Serafina and the Swing Time


On the first day of English 131, Many of us filed in to class well before the 8 A.M. start time. Some dressed well, likely to create a solid first impression on our fearless leader, professor Jane Lucas. It was Strange, I’ll admit, when a well-dressed, older woman walked into class with a brief case and instead of taking her assumed position at the front of the room she walked quickly and quietly to a seat in the back. Upon her entrance the room had become quiet but now this woman sat at the back, with the rest of us, at eye level. The silence sat on everyone, except the newest addition to our class. She looked around, and grinned, “why did everyone else get quiet when I came in the room?” The rest of us coward in our chairs. In my head, I felt that I had wrongly assumed this lady to be my ENG.131 professor. However, when she posed the question, no one answered aloud so, the lady in the back responded for us saying “did you assume I was your teacher? If so why? Could I just be an older student? Perhaps I am someone filling in for your professor”. Finally, after enough awkward silence, the lady at the back of the room moved to her position at the front of the room making it clear that she was indeed Professor Lucas. Although eight A.M. can be a difficult time to be a critical thinker and writer the first fifteen minutes of critical thinking on my first day of English 131 set the tone for the rest of the semester.   

Over the course of the semester the two book-length works that we studied in class helped me to develop my critical thinking, Swing Time by Zadie Smith encouraged me to examine a different approach to writing, while Serafina and the Black cloak allowed me to look at a work that is both historically correct but also contains magic and other fiction to deepen the plot.  Both novels were interesting and entertaining, however Swing Time felt more age appropriate.  While reading the book I was able to identify with some of the motifs such as coming of age, gender roles, and friendship. I connected with the motif about coming of age more than any other, even at the beginning of the novel when the narrator’s world is falling apart, she writes something profound saying “I had never had any light of my own. I experienced myself as a kind of shadow (pg.4)” I was hooked. I loved how the novel kept me on my toes with the change in time from chapter to chapter. I also loved how the narrator didn’t have a name, it helped to explained how much she was shaped by the people around her. I also loved the book because of the mission work the narrator takes on. I know that some critics argued that these time periods of the book are significant weaker than others however I really enjoyed them, I felt like although they didn’t hold as much substance as other chapters that in the narrator’s mission work helped to keep the book light.  

Although Swing Time and Serafina and the Black Cloak are very different novels, they shared similar motifs. Friendship and coming of age are prevalent in the young adult novel as well. Reading Serafina and the Black Cloak after Swing time made the YA novel seem very simple and easy to follow, but in comparison the characters in Swing Time, Serafina and the Black Cloak seems very flat. In Swing Time character development plays a large role in developing the rest of the story. I enjoyed Serafina and the Black Cloak, however, it was not as enjoyable as Swing time. 

Throughout the semester, reading shorter works that tied into the novels made class more interesting. Why So Many Adults Love Young-Adult Literature, by Caroline Kitchener Is one of my favorites. As it identifies all the reasons YA novels can be appealing to any age. In the Article Kitchener quotes Jennifer Loja saying, “What all these YA novels share is a universal coming of age experience”. She goes on to explain that as we get older that we continue to grow so the books say relevant, regardless of age. It is interesting to look back on class now and to see how well the in-class text has tied in with the novels we read outside of class. Overall, the two novels complemented each other well. They had many differences, but I enjoyed thinking critically about both and trying to compare them to each other. This semester also allowed me to explore what kind of novels best suited my taste. Swing Time defiantly suits my taste better than Serafina and the Black Cloak, but both help to create a well-rounded semester in English 131.   




Work Cited 

Beatty, Robert. Serafina and the Black Cloak. Disney/Hyperion, 2015. 

Smith, Zadie. Swing Time. Penguin Books, 2017. 

Twenge, Jean M. “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” The Atlantic, 


Annotated Bibliography  

Beatty, Robert. Serafina and the Black Cloak. Disney/Hyperion, 2015. 

Serafina and the Black Cloak is a novel about a young girl who has lived most of her life in the basement of the Biltmore house in Ashville, North Carolina unbeknownst to the mansion’s owners. Serafina is raised by her Pa, who is very protective, he often warned his daughter about staying out of the sight of the mansion’s residence. Beatty’s novel becomes a coming of age novel as Serafina discovers that children from the estate are disappearing and Sera begins to go against her fathers wishes for the greater good of her home. Along her journey, she Is able to make new friends and learn about how strong she truly is. With the help of her new friend sera must put a stop to the disappearances.  

Kichener, Caroline “Why So Many Adults Love Young-Adult Literature.” The Atlantic,, 1 Dec. 2017 Accessed 9 Apr. 2018. 

