Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Support independent student journalism. Support independent student journalism. Support independent student journalism.
The Dartmouth
April 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Garrod edits book of black narratives

Education Professor Andrew Garrod will release his third book next week, a collection of 16 autobiographical narratives written by African-American, Afro-Caribbean and biracial students from Dartmouth, Simmons College, and McGill University.

The essays in "Souls Looking Back: Life Stories of Growing Up Black" focus on such themes as social class, race, identity and resistance to cultural pressures throughout the students' lives. Fourteen of the 16 narratives in the book are by Dartmouth students.

The book represents a broad range of social classes, from people who are second-generation Dartmouth students to those who struggled to overcome numerous obstacles in order to obtain a college education, Garrod said.

One writer describes living with a mother who worked as a prostitute to support her crack addiction, and another essay concerns a father imprisoned for most of the writer's life.

Garrod said the identity theme includes such issues as race, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

One essay in the book was written by a gay African-American man. "His sexual orientation was much more significant for him than just being black," Garrod said.

Garrod, who is white, collaborated with three other college professors, one white man and two African-American women, to collect the narratives from students.

At the College, he worked with nearly 50 students as part of an independent study for which he gave academic credit. Each essay emerged "bit by bit" over a period of five years, at a rate of about five pages per week, Garrod said.

Garrod either approached particular students to do the independent study, or he was approached by students interested in the project.

"I'm looking for at least moderately good writers who are reflective and interpretive, who can look inside themselves and interpret what they see and comment on it, and can evaluate the understandings that they had of themselves at different periods of their lives," Garrod said. "I'm looking for bravery, for someone who can write honestly and fearlessly about an experience."

In the end, some students were more interested in the experience of writing about their lives and did not wish to be published.

"Souls Looking Back" is the third collection of student narratives that Garrod has edited.

"First Person, First Peoples," accounts of Native American students at the College, is used as a course book at Stanford University and in Dartmouth's Education 20: Educational Issues in Contemporary Society.

"Adolescent Portraits," first published in 1992, is also used at the College in Education 55: Adolescent Development, and at approximately 130 universities in the United States, Garrod said.

He said the books come from slightly more than 10 years of collecting stories from students.

Garrod said he hopes the new book will also be used in college courses that focus on race, ethnicity or psychology. He said he sees the narrative form, which is becoming a popular teaching tool in anthropology, psychology and sociology, as a means of understanding issues of development.

Currently in the works are two more books of autobiographical essays edited by Garrod. "Crossing Customs: International Students Write on U.S. College Life and Culture" will feature narratives written by international students at the College. Another book will focus on the life stories of students with learning disabilities.

Garrod said he feels drawn to minority experiences because he considers himself to be in a minority also. He is a Canadian citizen with British heritage who was born in India.

"I'm an outsider," he said.

Garrod is also interested in the adolescent experience. He said he considers the college years to still be part of adolescence, and many students arrive at college unprepared for the dislocation from their former lives.

"I'm interested in coping mechanisms," he said.

Commenting on current race relations at the College, Garrod said while there is not the equivalent of the attacks on the shanties erected to protest Apartheid in the 1980s, there are not nearly enough African-American faculty or administrators at the College.

"There is still some work to be done on race relations on campus," he said.

Garrod said he believes that "Souls Looking Back" can only enhance understanding among students.

"My belief is that if you read these stories carefully you will have nothing but respect for the tenacity of these people," he said.