I am pleased to announce that I have finally read me some Clyde Edgerton. It was only a short story so I'm not sure if it really counts, but DAMN it was good.
Since most of my readers are from lame-ass places like the midwest, you probably don't know much more about Clyde Edgerton than I did last summer when a customer in the bookstore asked me to look up one of his books for her. I couldn't find it so I said to Bookstore Meaghan, "Hey, do you know [whatever the hell the title was] by Clyde EdGarton?" "Edgerton?" Meaghan corrected me with a raised eyebrow. "Whatever. I'm dyslexic," I explained. But Meaghan looked at me like she knew I was lying and, with a great deal of concern, asked, "You HAVE read him, right?" "Um, no," I admitted, ashamed. "My GOD, girl, how'd you get out of school without reading Edgerton?!" Meaghan laughed.
I'm not sure, actually. Perhaps because my parents moved me from southeastern Virginia to the dreaded northern portion of Virginia while my education was still in progress. But still. I've managed to read almost every other Southern writer mentioned on Wikipedia's Southern literature page, and even a bunch who aren't listed (helloooo? Tony Earley? David Payne? Alice freakin' Walker?!).
So I read and enjoyed Clyde Edgerton and I got to thinking about regional literature. If I went into a bookstore in Chicago, could I easily locate the Southern literature section? Or would they have a similar section for midwestern literature? (And, sidebar, why do I feel compelled to capitalize "Southern" while poor "midwestern" gets the shaft?) Is there even such a thing as midwestern literature and, if so, what the hell is it about? If I read a work of midwestern literature would I recognize it as such? Are other regions of the country just as distinctive -- in their own ways -- as the American South?
As it turns out, there IS such a thing as midwestern literature. I googled it, and then I clicked on a few links and tried to figure out who speaks for the midwest and what defines midwestern literature. And I couldn't.
The midwest claims Toni Morrison and Mark Twain -- both of whom I thought of as Southern writers despite the fact that neither are from the South -- and Charles Baxter, whose The Feast of Love I, well, loved. But other than that, midwestern literature seems to be written by authors I've never heard of (okay, I'm a book person -- I've HEARD of Saul Bellow and Sinclair Lewis, I've just never been interested in READING them) about themes I can't relate to.
Virginia is no longer really considered part of the South (even if it WAS the capital of the Confederacy) and I'd hardly call myself a Southerner, but the more I thought about my understanding of Southern literature vs. my understanding of midwestern literature, the more I was struck by how profoundly I've been shaped by where I live. I don't talk all that funny, but I can't begin to comprehend the concept of unsweetened iced tea, and I was 16 before it occurred to me that the Civil War might actually HAVE been about slavery. The thought of a summer without peaches makes me want to cry.
Do people in other regions of the country have a similar sense of place? Did I totally miss it when I read The Feast of Love for the love rather than for the Michigan-ness? And is it possible to develop as deep an affection for another region of the country (one with snow and ICICLES, no less) as for the region you've lived in for the past 25 years?
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
I am pleased to announce that I have finally read me some Clyde Edgerton. It was only a short story so I'm not sure if it really counts, but DAMN it was good.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Monday, January 22, 2007
I don't think the anti-abortion argument is really about the sanctity of human life at all, the deeply-held religious convictions of many pro-lifers (both male and female) notwithstanding. I think opposition to abortion is perpetuated by the male leadership of patriarchal religious organizations whose goal is to ensure women's inferior status. I know that sounds a bit conspiracy-theory-ish, but if we really wanted to eliminate abortion we wouldn't allow pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control.
The other day I returned from a meeting to find one of these flyers on my desk. My friend Jay had happened upon it (perhaps in a stairwell, where so many of Omar's flyers seem to congregate), noted that it was the work of the elusive Omar, and left it for me to laugh at. Unfortunately I can't post it for you to laugh at because one of my little hooligans seems to have absconded with it. And frankly the only amusing thing about the flyer was the location of this particular party: "where Omar have all his parties."