Kichener’s work examines adult’s interest in young adult or YA novels. Within the article Kichener backs her opinion that YA novels are suitable for all ages with other Authors such as Virginia Zimmerman and John Green. Although these books are not intended for adults, their contents become alluring to older readers because of YA novel’s universality, intensity, and their newly recognized validity-thanks to novels like Harry Potter. The article explains that older readers can find common ground with YA novels making their composition appealing for readers of all ages.  


Lane, Anthony. “‘Ready Player One’ and ‘Lean on Pete,” Reviewed.” The New Yorker 

Apr. 2018, 

“‘Ready Player One’ and ‘Lean on Pete”, Is a movie review by Anthony Lane that compares the similarities of Ready player one, by Steven Spielberg and Lean on Pete, a novel by Willy Vaulten. The similarities of the two stories are pointed out- both stories are about teenage boys, that are motherless, and they both lead difficult lives. The movie review also talks about how overwhelming the movie Ready Play one was stating in his review “Spielberg whips along at so rampant a pace, and whose every crevice he stuffs with such fevered detail, that it’s as though his mission, at the age of seventy-one, were not merely to recapture but to redouble the zest of youth. I saw the film in Imax, and a week later I’m still waiting for the safe return of my optic nerves..” 

Richtel, Matt. “Blogs vs. Term Papers.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 20 Jan. 2012, 

Blogs vs. Term Papers impartially examines the benefits of writing in two different styles. Today, writing blogs may be more relevant than writing term papers, for the simple fact that technology plays such a large role in our lives. For example, once a blog is posted the author can receive feedback much quicker than one could on a term paper, especially one that is submitted as a paper copy. However, writing a term paper requires a level of critical thinking that blog post lack.

Smith, Zadie. Swing Time. Penguin Books, 2017. 

Swing Time as hinted at by the title, swings through time in the narrator’s life from an early childhood dance class and to college, to her job and her time spent in West Africa working to establish a girl school. The period spans from the mid 1970’s to 2000, during this time Smith leaps back and forth between phases of the narrator’s life to help develop the narrator. In the book’s prolog the narrator, recently unemployed, tries to cope by distracting herself with an afternoon listening to a film discussion. During the middle of the program a clip from the movie Swing Time rolls, the clip brings out a nostalgia from her childhood and she begins to reflect on how she came to be. She has an epiphany stating “I had never had any light of my own. I experienced myself as a kind of shadow (pg.4)” setting the tone for the rest of the novel. In the chapters that follow, her childhood best friend and future employer are introduced, each in their own way are adversarial to the narrator, forcing her to grow and change.  

Twenge, Jean M. “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” The Atlantic,, 19 Mar. 2018 Accessed 28 Apr. 2018 

Jean Twenge’s Article discusses the complications of the “IGen” and their obsession with Technology and social media. Problems that older generations never faced, such as starting adulthood much later and being very poor at money management due to their lack of motivation for freedom from the home. Twenge says that most socializing occurs online, and that many children do not mind staying at home, not having a job, or having freedom because of this fact.  


It’s a Sign of the Times  

Screen Shot 2018-03-26 at 12.45.25 AMSwing Time, a novel by Zadie Smith as hinted at by the title, swings through time in the narrator’s life from an early childhood dance class and to college, to her job and her time spent in West Africa working to establish a girl school. The period spans from the mid 1970’s to 2000, during this time Smith leaps back and forth between phases of the narrator’s life to help develop the narrator. In the book’s prolog the narrator, recently unemployed, tries to cope by distracting herself with an afternoon listening to a film discussion. During the middle of the program a clip from the movie Swing Time rolls, the clip brings out a nostalgia from her childhood and she begins to reflect on how she came to be. She has an epiphany stating “I had never had any light of my own. I experienced myself as a kind of shadow (pg.4)” setting the tone for the rest of the novel. In the chapters that follow, her childhood best friend and future employer are introduced, each in their own way are adversarial to the narrator, forcing her to grow and change. As the narrator reflects on her life, now in her mid 30’s, one of the many motifs of Smith’s work presents itself: coming of age.    

Tracy became the narrator’s first friend, Within the first page the narrator describes her and Tracy saying, “as if one piece of material had been cut to make us both (pg.9)”. She is present throughout the entire novel. Tracy and the narrator share the same dance class, but only Tracy has the talent to make a career out of their shared favorite pastime. The narrator, throughout the novel, captivated by Tracy, often finds herself stuck in situations where she is not in control. As children, this power often hampered the narrator’s abilities. At one point in the novel, the narrator sings by the piano in dance class when Tracy and her mother stop her. Tracy exclaims “see? she loves all them weird old songs (pg.120)” she says so with a tone of accusation and a shoulder shrug that stops the narrator cold. This continues throughout the entire novel, with Tracy entering at abrupt and inconvenient times – during a date, or while the narrators mother is on her death bed for example.   

