Memoirs in nonfiction tend to be limited to a first person point of view, as the writer wants to create a close relationship with the reader. However, the strength of “Ninja Assassin” by Arielle Schussler lies in its third person point of view, which despite the apparent distance it creates, allows the reader to sympathize even more with the speaker as it makes the reader think of her as a character in a story, and gives room to explore the complicated situations she finds herself in.
The distance created by the point of view makes the reader think of the piece as something that happened to somebody else, a story that might be talked about between mothers and their daughters. The effectiveness of this decision is especially felt in the recounting of her failed attempts at connecting with men because of their inability to see past her being a woman. A striking example is when she is walking through a park with a boy from her art history class: “He looks at the green grass and the green trees and the blue skies and turns to her and asks what she would do if he tried to rape her. She keeps walking, trying not to miss a beat.” By using third person, we’re taken along with her in this walk, experiencing the moment by her side, and so when it reaches the boy’s question, we are able to feel the same level of shock as she keeps walking and we keep reading. We’re left to figure out along with her the weight of his comment, something that in first person might have not had the same effect, as it would have demanded the speaker to give some insight into her feelings.
Schussler takes advantage of the point of view to include powerful statements at the end of the anecdotes, which have the weight of hindsight and establish her voice as a version of herself that still believes in the conclusions her younger selves came to. An example of this comes after she describes her drawings as a means to connect with her classmates. Even after elongating the seconds of what it takes for her to draw what they want, she’s still unable to keep them for long, and so is left alone, something that she hates. In that moment, she promised herself “that she would never make someone feel unworthy” by leaving them alone. This thought is followed by the statement, “Everyone deserved to feel worthy,” which results in an echo traveling across time. She’s restating the core of why her younger self made that promise, and acknowledging that it is a belief she stands by to this day despite all the uncomfortable situations that have resulted from that sentiment.
Daniela Morales, Lead Prose Editor
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