor. There is nothing quite as demoralizing as trying to convince your kid that you had once been something, done something. That you had once mattered in some very small way in the larger world.
"I used to lead tours at a plantation. You won’t believe the questions I got about slavery" by Margaret Biser
There is a surprisingly prevalent belief out there that slaves' rations and housing were bestowed upon them out of the master's goodwill, rather than handed down as a necessity for their continued labor — and their master's continued profit.
This view was expressed to me often, usually by people asking if the family was "kind" or "benevolent" to their slaves, but at no point was it better encapsulated than by a youngish mom taking the house tour with her 6-year-old daughter a couple of years ago. I had been showing them the inventory to the building, which sets a value on all the high-ticket items in the home, including silver, books, horses, and, of course, actual human people. (Remember that the technical definition of a slave is not just an unpaid worker but a person considered property.)
"My wife has depression. There’s finally a TV show that understands our relationship" by Todd VanDerWerff
A friend once told me that loving someone else is easy, that it's harder to learn to accept yourself as worthy of being loved. As someone with his own baggage (as we all have), this spoke deeply to me. Loving my wife was easy. Letting myself believe she loved me — even in the worst times — was hard. Once we got there, I could truly help her — not to get rid of the depression but to find her way through the mazes it keeps throwing up.
"I'm Latino. I’m Hispanic. And they’re different, so I drew a comic to explain" by Terry Blas
"I own guns. Here's why I'm keeping them" by Jonathan Blanks
During the early part of the 20th century, the KKK were a social and political force in Indiana. They would march in town and through the black neighborhood where my father's family lived. Growing up, I was told about my grandfather standing at the door of the house with his gun drawn, calling the kids home while the Klan marched up the street.
As far as I know, my grandfather never had to fire his gun in defense of his family, but like many blacks in the years following emancipation, he believed firearms were a necessary part of protecting them. Particularly in the South — but in fact throughout the United States — blacks could not rely on the government to protect them from crime or terrorism.
First Person is Vox's home for compelling, provocative narrative essays. Do you have a story to share? Read our submission guidelines , and pitch us at [email protected] .
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Nikki Haley’s “rise” and the Republican flight from reality
What matt rife’s baffling netflix special tells us about comedy, alex murdaugh stands guilty of killing his wife and son. that’s just scratching the surface..
How to write a first person essay
- November 18, 2023
A first person essay is a type of academic essay written in the first person point of view that presents a significant lesson learned from a writer’s personal experience.
The aim of a first person essay is to establish a bond with the reader. You encourage the reader to accompany you on your personal journey when writing this type of essay .
Step 1: First person essay example
Before we go further into the steps, analyze the following first person essay example This will give you an overall idea of what a first person essay is.
First person essay example
When I think of my past life, one of the memories I remember the most vividly is my first day at school. Hook: Engaging first sentence that helps the reader grasp the importance of the event. I have always been a student that loved school and studying; I am what you might consider a nerd. Therefore, I don’t think it’s necessary for me to say how excited I was to start school. Personal information: Information that connects the reader with the writer.
In the weeks leading up to the first school day, I remember checking my stationary my parents had bought me for school every day and admiring them, thinking how excited I was to finally start using them. Opening sentence: Vivid explanation of the past events, creating a more appealing story. I had already learned to read and write before starting elementary school, and I could not wait to see the look on my teacher’s face when I told them, “I already know this stuff!”. Yes, I was an annoying kid. Insights: Insight into the writer’s personality, which creates a more sincere tone. You can ask my childhood friends if you would like to hear someone else’s thoughts on this; I am sure they will tell you the same thing. Concluding sentence: Casual and humorous tone that eases the reader.
You probably expect a happy first day of school story from me right now. Emotional connection: Addressing the reader, therefore strengthening the emotional connection. The truth is far from that. As much as I was a nerd, I was a mamma’s kid. Insights: Further insight into the writer’s personality. So, when my parents dropped me off at school, I started crying my eyes out. Event: Vivid description of the event. I did not want them to leave, but I also wanted to begin my first school day. So, my mother set eyes on a blonde girl that she thought looked like a good kid and made me sit next to her. After starting to chat with my new friend, I slowly eased off and was ready to put on a show. Needless to say, that blonde girl became one of my best friends in elementary school. Feelings: Description of feelings felt by the writer. This helps strengthen the bond between the writer and the reader. Even though it did not go quite according to my plans, I still cherish the memory of my first day at school. Concluding sentence: Concluding sentence of your paragraph which should be memorable and descriptive.