Another Character, Aimee, has the same effect. When the narrator meets the pop star that parallels Madonna, she is star stuck. Upon their introduction, that begins poorly, Aimee asks the narrator “whose tribe are you in anyway (pg.97).”  The narrator is left babbling, with no real answer. Later in the novel, Aimee employs the narrator, however, the narrator can’t shake their first impression. At one-point Aimee explains, “You need to be comfortable in yourself to work for me. You’re not (pg. 103).”  Eventually, the main character is able to get a grasp on working for Aimee and all its many challenges. With many characteristics that are like her childhood best friend’s, she is once again trapped. This time, doing all of Aimee’s bidding as her personal assistant. The narrator works an unheard of nine years for the pop star, assisting in everyday tasks and later in the novel assist with setting up an ineffective girls’ school in Africa. Aimee owns the narrator during this time – She has no real love life, and hardly has the time for a day off.  

By the end of the novel, the narrator has lost everything. Her job, Her mother, and her friend. At this point smith brings the novel full circle filling in all the holes from the prologue. Tracy’s message stated, “now everyone knows who you are (Pg.438).” It was a video from the narrators’ childhood that depicted her and Tracy dancing in a way that was borderline child pornography. The irony of the message, and 

the video is perhaps that still, after 30 years of living, the narrator still has no idea who she is, the narrator still has no tribe and has spent much of her life following other people.  Nearing the very end of the novel the main character beings to relax, for the first time in a very long time she has time to herself. This becomes evident when she sits down with a friend at a café and starts to think about a future with him. Before now, her life was so fast paced and out of her control it was impossible to think of having a real relationship, but now she had plenty of time. Smith throughout the novel leaves the main character nameless, perhaps in part because she really is- She is more of a shadow than a person. Before the very end of the novel the narrator is pulled along by Aimee and Tracy. The epiphany that sets the tone for the rest of the novel at the beginning of the book helps to explain what the main character must be feeling at the end of the novel. The she herself, could not make a name for herself until she stepped out from behind Tracy and Aimee’s shadows.


Faith Faller

1102 Hillcrest ridge Dr. Salisbury, NC 28146



Currently attending Lenior-Rhyne

GPA: 3.2


Collegiate Athlete-  It is First year running at Lenior-Rhyne University, I am taking part in Cross-country as well as indoor/ outdoor track and field. Running this year has helped me to develop my team building skills and taught me the importance of communication.


 Mission Trips- I have gone abroad twice within the past four years to assist at a school in Guatemala. The time I spent there taught me the value of teamwork, and the importance of learning another language. since leaving the country I’ve become conversational in Spanish.


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Half of my Heart

If you want to know what I am passionate about, ask me about travel. I might tell you about my many trips to Mexico and my two week long trip to Spain where I traveled 1,477  miles across the country and visited a lot of major cities within the country, but more often than not the conversation will always end up in Guatemala. Before my freshmen year of high school, I was fortunate enough to receive the opportunity to travel to Guatemala with my youth group. I spent a week in the city of Antigua, Guatemala and absolutely fell in love. I worked with a school called Escuela Integrada. During the week I spent time playing soccer with the kids and making home visits to deliver food. When I left at the end of the week, I did so in tears. I realized that the streets of Guatemala never felt like a mission but like a second home. This previous summer I was fortunate enough to return I remembered the city like the back of my hand; the market, the coffee shop, and all of the statues they use for the holy week, right where they belong. If you want to know who I am, picture the cobblestone streets of a brightly painted city surrounded by volcanoes. Half of my heart is still in Guatemala. My plan is to hopefully go back to Guatemala and work with the school for an internship and maybe end up staying.

“Snow Day”

“Today we woke up to a revolution of snow (1)” This is the first line of Billy Collins poem “Snow Day”. Within the poem, Collins describes a snow day that closes down everything.   Throughout the poem, Collins proceeds to personify the snow, making it anarchic (7) and making himself a willing prisoner (6). Diction helps Collins to explain that the snow is almost a battle, not so much for children, but for adults. The author gives a lengthy list of schools all closed due to the snow. After hearing the listings, he talks about how kids prepare for the snow. Like, little soldiers, they step out into the snow and they plot against each other. “what riot is afoot, which small queen is about to be brought down” Like a snowball fight is about to begin on their day off. vsco5a5f9459eb57f