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The Jacket

By Gary Soto
My clothes have failed me. I remember the green coat that I wore in fifth and sixth grades
when you either danced like a champ or pressed yourself against a greasy wall, bitter as a penny
toward the happy couples.
When I needed a new jacket and my mother asked what kind I wanted, I described
something like bikers wear: black leather and silver studs with enough belts to hold down a small
town. We were in the kitchen, steam on the windows from her cooking. She listened so long
while stirring dinner that I thought she understood for sure the kind I wanted. The next day when
I got home from school, I discovered draped on my bedpost a jacket the color of day-old
guacamole. I threw my books on the bed and approached the jacket slowly, as if it were a
stranger whose hand I had to shake. I touched the vinyl sleeve, the collar, and peeked at the
mustard-colored lining.
From the kitchen mother yelled that my jacket was in the closet. I closed the door to her
voice and pulled at the rack of clothes in the closet, hoping the jacket on the bedpost wasnt for
me but my mean brother. No luck. I gave up. From my bed, I stared at the jacket. I wanted to cry
because it was so ugly and so big that I knew Id have to wear it a long time. I was a small kid,
thin as a young tree, and it would be years before Id have a new one. I stared at the jacket, like
an enemy, thinking bad things before I took off my old jacket whose sleeves climbed halfway to
my elbow.
I put the big jacket on. I zipped it up and down several times, and rolled the cuffs up so
they didnt cover my hands. I put my hands in the pockets and flapped the jacket like a birds
wings. I stood in front of the mirror, full face, then profile, and then looked over my shoulder as
if someone had called me. I sat on the bed, stood against the bed, and combed my hair to see
what I would look like doing something natural. I looked ugly. I threw it on my brothers bed and
looked at it for a long time before I slipped it on and went out to the backyard, smiling a thank
you to my mom as I passed her in the kitchen. With my hands in my pockets I kicked a ball
against the fence, and then climbed it to sit looking into the alley. I hurled orange peels at the
mouth of an open garbage can and when the peels were gong I watched the white puffs of my
breath thin to nothing.
I jumped down, hands in my pockets, and in the backyard on my knees I teased my dog,
Brownie, by swooping my arms while making birdcalls. He jumped at me and missed. He
jumped again and again, until a tooth stuck deep, ripping an L-shaped tear on my left sleeve. I
pushed Brownie away to study the tear as I would a cut on my arm. There was no blood, only a
few loose pieces of fuzz. Damn dog, I thought, and pushed him away hard when he tried to bite
again. I got up from my knees and went to my bedroom to sit with my jacket on my lap, with the
lights out.
That was the first afternoon with my new jacket. The next day I wore it to sixth grade and
got a D on a math quiz. During the morning recess Frankie T., the playground terrorist, pushed
me to the ground and told me to stay there until recess was over. My best friend, Steve Negrete,
ate an apple while looking at me, and the girls turned away to whisper on the monkey bars. The
teachers were no help: they looked my way and talked about how foolish I looked in my new
jacket. I saw their heads bob with laughter, their hands half-covering their mouths.

