Nobody Warned Me.

30091914Halfway through this book, I tweeted about the nightmares it was causing me.  And I’m not talking about Stephen King ghosts or monsters, but live human cruelty.  They weren’t dreams like others I have had, revolving staircases, or sudden drops into homes I knew, but had been subtly changed by my dream space.  These dreams were as visceral as the words on the page.  I felt the steel copper bullet – plunge –  slow motion into my rib cage.  Each bone flex forth and open like a cracked fence post.  When I woke up each morning, I had stones in my belly, and gnarls in my gut.  This story uprooted me.


Photo from The Japan Times

And I wasn’t warned, so I’m warning all of you.  This story conveyed the human capacity for cruelty so well and so often that I almost couldn’t finish it.  While I believe it’s a story that needs to be told and a history that should not remain hidden, I want to scrape at the pieces of it that stayed in my mind for days afterwards.  For a full three pages, Han Kang describes some of the Gwangju boys’ torture, the crisp sizzle of a cigarette to an eye.  If you winced at that sentence, then I can’t recommend this book for you.  It caused me physical pain to read.

(And I know some of you will roll your eyes and say that this is nothing to the physical pain that the people of Gwangju felt resisting and standing up to their traitorous government, but feelings are allowed to be felt).

Today, Amnesty International reported hangings of over 13,000 in Damascus.  These hangings have been done secretly after victims are tried for under three minutes in a basement after being told they are being transported elsehwhere.  We sit around arguing on Twitter over what’s fake news, or how many alternative facts will be spun in the administration currently in office, and in Damascus, Syrians are being targeted and wiped out by the thousands in Civil War.  Until this moment, no news of these hangings had been released.  This is probably not the fault of our news media, but the fact that this is happening in our modern world – after the Holocaust, after Cambodia, after Tinneman Square and now after the Gwangju uprising, maybe we need to be a little more “woke.”

I listened to this story on NPR having just finished Human Acts.  I had been contemplating the number of stars I could give a book that I was hesitant to recommend, that I was angry no one had warned me about (most reviewers just said, “it has beautiful writing”) and disgusted with the bottom dark of human capacity put into elegant words on the pages of Human Acts by Han Kang (translated by Deborah Smith).


Screenshot from Amnesty International Report

No where in my life have I had to contemplate the snap of a rope bruising and twisting my pale neck. Never the butt of a gun.  Never a protest that could end in the spray of shrapnel.  Comparing one’s life to another never makes anything easier, but I have been both lucky to be who I am, where I am, and lucky to read a book that makes me understand that luck is a physical phenomenon and not just a mental/emotional privilege.  I can only speak for myself, but all I really wanted to do in hearing that report was spit it out so it couldn’t become a part of me, of my existence.

“Soundlessly, and without fuss, some tender thing deep inside me broke.  Something that, until then, I hadn’t even realized was there” (202).

In the last chapter of this novel, the author becomes a character.  She describes her journey seeking out information on the massacre itself, but also on the family written throughout.  She is indirectly related to this family.  They lived in the house she moved out of at a young age, and they lost a brother to the Gwangju uprising while living there.  The narrator talks about her nightmares while researching the novel.  I know why.  I experienced nightmares as well.  I texted my best friend, and Korean scholar, Seth and asked him about what was told to him about this while he was in South Korea.  His first response when I began describing the book was “they don’t tell tourists those stories.”

I wonder how many stories are left dark in the world.  How many shoved into corners, buried against one another, corked.  This is no longer one of those cave stories, this mosaic novel of different voices interwoven.  It is really a connection of short stories, some more difficult than others to get through.  I believe Han Kang did exactly what she set out to do, make it so no one can desecrate these memories again.

“Please, write your book so that no one will ever be able to desecrate my brother’s memory again” (214).

In the beginning, I found hope in the short anecdote about the chalk erasers and board spray from middle school between the loving sister and brother in the novel.  I hung onto that for the rest of the novel because there isn’t much redeeming about the human spirit here.  This is a novel that very much lacks the bud of hope.  It doesn’t make it less true, it just, for me, makes it more sad.  If we believed the world ended like this, I don’t think any of us would continue letting it fester.

