Posted in Book Reviews, English escapades, teaching

They Both Die At The End

Picture of the book, They Both Die at the End, sittibg on my lap

Book 9 of 2021—don’t judge how far behind my goal I am. Packing and moving killed my reading this spring and summer. It turns out sitting around and reading when there are boxes to pack made me feel like I should have been packing instead… anyway.

On to Book Thoughts:

I enjoyed the read; I read it in about a day and a half. For some reason I’m not mourning the characters as much as I usually do, but I think that might be because either (1) the title mentally prepared me to lose them and / or (2) I didn’t identify with the characters a whole lot. I don’t usually read books with teen male protagonists, but it was really neat to be in their heads. At the end of the book, the author writes an essay addressing some aspects of the book (including criticism over the title), and he reveals how much he identifies with one of the characters. The thought processes are authentic. It’s not someone guessing “if I were a teen boy, how would I feel?”

On that note, I’m basically the same age as the author and he is on his 4th book. Nothing like reading about his book tour in Denmark to make me feel like I’ve accomplished nothing in my life 😅😐

What stands out? Oh my goodness. So much. First, the concept. I wouldn’t put this book in the “dystopian” genre at all. It’s our contemporary world with one simple change: around midnight on the day you die, someone calls you to let you know, so you can make the most of your last (up to) 24hrs on Earth. What would you do with a day if you knew it was your last?

Next, the concept of connection runs deep in this book. If you don’t pick up on subtleties on the first read, definitely read it a second time. Every character, every action, every moment is connected. It’s a good reminder that our actions impact others.

Lastly, what you probably already know is a theme in the book: Don’t take the moments for granted. The moments matter. Our culture robs us of moments. Consumerism, materialism, capitalism: these systems work together to ensure we have the best, the most, the newest, but they also rob us of time. We are all guilty of chasing the money or the promotion or setting aside our family to do the job that will get us the money or the promotion. Why? So we can have the resources to enjoy the moments, later. Always later. Until one day, later is gone.

-CL

Posted in English escapades, teaching, Uncategorized

Summer Reading Series: Shout

Shout, by Laurie Halse Anderson

Whoa. There is a lot to unpack here. I borrowed this book from the library, but I love it so much and plan to use some of the poems in my units next year, so I’m going to have to buy it.

I have a lot to say, but I want to split my thoughts up into sections that make sense because all of my thoughts are jumbled.

Classroom Use/ Library

This book and other books that address abuse, trauma, sexual violence etc. should absolutely sit on our shelves. I’ve written several times in this series of posts that our kids need to have access to books that they can 1.) see themselves in and 2.) see others in. What I love most about this book is that the reader can see what becomes of the survivor. She grows up and becomes an author and tells her story and raises kids and lives her life. Our kids who’ve suffered horrible things need to know that this can be in the cards for them, too.

If you are unfamiliar with the book, it is a memoir in verse<– two things our students probably don’t read enough of, but will fall in love with if they do. Memoir is a powerful genre that our students should be reading and writing in, and verse is an amazing vehicle for it. I find that reading in verse can lower the burden of length for students who don’t view themselves as successful readers. The pages flip faster, and this builds confidence. A student who likes this book might pick up other books from the author.

Personal Reflection

This book was both hard for me to read and too easy for me to understand. It is hard to relive familiar experiences. It’s easy for me to empathize with things I already know too well. I suspect that will be the case for many of my students who pick it up.

I love the complex characterization of her parents. Humanity is complex. We are complex. We forget that about people. I want to explore this more with my students. How can we love someone we know is flawed? What does it mean to love someone? Does it mean we should put ourselves in danger? (no).

In a lot of ways, I feel like she wrote the book I’ve wanted to write about my life. Of course, the books would be different. But she said so much of what I wanted the world to hear. Does that mean that I can breathe deep and move on? Or does the world need all of our stories?

I feel an uncomfortable dichotomy. When people suffer trauma and they don’t recover, others view them as victims, or they view them as weak. After a time, empathy breaks down. (If they ever received it at all, since so many people never report abuse and sexual violence). When people suffer trauma and manage to survive and even thrive, others minimize their pain. It frustrates me to the point of wanting to scream, but that would make me “weak”, so I’ll stick to blogs instead. 

CL

Posted in English escapades, teaching, Uncategorized

Summer Reading Series: Dear Martin

So, as I started reading this one, I didn’t love it initially. I’m a language person, but the language isn’t particularly beautiful. There isn’t a line in this book that rocked me or made me need it as a tattoo. I struggled with the male protagonist because of how he objectifies his female counterparts. In the first 10 pages, it was *almost* enough to turn me off completely.

But then…

I gave it a chance.

  • The male’s thoughts are pretty authentic. Honestly, it’s what I hear come out of the mouths of high school students in the hallway. I wish it weren’t the case, but here I am in 2019 admitting that people actually talk about others that way. If nothing else, it is an entry point for a conversation about how we talk about others. As I read the book, I tracked the character’s evolution not only in his ideas about his identity, but also in the way he related to his girlfriends and spoke/ thought about them. It was refreshing to see him grow in that way.
  • The language isn’t beautiful, but it isn’t bad. There is a LOT that a teacher could use in the classroom from this book.
    • The book is code-switching heaven. For any teacher wanting to focus on dialogue an dialect, this would be a great read. The narration is primarily in standard English, but the dialogue ranges from “teen speak” to various levels of cultural interaction depending on the social context of the scene.
    • The book is a mix of typical narrative writing/ script-style dialogue/ and of course, the letters to MLK Jr. Introducing students to books written in mix-ed genres is always fun, and a great way to cover multiple genres with one text.
    • The situations are realistic. The bring up questions that society and teenagers are asking. What does racism look like today? Who’s fault is it? What is “my” identity? Why does it matter? How does poverty affect my education? Am I a traitor if I…? If I am successful, am I betraying my family, my culture, etc.? There’s a lot of substance here. And it’s worth exploring.

Once I decided to give it a chance, I couldn’t put it down. There were points that it seemed like the protagonist just couldn’t “catch a break”. One might say that is for dramatic effect or to add to the plot, but I know for a fact that life really breaks that way for some people. Some of those people are my own students who just never seem to be able to break the cycle that was started long before they were born.

Here’s to them, and the strength to change what we can.

#bookreview #books #ELAR #English #BlackLivesMatter #WeNeedDiverseBooks #Teachers #Education

-CL