Friday, April 08, 2005

Talking Trash

I failed to blog yesterday (sorry!) My day was full, and I was having an allergy attack. Today's writing will be piecemeal, so I think I'll just let it flow. Right now, I'm about to meet with a student to work on a paper about Kate Chopin's The Awakening and "Story of an Hour." I think this is our third or fourth meeting, and the student has made significant progress with organization and development that supports a specific thesis. I'll be back to report how it went today.

I'm back, and I'm pleased to tell you that the student brought a complete draft with the exception of an unfinished conclusion. The clearest evidence of her progress was revealed by the clarity of her writing --- deliberate, straightforward sentences and a logical organizational pattern.

Now, I had planned to write about Dorothy Allison's short story collection, Trash --- so let me go ahead and do that --- and then I'm getting out of here! It's Friday, and the staff and I are going to lunch at Shoney's to have our weekly staff meeting.

You will remember, gentle reader, my previous references to the element of fire as an ongoing theme in my current literature class. Well, Allison's story "Gospel Song" contains another compelling scene that relates to what we've been discussing. In this case, a young girl faces a common challenge: whether or not to associate with (befriend) someone who has been rejected by others. The rejected girl is an albino, treated unkindly by schoolchildren on the bus because of the way she looks.

"I watched her face --- impassive, contemptuous, and stubborn. Sweat was showing on her dress but nothing showed in her face except for the eyes. There was fire in those pink eyes, a deep fire I recognized, banked and raging. Before I knew it I was on my feet and leaning forward to catch her arm. I pulled her into our row without a word. Reese stared at me like I was crazy, but Shannon settled herself and started cleaning her bottleglass lenses as if nothing at all was happening" (47).

What strikes me about this passage is that the writer identified with the rejected girl because of the fire they both had inside. It's a beautiful gesture of friendship, of course, but it's more than that. It's an example of how we can identify with the writers we are tutoring in our centers. Find something in the student that says, "You know me." Target that something, and it will be easier to see our way to what needs to happen next.

Blessings to all of you, and a happy weekend! I'm going camping, so I'll be sitting around a fire contemplating.


At 10:12 AM, Blogger Lisa said...

Thanks for a really thoughtful post, Tamara. I especially like how you move from the discussion of the story in _Trash_ and connect it with Writing Center work. Your comments are a reminder that though there's plenty to learn about effective tutoring there are emotional/affective components to tutoring that are equally important.

Lisa Ede

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