Friday, October 23, 2009
For the first week of classes I led the kids through a close reading of Junot Diaz' "How to Date a Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl or Halfie" and a rushed-off, half-ass reading of an excerpt from Derek Walcott's "Omeros". I'm happy to say both texts seemed to strike a chord with the kids (who couldn't be more astute, engaged, and charming), and I assigned for this week a 1-2 page story about "a life more intricate than ours". I asked them to draw the narrative lens in on something to reveal its recondite life, which in hindsight was probably a bad place to start. What I got were largely essay-story hybrids, although they were by and large surprisingly inventive. Part of my goal for next week is to wean them from the essay format that high school kids instinctively turn to, where you more or less bullet-point the first paragraph and devote the rest of the piece to developing each point systematically. I explained how, in a narrative, you've got to do the opposite. Don't telegraph the story. Stick and move--drop lines that radiate meaning and say a lot by saying a little. I assigned Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants" for next week, which I think will help them sort out exactly what I mean.