A Note to the Reader
Literacy is as much ethereal as it is material. That is because reading and writing are acts of knowing that encompass creativity, choice, and self-expression. To understand literacy is to understand cultural-historical reality. Societies, including our own, do not give the gift of literacy to all. As a former literacy worker in the Caribbean, Africa, and in North America, I can attest to the reality of this statement.
For the past 30 years I have written and spoken about the sorrow that is illiteracy. I have also challenged my students to think of literacy and pedagogy in activist terms. Fighting Prosaic Messages gives voice to the millions of poor and working-class Americans, past and present, who struggle to be literate.
I used family literacies to challenge readers to question why so many Americans do not express themselves in reading and in writing. The pattern of literacy across four generations of my relatives has been obstruction. My immigrant grandmother never received fair and just acknowledgment of her literacies from the mill owners she worked for in Lawrence, Massachusetts. My father could read and write yet still failed in school. I turned my back on books until I graduated. Tragically my son’s voice was nearly extinguished in school. The real power of literacy, a way to understand experience, was not given freely to us.
This book is about how we can make the gift of literacy more available to all.
–Henry C. Amoroso, Jr.