The Six-Word Memoir Blog

Classroom of the Week: Brandeis’ BIMA High Schoolers

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

By Larry Smith

Doctor? Lawyer? Psychiatrist? “Mom, shut up!”
Atheism, Judaism. Both isms. Close enough.
Why thirteen? So many voice cracks.

With the Jewish holidays upon us, and our new Six Words on Jewish Life project launched, I wanted to share a recent experience I had in a very special classroom full of young, smart, wonderfully expressive Jewish teens. Each summer for the past two years I head to Brandeis University at the invitation of novelist and writing professor Jon Papernick who runs a summer writing program high school students called BIMA. In our three hours together, about 15 students, aged 13-15. who’ve come from as far as Turkey and Israel and as close as the next down over, talk about what makes good personal storytelling (in six words and more). Along the way, we have a number of Six-Word Memoir challenges.

Here are a few Six-Word Memoirs on life, Jewish and otherwise, from the amazing BIMA kids:

Flying sunkists, now I’m a man.
Short memoirs can’t buy me love.
“Your horns?” “In the dry cleaning.”
God is a ticking time bomb.
Atheism, Judaism. Both isms. Close enough.
Turns out violins aren’t chick magnets.
We went under the caution tape.
Jersey girl refuses to fist pump.
Time goes. People go. Life goes.
Liked the lift; dropped my dad.
We need a minion—get up.
Don’t ask me about my scar.
I wasn’t really on my period.
What’s important? Spirit or the letter?
“Do you speak Jewish?” she asked.
Torah with a Southern accent—whoa.
Judaism is something to lean on.
My Judaism loves bacons and cheeseburgers.
Passover food coma. Again next year.
Ask Moses was my home page.
Why thirteen? So many voices cracks.
We spent our budget on lox.
I’m not ready for a memoir.

As part of the lesson I had the students yell out page numbers from Oy! Only Six? Why Not More? Six-Word Memoirs on Jewish Life and I’d pick a six or two from that page and ask the kids to talk about it. ne of the memoirs that randomly popped up was “World is narrow bridge, be brave.” When this six was submitted to our Jewish section I didn’t know what it meant (I’m Jewish, but slept through a lot of Hebrew school). The kids at BIMA sure did. Here they relay the backstory and even break out into song (see the above video).

Thanks to Prof. Papernick and the students at BIMA for putting your whole self into six and shaking it all about one wonderful July morning.

Note: Hey teachers! Our partner in Six Words on Jewish Life, the Jewish cultural mavens at Reboot, has generously created a Teacher’s Guide for our book. Head over to SMITH to request a free copy.

One response

  1. Harold Peedin says:

    This is specifically what I used to be searching for, thanks

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