Why 100?

Last year I set out to read 100 books, but I ran out of time and only read 75. So this year, I will read one hundred books. And you're my witness :) The only thing stopping me this year is 9 seasons' worth of Seinfeld episodes- wish me luck!

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Yeah, that's right, I read Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men last night between writing about Cargegie's book and going to bed.  SHWING!  and i was worried about not reading enough books quickly enough.  well, i can.  and i will.  no doubts about it.  i'm going to read read read today (homework, but still) possibly going out to the park to do so.  All I will say about this "classic" american literature is that it is really sad and i am glad that i don't have to live during the depression and the dust bowl and be a migrating worker and yada yada yada.  thank you God for letting me live in an age where i can read about what this was like and then get on the internet and learn how to make a recipe and all the while watching a wedding on live tv (today show.  man i love it)  congrats to the happy couple- the dress was beautiful.
can't wait to take care of my own mouse killer and walk down the aisle in the beatimus white dress..... lacy and silky and -sigh- beautiful.  although my mouse killer does so on purpose and doesn't keep them in his pocket to pet.  and he doesn't kill puppies.  killing puppies isn't okay any way you swing it.  because they look like this. so cute. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

61. a book that will change my life

I am really astonished at the way this book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, by Dale Carnegie, has blown away my freakish need to worry and fret over every little damn thing.  If you can believe it, i was worried a couple of weeks ago about EVERYTHING (actually, you probably can believe it if you have been reading along with my literary journey..... i was a little shifty this past month as far as moods go).  i was so freakin stressed out about stuff that i was worried i wouldn't finish my 100 books this year.  first of all, why worry about that?  it is a personal goal, that i happen to be writing about to an audience of, oh, i dunno, one person, maybe two (or  none?  who knows?).  second of all- who cares?  if not now, i will get to a 100 a year some day.  but i'm not saying this to talk down about my goal.  i really am invested in reading a hundred books this year.  and blabbering about them endlessly on the world wide web to whomever feels like reading about it.  that's why i've busted my butt to read 61 books so far.  in case no one noticed, thats a lot of books.  if you figure that each book i read had an average of about 300 pages, that's um..... (i'm no math expert here, clearly, as my nose is stuck in books 24/7).....18,300 pages i've read in that past 9 months.  and that's just the books i've read in full.  what about those articles, cookbook instructions, magazines, newspapers, textbook entries, websites, emails..... the list goes on.  i'll stop being heady and just leave it at the fact that i'm no slouch when it comes to digesting words.  but this book was really fibrous.  this book stuck to my insides and sloshed around in my brain.  its going to take me a while to digest this puppy and i'm glad.  i just might go back to it again and again, as the handsome devil who gave it to me does (by the way- thank you!) and all the people who have bought it to keep it in print since 1944 probably have.  (i know! 1944!)  it hasn't lost an ounce of relevance.  and you know what has really sunk in and gone into the bloodstream since i have started reading it?  chill out.  deal with what comes at you day by day and enjoy what life has to offer.  pray and leave your worries to God.  appreciate the good things and do what you can immediately to banish the bad things.  
DUH!!!!!  i had to smack my head a couple times while reading this to say "no duh!  why were you stressing out about shit that you have no control over?  why did it take a book from the 40s to make you realize you have an AWESOME life and an AWESOME God?"  but it did take a book to bring this to attention and there were many other lessons that i still can't begin to process because i'm still too busy realizing what an idiot i 've been in my worry and stress and anxiety.  chill out.  be a good person.  -sigh-  thank you, Habibi and mr. carnegie, for making me realize what an idiot i've been.  and i say that with no irony or self deprecation at all- i mean that.  no need to be snarky tonight :)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

60. the love songs of sappho

i am too antsy to read or even to sit in this damn chair right now.  frankly, i'm not sure how i'm doing it.  all i know is that class is going to be hell at four.  3 hour class and i'm like this right now?  no way.  i may have to go run around in the halls while i pretend to be getting a drink of water.  i don't care.  at this point i really don't.  reading groups to edit papers?  nah who cares?  district curriculum units to create?  no thank you.  sit in the chair and listen to people who annoy me?  i'll pass.  but i can't because i have to because i can't completely fail these classes.  that would be a dishonor to my so far pristine history with the college of education (ha!).  anyway, i'm just fucking around.  i am really damn antsy and like my head feels like its full of gunk right now.  so i'll write out some of my favorites of sappho's mini poems and leave you on that note for today. 
The Love Songs of Sappho, translated by Paul Roche
 (from 45)
Here where the waters trickle coolly
Through the apply boughs, and ground is shady
with roses, down from the leaves that shiver
         Sleep drops slowly.

