Thursday, August 15, 2013

What one book do you believe NEEDS to be taught in school?

This post is part of the GRAB(ook) Club, an online book club open to anyone where you can drop in and out as you wish.  However, you do not need to be part of the book club to comment; I'm curious about everyone's opinions.

This month's selection was To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.  I'm guessing that for most people this was a reread, but for me it actually wasn't.  I never had to read it in school and never ended up picking it up after that.  There's a lot of books like that for me.  I've never read anything by J.D. Salinger, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Alice Walker, or any number of other classic authors.  Some, like Ray Bradbury and Kurt Vonnegut, I've picked up on my own, but plenty of others I haven't so far.

I'm not sure why To Kill A Mockingbird wasn't part of the curriculum for me.  I don't know if it was because of the use of the n-word throughout, or if they thought it wasn't necessary because we covered other female authors and people writing about race relations or what.  I will say that I would have gladly traded this for Invisible Man with regards to books discussing racism.

I liked the character development and descriptions a lot more in To Kill A Mockingbird, as well as the way that Lee handled people understanding or not understanding Scout.  But also, I find To Kill A Mockingbird much more appropriate for the high school age group with how it handles sexual content.  I suppose at least part of that comes from it being written from the point of view of Scout, with an eight-year-old's understanding of sexual matters.  No matter how or why it was done this way, though, the question of and description of rape was managed delicately enough that I could have handled it in high school and had read worse on my own.  Invisible Man, on the other hand, skeeved me out in high school with the graphic descriptions of the naked women in the Battle Royale scene.  I wasn't ready for it, and I was disturbed by it.  The rest of the book I was just bored by, but I squirmed both mentally and physically when I read that part.  Yes, I believe that assigned reading should broaden our horizons and make us think about things we might not have otherwise.  But I also believe, now that I've read it, that To Kill A Mockingbird would have been a better choice for making students think about the past and what is still here in the present in a new way.

So what do you think is just that important in classic literature that it NEEDS to be taught to students?  And what about that book/play/poem/etc. makes it that important?

After you answer my question, please click over to read the rest of the book club questions for To Kill A Mockingbird. You can get your own copy of To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee at bookstores including Amazon.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

A Prince Among Babies

I've seen a lot of people over the past month, both infertile and not, wanting the world to just shut the heck up about Duchess Catherine and Prince George.  I'm not among them.  This may surprise some people, and it did surprise me a little bit.

Part of it is having always been interested in the British royals, FAR more than in any other celebrity or celebrity-like creature.  I couldn't care less which Kardashian is which and I don't even know who the father of Jennifer Aniston's baby is.  But I was rooting for Catherine to end up with Prince William when she was first on the cover of magazines in the supermarket and when he broke up with her for a while and when she was patiently waiting for an engagement for what seemed like forever.  I have in a box the special in the Washington Post about William and Catherine's wedding.  I did not Tivo the wedding, but I did look for pictures when I got home from work.  I even had a dream before the wedding that she and I became friends.

But part of it is also sympathy.  Even before the wedding, people were speculating on how long it would take her to conceive.  Her. Not how fertile Prince William would be and how long it would take him, but how long it would take her.  And she had to be at least a little scared about that.  After all, she didn't know whether she would be able to conceive.  You can't exactly take the Prince's fiancee out for a test drive to find out!

And as soon as the wedding was over, the pressure was ON.  From the palace, from the media (both legitimate and tabloid), from the public.  Even if she avoided it as much as possible, living out in the country where Prince William was stationed and doing her own grocery shopping, she was aware of it.  She had one job to do and she knew it, and it wasn't even anything under her control.  She could do everything she was supposed to and still not know if she would get pregnant.  I felt bad for her as the months went on, because she didn't just have to worry about herself and William being disappointed, there was the rest of the country to think about.

And if you think about it, by US standards, she and William dealt with infertility.  It took her over one year, basically a year and a half, to conceive.  That's not infertility in the UK, where the cutoff is two years of trying to "earn" the distinction.  But it is here.  When I heard about her being hospitalized with Hyperemesis gravidarum and learned that it was more common when a woman was pregnant with multiples, my first thought was to wonder, since it had been a while since the wedding, if she had seen a fertility specialist and was having twins after IUI or IVF.  Apparently not.

But still, the feelings had to be there for her, whether she qualified for a diagnosis in the UK or not.  When I've felt like less of a woman because of not being able to accomplish the defining aspect of womanhood, she had to deal with not just the expectations of womanhood in general but also of someone married to the heir to the throne.  When I was fielding questions from family members on whether I had any news, she had to field questions from the media.  When I looked down at my stomach and wanted to see a bump that wasn't fat, she had the whole world watching her for a bump.

So I can't begrudge her the attention she's getting from the world.  She's put up with enough to get it.  All the great clothes and jewelry and not having to worry about money don't make up for the worry and stress and heartache any more than they did for Giuliana Rancic or anyone else rich who wants to be a mother.