“Isn’t he your friend, aren’t you a human being” (43).

I don’t know how to talk about Charleston, so I come to this discussion with a list of books, and an open-heart.

“How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.” George Washington Carver

Superbowl prompted students to discuss race relations. Link when you click picture.

Superbowl prompted students to discuss race relations. Link when you click picture.

In some ways, we all share the same history. Histories are interwoven.  No one person lives a solitary history, yet one person can claim a history as their own.  Historians have called it a quilt, a melting pot, a cycle, a river, a tree, a labyrinth, a pathway.  I’m not sure any of these have done it justice.  I almost want to call my idea of history a garden.  I believe this because in order for a garden to grow, it must grow together in the square patch it has been built.  However, one drought, one “bad apple,” one certain pesticide, one rodent, can ruin that small, homely-built wealth that’s trying to be cultivated.  And plants grow towards both light and voices.  They lean with the life that surrounds them.  If they’re given love, they’re watered, maybe even they listen to some soft classical; they thrive.

My own history is both wicked and profound.

At least two of my great-great-greats were confederate soldiers out of Georgia.  Few people could read in their homes. One may have owned slaves.

Slave House @ Boone Hall Plantation (Photo by Me)

Slave House @ Boone Hall Plantation (Photo by Me)

While I can’t understand this history from just looking at documents, I do understand that this part of history is a part of my garden of history.  My future existence depended on the people in that frame.  I do not know them, I can only see army medical records and dig at Louisiana State University for love letters, I do not know if they fought to keep slavery alive, if they believed in the hoopla of the Southern way, if they followed a religiously democratic majority, if their brothers were fighting and they took up arms, if the choice was their own. I can’t even speculate.

What I can say is that I will never be silent about this part of my history.

In a recent survey out of NY Mag, Sean McElwee makes the claim that millennials may be just as intolerant as the older generations, but because they believe that racism no longer exists (to an extent of noticeability) in America, that they have no need to discuss race and race relations.  In fact, Gene Demby, backed up this point on NPR this weekend by stating a few of the following statistics:

  • [In a discussion about millennials thinking a color blind world would be a better one] “most of those respondents said they also grew up in homes where they didn’t talk about race at all.”
  • “A big study from the Public Religion Research Institute from last year showed that three-quarters of white people had entirely white friend circles”
  • “…Because they’re not interacting nearly as much as we would like to think that people are these days.”
Slave House @ Boone Hall Plantation (Photo By Me)

Slave House @ Boone Hall Plantation (Photo By Me)

I use the they because while I’m a millennial by definition, I believe something entirely different than these surveys show.  I believe race should always be a discussion.  I know that I will never understand or know the struggle of raising a young black man.  I know that I will never be able to undo the fact that until the 1950s, African American people were not allowed to own houses, and were practically shunned from the business world.  When my best friend, who is mixed (and was called an Oreo by his white friends, and a boy who “acted white” by his black friends in high school) watched a Katy Perry video he nonchalantly said, “she’s so cute with her insistence on promoting black culture,” but then when Nicki Minaj does a similar pop anthem, with just as much ass as Katy Perry displays boob (weapons) it is hated by the critic community, and by white parents who would gladly buy Katy’s pop-pink album off the Target shelf.

If you asked Taylor Swift (who I adore) who invented twerking (as she – most purposefully I believe – placed an African American woman at the head of the twerking line as she crawls beneath their legs in “Shake it Off”) would she claim Miley Cyrus as the winner or acknowledge that New Orleans is the first place that the word was heard.

There are so few television shows about African American families that Deadline wrote an article claiming that the “Ethnic casting trend has hit its peak in 2015” which I’m not sure is doing good by acknowledging the racial gap on television, while simultaneously using the word “ethnic” in a sentence which makes “ethnic” sound “non-american,” or “other.” The Daily Beast had to criticize Empire for showing blacks as criminals.  Pink is the New Blog wrote a whole blog on whether or not white audiences would watch Black*ish calling into question the idea that a white girl who may watch every single other Housewives of, will refuse to watch Atlanta because the show features only black castmates.

