Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Literary Characters I'd Name My Children After

1.  Anne
This one ties into two of my favorites: Anne of Green Gables, and author Anne Lamott. Definitely, Anne with an e. I owe my overactive imagination and eternal hopefulness to Anne Shirley.

2. Zora
This is in reference to the amazing Florida writer, Zora Neal Hurston. Somehow I’d managed to slide through college without reading anything by this woman, but I read Their Eyes Were Watching God once I realized that I would get to teach it.

3. Matilda
I love Matilda, by Roald Dahl. He writes quirky childrens’ books. I love the quote in this book: “These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.” 

4.  Hero
from Much Ado about Nothing.  As far as characters and personality go, I’m much fonder of her cousin, Beatrice, but I love Hero’s name. A little unusual, with a cool story behind it.

5.  Sylvia
I am a big fan of Sylvia Plath. #angstfordays.

6. Hope
I loved Hope Was Here, by Joan Bauer. It's c
lassic young adult fiction, but it shaped a lot of how I see the world. I love the idea that all you need to bring to a new place is a dictionary and a thesaurus.

7.  Theodore
Teddy for short. Because I always have, and always will, love Little Women with my whole heart.  Side note: Teddy and Jo should have ended up together. They just should have….

8.  Atticus
Only as a middle name (I’d rather my child not be punched), but this one’s complicated. I have a deep and abiding love for To Kill a Mockingbird, but feel very conflicted about this character since reading Go Set a Watchman. So, my love for this character is based only on TKaM.

9. Gatsby
Once again, only as a middle name. Guys’ names are hard. They’re just not as pretty or original.. But I was majorly obsessed with The Great Gatsby. Usually when I teach a novel, I get so sick of it by the end. This happened with The Count of Monte Cristo and Invisible Man. However, rereading The Great Gatsby only made me love it more.

10. Jonathan
I’m a big fan of author Jonathan Safran Foer, who wrote Eating Animals and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I love the way he uses language, and his books are one of only a handful that made me ugly-cry.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Books I Can't Believe I've Never Read

AKA- The Guilt List
AKA- I’m a Bad English Major #shame #angst #arghhhh

1. Anna Karenina
In all fairness, I’m pretty sure a lot of the people who claim to have read this book haven’t. It’s very long… I gave it a good effort, but I only got halfway through. I wanted to punch Kitty for being so darn innocent and self-sacrificing. I also know a lot more about grain production and harvesting than I did before.

2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
I bought this book, and struggled through the first chapter or so. It seemed very bleak, which usually isn’t a deal breaker for me. I did watch the movie though. (God, I sound like a high school student). That movie needs a trigger warning. Just saying…

3. Teaching to Transgress: Education as a Function of Freedom.
By bell hooks. I’m a feminist, and an educator. bell hooks is one of my heroes. Why have I not read this book?

4. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking
By Susan Cain. Loved the Ted Talk. I identify as an introvert, and have definitely chosen to avoid certain people because they are overly outgoing, or are exhausting to be with. Interested in the topic, and it’s been in my Goodreads list for a few years.

5. Up the Down Staircase
This is a book that one of my teacher-crushes recommended. She’s also one of my this-is-how-I-want-my-life-to-look crushes (too much hyphenation?).  Anyway, it’s a novel about an idealistic teacher dealing with bureaucracy. Yes, please!

6.  Leaves of Grass
By Walt Whitman. I’ve read parts of this in literature classes. And I quote parts of it all the time (I am vast. I contain multitudes, yo). But I need to take the time and thoroughly read all of it.

7.  Team Rodent: How Disney Devours the World
I’ve heard that this is required reading for anyone living in the Central Florida area.

8. Republic of Spin: An Inside History of the American Presidency.
Found this book in the New section of the library, so I flipped through the pages, took a picture of the book, and told myself I was definitely going to check it out next time. It hasn’t happened yet L But it seems like it should, especially with the presidential election coming up this year.

9.  The Hero with a Thousand Faces
By Joseph Campbell. I took a mythology class during my sophomore year of college, and we studied Joseph Campbell’s the Power of Myth. I was obsessed, and promised myself that I would delve more into the topic…..and I didn’t. womp womp. I still want to. But it hasn’t happened yet.

10.  Luna
by Julie Anne Peters. I ran across this book in my adolescent literature class. It looks great, and I always read books before recommending them to my students. So, it’s on my list.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Why I Adventure

I’m not exactly an adventurous person…
I mean, I’m probably three cats away from being a crazy cat lady- not that there’s anything wrong with that… But I believe in the benefits of flossing regularly, and I’m a teacher, so I’m pretty good at telling people to slow down, stop running, and make better choices.

It all started when I started dating someone, and the relationship went bad. There was a breakup, some crying, a few nights of drinking too much whiskey. It’s a fairly generic breakup, and I know it’s not a unique experience. Most everyone has had their heart broken, smushed a bit, or just generally bruised by another person. I think it’s part of the “human experience,” whatever that means.

So, I do what any logical person does, and plan an epic road trip. My siblings and I have this mentality that if things go wrong, just get out of Florida for a few weeks. When you get back, the monster mosquitos and zombie alligators are a little easier to deal with.

Anyway, I got together with my best friend, and planned a trip to Atlanta. We were going to visit the aquarium, go to Six Flags, etc. etc. It was going to be awesome, and would totally get my mind off of this man that broke my heart.  Except it doesn’t.
Because my friend backs out 24 hours before we’re supposed to take off.  Very good reasons and all- but the reality is I have no relationship, and now I have no road trip.

