Boxall's 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die discussion

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message 1: by Anna (new)

Anna (lilfox) | 301 comments All these books show some moments of American history that aren't something to be proud of. But Huckleberry Finn is a book through which you can get to younger kids and use as a help to explain some things about slavery and segregation, cause it doesn't use very complicated language what makes it easier to understand than any political or scientific stuff.

Snow Falling on Cedars is a very good book. It shows point of view of both sides in a form that can reach more people. It's well written love and crime story. I also think that it should be in curriculum.

message 2: by Kristen (new)

Kristen (ravenskya) If that was their position, a black man as president should not suddenly change their views on history. It's as if they are saying that the African American community held no value until they produced a president.

The books have tremendous educational value, and can not only enlighten the readers on the mindset of different times, but also can open up lines of communication as to why we now know better.

message 3: by Monica (new)

Monica (monnieh722) That was great! And so happy that there are other people out there who feel we need these books regardless of the shameful history they present. I'm a high school teacher (science not English… though theres controversy in itself in that class too LOL). I really believe that kids these days NEED the exposure to certain things. No more living in this little protective bubble that their parents or society thinks they need to be in. Some of my kids are so naïve to life after high school; the think college is going to be a piece of cake and no one can hurt them. It is kind of funny but when I take a step back, it kills me! And I as their teacher, I cannot be negative or bring up unhappy topics like you may not find a job majoring in your obscure major that no one has never heard of. I have to be happy and perfect all the time! Oh if the life of a teacher were all fun and games! If everything were perfect and students listened and did their homework all the time… there’d be no need for the teacher’s lounge! So I really feel that all these “banned” books are a load of crock. Parents need to let their kids grow up and realize that there are STILL people out there that use certain words in their vocabulary and there is still segregation… I see it in my classroom everyday! Ok.. I am done ranting!

message 4: by Anna (new)

Anna (lilfox) | 301 comments Sorta off topic. I know such a people that were closed in a bubble of their family or very small community not reading a single book and than they go to college or university and they didn't even stay a semester cause it wasn't a high school where everyone knew them and their parents. They couldn't charm a teacher, cuase he/she had seen thousands of students trying that.

message 5: by Katie ATX (new)

Katie ATX (katieatx) | 75 comments Maybe they should ask the President how he feels about the books. I'm sure he probably read them in school and has no problem with them remaining on the curriculum. I'm sure he has no problem with his daughters reading classics such as those.

message 6: by Charity (new)

Charity (charityross) I don't necessarily have a problem with him wanting to refresh the curriculum. A lot of the same books do seem to be recycled year after year, so some change would probably breathe a little life in required reading courses.

My biggest problem is with his suggestions for replacements. I haven't read his suggested replacements yet (Snow Falling on Cedars; Going After Cacciato; Lonesome Dove) and I'm sure they are great reads (and I hope to get to them soon), but all 3 are by white men. His whole article is about how we have an African American president now and how improper it is to be reading literature that uses the N-word. So, we are going to be able to move forward with books written by white men??? I don't get it. (And from what friends have told me, the books he suggested have some offensive terms for other minority groups and women, so I don't see how that helps matters.)

Why not offer books written by African Americans or featuring strong African American protagonists? James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston...just to name a few...would be much better authors to back up his argument.

What about coming-of-age stories?? Kids relate to those kind of books because the characters are close to their age and thinking/feeling/dealing with similar things.

And I'm sorry, but Lonesome Dove? Again, while I'm sure it is wonderful...if you think that you have a hard time getting to kids to read the few short books they are assigned, push a copy of a 900+ page saga on them and see how well they do. Hell, a lot of kids read the Cliffs Notes versions of their required reading because they are too lazy to read a 100+ page book.

I do believe there should be more variety in the required reading curriculum. More often than not, they push the dead white guys. I don't think they should stop teaching those books, I just think they could START teaching books written by women, Jews, African Americans, Native Americans, Africans, Asians, South Americans, etc., in addition to the traditional required reading. Mix it up a bit.

message 7: by Charity (new)

Charity (charityross) And P.S. I don't agree with his picking Snow Falling on Cedars because his kids would like to read books that take place in their backyard, or whatever. I know that I for one thought where I grew up was the most boooooring place on Earth, so the last thing I would have wanted to do was read about it. I have a feeling that a lot of kids would have the same sentiments.

message 8: by Kecia (new)

Kecia I read Huck Finn along with Native Son in my junior year of high school (all-girl, Catholic, about 1/3 black). We had to get permission from our parents to read both and, as far as I can remember, all parents gave their permission. (And no, it wasn't one of those "Yes Sister no Sister whatever you say Sister" kind of mother was a high school teacher herself.) The discussion was lively and did get heated at certain points but we all learned whatever it was we were supposed to learn.

