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 NEW IMMIGRAANT
by Vicky Qiu
I am an immigrant from Italy. I came here by ship. Now I live on Bayard Street in the tiny basement of a dirty tenement. Did you know that I live in a room with no windows and insufficient air?
I always wonder why this place is in such bad condition. I make my own bed with two barrels and a long piece of wood. I also have this dirty mattress that looks like it has never been washed, but that’s the best I could find.
Last night, when I was sleeping a few rats climbed into my bed. It was disgusting. When I need to use the toilet, I go outside because there is no toilet in my room. The toilet that I use is also the toilet that everybody in the tenement house uses. There is also no hot water where I live.
I work in a clothing factory. Sometimes I work overtime but the boss of the company doesn’t always pay me the amount that I worked overtime and I wonder why. I don’t want to complain because he might fire me. Though I live in such a bad condition, I know that I live in a condition that is better than some other people in New York City have who sleep in a spot with more than twenty people in a room.