Posted in Book Review, Life, Literature

Books That Promote Thought

Small Great Things by Jodi Piccoult is more than just another well-written court story. It’s a book carefully woven to leave questions in the reader’s mind. The basic plotline involves an African-American woman on trial after a white baby dies. The baby’s parents were leaders of the Pro-White Movement, which I didn’t even know still existed until this book. Reading this book sent me on an emotional roller coaster of disgust, anger, sadness, and elation mixed healthily with a lot of questions. Rather than spoiling the plot of the book, I’d like to take you through some of the questions in my mind.

Firstly I learned in this book that there is a Pro-White movement. The character claimed that Whites could become the majority. I’ll admit that at times I have questioned why there aren’t White History months or White Student Unions but never to the point that I would actually want those things established. I recognize that in this country and in most of the world, being born with Caucasion skin color puts you a little ahead in the game. I also recognize the injustice others may experience because of their skin color. I would rather appreciate my gifts rather than harbor resentment over a lack of White recognition.

But did you ever think our misfortune is directly related to your good fortune? Maybe the house your parents bought was on the market because the sellers didn’t want my mama in the neighborhood. Maybe the good grades that eventually led you to law school were possible because your mama didn’t have to work eighteen hours a day, and was there to read to you at night, or make sure you did your homework. How often do you remind yourself how lucky you are that you own your house, because you were able to build up equity through generations in a way families of color can’t? How often do you open your mouth at work and think how awesome it is that no one’s thinking you’re speaking for everyone with the same skin color you have? How hard is it for you to find a greeting card for your baby’s birthday with a picture of a child that has the same color skin as her? How many times have you seen a painting of Jesus that looks like you?” She stops, breathing heavily, her cheeks flushed. “Prejudice goes both ways, you know. There are people who suffer from it, and there are people who profit from it. Who died and made you Robin Hood? Who said I ever needed saving? Here you are on your high horse, telling me I screwed up this case that you worked so hard on; patting yourself on the back for being an advocate for a poor, struggling black woman like me…but you’re part of the reason I was down on the ground to begin with.” from Small Great Things

While knowing that my skin color gives me certain advantages is good, it still doesn’t answer what I do about those advantages. I wouldn’t ask for those to be taken away, and simply being thankful for the advantages doesn’t seem to solve the racial injustices. I don’t want to move to the point of feeling guilty for my position of birth, but I also don’t want to lord it over others. I also know that I can’t fix all of the problems by myself.

When it comes to social justice, the role of the white ally is not to be a savior or a fixer. Instead, the role of the ally is to find other white people and talk to make them see that many of the benefits they’ve enjoyed in life are direct results of the fact that someone else did not have the same benefits. From the author’s note.

Then I am moved to ask what I do about the direct racism in the world around me. While I don’t think I consciously treat anyone differently, blatant racism does occur. It would be easy to say that minorities are just making a big deal out of things that aren’t big deals, but I’ve never been followed in a store or told that I couldn’t achieve great things simply because of my race. I don’t know what that feels like, so maybe those seemingly little incidents are important because they add up in the life of a minority person. I also recognize that I can’t stop all of the racism in the world because I don’t cause it all. All I can do is watch my actions and thoughts very carefully to ensure that I don’t perpetuate the problem. In addition, I can teach my students and those around me to see people the way that God sees people. What God sees is a person’s heart, not their skin color. What matters to God is if they are following Him.

“Out of all the people who interacted with Davis Bauer at Mercy–West Haven Hospital during his short life, only one of them is sitting in this courtroom at the defense table: Ruth Jefferson. Only one person is being charged with a crime: Ruth Jefferson. I spent an entire trial skirting a very important question: Why? “Ruth is black,” I say flatly. From Small Great Things

Finally the court case in the book brought up the point of indirect racism. This happens when the question of race is ignored in a situation. I don’t think I intentionally treat anyone any differently simply because of the color of their skin, but I may unintentionally perpetuate the problem by ignoring that racism happens. I teach at a school with a very diverse racial population and a mostly homogeneous racial teaching staff. One of the questions on my application was “what do you think about race?” I think, as a 24-year-old, I answered something along the lines of saying that race didn’t matter to me because God loves everyone. While that is all good and well, ignoring racism in the world doesn’t help my students learn how to handle it whether they or someone else is being discriminated against.

I mean equity. Equality is treating everyone the same. But equity is taking differences into account, so everyone has a chance to succeed.” I look at her. “The first one sounds fair. The second one is fair. It’s equal to give a printed test to two kids. But if one’s blind and one’s sighted, that’s not true. You ought to give one a Braille test and one a printed test, which both cover the same material. From Small Great ThingsThis means I carefully choose the literature we read in order to bring up these questions of race and the general treatment of people. It means I don’t allow discriminatory talk of any kind to happen in my classroom. It also means that if a student accuses me of acting in a racist way, whether he is right or wrong about my intentions, I examine my actions to ensure that it wasn’t unintentional racism. It means that I teach my students to look for the similarities between us all as humans rather than seeing the differences while also celebrating the variety of cultures. Finally it means that I teach my students and those around me to love as God loves by demonstrating that love and humility in my actions.