Posted at 7:06 PM
Friday, January 19, 2007
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
You're To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee
Perceived as a revolutionary and groundbreaking person, you have changed the minds of many people. While questioning the authority around you, you've
also taken a significant amount of flack. But you've had the admirable guts to persevere. There's a weird guy in the neighborhood using dubious means to protect you, but you're pretty sure it's worth it in the end. In the end, it remains unclear to you whether finches and mockingbirds get along in real life.
Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
My school offers a "class" called Teacher's Assistant, open only to members of the Future Educators of America. In theory, each future educator is paired up with a current educator to experience what it's really like to be a teacher before he or she is stupid enough to actually join the profession (we kid because we love). In practice though, most of the future educators weren't ever all that interested in becoming teachers in the first place -- they just run a lot of photocopies and grade a lot of quizzes.
I know you're waiting for the part of the post where I talk about boobs, but I mention all this first because the boobs in questions are my TA's boobs, and if I just started off the post by saying, "My TA. . ." you'd probably think, "Wait. She has a TA?" and then you'd be focused on that instead of the boobs. Right? Totally.
So. . .
My TA is a ditzy but incredibly sweet girl who I taught last year. We have a good relationship -- friendly but not unprofessional. She showed up unexpectedly at the end of my 6th period class today because she'd just checked into school and she didn't feel like going to the last few minutes of her own 6th period, which is fine. As I chatted with her I noticed that she was sporting rather a lot of cleavage for a Tuesday afternoon and I said, "Hey, what's up with your boobs hanging out all over the place?" in a very you're-totally-violating-the-dresscode-but-far-be-it-from-me-to-enforce-the-man's-rules kind of way. She glanced down at her chest, smiled, and said, "My boo's in my next class."
Right. Of course. So what I perceived as a minor wardrobe mishap was actually a calculated and deliberate display of boob-age for the 8th period ogling pleasure of her boyfriend. And I bet if she hadn't had class with him she wouldn't have even bothered to check into school for the last class of the day. Brazen little hussy.
I wish I could say I was above such behavior in high school, but I wasn't. And while I never rocked the cleavage (mostly because I didn't -- okay, DON'T -- have any cleavage to rock), I definitely considered the presence of certain boys in class when selecting my outfits. Hell, I once even called my mom from school and faked sick when I discovered my crush wasn't at school for like the third day in a row.
I guess there's a brazen little hussy in each of us. And we don't quite grow out of it either.
I'd be stupid to deny that every girl's boo enjoys a little cleavage, but I also know that MY boo doesn't really give a rat's ass what I wear. If you think that prevented me from agonizing about what to pack for Chicago, you were obviously lucky enough not to have had to talk to me in the weeks preceding that trip.
On the other hand, I once wore the HELL out of a hoodie my then-boyfriend had made it clear he didn't "particularly care for," just to assert my independence, so I don't know. I mean, I want my boo to ogle me a little bit, but mostly because he likes ME and not my outfits. Is that so much to ask?
Monday, January 15, 2007
As I contemplated Martin Luther King Day today I had a happy childhood memory. Anyone who knows me well could attest to the fact that this doesn't happen often, so humor me here.
One of the few things I remember fondly from my childhood is the long car rides my family took when we went to visit our relatives. I know most kids don't like long car rides, and I know all you hip, modern parents now have DVD players and skee-ball and kiddie pools in your vehicles to keep your children from driving you completely insane, and I'm sure my parents would have too, had that sort of thing been available back then, but my point is that as a young traveler I did not require even the potholder-weaving kits designed to occupy my attention. While my brother and sister bickered and whined and wondered if we were there yet, I was content to simply look out the window or read a library book.
Eventually everyone fell asleep except me and my dad, who was driving. And although we didn't speak -- perhaps because we didn't speak, it was during those long, silent road trips that I felt closest to my dad. We were sharing something the rest of the family was sleeping through, even if that something was nothing more than cow pasture after cornfield after Texaco station. Of course, the reason I didn't sleep through the car rides was that I found cow pastures and cornfields and Texaco stations sort of interesting, or rather, I just liked knowing about stuff.
