“The Running Track” by Rebecca Park (United States)

Issue 4.1          April 2022          

Read the piece here.


Pre-Reading Quick Write


Relationships, of all kinds, change across time. Whether strengthening and deepening or fracturing and fading, who we become within—and because of—our relationships with family members, friends, partners, communities, and even the natural world around us, shapes the lens through which we view ourselves and others. For five minutes, write about an altered relationship—a time when your thinking about, and connecting with, someone or something changed. Was this shift expected or surprising? Heartening or challenging? Immediate or gradual? Are you glad that this shift occurred? Why or why not?


Next, before you read “The Running Track” by Rebecca Park, think about one specific moment—one scene—that exemplifies this changed relationship for you. Maybe it’s the sidewalk where you called a relative who announced a pregnancy; or the desk at which you read The Autobiography of Malcolm X and found new inspiration; or the quiet corner of nature that is now crowded by a cacophony of car horns; or the pencil-mark “growth chart” in your childhood home that you now look down upon from new height (and insight). Take a few minutes to jot down 5-10 bullet points regarding any concrete images, any sensory details, that illustrate the changed relationship you addressed in your first freewrite. Is it easy or challenging to do so? Do images flood into your mind, or are you searching for inspiration?


Discuss:


  1. How does this piece of writing make you feel? Share one emotion word that captures the impact of the piece on you as a reader (ex: conflicted, hopeful, compelled). What does Park do in her writing to conjure this feeling? Point to a specific moment in the piece that carries particular resonance, and consider what about Park’s writing techniques fosters this affect.

  2. How does Park balance scene and reflection in the piece? Identify and share two examples of each literary device and consider how you might define scene and reflection. Share your definitions with the group, and discuss: What functions do scene and reflection play in this piece?

  3. How does Park convey external and internal change throughout the piece? Name all changes you can identify occuring within the work (ex. Park’s father’s physical evolution as he ages), and underline sentences that make those changes vivid. Which change(s) feel most resonant or powerful, and why? What does Park do to create such an impact?

  4. Consider the role of characterization in Park’s piece. What does Park do, through writing, to paint a portrait in readers’ minds of the characters in this piece? To what extent does that characterization relate to internal versus external characteristics and qualities? Point to specific moments in the text that illustrate your takeaways.


Write:


Personal narrative: Using your in-class freewriting as inspiration, write a personal narrative piece exploring one important change that has impacted who you are. This might be a shift in a relationship, a change in where you live or how you view the community in which you live, an evolving understanding of yourself and/or your belief systems, a witnessing of change in an elder or relative, or any other form of change that feels resonant to you right now, and that you would like to explore on the page.


In your piece, consider how and where to employ scene and reflection to underscore and illustrate the broader themes of your narrative. When does it make sense to “zoom in” through concrete nouns, sensory details, and visual imagery? When might you “zoom out” to share reflection, context, or analysis that deepens the meaning of the work?


Think, too, about Park’s approach to characterization—what characters are present in your own narrative? Which internal and external characteristics are most important for readers to grasp, and why? How can you communicate or illustrate those characteristics through your words?

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