Category Archives: Reading

My Agenda

Two points:

Point 1: Educators are often in precarious positions. Their goal is to educate people but, as our society can’t seem to agree on what is “education” and what is not, educators end up doing things that aren’t particularly educational.

(Like teaching Shakespeare.)

Educators who try to broaden horizons by just toeing the line or finding loopholes in the Orders from On High are accused of having an agenda. Educators are penalised for this, regardless of their reasons for teaching the “agenda” material.

Point 2: My provincial government (whom I voted against) is persisting in their destruction of society. Their behaviour is encouraging others to do the same. I am very, very, VERY dismayed by this.

So, here I am, a private educator with access to a minimum of 21 young, impressionable Ontarian brains every week. One of my former students asked if I was going to try to impeach Doug Ford (the frontman of this social destruction).

Nah.

I’m gonna do one better.

I’m going to teach my students about voices other than Doug Ford’s. I’m going to teach my students about voices other than François Legault’s.

I HAVE AN AGENDA.

At Word on the Street, I bought a whole slew of young adult books for my students. These stories are specifically by and/or about BIPOC and/or LGBT+ people.

Why? Because I can.

Because I’m not an Ontario teacher, I can teach my students anything I think they would find interesting and meaningful. I don’t deliberately teach them things that are contrary to their personal values (I’m just an English tutor: it’s not worth an epic battle) but I do deliberately teach them things that will make them think. One cannot read or write well without thinking well.

Most of my students belong to one minority group or other. They need to know that even though their English tutor is white and middle-class, not everything they read and write has to be white and middle-class; they do not need to mimic my voice. Over the years, I’ve also had a few students who needed emotional support that they couldn’t get from their families. My students sometimes need the voices in these stories.

I also get to choose my students. My students are not jerks. When we bring up the concepts of empathy and living in harmony, they get it. It’s not difficult to teach them to be nice to other people

I won’t get to use many of the stories during the school year–perhaps only a handful of new stories per student–but summer comes with two months of educational freedom. This freedom will be instrumental in applying my–and my students’–agenda.

 

Dear Fellow White People: TRC Teaching

My provincial government is a bunch of jerks. (Click here for details.)

Now, I work with students who don’t really like to read, but here’s my (unofficial, completely unsupervised) TRC curriculum:

For starters (non-threatening graphic novels for those who don’t read “school books”):

Short stories:

Novels (for speculative fiction fans, sports fans and feminists, respectively):

Play (just one, because my students don’t like plays but they like Emily):

Poetry (the first one is very popular with the science crowd):

Satire:

Politics:

Holy Literary Quartet

An announcement:

I have found a writer who is, as of this writing, infallible. She is sufficiently infallible that The Holy Literary Trinity has now been up graded to a quartet.

This newest deity is Sara Baume.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baume is a master at writing sentences that make me stop and re-read them–sentences that make my insides feel all warm and happy.

Samples from the beginning of each book:

  • I’m on my way to purchase a box-load of incandescent bulbs because I can’t bear the dimness of the energy savers, how they hesitate at first and then build to a parasitic humming so soft it hoaxes me into thinking some part of my inner ear has cracked, or some vital vessel of my frontal lobe. (Spill, Simmer, Falter, Wither)
  • The white strata are bunching into clouds. The bunches are competing with each other to imitate animals. A sheep, a platypus, a sheep, a tortoise. A sheep, a sheep, a sheep. (A Line Made by Walking)

She doesn’t lose control throughout the books. Right to the end of both, I had to stop to admire the writing style. There are no flat characters. There is nothing to suggest that the book has been edited for common consumers.

There is only good writing.

Ms. Baume, allow me to add this reminder that your new status doesn’t demand infinite infallibility. I permit my divine beings one literary catastrophe each, so don’t feel you’re under too much pressure. I am a compassionate devotee.

Merry Christmas to Me

Activity Being Avoided: attending to the cat’s every whim (much to her annoyance)
Music In My Head: Barfuß am Klavier — AnnenMayKantereit
Tea Being Drunk: Typhoo (the stupid grocery store stopped selling Barry’s)
Books Being Read: Blood Sports — Eden Robinson, The Final Confession of Mabel Stark — Robert Hough

A few years ago, I had to buy a vacuum cleaner just before Christmas.

Why is that noteworthy? I was a self-employed tutor/writer/editor who was paying for her children’s education (and I still am): vacuum cleaners suck up book money. I couldn’t justify buying myself a Christmas present. Not that I went bookless, of course. I just had a smaller pile of holiday entertainment than usual. It was a Christmas that is forever stuck in my mind as a First World Problems holiday.

I’m not one for literary altruism. Winter in Canada can be cold and unfriendly, and I believe credit cards were invented for a reason. On top of that, this year, I am only paying off the student loans, and am feeling rich because no one is demanding money on a weekly basis. In celebration, I’ve pushed the lack of altruism to a new place on the spectrum. This was the original holiday pile:

TBR

Four of these were gifts from my children; the rest were second-hand finds, so they aren’t financially-relevant, either. (Right?)

When the first of the very cold weather hit Mississauga, and I was walking home from work in the dark, I was feeling extremely sorry for myself. Some stuff happened, and Amazon got a lot of my money.

This arrived today:

Mythos

It was supposed to be available in Canada, but no one accommodated my immediate needs so this was shipped from Ireland. Bonus.

