For those of you who don’t know, I also review fiction for the website http://www.fictionaddict.com. It’s a great website with reviews for many different genres, author interviews and all kinds of fun stuff. Recently I reviewed the book Broken Glass Park by Alina Bronsky and translated by Tim Mohr. Talk about a powerful read! If you want the full review just click here.
Multicultural Discussions with an All-Blond Preschool Class February 23, 2010
It was Sunday school on Valentine’s Day. The topic was the fact that Jesus loves everyone. The characters were Jesus and Matthew and Matthew’s tax collector friends.
The major challenge: find a way to show a classroom of blond-haired, blue-eyed children how there are so many different kinds of people in the world.
Clearly, looking at our class where I have the darkest hair, there wasn’t going to be a whole lot of first-hand examples, so I decided to make a trip to the library. I could have gone to the one in Lowell, but I knew the one between my work and home was significantly larger, so it gave me hopes that I would more likely be able to find something to help me out.
Walking into the children’s section at the library was incredibly overwhelming. Where was I supposed to find a book with photos of lots of different kids in between Angelina Ballerina and Walter the Farting Dog?
I walked to the front desk, and I talked to the librarian at the counter. She told me that our libraries are trying to place an emphasis on multicultural awareness, so there should be something for me. She then asked how old the kids were. I said between two and five.
“Sadly,” she said, “we have decided to make the program cover everyone except preschool age because no one makes multicultural books for preschoolers.” How disappointing. (As I look back, I think it’d be a great area to market, but at the time, all I could think about was how irritated I was.)
She then directed me to the children’s librarian, who directed me to a couple books, but they didn’t have a variety of people in any one of them. She seemed annoyed with me when I said, “Are there any books with less painted pictures?” She eventually found the perfect book with a ton of National Geographic pictures in it (everything from a kid herding cows in Africa to Amish kids playing ball in Pennsylvania).
The following Sunday we continued to learn about how there were differences between us and other people in the world by what we ate. I brought in tortilla chips, rice (with chopsticks) and bananas. I was impressed that the two oldest were able to use their chopsticks pretty well. We also talked about how a missionary is someone who tells people in other countries that Jesus loves them and sometimes they make sure the other people have a Bible in their language. As always, it was a thrill to see the excited looks on each of the children’s faces when they heard all of this.
For all that learning those kids have been doing, they somehow managed to associate the word “Europe” with “syrup.” But that’s preschoolers for you.
The End September 3, 2009
Reaching the end of a book holds an exquisite sort of sadness for me. After finishing the last page, I’ll mope around in a funk for an hour or so – for a particularly good book it might even last a day. The better the book, the longer and deeper this odd depression lasts.
Now if the book is part of a series, I may skip this funk entirely in favor of immediately finding and beginning the next book. I love series – they delay the end! Unfortunately, it just all saves up and hits me when I finish the last book of the series. I may rail against the author and life in general for a good two days at the end of a great series (Harry Potter, anyone?).
Although I’ve never tried drugs, I imagine this might be a tiny bit of what it feels like to come down from a high. Just after you’ve crested the peak of exhilaration (the hero got the girl! they saved the world! everyone lives happily ever after!), comes the cold reality that this is not real life. My brief, glorious departure from reality has ended. This is the end of the line, please exit the train in an orderly fashion.
I bet I’m not the only one out there who reads books to escape from real life. That’s partly why I like fantasy and science fiction, because if I’m going to escape, I may as well go all the way! The problem is I’ve flown so far from the ordinary, riding the wings of an author’s imagination, that it’s hard to land. Some days I wish I could discover my secret magical ability and conjure a spell to fix my troubles, or be told that I’m really the long-lost heir to Fill-in-the-blank Kingdom. Then I could issue a royal decree to fix my troubles.
When I was younger I’d pretend that the book didn’t end, and I (as the heroine, of course) would go about practicing my magic spells or riding my new horse (I loved horse books too). But inevitably, the spells didn’t work, and the horse’s wheel would go flat, and I’d be left with real life.
Real Life sucks.
On the other hand, my Real Life includes a few pretty magical things–a handsome prince who (occasionally) does the dishes and gives me backrubs, a gorgeous baby boy whose smiles and coos are worth more than any castle, a family who loves and appreciates me, and cool friends I can both laugh and cry with.
Maybe my life isn’t a fantasy storybook, but it isn’t a horror novel either.
Chillin’ With the Children August 17, 2009
A friend of mine once told me that he thinks children are much more fun than adults any day and that he’d rather hang out with them any day. I can almost agree.
One of my favorite things about really young children is the fact that they tend to be wholly willing to accept who people are, where they are in life. At camp this year, I spent nearly as much time with kids as I did adults, partially for that reason.
When you walk up to someone you haven’t seen in a while, the typical greeting is, “Hi! How’s it going? What have you been up to?” Right? Well, at least it is if you’re an adult. The only thing children care about is what you’re going to be doing with them right at that instant, “What are you doing here?”
Greeting so many old friends at camp proved much more difficult than I imagined this year. After about a day and a half of meeting up with everyone, having to answer that dreaded question of “What have you been up to?” with, “taking care of children,” “looking for a job,” or “trying to keep up with loans.” Having to say that over and over started to chip away at my self-esteem, no matter how much I tried to joke about it.
Whenever I was hanging out with the kids, not one of them asked me how my job search was going. Sure, they were some of the kids I watch back home, but still, not one of them asked if I had found a job yet. Not one of them asked why I still live with my parents; they just think, Why wouldn’t someone live with their parents? None of them make me feel as if I lack in potential compared to the person sitting next to me, they just run up and hang off of every one of my limbs (quite literally at times). More than once during camp, I was invited to stay for dinner or stay to play when I was just walking by a lot. I sometimes stayed or took the kids on a golf cart ride to the “Ark Park” to play, but sometimes, I had places to be, and the look on their faces just about made me cave. In contrast to the feeling that I sometimes overwhelm people my own age with my presence, it’s rather touching.
In a way, the Little Prince in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s book was completely right. The things that “matter” to many adults (counting money, doing something constantly just to feel “useful,” getting drunk, having a job just to say that you have a job, etc.) are not the things that really matter in the long run. Being passionate about life, caring for the ones you love, those things are important, not worrying about what you do for a living.
While I am not saying that wasting away one’s life doing nothing is something notable, I do think that it is important not to lose sight of the important things that we deal with, the important people in our lives. I know that chillin’ with the kids gives me a boost of self-confidence that I don’t really find anywhere else because they haven’t been bogged down by all the worries and cares in life yet. They generally don’t have loans, jobs, pressure, stress or money issues to worry about yet. They just worry about what toy we’re going to play with next or what new adventure life has in store … and if their friends or “buddies” will be there with them.
And on the other hand, when it comes to thinking like an adult, I think the best part about it is that I sometimes get paid to hang out with these kids.