In the following passages, three writers describe their early experiences as readers. A well-known journalist and writer, Ta-Nehisi Coates reflects upon his growing sense of curiosity at Howard University, which he refers to as Mecca, the site where he is motivated to learn about the history of black people and where he learns to formulate questions to help him better understand who he is as an individual. The passage we include here is taken from his award-winning book Between the World and Me, and is addressed to his son. Coates makes many references to authors he has read and public figures he admires. We invite you to do some research to learn about who these people are and their significance in the ways Coates writes about his education. Richard Rodriguez and Gerald Graff are well known outside the academy. In this excerpt from Hunger of Memory, Rodriguez describes what it was like growing up as a bookish bilingual “scholarship boy” in a Spanish-speaking household. In the other excerpt, from Beyond the Culture Wars, Graff narrates how he disliked reading books, especially literature and history books, well into his undergraduate years as an English major. Both of their narratives turn around moments of recognition triggered by exposure to the ideas of others. As you read the selections, consider these questions: 1)Where are the turning points in each narrative? What are the most important things the writers seem to learn? 2)What incidents or insights did you find most interesting in the narratives? Why? What seem to be the key ideas in each narrative? 3)Do these ideas strike you as being potentially useful in your own work as a thinker and writer? 4)Do you find that the writers exhibit academic habits of mind (making inquiries, seeking and valuing complexity, seeing writing as a kind of conversation, and reflecting)? If so, where?
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