ISO: a Miracle

I made a lot of great friends at college, especially with other English majors.  Misery loves company, n’est-ce pas?  When you are agonizing over translating Old English, trying to come up with the most profound literary interpretation in order to impress your professor or writing complicated lesson plans that are so idealistic that they have no chance of ever working in a real high school classroom, it is helpful to have a group of people who understand the agony and the ecstasy of devoting one’s life to lit-tra-ture. Or, as other majors might interpret it, those of us who are foolish enough to major in something that typically requires you to become a teacher or go to graduate school in order to find gainful employment.

I was particularly close with the English majors in the teacher prep program since we had a lot of classes together, particularly Katie and Angela.  Katie and I were friends.  Angela and Katie were friends, so as these things go, Angela and I became friends since we both hung out with Katie.   Katie decided she didn’t want to teach as we were preparing to student teach.  Angela and I both completed student teaching, but I decided after graduation that I didn’t want to teach either.  Of the three of us, Angela is the only one who stayed in teaching.  This Fall, she started her 14th year as a high school English teacher in Wake County.

Late last night, Katie texted me to tell me that Angela had a severe stroke and was in the hospital.  She was awake and alert, but the stroke had damaged 1/3 of her brain, and she has lost the ability to speak and has no function on the right side of her body.

I am stunned, and I can’t stop thinking about her and this tragedy today.  Along with her family, teaching was everything to Angela, and it looks like her career is, if not over, in serious jeopardy.  Going to school part-time, she completed a Master’s degree a few years ago and had achieved National Board Certification as well.  She is a great teacher, the kind of teacher our schools desperately need more of.

I’m just having a hard time fathoming this tragedy.  One minute she’s fine; the next minute, her life has changed forever.  It’s something you don’t think will happen to people in your age group. Strokes are for older people, not people in their late 30s.

Angela, I’m thinking of you and sending every bit of strength I can your way.  Your Meredith family is thinking of you as well.  You have a long road ahead of you, but I know you and how stubborn you are.  I have no doubt you will fight and persevere.

If you can, please send any good wishes and prayers her way. This is the season of miracles and if anyone could use one and deserves one, it is Angela.


Queer Lit

I’m the first one up in my house (if you don’t count the cats) and since J is still asleep, I get ready in total silence, which is great except that it gives me a lot of time in my head and that is not always a good thing.  So recently I was thinking about a post I was going to write in response to this one on marriage and then I started thinking about how a high school friend announced his marriage to his partner on FB recently (congrats!) and then I started thinking about a very memorable class I took in college.  Welcome to my rabbit hole.  It can be a very strange place.

Anyway. My senior year of college I had only two required courses that I needed to take, but my scholarship dictated that I take a minimum of 12 hours a semester, so I signed up to take two grad courses in English at NC State because I planned to enter grad school there in the fall and thought I’d knock out a few hours.

One of the courses was a standard class on the development of the novel/18th Century literature. The other class was a seminar in world literature.  What I didn’t know was that the seminar had a special topic that semester.

It turns out that I had signed up for a course on 19th and 20th Century British and French homosexual literature.  Or as the professor, the new head of the French department, called it “Queer Lit.”

I don’t think I said a word in class for the first month.  I prided myself on being liberal and edgy – after all, I was the one doing her senior thesis on the highly sexual, pornographic Lady Chatterley’s Lover instead of Jane Eyre or Pride and Prejudice. It wasn’t that I found the subject matter of the class objectionable.  I literally had no idea how to talk about it.  I worried about inadvertently saying something offensive or seeming naive. I had to learn the vocabulary and observe before I could contribute.

After I got over my shock and nerves, I really enjoyed the class.  Other than Oscar Wilde, I had never read any of the other authors, so the class broadened my horizons.   The students were a diverse group too.  We had a few English grad students, a couple of undergrads (one in political science and another in French), a creative writing grad student and a doctoral candidate in sociology.  We held one of our classes at Mitch’s Tavern (with beer), which for a Meredith student was the equivalent of having class in a strip club.

It was a really good class, and I enjoy the looks on people’s faces when I tell them about it (though it took me the entire semester before I could refer to it as “Queer Lit” like my professor did).  And that, my friends, is how there came to be a book that has butt plugs on its cover in my house.  Although I didn’t know that’s what they were until a Meredith classmate asked me why I was reading a book with butt plugs on them.  Maybe I should have wondered how she knew?

The reading list if you’re interested:

  • The Importance of Being Earnest
  • Lifting Belly
  • Giovanni’s Room
  • The Well of Loneliness (loved it)
  • A Boy’s Own Story
  • The Rubyfruit Jungle
  • Oranges are Not the Only Fruit
  • Les Guérillères

I apologize in advance if this post seems flippant compared to the last two posts.  I just needed to write on something other than preschool drama and sick grandmothers.

What is the  most memorable class you took in college?