A Journey to Intertextuality

Intertextuality: The condition of interconnectedness among texts, or the concept that any text is an amalgam of others, either because it exhibits signs of influence or because its language inevitably contains common points of reference with other texts through allusion, quotation, genre, style, and so forth. -(The Bedford). The definition of this word that has come up so many times over the course of this semester never fails to turn the gears in my head. As students, and as a person, this word is so very important because its the foundation of connection. Connection not between two things, but connection to everything. It has taught me that everything has means, and if there appears to be no meaning then the no meaning is in fact its meaning. Nothing can exist without a reason and a story behind its existence. I believe that many assume to connect two texts, or connect two beings, they must be similar. However, that many don’t realize that to connect there also must be contrast and differences.

In reading I am not Sidney Poitier written by Percival Everett, I leaned a lot more about myself than anything else and in which I still have loads to continue learning. As the plot is about the life of a rich black man who looks exactly like popular actor Sidney Poitier. His whole life he is compared to the actor, and was even named Not Sidney by his mother. His life consists of a bunch of twisted, slightly different stories that carry the same plot lines of Sidney Poitiers movies. These movies are Lillies of the Field, The Defiant Ones and Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner. But the purpose of the novel is for this character to go through his life continuously compared to this actor, and thus unfortunately having himself perceived as nothing more. He is Sydney Poitier to everyone else, and himself. This is until he realizes that he is his own person, and so he wishes to be perceived the way he is, not the way everyone expects him to be because of a name and a face that don’t belong to him.

I have always allowed others to perceive me however they wish. In my family, I am one thing and one thing only. I sing. It’s the one talent, skill, passion, that I am recognized for at every single family gathering, family dinner, phone call to grandma, text message to grandpa, small talk with uncles and aunts. “So when is your next performance?” “Hows the singing going, kid?” “Gotta get that voice ready for college.” It’s endearing, and used to make me feel seen and heard and admired but now it’s just a reminder that I am a shell of a person to them. They don’t really know me like they know my siblings and my cousins because once I realized that I wanted to be someone other than the girl who sings, they act like they don’t even recognize me. There is nothing for them to say. I was branded from the day I started singing around the house at the age of 3 until the middle of mu senior year in high school when I felt like everything was falling apart and I had no idea where I was gonna be a year from then. I switched my plans to English, got rid of the broadway playbills that were cluttering up my bedroom, I focused on writing and reading and changed who I always thought I was entirely because I don’t think I even really knew myself. So if I didn’t know myself, how could anyone else? What was my personality? My likes and dislikes? I couldn’t tell you because I wasn’t able to tell myself. I was having an identity crisis at 17 and nothing anybody was telling me was able to change that.

I’m still trying to master the idea that I am a person with thoughts and feelings underneath the way others see me. I think I like this person I’ve found within me a lot more than I like the person I was for 14 years of my life. One of the course epigraphs for this class has stuck out to me since the very beginning of the semester when I saw it for the first time, and really reminded me of this breakthrough I’ve had in myself:

“Thank you,” I said. “I came back to this place to find something, to connect with something lost, to reunite if not with my whole self, then with a piece of it. What I’ve discovered is that this thing is not here. In fact, it is nowhere. I have learned that my name is not my name. It seems you all know me and nothing could be further from the truth and yet you know me better than I know myself, perhaps better than I can know myself. My mother is buried not far from this auditorium, and there are no words on her headstone. As I glance out now, as I feel the weight of this trophy in my hands, as I stand like a specimen before these strangely unstrange faces, I know finally what should be written on that stone. It should say what mine will say:


A quote from I am not Sidney Poitier. When reading this, the words “I AM NOT MYSELF TODAY” hurls themselves into my brain and twists and crams their way until it’s all I’m thinking about. Why these specific words, I’m not entirely sure, but I think it’s because who even is themself these days? In a class full of young adults, I see every single person there struggling to figure out who they are in this world because there is not a single person out there who actually knows the answer. We as people evolve continuously. Our brains are trying to keep up with us as we go through the big changes in life, the ones that stick to us when we turn 16 up until we’re established beings who know where we belong.

I am working on the answer to this, just like everyone else. The story of Not Sidney, although supposed to be humorous, has truth within it like everything else. This is the story of how many of us feel on the inside every day. Who can really know us better than ourselves, yet so many appear to act like they do. So, like everything in life, I am not Sidney Poitier by Percival Everett is connected to its readers even when it doesn’t mean to be. It touches those a little bit with every word, every phrase, and every experience Not Sidney has.

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