Community college students are the most ambitious, hard-working, honest people I know, and I think they deserve a readable, friendly textbook. I hope I can deliver one.
I know what courage college requires if your parents weren’t professors, if you didn’t grow up hearing poetry recited at the dinner table, if you didn’t have enrichment programs and tutors and summer Shakespeare camp. But I also know, from many years of teaching writing, and from my own background, that all you really need is someone to help you build confidence, someone who can explain the rules of the game in plain language, someone to believe in you until you can believe in yourself.
If it helps with the fear factor, you should know that you aren’t alone—far from it! There is a whole tidal wave of newcomers and latecomers to college, as traditional working class jobs evaporate and folks have to get educated in a different way, or sometimes have to apply for financial aid and go to college simply because they can’t find any other way to feed their families.
By the time this book is in your hands, you’ve probably managed to survive the gauntlet of placement testing; to fill out a FAFSA online, which for some people means figuring out what the hell “online” even means, and how to get there; to find childcare, secure transportation, and get a nightshift job. Maybe you’ve also gotten that restraining order against the person who said you were too stupid and worthless to go to college. By hook or crook, you’ve psyched yourself up to make it to the New World, despite whatever incredibly difficult combination of #$%@ you had to work through to get this far in your journey. Even though you’re terrified that you’ll fail, you tell yourself that college language is just a variation on the English you already know, a different dialect that you can learn to understand and even imitate, given time—as if you were Irish, immigrating to New York.
When new students finally get to their first college class and start listening to how the teacher talks, though, or trying to interpret the assignments and textbooks bulging in their backpacks, they feel more like they’ve landed in Japan, where there are three alphabets to learn—which might be doable, except that they have a paper due, like next week. In fact, several papers are due next week. In Japanese.
This book is your translation guide.
I am going to help you write those papers.
You can do it.