The Prosperity Gospel of Oscar Wao
Or how reading Junot Diaz will teach us to pull ourselves up and out of the ongoing economic apocalypse.
Just kidding. Second-rate jokes aside, Dean Bakopoulous’s piece in the Wall Street Journal, How Reading Junot Diaz Can Help America Prosper, is as moving and insightful a moral argument for fiction I’ve read in quite a while. “We are not only here to read widely and write well,” he tells his students, “We are here to train our hearts and our minds in the art of complexity. After the jump, I’ve excerpted a passage in which it becomes clear that the “prosperity” Bakopoulous is talking about is less about wealth and more about how lessons learned from reading — lessons about empathy and difference — can make us better as a nation.
This science major has no intention of ever writing fiction again once he’s done with my class. But there is a very good chance that he’ll be working for a Big Ag outfit some day, and that he’ll have a better understanding of the paralysis felt by struggling family farmers increasingly beholden to both federal subsidies and corporate agriculture. He’ll understand, at least at the heart level, that the actions of the wealthy and powerful often have irreversible consequences on hard-working Americans. Whatever challenges he faces, personally or on the behalf of his country, I hope he carries with him the ability to stare at a complex situation and emerge with an answer, a realization, and a vision as simple and true as the one he had in my classroom.
Bakopoulous also gives a nice shout out to our economically ravaged, but resilient generation:
It could be that the continued economic malaise, endless wars, hateful political rhetoric, and senseless violence of the past decade have made their mark on this new crop of students. They don’t need to be convinced of life’s unfairness (they’re soon to enter the worst white-collar labor market ever), of the horrifying randomness of violence (school shootings have always been part of their landscape), and of the real dangers of climate change (their campus has endured epic floods twice in the past three years.) This generation might understand complexity better than I ever imagined they could.
via largehearted boy