The book, I’m an English Major—Now What? was written by Tim Lemire with the expressed intention of helping English majors understand the world awaiting them post-graduation. It also enumerates and de-mystifies many of the positions that may be available to them at that time. Post-graduation, the English major has many more options than he or she realizes, but not every job is suitable for every person. On the opposing side, what can also be the case is that English majors assign too much importance to their degrees, claiming that a degree in English can get them anywhere. Lemire defeats the latter while developing the former throughout his book. He does this by giving his audience a unique, and sometimes harsh look into the types of people who make good teachers, journalists, free-lance writers, novelists, and corporate authors through interviewing people in each field and providing personal examples from his own life.
As an English major who has worked in most of these fields at one time or another himself, his personal accounts bear weight and make his explanations believable. By the last chapter, his discoveries and his experiences all culminate into his own hypothesis: the university or college setting should be Platonic. That is to say that the knowledge gained from the college setting should be more diverse than it currently is because, Lemire claims, there is a discrepancy between what the English major prepares students to do and what students end up doing with their degrees.
The purpose of this book then, is two-fold: first, it exists to prepare English students for the professional world, and second, it posits an argument that the English—and I add to that the subheading “Literature”—degree track is not diverse enough. As an English major with a concentration in Rhetoric in Composition, I found that my particular experience was more complete than the education to which he stands opposed.
Among the ten chapters and sixteen job titles explained I found myself most drawn to the chapters about teaching and free-lance writing. The latter, I enjoyed for its helpful tips about where to start while the first was useful for its realism. Teaching appeared under the chapter title: “Perchance to Teach”, a very fitting title for the section as it denotes the type of thinking that English majors have when approaching teaching. This approach is often the result of the following question: “Oh, an English major—planning on teaching, are you?” (12). But the decision of becoming a teacher is not one that should be made lightly. I found this particular chapter to be illuminating because of how it throws ice water to the face: studying is not the same as teaching, and teaching is not for anyone but the passionate. Both chapters also stand as examples of how Lemire’s book serves well as a “crash course” on the realities that an English major faces post-graduation while offering suggestions to shorten the gap between what is taught in college and what is useful.
Lemire, Tim. I’m an English Major–now What?: How English Majors Can Find Happiness, Success, and a Real Job. Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest, 2006. Print.