Sunday, April 22, 2012

April 22 (Teju Cole on KONY 2012)

Teju Cole's essay on KONY 2012, published online at (in?) The Atlantic, is one that caught my eye this week.

I certainly remember my own, perhaps similar, cynical thoughts surrounding my experience at Wesleyan University and all of the seemingly affluent students intent on changing the world (or resisting locally or whatever Teach for America, the Peace Corps, or grad school in social work was supposed to be called). It felt like they all had automobiles and car insurance paid by their parents, and I vividly remember the brand-new SUVs a few of them drove off in at the end of their glorious four-years of somewhat radical undergrad.

But I never met one who ever called himself a "saviour" or wouldn't have acknowledged and appreciated at least some of the nuances and complexities to all the different kinds of hegemonies circulating throughout and within. There was one friend who would describe it all in matter-of-fact terms: "X's parents have dough, so he can change the world, but Y's parents are poor, so he'll go to law school and aim for corporate work." It's never that simple, of course, but even among the financial-aid students there were not many genuinely poor "Y"s.

Anyway, Cole's tweets and essay made me more interested in reading his novel Open City, and it made for a nice complement to this week's teaching of Roberto Bolano's Liberian section from The Savage Detectives along with "Mauricio ('The Eye') Silva." Cole is working on a nonfiction book about Lagos, Nigeria, and that reminded me of this Uwem Akpan story and this George Packer essay that I unfortunately dropped from the syllabus to make room for the more local concerns of Ron Rash's Saints at the River.

And for leisure reading, finally, I'm getting immersed in Frances Lefkowitz's To Have Not about her poor, white childhood in San Francisco and her subsequent attendance at Brown University on heaping helpings of financial aid. It was my own Wesleyan experience that brought me to this memoir, and there is a decent chance I'll ask Lefkowitz for an interview when I'm done.

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