Wednesday, October 28, 2009

On Private Peaceful

Now, I haven't read this novel yet. It's on my list. I have a student, let's call him WarGuy, that I had to take a minute and talk about.

This week is Red Ribbon Week. In honor, and to reinforce awareness in our students, we had a school-wide assembly during 4th period on Monday. I mention this to my students once they get in the door and get settled, and WarGuy, who's reading Private Peaceful says, "We're not reading today?!?"

From many of my students I'd expect that statement to take a "Hooray! We don't have to read." or "Yes, no Super Sucky Reading today" (and yes, I have one that actually says that for SSR on a regular basis. Of course, she won't tell anyone that she secretly reads at home). WarGuy was genuinely upset that he didn't get to read.

To give you an idea about how fast he's devouring this novel--most of my students will take six weeks to read a 200 page novel. That's about six pages every school day. WarGuy, who said when he was transferred into my class that he really doesn't like reading, is over 3/4 of the way done, and I gave him the novel last Wednesday. He comes in every day and offers his commentary on what he read outside of school, then does the same after our daily SSR.

Other members of the class find WarGuy annoying, but I hope they're picking up on how I react to him, pointing out the things he does that good readers do, and offering suggestions.

Needless to say, this semester, I got one.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

On "Summer Wind" by Lee Francis

A little preface for this piece...

It's a reader response to a story from Moccasin Thunder, a collection of American Indian stories. One of the more challenging novels I taught during my student teaching was William Faulkner's A Light in August. I'm actually rather sad that I've managed to lose my annotated copy of this novel. Anyway, one of Faulkner's ways of getting into characters' heads was particularly intriguing to me. That is, he would state what the character was thinking, "and place those thoughts in quotation marks," then tell what the character was thinking ...with subconscious thought in italics. I can't remember whether or not I've employed this particular method in my blog here. If I haven't, it's about time, and if I have, then I'm probably due. My goal was to show the progression of subconscious thought, similar to anyone's the angrier they get.

The actual assignment asked us to rewrite the story in a different point of view, either shifting narrators, type of narrator (e.g. omniscient, limited omniscient, etc.), shifting person (e.g. 1st or 3rd). I chose this character because it's interesting to me to explore one's hatred for another group of people, mainly because it's not something that I comprehend. SO without further ado...

"Summer Wind"

This is totally not where the girl wants to be right now, when all her friends are out cruising and hanging. She's stuck behind that stupid register all day with all those idiot customers who have no idea or respect for how hard it is to work on the front end.

She couldn't believe this one woman the other day. Old lady. Indian. God knows she must be slow. The girl sighs heavily and starts ringing the old woman out. She's there with some boy who the girl thought might be cute if he wasn't so damn dark.

"Twelve dollars and twenty-seven cents." She wonders if her disdain for those natives came out in her voice. When she's tired, things like that are harder to hide.

The girl couldn't believe the audacity of that woman. The girl gave her the total and the woman smiles this saccharine nasty-ass-sweet smile. Damn woman spent five minutes rooting around in her purse trying to find her wallet and the girl's thinking "You best stop grinning at me," …thinking god damn injuns holding up my line, why don't you go back to the reservation we stuck you on…

Then, and then she started counting out all this change. Slowly. Like the molasses the girl's mother talked about when she was late getting out of the bed in the morning. She wanted to say, "Damnit old lady, I know you have some paper in that billfold," thinking "Why couldn't she pay in bills"…thinking the genocide of the Holocaust was wasted on the Jews… But she didn't say any of these things. And then the old woman dropped all the quarters on the floor and had to start over again.

"Could you repeat the total, dear?" Her voice was still sticky.

"Twelve twenty-seven," the girl spat. Literally, though less intentionally than one might believe. She sent a mock-apologetic glance at the people in line behind the old woman who were snickering to themselves at this point. Probably at the retardedness of the lady.

The girl was so angry by the time the old woman got through counting and recounting that when she gave the girl the coins, the girl was so flustered with rage that she dropped them all over everywhere thinking, "Shit,"…thinking I can't believe these goddamn fucking injuns wasted all this fucking time

"I could count it again." The soft voice penetrated the girl's inner monologue. "Just to make sure it's all there."