While it may be a moot point now, I encourage others to read Piccoult’s Small Great Things. There is a little bit of language to represent the cultures in which the characters live, but overall wholesome thinking is applauded. The book provokes thought, creates complex plot, and develops characters at just the right pace. She really looks at the question of racism from every angle, and I haven’t really even begun to do this conversation justice. That’s what this book is: a conversation about race. So go read, then come back and converse with me.

Posted in A Letter, Book Review, Class, Literature

Dear me,

One beauty of summer break is having time to read an entire book in one sitting. I know it’s only June, but I’m already looking forward to next school year. One of my favorite writing projects of the year is the letter to your future self. At the start of the year I ask the students to write a minimum of five paragraphs in letter form. I give them a topic for each paragraph and review letter form. It’s a simple assignment with the purpose of reflection and to give me an idea of their writing abilities and style. It also serves as a great back up writing assignment for when students inevitably enter the school at the tail end of a larger writing project later in the year. I grade this assignment for completion, checking that they’ve addressed each part of the letter and followed letter format. Then we put the letters in an envelope and hide them away in the cabinet.

Watching the students read their letters, along with a letter I wrote to each of them, at the end of last year was sweet and funny. Some were pleasantly surprised to see they’d accomplished goals such as making honor roll or passing all of their classes. Some chuckled as they read their adorations of some guy or girl who wasn’t so important to their lives at the close of the year.

Even though I’d planned to do this writing assignment again, reading Dear Me sparked an idea to make this project more reflective. Dear Me by Warren Hanson is a 77-page series of letters between a young person and the older version of that person. The young person wonders about her future, while the older person gives general advice about how to live. It was quick read that left me thinking about reflection. After the students receive their letters back at the end of the year, an end of the year assignment should be to reflect upon this letter and respond with a Dear Younger Me letter. This could also be worked into a class wide letter to the upcoming sophomores.

I just love when my casual reading connects to my teaching life. Now I’m off to write my Letter to My Future Self and my Dear Younger Me letter for this point in my life. And of course I need to listen to Matthew West’s song of that title.

Posted in Book Review, Literature

Rory Gilmore’s Reading Challenge

If you know me, you know I have a bit of a liking for Gilmore Girls. I’ve watched the entire series straight through twice in the past 1.5 years. I even attempted to dress up as Paris Geller when she’s first accepted to the Yale Daily News.

(Thanks to Clare Lutz for the picture on the right. The hat is off of Martha Stewart, just like in the show.)

Now that I’ve divulged that little tidbit, you will understand how excited I was to find a list of books that Rory Gilmore either read or quoted from on the show. I knew Rory loved books since she makes beautiful references to the world of literature in her graduation speech, but I didn’t expect so many. There were 339 books read or mentioned by Rory Gilmore on the show. Thanks to Patrick Lenton for compiling the list and to Buzzfeed for posting it.

Of course my next step was to determine how many books from the list I have already read. Sadly, I’ve only read a measly little 72 off the 339 books. I’ve got to get reading! My only consolation is that I could give Rory Gilmore some books that needed to be added to her list of books.

For your reading pleasure, I’m going to make a list of books that I think Rory Gilmore needs to add to her reading list if she hasn’t already read them.

1-7. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

8. The Bible (all 66 of those) by God

9. Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

10. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

11. A Parchment of Leaves by Silas House

12. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

13. She should probably finish the Harry Potter series. No use leaving it unfinished.

14. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

15. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

16. The Giver by Lois Lowry

17. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

18. Animal Farm by George Orwell

19. Little House on the Prarie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Maybe I just have fond memories of these growing up.)

20. So Yesterday by Scott Westerfield (probably came out after the show ended.)

 

I’m sure I could keep listing books, especially if I could see my bookshelf, but I will end with 20 books. This is not to say that Rory’s list isn’t good; I just think she’s lacking.

Happy Reading!

To see her list go to: http://www.buzzfeed.com/krystieyandoli/all-339-books-referenced-in-gilmore-girls#.cyWXvyyw

 

Posted in Blogging for Books, Literature

Blogging for Books: Just My Typo

Oh this book! It’s a great book for this moment in my life when I do not have the time to sit down and read an entire book that is not related to my current schooling. As an English education major, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about some of the typos made in life. The book is cleverly arranged into chapters. The author also uses different fonts and pictures to make it a fast read. 

This book is perfect for filling a few minutes of your time or for reading straight through. It made me chuckle on numerous occasions. I’d keep this book on my coffee table (if I had one) just to bide awkward time when guests are waiting on dinner. For now though I’ll keep it on my desk for when work gets overwhelming and just need a chuckle. Who knows, maybe soon I’ll have graded enough papers to add a few typos of my own.