It came with a heart-warming bookmark.

Bookmark

Penguins are very, very nice things. I like the birds, too, but not as much.

There’s still another one to come; it’s due sometime in the next couple of weeks.

Amazon 51daoqlmtol

I’m trying to be better about updating my Goodreads page, so I’ll let you know how the books are. If anything ends up being terrible, you’ll be able to buy it at the Friends of the Library book sale. If you want the really good books, you’ll have to ingratiate yourself with me so I’ll add you to my will.

May all the books you read in 2018 be excellent.

The Forgotten Words of Childhood

This is from the author of Multilingualism (https://sheilavdhc.com/2014/01/10/chicken-soul-soup-multilingualism/) and Saying It Like It Is (https://sheilavdhc.com/2013/11/08/chicken-soul-soup-saying-it/).

They grow up so fast….

Yudi's Blog

I was wandering through the library today for English lesson today, and I saw this book called “The Child That Books Built” by Francis Spufford. I flipped through it, and something in it made me have goosebumps to stand on my back.

It was sort of those moments that made me think about my childhood. My mom loved books, and we used to have a room dedicated to books. I loved reading about the grim brother’s stories, and tons of other fairy tales. I have gone through one of the hardest times in my life by reading books after books. Savoring the taste of the first book and diving into the second one without any waste of time.

The book starts off with, ” I can always tell when you’re reading somewhere in the house,” my mother used to say. “There’s a special silence, a reading silence.” I never heard…

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About Libraries

Activity Being Avoided: None. It’s a writing day. I’m allowed to be doing this.
Music In My Head: Kaa Khem — Yat-Kha
Tea Being Drunk: None. It’s water. I celebrated the civic holiday with chocolate cake, and I now have the same stomach ache I recall from childhood.
Books Being Read: Rebecca–Daphne du Maurier, My Happy Days in Hell–George Faludy

The Globe and Mail published this on Friday: Amid growing demand, GTA libraries are helping to fill a social-services gap

That’s my library they’re talking about at the beginning of the article.

Much as I appreciate this article, I’d like to correct the author: libraries have always filled a social-services gap.

 The small town I grew up in didn’t have a lot for kids like me: there were church groups and Brownies, and sport things. As a child, I had some friends but was more interested in books. (The inside covers of my childhood books all have death threats for the sister who had the audacity to thieve from my shelves.) I was eleven years old when I started volunteering at the local library. Very likely, I wasn’t what the average librarian might call helpful, but I was very happy to be there, touching all the books, getting quite side-tracked by reading the books I was supposed to be sorting, and maybe being a little bit useful or something. I felt mature.

I felt like I was being educated in a way that school could never offer.

The building was dusty, high-ceilinged, hushed except for the creaking of old wooden chairs and titanic reading tables. I can’t find any pictures of the interior, but here’s the exterior of heaven:

Image from Canada’s Historic Places

In 1980, someone made a prediction about the town: because of all the sinners and implicit sinning in the area, God was going to lose His patience and deal with the whole sinful mess. Sadly, God (or someone with a flourishing complex) chose fire to express His displeasure. Along with a good handful of other places, the library went down in 1980.

My heart broke. I think there might still be a small fissure beneath the thick scar.

Not to be thwarted, I volunteered at the school library. It was limited in both size and scope, filled with a lot of books that were, frankly, boring. The library contained books that were “appropriate” for W.A.S.P. children up to Grade 8.

I needed better than that. I needed adult books. I needed my big library.

We moved to a larger town just before my 13th birthday. The library there was much the same: old, creaky, educational and safe.

I had even fewer friends as a teenager. Didn’t need them. I had Timothy Findley and Jane Rule.

Can’t think what I’d be, or where I’d be, without public libraries. Certainly, I would be a demand on social services. Where else, pre-internet, would I have learned to be who I am? Where else would someone like me find sufficient sources of words for their sanity?

It’s always good to see public acknowledgement of our need for libraries.

If you need further proof that a good chunk of society’s money needs to go to libraries, you can also check out WMTC’s Things I Heard at the Library. (She’s a librarian, not just someone who would be a drain on society if she weren’t given enough to read.)

Plus Ca Change…

Next Saturday is Canada’s big “150 year” celebration: 150 years since signing a certain piece of paper. Can’t say much more than that about the number, which is otherwise irrelevant.

It has, however, spurred me on to some reading. I just don’t think I know enough about my own (massive) country. There’s no particular direction to my reading: anything that comes across my path is fair game for consumption, with the exception of hate speech, because I hear more than enough of that in the news.

Though Quill and Quire panned it as “elegant bathroom reading”, I recommend Charlotte Gray’s Canada: A Portrait in Letters as elegant bathroom reading–or public transit reading (though it’s a little hefty; one could do arm curls, I suppose, and kill two birds with one stone). It’s lovely to see that Canada has been the same for the last 200 years: money and resources are unevenly distributed, people of one origin despise people of every other origin, eloquent women are considered lesser than men, Indigenous leaders are still asking for the same things, white leaders dictate how things are and will be, and the uneducated are still arguing about how science works.

I wonder when our country will get it together and start acting like one country.

Draw yourself a nice bath, make a cup of tea–no, scratch that: pour yourself a beer, and start flipping through this collection of proof of our humanity.