I’d planned to use this post to make a personal announcement, and I will, but first I just could not resist directing your eyes to this article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/17/books/17words.html?_r=1&hp Google is making availalbe this massive searchable database of books — and this has a direct effect on how we (authors, librarians, parents, teachers) need to think about the goals of nonfiction. The line that made my eye’s gleam was, “‘The goal is to give an 8-year-old the ability to browse cultural trends throughout history, as recorded in books,’ said Erez Lieberman Aiden, a junior fellow at the Society of Fellows at Harvard.” It is, and is getting ever easier, for students to ask their own questions and create their own paths to knowledge. So our role must be to serve as models — making clear how we ask questions and go about answering them. Soon enough their homework will send them exploring in this, and doubtless other, massive databases, doing the kind of original research one used to begin in graduate school. But they can only do that in a responsible and thoughtful way if we, in our books, articles, podcasts, Skype and school visits, show how its done.
Now on to how this blog will work for the next few weeks. Due to my indefatigable wife, our whole family is off to India — she has been there many times, indeed was a Fulbright scholar there, but neither the boys nor I have ever gone there. During much of the trip we should have good Internet, so I will turn this blog into a kind of Letter From — passing on what I see and hear that may be of interest to all of you. Given the internet I will surely see articles of interest in US papers — like the Times piece today — and I will do my best to respond to your comments and posts, as usual. But, as you can imagine, I’ll be a bit out of whack in timing, and the rhythm of posts will surely depend on where we are.
Though we had not created the trip for this reason, it turns out that Marina will be in Kolkata just when a new monument (and later museum) is dedicated. This is a site dedicated to the 1.5 million Indians, such as her paternal ancestors, who left to go overseas to work in sugar, rice, and other crops. It is a kind of reverse Ellis Island, marking the point of departure. If any of you have read our book on sugar you know the Indian story plays a part in it, and she is thrilled to be there just as India itself begins to honor and recognize that heritage.
More soon, from the other side of the world.