I went to a private liberal arts college. My freshman year all students were required to take a course called “Basic Inquiry” which was meant to introduce students to the tools of analysis that were expected.
The first assignment was to read Nadine Gordimer’s novel “Burger’s Daughter.”
As a student I instinctively didn’t like required courses and as a result defaced my copy of the book so that the floating image in the distance on the cover resembled Mr. T.
But I did read it.
I was challenged just to follow the jumps in time and place as well as the literary voice. The class discussion opened different layers of meaning and I ended up being a life-long Gordimer fan – especially when I lived in Israel and encountered unusual racial situations.
This is one of the life lessons that make me a fan of liberal arts and academia in general. I didn’t have entrance into this complex work and needed someone to show me the way. All books may be equal value as paperweights, but some require more interpretive work than others when read.
At the time I read the work I viewed it as a hoop I needed to jump through to get my degree. I now see it as a transformative book that made me realize all learning is valuable.