Monday, May 19, 2014

Surprise! The Mail Lady Was Good To Me and Delivered TIME AND SPACE IN LITERACY RESEARCH

When I got out of my tiny, gas-efficient car yesterday afternoon (I drove a giant, gas-guzzling SUV for years and loved it, but it died when I moved to Connecticut and I didn't have money post doctorate, so had to lease the cheapest car I could find), I noticed there was a pile of cardboard boxes on my doorstep.

I felt a bit bad, however,  because I live atop a hill and the poor mail lady had to put her car in park to bring the loot up the stairs. A week ago, I went on an Amazon rant ordering every young adult novel I could find with African refugee protagonists and stories. There aren't many, granted, but there have been several publications worldwide over the last year that I haven't read, so the delivery was enough for two arms. I knew the books that awaited me.

That is why I was totally shocked that Time and Space in Literacy Research was also in the pile of delivered books. In 2011, I presented at NCTEAR and had no one, NOBODY, in the audience. Feeling sorry for myself, I went out into the lobby and announced, "I would love one person to talk to," and this fellow volunteered (I have no idea who he was, but he sat and listened to me etch out my thinking on time, space, and the literacy of three Sudanese young men).

The paper for the conference was written several months before I officially sent a dissertation draft to my committee for the first time. Although I was chiseling away, I was in full throttle of finding an academic job and interviewing all over the country. I was trapped at the NCTEAR conference, too, because a blizzard arrived and no once could get out. I had to take a Greyhound to Chicago to get a flight to NYC so I could get a taxi sent from the department chair to her home so she could do my laundry so that I could interview at Fairfield University.

On the bus and then the plane I edited this paper in hopes of one day finding a publication. In 2012, Catherine Compton-Lily and Erica Halverson selected it for a book idea they had. It's been a wild, little ride as the original publishers for the book retracted with a note that academic texts are risky. I learned last Fall, though, that Routledge picked up the book.

And that book was delivered to me yesterday afternoon.

"Lost Voices in an American High School: Sudanese Male English-Language Learners' Perspectives on Writing" is Chapter 7 and I had to laugh when I read what Jennifer Roswell wrote on the back cover,
What could have been lost is a phrase that is fitting for what [this] book does for the literacy community: it saves memories and perseveres agency in elegant and eloquent ways.
I almost didn't make it to a job interview (where I now currently work). I almost didn't have an audience participant (who listened to what I had to say). I almost didn't move back to Syracuse to do a doctorate (I loved high school teaching too much). I almost didn't finish my research because the entire process made me feel, well, lost (it was the most difficult thing I've ever done).

But the trajectory continued and I maintained my volunteerism with relocated refugee communities and continued to feel a 'responsibility to speak out.' The editors could have given up, too, and the work of Johny Saldaña, Juan C. Guerra, Kate Pahl, Margaret Grigorenko, Marlene Beirle, David Bloome, Lorraine Falchi, Marjorie Siegel, Mollie V. Blackburn, Caroline T.Clark, sj Miller, Michelle Bass, James S. Chisholm, Kevin M. Leander, Beth Aplin, Lisa Schwartz, Silvia Noguerón-Liu, and Norma González could have been lost without the perseverance of two amazing editors.

Reading Chapter 7, my chapter, brought me great satisfaction, yes, but also a flood of emotions I wasn't expecting. The young men in my research participated over four years ago in this project and all of them are now post-high school (six in college and two still searching for their voices). They continue as part of my life.  Who knew that research could save memories and persevere agency? I guess I have learned my lesson and I am pretty proud of this achievement.

And now there's more work to be done.

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