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Item Reviewed: "I Am an Anomaly"
Reviewer: Max Griffin 🏳️🌈
As always, these are just one person's opinions. Always remember Only you know what is best for your story. I've read and commented on your work as I would try to read my own. I hope you find something here useful , and that you will discard the rest with good cheer.
What I liked best
Of course, what I liked best about this was the determination and resilience that your life story reveals. Your achievements are remarkable even without the adversity you faced at an early age.
FWIW, I have an especially warm spot in my heart for librarians. Back when I was graduate dean, the MLIS class asked me to address the graduates--you can find my remarks here. Like you, my daughter is one--she works for the California Digital Library.
Finally, I must note that this service is for fiction, and this biographic summary is is something different. It's an expository piece that summarizes parts of your life history. The goals of techniques are quite different from those of a fictional piece. As a consequence, most of my usual comments on craft are not applicable. I'll try to give you an appropriate review none the less.
Opening and Plot
Openings are critical. Your opening starts with a statement of fact: that you are an anomaly. It then proceeds to recount, in narrated form, your early history, your pregnancy at age fifteen, and the expectations that more privileged people had for you. It then jumps to the present, where we learn how you have surmounted those expectations. So, you start by posing an implicit question: what makes you an anomaly? In the end, we learn that your life history taken as a whole makes you a statistical outlier.
Style and Voice
First person--you are telling the story of your life.
If this were fiction, or even a longer piece, I'd suggest replacing "telling"--the narration of events--with "showing." This would involve revealing the main facts through the words and deeds of your characters. You do this at one critical point, where you recount the words of the wealthy classmate. Indeed, that little incident is one of the most telling in the story, since it establishes clearly the social and economic barriers you faced at the time.
Referencing and Setting
Again, if this were fiction, or even a biography as opposed to a biographic sketch, I'd want elements of 1994-1995 present in the story. For example, one of the top pop hits of 1995, Waterfalls, deals with some issues pertinent to the story. "Total Eclipse of the Heart" finished in the 1995 top 20 and might it's passing appearance might provide a background. For another example, the story mentions negotiating the cramped high school corridors while pregnant, but this is narrated rather than shown as part of a real-time incident. On the other hand, this is more of a sketch than a bio, so what you've done is fine.
Your husband is certainly an important part of your life--you say so. Yet he makes but a passing appearance in this sketch. Hearing him speak or seeing him act at some point would make his presence more intimate--just a suggestion.
I don't read for grammar, but usually find things to whine about. Not here! Good job.
Just my personal opinion
One way to think of telling a story is that it is a guided dream in which the author leads the readers through the events. In doing this, the author needs to engage the readers as active participants in the story, so that they become the author's partner in imagining the story. Elements of craft that engage the readers and immerse them in the story enhance this fictive dream. On the other hand, authors should avoid things that interrupt the dream and pull readers out of the story.
While the above applies to fiction, it applies equally well to biography. If this were a longer piece--a biography--I'd want to be in the here-and-now of the pivotal incidents of your life. I'd want to be in the crowded corridors, next to your husband-to-be, feeling the disapproving looks and the whispered gossip. I'd want to feel emotions stirring and the hardening determination at the thoughtless comment from the rich kid. That's all more or less in this sketch, but it's at-a-distance, narrated, instead of shown happening in real-time. Given the nature of the piece, that's fine, but if you expand this, then these are things to keep in mind.
Your text is in BLUE.
My comments are in GREEN.
If I suggest a re-wording, it's in GRAPE.
Usually I make comments on the craft of story telling here, but this is expository rather than fiction. You've done a fine job with that, so I've got no suggestions for you.
I only review things I like, and I really liked this story. I'm a professor by day, and find awarding grades the least satisfying part of my job. Since I'm reviewing in part for my own edification, I decided long ago to give a rating of "4" to everything I review, thus avoiding the necessity of "grading" things on WDC. So please don't assign any weight to my "grade" -- but know that I selected this story for review because I liked it and thought I could learn from studying it.
Again, these are just one person's opinions. Only you know what is best for your story! The surest path to success is to keep writing and to be true to your muse!