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The Desire for Literacy 7: A Door Open

This is the seventh of eight excerpts we are 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 the literacy experiences of four learners who attended the Read/Write/Now Adult Learning Center, a library-based informal education site in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Lauren Rosenberg’s The Desire for Literacy

Violeta states that there are many reasons why writing matters. Some of her intention is functional:

When I have to sign form or when I sign my paper for Section 8, before I was no doing that. Now I sit down, and I read it, and I sign it. I no was doing that before. Like my paper for Section 8, it was a lot of paper. Before I was going crazy. I had to get it from help. I do that now with myself. . . .

     By the time I met her, Violeta already spoke of writing as a means of becoming, my word but her concept, a theory without the theoretical language. Most of her comments about writing connect the process with working out the story of her life. We talked about that relationship:

     What do you like to write?

About my life. About my life, yeah.

     So when you do the kind of projects that Carolyn [her teacher] has you doing here, are those enjoyable to you?

Mm hmm. I do, partly, part of my portfolio is about my life. That’s what I do. Because that helping me a lot to get out what did I go in and explain to me. And I do about my life book. I want to see when I before, was Violeta before? Was Violeta right now? The progress that I make.

     So you want to look at your progress?

Mm hmm.

Is it special to you to get down those stories too?

Is special for me. Porque I can see the difference. I can, when I do that, when I was writing about my life, I can see I was afraid before. I not right now. I can see the progress. I was before afraid [to] get out [in] front of the world. Before I would say, ‘I cannot do this. This is not for me. Uh-uh.’ I don’t know how to get it, pero when I get any and open the door for me and I do it, I can see the difference about my life.

 Violeta continually refers to education as a “door open.” Before, the door was closed, and even though she knew what lay behind it, literacy was unattainable. She was locked inside, the door sealed between her and both street and school, preventing her from having the freedom to pursue anything more than domestic responsibilities. Now Violeta raises her own children and also cares for her daughter’s babies. She worries about the children of her son in prison. She worries about her own compromised health. But she also finds time to acknowledge that there is a “door now open” and that she can slip through that door to give herself the literacy education she has wanted all her life. There is nothing specific that she wants from literacy, but Violeta’s discussion makes it clear that she has begun a process she wants to “keep moving.”

All eight of our excerpts from this book will be added here.