I fault my parents for many things, but I am eternally grateful that they rarely missed an opportunity to foster and support this curiosity when I was a little girl. For one particular road trip when I was about eight, my mom borrowed an audio biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. from the public library. I'm not sure anything I was exposed to as a kid shaped me quite as much as the story of this man's life. Obviously I'd learned about Dr. King in school -- even if I DID live in Virginia where until very recently King had to share his day with Confederate generals Lee and Jackson -- but riding in the back of our station wagon listening to recordings of Dr. King's speeches, eyes wide with wonder; waking my mom up to flip the tape or change the batteries for me while I sat mesmerized, all that had a powerful effect on my little eight-year-old self.
It's possible that my parents simply wanted to hear King's biography themselves and hoped I'd suffer through it without complaints, but looking back I realize they probably did this for me. My sister couldn't have cared less about Martin Luther King, plus she slept through every road trip we ever took. My brother was a toddler in a carseat who certainly couldn't have appreciated the concept of soul force at that age any more than his militant ass can appreciate it now. So that leaves only me and my steadfast refusal, even then, to hit back.
What's amazing about all this is not that my conservative parents exposed me to something as weighty and un-conservative as nonviolent resistance at such a young age, but that the people who once gave their eight-year-old bookworm of a daughter ten hours of Martin Luther King, Jr. now routinely wonder how a thirty-one-year-old liberal pacifist snuck into their family.
Posted at 10:33 AM
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
I try, I really do, but some days it's damn near impossible. Take today, for example. My students were watching the film Osama as part of our study of religious fundamentalism. Osama is not -- as you might think -- about bin Laden, but about a young girl living in Afghanistan under the Taliban. Because she has no male relatives and is therefore not allowed to leave her house, her widowed mother disguises her as a boy and sends her out to get a job so the two of them don't starve to death.
It's not the world's most exciting movie -- I mean, there aren't any explosions -- but I thought it gave a pretty good feel for what it might have been like to live under the Taliban: how far-reaching and oppressive their rule was. And I've been at this teaching thing for a while -- I know teenagers generally can't get themselves too terribly worked up over irrelevant things like oppression. (I'm not being sarcastic here. It annoys the hell out of me, but I get it.) But we're talking SERIOUS injustice here, and the film is pretty powerful, so I thought my kids might actually give a shit.
Late in the film there's a scene where a woman is accused of advocating profanity and, after what I guess is supposed to pass for a trial -- an observer at the so-called trial even notes the absence of a witness, sentenced to death by stoning. In the next scene you see a hole being dug, and then you see the woman in the hole with only her head and shoulders visible.
"What's going on?" asked my kids. Which. . . okay. . .fine, we're Americans, we're not all that familiar with stoning procedures. "They're getting ready to stone her," I explained, deliberately being blunt. "They bury you up to your shoulders and then throw rocks at your head until you die."
"Big rocks?" wondered a kid.
And I get that they're teenagers, I get that developmentally they don't have the whole empathy thing down yet, I get that having never experienced anything particularly awful themselves the horror of being stoned to death is probably tough to fully grasp, but COME ON. Does it really fucking matter how big the fucking rocks are?! Can we please focus on the fact that a woman -- who, oh, by the way, can't show her TOES let alone her face in public -- was just charged with a completely made up crime, was neither allowed to defend herself against the charge nor confront even a single witness against her, was sentenced in a matters of seconds, and now people -- like for FUN -- are gonna throw ROCKS, whatever their size, at her head until she DIES?
Oh, but my day gets worse.
The stoning scene ends with people swarming around the woman in her hole, all -- I presume -- eager to throw rocks at her for her horrible transgression of advocating profanity. As the next scene began, one of my kids said, "Wait. We don't even get to SEE her get stoned?" "You want to watch a woman get stoned to death?" I asked angrily. "Well, not in real life," he answered nodding, "but yeah."
What is this, like, Jackass: The Class?
