Penning Vogue article helps Samuel Getachew find a new creative voice
First-grader Samuel Getachew published a cultural review of Euphoria, originally written for his 120 English teacher, in Vogue. The publication is Getachew’s first apolitical piece.
It’s been months since Samuel Getachew ’25 wrote an essay on “the trouble with euphoria” for his English 120 class. Since then, Getachew’s essay has been recognized on campus, landed in Vogue and helped the freshman spoken word poet cement a new identity as a writer.
Getachew began his essay as a required assignment for his class with Professor James Surowiecki, a former New Yorker columnist and current faculty member of Yale’s English department. The assignment was to write an essay that critiqued certain aspects of modern culture.
“It was a very pointed read of the show,” Surowiecki said of the essay. “He had a clear and distinctive thesis, and he did an excellent job of incorporating his own experience and the experiences of his classmates into the analysis.”
Beyond its worldwide recognition in Vogue, Getachew’s article stands out for the pivotal role it plays in promoting his identity as a writer. The essay is the first apolitical article published by Getachew.
“I was terrified of being typecast as a writer who could only write about race,” Getachew said. “I was starting to feel that I could only be taken seriously if I presented myself as a black writer. My first works that were recognized were all centered on racial themes. Seeing this apolitical piece again being received and recognized by the community was such a big moment for me. I finally reassured myself.
Getachew’s first publication was in the opinion section of the New York Times print edition when he was 16. His article, titled “Black Valedictorians and the Toxic Trope of Black Exceptionalism,” centered on the inequity that stems from sensationalized black academic success stories. The article argued that this trope often distracts from the deeper issues of segregation that still permeate modern education.
The New York Times article was Getachew’s first major publication. Introduced to several organizations, Getachew said it took several attempts for the Times to follow up on the publication. The newspaper responded only after a period of silence, finally deciding to publish its submission.
“That was the biggest lesson for me,” Getachew said. “For new writers, don’t be afraid to be boring or persistent, you need to get to a point where you separate your emotions from how other people treat your work. Percent no, all you need is a yes !”
Getachew’s success as a writer stems from his training in spoken word poetry, which he began at age 14. Fueled by an innate desire to connect and encourage others through his literary engagement, Getachew considers human impact his greatest pride.
In high school, he hosted monthly open mics for other teens to share their work.
“A girl came up to me after one of the sessions to tell me it was the first time she had read her writing publicly,” Getachew said. “She told me she was inspired by a performance I gave a few years before. For me, that will always be the most important part of what I do as a writer.
Getachew’s voice also plays a distinctive role on the Yale campus, as he currently performs as a member of Word, Yale’s oldest spoken word group. Getachew’s background in spoken word has earned him Grand Champion awards in the Youth Speaks Teen Poetry Slam for 2017, 2018 and 2019.
At Yale, Getachew’s friends, teachers, and fellow students take notice of his distinctive authorial voice.
“When Samuel talks about his writing, he is confident in its worth and in its value because he is so precise and meticulous about every word he chooses and every point he seeks to make,” one of the Getachew’s close friends, Tess Levy ’25, told the News. “He knows when he’s writing something spectacular because it doesn’t happen by accident, he’s dedicated to it.”
Surowiecki, Getachew’s English 120 teacher, pushed him to publish the Euphoria essay.
Surowiecki commented on Samuel’s distinctive literary voice, describing it as clear and “brimming with phrases that stay in the corners of your mind”.
“He also has a sophisticated sense of the emotional complexity of people and social situations, and how social norms and technologies shape people’s behavior,” Surowiecki told The News. “I don’t know how to put it better than to say his work feels like the work of someone who is a writer.”
Getachew said he hopes to continue publishing work this year and is currently working on new writing.
He added that as a freelance writer, he is used to rejection because only a small fraction of his pitches receive responses from editors, and even fewer of those pitches turn into published articles. Still, he said he tries not to take the rejections personally and acknowledges the indie industry is a “brutal world.”
“Last year around this time, I wrote down a list of dreams I wanted to accomplish,” Getachew said. “One of them was writing for Vogue. Here we are a year later and I couldn’t be more excited.
Samuel Getachew is the youngest opinion writer to be published in The New York Times.