January reading: Slow & steady

I frequently ask students to reflect on their reading choices in the hopes that it will enhance their analysis, helping them build connections among what they read and the world at large. Although I do use GoodReads.com to track my reading, I haven’t really reflected on my reading beyond a 1-3 sentence review. Inspired by my dear friend Joel Garza, I want to create a monthly reading post. I highly doubt that I can come close to his beautiful hyperdoc on his reading reflection, but my hope is that this will show me gaps. Which genres seem to occupy my reading? Why? What genres, cultures, authors are missing? How can I and my students benefit from my exposure and practice with new additions?

undefinedMy January reading started off a little slow, to be honest. After pushing myself at the end of 2019, trying to reach my reading goal of 60 books, I wanted a quick thriller. At times, I seem to get stuck in a specific genre or topic, and it can be refreshing to just enjoy a quick read. I’m a sucker for mystery and thriller, but I have to say, I was disappointed in The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (2019). Although I appreciate the layered plot lines and multiple points of view, Michaelides seemed to try too much. In an effort to increase tension, the chapters get shorter and shorter; as a result, the writing felt choppy. It seemed to have the opposite effect for me. The multiple changes stalled my reading, and I became disinterested. In fact, the plot twist seemed to be more obvious because of the macro-engineering. It definitely is a quick read, but not my favorite thriller.

undefinedI definitely enjoyed Mark Oshiro’s debut novel Anger is a Gift (2019). Although this is marketed as a young adult work, it is a timely and necessary novel that many can embrace. There are so many strong characters in this novel, but Oshiro balances their stories. Having said that, Oshiro seems to exaggerate the number of LGBTQ+ characters. Because I am not familiar with the setting of the novel, I asked a couple of former students who transferred from that area. I wondered if the LGBTQ+ community, specifically the POC LBGTQ+ community was that prevalent, and both said that it was not. Honestly, I’m really excited that there is a novel that predominantly features LGBTQ+ characters, especially one where the character prefers to remain agender (always referred to as “they”). I just felt that Oshiro overshadowed the other concepts with the prevalent references. The protagonist is such a strong character, and I liked that Oshiro develops his relationship with his meet-cute and new boyfriend. This is one of the titles that our committee considered for the SC young adult book award (YABA) selections, but not enough readers finished this title (one of 100). I was one who didn’t make it to the title within the time we were reading; as a newbie on the committee, reading quickly and thoughtfully was a huge undertaking. One member had serious negative issues with the text, and I’m really saddened now that I was unable to get to it and inquire about her thoughts more. This text is powerful, and the ideas about equity, social justice, and abuses of power are done really well. Aside from the minor distractions I mentioned above, I found this novel compelling and, more importantly, necessary for our time. The questions about profiling and impulsive actions combined with disproportionate consequences is unfortunately an apt reflection of our society. I feel that Oshiro offers an opportunity for teen readers to feel empowered and to question similar trends in society. After sharing my thoughts and a few excerpts, I quickly found my students also enjoy the novel.

While I realize that this is not much for the month, I’m fine with that. I was disappointed when I didn’t hit my reading goal of 60 books last year, especially when I see other friends who can manage much more than 60 in a year while being a teacher. Here’s the thing: I love to read. My goal is to improve my writing routine, and our second semester classes began January 8. This means I’m rereading with my students (Cash’s The Last Ballad and Miller’s Death of a Salesman) along with grading. I may not have started strong, but I’m consistent. In fact, I’ve already finished 3 books for February (and I’ve started my draft for the blog post). I’d love to hear what you’re reading and how you choose your selections.

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