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A Swimming Lesson by Jewelle Gomez

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Alok Shetty

on 29 October 2013

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Transcript of A Swimming Lesson by Jewelle Gomez

A Swimming Lesson
by Jewelle Gomez

Autobiographical Essay
Possibly Black women and/or other groups influenced by social prejudice.She wished to reach out to those affected by racism and inequality and hoped to inspire a sense of self worth amongst her audience.
Jewelle's grandmother takes her to the white part of Boston to the beach.She teaches her how to swim even though she did not possess the knowledge herself.The swimming lesson has a much deeper meaning than meets the eye however; It is about standing up for yourself and not being afraid to be yourself and embrace your heritage.
"tide of prevailing opinion and propriety"(4)
Jewelle Gomez was raised by her great-grandmother in Boston and had close ties with her and her grandmother.She grew up in the 1950s and 60s and was shaped socially and politically by the ties with her grandmother

and great-grandmother. This story takes place
in the white part of Boston. Jewelle and her grandmother go to the beach and she teaches Jewelle how to swim. We learn that this swimming lesson is more of metaphor for life. Throughout the rest of her life Gomez becomes involved in feminist issues. She is shaped by this experience on the beach.
"the ability to stand on any beach anywhere and be proud of my large body, my African hair."(8)
"A skill she knew would always bring me a sense of pride in accomplishment."(7)
"the summer is a vulnerable time"(4)
"face up, eyes open, air in, reach"(8)
"I imagine I'm wearing my swimsuit."(8)
Though oblivious to the importance of the swimming lesson at the time, Jewelle Gomez slowly realizes the true lessons her grandma intended to teach her about self worth, heritage,and resilience in light of the prejudice nature of society.
Language Present
Character vs. Setting Contrast
Intricate Metaphors
Analysis of Textual Evidence
"It was impossibly contradictory trying to make my own connection to the decedents of slaves..."

This quote emphasizes the "later" component of the thesis and the oblivious nature of Jewelle toward the racially prejudice nature of society. It is almost beyond her comprehension when she begins to discover aspects of her heritage and ancestors.
"Now every time I visit a beach I think of those ancestors and Lydia."

The lessons she obtains concerning the nature of slavery within the U.S. effected her so deeply she now looks at beaches differently.
Though oblivious to the importance of the swimming lesson at the time, Jewelle Gomez later realizes the true lessons her grandma intended to teach her about self worth, heritage,and resilience in light of the prejudice nature of society.
"The ocean was a mystery of terrifying proportions. In teaching me to swim Lydia took away the fear. I understood something outside myself--the sea-- and consequently something about myself as well."

"We did this over and over until I'd fall off, then she'd catch me and set me upright in the strong New England surf"(2).
"At nine years old I didn't realize that my grandmother, Lydia, and I were doing an extraordinary thing by [going] to Revere Beach" (1)

" I do remember Black women perched cautiously on their blankets...Not my grandmother though. She glowed with unembarrassed athleticism as she waded out..." (2)
Jewelle's grandmother is not only teaching her how to stay upright when the waves try to knock you down, also how to not let life knock you down. You have to stand your ground, and stand up for yourself.
Although Jewelle knows her grandmother is powerful she is too young to know why. It is only later in her life when she realizes that her grandmother took her to the white part of town. She was not afraid, she stood up for what she believed in. She was breaking down the barriers of segregation.
Jewelle does not comprehend the complex racial barriers of her generation, and believes that it is normal for everybody, Black women included, to go to the beach.

Jewelle is impressed by Lydia's confidence, even though the few other black women seem ashamed and apprehensive. Her grandmother is not afraid to expose herself and has pride in her heritage.
"When I finally got it right I felt I held an invaluable life secret"(4).
Her grandmother taught her how to swim, although that was not the real purpose of the lesson. Gomez uses the swimming lesson as a metaphor and it was really a life lesson. The invaluable life secret is really the knowledge that you have to stand up for what you believe in. You have to embrace your heritage and not always do what is socially acceptable.
"Although I intuited her power, I didn't know the real significance of our summer together as Black females in a white part of town"(4).
These quotes contrast her views against the prejudiced opinions of society. Even though other Black women see summer as a time that they are vulnerable, the author instead looks at it as a time that gives her confidence.
This quote creates a symbolism of the sea representing the idea that the tides are a symbol for public opinion
The author's repetition of this quote adds to the symbolism between the sea and society. The first time she uses this line, she is referring to how she learned to swim in the ocean. The seconds time she says this, she is talking about going through society.
The sea is a symbol for the society, both with its tumultuous nature and constant, reliable tide. Lydia taught her to understand society and have no fear of it unlike many black women who hid in fear.
"My body became a sea vessel--sturdy, enduring, graceful."

Gomez was raised by her great-grandmother, who was half African-American and half Native American, and learned to take pride in her roots at a young age. She participated in many civil rights campaigns as a teenager for both gender and race equality. Her works include poetry, essays, and fictional stories. Much of her writing addresses contemporary social issues, such as feminism, LGBT, and race.
These quotes show how the author not only was taught how to swim, but was given a sense of pride and confidence that she could do anything in life.
This is the transformation from someone who fears societies prejudice nature to a resilient, independent, and over all beautiful human being.
Thesis Reiteration:
Patrick and Trevor
Full transcript