So I take a deep breath and pack up my car anyway. I throw some clothes in a backpack, and promise myself that I’m not going to think for 24 hours, and I’ll figure it out as I go. And that’s how I found myself in North Carolina two days later.  Tromping through caves. Me- who’s claustrophobic and terrified of bugs, bats, and darkness. I stay so busy driving and on various escapades (not adventures-escapades) during the day that I’m able to hold everything together. But anytime that there’s a break, or a quiet moment, my heart starts hurting again. And logical, non-emotional me just can’t handle that.

So, somewhere in Virginia, I pull up a website and buy airline tickets. To Croatia….To leave in a month. Being hundreds of miles away from Florida was helping, some. So I figured that being thousands of miles away would help even more.

A month later, I’m sitting in an airport, waiting for my plane to take off, realizing that I don’t actually know much of anything about Croatia.  Including knowing any Croatian.  I get the sinking feeling that maybe it’s not the best idea to buy airline tickets on a hunch. I do a quick google search, and I learn Croatia is pretty famous for its beaches. I don’t actually like the beach. Or sunshine. I don’t swim, and I get sunburned really easily.

But after a very long flight, I’m stuck in Oslo for 24 hours on a layover.  The little I know about this country is pretty much based on that one attraction at Epcot. So, I hop on a train and end up at a museum filled with Viking ships. These huge ships would take hundreds of men to move.

They were shaped a lot like a rib cage. Funny thing about these artifacts- the chemicals that they put on the ships and weapons to preserve them, are actually destroying them. If anyone touched some of the ships, or even breathed too hard, they would crumble to dust.

I think sometimes we get too focused on what our lives should like. We try too hard to hold on to things that are already broken. But I think the way to put life in perspective is to look up at something much bigger, and hundreds of years older than myself. 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

What I'm Reading- The Gap of Time

My sister gives really great book recommendations.
My sister has encouraged me to read anything by Jeanette Winterson for about three years now. I’ve mulled it over, added a few of her books to my Wishlist, and done nothing productive with my life. Until two weeks ago. I walked into the Library (my happy place), and found The Gap of Time on the new books shelf. I casually checked it out, paid the $10 in overdue fines that I had, and walked out of the library #likeaboss
Then, I didn’t pick up the book for two weeks, because that’s me I guess…

But when I did finally pick up the book again, I got sucked in quickly. It’s a retelling of The Winter’s Tale, one of Shakespeare’s later (and weirder) plays. Basically, a jealous king accuses his pregnant wife of cheating on him. He humiliates her in front of the kingdom, and she dies.  The child is rescued and left on an island to be raised by commoners, forgotten.  However, there’s remarkably a happy ending. Once the king repents, he’s brought to a statue of his wife. He confesses his wrong-doing, and the statue comes to life again.  Fresh start, 16 years later.

The Gap of Time is a retelling, a cover. It forces us to see an old story from a new perspective. It brings into focus how heartbreaking, and real the story can be.  Leontes/Leo repents, but still has to wait for the next generation to pick up the pieces.

My favorite element is the parable about the angel.

“One night he had a dream that an angel, vast and majestique, had fallen into the courtyard. Folding his wings as he fell, the angel was trapped. Feathers drifted through the windows into the dark apartments. An old woman began to stuff a pillow.
If the angel tried to escape by opening his wings, then the buildings would collapse. But if the angel didn’t open his wings he would die….
What do you do, if to be free you demolish everything around you?”

And I think that’s so very human, even though it’s a story about an angel, obviously. For a species so intent on building, we sure cause a lot of destruction. Most of the collateral seems to be other living things: rainforests, animals, other humans, usually our families.  Family is tricky, and never simple.

“The missingness of the missing. We know what that feels like. Every endeavor, every kiss every stab in the heart, every letter home, every leaving, is a ransack of what’s in front of us in the service of what’s lost” (122).

I told my friends that this book knows my heart better than even I do sometimes.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Book Riot- Men Explain Things to Me

Book Riot has a challenge called Read Harder, where they have a list of genres to read from. It’s a good way to push myself into reading genres that I’m not used to, or don’t generally read.

Personally, I tend to stick to either classic literature or fluffy fiction, so I decided to do this, at the beginning of the year, when I was full of zeal for putting my life back together.  This weekend, I read a book that fit into the category of Nonfiction Book About Feminism, or Dealing with Feminist Themes. Last year (or two years ago?) my sister gave my Bad Feminist for my birthday. Side note: if you have not read that book, you need to. If you identify as a person, you need to read that book.  This year, I picked up Men Explain Things to Me, by Rebecca Solnit. I think the library hates me. It’s very overdue at this point, because I keep rereading my favorite essays.

My favorite essay, Cassandra Among the Creeps, starts out: “The story of Cassandra, the woman who told the truth, but was not believed, is not nearly as embedded in our culture as that of the Boy Who Cried Wolf—that is, the boy who was believed the first few times he told the same lie.” It’s hard to believe that this book was published before the Stanford Rape Case, before Brock Turner the cultural attitude of misogyny and entitlement was put on display.

The book starts with a funny story about man-splaining. Which I’ve experienced too.  I think most all women have. My first year teaching, a dean walked over, interrupted my lesson planning, and proceeded to give me patronizing (and frankly wrong) advice about my ESOL accommodations. He did not care, know, or hear me say that this is a specialty of mine. A field I have achieved 200 hours in, even before graduation.

Women are routinely silenced. Feminism, “the radical idea that women are people,” is still needed. I have much to learn, and society resists changing. But it does. Slowly…

In the final essay, Solnit writes: “Feminism is an endeavor to change something very old, widespread, and deeply rooted in many cultures…That so much change has been made in four or five decades is amazing; that everything is not permanently, definitely, irrevocably changed is not a sign of failure.” Keep fighting…