Sunday, April 17, 2016

Four Weeks Left

The semester which stretched before me as a blank stretch of new-fallen snow back in February now has just four weeks of classes before we head into finals week. Daffodils, tulips, magnolias, and red bud are in bloom, and the first lilacs are beginning to perfume the air.

In my children's literature course, we've covered the emergence of children's literature as a genre, fairy tales, three touchstone texts (Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, The Secret Garden), fantasy (Harry Potter, of course, the students' favorite week of the semester), historical fiction (Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Morning Girl by Michael Dorris), contemporary fiction (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie), and to continue the theme of the need for greater diversity in children's literature, the beautiful verse memoir by Jacqueline Woodson, Brown Girl Dreaming. Next up, picture books, and then we'll celebrate the final week of the course with humor via Captain Underpants.

In the ethics of immigration policy class, we've explored the philosophical debate between advocates of closed borders and advocates of open borders; we've argued about various definitions of "refugees" and what is owed them by wealthy, peaceful, privileged nations such as our own; we've debated how to respond to the presence of the 11 million undocumented migrants in our midst. We'll finish the course with a look at how race and gender inflect patterns of migration and raise their own ethical issues.

Finally, in my sweet, seven-student Honor Scholar class on what I'm calling "The Ethics of Story," we've consumed ourselves with issues of truth and betrayal in the writing of memoir and investigative journalism, as well as trying to develop our own positions on the question of when the exchange of stories across cultures becomes ethically problematic cultural appropriation or cultural imperialism. This coming week we'll launch our look at censorship by reading the novel that occasioned the most famous censorship court case of the 20th century, Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence.

Just four more weeks! Then I'll say goodbye to my students and drive back to Colorado to say hello to a new granddaughter, due to enter the world the very same day I'm due to arrive home.

My teaching has been so all-consuming this semester that I've written less than I've ever written at any time in the last 35 years. I've decided this has to change. Like my students, I need to make one final push to get my own work done for the semester. My goal is to have a book proposal (synopsis and several chapters) ready to send to my editor by the middle of May.

Wouldn't it be lovely to bring my semester to a close by welcoming both a new baby and a new book-in-progress? The baby is coming, ready or not. But the book will come only if I make that my priority for the next month. So amid thoughts of picture books, race and gender in immigration policy, and the rights and wrongs of censorship, I'm committing to myself here and now to make time to write.

How much time?

Why, an hour a day.

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