In-class reading response Bryan Washington, in “What It Means to Live in Houst


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In-class reading response Bryan Washington, in “What It Means to Live in Houston,” recounts what happened when he was asked “What does Houston mean?” Washington answered this question with the following story (from the beginning of the article):
As a kid, I lived in this suburb on the city’s western end. Most of my neighbors were white. Some of them weren’t. A Cuban family lived three or four houses down. I’d spend whole days with their daughter, and also this Filipino boy who lived across the way. Fuck knows how we found each other. Our families weren’t rolling in money by any stretch, so we didn’t have cash for video games or movies, and there wasn’t ever anything to do in our patch of the city. The daughter had repurposed this doll house from her mother. It had two floors. A backyard. You opened the thing up like a book. Most afternoons, the three of us crowded around it, grasping these busted dolls. We colored in their skin with markers until none of them looked alike.
Sometimes, we just had the one house. Sometimes, the house became an apartment complex. The complex became a mall, which became an airport, which became a multi-tiered trauma hospital or the business capital of an international city. Sometimes, everyone slept in the same room. Sometimes, there were two families, and then twelve families, and then none. Everything was casual. The couples were casual. The families were casual. If there were logistics, we didn’t worry about them, because we were creating a simulacrum of a city—an ideal city—although of course we wouldn’t have called it that.
Eventually, my friends moved away. I got new neighbors. New interests. The usual kid shit. But I kept some of the dolls. It took me a minute to lose them, despite everything. And I still think of them, intermittently, in the way you think of a thing you did one time that deeply changed you.
The person who asked the question didn’t understand the answer. He thought Washington was playing with him. How do YOU interpret this story? How does this anecdote answer the question: “What does Houston mean?” Write approximately 250-300 in your response. You can summarize or elaborate on his point(s). You can make connections to your thoughts/experiences. This is not a formal essay or paragraph, simply journal your thoughts. If you don’t finish in class, finish it for homework.

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