The rest of the school year was much more eventful because, being a crybaby, I started crying even at the slightest of inconvenience. Emotional connection: More insight into the writer’s personality. Adding these details creates an emotional bond with the reader. Naturally, this created a problem for my teacher and classmates, in so much that the deputy headteacher was telling kids to keep quiet, not because it disrupted the class, but because it made me cry. Emphasizing memories: Recounting of more memories in a casual tone. Thinking back to my first school day and generally, my elementary school experience always makes me happy. Therefore, I always have so much fun talking about my school experiences. Final sentence: Your finishing sentences, make sure to make it memorable for your reader.
Step 2: Structure of a first person essay
When it comes to first person essays, both structured academic writing or casual personal narratives can be used.
But remember that the style of first person essays is typically conversational . You need to combine a mixture of personal anecdotes, an emotional connection, and a clear point of view. So personal pronouns are highly common in first person essays.
First person pronouns
First person pronouns example.
Pronouns such as “ I ,” “ me ,” and “ we ” First person pronouns must be used when writing first person essays. This contrasts with the third person point of view, which uses third person pronouns such as “ he ,” “ she ,” and “ they ”. Third person pronouns
Second person pronouns
Second-person pronouns example.
First person essays also contrast with the second-person point of view, which uses second-person pronouns such as “ you ,” and “ yours ”. Second-person pronouns
Now that we have learned the essentials of first person essays, we can continue with the steps to write an excellent one.
Step 3: Choosing a first person essay topic
Almost any topic can be written in a first person essay. But this should not scare you, as we have some tactics for you to easily choose your topic .
- It doesn’t matter what you write as long as it’s something you’re enthusiastic about.
- Ask yourself this question: “What have I experienced in the past that has had an emotional appeal on me?”
- Choose a topic that is amusing, compelling or moving.
- If you’re having trouble choosing what to talk about, think about what makes you happy or sad.
First person essay topic examples
- Your first day at school
- Your new life in a new city
- The funniest day of your life
- A sad event you have gone through
- A memory from your childhood
For this guide, we’ve chosen the topic of “ your first day at school .” Above, you’ll see the example essay . When you’ve worked out what you want to say, move on to the next step: figure out your tone.
Step 4: Define your tone
Before starting your first draft, think about your essay’s tone and language (see UK and US English ).
Your writing style will need to change depending on the purpose of your essay. For instance, i f you’re writing an argumentative or persuasive essay, you may want to use a calculated and rational first person viewpoint .
This will persuade the reader to agree with your key argument. But when you’re writing a reflective essay , you may want to use satire to keep the reader entertained.
So for first person essays, ask yourself these questions to see if your tone is appropriate:
- Is my tone clear?
- Is my writing intimate and appealing?
- Can my first person storytelling connect with the reader?
If your answers to these questions are “ yes ,” you are probably doing a good job.
Step 5: Create an outline
It’s time to make a brief outline now that you’ve selected your topic and decided on the right tone. The outline will help you get your thoughts organized. It will also help you with the order of your headings in the writing process .
Your first person essay should follow the traditional introduction , body paragraphs , and conclusion essay structure, unless stated otherwise.
Example of a first person essay outline
- Personal information
- Concluding sentence
- Final sentence
Ask yourself these questions while creating your outline:
- What are your story’s or argument’s key points?
- What are the places, people, and events that are important for my essay?
- What do you want people to understand from your first person essay?
- What feelings do you want to inspire or trigger?
- What do you want your readers to think about you?
Step 6: Write your first draft
Now, let’s get to writing. The first draft of your essay is an important step toward creating a well-thought-out and concentrated academic essay .
First person essay introduction first draft example
Introduction (Hook, Personal information) I was always attracted by the stars in the night sky as a youngster. They appeared to be tiny pinpricks of light, far away and enigmatic. My passion in astronomy only grew as I grew older, and I began to spend countless hours studying the stars and planets. I didn't realize the enormous power of a telescope until I was in college. I could see aspects of the world that I had never dreamed conceivable with such a little tool. I've been studying the stars as an amateur astronomer for almost a decade. I've always been captivated by the universe's beauty and complexity, and I feel is no greater thrill than learning something new about our surroundings.