Let me tell you what though, NeNe Leaks can rule the world.

Confederate Flag outside of SC State House @ ABC News

Confederate Flag outside of SC State House @ ABC News

Diane Rehm discussed racism, the confederate flag, and gun violence in America, on one of her shows this past week and it was one of the most educational radio hours that I’ve heard in a long time (in general).  In the talks, it was determined that racism was not dead.  One man called in claiming the confederate flag was a deeply rooted part of his heritage as a Southerner.  However, this flag was used not once, but twice as a weapon of propaganda against African Americans.  The first time, as a symbol of the confederacy during the Civil War, which if the South would have won, the entire existence of the United States would have failed to be a union and who knows where we would be as a developed country.  Propoganda number two as a weapon against the Civil Rights Movement, popping up precisely after the horrifying deaths of the four Birmingham girls.  Finally, finally, after not one single Republican candidate was able to openly state that they believe the confederate flag should be removed from the South Carolina capitol, the Senate in SC has called for removing the flag.  They have a freaking confederate museum in Charleston anyway, just put the flag there.

But now, to me, this flag is a symbol of keeping a certain people down.  It’s a hateful reminder of a past that no one is trying to erase, but people are trying to overcome, to do better, to be understanding, to acknowledge the importance and the struggle of African Americans in American culture, but not further this struggle by flying a cloth of propaganda.

Woo, got a little political there, sorry.

What I’m trying to say with all these links, and facts, and things that probably only two people will get through, is that racism has not ended.  We can all, always do better.  I taught for the last three years in a predominately African-American school and I will continue to do this at my new school.  I can say honestly that I have loved my students regardless of their race, gender, sexuality, or views on the world.  They are growing, learning, and understanding.  I can honestly say that if a large black man is walking on my side of the road that I will not cross in fear, or in generalization, but I will wave and smile.

Does this mean that I don’t joke with my best friend Seth about black people time, or that he didn’t text me yesterday and tell me that USC is “100 years of white people money?” No, it doesn’t mean that.  I have work to do and I’m willing to acknowledge it, but I think it starts with a conversation.

Slave Mart Museum in Charleston (Photo by Me)

Slave Mart Museum in Charleston (Photo by Me)

I think about what happened in Charleston, and I can’t deny that I felt that the city was racist just on principal.  There’s a three-story Forever 21 on the curb of a street where cobblestones were laid by forced labor only one-hundred and fifty years ago.  The lack of respect that this city has for its rich history and heritage kind of made me sick, but what makes me sicker is that a twenty-one year old boy was convinced of white power from a computer screen.  What makes me the sickest is that he considered not killing those people because of their very kindness, a kindness that all races try to instill in their children and hope that it sticks, the way kindness is a honeysuckle stem.

In order to start the conversation (like those nine other paragraphs I just wrote weren’t heated starters), here are a few books in different categories that I believe really reach across racial gaps and made me look inside myself to see the ways that I needed to learn.

Adult Fiction:

  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

    Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

    Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison: If anything, just read the first chapter.  The phlegm disgust in your throat afterwards should teach you something.

  • Native Son – Richard Wright: I just think this has to be on the list. Period.
  • A Raisin in the Sun – Lorraine Hansberry: I never really understand the housing situation that faced African Americans across the US, but specifically Chicago in this play, until I read this book.  It has so many race relations, gender, relations, and just a group of characters that are working on discovering where they fit in a culture that is constantly trying to shove them into a hole.  Even within the family, there are relations that show how this discovery varies between genders, and varies between African-American cultural identity.
  • There Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston: In our school library, Zora Neale Hurstons biography was labeled “Ethnic Section” and wasn’t removed from this category until she was being given away in the front of the library.  I grabbed her up and kept the sticker because I think it’s important to see how ideas are changing and broadening.  Please just read this book if only because it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read and Zora Neale Hurston was a character of a human being who died in utter poverty with an unmarked grave until her work was rediscovered later after her death.
  • Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

    Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

    Toni Morrison in general.  Read everything the woman ever wrote.  When you’re finished, read Sula again.

