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Book Review: Washington Black

Washington Black

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This novel hooked me right away. The riveting, horrific slave narrative set in the mid-1800s on Faith Plantation in Barbados carried me along breathlessly through Part I. Edugyan’s powers of description are sumptuous and surprising, the character of Big Kit powerful and heart-breaking, and the problematic relationship between Wash and Titch both captivating and uncomfortable. As Wash escaped his enslavement and the novel took a turn into magical realism, I remained engrossed, excited to find out where Wash’s adventures would take him and how his complicated relationship with Titch would evolve.

But then, I was unceremoniously dumped into Part II, made to wander aimlessly with Wash to the Arctic and then Nova Scotia, eventually on to London and Morocco, past one red herring too many, characters introduced and then abandoned, and a thin plot forwarded by improbable happenstance and coincidence. And, while there are still moments of gorgeous and revelatory description reminiscent of the lively, detailed passages that propel the plot in Part I, Wash’s story in Parts II-IV is told mostly through plodding exposition–it’s a travelogue really–pushing forward a series of events that, in the end didn’t really seem to add up to much. By the time Wash meets Tanna I had mostly checked out. When we arrived in London in search of Titch I felt a faint hope that the novel would get back on course, but was ultimately disappointed.

This fascinating and magical story began with so much promise, unfolding during the tumultuous end of slavery and the blossoming of science, sending the narrator to strange and exotic locales, and featuring a haunted, brutalized protagonist who against all odds discovers and develops his own genius for art and science. However, in the end, after coasting aimlessly on fumes for several chapters, Washington Black just peters out, like a cloudcutter with a leaky balloon.

So Long, Farewell, Adieu: Leaving the VCCS

March 15, 2016 will be my last day at the System Office of the Virginia Community College System. I am leaving my position as Director of Teaching and Learning Technologies to begin the next stage of my career as the Director of Programs and Policy at Achieving the Dream (ATD).  In my new role I will be overseeing ATD’s new OER Degree Initiative, an effort to fund the […]

Virginia is for Open: OpenEd 2016 in RVA

Last year, Richmond, Virginia was the host city for the 2015 UCI Road World Championships, a weeklong, international bicycle race second in importance only to the better-known Tour de France. It was a great event, with thousands of visitors from all over the globe crowding along the course route to watch the world’s top cyclists zip by. A few months […]

OER Degree Initiative Webinar | March 10 @ 3pm

Happy Open Education Week! There’s a lot happening this week in the world of open education and open educational resources, and it’s happening all over the world, from institutions across North America as well as Europe, Asia, and the global south. You can check out all of the exciting events scheduled for Open Education week on the website: http://www.openeducationweek.org/. I do want […]

A Date with Data: NC-SARA Spring 2016 Reporting Guidelines

If your college is currently a member of the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA), the dates for reporting your Spring 2016 enrollment data are May 9-20, 2016. This means you GCC, JSRCC, LFCC, NRCC, NVCC, TCC, and WCC. “Wait? What data reporting?” you ask. One of the requirements of all institutional members of NC-SARA is to share out-of-state distance […]

Better late than never: Bb (finally) releases new cloud options for Ultra

You might have missed the announcement  from Blackboard a few weeks ago, which was overshadowed by Blackboard’s other announcement.  Two new Software as a Service (SaaS) LMS offerings are finally available, six months after they were promised. The new offerings–Blackboard SaaS Plus and SaaS Advantage–join the already available Saas Standard, released at Blackboard World last July. Here is a description of these new […]

Hot Off the Presses: 2016 Horizon Report

The 2016 Horizon Report for Higher Education was officially released during the annual meeting of the Educause Learning Institute (ELI), which wrapped up yesterday in San Antonio, TX. If you aren’t familiar with  it, the annual Horizon Report for Higher Education, now in its 13th edition, is an ongoing collaborative research project between the New Media Consortium and ELI designed to “identify […]

Report: Textbook Costs and Student Financial Aid

College textbooks cost too much. If you’ve watched the news or read a newspaper in the past few years, you are aware of this. If you are the parent of a college student, or a college student yourself, you, and your wallet, know this firsthand. The soaring cost of college textbooks is well-documented. Since 2006, the prices of college textbooks have increased […]

Excellence in Education Award Finalists

When discussing higher education, there is often a focus on the more serious, systemic problems facing institutions–rising costs, poor outcomes, a stultified academic culture, dwindling public resources–all important topics that need to be addressed–and less attention on the often minute, personal exchanges that make higher education so essential and so powerful: the life-changing impact on thousands of learners fostered by talented and dedicated faculty members. We […]

Many hands make light work: USDOL adopts CC-BY licensing

OER advocates scored a major victory on Monday with the U.S. Department of Labor’s (USDOL) announcement that it has adopted a department-wide Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license requirement for all intellectual property developed with funds under a competitive Federal award process. Requiring a CC BY license on DOL-funded resources has a number of advantages: The DOL increases the impact, reach and scalability of […]

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