Amber Heffernan’s article, “Rethinking Graphic Novels in the Classroom: Broadening Our Concepts of Literature to Benefit Readers” helped me recall a fond undergraduate student memory. I was taking a 300-level creative writing course focused on short fiction. It was the first day of class and the professor arranged us into a circle. She started by introducing herself and describing her writing and authors of inspiration. Students subsequently did the same, almost. A few students tried to impress her with classic and/or trendy, respected authors of the time, but a few students were more honest and cited authors like Danielle Steele as their favorites. The professor and dignified students snickered and judged outwardly.
Finally, when it was my turn, I talked about what I was currently reading and writing and it wasn’t exactly profound. I might have been reading RubyFruit Jungle and writing ridiculous love poems, but at least they were honest reads and writes. Sure, I had likely recently read Beloved, but I didn’t choose it, another prof did, so I didn’t offer it up or pretend to be enthralled and inspired. In closing, I praised the other students who read Danielle Steele and Stephen King and their goals to be as accomplished as them because at least their books were being read and not gathering dust on some pretentious bookcase.
Heffernan has the right idea, albeit kicking and screaming the whole way, validate reading of writing! We want students to learn to read and write with academic or discipline literacy, but we won’t celebrate the reading they do now? Learning starts with confidence and for a lack of a better term–a starting point. Heffernan designed a legitimate lesson plan using a graphic story, and just like with the classics, she won some and lost some, despite the cool and trendy genre.
Erin Umpstead said:
Yay! I had been wondering if anyone had read the article that I had added to the Group Annotated Bibliography. I am glad it brought a good memory back for you. I was worried it would not have anything for us, considering the low grade level discussed. That is one reason your post made me smile.
Another reason your post made me smile was the reference to Rubyfruit Jungle. I love that book. It changed my life and helped me to accept myself as I was emerging into who I am today. My best friend had given it to me and I could not put it down. I have, in turn, given copies to other young women who are learning who they are. That short, compact novel has and will continue to change lives.
I think, if I may be so bold, that that was the essence of your post. It does not matter what others, including the ivory tower types, think of our reading and writing. The point is that we are reading and writing. Fear of judgement keeps people from even picking up a piece of writing to read or grabbing a pen in order to write. I have no use for others’ ideas as to what I should be reading and writing. I do take recommendations; however, I stop listening just as soon as someone tells me I should be reading this or that instead. It is irritating at best and hampering at worst.
Thanks again for your thoughtful, well-written post. I enjoyed reading and responding to it.
Peace for your evening.