Tag Archives: education

Reflections on One Year of Blogging and My Book Addiction

This week was the one-year anniversary of this blog, and it feels appropriate to mark the occasion with a post about it.

First, here is a post from one of my favorite blogs, A Little Blog of Books and Other Stuff, about lessons learned from blogging. I particularly agree with numbers 3-5.

Second, this is my third and most successful attempt over the past decade at blogging (here is a link to the previous one). I am happy that I have finally had the willpower to keep posting regularly: at least once a week with only a handful of exceptions, and many weeks two or three times, especially during the summer when I’m not teaching.

Third, around half of my posts have been in the Books Acquired Recently category. I began this category because I thought it would be interesting to document how many books I actually acquire rather than making random estimates. I just went through all of these posts for the past year, and I must say that I was a little surprised at the results. I knew that I was both a book and a book-buying addict, but I did not realize just how addicted I am. Over the past twelve months I have acquired (mostly bought, but some were also gifts or exam/desk copies) 155 books! That is an average of nearly three per week! Perhaps just as impressively, I have read all but twenty-six of them (I’ll catch up this summer!).

Here is the breakdown of my 155 new friends:

76 books of fiction, including two Norton anthologies that encompass multiple genres. Fiction is both my favorite genre to read and to write about, so I am not surprised that nearly half of the books fit here. I am actually a bit surprised that it wasn’t more than half.

30 books of literary criticism/theory. I am such a nerd.

26 books of miscellaneous nonfiction–mostly memoirs, some art history, some cultural studies, some sports.

20 books of poetry. My guess would have been that this would have been the category following fiction. I am kind of sad that I acquired fifty percent more criticism/theory than poetry.

2 collections of comic books/comic strips.

1 play (Amiri Baraka’s Dutchman).

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A Hilarious Photograph of the Harvard Band

Photograph © copyright by George Frey for the Associated Press.

Photograph © copyright by George Frey for the Associated Press.

Jay Caspian Kang has a hilarious column on grantland.com about this photograph of the Harvard band here. My favorite one is “Judith Butler.” I would love to know the bandmembers’ reactions to this.

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Requiem for the Big East

Tonight is the final of the last Big East men’s basketball tournament. Yes, there will be a conference called the “Big East” next year that will include original Big East teams such as St. John’s and Georgetown, but the original Big East, the true Big East, dies tonight as a victim of the crazily shifting college sports landscape. It makes me happy that there is an original conference member, Syracuse, in the title game, and it feels just that there is also one of the newer members involved.

I no longer follow college sports because, as the recent Penn State football scandal showed, they have become “too big to fail” no matter what the consequences of keeping them afloat, and thus are detrimental to the educational mission of colleges and universities. But I will be watching the Syracuse-Louisville game tonight to pay homage to the Big East and the important role it played in my life. Some of my earliest sports memories are of hard-fought games between Syracuse, Georgetown, and St. John’s (Alas! Remember when St. John’s used to be good?) in the mid- to late-1980s on CBS, and I remember watching Big East tournament games on WWOR. As a teenager, I would rush home from school to watch early rounds of the tournament on ESPN with Sean McDonough and, especially, Bill Raftery announcing (“Sean McDonough, Syracuse comes out playing mantoman!” Of course Syracuse always plays a 2-3 zone, but I’ve heard Raftery use his tagline on the Orange anyway, and I would be disappointed if he didn’t.).

I was a Syracuse fan, but I always rooted for the conference, as well. It was a matter of regional pride. Yes, I hate Georgetown, but I’d root for them against an ACC team any day (The same with UConn. It kills me that Syracuse will be in the ACC next year.). It is sad to see an institution that has always felt like home to me go away.

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The Northern Illinois University Shooting Five Years Later

Five years ago today, 14 February 2008, I was a graduate student at Northern Illinois University when a gunman walked into Cole Hall at the center of campus with a machine gun and opened fire. He killed five students and himself. I was fortunate enough to be several blocks away at the time of the shooting teaching a class in one of the dormitories on the edge of campus instead of in Cole, which I walked through every day when I was on campus, or in the English building, Reavis Hall, where my office was. Many of my officemates were in Reavis at the time and could see the victims’ bodies being ferried from Cole to waiting ambulances afterwards.

In retrospect, considering the recent massacres in Newtown, Connecticut, and Aurora, Colorado, the NIU community was “lucky” to only suffer a loss of life in the single digits. But the fact that civilians still have access to the weapons of mass destruction used in these killings is abhorrent. There is no rational argument for keeping these military-grade guns legal. It sickens me to think of all the lives that continue to be lost in the United States because Congress chooses to use the issue of gun violence as a political football instead of taking action to protect its constituents. I am happy that President Obama called for action on this issue in his State of the Union address (you can watch the relevant part of the speech here), and I hope that Congress finally realizes that it is time for action, though I remain skeptical about their willingness to do anything.

To those of you reading this who are against any form of gun control, I ask you to simply think about how you would feel if it were one of your children who had been a victim of these shootings. Doesn’t keeping your children safe warrant an end to the thoughtless political partisanship on this issue?

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Writing About Black Sexuality

A friend passed along this article by Stacey Patton from The Chronicle on Higher Education. It provides a helpful summary of the ever-growing history of the intersection between Black Studies and queer theory. This dialogue is a crucial one for my work on Samuel R. Delany, thus it is pleasing that others outside of the (very small) field are beginning to notice it.

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Harvard Kink

An article on CNN.com reports that Harvard has just approved a student club for students who are interested in “kinky sex.” Kudos to both the students behind the club for organizing publicly and to the school for recognizing that non-vanilla sex (which does not just encompass BDSM, but also includes various fetishes such as watersports, podophilia [an attraction to feet], and so on) is not somehow “sick” or dangerous, and that it has no effect on those who choose not to participate. This kind of openness toward forms of uncommon sexual practices by consenting adults is necessary in order to eradicate systemic violences such as sexism and homophobia because any type of Othering of those who are not white male vanilla heterosexuals plays a part in these (and other) interrelated oppressions. American culture has a long way to go to become sexually healthy, but events such as this one show that there is hope for the future.

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Being Grateful for Education

I always assign an essay early on in my first-year composition classes that asks students to reflect on their educational experiences and how those experiences have led them to enroll in college. This afternoon I read one of these essays by a woman who grew up in Afghanistan. Her family moved to Pakistan when the Taliban made education for females illegal, and then moved back to Afghanistan once the Taliban were overthrown before finally moving to the United States.

Her essay was one of the most powerful student papers I have ever read because of how passionate and grateful she was for the opportunity to get an education. Although I value education and am a scholar because I love acquiring knowledge, I realize that I am unable to appreciate how much of a privilege it is to be able to be a student (and now a teacher) and to also be able to read any book that I would like because these things have always been readily available to me, and so I take them for granted to a certain extent even when I think actively about appreciating them. I am grateful for stories like hers because they remind me to appreciate what I have.

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