Instructor: Charles Logan
Class Description: “Resistance,” intone the Borg in Star Trek, “is futile.” The infamous aliens seek to turn thinking individuals into mindless drones, subsuming unique, diverse peoples into the Borg’s monolithic way of life. Is resistance futile? The crew in Star Trek don’t think so, and like the crew, we must learn to resist forces that seek to silence us.
Lucky for us we have a number of examples from which to learn how to resist.
Sometimes resistance requires an individual to clash with a hostile society. Esperanza in The House on Mango Street, Junior in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, Marjane in Persepolis all persist through harrowing challenges and maintain their independence, though not without costs. Resistance does not always take the form of an individual battling elements within a society, however. Sometimes we must resist internal pressures to capitulate to despair and other negative emotions. Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild learns to be resilient in the face of her father’s illness. The captain in “The Secret Sharer” is tempted to destroy his entire life. In The Tempest, Prospero must relinquish his powers before they corrupt him permanently.
The forces of oppression want us to believe resistance is futile. This school year, we’ll examine how to resist, for if ever there was a time to insist on human dignity and defend our individual and communal voices against tyranny, that time is now.
My uncle is a storyteller. A large, kind man, Uncle Ronnie is a bit like Kris Kringle — if Kris had been born and raised in Flint, Michigan. Our family lore includes such tales as “Pancake Man,” “The Rooster That Could Ride a Sheep,” and “Trout or Pizza?” We pass Aunt Gail’s crispy potato casserole and listen to my uncle tell us again about the night he terrified my older cousins by wearing a C3P0 mask, tapping on their bedroom window, and waiting for them to notice the masked stranger staring at them while they slept. I never tire of the stories. They are funny, sure, but they perform the serious magic of community, of sharing (and resharing) the predictable past in order to develop the bonds required to meet the unknown future.
The vignettes collected in this volume serve a similar purpose. They take their inspiration from Sarah Levine and Jones Franzel’s article “Teaching Writing with Radio” and Sandra Cisneros’ book The House on Mango Street.The book’s narrator, a determined teenager named Esperanza, explores her Chicago neighborhood, drawing inspiration from people and places alike. For their vignettes, I asked Griffin’s young writers to describe a memory of a significant moment involving someone important in their lives. Next, they recorded themselves reading their pieces. The result is a diverse and moving tribute to the people and experiences that have shaped these wonderful writers. For the full project, click here.