Book Club

“Do you ever read any of the books you burn?”
He laughed. “That’s against the law!”
“Oh. Of course.”
“It’s fine work. Monday burn Millay, Wednesday Whitman, Friday Faulkner, burn ’em to ashes, then burn the ashes. That’s our official slogan.”

My house is mostly in order. That is until the next paycheck comes in! All the boxes are gone, the clothes are put away, the dishes are in the cabinet, the beds are made, and best yet…the books are on the shelves.

 I hadn’t made time for my love of literature until everything else was complete. I happily settled down to begin my first book of the summer last week. Farenheit 451. I tend to give myself a theme for my summer reading. Last summer it was all about the latest craze! Dystopian literature. Of course,  I jumped on the bandwagon and started with The Hunger Games trilogy. From there, my summer reading list took on a life of its own. This year, I have decided to go for the classics. And by classics, I mean all those books we were supposed to read in high school, but opted for the Cliff’s Notes instead.

I have been underlining feverishly and making notes in the margin as if I’m a student sitting through a college lit class. It’s what I do. I can’t just read a book. I have to analyze it, pick it to pieces, let it simmer in my thoughts….and then blog about it.

This book was written for me! It was the best classic to start off my themed summer reading list simply because it ecompasses two of my loves: dystopian societies and love of literature. This book is so rich with reasons for not only having books, but cherishing them. Books offer power. Books offer escape. Books offer knowledge. Have I mentioned that I love books?

The main character is a firefighter. This is a prominent and highly respected position of the community because these men don’t put out fires. They start them. They burn the homes that have been found with books in them. It’s such genius irony that Bradbury chose, as an author and lover of literature, to write about a hypothetical society that banished and censored so heavily. Could he have possibly feared censorship of his own words during this time? Another thing I love about this type of book, is that a similar theme can be found throughout them all. There always always needs to be rebellion. A rebel. A radical. Montag is my type of rebel with a cause. One of my favorite passages in the book, points to his beginning transformation. It’s the transformation that I enjoy most. Not the end.
“Mildred, how would it be if, well, maybe I quit my job awhile?”
“You want to give up everything? After all these years of working, because , one night, some woman and her books -“
“You should have seen her, Millie!”
“She’s nothing to me; she shouldn’t have had books…”
“You weren’t there, you didn’t see,” he said. “There must be something in books, things we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.”
“Let me alone,” said Mildred. “I didn’t do anything.”
“Let you alone! That’s all very well, but how can I leave myself alone? We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, something real?”

Do you see? Books are important! I have had a few weeks since school ended to reflect on what I want to do with my time. Once school begins in August, my children will board the school bus and travel a mile down the road to their new school. I, on the other hand, will not. It will be the first time in a while that I am not actively reading to and with a group on a daily basis. Although my students were only 10 and 11 years old, they were bright. They were insightful. They discussed literature with me without shame. I will miss that. But I have plans. My friend, Emily, will be reading along with me to finish Farenheit 451 so that we can hold our virtual book club. I’ve also sent out an invitation within my neighborhood to begin a book club. Ive had two women express interest. I am delighted at the prospects of possibilities.

I began my journey here in Texas determined to be something idealistic…A “Leave it to Beaver” type of housewife. I was determined to transform. But then I asked why. Why would I need to leave my love of literature and the discussion of it at the door, just because I’m no longer teaching. I realized that rather than comparing and competing to become something or someone else, I just need to be me. I am a reader. I am a writer. I can’t help it.

I’m looking forward to my newly awaiting book club to form. I’m still hoping for a few more neighborhood women to join. We shall see. So, this blog that was created for my students has now transformed into my own little book club. Please join me in reading, won’t you?


A Year of Reading!

This has been an amazing year. A year of reading, really. I have never had a group of students more motivated to read than this group. Not only have they taken on the tasks of reading and discussing deeply what we have required for class, but they have independently become searchers and researchers of great literature. 

We finished our Giver series today. Although these books were not part of our testing curriculum (and by that, I mean they were pure read alouds…for listening pleasure), we have learned so much from these books. Life lessons mixed with deep analytical discussions of literary devices were the name of the game with these books. I have learned through reading these this year that beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder. I also feel that delivery is everything. Although Lois Lowry can be quite somber in her literary quest for great plot, she also has such poignant and beautiful themes. I chose, as the sole reader and guider of these read aloud days, to focus not on the trees but the forest. The forest (no pun intended…for those of you who have read The Messenger) was a magical place for us to have real conversations throughout our entire year about character and social issues such as honor, truth, love, kindness, and overall good vs. evil in our world. As far as literary analysis goes, I had students picking up on such intelligent topics as dramatic irony and point of view, an author’s use of characterization as well as foreshadowing and flashback. Where some teachers spend a year knee deep in work sheets, we accomplished these same goals by reading for pleasure and simply having conversations. What a way to end a year. It has truly been a journey of discovery this year. The main lesson we walked away with today, was that there is evil in this world that we can only fight with good. Evil feeds off of tragedy. Evil was finally destroyed today with love, generosity, selflessness. I can’t think of a better lesson for us all to learn than that. 

 Kwaylon and Mrs. DuBose reading Freedom Crossing
Free book grab!
A group of eager students! They have decided that Lois Lowry must write another book in the series. They are writing a summary of what it should be, and I will email it to her for them. Can’t wait to get her response!