In the “Tracing Your Roots” workshop, teens will embark on a journey of cultural self-discovery through poetry and short stories. Ms. Winifred Chin will lead the creative writing workshop in two-hour-long, weekly sessions over twelve weeks starting in September 2016. Ms. Chin is a former NYU East Asian Studies professor, writer, and poet. She has published two books: one she coauthored with her father entitled Paper Son: One Man's Story—an autobiographical work about his immigrant journey to America—and Interchange, a fictional immigrant story. Ms. Chin has led a single “Tracing Your Roots” in a 7th grade Brooklyn Middle school and also taught a Bridging Cultures course at NYU. Her experience in teaching and being an immigrant writer from Bushwick, Brooklyn, may inspire the students to participate. This program was created in partnership with EBC High School for Public Service and El Puente Bushwick, an after school leadership program for youth ages 13-19 with a focus on social justice, literacy, and the arts. I will visit the local high school and El Puente to recruit students to attend the workshop.

In the workshop, teen participants—whether new Americans, first-generation Americans, or from a long line of American families—will immerse themselves in the immigrant experience.  At the beginning of weekly sessions, the students will be asked what they know about their culture and their family experience. They will also do online genealogy research with the database.  They will be given worksheets with weekly questions to interview their parents and grandparents. The will also do genealogical research with the database. In addition, Family search is an excellent free resource.

Week 1 and 2 will be called “Mapping the Past.” They will also be provided with selections from immigrant writers’ prose and poetry to read on their own and discuss during the sessions. For instance, the teens will be provided with selections from A House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros or poetry by Julia Alvarez.  The library can provide some of these readings through interlibrary loan.  They will be asked to compare these written immigrant experiences they read with their own family experiences. Then, they will be asked to write about their own family immigrant experience in prose and poetry.  Together, the 
participants will learn about and share their families’ stories of 
immigration and develop their creative voice through narrative works and poetry. Ms. Chin will help the participants review their original prose and poetry.   Pens and notepads will be provided to the participants to use during the workshop. By the end of the workshop, each participant will have created a portfolio of creative works that explore their family’s country of origin, the condition and circumstances of their immigration, and how their relatives lived their lives in America at their time of arrival. Together they will discover their cultural identity, make new friends, and find a safe place to share their ideas with others.

At the end of the program, participants will read selections from their creative portfolios to the general public at a culminating ceremony. These works will also be compiled and printed into “Tracing Your Roots” narrative/poetry booklets which will be given to the  participants, and attendees of the poetry reading. Additional copies could be made and distributed to interested patrons at the DeKalb branch. Teens may participate in the workshop on a drop-in basis, but those who wish to present at the final performance and have their works printed must register for the program from the beginning and miss no more than three sessions.

General Info

Describe your program idea in one sentence

“Tracing Your Roots” is a writing workshop for teens to express their family’s journey to America in prose and poetry and have a public reading.

Describe the community need you will address

Over a third of Bushwick’s residents are immigrants and over a quarter are teenagers. Since many of Bushwick’s teens are immigrants or from immigrant families who do not speak English (33% of Bushwick residents have limited English proficiency), their culture, stories, and heritage are often left unshared and unheard. Also, many local teens have little opportunity for creative self-expression.  This workshop will offer teens an unique chance to explore their family history.

Target Audience

Teens & Young Adults
Team Leads


Tom Brogan


DeKalb Library
Average: 4.9 (21 votes)