But then this was 1981...back when teenagers were still mostly trusted to be able to think for themselves, I guess.

I keep thinking it's probably a good thing I'm not a parent. My refusal to bubble-ize (enbubble? lol...I call both) my kids' reading would probably get me reported as unfit.

May God continue to save me from other people's knee-jerk reactions.

message 9: by Kate (new)

Kate | 8 comments If I were teaching Huck Finn in high school, I'd do a whole exploration of the N-word: its etymology, its historical usages, its uses today in hip-hop and rap, the way students use it or don't--as a way to examine language as historical, denegrating and empowering.

message 10: by Bishop (last edited Jan 24, 2009 07:20PM) (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 74 comments Kate wrote: "If I were teaching Huck Finn in high school, I'd do a whole exploration of the N-word: its etymology, its historical usages, its uses today in hip-hop and rap, the way students use it or don't--as..."

I have taught Huck Finn many times and that's EXACTLY what I do.

Huck should be taught as a representative sample of that time period. Contextualize it. Don't hide from it. Does he even try to explain that part of the originality and genius of this book is the narrative voice (flawed as the world viewed through the lens of a young southern boy is)? By the time students finish reading the novel, if they can't see that Jim is obviously the most noble character in the entire book, then that teacher is doing something wrong. And Lonesome Dove? Seriously? Not even in the same ballpark. Wasn't it Hemingway that is credited with saying something along the lines of: "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn." Yeah, let's get rid of important authors like Steinbeck and Twain because we're too f'ing scared to deal with the issues they present. Coward.

message 11: by Bishop (last edited Jan 24, 2009 07:22PM) (new)

Bishop (A_Bishop) | 74 comments Charity wrote: "More often than not, they push the dead white guys. I don't think they should stop teaching those books, I just think they could START teaching books written by women, Jews, African Americans, Native Americans, Africans, Asians, South Americans, etc., in addition to the traditional required reading. Mix it up a bit."

I agree. Unfortunately, if your district requires a survey course of literature (which most do), based on canonical texts, there is not a significant pool of minority literature to draw from until later on in the course (Harlem Renaissance, etc), for what should be painfully obvious reasons. There are some great slave narratives that we DO often teach (I like Douglass and Harriet Jacobs), but again, supplies are limited. Native American lit? Extremely limited. Female authors are commonly taught, I think. Not as prevalent as males, to be sure, but present nonetheless (Shelley, Austen, Wharton, Chopin, Dickenson, etc.).

Another issue to deal with is that most curricula do not include coverage of world literature (in any meaningful way). Unfortunate? Sure. I tell all my students to look out for those courses in college.

In the end, the decision is all too often NOT made by the instructor. It is made by the school board, the superintendency, and/or the district. Sadly, teachers have very little influence in those circles. We fight for curriculum changes all the time and lose...

message 12: by Derrick (new)

Derrick (afderrick) | 93 comments A lot of people for along time have had these opinions. When I was in 9th grade, almost 15 years ago now. We were required to do our research report on banned books. We were allowed to pick a book from the entire list of books. I wasn't much of a reader in those days of my life. The thing was I knew most titles of the books, Huckleberry Finn, Farenheit 451, Catch-22, To Kill a Mockingbird, etc. All the books that most everyone read while in highschool had been banned or attempted to be banned somewhere in the world already.

This isn't a new argument, this is something that has been going on since probably the publication of these books. I guess since we have a new president it gives media the desire to give these people a louder voice.

Everytime someone makes these arguments there are people to make rebuttals. The thing is that there have been parent teacher conferences all over the country in smaller settings where for a particular school district lots of these books have already been banned because someone found them offensive.

So same old argument, just a new way at going about it.

message 13: by Chel (new)

Chel | 377 comments I have read all three books and the teacher is crazy to ban them because they are excellent literature.

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