Like A Girl


The students of TYWLS: The Young Women’s Leadership School of Jamaica, Queens have been working on short stories and poems centered around the idea of expectations: what the world expects of them, their community, family, friends, and what they expect of themselves. Each student has employed a variety of literary techniques to make their individual pieces unique, whether it is using anaphora, metaphor, sensory details, voice, or another literary device. 


After spending time to craft their individual pieces, the students explored what it means to collaborate on a community poem and incorporate all the voices in the room. They took lines from their individual poems and put them together to form one large community work. Here are a few excerpts from the rough drafts formed in both classes: 

“Like a Girl”
Community Poem – Period 7 

Act like a girl
Make the right decisions

                          the clock ticks

Learn to cook
Learn to clean

                          bonfire of my rage
                          flame of my heart

Don’t be like your lazy cousins
Don’t listen to trashy music

                          Follow all the rules
                          an entire life wasted

Cook juicy chicken dinners for the family
no fried, buttered, un-healthy thing

                          young, chubby girl bound to
                          be successful, make a change for the better

Act like a girl
Pay attention to size and shape

                           body crumbles, feeling drained

Clean your room
Make your bed

                           work so hard to keep silent

Act like a girl
Be proper
Respect others
Don’t stand out

                           Look around at
                           the darkened, hollow room of the
                           world’s expectations
                           what we’re ‘supposed’ to be
                           society’s white nametag glaring


Community Poem – Period 8

Look pretty,
make education your
#1 priority

                            society has us on strings

Look at your sisters
be like your sisters

                            they don’t know that your tongue tastes
                            like expired milk
                            they don’t want to know that the colors
                            behind your eyes

                            are the way you feel
                            black and blue

you can feel their judgment
burn into your skin

                            I should feel comfortable
                            in my own skin