Even though it was cold, I took off the jacket during lunch and played kickball in a thin
shirt, my arms feeling like Braille from goose bumps. But when I returned to class I slipped the
jacket on and shivered until I was warm. I sat on my hands, heating them up, while my teeth
chattered like a cup of crooked dice. Finally warm, I slid out of the jacket but a few minutes later
put it back on when the fire bell rang. We paraded out into the yard where we, the fifth graders,
walked past all the other grades to stand against the back fence. Everybody saw me. Although
they didnt say out loud, Man, thats ugly, I heard the buzz-buzz of gossip and even laughter
that I knew was meant for me.
And so I went, in my guacamole jacket. So embarrassed, so hurt, I wouldnt even do my
homework. I received Cs on quizzes, and forgot the state capitols and the rivers of South
America, our friendly neighbor. Even the girls who had been friendly blew away like loose
flowers to follow the boys in neat jackets.
I wore that thing for three years until the sleeves grew short and my forearms stuck out
like the necks of turtles. All during that time no love came to me- no little dark girl in a Sunday
dress she wore on Monday. At lunchtime I stayed with the ugly boys who leaned against the
chain link fence and looked around with propellers of grass spinning in our mouths. We saw the
girls walk by alone, saw couples, hand in hand, their heads like bookends pressing air together.
We saw them and spun our propellers so fast our faces were blurs.
I blame that jacket for those bad years. I blame my mother for her bad taste and her cheap
ways. It was a sad time for the heart. With a friend I spent my sixth grade year in a tree in the
ally, waiting for something good to happen to me in that jacket that became my ugly brother who
tagged along wherever I went. And it was about that time I began to grow. My chest puffed up
with muscle and, strangely, a few more ribs. Even my hands, those fleshy hammers, showed
bravery through the cuffs, the fingers already hardening for the coming fights. But the L- shaped
rip on the left sleeve got bigger, bits of stuffing coughed out from its wound after a hard day at
play. I finally scotch-taped it close, but in rain or cold weather the tape peeled off like a scab and
more stuffing fell out until that sleeve shriveled into a palsied arm. That winter the elbows began
to crack and whole chunks of green began to fall off. I showed the cracks to my mother, who
always seemed to be at the stove with steamed up glasses, and she said there were children in
Mexico who would love that jacket. I told her that this was America and yelled that Debbie, my
sister, didnt have a jacket like mine. I ran outside, ready to cry, and climb the tree by the alley to
think bad thought and breath puff white and disappear.
But whole pieces still casually flew off my jacket when I played hard, read quietly, or
took vicious spelling test at school. When it became so spotted that my brother began to call me
camouflage, I flung it over the fence into the alley. Later. However, I swiped the jacket off the
ground and went inside to drape it across my lap and mope.
I was called to dinner: steam shriveled my mothers glasses as she said grace; my brother
and sister with their heads bowed made ugly faces at their glasses of powered milk. I gagged too,
but eagerly ate rips of buttered tortilla that held scooped up beans. Finished, I went outside with
my jacket across my arm. It was a cold sky. The faces of clouds were piled up, hurting. I climb
the fence, jumping down with a grunt. I started up the alley and soon slipped into my jacket, that
green ugly brother who breathed over my shoulder that day and ever since.

The Jacket Group Essay


DIRECTIONS:
Individually, at home, you are to write one paragraph each night, starting with the
introduction and moving on to each of the body paragraphs and finishing with the conclusion.
You are required to type your paragraph at home and bring it to class with you the next day. In
groups, you will combine what is really good from each of your body paragraphs, to make ONE
NEW FANTASTIC paragraph that represents the effort of all of your group members. I would
save all of your individual work so it will be easy to type the final draft of the group essay.
Typed intro due: _________________________
Typed body 1 due: _______________________
Typed body 2 due: _______________________
Typed body 3 due : _______________________
Typed conclusion due: _____________________
One Typed final essay to represent to whole group due: _____________________________

TOPIC / PROMPT:
When looking back on childhood disappointments, some of these memories may
surround a parent who didnt understand a particular need for a cool outfit, the perfect hair style, or the trendy bicycle. These disappointments may seem unimportant to adults, but, to kids,
the fear of being made fun of by peers can be overwhelming. Some kids may feel depressed or
even paralyzed due to their insecurities about appearance, grades, popularity, and differences in
cultural background. The result of this kind of depression can take many different forms. Some
kids might find themselves alone at lunch, not volunteering in class, or even doing poorly in
school as result of feeling out of place with their peers.
Write a multi paragraph essay in which you show how this young boy deals with the
disappointment of receiving his new guacamole jacket. Be sure to answer all of the following
questions.
1. Discuss the strongest emotion the narrator feels towards his new jacket.
2. Describe one of the negative experiences he has in his jacket and why this experience
was so difficult for him?
3. Discuss the reality of his negative experiences, do you think everything he shared
with the reader was true? If so, discuss why and if no, then discuss why not.

Writing Rubric
Introduction:
Attention Getter:
o 6: Relevant and interesting.
o
o
o
o

Great concept, needs to connect better to the big idea.


Utilitarian.
Doesnt connect to the big idea of your paper.
Is a question.

Linking Statements:
o
o
o
o
o

5:
4:
3:
2:

6: 3 General statements about the big idea. Well written and connect to each other. They build to
the thesis statement.
5: 3 general statements about the big idea of your paper. They might not connect as well as in a
6.
4: 3 sentences, but they might not connect perfectly to the big idea; they may be choppy and
disconnected. There might be 2 very well written linking statements.
3: Two or less sentences that dont connect very well.
2: No linking statements whatsoever.

Thesis Statement: (Last sentence of the intro)


o
o
o

o
o

6:
5:
4:

There is an original, clear, comprehensive, and well written thesis.


There is a clear, comprehensive, and well written thesis.
There is a clear attempt at a thesis.

It may be simplistic or utilitarian in nature.

It may be very vague.


3: A Paper lacking a thesis statement can earn no better than a 3 over all on the essay. The
thesis statement may not deal with all parts of the prompt.
2: A sentence that is a summary and does not indicate the purpose of the paper.

