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IMS 8th Grader Abigail Nissim Wins Runner-Up Award in New York Times Tiny Memoir Contest

IMS 8th Grader Abigail Nissim Wins Runner-Up Award in New York Times Tiny Memoir Contest
MISD Communications

Mercer Island, WA, February 2, 2024 – Islander Middle School eighth grader Abigail Nissim has received a Runner-Up Award in the second annual New York Times Tiny Memoir Contest.

The Tiny Memoir Contest challenges students to tell a meaningful and interesting true story from their life in just 100 words. The Times received over 13,000 submissions from students around the world and announced 15 winners, 31 runners-up, and 56 honorable mentions.

Abigail’s language arts teacher, Whitney Swope was inspired to incorporate the Tiny Memoir Contest into the eighth-grade curriculum at Islander Middle School as a way for students to deepen their narrative writing skills and broaden their audience beyond the classroom. 

As part of the unit, students chose between reading The House on Mango Street or Long Way Down. “We use Cisneros and Reynolds’ novels to model the art of crafting thoughtful stories, rich with personal details and figurative language,” said Swope.

The 8th-grade language arts team of Swope, Taylor Gall, and Joseph Gushanas asked students to develop narratives of their own, telling stories about their childhood memories, their proudest moments, and the experiences that changed the way they look at the world. 

Swope explained, “One student wrote about her journey moving to America as a refugee, another wrote about coming out to their family, and others wrote about what it was like to move to Mercer Island from another city, state, or country. We tasked students with writing the stories that make them who they are, and as their teachers, we wanted to equip them with the tools to bring their pieces to life.”

Abigail chose to write her memoir “Stuck” about the moment she found out about the October 7, 2023 attack on Israel. She was born in Israel and moved with her parents and siblings to Mercer Island when she was two. “All of my family is over there,” explained Abigail. “We started this project in early November, and everything happening in Israel was so fresh, and my TV was always on to Israeli channels. Even today, I am thinking about my family all the time.” 

Abigail’s Tiny Memoir “Stuck”:

My mom won't turn off the tv and my dad has buried himself in his work.
6,743 miles away and my world is falling apart. Sitting at that Indian restaurant, I could never imagine what would come next.
My mom gets a notification,
Bombs.
It's a normal attack, nothing too bad…
Wrong.
We get home and turn on the tv,
the words float over my head.
I wake up the next morning,
my parents are stuck in the same place, glued to the tv.
I watch as Hamas burns my home to the ground. I'm stuck.

Read New York Times Stories On Tiny Memoir Contest

Abigail explained her piece, saying, “I think it’s a very unique experience for something to be happening in a place very important to you when you’re so far away. You are stuck somewhere else and you can’t be there for them.”

Abigail found out she was named a runner-up in the contest in the most middle school of ways. “One of my friends texted me in the middle of fourth-period and said ‘I just saw that you got runner-up in the New York Times essay contest’,” she said.

Abigail was the only student from Washington to be named a winner, runner-up, or honorable mention, and only one of two middle schoolers to be recognized in the contest.

Read About the History of the Tiny Memoir Contest

Swope said she is so proud of Abigail and her accomplishment: “Abi is so deserving of this honor. She has a beautiful writing voice and the story shows her heart. The vulnerability shines through.”

The Nissim family had a range of emotions when they found out she was named a runner-up and when they read the memoir, as Abigail explains.

“I got into the car and told my mom and she started screaming. She was really happy about it. She had a different reaction when she read my essay. She picked me up from school one day and I showed her it and she read the first two sentences and started crying.”

When asked what she learned from writing the Tiny Memoir and being honored by the New York Times, Abigail said, “The biggest thing I learned is as long as you write about something important to you, you will find that it can be important to other people as well.”

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