The girl shook her head. "That won't be necessary."

"Okay, then dear. You have a nice day." The girl turned shades of red as she watched them walk away.

When they're out of earshot, she said, "Damn, injuns" under her breath thinking "Thank god they're gone," …thinking why didn't the white man wipe them all out when they got here? Would have done the entire world a whole lot of good…

Ugh. "Can I help you?"

Saturday, October 17, 2009

In my infinite brilliance...

... I left my copy of House of the Scorpion at school. So I read Am I Blue? last night and started in on Twisted today. But I'm jonesing to find out what's happening to Matt.

Gah. How could I have left it at school...?

As an aside (and I'll really post about it later) but my two favorite stories from Am I Blue? are the title story and the last story "Dancing Backwards." I quoted "Dancing Backwards" twice today.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Educator Appreciation Week

I totally took advantage of Educator Appreciation Week at Barnes & Noble. This week I bought
  • Haunted and Choke by Chuck Palahniuk (Note: This is my second copy of Haunted. This is what I get for lending it to a former student. And I totally didn't realize there was a face on the cover that glows in the dark until I talked to one of the guys at the Barnes & Noble in Albuquerque who said it freaked him out when he was closing one night. He also said that the reason they had to start keeping all the Palahniuk behind the counter was because Palahniuk gives tips on how to steal books.)
  • Blankets by Craig Thompson (Note: Clearly, I have a thing for graphic novels right now. Expensive obsession. But Flight looks really cool. And I want it.)
  • Ball Peen Hammer by Adam Rapp and George O'Connor
  • House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer (Which I'm going to have to loan to an 8th grader who is not one of my students, but maybe I can get his English teacher to help me keep track of him. He's totally excited about it.)
  • Switch Bitch by Roald Dahl (Note: This was for one of my book buddies, who saw it when she was at B&N the other day, surprised that Dahl wrote for adults. For the record, I didn't know that either and Matilda is still my favorite.)
  • Tears of a Tiger by Sharon M. Draper (Note: This is my fourth copy of this book. Kids keep keeping it. If they read it, I guess I can't complain.)
  • Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson (Note: I bought this one because Anderson wrote in her blog about how people in Kentucky and Indiana are going through the process of having the book removed from the school. I like being defiant in this way.)
So far I've finished Ball Peen Hammer and I'm about a third of the way through House of the Scorpion. And yes, I'm still working on the books that currently appear in my Shelfari list. Sooner or later, I'll get to Hunger Games, which I've heard about a few times in NCTE's Text Messages. I seriously considered picking up Paper Towns and replacing my copy of Looking for Alaska, both by John Green, the latter of which I lent to another teacher in my department and he never returned it.

Hi, my name is Eli and I'm a book addict.
Hi, Eli...

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

In honor of Banned Books Week, I thought I'd finally get around to posting about The Golden Compass, which I finished reading a few weeks ago and referenced in my letter to my students last week.

I am one of those people who will turn around and read the exact thing that someone is told not to read just to wave an emphatic pinky finger in their close-minded faces saying, "Ha! I read that and there's absolutely nothing you can do about." Do understand that I am not about putting a novel like Meg Cabot's Queen of Babble in the hands of one of our seventh graders (this was one of the novels pulled from the shelf at my middle school, and justifiably so). There's a difference between censoring because one disagrees with philosophical content and censoring because of the maturity level of the readers.

My motivation for reading The Golden Compass came from the aunt of one of the students at my middle school. She called up his mom and told her to make sure that he didn't read this novel for religious reasons. I wasn't privy to more details of the conversation--I got the story maybe third or fourth hand from our school librarian. But as with any book challenged (or psuedo-challenged) in our library, I had to find out why.

I'm going to go into the religious issues at a later date, but I do want to comment that I can see how some people would have problems with the novel. I can also say that it's one I'd recommend to some of my reluctant readers, especially those who have already seen the movie (which, by the way, has been cleaned up as far as religious content goes).

I felt the movie was good for what it was, and worked for the medium in which it was presented, but as far as story goes, the novel has it, hands down.