Today was a day with my freshpeeps — they get the 3x weekly classes, while my upper levels get the longer sessions twice a week. We spent the day talking about discourse communities, Burke’s parlor, and what constitutes evidence when we’re discussing literature. From there, I decided to give them a story we could talk about when we get together on Wednesday. Specifically, they’ll be working on Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” and then on Friday we’ll discuss Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.”
So as the kids were leaving, one of my students asked me if we were going to read Danny Gardner’s A Negro and an Ofay, which the FroshComp kids read last term. I told him I had thought about it, but was going to go in a different direction this term. “But you still ought to read the book,” I said. “It’s good, and Danny’s a good writer and a nice guy.”
The student raised his eyebrows. “You know someone who wrote a book?”
“Yeah,” I said, and after a moment, I added, “So do you.”
“Well, I have.”
“Yeah. C’mon to the office. I’ll show you.” He followed me down the hall, and I got out a copy of BGW and showed it to him. “See?”
“You wrote this?”
“And you know writers?”
“Some. They’re just people, you know. Books come from people, just like anything else.” (“Including Soylent Green,” I thought, but decided not to bother.) “It’s just something people do. They tell stories, and sometimes they write them down.” We talked for a minute or so longer, and he hustled off to his next class.
I’m still not exactly sure what to make of our conversation, but I’d like to think that maybe one of these days, now that he knows that writing “is just something people do,” he might decide he has his own story to tell. That wouldn’t be a bad day’s work.