Life on the Lower East Side Revisited

Here’s another essay based on a photo by Jacob Riis from our New York Rising classes. These were written as part of their Life on the Lower East Side Project, in which students were asked to write a short essay from the viewpoint of someone in the photo.

A DIFFICULT LIFE

by Joyce Mei

You are looking at an alley with laundry hanging in the background.  There is a man in the center of the picture whose back is turned to us and there are also laundry lines hanging above.  At the bottom of the picture on the right side, there is a mother who is hugging a baby and a little girl who is seated right next to them.

There is another lady who is facing us, too. On the left side, a little boy is looking at us and someone, whose back is facing us, is working on something.  Even though there are garbage bags next to all of them, the place looks like their home and it seems like there is a family living there.  It also looks like it is a very bad environment, especially for a baby.

My whole family is in this picture.  I am the little boy who is standing on the left side in this picture and I am nine years old. This place is our home.  We just rented it a few days ago because my parents couldn’t afford an apartment.  We are new immigrants.  My mother is hugging my little brother and he’s three months old.  My sister is sitting right next to my mother, my father is trying to organize and clean up the space, and my grandma is looking around.

All of us are exhausted and starving because my father used all of our money to rent this spot so we would have a place to sleep tonight.  He is still looking for a job.  Even though I am nine years old, I really want to earn money to help support my family.  I saw a good street corner out there where I can shine people’s shoes, so I will definitely work harder to achieve this job!

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