Editors' Introduction

by Kara Poe Alexander, Brenda Glascott, Tara Lockhart, Juli Parrish, Helen Sandoval & Chris Warnick

The theme of most of the pieces in this issue is how--through writing--we navigate race, space, and time. Through paying attention to instructor positionality and to the frames we use to understand what we are doing--including what we think we are doing, and how we are doing it--these authors provide a clearer view of the contexts and questions we must ask to pursue both deep understanding of our work and linguistic justice. 

In “When Things Collide: Wayfinding in Writers’ Early Career Development,” Carl Whithaus, Jonathan Alexander, and Karen Lunsford argue for new concepts for how we discuss writing. Specifically, they argue for the concept of wayfinding as an alternative to the study of transfer. In wayfinding, the focus moves from a view of what writers reuse and adapt from other rhetorical situations to what writers learn as they move across differing rhetorical situations over the course of a career or life. The authors study seven alumni who majored in writing/writing studies and are now working in careers to consider how wayfinding provides an avenue for mapping the complex and recursive movement of post-collegiate writers as they traverse between collegiate, professional, and personal spheres, spaces, and activities. Their rich interview data chronicles this crucial transition from college to the workforce. They find that alumni encounter the unexpected, navigate career plans and paths, and see beyond the boundaries of writing contexts. In each case, they explain how wayfinding illuminates the complex dynamics that shape writing and meaning-making. Ultimately, the value of this research comes from wayfinding’s ability to frame writing as both craft and vocation and for its key insights into how college writing curricula and instruction can prepare students to negotiate these transitions successfully. 

“Brokering Community-Engaged Writing Pedagogies: Instructors Imagining and Negotiating Race, Space, and Literacy,” by Michael Blancato, Gavin P. Johnson, Beverly J. Moss, and Sara Wilder, examines how instructors teaching a service-learning course on Black literacies at a predominantly white institution approach the communities they work with and the role they and their courses play in these communities. The authors contend that while previous scholarship has examined students’ positionality in community-engaged writing courses, this scholarship “rarely focuses explicitly on how instructors engage race in their course designs or negotiate their own identities and positionalities in their pedagogies.” Based on interviews conducted with seven instructors about “how they negotiated the racialized spaces of the course,” Blancato, Johnson, Moss, and Wilder find that faculty approached class-community interactions in three different ways—immersing the class and its work within the community, holding class on campus and requiring students to conduct community-based research off campus, teaching on campus while asking students to engage with already established community networks on- or off-campus--“that illustrate diverse expressions of community and cultural brokering.” The analysis of instructor positionality offered in “Brokering Community-Engaged Writing Pedagogies” provides a model for how other programs can prepare faculty teaching community literacy courses for “‘brokering’ relationships across boundaries of race, place, and space.”  

The book reviews in this issue are timely and relevant to our current moment–a moment when we, as scholars and teachers of literacy and composition, look toward creating a better future. We challenge ourselves to be better and do better in spaces inside and outside of the academy in order to represent and reflect the beauty and diversity of our world. The reviews highlight current scholarship in a field that is ever-changing.

In their review of Andrea Parmegiani’s monograph Using ESL Students’ First Language to Promote College Success: Sneaking the Mother Tongue Through the Backdoor, Stephanie Rudwick and Sana Jeewa describe the book as a “powerful contribution … to the fields of academic writing studies, translanguaging practices, TESOL, and culturally responsive pedagogy.” Rudwick and Jeewa go on to say that Parmagiani’s work is “hugely inspiring” and “innovative.” 

Next, Thir Budhathoki reviews April Baker-Bell’s Linguistic Justice: Black Language, Literacy, Identity, and Pedagogy, describing it as a book that “pushes the boundaries'' and “defies traditional generic confinements'' of scholarly work. Situating his review of Linguistic Justice within the context of 2020, a year that saw a racial reckoning and the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, Budhathoki provides readers with important context for understanding the significant impact of Baker-Bell’s work. 

Keli Tucker reviews Mara Lee Grayson’s Teaching Racial Literacy, describing it as “a worthwhile resource that goes beyond simple calls to action to offer instructors a comprehensive plan of action.” As Tucker notes, this “plan of action” has the “potential to enact real changes in students’ awareness of the racist structures and systems in which we live.” 

In the final book review for this issue, Edrees (Edd) Nawabi describes Robert Eddy and Amanda Espinosa-Aguilar’s Writing Across Cultures as “the perfect balance between theory and practice,” noting that it offers “just enough theory to qualify the Eddy Model as a pedagogical framework for First-Year Writing.” The Eddy Model, as Nawabi notes, is an “intercultural communication model” that Eddy and Espinosa-Aguilar provide as a “framework for composition instructors.” 

This issue also contains a symposium essay by Harvey J. Graff, “The New Literacy Studies and the Resurgent Literacy Myth,” that critiques “new literacies” and “multiple literacies” as part of what he sees as a resurgent literacy myth and an unyielding autonomous model of literacy. In this piece, Graff discusses the origins of New Literacy Studies, including his contributions to it, and his analysis of current trends. As a reminder to readers, symposium submissions are shorter essays that go through editorial rather than peer review; these essays extend discussions begun in the pages of LiCS or seek to prompt informal exchanges around issues, ideas, and methods of interest to readers of LiCS. Graff’s symposium essay seems poised to prompt a fertile exchange around the origins and direction of literacy studies and emerging epistemic frames. We welcome submissions that respond to this essay.

Kara Poe Alexander, Brenda Glascott, Justin Lewis, Tara Lockhart, Juli Parrish, Helen Sandoval, and Chris Warnick