Access the Assignment Rubric here.
In “Alejandra Writes a Book” and “A Plea for Critical Race Theory Counterstory,” Aja Martinez uses counterstory—storytelling or personal narratives inspired by her own life—interwoven with research, critical race theory (CRT), and dominant narratives to educate her audience about injustice in education. Taking Martinez’s works as our models, your assignment is to craft a counterstory that reflects a problem that affects your community; your counterstory will offer both a dominant narrative and counter narrative to complicate commonly held beliefs and educate your audience about particular problem in which you have some expertise.
You will write an essay that incorporates stock story and counterstory. In “A Plea for Critical Race Theory Counterstory,” Martinez identifies that those in power “craft stock stories to establish a shared sense of identity, reality, and naturalization of their superior position” (69), while counterstories invite “voices from the margins to become central” (Martinez, “Alejandra Writes”), thereby destabilizing stereotypes and power structures. You will craft a stock story and counterstory within your essay to represent a dominant narrative—what Adichie would call a “single story”—that needs nuance, complication, and layers through the addition of a counterstory. You will also employ another device in your assignment by creating “composite characters.” As Martinez notes, “composite characters in stock stories and the counterstories represent more than just a single individual and are intentionally crafted as composite characters that embody an ideology” (“A Plea” 71).
It’s important to note, as Martinez does, that counterstory, as a methodology for challenging dominant narratives, has roots in CRT and is instrumental in combating “deeply institutionalized prejudices against racial minorities” (Martinez, “A Plea” 68). While some members of our classroom community may craft counterstories to resist racial prejudice, I don’t anticipate that all of us will. I say this to give space to a range of counterstories—potentially about race, language, ethnicity, mental health, gender, career paths, birth or citizenship status, and more—as well to indicate that my goal is not to appropriate a tool of racial justice in the service whiteness. Rather, we honor the power of counterstories and the tradition of CRT to destabilize various mechanisms of oppression. Ultimately this assignment works against stereotypes of all kinds to educate ourselves in the service of advocating for underrepresented voices.
The final assignment is worth 200 points or 20% of your final course grade.
- 750-1000 words that incorporate stock story and counterstory as strategies for making change.
- Post your essay as a new page to your personal site.
- Integrate at least one of Martinez’s articles.
- Integrate an outside source that has not been assigned in class.
- Cite your sources using MLA citation method (like I’ve done in on this page).
- TH 9/14 in class: a couple paragraphs that sketch out ideas for the stock story and counterstory you want to tell.
- T 9/19 in class: bring a shitty first draft of your Counterstory Assignment to class and be ready to read an excerpt aloud.
- T 10/3: Final Counterstory Assignment due as a new page to your site.
Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. The Danger of a Single Story. TEDTalk, 2009.
Martinez, Aja. “Alejandra Writes a Book: A Critical Race Counterstory about Writing, Identity, and Being Chicanx in the Academy.” Praxis: A Writing Center Journal, vol.14, no. 1, 2016, http://www.praxisuwc.com/martinez-141.
—. “A Plea for Critical Race Theory Counterstory: Stock Story vs. Counterstory Dialogues Concerning Alejandra’s ‘Fit’ in the Academy.” Performing Antiracist Pedagogy in Rhetoric, Writing, and Communication, edited by Frankie Condon and Vershawn Ashanti Young, UP of Colorado, 2016, pp. 65-85.