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Books Through Bars: Notes Towards Day 24 (Thurs, Mar. 16)

Anne Dalke's picture

I. (2:25-2:30, Anne): course-keeping
all RCF'ers: please return your copies of Kindred:
any time we're in English House

I've just picked up the next set of books,
have my car today, can bring them tomorrow

who will drive the van? Sierra, check w/ Ana?

this weekend (and all weekends upcoming!) you ALL have one posting due,
by midnight on Sunday: a reflection on your week's experiences,
in reading or class discussion, @ your praxis site, or @ a related event

on Tuesday, we'll finish discussing Life on the Outside (so if you haven't finished it: do!)
and also begin discussing Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's novel Americanah, Chapters 1-10, pp. 1-115.

you'd ask us to let you know why we chose each of our texts,
& what "goals" we have in offering them for discussion.
you may be surprised by this one, which isn't explicitly about the PIC.
It begins, in fact, in a hair salon: so as you read, we invite you
to think about hair, and hair styling, as a site of literacy.

The opening scene brings together differences of ethnicity, nationality, class and gender;
it forms the background out of which the main character, IFEMelu, writes her blog
(an explicit use of contemporary literacy to cross these cultural barriers and differences;
let's think about the internet as a site of global literacy, perhaps?)
Adichie uses hair as a recognizable site of difference,
and as a way of creating, representing and writing the self.
You'll see Ifem bringing together disparate aspects of herself
in the form of of disparate others; she is surrounded by women
from "outsider" cultures, who are/are not her people.

To get started, you might focus on the question of self-presentation.
Una brought this up, w/ regard to Elaine Bartlett, y'day;
look closely @ how Ifem becomes "less sure of herself, the more she writes,"
and @ how her boyfriend, Obinze, experiences a "disorienting strangeness," a "hollow space
between himself and the person he was supposed to be."Less about how
others represent the self than about the self evolving...

We don't exactly have 'goals' for Tuesday's class,
but we will have a lot of other questions about
writing-from-the-outside (as "a non-American black")
about race in this country;
about writing-as-a form-of-activism;
and about blog-writing in particular,
as a form of global literacy. (Matey wrote about this in early February:
how information is readily available for those w/ socio-economic privilege,
how--because that information is both critical and filtered--acquiring "internet literacy" is an important,
and highly overlooked skill. "Is the internet a pathway to break down barriers towards information,
or is it just another type of literacy to withhold from the oppressed?")
As the novel unfolds, we will watch Ifem become a blogger,
and track what happens to information and opinion when she does...

II. (2:30-3:00, Nell): Introducting Rebecca Makas from Books Through Bars

Her own interests and path, including her involvement in BTB.
How does it work that prisons connect with BTB?
What are the different kinds of relationships they have with different prisons?
How did Books through Bars get started and how does the collective work?  
Why do they choose to operate as a collective?

Una and Helen sharing their experiences/observations/questions:
various motivations people have for volunteering with BTB-->
consequences of "drop in" volunteering?
(not chosen, without context, not challenging stereotypes?)
if the books go out, does it matter what the motivation is?
or that there's no opportunity for reflection?

III. (3:00-3:30): q&a, discussion

IV (3:30-3:45, Jody):  return to Gonnerman
Miciah's questions
about the current state of the Rockefeller drug laws,
about rules regarding public housing and contact w/ others who have been incarcerated
found out that the laws have changed somewhat, been moderated,
but there are still a variety of drug laws, in a variety of states,
and @ the federal level, that are punitive, including manitory minimums
for me, these changes--which you're welcome to research more fully for your next paper--
raise a another question, about protest and activism
EBartlett was focused on repealing the Rockefeller laws;
YASP is also has some particular foci...
invite contributions...
question this raises: how we map activism in relation to these issues?
what are the range of possible responses/impactful actions?
(to pick up now/write about over the weekend/think together about going forward)

in pairs? consider the last sentence of the author's note, p. 350:
"Elaine's hope, and mine, was to challenge some of these assumptions
by putting a human face--her face--on a phenomeon that has been
largely ignored, and in this way to expose the hidden consequences
of our nation's punishment policies."

Did they accomplish this?

This hope seems to refuse the binary we've been working for a while,
between individual stories and structural analyses, what m r r
wrote about most recently when she said she really wanted
"to brainstorm more theoretical prompts instead of prompts
based on the past....less 'transformation tales' and more towards
relational conversation....How much are we a part of the system?
Should we be brainstorming how to break the system, in small ways,
or big ways, or whatever ways those inside think it could be chipped away at?"