  • Virgin Soul – Judy Juanita: This book is newer than most books on this list.  It tells the story of a woman in the 1960s Black Panther Movement.  She’s forced to the fringe of the movement due to her gender, but it’s a worthy read just for her interior struggle. It’s a good pairing with Malcolm X speeches.
  • Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck: I think the most important storyline in this book is between Lennie and Crooks, because Lennie is mentally-impaired and he shows nothing but adoration towards Crooks, yet the other members of the Steinbeck tribe looked on Crooks as an other, all those, you know, mentally-average people.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee: Because how can you discuss race without discussing this book.
  • Salvage the Bones – Jesmyn Ward: The most tension I’ve ever felt in a book.  The storms coming, the air is thick and ornery.
  • Othello: Every book list needs a Shakespeare.
  • White Teeth – Zadie Smith: Hated this book, love what it stands for, love Zadie Smith.

YA Lit:

  • Bluford Series - Paul Langan

    Bluford Series – Paul Langan

    Brown Girl Dreaming – Jacqueline Woodson: It’s poetry that’s real, and current, and just won a Newberry Medal.

  • Chains (Series) – Laurie Halse Anderson: It tells a story of slavery in a beautiful way.  Laurie Halse Anderson is the Taylor Swift of YA.  She can do no wrong in my eyes.
  • The Bluford Series – Paul Langan: My students would hate it if I made this list without this series on it.  They straight stole them off my bookshelf and devoured them.
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith: It’s one of my Mom’s favorites.


  • Black Boy – Richard Wright: This book literally hurt my heart.  It was so hard to read.  I would pick it up and read three pages and have to put it down. It took me WEEKS to read. Its importance in the discussion is outweighed by none.
  • A Lesson Before Dying - Ernest J. Gaines

    A Lesson Before Dying – Ernest J. Gaines

    A Lesson Before Dying – Ernest J. Gaines: I think this is nonfiction, but I’m not one hundred percent now that I think about it.  Ernest Gaines could sell you a car that doesn’t even work.  His writing is beautiful and meaningful and everything.

  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness – Michelle Alexander: Truth is sometimes hard to read, but it’s even harder when it’s not in the past and you’re living it.


  • The Essentials of Etheridge Knight

    The Essentials of Etheridge Knight

    The Essentials of Etheridge Knight– Etheridge Knight: Because he can tell you how he’s “feeling fucked up.”

  • Blood Dazzler – Patricia Smith: Because even if she just watched the news from her comfortable home to write this collection, the feeling is a damn hurricane in your soul.
  • Head Off and Split – Nikki Finney: It has nursery rhymes that you can’t even speak anymore after reading the poems.
  • Langston Hughes – Whether you’re young or your old.  He matters.
  • Lucille Clifton – Because she has the first hips that I ever wanted.
  • Copper Canyon - Countee Cullen

    Copper Sun – Countee Cullen

    Countee Cullen – This was the first poet that I ever used that had the n-word (and we say ninja in my classroom because I can’t handle much else) written on the page.

  • Claude McKay – His name might be the most used name in textbooks for American Lit (that or Whitman, and what does that tell you).
  • Natasha Tretheway – Poet Laureate 2012.

While I wish this battle was over, and I wish that each race in America, each race listed on the census and each person that has to bubble-in “other” and write their race out, was equal, I can’t actually say that and believe it. We have a world of work to do, and lucky for us, we have a lifetime, and the ability to teach the next generation.  There is always power in knowledge, power in forgiveness, and power in discussion.  Anyone who comes to my table with an open-mind, I will greet them likewise and we will begin both bare, and plain-spoken.

Newsday Tuesday


Favorite Tweets:

(Sorry about the non-picture tweets.  My internet sucks sometimes. Thanks, Time Warner).

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Favorite Search Terms:

  • the man who walked between the towers book literacy: My FAVORITE children’s book to share with my high schoolers.
  • ricardo nuila’s dog bites: Can someone explain to me what this means?
  • short films on petticoat discipline: Is this a weird porn search or do these actually exist as manners classes?
  • spell to make him have a bowel movement while cheating with another woman: HOLY COW.  I’m a little scared of this search.