Toward the very end of the film, we see an old mullah locking his newly acquired (against her will, of course) young bride in a room with his other wives. She weeps as the other wives tell her how cruel he is, while he makes preparations for their wedding night. In one of the very last scenes, the mullah holds an array of padlocks out to his new wife, as if he's giving her a gift, and encourages her to choose one. "What's he doing?" asked a kid. "He's letting her choose the lock for her door," explained another kid. "Awwww, that's really sweet," said a girl. "She's gonna spend the rest of her life locked in that room unless he says she can come out," I ranted, "what's SWEET about that?" "Well, if she has to be locked up, at least he's letting her choose the lock she likes," answered my student.
Seriously. What do you even DO with that as a teacher?
Although I pretty much wear nothing but skirts when the weather's nice (well, I mean, I wear tops WITH the skirts), wintertime is a different story, mostly because of footwear. In the spring, summer, and fall I can go bare-legged and flip-flopped, but in the winter skirts are a major production involving both tights and boots, neither of which I am particularly fond of. Still, I try to wear a skirt to school at the beginning of the week so that then I can slack off attire-wise for the rest of the week.
I mention all this because today is this week's skirt and boot day. I don't think I paid any attention to what my teachers were wearing when I was a student, but not a day goes by that at least one of my kids doesn't comment on some aspect of my outfit. And this morning one of my students complimented me on my boots, which are indeed nice. This compliment prompted another student to examine my boots, after which she furrowed her brow and asked, "Wait. Aren't you a vegetarian?" Because the boots, in addition to being nice, are leather. But I pretended not to know where she was going with this. "Um, yeah. What does that have to do with anything?" She didn't fall for it.
Student: You're wearing leather boots.
Me: I'm not EATING the boots.
Student: So you won't eat animals but you'll wear their skin?
Me: Well, what else am I supposed to do? Shoes are made of leather.
Student: Not ALL shoes are made of leather. What about shoes like that? (pointing to another kid's shoes)
Me: You want me to wear SNEAKERS?!
Student: So you care more about looking good than about the poor animals?
Um, yeah, kinda. I mean, if there was a reasonable vegan alternative to leather boots I'd be all over it, but I can't wear sneakers with my skirts -- that would look silly. In which case I guess I might as well have a cheeseburger. Actually, make that a BACON cheeseburger.
Sunday, January 07, 2007
To the Editor:
Re 'New congressman to use Jefferson's copy of Quran' (news, Jan. 4):
Mr. Jefferson probably owned the Quran to have a reference on how not to craft a constitutional republic.
The Quran goes hand in hand with Sharia law, tells Muslims to lie to nonbelievers and calls for their slaying. The more Muslims we have in elected office, the more America as we know it is in peril.
While the Qur'an, like any other religious text, would certainly not be the sort of book one might consult for tips on establishing a constitutional republic, I suspect that Jefferson owned a copy of the Qur'an because -- as a student of the Enlightenment -- he both revered and actively pursued knowledge.
And Jefferson, who once edited the Bible down to a mere 114 pages in an effort to present the true teachings of Jesus, would surely have noted that the Qur'an is no different from other religious texts in that it contains passages that are every bit as alarming as others are beautiful.
Dogmatic adherents to the Qur'an are no more a threat to American democracy than dogmatic adherents to the Bible or the Torah. What does pose a grave threat to America as we know it is religious intolerance, which is precisely why the Founding Fathers took such pains to protect our religious freedom, even stipulating in Article VI of the Constitution that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."
Of course, as Thomas Jefferson lamented way back in 1817, "ignorance and bigotry, like other insanities, are incapable of self-government," so I guess we shouldn't be too surprised to find them flourishing in 2007.
Friday, January 05, 2007
And you might as well know -- hell, most of you already do -- that my guy is not just any guy but Some Guy. Who rocks.
When Chris/Some Guy and I first started falling for each other (which was way back in November, if you must know), we agreed to keep it to ourselves. Or, more accurately, we decided to share that news only in meatspace because, well, there are some things y'all just do not need to know. But we're smitten and giddy, and we couldn't help but allude to our giddy smitten-ness* in posts like this and this and this and, um, this. Then there was all that Chicago canoodling, which ultimately led to our being outed. And that's fine. Our readers are not retarded; we knew you'd figure it out eventually.
