Local professors to visit JMRL for college chat

The transition from high school to college can be tricky to navigate. Get a head start at the Professors’ Tips for the College Bound chat at the Gordon Avenue Library on Wednesday, March 11 at 7pm.

During this insightful talk, authors and local professors Dana T. Johnson and Jennifer E. Price will outline some of the important concepts in their book “Will This Be on the Test? What Your Professors Really Want You to Know About Succeeding in College”.

As an experienced college professor, Price said that succeeding in college is more than just being book-smart.

“Over the years, colleagues and I have noticed students coming to college with less knowledge than ever about their professors’ expectations and of college in general,” Price said.

“The educational system in college is very different from that of high school, and most college freshmen expect it to be similar.”

The book focuses on how students can meet their professors’ expectations and how to develop healthy academic habits in college.

Price said only about 60% of students who begin college are expected to graduate within six years, and far fewer will graduate within four years.

“With high price tags on college tuition, room, and board, the cost of a few extra semesters or of beginning a degree with nothing to show for it is unfortunate,” she said.

“Simply understanding what is expected of you and having a plan for how to meet those expectations will greatly increase your chances of success.”

Community college students planning to transfer to a four-year college, current college students, and younger high school students are also invited to attend this chat and utilize the advice.

The Gordon Avenue Library is located at 1500 Gordon Avenue, Charlottesville, Virginia 22903.

For more information, visit jmrl.org.

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“Was Meg self-centered or what?”

mislaidBooks on Tap read Mislaid  by Nell Zink at  Champion Brewery on February 1. In this novel about identity, a young lesbian enters an women’s college in Virginia, marries her male poetry professor with whom she has two children, only to flee with their younger child to pass as black in rural southern Virginia. The family is reunited when the children cross paths at the University of Virginia. Zink uses a satirical, HBO-inspired tone throughout, although one of our readers felt it only developed later in the story. We all agreed that she is a clever writer, although many of the readers missed her literary references. For instance, the specifics of the “theater of the absurd” flew over most of our heads, but the phrase resonates on its own. Frequently, Zink rewards the reader who explores these references. In one case, it led one book group member to Paul Bowles’ Sheltering Sky.  

Peggy, aka Meg, would be the focal point of any movie adaptation. Somehow while raising two small children and later hiding out, she becomes well read. However, she is a terrible playwright (perhaps Zink’s own self-critique). She also sees herself at various points as a failed lesbian and mother. She often doesn’t measure up to the people around her. Their success seems to lie in exploiting others; her success is in the lives she builds.

Her daughter Mireille, aka Karen, is mostly a boring cipher, although the two year discrepancy between her real birthdate and that of her assumed identity muddles perceptions. We decided that the coldness in the relationship with her mother was due to the independence both need to cultivate while in hiding. Her best friend Temple is the most sympathetic, believable character. His struggles as a young black man from an impoverished school system set him up as a foil for Meg’s son Byrdie whose main talent, by virtue of being  raised by his wealthy father’s family, is spending money well. The confidence of all three of the younger characters vary, but none of them is as pre-occupied with identity as their parents.

The group debated the believability of blonde, fair-skinned Meg and Karen passing for black. Would people naturally make that assumption or is Zink exaggerating for satirical effect? One reader wondered if Zink, who didn’t start publishing until her 50s, was inspired by former Spokane NAACP leader Rachel Dolezal . However, Meg and Karen aren’t alone for Lee is also always putting on an act.  We then discussed the fact that the book isn’t really about its much-hyped premise of passing for black, but about race, sexual orientation and class differences.

The ending is incited by a drug bust at the University of Virginia, inspired by the real-life Operation Equinox. Here the tone shifts, becoming, according to some critics, Shakespearean. However, we concurred that the dialogue at end was terrible. This kind of absurdist, antic satire deserves a more unorthodox ending.

Was the novel as a whole satisfying? It provides no firm answers on identity and the ending is too pat. Zink favors social commentary over storytelling, making the book more of an intellectual experiment. Many of the episodes can stand alone as short stories, but we readers never knew where story was heading. However, we all admired Zink’s cleverness.

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Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles

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