Book Review: Love May Fail

Matthew Quick rapidly became a favorite author after I realized Silver Linings Playbook (the film) had been based on a book of the same name.  I’ve since read all his books, including Forgive Me Leonard Peacock, The Good Luck of Right Now, Sorta Like a Rockstarand Boy 21.  I was pleased to see he had a new book out last year, and when I attended NCTE this year, I procured a copy of Love May Fail. While avoiding finishing my grading this weekend, I devoured it in just two sittings.

Essentially, this story explores how to resurrect yourself from an existential crisis.  You might need some help from family, friends, and old teachers, but it is possible.  Told from a variety of perspectives (Portia, recently single after discovering her philandering husband; Nathan Vernon, Portia’s former English teacher; letters from a nun), this novel quickly captures your attention and your heart.  Teachers will appreciate the truth about teaching–it is simultaneously wondrous and dangerous, something that can fill us up and empty us out.

Perhaps my favorite element of the book is the card Mr. Vernon gave to all his students (which Portia saved for decades). On it:“Portia Kane, Official Member of the Human Race! This card entitles you to ugliness and beauty, heartache and joy—the great highs and lows of existence—and everything in between. It also guarantees you the right to strive, to reach, to dream, and to become the person you know (deep down) you are meant to be. So make daring choices, work hard, enjoy the ride, and remember—you become exactly whomever you choose to be.”

However, there’s a compelling storyline about a dog named Albert Camus as well.  This book is full of joy, sadness, redemption, resurrection, love, and most of all hope. The next time you need to lose yourself in a book, pick this one up.

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Posted by Kate, VP Secondary PCTELA

Book Review: Love May Fail

Book Review: Between the World and Me

If you read one new book this year, make it Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Goodreads tells us this book has won the National Book Award for Nonfiction (2015), the Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction (2015), the Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Nonfiction (2015), and the Alex Award (2016).

Let me tell you why. This year, at NCTE, I attended/presented at High School Matters. As usual, Carol Jago had her bookmark with her recommendations. Usually, she puts this bookmark together a few weeks before, and by the time the conference rolls around, many of her choices are award-winners. Ta-Nehisi Coates’s book, Between the World and Me was one of the books she recommended.

I attended the conference with a colleague, and she immediately procured the book, began reading it, and was profoundly moved. After we returned home, I bought a copy as well. I found myself wanting to underline every sentence in the book. I dog-eared pages, I underlined sections, I photocopied paragraphs. This book captures an important issue in brilliant writing. He writes in epistolary form–a letter to his son. The basic claim he makes is that black people don’t own their bodies.

Here are some compelling passages:

  • “The classroom was a jail of other people’s interests. The library was open, unending, free.”
  • “You are growing into consciousness, and my wish for you is that you feel no need to constrict yourself to make other people comfortable.”
  • “I was made for the library, not the classroom. The classroom was a jail of other people’s interests. The library was open, unending, free.”
  • “Black people love their children with a kind of obsession. You are all we have, and you come to us endangered.”
  • “So I feared not just the violence of this world but the rules designed to protect you from it, the rules that would have you contort your body to address the block, and contort again to be taken seriously by colleagues, and contort again so as not to give the police a reason. All my life I’d heard people tell their black boys and black girls to “be twice as good,” which is to say “accept half as much.” These words would be spoken with a veneer of religious nobility, as though they evidenced some unspoken quality, some undetected courage, when in fact all they evidenced was the gun to our head and the hand in our pocket. This is how we lose our softness. This is how they steal our right to smile.”

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I’ve already passed this book along to colleagues, and now I’m handing it to students.  It addresses important issues we’re talking about in our classroom–representation, the American Dream, power and oppression.   So if you’re looking for a new non-fiction book to read, to share, to teach, consider Between the World and Me.

Posted by Kate, VP Secondary PCTELA

Book Review: Between the World and Me

Friday Five: Summer Professional Development Opportunities that won’t cost you anything

Five Summer Professional Development Opportunities that won’t cost you anything:

1. NEH Summer Seminars for teachers–deadline March 1

2. LIbrary of Congress Summer Teacher Institutes–deadline Feb 29

3. Gilder Lehrman Summer Teacher Seminars– deadline Feb 29

4. Folger Shakespeare Summer Institute--deadline March 1

5. Summer Professional Development With MOOCs

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Friday Five: Summer Professional Development Opportunities that won’t cost you anything

Goodreads Challenge: Balancing Reading & Writing in the New Year

I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions, but this year I resolve to balance my reading and my writing. In past years, I’ve made reading a priority, setting my Goodreads challenge at 75 or even 100 books for the year. This year, I’ve decided to make a moderate challenge for myself in the reading area so I can balance that out by doing more writing–poetry, professional writing, personal writing, and even some fiction.

One of the motivators for me was a recent tweet from the Boston Globe citing the likelihood of winning powerball (1 in 292 million) versus the likelihood of writing a NYT bestseller (1 in 221). I don’t need to write a bestseller, thank you very much, I’d just like to write something a few other people want to read.

So here’s to a new year filled with plenty of reading and writing opportunities!

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Posted by Kate, VP Secondary, PCTELA

Goodreads Challenge: Balancing Reading & Writing in the New Year