On writing “Community College”
by Tim Bascom.
Creative nonfiction swerves toward introspection. I’m glad this essay focuses outward instead. It’s still a bit of a surprise, since I am inclined the other way. Somehow, though, I kept the lens aimed away and learned in the process that I don’t have to build an essay on self-reference.
At first Newton, Iowa, seemed to me like a perfect picket-fence place. The Maytag family—famous for washing machines—had contributed everything from a spectacular pool to public sculptures, and those window dressings gave the town a sparkle other towns couldn’t afford. However, after I started teaching at the community college, I discovered a hidden subculture. My students struggled with dysfunctional families, chronic illness, jail time, spousal abuse, learning disabilities, psychological illness and—after Maytag laid off 2,000 workers—unemployment. This essay is dedicated to those who showed me the meaning of resilience. In a very real sense, they became my community college.