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A Morning With Hemingway

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The John F. Kennedy Library at Columbia Point reaches up into the sky of Boston Harbor like a white sail. It sits at land's end, the gray waters of the Atlantic lapping near its foundations. Students are paraded through it to look at the Kennedy hagiography and buy Profiles in Courage in the gift shop, but upstairs is another collection of one of America's great writers. The JFK houses the papers of Ernest Hemingway. This is no place for the casual observer, and it might not occur to the high school teacher that this quiet, less traveled portion of the library is a place where young students are welcome, where experiences that put the lie to the rubble of public education can occur, a place where the promise of literature can be fulfilled.

My advanced placement English class and I met Professor Jim Steinke at the JFK on a winter morning in February. We had been reading Hemingway and looked forward to discussion with a genuine Hemingway scholar, a scholar who talked about reading as conscious observation. I had worked with Steinke during the summer in an institute under the aegis of the Boston Writing Project. The success of his presentation to our institute, which was exploring the relationship between reading and writing, made me pursue this opportunity of meeting with him in the Hemingway room at the JFK.

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