To start off my 2017 semester in Contemporary Literature, I am asking all of my students to take a “shelfie.” A shelfie is a collection of books that represent who you are as a person, OR your own reading journey. I usually complete a project before I assign it to gauge whether or not it is ridiculous, and should or should not be assigned. I am going to describe my own shelfie (pictured above) from top to bottom.
Poems of Love: I used to hate Shakespeare. I think that the majority of high school English students hate Shakespeare at some point in their educational careers. However, once I actually developed the technique and skills to understand Early English and Shakespearean works, I fell in love with them. I think this represents my drive and passion for exploring challenging works of literature. Plus, I have always been a romantic at heart, and all 154 Shakespearean sonnets share a subject-mater of love. I have memorized two sonnets, and plan to memorize more this year. I plan to ask my dear friend Allison Berryhill to read my favorite, “Sonnet 29” at my wedding in July. This is why I placed my engagement ring on top of this book; to show these sonnets remind me of Alex.
A Scrap of Time: I love studying English, but it has also inspired me to love many other subject areas, such as history. If I could go back to my university and take any class, I would undoubtedly take a class that only focuses on the Holocaust. A Scrap of Time is a book that my colleague, Tony Wily, loaned me. It represents my passion for reaching out to continue my education. Mr. Wily is such a knowledgeable historian, and I am so thankful to have him as a resource. This book contains short stories about survivors, prisoners, and heroes from Nazi-occupied Poland. Although heartbreaking, it sheds light on such a horribly interesting human experience.
Of Mice and Men: This novel represents my emotional character. Annoyingly, I have always been a crier. I have occasionally humiliated myself weeping at the end (or beginning) of a Disney movie, or an emotional soldier homecoming youtube video, but I was incredibly embarrassed when I openly wept in front of my English III class reading the last chapter of Of Mice and Men. It is one of my all-time favorite novels, and I seem to connect more deeply with it after each read. My students were laughing pretty hard, but I could almost hear George’s voice breaking as he and Lennie discussed their American dream for the last time. Ugh.
All the Bright Places: This is one of the best YA novels I read in 2016. I couldn’t put it down! This book represents my love for students who struggle with unique situations. The male protagonist in this novel is a teenager named Finch. He isn’t a jock or musician, but a kid struggling with mental illness (bipolar disorder) and his desire to kill himself. I think that I have a passion for kids who struggle, but still succeed. I have always been more impressed with a student who gets a C, despite struggles at home and other personal issues, than a student who has everything and cries when he or she gets an A-. Teenage suicide is also an issue that affects me. This book just spoke to me about looking for signs of depression and self-harm in my students. I would recommend this novel to any teenager.
Emma: Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors. I not only respect her work because of its gorgeous language and, well, Mr. Darcy, but also because she is one of the first great female authors in English literature. Emma is a novel about a young woman named Emma who always seems to be putting her foot in her mouth, and putting herself in awkward social situations. That is how I would sometimes describe my life. She is also always trying to match couples up, despite their wishes against it. I think my sister Nora can attest to my doing this! The novel is a romance, and despite a few fumbles, Emma finds herself with the perfect husband. I would say that I also found myself with the perfect husband, despite a few hilarious mishaps.
Girls on the Train: This novel is all suspense. I bought it in a bookstore before Alex and I boarded a plane for Mexico. I could not put it down, and almost read the entire thing before we landed. I love excitement and mystery in my life, and this novel is a great representation of that.
The Lost Girls: Both my sister, Nora, and I are big fans of “true crime.” We have always enjoyed watching Forensic Files, and other shows about actual criminal cases. The Lost Girls is a book for anybody who enjoys detailed descriptions about murders, kidnappings, or other crimes. This memoir details the captivity of three young women who were kidnapped by Ariel Castro, and also their escape.