Describe how the poem “Suicide Note” is reflective of Janice Mirikitani in any way.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The basic premise of the poem is about a high achieving college student who feels she is insufficient.  I think that one can pull much from Mirikitani's life in this narrative.  Mirikitani was a survivor of sexual abuse as a teenager, a condition that caused her to contemplate suicide.  The same feelings of self- blame and self- hate that victims of sexual abuse often fight through are evident in the poem, as the speaker apologizes for her different perceived venues of failure:


I apologize.
Tasks do not come easily.
Each failure, a glacier.
Each disapproval, a bootprint.
Each disappointment,
ice above my river.
So I have worked hard.
not good enough.

The preceding thought to this of "not good enough not strong enough not good enough" is reflective of Mirikitani's own struggles as a college student at UCLA.  She struggled with her own sense of ethnic identity in a setting that failed to demonstrate the appropriate social measures to reach out to those who were "the other" in an ethnic/ racial sense.  Mirikitani's own displacement can be seen in the poem, as the speaker feels alienated from the world around her, one in which she is both a part, but yet distant.  The embrace of suicide is seen as a realm where some hope of transcendence and unity can be found, something that the alienated Mirikitani must have contemplated in her time as a college student.

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