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“Professional listener,” “Hire education,” “Ice man,” Songlines,” “New voices,” “Pathways,” “Travel guide,” “Norman Wells”
Re “From Life,” by Deborah T. Levenson (Summer 2013): Thank you for excerpting Levenson’s searing new book on death—and life—among Guatemalan gangs. “I am an oral historian,” she begins unassumingly. In fact, the task and challenge of oral historians is to listen as much as to question, to hold in balance, and often in paradox, both empathy and critical reflection. It means to shine a spotlight on hidden wisdom, privileging people and forms of knowledge considered by many to be base or unsophisticated. And it also means sharing—if briefly and problematically—the everyday trials and occasional triumphs of those most maligned.
These are the qualities that make Levenson not just a brilliant oral historian, but the kind of teacher who inspires her students long after they leave Boston College.
Alejandro Velasco ’00
New York, New York
The author is an assistant professor of Latin American studies at New York University.
Re “New Hire,” by Paul Doherty (Summer 2013): This glimpse of the English department in 1964, with its tweedy pipe-smokers and figures in cassocks, suggests a patriarchal bastion. But I spent that year in an assistantship while beginning my graduate studies, and nowhere in my academic life did I experience more kindness and encouragement of my career. Never a suggestion I should “step aside” or back. This old girl can tell you: Those old boys were fine role models!
Martha McGowan, MA’65
The author is a professor of English, emerita, at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell.
Paul Doherty’s memories brought me back to an extraordinarily rich period in my own life as a new hire, when I was a graduate teaching fellow in Boston College’s English department in the late 1960s.
I have spent my career teaching English and training teachers, looking in vain for the kind of collaboration and collegiality I found at Boston College. How could I know then that I would never again find generous department chairs and colleagues like those in Carney Hall?
Margaret Casey, MA’68
Laguna Niguel, California
Many thanks to Paul Doherty for his elegant and poignant description of the Boston College English department. Paul is one of the finest of John Mahoney’s hires, a free agent who signed with the big club for the huge salary he so well describes, one who stayed with the franchise his entire career and in the process became one of the most accomplished and influential of teachers.
John Tobin ’59
The author is a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.
Re: “Soul on Ice,” by Dave Denison (Summer 2013): James Balog’s admirable love for animals and nature must surely hide a deeper love—his love for God—who created animals and nature. John Muir discovered this too in all his wild travels.
Hugh Maguire ’75
Re “On Arrival,” by Patrick Doyle (Summer 2013): Original, dynamic, and fresh textual selection is one of the hallmarks of Professor Min Song’s English classes. It was in “The Reckless Minority” that I learned about the Korean-American author Theresa Hak Kyung Cha. Dictee, her experimental work on the question of Korean national identity, would later become the subject of my honors thesis, which was advised by Professor Song. It was while working on the honors thesis that I began to formulate the kinds of scholarly questions concerning minority subject formation, national identity, assimilation, and resistance that continue to interest me.
Corinna K. Lee ’03
The author is an assistant professor of English at Marquette University.
I sat in on two undergraduate classes in Asian-American literature taught by Professor Song while I was at Boston College getting my master’s degree in English literature. Min’s teaching, the discussions in his classrooms, and the books that were assigned—Dictee by Theresa Cha, Rolling the R’s by R. Zamora Linmark, Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, and many others—made me realize how transformative the study of literature could be in how we think about the world.
Caroline Yang, MA’01
The author is a visiting fellow at the James Weldon Johnson Institute for the Study of Race and Difference at Emory University.
Re “Chat Lines,” by Jane Whitehead (Summer 2013): As an international student from Nigeria, I had the opportunity, through the Conversation Partners program, to share the rich Nigerian culture and ideologies with other program members, especially my assigned conversation partner and esteemed friend, Emmanuel (Manny) Mohareb, MA’14.
Our common interest in music has brought us closer. We have both realized some great values in each other’s cultures, expressed in our music. It is a joy for me to watch Manny play African folk music, which he learned from me.
Ignatius N. C. Nze, MSW’14, MA’18
My conversation partner and I were both new to Boston, and thus we were able to explore the city together. Even though my partner is very good at speaking English, it has been eye-opening to see how complex American culture is and how difficult it must be to assimilate. From an education in Dunkin Donuts and the Red Sox to learning more about German culture, the program has created a lasting friendship between two people who otherwise would never have met.
Ellen Bakker, MA’14
When I arrived in the United States I wondered, How will I interact with these people? What do they like to talk about and what might be taboo? The Conversation Partners program helped me to answer these and other questions, and it offered me a platform to discuss my passions and learn about those of my partner.
Jean Baptiste Diatta, SJ, Th.M.’13, MA’15
Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts
Thank you for William Bole’s report, “Vocation Summit” (Summer 2013). Based on my experience as a volunteer to the vocation directors in the Diocese of Phoenix and the Archdiocese of Chicago, here are some observations:
• Priests should be encouraged to invite because an invitation by a priest is still a powerful positive influence on young men considering a vocation.
• A regular spiritual program, with other young men as a support group, can greatly help those in discernment.
• Priests and laypeople should be trained to recognize good candidates.
• Applicable websites and literature need to be regularly reviewed and updated with a critical marketing eye.
• Catholic schools at all levels (and Newman Centers at public universities) should encourage vocations with the active participation of priests and religious.
• Promoting a culture of vocations through prayer, adoration, and reminders in parishes helps all religious vocations.
Joe Manfreda ’59
William Bole’s article “Out of Africa” (Summer 2013) was very interesting. The next time Professor John Gallagher takes a group of students to Africa they might all want to first read Into Africa: A Guide to Sub-Saharan Culture and Diversity, which I coauthored with my wife, Phyllis Gestrin, who worked in Africa for some 20 years.
Yale Richmond ’43
I was very sorry to hear of the death of Professor Norman Wells early this year. I took two courses from Norman. The first, in philosophical psychology, was notable if only because Norman would occasionally stand on a chair to make an important point. The second, a course on the history of modern philosophy, involved no stand-up performances. Nonetheless, it has retained its vividness after all these years.
Paul O’Leary ’61
London, Ontario, Canada
The author is an education professor, emeritus, at the University of Western Ontario.
Corrections and Amplifications: In Paul Doherty’s article, “New Hire” (Summer 2013), Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was described as a Methodist minister. He was, in fact, a Baptist minister. In a headline in the Letters column of the Summer 2013 issue, the term casus belli was misspelled. Our thanks to Boston College’s Charles Ahern, associate professor of classics (retired), and to Steven Fachada ’85 for writing.
BCM welcomes letters from readers. Letters may be edited for length and clarity, and must be signed to be published. Our fax number is (617) 552–2441; our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.