In order to understand why reading is important for writers, you will read this essay, "Home Is Where the Hatred Is: The case for reparations: a narrative bibliography" by Ta-Nehisi Coates, a writer for The Atlantic.
In it, Coates refers to an essay published in May 2014, a cover story for the Atlantic Monthly called "The Case for Reparations." The original essay's argument and evidence are too complex to summarize adequately here; if you follow the link and scroll down through its various parts, you'll see what I mean. But the text below the title gives you a sense of his broad claim that America needs to reckon with the "moral debts" it incurred in the long period in which slavery was legal, and continued to incur in periods of time subsequent to its abolition––including our present moment. "The Case for Reparations" does what its title suggests, presenting a rationale for cultural change through a major reckoning of what America (and, by extension, Americans) owe slavery and the descendants of those who were enslaved.
If you're interested in learning more about the cover article's impact and reception, please take a look at this story in The Washington Post when you find a convenient time. And of course, I encourage you to read the original essay at that time as well.
We will not be discussing "The Case for Reparations" or debating the merits of that argument in our upcoming class meeting, however. Not yet, anyway. For the purposes of our next meeting (and toward the end of completing Assignment 1), we aren't concerned with the argument itself so much as the process of learning and thinking that led him to make it. Coates provides us with an exceptionally useful glimpse into that process in "Home Is Where the Hatred Is," a piece he describes aptly as "a narrative bibliography." It functions as both a follow-up piece to the original cover story and a behind-the-scenes look at why the best writers are those who read and think deeply about what they read.
I mentioned previously that we'll primarily read academic writing that appears in venues that are not funded by advertising. In this case (and in many others this semester), I'm assigning an essay that doesn't fit that description neatly. But more so than almost any other piece of writing I know, I think it beautifully illustrates how reading shapes how we think and informs both how and what we write.
Your assignment for class is as follows:
- Read "Home Is Where the Hatred Is: The case for reparations: a narrative bibliography" in its entirety.
- Open up a document and prepare to write. Make sure your first and last name are at the top of your document as well as the date of our next class meeting.
- For each book (or other kind of written work) Coates mentions, write 2-3 sentences in your own words that explain how the book contributed to his knowledge of his subject matter––that is, how it affected how he conceives of America, American history, and the more specific topics his essay addresses––and anything else you find interesting or noteworthy about it from his account. You'll need to use both the first page of Coates's account and the list at the end to understand the full extent of how his reading informed his writing.
- Go to Hofstra's Library Catalog, Lexicat (see? the cats are everywhere on this campus!). Determine whether Hofstra owns a copy of each book (or written work) mentioned and, for each of entry in your document addressing item #3 that our library owns, add in the call number in Hofstra's Axinn Library.
- Prepare to bring a hard copy of this document to class. (You won't often be required to bring a hard copy of your work, but in this case, please do so.)
- When you submit your assignment (at or near the beginning of our class start time), we'll discuss any problems you might have had using Lexicat. But you should complete the assignment to the best of your ability prior to class and be ready to submit it to me upon your arrival. Please think and plan ahead! Your professors will not find "Pride Print didn't work" an acceptable response to assigned work.