Sunday, January 28, 2007

Paper Bag Bookcovers

The sum total of my academic work this weekend was reviewing my flashcards once, deciding that half of them are silly, printing out the stuff for my Skills lab on Monday, and covering my hard-backed textbooks in paper bags, ala eighth grade. By far, the most satisfying was the book covers.

I remembered how to make the little pocket to slide the book's cover into. I was tempted to get out my kid's crayons and draw the names of the courses on the books in bubble letters. And I was quite disappointed when I realized that at least half of my books are soft-backed, and can't be covered in paper bags at all. (or at least, it would be dumb to do so, and probly DEcrease the life of the book.)

One of the reasons I did this is that I had a flashback to the room in the house where I grew up, with at least one whole floor to ceiling book shelf full of my dad's engineering and math textbooks and reference books. I always wondered why he had so many, since I couldn't remember seeing him pull one down and look at it. But as first one, then another professor said during their first lecture that one of the ways to succeed in this program is to buy the books and keep them, I realized that he had them because they were the books of His Field. They represented the choice of careers that he had made (and stuck with - interesting to a thirty-something pursuing her first bachelors' degree). They represented his accomplishments during college. Not insignificantly, they represented a monetary investment. I paid $729 for the books for this term. I've taken 15 hour semesters at the community college, I've had big bills at the bookstore, this was not a total surprise. But the idea that I won't be selling these books back as soon as I walk out of the final exam is a new one. I've always used Pell Grant money to buy books at the bookstore before - and apparently, that's not the way it works here. I got my fin. aid check and then paid out of my checking account for the books. It's the biggest transaction my little debit card has seen in many months. I couldn't help thinking of the sum in terms of months of rent, phone bills, tanks of gas.

But it's really cool to think about beginning to build the collection of books that I'll have in my office one day. They may be completely obsolete in five years. Many of them are full of maddening backwards language and ridiculous doublespeak - referring to people with "yellow skin" in a chapter on cultural sensitivity, using male pronouns throughout with no note at the beginning about why the authors chose exclusive language, including blithering pop-psychology as factual evidence for the importance of non-verbal communication skills. But they are my reference texts. They represent my entrance into a Field of Study. and they remind me of the things that my dad had to give up to earn his college degrees for his chosen profession.