Dialogue on Writing: Rethinking ESL, Basic Writing, and First-Year Composition

By Geraldine Deluca; Len Fox et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 13
Writing Alive
Ellie Friedland

Ellie Friedland is an Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education at Wheelock College in Boston. Her AIDS-focused poetry has been published in Haiku International,Five Lines Down,Tanka Splendor, and in Wind Five Folded, an anthology of English-Language Tanka. In 2000 she coproduced the original AIDS play “Trust, ” which she cowrote with members of her HIV/AIDS writing workshop.

“I got released from the hospital and came straight here for class. ” Mark Riordan was saying this as we met outside the doors of the Boston Living Center, where I hold a weekly writing workshop for people with HIV and AIDS. His head was wrapped in a kerchief, and under it he was clearly bald, which was new. He looked thinner, and more tired, than he had two weeks ago when I last saw him. He had been in the hospital having a “port” put into his head for chemotherapy and had begun the chemo. Now he was standing here with me, waiting for writing class.

Why did Mark Riordan come to class directly from the hospital instead of going home to rest? Why, when he feels sick or when he's taking care of his even sicker partner, does Mark Balicki choose his support group and writing class as the only two things he leaves the house to do? Why does John Davis take the train to Boston for writing class from Providence, Rhode Island, every week? Why does Jim Souci come to class when his meds are making him nauseous and weak? Why does Charlotte Johnson come to my workshop and the Living Center's poetry/drawing class every week, even when she has to juggle doctor's appointments, caring for her kids, and earning a living; and why do I drive an hour into Boston in the middle of the workweek to meet with these people, never sure how many will be there, when I don't even get money to cover parking?

When I tell people, especially colleagues in academia, that I lead a writing group for people with HIV and AIDS, they express admiration. They seem impressed that I'm doing “service” and that I'm willing to work with such a difficult, depressing topic. My guess is that they are responding from two assumptions: one, they assume AIDS is not in my life in other ways; and

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