When people meet our family for the first time, they are smitten with our precious Pearl.
I think it’s her dimples.
Or the way she puts on shows for the family.
It might be her infectious giggle.
Or her diva poses.
It may be the love of her sister.
Or baby sister.
But I think I know why most of all…
it is the sheer joy she brings to our world every single moment.
We are lucky she is a part of our family!
Happy birthday, Miss Pearl.
This is how you use an apostrophe; this is how you use a semi colon; this is how you use a dash; this is how you analyze lyrics; this is how you analyze a poem; this is how you analyze a story; this is how you analyze a novel; this is a prefix; this is how you survive a school shooting; this is a suffix; this is how you write a letter; this is how you write a persuasive essay; but what if I don’t want to become a target? this is how you research; this is how you read for pleasure; this is how you read academically; this is how you write prose; this is how you write dialogue; this is how you write citations; this is how you infer; this is how you survive a school shooting; this is how you write an essay; this is how you summarize; this is how to think critically; but what if I head out the window instead of barricading myself in the classroom? this is how to paraphrase; this is how to write an expository essay; this is how to edit; this is how to revise; this is how to use diction; this is how to create tone; this is how to debate; this is how to write a call to action; this is how to survive a school shooting; this is how to create mood; this is how to identify point of view; this is how to comprehend; but what if I die? You mean to tell me after everything I’ve taught you that you really think you’re the one that’s going to die?
Thank you to my students and Jamaica Kincaid’s, “Girl,” for inspiration.
On meeting a homeless man in Flint
His handshake so smooth
from years of callouses
Swollen to the point of
Skin tearing across tight.
Like a child putting on
too small tights
that their belly fat
doubles over the elastic waist
while their stocky legs are
sucked tightly into the nylon.
All I could offer was
a warm touch and
a cup full of pennies.
When I was 12 years old
we took a trip to northern Michigan.
Mom and me in the front seats
waiting for dad and Tanner to
bring Diet Coke and fishing tackle
out from the store.
A man drunk stumbled near us
kept coming closer
and closer to the car
so I hit the lock button
and looked over at my mom
reading in the front seat-
How did I know that at this moment
our lives could have been altered
by one push of the button?
Thanks to Clint Smith for the inspiration.
34 Refugees drown trying to escape Lybia
while I vacationed in Southern California.
Drunken mimosa stumbling upon a beach
combing through rocks and shells-
a small smooth bone, a femur.
I didn’t think of my students
until I saw this headline later.
For Dunya. Omar. Abrar. Rasha. And others still.
Each week my seniors study a poem and then analyze, respond, and imitate it. A few of these are my imitation pieces. If you are interested in learning more, email me at: email@example.com.
Each year I put together a list of books that I think friends and family will enjoy. This summer’s list is quite diverse, but all have special meaning behind the recommendation.
To begin we will go with YA book recently turned film: Everything, Everything by Jamaican-American author, Nicola Yoon. Illustrations are done by her husband which gives this story an intimate tone. It is your typical Shakespearean tragedy, with star crossed lovers and flawed parents, but there is no tragic death which is not a spoiler so much as it is foreshadowing. The protagonist, Maddy, can die at any minute IF she leaves her hermetically sealed home…like John Travolta was years ago in the Bubble. The boy next door moves in, they fall in love through their semi-stalking of one another and she plots her great escape along with her nurse, Carla. I love Carla’s character since she is the one who reiterates that life is about living not just existing. The writing is well done here, and the plot is redundant but a good redundant. Like eating another bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. The book came highly recommended by my pre-teen daughter and one of my favorite students, so there’s that…how can you not love a book that ultimately serves as your daughter’s first love story?
The opposite of love is hate, and The Hate U Give is my next recommendation. This new novel by Angie Thomas takes newspaper headlines to YA fiction in a masterfully woven tale of a police shooting from the witnesses perspective. Thomas began writing it in college after the murder of Oscar Grant, but then life happened and she set it by the wayside like so many authors do. After additional killings by police, she decided the time was NOW and gives us the tale of a girl protagonist turned activist. Our world needs this novel. If you read anything this summer-it should be this book. If you listen to it on Audible, you will not be disappointed in the reading done by Bahni Turpin.
Another novel that needs a re-read, or maybe a first read, is To Kill a Mockingbird. I just finished this with freshmen and realized how this book resonates at any point in my life. For example, I used to connect well with Jem, the know it all of the book, and saw a lot of my brother in Scout. The latest read had me thinking a lot on Calpurnia. It may be because I read Go Set a Watchman last summer, but her strength and compassion for children, who weren’t hers, really inspired me this spring. The staying power this book holds is what makes it a classic.
Next on the list is Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. This hilariously sad book comes from debut Scottish author, Gail Honeyman. Poor Eleanor is socially awkward and does not realize that her life is sad. She also has some sort of facial deformity which is reminiscent of last year’s children’s rec, (and again this year for those of you who have procrastinated) Wonder. She’s going through the motions and not really living it (similar to Maddy in Everything above) until she meets this stinky IT guy who appreciates her quirky nature. They sort of get into a relationship when they help an elderly man; so becomes a reason to actually live life…and LOVE life. The mystery surrounding her past unfolds with each new experiences she chooses to live. This book had me crying and laughing all on the same page but I am still hormonal so don’t let that hold you back from reading something fresh and meaningful!
Wonder, a children’s novel by Raquel Jaramillo, under the pen name of R. J. Palacio, is a rec from last year, and is the children’s version of the above book. It is the most satisfying tale of empathy I have read. Schools should require this book. Here is the upcoming trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngiK1gQKgK8
Another classic children’s tale in my house is the picture book, When Dinosaurs Came With Everything by Elise Broach. Illustrations are from Davis Small. This hilarious encounter is a fun read for any age. The premise is as the title suggests, so one can only imagine the conflicts that occur when running daily errands such as buying groceries, getting a haircut, and even, as my favorite line suggests inside the doctor’s office begging: “I want a shot!” The larger than life illustrations take children into a world where dinosaurs don’t necessarily roam free, but are free. Read it to your kids, or to yourself if you are a kid at heart!
Not for children is The Handmaid’s Tale. I would urge you to listen to this on Audible as Claire Danes reads it. It is painful but necessary. If you need a visual, Hulu has released a series that documents the text quite well, but as a feminist reader, I suggest listening to it first. Margaret Atwood wrote it in 1985 but today, all I can say is, shame on us for heading in such a dystopian, evil direction.
In addition to this text, if you missed George Orwell’s 1984 in high school, or just read the Cliff’s Notes version, it should be on your to do list. Big Brother is always watching, and in this case, it is through the television screen. Albeit long, and sometimes tedious, I think a full read is necessary for an informed adult/YA today.
The last of the dark dystopias is Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. This brings the Handmaid’s Tale and 1984 together in a Shakespearean sense. It feels much further away than the two previous recommendations, which allows it to be much more entertaining. I mean, who wears birth control on their waistband, right?
Two books that I haven’t read yet but will be doing so in the next few days are: Beautiful Music for Ugly Children and Give a Girl a Knife. Both are new releases but vary in genre. Beautiful Music is about a guy who was born as Elisabeth and is coming to terms with his gender identity. Its relevance today makes it a must read for every teacher while Give a Girl is a memoir for foodies. It follows one chef from the Midwest to NYC on an amazing culinary journey. One can only hope for a female Anthony Bourdain!
This group of texts should suffice for a summer of education and entertainment balance. Let me know if you enjoy any of his year’s choices, or if you hate them. Either way, I love feedback! It lets me know people actually do still read which always, always gives me hope for our chaotic world today. And remember, books are expensive but the library is always FREE.