Body Paragraph # 1
Topic Sentence
o
o
o

o
o
o

6: Fantastic, original, and clear topic sentence that relates to the prompt and the thesis.
5: Clear topic sentence that relates to the prompt and the thesis.
4: Topic sentence that connect to the prompt and the thesis.
May be simplistic or utilitarian in nature.
May be difficult to connect to the prompt, but not impossible.
May be a general sentence not directly connecting to the prompt.
3: Topic sentences may not connect to the thesis or the prompt.
Topic sentence may summarize the literature instead of introducing a main idea.
2: A sentence that doesnt connect in any way.
1: A quote.

Lead-In
o
o
o

6: Well written lead-in and/or attempts to weave.


5: Well written lead-in.
4: A failed attempt to write a sophisticated lead-in or a very simplistic lead-in: For example is
simplistic lead-in.

o
o

3: There will be no lead-in or minimal use of simplistic lead-in.


2: There will be no lead-in at all.

Text for Chunk #1:


6: Uses specific and relevant quotation to support the thesis and the main ideas of the essay.
Quote punctuated correctly.
o 5: Uses general but relevant quotation to support the thesis and the main ideas of the essay.
Quote punctuated correctly.
o 4: Provides marginally relevant text, general textual details to support the thesis and the main
ideas of the essay.
Text may be marginally relevant.
Text chosen will not be the best choice.
3: Textual evidence may not be relevant to the main idea of
the paragraphs. Your example wont prove what you are trying to
2: No textual evidence at all.
o

Commentary for chunk #1:


6: Commentary that is focused.
Consistently has voice
Demonstrates a clear understanding of the ambiguities, nuances, and complexities of the
text.
Original in thought, connects perfectly to your purpose, and builds to prove something.
o 5: Commentary that is focused.
Inconsistently has voice.
Demonstrates a clear understanding of the ambiguities, nuances, and complexities of the
text.
Will show evidence of deeper analysis, but it may not connect as well as a 6.
o 4: Commentary may reflect an attempt to analyze.
May have some summary mixed in with shallow analysis.
May be lacking organization within the commentary sentences.
May be insufficient commentary.
Commentary may lack depth.
3: Commentary may be summary instead of analysis.
Commentary may not prove anything.
Commentary may not connect to the main idea of the
paragraph as stated in the topic sentence.
May consistently use only 1-2 sentences of commentary.
2: The commentary will be totally off topic.
o

Body Paragraph # 2
Topic Sentence
o
o
o

6: Fantastic, original, and clear topic sentence that relate to the prompt and the thesis.
5: Clear topic sentence that relate to the prompt and the thesis.
4: Topic sentences that connect to the prompt and the thesis.
May be simplistic or utilitarian in nature.
May be difficult to connect to the prompt, but not impossible.

o
o

Lead-In
o
o
o
o
o

May be a general sentence not directly connecting to the prompt.


3: Topic sentence may not connect to the thesis or the prompt.
Topic sentence may summarize the literature instead of introducing a main idea.
2: A sentence that doesnt connect in any way.
6: Well written lead-in and/or attempts to weave.
5: Well written lead-in.
4: A failed attempt to write a sophisticated lead-in or a very simplistic lead-in: For example is
a simplistic lead-in.
3: There will be no lead-in or minimal use of simplistic lead-ins.
2: There will be no lead-in at all.

Text for Chunk #1:


6: Uses specific and relevant quotation to support the thesis and the main ideas of the essay.
Quote punctuated correctly.
o 5: Uses general but relevant quotation to support the thesis and the main ideas of the essay.
Quote punctuated correctly.
o 4: Provides marginally relevant text, general textual details to support the thesis and the main
ideas of the essay.
Text may be marginally relevant.
Text chosen will not be the best choice.
3: Textual evidence may not be relevant to the main idea of
the paragraphs. Your example wont prove what you are trying to
2: No textual evidence at all.
o

Commentary for chunk #1:


6: Commentary that is focused.
Consistently has voice
Demonstrates a clear understanding of the ambiguities, nuances, and complexities of the
text.
Original in thought, connects perfectly to your purpose, and builds to prove something.
o 5: Commentary that is focused.
Inconsistently has voice.
Demonstrates a clear understanding of the ambiguities, nuances, and complexities of the
text.
Will show evidence of deeper analysis, but it may not connect as well as a 6.
o 4: Commentary may reflect an attempt to analyze.
May have some summary mixed in with shallow analysis.
May be lacking organization within the commentary sentences.
May be insufficient commentary.
Commentary may lack depth.
3: Commentary may be summary instead of analysis.
Commentary may not prove anything.
Commentary may not connect to the main idea of the
paragraph as stated in the topic sentence.
May consistently use only 1-2 sentences of commentary.
2: The commentary will be totally off topic.
o