Things to consider
- Don’t be too harsh on your first draft. You’ll have plenty of time to revise it later.
- All you have to do now is identify your story's basic elements: characters, locations, and incidents.
- It’s fine to stop, gather your thoughts, and remind yourself of your main idea when writing your first draft.
- If you can, give yourself a few days to rest after writing the draft, then come back and revise it.
More on first draft
Step 7: revise your draft and finish writing, first person essay introduction final draft example.
Introduction (Hook, Personal information) I was always attracted by the stars The stars always attracted me in the night sky as a youngster. They appeared to be tiny pinpricks of light, far away and enigmatic. My passion in astronomy only for astronomy grew as I grew older, and I began to spend spent countless hours studying the stars and planets. I didn't realize only realized the enormous power of a telescope until once I was in college. I could see aspects of the world that I had never dreamed of conceivable with such a little tool. I've been studying studied the stars as an amateur astronomer for almost a decade. I've always been captivated by the universe's beauty and complexity, and I feel and there is no greater incredible thrill than learning something new about our surroundings.
Important things to consider while revising
- Don’t just tell the reader what’s going on; use vivid common words, phrasal words , transition words , and transition sentences to describe the situation and depict the storyline.
- Avoid excessive emotions. It’s perfectly appropriate to convey happiness, frustration, or sadness, but you must strike a balance.
- Proofread the essay for common mistakes , spelling and grammar mistakes ( active and passive etc.), capitalization rules , punctuation, and repetitions.
- Examine the writing and see if it’s straightforward and to-the-point and whether you’re sharing your ideas in an understandable way.
- Is there consistency in the essay, both structurally and contextually?
- Are there any passive voice sentences that I can rewrite in active voice?
- Is there enough sensory information in my essay to touch the reader and make them feel like they’re a part of my experience?
- A first-person essay is a type of essay that is written from the perspective of the author, using "I" statements and personal experiences.
- To write a first-person essay, you must be willing to share personal details and experiences with your reader.
- Begin your essay with a clear introduction that provides context for your topic and establishes your voice as the author.
- Use personal anecdotes, sensory details, and other techniques to bring your experiences to life and engage the reader.
- End your essay with a conclusion that reflects on your experiences and provides a final thought or message for the reader.
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The Use of First Person Narration in The Cask of Amontillado
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Enduring Love Extract
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How to Write a First Person Essay
First person essay writing guide.
First-person essays are aimed at sharing an experience, letting your reader see and feel it. They show how that experience changed your mind, affected you, educated you. Your essay is your personal journey of discovery. And your main task while writing your essay is to engage a reader to take that journey with you.
To make your thoughts and emotions run in the right direction, you need to follow the basic rules. Here is how to write from your perspective and show your reader the true sense of the story.
Let's take it step by step:
- Step 1 - Choosing an Experience to Share The topics are endless. Almost anything can be the subject material for your essay – relationships, nature, climbing, death, traveling – just ask yourself what you have experienced that has emotional appeal. Your topic can be funny, compelling or touching. If you cannot decide what to write about, ask yourself what makes you happy or what makes you sad. All topics are at your fingertips, you simply need to choose a great illustrative one that will make your reader care. When you have a clear idea of what you want to share, go to the next important step – writing the first draft.
- Personal – You are the main protagonist, so make your essay intimate and revealing to show the reader your personal world. The best essays are written like a conversation with a smart friend, in a real and genuine way.
- Engaging – To make your essay interesting, include intriguing details, humorous experience and descriptive language. Your essay shouldn't sound like a science report, so make sure your writing style is appealing and entertaining.
- Understandable – Write in a straightforward and understandable way. Avoid using unclear references or dubious phrases. Use simple, clear and concise language that will easily connect you with a reader.
- Revealing – It is very important to make your first-person essay revealing. Personal references establish the setting, mood, theme and historical relevance. If you fail to do that, you'll find it really difficult to disclose all necessary information in your essay.
