Expectations: Girls Speak Out


The ninth grade students of The Young Women’s Leadership School in Jamaica, Queens have been looking into expectations – placed on them by society, their community, their friends, family, and even themselves – and responding to them. Led by CWP Teaching Artist Katie Rainey, the young women read the story “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid, a one page narrative that depicts the rules and expectations of an unnamed girl by her – supposedly – mother. Through this story, the TYWLS students explored narrative voice and writing style, and what it means to write in a voice different from their own. 

The students then spent time brainstorming expectations and rules they’ve heard throughout their lives: switching from society’s voice, to the voices of their families, friends, and eventually their own as they navigated the expectations they’ve placed on themselves. 

Currently, the students are crafting poems and short stories in the style of Kincaid’s “Girl”, but with their own twists on the idea behind it. 

by Naysa

Act like a lady, smell like
apple mist. Do your hair. Don’t
go outside look like that
take off that hoodie. Wear 
earrings. Use your brain. Where’s
your purse? Don’t look in his
direction. Go to church and
bible study. Join the choir.
Be yourself. Stop looking at
sneakers. Wear a skirt. Naysa,
stay off Netflix and Youtube.
Stop eating so much. You’ll
look like a pregnant woman.

What is a body? Does she 
really think a paper doll
is made of glue? Why can’t 
my hair spring up into 
the air like a sponge? Hoodies
are for girls too. My brain
works, if I’m living right.
My purse… I think you mean
the imaginary one, aka
my back pocket. I look
at who I want and when
I want. 

Sneakers are the Michael Jordan’s
of my life.