This semester, one of the courses I am teaching at Marianopolis College here in Montreal is Intro. to College English. Just as class was ending this week, I asked my students: "Do you think we can learn from other people's stories?"
We've already read two stories together: the famous fairy tale "The Story of the Three Little Pigs," and Sandra Cisneros's short story "One Holy Night." In "The Story of the Three Little Pigs," the first two pigs are eaten by the big bad wolf -- all because they didn't use the right materials to build their houses. The third pig is smarter. He learns from the first two pigs' mistakes, and makes his house from bricks.
In "One Holy Night," the narrator falls in love with a man who turns out to be ... well ... a murderer. But we understand, too, why the narrator fell for this guy -- as Cisneros writes, the narrator longed to be loved "like a revolution. Like a religion."
Sometimes, I think we learn best from OUR OWN mistakes. Of course, that method involves a lot of work and sometimes also heartbreak.
But you know what my students answered when I asked, "Do you think we can learn from other people's stories?"
They all called out, "YES!!"
Which made me very happy -- both as a teacher and a writer. And as I told my class, "That's why I read. To learn from stories!"
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