by Ed Blum
Even though we have just entered Spring, the Fall Semester is not far off, and this means course adoptions. Since my undergraduate days at the University of Michigan, I have loved the selection of books. I remember walking up the stairs at Shaman Drum Bookshop to find in packed shelves the texts for my new classes. Perhaps Professor Juster assigned The Kingdom of Matthias (“oh, this looks sexy,” I would think to myself). Or perhaps Professor Montoya (sadly, she is now at New York University) would have us read Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee (“Dee Brown… I thought he was a basketball player for the Celtics,” my undergraduate and basketball-loving mind would turn). I would thumb through the books, looking at what had been underlined, what the author looked like, who blurbed the book and had I read any of their material. Sometimes there would be random phone numbers in the book; one time a “break up” note that led me to wonder if it had ever been delivered. The world of books, authors, and readers was a magical and mystical one to me, one that I wish had been explained more fully. Now, as a professor, author, teacher, and reader, I find the selecting the texts as much fun as finding them and the process of interacting with readers just as mystifying. And this brings me to the point of my post. I want to propose interactive sessions between authors and readers – professors and students – either through email dialogue or through phone conference calls.
This past year, I have had several wonderful teaching experiences with colleagues who have used one of my monographs in their course. One two occasions, I conducted conference calls with the students to discuss the book – why I wrote it, what I left out, what they thought of the material, what their impression was of Du Bois or of post-Civil War America. On several other occasions (mostly local), I had the chance to sit down with students who had read my material. On all occasions, the times were marvelous. The questions were brilliant and insightful. Some of the comments I wished I could lift and cram into the books. Some of the students I wished I could cram into my own classes. And so… I had an idea. What if I offered that kind of activity to any professor or teacher who adopts one of my monographs for class? Would that be an added and fun incentive for folks to teach it? Would that be a way to break down the barriers between authors, teachers, and readers? So let’s give it a shot.
If you decide to adopt Reforging the White Republic or W. E. B. Du Bois, American Prophet for any class next year, just drop me an email at eblum AT mail DOT sdsu DOT edu,