Book News:

Newsday Tuesday


Favorite Tweets:

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Favorite Search Terms:

  • bowel movements like brownie batter: I get all kinds of weird bowel movement search terms.  This one has taken the cake (pun intended).  How could you ever eat brownies again?
  • i hate it when people are like do you have a bathroom: This person just hates dinner parties.
  • pacific crest trail nude: Cheryl Strayed inspired this one, no doubt.

Book News:

Exactly What Is The Allure of The Used Bookstore?

Before I start this, I want you to know that I’m eating alone in the biggest Panera that I’ve ever seen.  To alleviate any of my feelings of weird awkwardness, I chose a seat right next to the “Employees Only” door and behind a barrier wall that blocks off the annoying couple talking about baby monitors and running shoes, and my macaroni and cheese.  There is, however, a large man in a ball cap and Bill Cosby sweater eating with his wife that makes eye contact with me approximately every three minutes.  OH NO, a couple in yoga pants (yes, both people in yoga pants even the male) just came to sit directly opposite me.  If this isn’t the pure euphoria my anxiety needed then I don’t know what else I can do to heighten it.  I am writing in the midst of a bear attack.  The man has a very high voice, as if he’s talking a lot of Maroon 5 songs.

I could spend this whole blog talking about the people surrounding me on all sides.

It’s a war.

But I won’t, I will keep on subject.  This was just your warning.

Venn Diagram Example

Every time I’m home in “the big city,” I hit up at least one of my three favorite used bookstores: Edward McKay Used Books & More, Reader’s Corner and The Village Library.  They each definitely have their own appeal, but there’s something innate at the core of all three because all used bookstores have the same nature, they are after all a categorized new species.  I think it’s partly the smell, a taste of odd ownership, postcards and pre-hipster-era sepia photos, business calling cards, stained carpeting, and the stackage of bookage.  That’s the closest I can get to the “similar” part of the venn diagram.

Reader’s Corner Free Shelves

The Reader’s Corner is my favorite just because the inside feels like a wool sweater and they give books away for FREE, but you have to usually stand in the rain in order to find a good one.  It’s just a superstition I have.  Their FREE books are left under an awning on the whole front wall of the bookstore, on rickety wooden shelves.  They also have a collection of “Reading Is Sexy” bumper stickers next to the cash register, one of which my car, Prince Frederick III, dawns proudly.  These bumper stickers would be even more hilarious if you knew the goons who owned this bookstore.  I think that a clutch of old men operate and own the bookstore.  I’ve only ever seen the same old man behind the register, who embodies what I imagine the guys behind “Car Talk” on NPR must look like.  His face matches their voices, even though he doesn’t sound like them. He also has old cronies around the register with their spectacles hanging down their bulbous noses chatting away with him about the weather, the latest Lady Gaga outfit change, or the newspaper headlines.

You know that commercial where all the old men hang out at McDonalds and check out the old ladies?  That’s Reader’s Corner, except they’re not at all interested in the ladies hanging around the joint.

Bookshelves @ Reader’s Corner

They also know a hellofalot about books.  I can ask them about any book, even the most rare, or the ugliest and largest of textbooks and they will know within three minutes if they have that book available.  And the key to this is that there’s no organization in that place.  They just haphazard the books around, a brain hurricane, books laying in the rubble, or personal space of other books.   The books are categorized by genre, but other than that, you just have to search and find.  It’s basically a Black Ops mission every time you go because you have to pull books from the shelves to see the price or read the blurbs, or just find what might be peeking behind them because all the gems are hidden, obviously.

My favorite poster at Reader's Corner

My favorite poster at Reader’s Corner

This takes me to Edward McCay Used Books & More which is…a chain.  You can sigh now. However, it’s the BEST.CHAIN.EVER. The books are stacked in old milk crates, the handled cardboard trays that your bananas come in off the truck, and somehow, I get a faint whiff of potatoes from the bottom shelves so I have to infer that potato sacks sat in the toughest crates at the bottom of the book pyramid.  That might just be a strange “off the farm” used book smell though.  This is my favorite place to actually find the books I want.  Their authors are by last name and the shelves are all labeled extensively down to “Mystery Thriller” V. “Mystery Fantasy” V. “Mystery Mystery.”

