Here is a brief synopsis of the books I have checked off my list so far in 2011. Here's to sticking to my New Years' resolution. Hopefully you are in need of something to read. . .
1. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson: In my first January book, a father and pastor, knowing he is nearing the end of his life, writes a diary/series of letters to his son who is still a child at the time. This book was slow and very introspective. It takes place in the rural Midwest (always a winner), and John Ames, the main character, shares his candid thoughts and memories both ordinary and divine.
2. Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry: This second January book is similar to Gilead in that it takes place in a small town and has the same slow, introspective pace that the society of the small town has. Jayber Crow is the town barber in a small Kentucky town. This is a beautifully written book. I hadn't read Wendell Berry in a long time and had never read his fiction, but I loved this book. His view of nature and people is fascinating and lovely. This book was my companion over several days of being snowed in this winter, and it was perfect. I highly recommend it.
3. Grant and Sherman: The Friendship that Won the Civil War by Charles Bracelen Flood: I read this because it was a recommendation from my dad from a couple years ago that had been sitting on my shelf. Also we were studying the Civil War, and I thought it would be fun to read this in conjunction with class discussions. This is an interesting book about many of the interesting characters involved in this conflict and the sometimes unlikely leaders at the helm. There were several accounts of interactions with Robert E. Lee and otehr generals as well that made this story fascinating. I read several episodes from the book to my class, and they really liked it--so you know it was good.
4. The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois: This book is a series of essays in which Du Bois explains what life is like "behind the Veil" of race in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His essays on education were fascinating and inspiring. I was enlightened by his explanations of why he disagreed so strongly with Booker T. Washington. This book is really good especially in conjunction with Up from Slavery (see below).
5. True Grit by Charles Portis: This was another recommendation from dear old dad--who never steers me wrong in the literature category. I loved the Coen Brothers adaptation of this book, and after hearing it was very faithful to the novel, I was intrigued. The novel had much of the same tone of the movie. An old western tale of vengeance told by a young girl with a lot of grit. Mattie Ross is a 14 year old girl who enlists the help of the bravest U.S. Marshal she can find and a Texas Ranger to track down and kill Tom Chaney, a horse thief who murdered Mattie's father in Fort Smith Arkansas. This is a quick read and the characters are enchanting.
6. Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington: After reading Du Bois and Frederick Douglass, I figured I would go ahead and round out the round out the late 19th century African American leaders. Born into slavery, Washington describes his rise from the poverty of working in the coal mines and sleeping under the sidewalk to gain an education and eventually become the founder of the Tuskegee Institute and an outspoken proponent for the African American cause. His views on work and education were inspiring, and I was humbled by the meekness that Washington showed even to those who tried to oppress him. He talks at length about the education offered to students at Tuskegee, and one of the things mentioned is that in order for students to learn carpentry and construction, he had all of the buildings on campus and all the furniture made by the students. They even made their own mattress and bricks! The value that he placed on labor is pretty stirring. I highly recommend this book.
Over the course of the next few days, maybe I will get around to supplying you with a few inspiring quotes from a few of these texts.
I was at Barnes and Noble the other evening as was horrified/appalled to find this new section/genre of books. Yes, due north of "New Teen Fantasy and Adventure" is "New Teen Paranormal Romance." Seriously? This is a genre. The fact that there are enough books out there to fill a shelf entitled "Paranormal Romance" is one thing, but the fact that these are marketed for teens in a whole other issue--and a ghastly one at that. I don't even want to think about what Charlotte Mason would have to say about these twaddly texts. The teacher in me wanted to destroy those book and fill the empty shelves with Barnes and Noble Classics, but I remained composed enough to leave without making a scene. But seriously? New Teen Paranormal Romance? Seriously?
"Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It's splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world."--Anne of Green Gables
The seventh grade girls are reading Anne of Green Gables in their Friday afternoon tea and have graciously invited me to join them over the past few weeks. I feel like I have been re-introduced to an old friend from my childhood. I read many of L. M. Montgomery's books and watched the TV miniseries, Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea, more times than was probably healthy. When Anne of Green Gables aired on PBS a few weeks ago, I made it my grading movie for the weekend and cherished every minute.
Over the course of being reacquainted with this wonderful literary character, I was reminded of many childhood memories. Anne is a very romantic and imaginative young woman. Her passion allows her to feel deeply and form intimate, lifelong friendships with "kindred spirits." It was so fun to talk about these passages/ideas with the seventh grade girls as they are just beginning to build those friendships. As a kid, I remember having a deep sense for what a "kindred spirit" was, and that is a person with whom you share a deep connection so much so that there are times when you do not see to say or explain anything at all. I am so thankful that God has provided me with several kindred spirits throughout my life, and I am even more thankful that I can still call them my kindred spirits today. If you have not read or watched these precious books/movies in the recent past and want to remember the innocent angst of adolescence, then I highly recommend an afternoon with a kindred spirit and Anne Shirley.
One male student when learning about the expansion of voting rights in the late 1800s: "Could women dress up as men to vote? I would have done that if I was a lady." - I don't know why that was so hilarious to me, but it was. And I appreciate his shout out to the ladies.
When asked why she did not complete her homework for my class, one student replied, "I did everyone else's; I just didn't do yours." - As if that was supposed to make me feel better. That one is really more sad than funny, but oh well.
I was preparing the seventh graders for their upcoming Texas history trip when one student exclaimed in horror, "Wait! We have to learn?!" - As if that was the most painful thing in the world. I could not contain my laughter on that one.
Me, stopping an altercation on the rise: "What is going on?" Student A replies, "I just told him I loved him like a brother in Christ." Student B in the most sincerest manner an middle school boy can muster, "Can I please move seats?"
Bonus on Civil War history test: What was the name of Robert E. Lee's horse? One choice answer I got: Seabiscuit Correct answer: Traveler - I console myself by being reminded that this was only a bonus ans at least it was the name of a real horse.
(My apologies for the long absence from the cyber world. I shall try in the future to make my posts more regular. ;)