Sunday, November 19, 2017

Unseen Academicals

Unseen Academicals begins with a ball. More precisely, a frightened guard that beholds a glittering lady holding a ball. But you won’t think that will necessarily play a part in the story because this is Discworld and anything can happen in Discworld.

Next is a description of beds. Beds that come in all shapes and sizes. Pay attention to the description; it will come in handy later on. Where one sleeps (or doesn’t sleep) tells you a lot about that character. Especially Nutt.

In today’s world we would call Nutt gifted. He learns rapidly. He applied knowledge in new and unusual forms. And just as many gifted people are wont to do, he constantly strives for more.

“Smile at people. Like them. Be helpful. Accumulate worth.”

Those are the instructions Nutt has been given. And aren’t they similar to what society wants us to do? But how does one “accumulate worth”? Through thought? Through action? And what exactly is worth? Think on it a moment, for it’s a powerful force that lives within us.

After all, don’t many individuals struggle with that concept? Of feeling loved and respected? Of feeling worthy?

While there are several storylines going on within Unseen Academicals, pay attention to Nutt. Well, pay attention to all of the characters, but especially Nutt. The backstories (and front stories) of the others are interesting, but Terry Pratchett writes an especially poignant one for Nutt. The story of a characters self-discovery is a fantastical journey when told in the right way, and Pratchett does it right.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

And Still We Rise

Someone mentioned this book in a post recently; I finished it last night. Even though the book is fifteen years old, it is still highly relevant today (at least in the US). 

Some parts were irksome or ironic to me, such as AP being used as the standard regimen for gifted students or that the gifted students were repeatedly responsible for carrying the world and going to college because of their intelligence -- and gifted students do not always wish to attend college or may not be inclined in the traditional academic sense. Yet, I also recognize that due to their intelligence and the many previously denied opportunities, matriculation might be what motivates these students more than anything else. It was also ironic that the very thing one AP English teacher opposed (multicultural literature / non “classics”) because the AP test would essentially be based on the canon of traditional literature (and she was mostly correct during that time frame), has now undergone drastic revision since then. 

These stories were also relevant to my life, both as a teacher in a dropout prevention program and as a person. I am single mother who was pregnant right out of high school and I have been working since I was 12. I didn’t apply anywhere except to my local cc because I knew I couldn’t afford to go anywhere else (and applications were due well before I was). My bedroom was 8 ft x 6 ft, and I count myself lucky I did not have any siblings. My father drank constantly, and looking back, I believe he was a drug addict as well. My mom rarely attended Open House or school events; she was always working or dealing with my father. I usually went by myself, starting at about age 9 or 10. The public library was the best place on earth. Sometimes I believe I was only selected for the gifted program because of my contracting chicken pox in 1st grade because when I returned to school, I had finished an entire year’s worth of reading and math. I had the chicken pox; I was bored.

Many of my students face the same concerns. While my school doesn’t have quite the safety issues that the school portrayed does, I could see the parallels. This past Saturday when the news broke that shots were fired and a teen was grievously injured, I was both frantic and resigned. Was it my student? No. It was, however, a student from our school. Again. The same undercurrent permeates the school, the waiting watchfulness. I have even had a student offer to “take care of something for me,” just like in the book. I have held them as they wept and commiserated when they had to move, sometimes for the sixth or seventh time in the year.  I have also celebrated the passing of graduation exams and AP tests.  These students come from a world like no other.

This was a powerful read, one that I needed right now.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time, I began this blog as a way to keep track of the books I was reading. To discuss them, to dissect them, to love them.

Now I look back and see what folly that was, for I have posted nothing in the last few years, and deleted everything I had previously written.

I struggled with this blog more than any other blog I kept. Some say eyes are the windows to the soul; I believe that books are the window to mine.

The words of books are public, yet also private, as they can arouse feelings of passion, unease, joy, heartbreak, awe,  discontent - just to name a few.

The other problem? I realized that I had started this project less for myself and more for others. Some blogs exist to instruct. This one is for myself.

If anybody wishes to join me, you are welcome.