1. Read “Sonny’s Blues,” by James Baldwin. Just read it. Don’t do anything with it
yet. Just marinate in it for a couple of days.
2. Read the story again, and this time, annotate it. Examples of appropriate annotation
techniques include (but would not necessarily be limited to) circling words to look up and
define, interpreting possible meanings, highlighting phrases or passages that capture your
attention (and noting why), “arguing” with the writer (or agreeing with him) in the margins, or
noting shifts in tone, mood, or apparent purpose. Do not simply underline or highlight without
including notes. You are preparing to write about the story.
3. Write a “coming to terms” essay of 750-1000 words (3-4 double-spaced pages). This type of
essay requires the writer to “translate the language and ideas of a text into words of [his or her]
own” (Joseph Harris, Rewriting: How to Do Things with Texts, Utah State University Press,
Use the following information to guide your writing endeavor:
A. Define the “project” of the writer in your own words. A writer’s “project” is more than just the
main idea. What is the writer’s intent? What is he trying to accomplish? What claims does he
make? (This would be the first section and/or page of your essay).
B. Write about the ways in which the writer employs his craft. This is the section in which your
knowledge of literary terms might come in handy (see list of suggested terms at the end of this
document). If section A is the “what,” then this section is the “how.” What is the writer trying to
do (A), and how is he trying to do it (B)? This will likely comprise the middle 1 ½ to 2 pages of
C. Assess the uses and limits of the writer’s approach. Now that you have closely examined the
writer’s intentions, messages, and craft, take an evaluative stance on the piece. How effective
has Baldwin been in communicating his ideas and fulfilling his purpose? What does this
text do or “see” well? What does it seem to stumble over or leave unsaid? What are its strengths and weaknesses as a whole? What would you suggest that another reader keep in
mind while reading it? This is the final section of the essay. Include a general conclusion as
well; this will show your teacher that you understand how to write one.