Often, when we’re weighed down with work and responsibilities, it can feel hard to be curious about the world around us. We may not readily conjure the same natural curiosity we had when we were kids and spent much of our time asking questions and learning about how things worked.
Cultivating this mentality in our adult lives requires thinking about what makes us want to learn in the first place. Curiosity is, very simply, a desire to know more about things. There are two forms of curiosity: a specific curiosity, which focuses on a particular topic, and a general curiosity, which is the desire to learn about everything.
There certainly are some people who have a deep natural desire to know a lot about a variety of topics. I call these people expert generalists. They have two psychological traits that drive this desire to learn: They are high on the personality trait of openness to experience—meaning that they find new ideas appealing. They are also high on the trait of need for cognition—so they like to think about things. This combination means that when they are introduced to a new topic, they are driven to think a lot about it.
Everyone is saying it: 2021 was the year for African literature. Writers from the continent scooped the Nobel, Booker, Goncourt and Camões prizes. And these honors — arguably the highest-sheen literary awards in the world — do not make up even half the list. The Neustadt, or “American Nobel,” and International Booker Prizes went to Senegalese writers, and the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade to a Zimbabwean one.
In light of this sweep, it’s fair to ask what the African books and writers feted last year by Western nations have in common. The best answer is simple: very little. The novels honored last year run a very wide gamut, of genre and style and political outlook, as well as more obvious things like nation, race and ethnicity.
That’s a good thing. While Africans don’t need to be told that no one person or book can represent a huge, culturally and linguistically diverse continent, readers from Western countries have been slow to grasp that fact. The sheer diversity of last year’s winners — from Damon Galgut’s Booker Prize-winning South African farm novel “The Promise” to the Nobel laureate Abdulrazak Gurnah’s subtle examinations of emigrant Zanzibari life — puts the point beyond any doubt.
“Let’s be reasonable and add an eighth day to the week that is devoted exclusively to reading.” – Lena Dunham
Back by Popular Demand! Join Us!
Middle and high school ELA teachers, school librarians, literacy coaches, reading specialists, and intervention teachers.
Are you trying to meet the varied reading needs of the students in your class? To invite new perspectives into your discussions? To help students grapple with today’s tough topics? To find ways to partner with a school or local librarian? Young Adult Literature can be a powerful force for doing all this and more.
This six session series is your chance to dive into the What, Why, and How with the latest young adult texts. What books are new and flying off the shelves? Why is representation important in the texts we offer students? And How–how do we navigate the many instructional decisions involved in offering great book choices to our students?