Mary Gordon: More Than Just a Shrine

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Everyone has their own story to tell in regards to people or events that have shaped their identity. Mary Gordon puts these sentiments to paper in her writing' More Than Just a Shrine: Paying Homage to the Ghosts of Ellis Island', an essay reflecting on her 'search for self' through exploration of her ancestors' immigration to the US. She tells us, for example, "The minute I set foot upon the island I could feel all that it stood for: insecurity, obedience, anxiety, dehumanization, the terrified and careful deference of the displaced" (Gordon 409). Gordon's ability to come to terms with the unsettling truths about what her ancestors were forced to experience, essentially being dehumanized, is quite an inspiration. In reading her passage, I was able to conjure up some personal thoughts relating to the formation of my identity. My step mom, whom I have known for 1/3 of my life, has probably given me more insight on how to lead my life successfully and be a good daughter, friend, sister than anyone has over my 18 years.

In order to accurately convey how my step mom has impacted my internal and external perspective, I think it might be a good idea to offer up some of her life story 'pre-me'. She grew up in Gdansk, Poland and was raised in a middle-class family with a mother, father, nanny, and older sister who each had a part in her upbringing. She was taught from a very young age the importance of family unity but was also told by her mother that independence is a necessary skill to acquire. My step-mom was instilled with the confidence to 'be her own person', which is a quality she has kept with her ever since. She knows the value of a dollar what with growing up in a working-class neighborhood in Gdansk- the 'fisherman's city'. Everyone around her, including her parents, who owned and ran their own business, worked hard for every cent they earned. For many years, my step-mom assisted her mother in one of the two flower shops operated by both parents....
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