At Last
you have come
and you did well to come
I pined for you.
and n ow you have put a torch to my heart
a flare of love-
o bless you and bless you and bless you:
you are back...
we were parted

open your arms
Pretty One, I'm yours again:
far too long apart

the black trance of night
flooded their eyes

I Saw Love
come down from heaven
and fling off his purple cloak
keep your honey-bee
and keep your honey

no, children, do not delude me.
You mock the good gifts of the Muses
When you say: "Dear Sappho we'll crown you,
Resonant player,
First on the clear sweet lyre..."
Do you not see how I alter:
My skin with its aging,
My black hair gone white,
My legs scarcely carrying
Me, who went dancing
More neatly than fawns once
(neatest of creatures)?
No, no one can cure it; keep beauty from going,
And I cannot help it.
God himself cannot do what cannot be done.
So age follows after and catches
Everything living.
Even rosy-armed Eos, the Dawn,
who ushers in morning to the ends of the earth,
Could not save from the grasp of old age
Her lover immortal Tithonus.
And I too, I know, must waste away.
Yet for me - listen well-
My delight is the exquisite.
Yes, for me,
Glitter and sunlight and love
Are one society.
So I shall not go creeping away
To die in the dark:
I shall go on living with you,
Loving and loved.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

59. a paper on 1940s racism

“Her head lay limp in the crook of his arm and his hand reached for the hem of her dress, caught it in his fingers and gathered it up slowly…He kissed her again and at once she spoke, not a word, but a resigned and prolonged sound that gave forth a meaning of horror accepted..’Bigger… Don’t!” says Bessie, Bigger Thomas’ ‘girl,’ as he forces himself on her in his flight from the police. (Wright 198) Is this the excerpt that a parent might choose to use as evidence to keep this book from a classroom or school library? It is one of many questionable quotes and subjects that Richard Wright’s novel, Native Son, arises to the surface. This book was much more questionable when it was originally published in 1940; however the subjects of racial inequality, rape, murder, and the death penalty are still hot button topics. Native Son was one of a long list of most commonly banned books in schools and libraries. Recently, more sexually explicit and graphically violent books have come to the front line of books not allowed in children’s library collections. Some Christian and religious groups have attempted to censor and take away the freedom to access books with homosexual undertones or with vivid descriptions of such things as masturbation or magic. But where is the line drawn between cautious parents and violation of students’ constitutional rights? While slightly outdated, Wright’s Native Son is a great example of how controversial text can be used to teach history, showcase different writing methods, and initiate discussions, among other things. Literary experts against the censorship of books say that “parents are entitled to voice their views and concerns, [but] in the end the task of selecting readings for the curriculum properly belongs to professional educators,” which is an argument that any teacher could get behind in the context of broadening students’ horizons. (Bertin 18) However the other side of the argument, namely the parents of these students, has a valid point as well that cannot be forgotten in the fight of book censorship. Books such as Harry Potter attract critics that “have called the books anti-religious and demanded that they be removed from public and school libraries.” (Scales 535) Teachers need be careful not to be disrespectful to others’ views, so it is important to pay attention to these complaints.

There is an element of truth to the arguments of those for the censorship of books. Once upon a time, I was a young adult, browsing in the library for a juicy weekend read. I stumbled upon Go Ask Alice, by an anonymous author about the perils of drug abuse. It was a harrowing read for me. I felt that the content warranted that it be snuck into my house and read in secret because my parents were, and still are, quite conservative and protective of their darling daughter. They never would have approved of this book, and, to tell you the truth, the book was a little much for me to handle at that age. I didn’t understand sex, rape, drugs, or runaways; and I had been exposed to them in one of these challenged books, which is exactly why these books need to be read within the guided constructs of a classroom or under the watchful eye of a parent or librarian. Experts agree and say that “when children are exposed to books on disturbing or sensitive topics in school, the experience can open lines of communication with parents, teachers and peers.” (Bertin 19) Youth will most likely find and read these buzzed about books on their own, as I did, and it is best to equip them with the tools to face the content matter. There is validity behind the argument for banning particular books; however that just doesn’t seem to be the right action to take in the face of these touchy novels. The books under fire should become teachable moments, regardless of personal opinion.

