The Unlikely Scholars

While we were touring the heating plant on the Monday after break, I feel as though the general consensus was confusion. What are we doing here? What does this have to do with African-American Literature? This reminded me of Victor Lavalle’s novel Big Machine and the unlikely scholars. On page forty-nine of the novel, Victor writes, “Here was my first real job as an Unlikely Scholar and I had no idea what to do… But not a damn thing stood out. I knew there must be some reason I’d been given these papers, but I didn’t understand the motive. I felt lost” (Lavalle, 49). Until Ricky and the fellow unlikely scholars all dived into work and focused on what the task at hand could be, they were still in that preliminary state of confusion, just as my group was. “Now me and the other six Scholars floundered and gasped… The others were as committed. The others were as confused” (Lavalle, 49). It was not until we were all working on the collaborative blog post this past week, that we realized there could be connections between the heating plant tour, the nature poems, Invisible Man, and Farming While Black. The fact that all these texts were connected somehow was mind-boggling to me.

How could a heating plant, a chapter about someone working in a paint plant, and some chapters about caring for the Earth all be connected? As my group worked together and we realized that there were indeed connections, I almost felt like Violet in Big Machine, “A single green folder sat on the left side of her desk, with a two-inch stack of papers inside it. Violet opened the folder for us and took out the contents. There were typed notes and handwritten memos, faded receipts for meals and travel, and a series of Polaroids” (pg.50). With today’s advanced technology, I feel as though the Google Docs document that was started as a place for us to write our thoughts in a way kind of serves as that green folder where Violet stored all the pieces from the newspaper clippings.

A topic of discussion that came up in my collaborative blog group, and has come up in other classes in past semesters is the debate between print books or e-books (Kindle, Nook, or any other e-reader). After our discussion, I began to think about the unlikely scholars and how much easier their job would have been with technologies such as these instead of “a big gray computer sat on the desk, but it wasn’t new. I saw little white tags on the side of the monitor and the hard drive. Both read REFURBISHED” (Lavalle, 48). Could it be argued that their job was more rewarding because they did not have these technologies? Having to dive into the stacks of newspapers every day and having to make connections on their own instead of just typing something into the Google search bar, may have made the “high” of the connections forming much better for the unlikely scholars.

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