My feet at Ed McKay's

My feet at Ed McKay’s (See what I mean about the carpeting?)

Ed McKay’s is basically a huge warehouse of crates filled with books.  It smells like someone’s attic, and the carpet stains could live in a horror movie.  I love it so much because each section smells different.  The “Dramas” that haven’t been touched in decades (only by college students who don’t want to pay the astronomical price of books from the campus bookstores) smell of dust and washed and dried crumpled paper.  Leave something in your pocket through the wash/dry cycle and smell it afterwards and you will know exactly what the “Drama” and “Poetry” sections smell like.  The “Young Adult” section smells like need and slick plastic.  The “Contemporary Fiction” section smells like cat dander and expensive coffee.  The “Romance” section smells like sweaty lipstick and my most favorite smell of the sections, “Biography” which smells of inspiration, longing and fresh out of the package pantyhose.

Book Bargain

Book Bargain

I don’t make these things up.  BUT, Mental Floss studies them.

Book Nerves

Book Nerves

The spirit of Ed McKay’s is also why I like it there.  They let you sell your books in for trade money so I’m constantly doing that with my non-keepers.  The staff there are tattooed, dyed, pierced, and all dropped into a dryer bin of flannels.  They wear large rings that cover most of their middle knuckle, which throws the customer off from their delicate yet brilliant nail color of the neon or just plain black fashion.  Sometimes they look and sound like they’re going to a funeral and other times they’re wearing comic book tights and whistling.  I’ve smelled them too, but I won’t go into that.  I just have a strong nose.  They have hair colors that I would love to try, but would probably be fired, and they must have a stock pile of beanies in a back closet somewhere that occasionally infects the entire staff with lice.  This isn’t to say that I don’t like them, they’re always friendly, always really welcoming, and I wouldn’t want to buy books from anyone else than the “others.”  Because I’m an “other” and I prefer to talk books with “others.” You know, people that society has deemed “too much” or “too delicate” or “too fine” for most of its activities.  There’s a “muchness” about “otherness” that I like.  I used to think I was just a closet nerd and preferred to be alone, but then I started calling myself “mysterious” like a want advertisement and then I finally just admitted, I’m an “other.”


Ed McKay Shelving

We’re our own species too, which is why we hang out in scarves and toting messenger bags in used bookstores.

My last favorite should be everyone’s favorite.  If you read this blog, you better be regularly hitting up your local library.  The Village isn’t the closest library to me, but it’s the biggest, so I go there.  It has its own elevator and its own coffee shop.  RIDICULOUS. Plus, they carry every Mary Roach book that exists and they let me hide all of Ted Hughes’ poetry collections because I’m still angry with him about Plath.  There’s a cozy seating area, the children’s giant room always has paintings and a large, tissue paper version of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”  To this day, I plan on asking for that hungry caterpillar for my child’s room when I become a woman who actually believes she has those instincts and owns one of those countdown clocks.  For now, I’ll just continue to be selfish.

Village Drop Off

Village Drop Off

The best part about The Village is that its on the ritzy part of town so wearing sweatpants into the library is a thrill.  It’s like going to church in ripped jeans.  The bobbed hair cuts and gold button suits stare you up and down.  How dare you step into their marble book room.  MWAHA. It’s always worth it to aggravate the authorities.

What are some of your favorite used bookstores and more importantly, what do they smell like?  I want to know what I’m missing here in other states so when I retire, at 297, I can take a used bookstore road trip and write a book. I’m probably using you at this moment, but no really, I want to know what you think.

Newsday Tuesday


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Favorite Search Terms:

  • i’ve always imagined heaven to be a kind of library: You and me both, googler.
  • burying book in the wall ai weiwei: This is a history lesson I must google to get…now.
  • johnny depp high school girlfriend: Yep, you got my blog.  OW OW! It’s filled with useless facts like this.

