Thursday, March 22, 2007

Bookmarks for March 2007

Reflections on Classrooms and Their Characters by Elizabeth Joseph. I have to admit up front that Elizabeth Joseph is a friend and colleague. I also have to be honest I am a sucker for good teacher stories. So you should not be surprised when I heap praise on her book. I won't gush for now, but I do want to recommend this collection of wonderful stories to anyone who can find it. Betsy writes about the people, mostly students, she has encountered in her fascinating journey as a teacher. She now teaches English at Eastfield College, but has also worked at the high school and middle school levels, and has taught kids at a school for Orthodox Jewish boys and inner city students at W.T. White. What I like best about these stories is that although the book as a whole is about her journey, the focus is not on her. There is nothing that screams "Look at what I did!" in these memoirs. That is a difficult achievement to pull off. One gets an honest glimpse, without overexuberance and without the bitterness that could mark years of teaching, but not without real feeling for the women, men, and children that have had the great blessing to be in her classrooms.

A Thousand Nights of Stars by Walt McDonald (2004). Readers of this blog will note that I am a fan of McDonald's poetry. The book jacket notes that this may be his final collection, and that makes me sad. Here, McDonald's usual subject matter is present. He writes about childhood, raising children (and letting them go), his experience with war (as a young man watching relatives and friends go off to it and as a former pilot). Some of the poems here could use a little revision, but on the whole this is a very satisfying and sometimes powerful collection.

In preparation for my American Literature class, I also re-read Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson. Anyone wanting to learn to write fiction would do well to read this book. These are some of the most beautifully sad stories I've read in my life.