*not a real word
I just got an email from my brother that said:
Dude, you really need to do something about that damn song that automatically plays when people go to your blog. It's holy fucking annoying, Batman.Done and DONE. Sorry.
See, the song doesn't automatically play on my internets because I am currently connected with a 56K modem at a rate of 45,333 bps (whatever the hell that means).
But yeah, Christmas is over and the song isn't THAT good. So I fixed it.
Posted at 7:45 PM
Thursday, January 04, 2007
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
Shortly after I moved to Norfolk from the DC suburbs two years ago, I announced that I was never moving again. I've moved a lot and it sucks -- the packing, the U-Haul, the carrying hundreds of boxes of books up multiple flights of stairs, the unpacking, the settling in. . .ugh. Sure, I thought I might someday move out of my apartment into an actual house, but as a military brat, I really like the idea of roots -- of being FROM somewhere. And I love Norfolk, so I decided I would live here forever and ever and ever.
The trouble is that I hate my school and I don't plan to work there once this school year is over. I could go work in some other school district, but that would mean driving out to the suburbs every day, and a big part of why I moved to Norfolk in the first place was because I didn't want to teach (or live) in the suburbs.
And despite the fact that I have long thought of teaching as my true calling, every day I spend at my current school is a day I grow less sure I even want to be a teacher at all. I'm a powerful literacy, Socratic seminar, inquiry-based instruction girl in a standards-based, data-driven instruction, high stakes testing world, and I don't think this NCLB accountability bullshit is going away any time soon. So I keep debating whether I should continue working within a fucked up system to try to do what good I can, or whether I'd be doing more good by refusing to be a part of a system that's completely fucked.
Actually, that dilemma -- now that I see it on virtual paper -- is pretty much a no-brainer for me: there are few things I am more passionate about than the importance of public education, so I just don't see myself getting out of teaching. That would be like moving to Canada and letting right-wing Republicans take over my country. But I'm tired and burned-out and I think I need a break. I just don't know what to do with my break, and I don't know who I'd be if I wasn't a teacher.
I also have no idea where I might like to live, and to complicate matters I seem to be falling -- and falling hard -- for a man who lives in a galaxy far, far away.
So, for perhaps the first time in my life -- certainly for the first time in my ADULT life -- I find myself completely without a plan. I am not a spontaneous, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda girl. I ALWAYS have a plan, and the thought of winging it freaks me out a little. I have never ended a school year without knowing what I'm doing A) for the summer and B) for the following school year, and this is the sort of shit I tend to start thinking about in January or so.
In three months I'll have to renew my lease, and in five months I'll have to sign a contract for the 07-08 school year. But you know what? I don't think I want to do either of those things. I think come June I might just put all my worldy possessions in storage, travel to the galaxy far far away, find some indie bookstore job, and see what happens.
No doubt the universe will unfold as it should. Right?
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
I've lived in Virginia since I was five and have rarely traveled -- I can't remember the last time I was North of the Mason-Dixon line, and I've never even so much as THOUGHT about the Midwest -- so I was a bit apprehensive about spending my winter holidays in what my mother kept referring to as "a cold land" (which she said while fake shivering). As it turns out though, Chicago ROCKS (despite an abudance of fur-coat-wearing bitches).
For starters, it wasn't very cold, so all that pre-Chicago freaking out I did about sweaters and boots and mittens and hats was pretty unnecessary, much like the rest of the freaking out I do. I suspect, however, that Chicago does get cold, as I saw signs that said things like "Caution: Falling Ice" and "No Parking When Snow Is Over Two Inches." Such signs aside, I also suspect that Chicago never gets quite cold enough to warrant a fur coat. (Unless, of course, your goal is to spend eternity burning in hell.)
I myself might spend eternity burning in hell after languishing in bed at The Drake Hotel every day until noon, but that's another story entirely.
Posted at 10:04 PM