Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sunday Sunshine: Literal Edition

"Literal" in the sense that it has been warm and sunny here all week (yes, it DOES happen in Buffalo!)  Mr. S starts his new job on Tuesday, so we've tried to make the most of the time off while also staying cool (we don't have an air conditioner installed right now, and we're doing our best to coast into the cooler weather without having to put one in.)  We've gone to the mall (which, after five years in Manhattan, is sort of an amazing pasttime) and played mini-golf and arcade games, and gone to the supermarket (another amazing thing--supermarkets are so BIG outside of the city!).  We also had some folks over last night for the U.S. premiere of Doctor Who Season 7 (but I'll try to confine that kind of talk to my new Tumblr.)

Anyway, I did finish two books this week, and I'm already kicking into high reading gear for the rest of 2012!

What I Read This Week:

 Great Expectations Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As many of you know, I read this book in an unusual way. (Well--re-read, after speeding through it in college and then promptly forgetting everything about it.) Over the course of the summer, I read a chapter a day, sending notes to several of my former students who read it with me. I also kept a blog record of those notes here, at my Great Expectations Readalong blog. If you're interested in my chapter-level reactions, you can find them there, so I won't go into a ton of detail here.

When I was in tenth grade, hating my way through A Tale of Two Cities, my favorite teacher remarked on how funny he found Dickens. That was maybe the only time I ever questioned this teacher's wisdom, but this summer I really found out what he was talking about. Parts of this book actually made me laugh out loud. Other parts made me rant and rave; others made me cry a little. I recommend this for Dickens beginners (like myself) and Dickens skeptics (formerly ditto). The one-chapter-a-day approach was nice for me, because I could read other things at the same time, and it gave me a better sense of the original rhythm: Great Expectations was originally published in installments, which you can kind of get the feel for when you read it slowly. I don't think Dickens gets nearly enough credit for either his completely goofy sense of humor or his mastery of suspense. Try it--especially if you suffered through Dickens in school like I did. You may be pleasantly surprised.

OMGQueerOMGQueer by Katherine E. Lynch
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Let me get two things out of the way up front: I don't often have the patience for short story collections (seems like an oxymoron, but somehow is also true) and I went into this thinking that "queer youth" meant high school students, but in fact it seems to be a mix of HS and young adult writers, with the result that the stories range from solid YA to solid NA, emphasis on the "A" part. However, I did make it through the entire collection, and there were some stories I really enjoyed. One of my favorites was the first in the collection ("Jelson" by Brenna Harvey), about a young person who has the ability to transition along the gender spectrum at will. The story made some thoughtful points about gender and sexuality while also being pretty fun and readable. A few more had very likable voices, even if the edges were a little rough, and overall I think it's a collection worth adding to a library or classroom.

In terms of general access, however, I feel compelled to discuss the heat level of a few stories. There was a nice range of sweet romance and family stories to more explicit sexual encounters, which I think reflects the reality of the young queer experience. I will say, though, that reading as a teacher I realized the sizable gulf between adult romance and sexuality and teen romance and sexuality; while I'm generally comfortable giving my students the latter (depending on the student and the book, always, but I try not to censor too much) I would not necessarily feel great about handing over the former. YMMV, and obviously if you're an adult, carry on and enjoy! Personally, there are a few stories in here that I would consider actually teaching to a whole class, but I wouldn't personally just set this out on the all-access classroom library shelves. (Regular public library? Definitely.) I would consider giving it to students I know well, whose families don't mind them reading racier material, but I know many of the parents and guardians at my old school would object to SOME (again, not all) of the stories in this collection.

I received a free e-book copy for review from NetGalley. My review is a reflection of my own honest opinions.

View all my reviews

I'd also like to share a blog that I really enjoy: Lee Wind's I'm Here. I'm Queer.  What the Hell Do I Read? I find Lee himself to be a really interesting and thoughtful blogger, and he maintains the largest list I've seen of books for young people (picture book through teen)  featuring LGBTQ characters and themes.  When I was in the classroom I tried to make my library as inclusive as possible so Lee's site was a huge help.  If you're looking for more books with LGBTQ content, Lee's site is a great place to start.

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