Deborah Brandt’s Literacy in American Lives

It seems like most of my posts begin ‘back at Oregon State’. Well, the time there was very influential and informed my literacy and my writing aesthetic and so I can’t help thinking back with fondness. Fondness for working in Dr. Lisa Ede’s course and working with the individual writers from the fiction work shops I attended.

And as for the subject of literacy, I think Deborah Brandt’s book Literacy in American Lives–the text I experienced in Dr. Ede’s literacy studies course-influenced my thought process and perhaps even my political viewpoint in such a profound way. Most importantly her book gave me the idea of literacy sponsorship–the idea of how and perhaps also why we value literacy the way we do. It helped me to think of how I valued literacy–reading and writing and thinking–when I was young.

This idea made me ponder my own literacy development–how the Grandparents kept no books or anything in the house. How school was something down the street and not in the home. The old man read the newspaper and once and a while read a magazine abandoned in his house but other than that I feel literacy or institutionalized literacy was not valued in the Grandparent’s house. In contrast, my sister almost never reads–perhaps only at stop signs she sometimes jokes. So growing up that made me feel that literacy did not matter. I had to get out to the public library to find Catcher in the Rye and John Coltrane tapes–material so influential in my own personal literacy development. But I felt I had to steal it and take control of my own literacy development.

And as a professional I feel so lucky that Deborah Brandt has agreed to speak at our own Literacy Seminar we are putting together at my own little community college. I am so happy at the possibilty of her influence and her words inspiring other instructors–perhaps also high school instructors is the goal–will also be inspired by her words and by her ideas. 

The event is tentatively scheduled for May 2–or April 25–and I hope the event will be well attended and will be as influential in bringing writers and teachers together for at least a small discussion of literacy and literacy development.

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john paul jaramillo

John Paul Jaramillo’s debut story collection The House of Order was named a 2013 Int’l Latino Book Award Finalist, and his most recent work Little Mocos is now available from Twelve Winters Press. In 2013 Latino Boom: An Anthology of U.S. Latino Literature listed Jaramillo as one of its Top 10 New Latino Authors to Watch and Read. He is currently a professor of composition and literature at Lincoln Land College-Springfield, Illinois.

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