Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Reading for Myself

I always re-read all the texts I've assigned to my students, whether I've taught them before (even many times) or not, along with them. It helps to be aware of just where the students are along the trajectory of the syllabus, not to get ahead of them (especially since my courses are organized as long argumentative trajectories, and I always know where I'm going by the end since I'm the one who has set the narrative in the first place), not to lose sight of the changing reading load they are dealing with, and so on. I find that I teach texts differently every time I re-read, sometimes because I am influenced by day to day events in the world with which students are also grappling, sometimes because my mood or experience has changed in other ways. Anyway, teaching keeps me reading constantly, and this term is no different. I also read for pure pleasure, of course. If there is any constant in my life, it would probably be that I have always felt most free when I was reading. For a long time, I think I truly felt most free not only when I was reading, but more perversely when I was reading precisely while I know I should be doing something else instead. During my summer intensives I read most of Kim Stanley Robinson's New York 2140 in ten minute snatches on bus seats and toilet seats interspersed within the torrent of hours and hours of lectures, prepping, grading I devoted to teaching in July and August. I had just short of a two week reprieve between terms, and in that delirious stretch was able to read N. K. Jemisin's Broken Earth trilogy, which I found engrossing and impressive (her worldbuilding grapples analogically with so much that is politically fraught and urgent right now -- climate catastrophe, sexual diversity, institutional racism -- and her characters live these quandaries in such emotionally raw ways). This week I have begun Tariq Ali's Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree, the first novel in his "Islam Quintet" about the history of Islam in Europe, a doubly heretical exposure of appalling Western ignorance in wartime as well as a skewering of fundamentalist pieties Christian, Islamic, political, and otherwise. I purchased the beautiful Verso set of all five and mean to read them through fall term, time permitting. So far the writing is rich, witty, brilliant really. Teaching is not quite so all encompassing during the regular term and so I have more time to read as I would, so I don't know how long I'll be at it. Nnedi Okorafor's Akata Witch sequel Akata Warrior is coming out in a few weeks, as is, I believe, Daniel Jose Older's second Shadowshaper book -- and I may break into Ali's long cycle to read them.

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