Essay topic: What is ugly?

What is ugly? You may call that shirt ugly, or that person ugly, but what does an ugly truth mean? Is it a truth that has warts all over its face? A truth that smells like onions and makes babies cry? Maybe. When I think about an ugly truth, I think of truths that would be easier left unsaid. It would be easier to throw them under the rug, and to put up a facade that shows perfection. The reality of ugly truths is that they are important to point out. It takes a brave soul to point out ugly truths. The authors of these seven essays display this bravery as they reveal the ugly truths that need to be addressed. They break down the walls of beautiful lies until they show the world the ugly studs of the truth. 

In my anthology, the criteria for my selection was that each essay had to make my mouth drop. It had to reveal something so ugly that I was forced to sit in silence, reflecting on what I just learned. I ordered the essay’s based on what I thought was the least to the most ugly. My order is my opinion, and your views will shape what you think is the ugliest issue out of the seven essays. 

You will first visit Ascher’s essay which describes certain instances where she witnessed people’s good deeds being made out of fear and selfishness. She finishes her essay with an exploration into what it means to be compassionate, and makes you question your own reasoning for showing kindness to strangers. 

You will then go to Kincaid’s essay which gives the “natives” a voice in the conversation about tourism, and shows their frustrations about tourists. She informs her readers about their privilege, and makes you feel embarrassed. Critics called her work “too angry”, but that is needed when uncovering ugly truths. 

Next you will venture to Ehrenreich’s essay which accounts her life working as a server, and the difficulties her and those working with her had to face daily. Her story is incredibly moving, and shows how strong and determined a minimum wage worker has to be to make ends meet. 

Then you will visit Mukherjee’s essay which accounts her and her sisters immigration to America. Mukherjee discusses the favoritism towards certain races in the immigration system, and how that inequality led to different outcomes in each of their lives. 

Next you will meet Douglass, and learn about his life as a slave trying to learn how to read and write. In Douglass’s essay you see as his knowledge increases, he learns about the true horrors surrounding his life. Douglass questions whether ignorance is bliss through beautifully crafted paragraphs that leaves you in tears by the end. 

Lorde’s essay is next, and in this essay she tells the story of her and her family visiting Washington, D.C. As a young child she is faced with the cruel treatment of racism. Readers can tell she is overwhelmed by the “white” surrounding her, and the descriptions made in this essay are very powerful. Lorde’s writing style makes you feel like you are there with her, witnessing these atrocities first hand. 

Finally, you will reach Boswell’s essay. When you read this essay, I advise you to read it 3 times. The first time the words will overwhelm you. Take a break. Come back to it. Read it again, and you will now understand the words on the page. Take a break. Come back to it. Now read it again, and you will feel the power of these words. Boswell’s essay deals with one of the greatest killers on this planet- war. Boswell grapples with the irrationality of war, and points out its many flaws . I saved Bowell’s essay for last for a reason. I hope when you read it you will see why too. 

I see all these essays as snowflakes. They are all unique and complex, but they all melt down to the same stream of water. The essays deal with many different topics, but they all boil down to the same theme of revealing the ugliness that others don’t see. In my eyes, the order doesn’t matter. Who am I to say one ugly is more severe than another ugly? There are 5040 different ways you could order the essay’s, and this order is just one possibility. 

The essay’s speak to each other through their pain. If the authors were all sitting in a room together, I would imagine that they would be crying. I feel like Ascher, Kincaid, and Ehrenreich would be in a small group together, and Mukherjee, Douglass, and Lorde would be in another. I imagine Boswell to be sitting by himself, looking into a mirror, crushed by the weight of humanity's sins. I grouped Ascher, Kincaid, and Ehrenreich together because the ugly truths they reveal deal with themes revolving around people's intentions, and the cruel treatment of unsuspecting victims. They also share their experiences witnessing these instances, and their anger and distress makes it truly heartbreaking to read. I grouped Mukherjee, Douglass, and Lorde together because the ugly truths they reveal deal with racism, and identity. They battle inequality, and give a voice to an issue that is still being dealt with today. 

Their essay’s make you understand your privilege, and give you a different perspective you wouldn’t otherwise have been able to see or understand on your own. Finally, I placed Boswell alone because his ugly truth is the heaviest. His ugly truth deals with war, and how man willingly kills man for no greater purpose other than selfishness. He questions the purpose of war in our day and age, and calls out the absurdity of war as a whole. 

Ehrenreich, Mukherjee, Douglass, and Lorde’s essays are all personal stories. While each of their stories are different, the way they are written are similar. All the essays start with some sort of background information section. Then the essay’s slowly dive into the problems faced by the authors. Finally, you are struck with the truth that is revealed, and the essays end with no happy ending. 

What we all have to realize when reading these essays is that these aren’t fictional stories. No matter how crazy and unthinkable they might seem, we need to recognize that we live in a world where these problems are faced by many people, daily. Only when you do this, do you recognize how ugly these truths are, and how powerful and brave the authors had to be to share their experiences dealing with them. 

Vinson Cummingham once said “When accepted forms of beauty and their attendant assumptions go unquestioned for too long, a kind of blindness, born of complacency, can set in.”

Ugly truths surround you every day. We are conditioned to look the other way, which causes people, like these authors, to suffer immensely. While it may seem impossible, if you see an ugly truth, I want you to speak up about it. I want you to look back at these essays and realize these authors could have stayed quiet, but they chose to speak out. This is how change starts.

I wish you more than luck.