Body Paragraph # 3
Topic Sentence
o
o
o

o
o

Lead-In
o
o
o
o
o

6: Fantastic, original, and clear topic sentence that relate to the prompt and the thesis.
5: Clear topic sentence that relate to the prompt and the thesis.
4: Topic sentence that connect to the prompt and the thesis.
May be simplistic or utilitarian in nature.
May be difficult to connect to the prompt, but not impossible.
May be a general sentence not directly connecting to the prompt.
3: Topic sentence may not connect to the thesis or the prompt.
Topic sentences may summarize the literature instead of introducing a main idea.
2: A sentence that doesnt connect in any way.

6: Well written lead-in and/or attempts to weave.


5: Well written lead-in.
4: A failed attempt to write a sophisticated lead-in or a very simplistic lead-in: For example is
a simplistic lead-in.
3: There will be no lead-in or minimal use of simplistic lead-ins.
2: There will be no lead-in at all.

Text for Chunk #1:


6: Uses specific and relevant quotation to support the thesis and the main ideas of the essay.
Quote punctuated correctly.
o 5: Uses general but relevant quotation to support the thesis and the main ideas of the essay.
Quote punctuated correctly.
o 4: Provides marginally relevant text, general textual details to support the thesis and the main
ideas of the essay.
Text may be marginally relevant.
Text chosen will not be the best choice.
3: Textual evidence may not be relevant to the main idea of
the paragraphs. Your example wont prove what you are trying to
2: No textual evidence at all.
o

Commentary for chunk #1:


o

6: Commentary that is focused.


Consistently has voice
Demonstrates a clear understanding of the ambiguities, nuances, and complexities of the
text.
Original in thought connects, perfectly to your purpose, and builds to prove something.
5: Commentary that is focused.
Inconsistently has voice.
Demonstrates a clear understanding of the ambiguities, nuances, and complexities of the
text.
Will show evidence of deeper analysis, but it may not connect as well as a 6.
4: Commentary may reflect an attempt to analyze.
May have some summary mixed in with shallow analysis.

May be lacking organization within the commentary sentences.


May be insufficient commentary.
Commentary may lack depth.
3: Commentary may be summary instead of analysis.
Commentary may not prove anything.
Commentary may not connect to the main idea of the
paragraph as stated in the topic sentence.
May consistently use only 1-2 sentences of commentary.

6 - Exceptional Achievement: 6+ = 100 6 = 95 6- = 90

The essay demonstrates a thoughtful and comprehensive grasp of the text.


Provides a variety of sentence types and uses precise, descriptive language.
Contains few, if any errors in the conventions of the English language. NO YOU.
Answers all parts of the prompt.
Writes two chunk body paragraphs.
Uses sophisticated vocabulary correctly.

5 Commendable Achievement : 5+ = 88 5 = 85 5- = 80

The essay demonstrates a comprehensive grasp of the text.


Provides a variety of sentence types and uses some descriptive language.
May contain few, if any errors in the conventions of the English language. NO YOU
Answers all parts of the prompt.
Writes two chunk body paragraphs.
Uses some sophisticated vocabulary correctly.

4 Adequate Achievement: 4+ = 78 4 = 75 4- = 72

The essay demonstrates an adequate grasp of the text.


Provides a variety of sentence types and uses some descriptive language.
May contain some errors in the conventions of the English language.
Answers all parts of the prompt. May do this in a very vague way.
May write weak two- chunk paragraphs.
Wont contain sophisticated vocabulary. May attempt to use sophisticated language, but, will do so
incorrectly.

3 Some Evidence of Achievement: 3+ = 70 3 = 68 3- = 65

The essay demonstrates a limited grasp of the text.


Provides few, if any, sentence types and uses some basic and predictable language.
May contain many errors in the conventions of the English language. Some parts of the essay may be
unintelligible.
May neglect part(s) of the prompt.
Only writing a one-chunk paragraph(s).
Does not use sophisticated vocabulary correctly.

2 Limited Evidence of Achievement: 2+ = 60 2 = 58 2- = 55

This essay demonstrates a minimal grasp of the text.


The majority of this essay will be unintelligible.
The majority of this essay will be off topic.
There will be no visible attempt made to organize this essay at all.

Please put the names of all the students in your group at the top of the essay. I
will subtract 5 points for not double spacing your final draft and I will
subtract 20 points for not typing the final draft of your essay .