Saturday, January 9, 2010

Home Is Where the Heart Is

If home is where the heart is, then I must have a bipolar heart.

Most of what matters most to me is right here in Albuquerque, but there are a few things that are at my other home in DC. And days like today - days before I make that physical and psychological transition of moving home base are often topsy turvy.

The biggest challenge is always figuring out what books to bring with me. (Perhaps home is where the books is another way to describe my life?) The books for teaching are easy to figure out, and most times I have duplicate copies of those - unless, as is the case this term, I'm teaching a new course. Kindle has also made this aspect of my life easier - I've downloaded most of the western canon of philosophy onto my Kindle.

The books for research are more or less not too hard to figure out - I might leave something behind in NM, but ILL (inter-library loan) in the DC area rocks. Blogging is another story, but I do most of my research in Albuquerque anyway. What is most challenging is figuring out what books do I want to have with me for pleasure reading for the next few weeks/months?

So here's what I've lined up so far:

1. "The Enemy Gods" by Oliver La Farge - for those days when I miss the blue blue New Mexico skies. This novel was written in 1937 seven years after La Farge received the Pulitzer for his novel "Laughing Boy" - another book on my "Must Read Someday" list.

2. "Ordinary Resurrections" by Jonathan Kozol. I was going to say that Kozol is one of my favorite education writers, but really, he is one of my favorite writers, period. I was lucky enough to meet him a few years ago when he came to Gallaudet University and luckier still to participate in a discussion with him and a classroom full of students. Participate is probably the wrong word - I watched and marveled and made notes of indelible ink in my head. I've reads bits and pieces of this book, but I want to work through the whole of it. Kozol's writing inspires and motivates me to do better in the classroom and with my students outside of the classroom.

3. "The Arabic Book" by Johannes Pederson (translated by Geoffrey French). A book about book production in medieval Islam. Just because.

4. "The Edward Said Reader" and "Out of Place" the memoir by Edward Said. Too many people have been asking me for my opinion on Said's work. This is probably because I'm identified as Arab-American at work and I spend a fair amount of time making sure that people don't conflate the terms Arab and Muslim, which is a pet peeve of mine. My research is very much not in post-colonial studies (I'm not opposed to it, but that's just not my area) or Middle Eastern Studies (ditto) yet I still get these questions. I've dipped into Said's work now and then (my copy of Orientalism is so worn out I should probably relegate it to the dustbin), but I don't think I know his corpus well enough to comment intelligently on it. This is my starting attempt at rectifying this.

5. "A Sand County Almanac" by Aldo Leopold. An old favorite that helps me remember the importance of a connection to the land. This is easy to do when I am in New Mexico - five minutes walk from my front door is the bosque - but when I am in Washington my connection to the land slips away so easily as I get caught up in work and politics. Even when I'm on the National Mall walking to a museum, I find it hard to look past the buildings and concrete and landscaped open parkland to find a connection with the land. The only place where I can do this with some regularity is on the grounds of the Museum of the American Indian (big surprise). Leopold helps remind me of this and it is why I go back to him year after year.

In looking over my list I see some common threads - New Mexico, land, the Arab world, and education. Guess I'm fairly predictable.

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