The People of Paper

Teaching this semester is very rewarding. The students are great and I feel like I've managed to bring things together (intentionally and accidentally) in solid ways. Yesterday's class we finished up The People of Paper by Salvador Plascencia, a meta-fiction type book told from a multitude of characters from Baby Nostradomus to a Mechanical Turtle to Merced de Papel to the author himself as Saturn, who a gang of the characters wage war against. It is really too much to explain here but I chose it because it came on the advice of my good friend Anna-- one of those people in my life who, when they recommend something, I follow.

So yeah, in class: Students were coming to terms with the book, trying to make sense of it. One student straight up asked Why? What were they suppossed to take away from it. I started writing on the board, asking them to answer the question as a group.

1. Structure of the book challenges conventions of a novel, challenges expectations, challenges and includes reader in new ways. Challenges dominant narratives and power structures. Just as we have tried to do with all of the books and the ideas of diversity (the class meets a diversity requirement for graduation, which is why it is capped at 35 students. I have 30 this semester)throughout this semester.

2. Love-story. Universality. Girl leaves guy and he figures out how to deal, how to go on.

Then another student explained how he didn't really like the book, in large part because he resisted the amount of work that he had to do as a reader, putting it all together and playing his own role of sorts. I argued that we always do work as readers-- placing our own experiences alongside the narrative, focusing on the aspects that we understand best... but that he made a good point. He then said that, despite his resistance the book was useful because it challenges and frames all of the books that we read this semester. He said that this book made those better. I took this to mean that the deconstruction of writer and reader and structures and conventions that The People of Paper encourages allowed this student to expand his own understanding.
Kinda hard to retell if you haven't been there all semester. I love it when the students get to the point when they are not only teaching themselves but articulating thier process.


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