October! The longest month of the school year is over and I have survived. And maybe even a little better than just survived? Dare I say this month has been pretty decent? Sure, behind with grading, house a mess, tired, yadda yadda yadda, but we have had some fun and I've read some good stuff. Here's how I did:
Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg
A tragic accident leaves June without her daughter, her soon-to-be son-in-law, her current boyfriend, and ex-husband. A town is shaken and so many lives are greatly impacted. This story shows us how people grieve differently and how easy it is to simply just be there for others (but also how to hurt them). This book touches on race, social class, and familial bonds, while focusing on vulnerability.
Verdict: This novel weighed so heavily on my heart, but at the same time was also hopeful and simply wonderful. I at first balked at having to manage so many different perspectives (that chapters are from that of several different characters), but I came around. This book will definitely be a contended for my top ten list at the end of the year (so will the next one).
The Sellout by Paul Beatty
The narrator of this satirical novel about race and class is an African American man who decides that in order to put his town of Dickens back on the map he's going to shake things up a bit, by doing things like reinstituting segregation, keeping a slave (although he does employ the local S&M club to do his whipping, though), and changing city signage. There's so many hilarious, yet sobering elements to this book that I can barely scratch the surface here. A group of intellectuals that meet at a donut shop, a cow castration at career day in which a little girl finishes the task and keeps the remains, countless uses of the "n-word," stereotypes galore, and the obvious message that we do not live in a country where racism isn't a issue.
Verdict: I loved this book and think Beatty is a brilliant satirist. He calls attention to important issues at hand, backslapping each with humor and wit. The problem? The people that need to read this book won't, and even if they did, they wouldn't get it. We have a long way to go.
Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple
Eleanor is an artist who is seven years behind on her graphic memoir. Her son, a possibly homosexual elementary student, is struggling at school and needs to take the day off. Her husband, a wildly successful doctor, is basically missing. Eleanor thought that her day would be different in a good way- not in a chaotic way that would make her examine each and every element of her life closely in stressful situations. And not only is her present precarious, her past also resurfaces, showing some wounds that have still not healed.
Verdict: It sounds interesting and witty, but I think compared to Semple's other book, Where'd You Go, Bernadette, this one fell short. There were many similarities (quirky kid, Seattle, disappearing spouse, etc...) and the twist at the end was disappointing. It still did have fun, humorous moments, though, so this is most definitely one to get next year to read while floating around the pool with a cocktail.
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Pip loves Estella. Pip gets a mysterious benefactor. Pip sort of becomes a d-bag. Pip abandons Joe, the only person that was truly good to him. Pip- wait, you read this in high school? You remember? I'll spare you. I was about to ruin it anyway.
Verdict: Dickens. Sigh. Loooooong sigh. I read this because I am advising a student on his extended essay on the book at work, so it wouldn't have been something I chose on my own. But, as much as I make fun on if, I actually like it. Yup, I like a Charles Dickens book. Sure, he's wordy and so very, very descriptive, but there's something about Miss Havisham and Jaggers and The Convict that I sort of love.