Just My Typo  Compiled by Drummond Moir.

http://www.randomhouse.com/book/226971/just-my-typo-by-drummond-moir

“I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.”

Posted in Education, Literature

Heroes

So I have finished four days with my students and five days of student teaching placement. It’s been a marathon. We started the year running. I say that because I feel like we’ve covered so much material. I’ve even gotten to teach some already. I am going to be able to learn a lot from this teacher. It’s going to be a busy but fun semester. If only there wasn’t florescent lighting in the classroom. It hurts my eyes.

Today we were starting Beowulf and discussing heroes. The journal questions were “what is a hero?” and “who is your hero?” Good questions. Most of the students answered “brave” or “selfless” for the first question, and parents were popular answers for the second question. Not everyone had a hero.

The varied answers made me think about the ideas of heroes in our society today. In epic poem time, heroes were immortalized in poems such as Beowulf. These were usually ordinary men with extraordinary strength and courage. Their strength was admirable and achievable if one worked hard. Today though, our heroes are either ordinary people who care for us, such as family, famous people, such as Abraham Lincoln, or fictional characters, such as Superman. The discussion made me think about how we view heroes today compared to how heroes were viewed in Anglo-Saxon culture. It seems to me that we heroize people too quickly. We have lost the grandness of a hero by making heroes of ordinary people who haven’t showed bravery. Can someone really be a hero anymore? Maybe though, my thinking is biased by the heroic acts produced in Hollywood. The heroism depicted on the big screens is enhanced by special effects and careful writing so that it becomes almost impossible to replicate. The acts done by ordinary people, such as mothers and fathers, seem ordinary compared to the mothers and fathers in movies.

So I’m conflicted still on this topic of heroes. What do you think? What is a hero? Who is your hero? Can we even still have heroes today?

I’ll leave you with those questions. I need to get some shut eye so I’m prepared to interact with the students tomorrow.

Posted in Blogging for Books, Literature

Blogging for Books: Jesus the Bridegroom

This is a review of Jesus the Bridegroom by Brant Pitre for bloggingforbooks.org.

 

This book was interesting and stayed focused on a specific topic. The writing quality was easy enough for a layperson to understand but informative enough for a pastor to use for research. It was written in an informal academic style, citing sources appropriately but also writing in a clear fashion. Please don’t be mislead by the academic looking cover; anyone can read this book.

The idea of Jesus as the bridegroom was not a new idea to me since I have read the Bible, but this book opened my eyes to scriptures that support this idea. The author illuminates certain passages, such as Mary and Jesus at the wedding feast, with Jewish history and culture in order to prove his point. The text is well supported with scriptural evidence.

When ordering this book, I knew it was advertised in the Christianity-Catholic section, but I did not expect to see so many Catholic references. There are some sections where priests and bits from the Catholic Bible are quoted. Even though there were more than I expected, Pitre still convinced me of his point with the texts that are included in the Protestant Bible as well. Any Christian- Protestant or Catholic- could read and understand Pitre’s argument.

 

 

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Posted in Blogging for Books, Literature

Blogging For Books Review: Spoken For

Recently I signed up for bloggingforbooks.org. This is a service provided by The Crown Publishing Group. I receive a free book in exchange for posting a review about this book. It’s a pretty good deal for a girl who loves to read and already keeps a blog. The first book I chose was Spoken For by Robin Jones Gunn and Alyssa Joy Bethke. Here’s my review.

                                                             9781601425973

I chose this book because my women’s Bible study group plans to use it next semester and I wanted to get a head start on the reading. I had watched Alyssa’s video prior to reading the book so I knew what she would talk about in the book. I was expecting another book about how I am loved by God and I don’t need a relationship to define my life. The book did cover those topics, but it also brought out so much more. 

This book came to me at a perfect time. My relationship with a guy had just ended and I was feeling a bit sad about that. While I did not expect this book to tell me anything more than I already knew about God, this book was able to provide some healing. It reminded me of the promises God has made to and about me. My favorite page was the list of things that God says about me backed up with scripture. If you’re in that in-between stage of dating, haven’t started dating, or wanting to pursue a Godly relationship, this book will help remind you of God’s message to you. Through touching stories straight from Robin and Alyssa’s lives and scripture, these two authors are able to speak to girls and women across a broad spectrum of ages.

There are reflection questions at the end of each chapter. I found these to be somewhat forced to try to answer on my own so I tended to ignore them, but I think they will be great to discuss in our Bible study group next semester. This book is useful for individual reading or for a group discussion. The chapters are short, which is idea for today’s busy life style. I would compare the message to the message given by Stasi Eldredge in Captivating (which I should say has influenced me greatly). 

Overall, I would give this book an A grade for its ability to capture an audience (I read it in one night), suitability for various types of readers, and wonderful story telling.

 

To read the first chapter: click here.  [http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/SneakPeek_SpokenFor.pdf]

To order the book from the publisher: click here. [http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/catalog.php?work=235448&isbn=9781601425973]