In the final essay for WR 100: “Reading Disaster: #FergusonSyllabus,” students were asked to use a problem or question from Ta-Nehisi Coates’s challenging new book, Between the World and Me, as their motivation for a conversation across multiple exhibit and argument sources. Here, Ria examines contemporary media depictions of black life (and death) alongside Coates’s difficult advice to his teenaged son to embrace the struggle that he sees as the lot of black Americans. She finds that these depictions often fail to acknowledge struggle, a narrative that might serve to humanize such victims of systemic racism as Trayvon Martin and Oscar Grant. This alone would be a worthwhile exercise, but Ria takes her argument further by considering how other texts we read or watched during the semester present a more honest view of “black experience that is free of selective historical amnesia.” While Bill O’Reilly might be an easy target in such a conversation, Ria displays a fundamental respect for all her sources. She is a complex thinker and a beautiful prose stylist, grappling with nuance, while remaining attentive to the sonic and rhythmic possibilities of syntax and diction.

WR 100: Reading Disaster