- Step 3 - Perfecting Your Essay The last step in crafting an effective essay is to thoroughly revise your writing piece. You've written what you think is close to a perfect work, but don't rush to submit it at once. Take time to reread your essay and ensure that it doesn't contain the common pitfalls. A good essay is one that appeals to the five senses. Make sure you offer enough details, so your reader can see, hear and smell what you're writing about. Don't just tell the audience what's going on, use the verbs to show that. However, avoid being too emotional. It's fine to show happiness, anger or sadness, but you need to find a balance. In addition, check your essay for grammar, punctuation, repetitions. You don't want to spoil your personal journey by silly typos or mistakes. Ask yourself if your writing is clear and to-the-point and whether you share your thoughts in the most understandable way. Write in detail, be honest, talk about emotions and your first-person essay will surely engage your reader!
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The Paradox of Subverting Identification through First-Person Narration Personal narrations typically allow the readers to immerse and identify themselves with the protagonists however some writers have used the first-person narration as a strategy to challenge identification. J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye and Sherman Alexie’s True Diary of a Part-Time Indian both use this strategy to subvert identification. They are awarded and beloved books, but are also hated since they are certain conservative
Catcher In The Rye And The Kite Runner First Person Narrative
First person narrative expresses a point of view giving the greatest sense of identity of the character. People are all different. Different colours, religions, different morals and beliefs, and maybe most important different perspectives on the world. In both The Catcher in the Rye & in The Kite Runner the male protagonist tells the course of events from their perspective, and their role as narrator has a significant impact on the novels In both The Catcher in the Rye, and The Kite Runner, first
Analysis Of Will Grayson, Will Skison And Community In First Person Narratives
Will Grayson, Will Grayson and Community in First Person Narratives The prevalent use of first-person narration in young adult literature can help create a connection between the narrator and the reader. However, the discourses surrounding adult writers of YA literature draws attention to a failure in the authenticity of these connections. Gail Gauthier’s “Whose Community? Where is the ‘YA’ in YA Literature?” ponders the nature of adolescents’ interaction with YA literature written by adults. Amanda
First Person Narrative in Red Sky at Morning by Richard Bradford
First Person Narrative in Red Sky at Morning by Richard Bradford The author, Richard Bradford, uses first person narrative in his novel Red Sky at Morning. His story unfolds through the eyes of Josh Arnold, the strong-willed, independent son of Frank Arnold, a respected and wealthy man in Sagrado, New Mexico during the times of World War II. When Josh was two he began to become immune to things like Indian fire and ringworm which was the primary cause for their summerhouse in Sagrado. The
Mistry's First Person Narrative: Indian Nationalism Disguised as Wistful Recollection.
Rohinton Mistry’s (38) first person autobiographical narrative of his trip to the Himalayan city of Dharmsala is on the surface a quaint, visual, biographical account of a journey to an Indian town that helps the author come full circle: His childhood visions of the city he dreamt of visiting and its reality as he sees it in adulthood are different in many ways, yet his childhood and adulthood converged in serene moment that epitomizes Mistry’s glorification of his native India: “To have made this
First Person Narrative
On March 4th, 2005 I sat in Mrs. Musser’s first grade class. I talked with my friend Olivia Thacker, like I did everyday. We talked about boys; how smelly they were and how we would never have boyfriends. We talked about our sisters who were also friends, and we talked about our parents. However, that year we mostly talked about my mother. Around 2:45, my sister, Lauren and I, would walk to the farthest end of the school. That end of the school was filled with the bigger kids and I was always scared
California First Person Narrative
The Library of Congress collection “California as I Saw It: First-Person Narratives of California’s Early Years, 1849 to 1900”, On the Library of Congress webpage covers the booming decades between the Gold Rush and the turn of the twentieth century. The Library of Congress provides an abundance of primary resources including First-person accounts, articles, essays and narratives to provide further insight on how life was in California during 1849 to 1900. The following paragraphs will demonstrate
First Person Singular Narrative
written in a first person singular point of view, while others seem to be in first person plural, and yet others seem to be written in the third person. For example, on the ninety-eighth page of this chronicle, the narrator relates to the audience the arrival of the magistrate investigating the murder. “I never discovered his name. Everything we know about his character has been learned from the brief…”. The use of the word “I” in this quote relates a first-person singular narrative because it provides
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