This is the third of eight excerpts we will be offering from Lauren Rosenberg’s The Desire for Literacy: Writing in the Lives of Adult Learners, a volume in the CCCC Studies in Writing and Rhetoric Series. We’ll be offering a new excerpt each Monday. In this book, Dr. Rosenberg shares her interviews with various people who sought literacy during adulthood.
Literacy appears in unconventional forms in Lee Ann’s experience. She piles books in her garage and in plastic bags in the closet. But it’s not only books and reading that matter to her. She also talks about driving in a way that overlaps with reading and writing. One day during class, when the group has digressed into a conversation about learning to drive, Lee Ann blurts, “We all don’t read good, but we’re sitting here with driver’s licenses. You want something bad, you go out and get it.” A few years earlier, Lee Ann had gotten her license, which she considered one of the great achievements of her life. Once she had obtained it, she had a new sense of her own independence. Ironically (and perhaps not merely coincidentally), driving took Lee Ann to Read/Write/Now. She recounts how she first came to the library-based center about a year earlier:
Well, I came—you know how I got to actually come here? I was giving—I help people out a lot. I was giving the neighbor a ride to bring her books back. She lives down my street. And I said, “You know, I wonder if they got anything?” ’Cause a lot of the time they have something for the library. So I turn around, and I went into the, into the, and I went to bring my friend back that lives in the trailer park. I said, “Yeah, right around the corner.” The lady in the library said, “Right over here.” So then I, then I come in here and investigate. And I talked to Melissa [a teacher]. And she pulled out the paper and then turned around and said: Well, when they get a spot for me, they’ll call me.
Whether or not Lee Ann already knew that her local library offered a program for adult learners is irrelevant. Perhaps she knew and her trip to the library was more deliberate than she lets on. What matters is that she did it. She entered the library and inquired about its services.
Walking inside a library for the first time was a major step for her, as it is for many of the learners at the center—to enter the building, the home of books, this foreign land that would become the place where she would soon go three days a week, every week, month after month, because now was the time to study. This was the first time in Lee Ann’s life that she could sustain herself as a student. Learning, for Lee Ann, is a break from work.
All eight of our excerpts from this book will be added here.