SCOUT Book Club – September Selections
Alright, if you read the September Book Club Selections and you need to talk about something in the book that you loved/hated/couldn’t believe, this is the place to do it. WARNING: This blog post may contain spoilers on the books, so if you don’t want to know what happens before you finish the book, stop reading now. You have been warned.
Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld
I personally had a very enjoyable high school experience, but you could not pay me to go back there. Being a teenager is hard. Teenagers are unique creatures. They are infuriating, selfish, neurotic, and insecure, but they can also be sweet, thoughtful, and sincere. While I was reading Prep, each one of those emotions flooded over me as I waded through Lee Fiora’s story. There were times that I wanted to scream at her, to knock some sense into her. Let me tell you something, that scene between her and her father when her parents came to visit was excruciating. I didn’t blame her Father for slapping her. I would have gone further; I would have left her alongside the road! How dare she treat her family that way! (At this point in the book, I was apologizing to my own parents telepathically for all of my own teenage nastiness) But then Lee drew me right back in with all of that business with Cross. I empathized with her as a girl going through her first major crush. Crushes are just miserable. They consume you, and they often end in hurt feelings, which is why I suppose that they are called crushes. Every time a passage that featured Lee and Cross came up in the book, I just wanted to hug her. The way that Lee and Cross’s story ended was hard for me to swallow. I was screaming out to her in my head during that scene in the gym: “Stop it! Just stop it! Listen to him! Go to him!” Were you yelling the same thing here? That scene hurt my heart. After that scene, I knew that it wasn’t going to be a happy ending where everything is all tied up in a pretty bow for Lee. I’m glad that it wasn’t though; it kept the book genuine and honest.
Hats off to Curtis Sittenfield (remember, this is a young woman) for writing this book. It truly captures the essence of the teenage world. It’s also a brilliant illustration of the social, class, gender, and race distinctions that Lee was faced with at that fancy east coast prep school. I would have loved to have read this book in a high school English class, or maybe even my first of second year of college. The social discussions that you could relate to this book are endless.
Teacher Man by Frank McCourt
If you read the September Issue of SCOUT, you know already that I have an obsession with Frank McCourt. His level of storytelling is unparalleled in my mind. I would have given anything to have been a student in his New York classroom. At the time that McCourt was a teacher, it was widely accepted that instilling fear was the best way to reach a student and to command respect in the classroom. Frank McCourt just couldn’t buy into that theory. He wanted to know about the students, to know what their lives were like outside of the classroom, and to know what they were interested in. By investing in their lives and actually listening to them, he got more out of the students than he ever expected. They trusted him, they respected him, and they knew that he was really interested in them as people.
His teaching methods were unconventional. He used stories from his dismal upbringing (have you read Angela’s Ashes or ‘Tis yet? WHY NOT?? Get on it!) in Ireland as lesson plans. His storytelling skills inspired the students, and his unconventional teaching tools motivated the kids. He asked his students to write their own obituary as a creative writing exercise, he had the kids write excuse notes from Adam and Eve to God, and he used simple things like cookbook recipes to get his students to think outside of the box. One of my favorite stories in the book has to be with the class of black girls at the Seward Park High School, who felt hurt and slighted when they were not invited to see a performance of Hamlet. McCourt took this experience as a lesson to himself to never have any diminished expectations about any of his students.
All current teachers, former teachers, aspiring teachers, and students everywhere should read this book. McCourt’s strongest message about education is that teaching is about more than achieving high test scores. He wants people to realize that teaching is about educating people to form their own ideas about things and to get people to participate in conversations and activities that they are passionate about. He wants students to be engaged, and to be inspired by what they are learning. I like to think he would be a supporter of SCOUT J.
I’m still a little weepy that Frank McCourt is gone now. I’m not done listening to his stories.
The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
The test of a good book for me is whether or not I think about the book after I’m finished reading it and whether or not I care about what happens to the characters. I found myself grappling with a lot of issues when I finished The Reader. I could not wrap my head around the idea that Hanna was more ashamed of her illiteracy than she was of her “role” in the death of those women and children during the Holocaust. During the trial scenes, I just wanted to scream “She couldn’t read the paperwork! She’s not guilty!!” But Hanna never gave that information up. She endured the trial and accepted the punishment.
Trying to reconcile the story line with myself in this book, I often thought that Hanna never revealed her illiteracy and accepted her punishment because she knew that she had some sort of role in the horrific events that took place so she needed to be held responsible in some way. I think it was hard for me to comprehend her decisions because the events of the Holocaust didn’t happen in my generation or in my country as they did in Hanna’s. While I fully comprehend the heinousness of the Holocaust, I’m a bit too far removed from the events to fathom how one would immediately deal with such atrocity. However, I appreciate how Schlink’s book makes us consider how we would deal with it, and examines how people attempted to wade through these events and attempted to move forward, trying to bring about restitution.
I loved the character of Michael in this book. He’s so naïve, clumsy, sensuous, willing, and passionate when we first meet him. However, his reaction to seeing Hanna in trial is an unforgettable moment in the book. As an eager law student, he’s looking forward to making all who participated in the Holocaust pay for their crimes against humanity. But then he sees Hanna. Michael’s viewpoint allows the readers to really think about the generation following the horrific events of the Holocaust. Through Michael, we are able to question those who participated. How do we forgive them? Can you forgive them? Should they be forgiven? How does one move forward from that point? Those participants, willing or not, were people’s parents, grandparents, brothers, and sisters. How can you respect them? Schlink’s story engages the readers into those discussions before they have even realized that it happened. My real love for Michael’s character came when he chose to teach Hanna to read. The book comes full circle, with Michael reading to Hanna. If you don’t shed a tear or two while reading this book, you better check your pulse.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
I found true delight in this book. The story is very enjoyable and the characters are deliciously eccentric and totally loveable. As I mentioned in the magazine, I want to be best friends with both Elizabeth and Juliet. Juliet had me laughing out loud at her charming quick wit and banter with her beloved publisher. And once you hear Elizabeth’s story, you would have to be completely daft not to love her too. I said that there could be spoilers in this blog, but I want to leave them out for this book. It’s a quick read and I want you to discover the story for yourself. After you’ve read it, hit me up on here and we’ll talk about how much you loved it too.
I’m a book girl. I will almost always choose the book over a movie. However, as much as I enjoyed this book, I cannot wait for the movie version to come out.
I’m looking forward to hearing what everyone thought of September’s Book Club Selections. Leave comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I want to hear from you!