Book News:

Newsday Tuesday


Favorite Tweets:

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Favorite Search Terms:

  • correct clothes for teaching: This was me for the entire summer of 2012. I hope I had something for you to look at.  Look on Pinterest or the blogosphere.
  • living bamboo maze: I hope this maze can be found somewhere near me so MAU and I can go.
  • poem anis mojgani she covers her body with tea cups: I haven’t heard of this one, but now I’m really interested.

Book News:

Newsday Tuesday


Favorite Tweets:

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Favorite Search Terms:

  • see me in a supermarket: What section can I find you in? I prefer the cheeses, or the canned vegetables.  I get nervous when people flick fruit.
  • poem test compared to bowel movement: …. whaaaa??
  • minecraft pub interior: I love when I get super nerdy search terms like this.

Book News:

Newsday Tuesday


Favorite Tweets:

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Favorite Search Terms:

  • huffington post is pissing me off: Is it the fact that they block Huff Post in my school system because the advertisements are a bit risqué, or is it something else entirely?
  • fake car wash receipt: Sometimes I have to think back to when and where I would be writing about something like this.  Did I tell you guys that I was scared to death of the car wash when I was little, and now I go to the car wash when I need to relax.

Book News:

Classroom Discoveries | Alan Turing, Literacy Training, Graphic Poetry by Julian Peters, & Children’s Books

Comic by Buttersafe @ Imgur (I guarantee some of my students wrote something like this on their list).

Time for a story: The Poet Laureate of North Carolina, Joseph Bathanti, came to speak to my 9th grade English class last semester.  He’s actually leprechaunish, not in the way that he wears green and giggles behind trees, but in the way that he has the gifts of words hugged in his pockets.  Bathanti has done a lot of work in NC prisons, getting inmates to learn the art of creative writing, and I can only assume, with that, journaling.  He is probably one of my favorite speakers to ever enter my classroom and I appreciated him so much because he actually cared what my student’s answers were.  He asked them to write three things that they wished for themselves in the world and encouraged me to participate.  For a day, it was good just to feel like a student in my classroom, starring at my Smartboard in the diagonal rows, cramped into the tight desk, only one side open, and feeling the slight breath of the students behind me.   What I wrote was that I hope my future students are read to as children, not because they’ll be better writers and readers for me, but because my mother reading stories to me is one of the best memories that I have as a child.  My mom would scoot me into bed and pretend to sardine me in as she tucked the blanket under me like she was folding dough.  To this day as a twenty-five year old woman, I still request that my mother read a Christmas story to me on Christmas Eve.

I have no children so I can’t make an informed answer to this, but I can imagine that reading to your children is one of the best things to experience as a parent.  A child’s forehead is huddled below your chin, and you open the first page and they point one tiny finger to their favorite part of the picture.  My brother and nephew have a song for when a book has “crazy art” and my nephew will start singing, “Craaaaazzzyyyyyy art, crazzzzyyyyy art.”

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers Illustration

So this week in class, I’m reading a children’s book to my students.   Instead of having them focus all their brain power on what they’re reading and not on what I want them to do with that reading, I’m going to read The Man Who Walked Between the Towers and they’re going to create Bloom’s Taxonomy questions.  (I found out about this story in Literacy Training this week called Keys to Literacy – LOVE IT).  We will then talk about morality vs. legality and when and where they don’t match or do match.  It’s the discussion and the writing that I want my students to learn, not the reading.  However, this is one of my new favorite children’s books.   It’s a story of a man who walks a tightrope between two towers.  It’s just a sweet story with skies of illustrations and lends really well to that structure standard for ninth graders (RL5) because the author really does well with placing the pictures strategically as well as the paragraphs.

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers Illustration

“We’re starting from the bottom, now we’re here” in Drake’s words.  I think in education sometimes we focus so hard on how hard the student focus should be.  Our students should be learning calculus in second grade so they can compete with the rest of the world, only to find out that aliens were born with calculus imbedded into their antennas and so we’re further behind than we ever expected.  BAH!  I’m just not sure how much I agree with the push towards so much information at each age.  The books that I read in upper grades are being dropped lower and lower until the students won’t be able to handle the content on a maturity level.  With that being said, The Man Who Walked Between the Towers brings big concepts in a small books.  It goes with the phrase, “good things come in small packages.”

