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Individual and Group Study Guide Assignment

Book: Writing to Change the World by Mary Pipher

Reading: CH2: Know Thyself

Class: Sum14_ENGL001A_5352_Summer 2014

Instructor: Prof. Dr. Kirsten Ogden, MFA

Group Member Names:
Candy Lee
Teresa Canul
Sergio Guevara
Olivia Nielsen
Nicholas Guarna


In Chapter 2: Know Thyself, Pipher expresses that our lives are filled with
Pivotal events [that] shaped [our] core values. The chapter starts off with I Am From
poems, which Pipher asked refugees to write as they struggle to find their identity in a
new country. This helped them to explore who they really were. Certain people and
experiences interest us. We care about certain aspects of our lives whether it is school,
sports, religion, friends, or family. These pieces of our lives are what we spent our time
on and helped mold us into the people we are today. We create our own paths in life
from experiences, which assist us to construct our own voice.
At this point we are aware of our strengths and weaknesses. Pipher states, All
this self-knowledge allows you to write with your own grand themes, your own
passions The more we know about ourselves and what we stand for, the more
interesting our writing becomes. Our writing becomes our being. We accept all
experiences we go through whether it is personal or an outside experience. Our writing
will become richer because what we are writing about is who we are and what we
believe in. When our writing is presented clearly it can teach others who we are, but
also teach us who we are. These occurrences in our life make their way into our writing,
which express our moral outlook and point of view. These are the gifts we have to
give the reader. The relationships we create as children, though we may not know it at
the time, impact our voice and life themes. These primary relationships create our way
for understanding the world. Through our writing we make a path that leads on an
adventure to our past. It can also reveal why our stories have changed us as people or
why they have meaning in our lives.
(Nicholas Guarna)

In the Chapter:
Beginning with I Am From poem, Pipher asked refugees to write it as they
struggled to find themselves in a new country and language.
a way to experiment with identity issues
must include references to food, places, and religion.
Pivotal events shaped our core values.
Certain people and experiences interests you.
possess an innate temperament, a belief system, and a work ethic.
have a sense of his/her weaknesses, strengths, blind spots, unique gifts.
Willa Cather once wrote, An artist's limits are quite as important as his
Writing comes from our beings. The deeper we explore our souls, the deeper and
therefore richer will be our writing.
Buddhist teacher Pema Chodrons writing she refers to an open acceptance of all
experience, both our inner experiences and experiences we have in the world
outside ourselves.
Our sensibilities, moral outlook, point of view are what we writers have to offer
the reader.
Piphers consuming interests--the passing of time, what things change and what
things remain the same,and the effects of culture on relationship and mental
Pipher felt lucky to have been born into a family that passionately expressed
such divergent points of view.
Her grandmother once said, Choose your books as carefully as you choose your
During WWII, her teacher said, You see students...poetry can save your life.
keeping student from going crazy during the long nights of shelling.
Pipher found young people who seemed to possess essence of Zeke, or
essence of Sara--primary relationships create our way for understanding the
world. Language mediates these relationship.
(Candy Lee)

Key Terminology with definitions:

1. Pivotal- The word pivotal is defined in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary as:
Vitally important. In the text Pipher uses the phrase, Pivotal events shaped your core
values. What she means is that the most important or the most memorable events form
your values as you grow older.

2. Puritanical- The word puritanical is defined in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary
as: of, relating to, or characterized by a rigid morality

3. Divergent- The word divergent is defined in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary
as: differing from each other or from a standard. In the book Pipher explains that she
was lucky to have been born into a family that passionately expressed such divergent
points of view.

4. I Am From Poem- Pipher explains in the beginning of the chapter that while she
was researching another book, she asked refugees to write I Am From poems. She
stated that writing these types of poems is a way to experiment with identity issues.

5. Primary Relationships- Pipher states that primary relationships, Create our ways
of understanding the world. And language mediates these relationships.
(Olivia Nielsen)

Discussion Questions

1.Why does does Pipher ask refugees to write I Am From poem in the beginning of
chapter 2?

Answer: Mary Pipher opens her chapter with her own version of I Am From poem.
This is one tool that she recommends using with refugees being resettled in America to
help them heal, process, and express is I am from poems, an identity exercise. It is
crucial for the refugees to recognize their originality despite they are having a hard time
in the new nation. It is similar to the case when she said write in your authentic voice.
Once people are clearly known about their goal and have a capability to understand
themselves their identity, these will make them aware of their strengths and weakness.
Thereby, by improving they can ultimately overcome their struggle.
(Candy Lee)

2. Do you agree with the statement Pipher makes when she says, Our writing comes
from our being. The deeper we explore our souls, the deeper and therefore richer will
be our writing. Why or why not?

Answer: One almost has to agree with Mary Piphers statement. If you do not write with
your soul, without true meaning or depth you will end up with a sub-par or insufficient
piece of writing. Anyone can write and get their way through it just to be finished with it,
but unless you search within yourself for a more meaningful way of writing you will
always end up with a product that leaves a reader wanting for more.
(Olivia Nielsen)

3. With inner clarity, We present readers with reflective honest work. In what ways can
we present our work more clearly?

Answer: The more we know about ourselves and what beliefs we stand for will help
make our writing more interesting. If our ideas are interesting to the reader, our ideas
are conveyed more clearly. We can use our personal experience to guide our writing
skills. We must discover what our point of view is on events so that when we write about
it, we can make a clear argument supporting our case.
(Nicholas Guarna)


The core of chapter two revolves around finding thyself. It immediately connects
with chapter one and allows the reader to see the correlation. Pipher commences on
vividly informing the reader about her immensely diverse family that consisted of a
multitude of religious ideologies and political views. She expresses to the readers that
through all these perspectives, learned that there are no absolute truths in the world.
Only the truth people wanted to see. Among other things Pipher was glad that she was
surrounded by good hearted people. In this she means that although they all shared
different points of view, they all strived for the good and well-being of others. One
example would be her Mother offering free medical care to anyone who couldnt
affording and donating to a school.
Although they were not necessarily rich, they all somewhat knew that money was
indeed not happiness, in that sense they were rich in greater ways.
By this short summary of her family Pipher shed light on her moral views.
Everyone has a story to tell. Sometimes it just might be disguised as everyday life for
you, since to others it can be totally different.
(Sergio Guevara)

External Sources:

Rodriguez, J. Luis. Always Running. New York: Simon & Schuster,1993. Print

Chapter 2 Know Thyself Pipher talks about discovering yourself through your
experiences and family. She describes writing as a form of exploring our soul and
discovering who we are; writing teaches us who we are. Her family provided her with
divergent point of views. Just like Pipher, Luis also learned through his family and
experiences. Always Running is one of Luiss many books on his experiences growing
up. In this book particularly he talks about how his experiences made him the writer he
is now. Got involved in gangs at an early age he spent most of his adolescence always
running from rivals, family, and police officers. One day a professor of his told him he
believed there was a future for him as a writer or an artist. Luis then started working for
a newspaper and decided to go to college. He believes that if you have a story to tell
that matters then you sound write it.
(Teresa Canul)