You Won't Regret Reading These Essays by 18-year-olds in Mississippi

"The little storms of life have left me doused. The wind of my parents’ perennial unemployment has blown away my umbrella."
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Memorial stones in downtown Starkville, county seat of Oktibbeha County, Mississippi, and home of Mississippi State University. On the left, one honoring Confederate soldiers, erected in 2005. On the right, one honoring Union soldiers, erected in 2006.
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In case you have missed it, please be sure to check out the latest post by my wife, Deb Fallows, from our time in the "Golden Triangle" of eastern Mississippi. 

This one is based on essays from high school seniors at the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science, or MSMS. It's a residential, public high school for students from every corner of the state. Deb asked them to write about what the school had meant to them. I think you will be surprised and impressed by the answers. A brief sample:

Sometimes I believe the soul of Mississippi is as dark and bottomless as muddy rivers settling through rolling hills. These contaminated waters seek out the unique and attempt to wash away the scent of rebellion, or the hope for change. My greatest fear is to wander aimlessly into those waters, be molded by conformity, forget my passion, my compassion, and acquiesce to the current of complacency. As I dig my naked feet into the burning red clay on my middle-of-nowhere dirt road, I cannot help but feel the history of Mississippi, rich as the soil, leeching into my skin. Despite the intense heat, I shiver. Turning on my heels to give one fleeting glance to the dancing colors of the fiery sunset, I am sure of only one thing: I do not belong here. 

As I grasp the battered storm door of my unleveled mobile home, I envision the scene that awaits me.... 

These are by high school students, from a wide range of economic and racial backgrounds, at a public school in one of the nation's poorest states. They made a big impression on me, and I think you will find them interesting.  

James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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