Today I’ve gotten to enjoy one of the great things about teaching: getting to experience a book in preparation for class discussion.
I read the book Too Late to Die Young a few years ago, shortly after Harriet McBryde Johnson called me on scheduling WGS events in inaccessible spaces. I wanted to know who this woman was and what she had to say. I really enjoyed the book and learned a lot from it. So when I decided to teach a course on Disability, Power, and Privilege, I thought I’d like to teach the book, and I reread it to confirm.
“Yes,” I decided, “I’m definitely teaching this book.” Some of Johnson’s observations are so keen, so clear, and so perfectly articulated that I started bringing quotes from Too Late to Die Young into my own writing. “This is a really good book.” I highlighted passages throughout.
Today I’m rereading the book to prepare for next week’s class conversations, and it’s like I’m getting to dive into the book at a deeper level. I’m not just cruising through for my own enjoyment and education—I’m thinking about it in the context of the students with whom I’ll be talking. As I read, I think, “Oh, Ashley will find that so interesting!”, or “Becca would have loved Harriet!”, or “I wonder if Amber will have done some background reading on this.”* The resonant quotes resonate even more this time through. The book becomes a series of possible discussions, every chapter not only telling a story but offering prompts for conversations I can’t predict but want to be ready for.
This is one of the reasons being a college professor is a great job.
And here's another quote from Johnson that relates to the first part of my grouchy post, below.
Are we "worse off"? I don't think so. Not in any meaningful sense. There are too many variables. For those of us with congenital conditions, disability shapes all we are. Those disabled later in life adapt. We take constraints that no one would choose and build rich and satisfying lives within them. We enjoy pleasures other people enjoy, and pleasures particularly our own. We have something the world needs.Right on.
*I've had these thoughts about almost every student in the class, but I thought it would get boring if I cited everyone's name, so please don't have your feelings hurt if you're a student who reads this blog who's not mentioned here.