Take, for example, Richard Wright’s Native Son. This book covers several topics that are very touchy, such as race, rape, sex, segregation, and murder, just to name a few. Native Son is written from the perspective of a young black man living in 1940’s Chicago. Rigid segregation laws have hardened Bigger Thomas, the main character, making him bitter and utterly hopeless. As he and his friend watch an airplane in the sky, he says “I could fly a plane if I had a chance,” and his friend replies, “If you wasn’t black and if you had some money and if they’d let you go to that aviation school, you could fly a plane.” (Wright 14) The restrictions that the white world has placed on him make him prefer stealing and acting out in violence than working hard for minimum pay and accepting poor treatment. This book is hard to read because it reminds the reader of the pain of segregation when aftereffects continue to affect our nation today. Race is a difficult but necessary topic to discuss in classes, especially in the context of American history and social studies, both of which impact an English classroom. Parents may bristle at the thought of discussing the way white people used to treat African Americans and how it is comparable to the current race relations. Wright uses the word “nigger” several times throughout the book in ugly ways that may be offensive to some readers. This, however, is not the main controversy in Native Son. Bigger takes advantage of his ‘girl,’ Bessie, in a moment of vulnerability. He also has sex several times with her before her murder, and even though it is consensual the first few times, Wright describes it in a way that may not be classroom appropriate. He also writes several graphically violent scenes depicting gruesome murders that would be hard for some readers to digest. Bigger murders Mary, his white employer’s daughter, and then throws her body in the furnace to burn the evidence. In order to fit her body in the furnace, he “whacked at the bone with the knife. The head hung limply, the curly black hair dragging in blood. He whacked harder, but the head would not come off.” (Wright 79). This appalling detail was yet another issue that was brought to the front of the table when concerned parents asked for this book to be removed from curriculum and school libraries.

While these are valid concerns, it remains to be seen that these are all issues that are topics of discussion among students. At such a vulnerable age, rape, race relations, and sex are important items on the discussion docket. There are a lot of conflicting viewpoints and even laws about these particular subjects that need to be addressed in order to turn students into responsible citizens before they are let loose in the world. A classroom is a safe environment to start a running dialogue about topics that matter for students. Books remain an invaluable starting point for such discussions.

It could be argued that Native Son could be used in an English classroom as a study of writing styles and the effect of grammar usage and dialogue alone. Native Son is a great instance of realist writing. To quote an article on Native Son’s literary style, “[It] is a realist text that does effectively critique American class and race relations, in ways that would seem to baffle the charges of reaction and conservatism [that] more contemporary critics would level at the realist mode.” (DeCoste 130). Good examples of particular writing styles are hard enough for a teacher to find, much less ones that cover interesting topics that students will show passion about in discussion and writing. The addition of the controversial subject matter makes this an especially enticing read for young adults. How many titles on the top banned book list are bestsellers? How many of these titles shot to the top of the bestseller lists after they were under fire for censorship issues? Attempting to ban books often calls more attention to the scandalous nature of the book, circulating the main idea that is so troubling to those trying to censor it in the first place.

So is it worth it to ban access to certain books? Or is banning those novels only making them more prolific? It is hard to say whether or not banning a book will actually keep it out of children’s hands, but it is easy to see what the children will be missing out on when certain books are taken from curriculum. The National Coalition Against Censorship agrees that “literature not only sharpens language and analytical skills but also allows young people to explore the world vicariously and better understand the world around them.” (Bertin 19) The lessons found in hot button reading are irreplaceable. If a classroom was robbed of Native Son, lessons about America’s racial past and the hardships of the death penalty would certainly not be properly introduced and it would not inspire thoughtful discussions that may not have been introduced otherwise.

Well, what grade do you give it? 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

55, 56, 57, 58. what is a stump in the road that costs a lot of money? school.

I have been a wee bit busy lately, and nonetheless, quite QUITE full up of information.  There are still remains of my not-so recent move on my floor, school supplies and vitamins randomly hang out on my desk, and my pile of books has somehow exploded (and grown- thanks so much, teachers, for making me buy more things that i don't really need).  what i'm trying to say is that i don't have a ton of things to say (about my reading, at least), but i want/need to record the books that I have recently read before I entirely forget about them and lose count of my year thus far.  which would be a shame to lose over a few silly essays and a bad hangover, right?  those mean nothing, this is my goal for the year, whatever else may happen.  just kidding.  sort of.  on that same line of thought, do you think i will make it?  i'm not even to 60 and it's almost the end of september, with more deadlines and papers than i think i have had all my life and less required reading in whole book format than i have had thus far in college.  but as soon as i get this application in, and the first round of real papers out of the way, i'm sure i'll return to my completely apathetic state of mind as far as school goes and get down to the important stuff- the reading.  anywho, i have much to say about my four books (well, two of them at least) but i'm about to retire for the evening - can anyone guess what the last book i read was?  i'll give you a hint- it was set in the 1700s!!!!  and now i am writing like a wee lass.  can't wait to see how these papers turn out this weekend.  alright, drumroll please and my four books are:

The Language of Baklava, Diana Abu-Jaber
Is It Done Yet?, Barry Gilmore

Voyager, Diana Gabaldon

Leaf Man, Ehlert (you caught me- this one is indeed a picture book for children, but i have to write a literary analysis of it and i had to go to the library to check it out, so i'm counting it)

The Language of Baklava freakishly mirrored my life/future life and i loved every bit of it except for the beginning when they kill the lamb.  but they felt bad about that, so i'll let it slide.  the recipes in it were some of the habibi's favorite and it was really fun learning about another culture through the memories of a child, then the eyes of that child as a grown-up.  more later on all of these books, if i get a chance.  perhaps not until next year, once my reading goal is completed ;)