I do want to say that this book can open a great history lesson at any level, elementary math lesson and obviously any grade English lesson.  Sometimes, it’s the text that can be simple and lovely, and the lesson is complicated.   The children’s book will open our discussion on morality and legality and the differences between the two.  The evaluating question of the unit will be, “How are moral and legal wrongs different, and did Philipe do anything morally wrong, why or why not?”  There’s a good morality lesson on SAS Curriculum Pathways that I’ll be using for my students to create their own definition of morality so that they can adequately judge the story.  I would tweak this lesson before using it for any teachers that want to get on SAS.

The next thing that I really want to talk about is using podcasts in your classroom.  I haven’t actually used podcasts that often other than 3 Minute Fiction on NPR and listening to Neil Gaiman read.  However, today I was listening to Radio Lab and the show was called, “Of Man and Myth.”  They had this really awesome discussion of Alan Turing who was arrested in England for public indecency in 1952 and was forced to take large doses of estrogen to “cure his homosexuality.”  However, this is not what he should be remembered for AT ALL.  This man actually helped decode German ciphers for the British government during WWII.  He was the first man to decode the ciphers (he used a machine) and therefore an integral part of the allies trump over Germany.

Alan Turing @ The Inquirer (.net)

Alan Turing

I was shocked that this fascinating mathematician was known mostly for his homosexuality rather than his influence in winning the World War for the allies.  This is an aspect of WWII that my students may never know and a person that has an interesting biography for class discussions during a unit on WWII.  In 9th grade, we read Night by Elie Wiesel.  It makes memories of the horror of the Holocaust on every read through.  I show them the clips from Band of Brothers of the moment when American soldiers happen on the concentration camps.  I show them clips of Elie Wiesel speaking and we read all kinds of informational texts about the World War.   The thing that we don’t do is look specifically at people other than Elie Wiesel.   I fear that my students may think that there were more survivors than there were.  Maybe they don’t listen hard enough when Oprah says that Auschwitz was more than 15 miles large.  Using this twenty-minute segment from Radio Lab, my students won’t be just discussing aspects of WWII, but this man was arrested for being homosexual just seven years after WWII.  We just got through this mass genocide on specific groups of people, and yet the people who helped end that injustice were still unable to have equality in their own country.  SHOCKING. The truly disturbing thing about this whole story is that Turing ended up killing himself due to his unhappiness after the arrest and estrogen treatments.  This story just adds more deaths over a lack of empathy, lack of kindness, and pure ignorance.

Read a letter from Alan Turing signed “Yours in Distress” about his legacy here. 

Julian Peters Comics SO AWESOME

Lastly, Amy @ Lucy’s Football (and a writer for Insatiable Book Sluts) sent me a link to this SUPER COOL artist’s website.  Seriously, I’m dying.  If this isn’t the coolest thing to use with Persepolis or Maus, I’m just not sure what is.  For every teacher that was told they can’t teach graphic novels because they’re not actually literature, then teach graphic poetry from Julian Peters Comics.  It’s great for any English/History lesson.  You can teach modernism with her J. Alfred Prufrock, or Southern Gothic with Annabel Lee, or have students read the poems and then analyze the graphic novel (graphic poem) which is great for RL7.  Teachers could have them create their own graphic novel of the poem.  They could have to include historical elements, elements of that period of writing, humor, figurative language, characteristics of characters, theme through images.  I just adore Julian Peters’ art and I love that it can be transformed into the classroom.  Obsessed with the wrinkles in Prufrock’s forehead as their shaped like eastern rivers which always make me think of sadness.  They way that they flow down America and probably have a stone throw of history in each curve.  The “women talking of Michelangelo” have their hair in tight curls, wrapped in rags the night before, and they shove their palms up in speech as if they’re always asking for a handout.  Yes, Julian Peters, you’re my hero.

YAY! Share your plans with me as they come to you because I’m always looking for collaborations with other teachers.  This competitive pay in NC isn’t going to stop me from sharing, and learnin’ these beautiful little pieces of future that we teach.