Sunday, February 24, 2013

Tales of Survival

My ENG 100 students and I are reading Jose Antonio Vargas's article, "My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant," from 2011. I've taught this essay several times before, and I've also blogged about Vargas before. (If you're an ENG 100 student and curious, my previous posts on Vargas can be found here.) I just can't seem to get away from him, and this essay in particular. I find it both moving and convincing, not to mention masterfully crafted. Last semester I tried teaching his more recent essay from Time, "Not Legal Not Leaving," but this first "coming out" essay from 2011 is way better--it's a provocative and poignant re-configuring of the American Dream, deeply personal and political at the same time. Who knows--maybe this year Vargas and Dreamers will see immigration reform finally passed and signed into law. President Obama will be pushing it, and rumor has it that Republicans in the House of Representatives want to show Latino voters that they are not exclusively the party of white people. Maybe something will finally get done.

In my 3 sections of ENG 112, discussions will begin this week on Jean Kwok's Girl in Translation. I'm currently reading the book for the third time within 9 months. (I have to re-read each book every time I teach it, otherwise I feel like it's just not fresh enough in my mind for me to effectively mediate discussion.) Kwok and I recently became Facebook friends through a mutual acquaintance, andI'm looking forward to meeting her when she visits our main campus in Media, PA in April. Although I'm still not sure what to make of the ending of her novel, I really admire her talent and achievement. Like Vargas, she tells a tale based on her own experiences of immigration--doing what needs to be done to survive and make a life here in America (though hers is a fictionalized version).

Finally, in ENG 231, we are wrapping up our examination of Jack London's Call of the Wild--yet another tale of survival. I first read this book when I was in 6th grade, I think, but it speaks to me even more now that I'm a dog owner. (Baylor had a busy weekend, including a trip to the vet--he's fine--and the groomer.) Despite London's chauvinism and casual racism--very, very common among white American men of his time (see Teddy Roosevelt)--his work still, I believe, has a valuable point-of-view to offer, asking his readers to rethink their relationship with the non-human world. Looking forward to hearing what my tiny class of American literature scholars (8 students!) have to say about Buck and his path away from humanity and toward his "more authentic" self.

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