"Savannah Building," Bethany Gill. Grade 12, Age 17. Silver Medal, Painting.

October’s Writing of the Month comes from Roman Junceau of Brooklyn, NY. Roman is a 2011 Gold Medalist for Personal Essay.

My name is Roman and I live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. When you hear Williamsburg you might think of a bunch of young artists and fancy restaurants. But that’s not the whole story. Williamsburg is one of the oldest neighborhoods in New York City. Metropolitan Avenue divides it into two sides, the Northside, and the Southside. The North Side is undergoing an incredible change; a new generation of people has moved in, breaking the old traditions and destroying the old buildings. We call these new people “Hipsters.” Me, I was born here, and I’ve lived here 13 years, but when I was little, I never thought my world would change.

The Southside is my home. It’s a home I can’t leave behind, but now it’s disappearing. Just like my childhood, it vanishes, like a Houdini trick. Already, I cannot remember my old neighbor Pablo’s handshakes in the early morning, on my way to school, or the sirens in the night, on Scholes Street. It is all dying. As the hipsters move in and make their stores and their community, they wipe away my old home, my memories, my love. The old McCarren Park Pool is being rebuilt, but by rebuilding it, they destroy it. McCarren, the heart and soul of the south side, how could it die too? The old Brooklyn is slowly dying before my eyes, but it does not ask for help, it just looks at me, and tells me everything’s gonna turn out alright. That this is meant to be. As much as I beg, and as much as I cry for it, the old Brooklyn wants to kick the bucket with honor. No matter how much I wish it wouldn’t end this way, I respect its decision, because if there’s one thing Brooklyn has taught me, it is that there is always hope.

I was a little guy when my parents introduced me to Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles and so many books and movies. My writing reflects the things I’ve experienced, and love. My early exposure to great old movies and books affected the way I think and read. I am a collector, and every Monday, my little brother, my mom and I go to the Mysterious Bookshop, which is like a sanctuary to me. When I walk through those big green doors I’m home, with friends like Sally and Ian and Dan, the shopkeepers there. The store is a long wide room covered by old and new books, all in the Mystery genre. Sitting down in a warm cushioned chair, I forget all my troubles, reading Sherlock Holmes. I am among my own people there. We talk about Holmes, and other books we’ve all read. The shop is the most peaceful home I have.

When I was 5, my Dad wasn’t around very much; although he’s a sculptor, he’d be upstate building people’s houses and working to make our family life better. He’d be gone for weeks sometimes. Sometimes he’d come home with scars from hammering and moving cement. There was a story that came with each one. About a year ago, he moved to Germany, to work, but also because he wouldn’t be living with us anymore. I see him every couple months while he’s away, and it’s real hard. My Dad is my hero and my best friend. He once told me that he was a lot like me when he was a kid. He wasn’t born with a good life, so he had to make one for himself, and that’s one job that he hasn’t finished. My Dad is what I mostly write about, and think about. My Dad has a huge part in my writing voice and my spirit. Most of the skills I have now I learned with him. Writing is a big part of my life, and so is my Father, but right now, I have more of writing than I have of him. As I think of it, now, I realize that I see more of everything else than I see of my Dad. So writing guides me when I need guiding, shows me how to get my feelings out, and picks me up when I fall down. Writing is like a father to me, while Dad’s gone.

Sometimes when I look out at Brooklyn, I can see my Mother and Father together for the last time. I think my Southside will live on, even after being destroyed. It’s tough that way. But someday I’ll be here in Brooklyn as it does finally disappear altogether. I’ll look into its eyes as the flames of a fire that once burned vanish, until only one last ember lies among the ashes just to say “I’m still here.” I hope when that day comes I’ll be with my Dad, watching as the old Brooklyn passes away, because if there is one thing Brooklyn has taught me, it is that there is still hope, this side or the other.

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1 comment

  1. Rachel

    Wow. What a strong voice and what a talented writer. I feel an upwelling of Brooklyn pride just reading this.

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