Welcome to my bookshelf

I am a voracious reader who is constantly found with her nose in a good (although sometimes not so good) book. I felt the need to share my experiences and suggestions, so here it is. Recommendations and comments are most definitely desired.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Tolerating Intolerance

Currently Reading: The Miseducation of Cameron Post

How much of ourselves is predetermined by genetic makeup and what portion is moldable by our surroundings and upbringing? This question is explored throughout Emily M. Danforth's fictional debut as she relates the tumultuous teenage years of Cameron Post, an orphaned lesbian girl living in conservative Miles City, Montana.

From the beginning of the novel, it is clear that Cam is faced with a seemingly impossible task, remaining true to herself in the face of extreme prejudice. While sharing her first kiss with a childhood friend, Cam finds out that her parents have both died in a car accident. Later, this same friend abandons Cam after leaving for boarding school, deeming Cam too unsophisticated and strange for her new life. Cam eventually finds a home with the jocks at school, a group of boys on the swim and track teams. These relationships ebb and flow while Cam struggles to find her place in the group. When she finally thinks she has found a true best friend, this girl turns on Cam, outing her to the community and shunning her while hiding amongst the elders at their church. For her sins, Cam gets sent to an ultraconservative "camp" which promises to rid homosexuals of their sinful ways. While life at Promise is anything but enjoyable, Cam finally finds a group of friends who accept her for who she is, the small silver lining on an adolescence filled with loss and rejection.

So all this leads back to my original question, what is nature and what is nurture? Cameron knows for a fact that who she is cannot be changed, but those around her, including a well meaning aunt and concerned counselors, seem to think that her inherent nature is something that can be fixed with a load of prayers and some strong will. These people and their beliefs are shaped entirely by their upbringing and the community in which they reside. Why should that trump genetics?

Intolerance is making a comeback in certain circles and it makes me sick to my stomach that the events related in The Miseducation of Cameron Post are still occurring this very day. Teens and well, everyone else too, are faced with prejudiced opinions based on everything from sexual orientation to skin color and even economic status. This sounds like something from the past, a condition we had fought to eradicate from our country decades ago, but alas, ultraconservatism is on the rise again and with it, ultra judgmental condemnations. The thing that makes me the saddest is that teens are faced with enough confusion as it is and these outside influences are just making it that much harder to navigate one's way through that fun, fun time we call high school. As a high school educator myself, I see first hand each day the effects of such negative thoughts have on the already confused kiddos.

I am not the most sentimental of persons (nature again... :P), but as I read my way through this book, I constantly empathized with Cameron and couldn't help but be indignant on her behalf. I wanted to take her aunt, fellow students, and those other Miles City residents aside and berate them for the way they treated Cam. Not only was she an excellent athlete, but she was kind, intelligent and a hard worker, all traits that seemed pushed aside by those focusing only on the "flaw". I know I've said this in posts before, but apparently it must be said again, why can't we all just get along? And by get along, I mean set aside those silly stereotypes and focus on humanity. We are all people who deserve to be who we are, like what we like, and if you don't like it, well fine. You can change yourself if you'd like, but please don't try to "fix" others. They may like the way they are.

OK. I'm off my soapbox now. I promise my next post will be a happier one!

Sunday, May 5, 2013


Currently Reading: When We Wake

Pg 1: "We all begin with our pasts."

As I read those words again, I couldn't help but see even more how true they really are. Each word in this sentence, as I type them out, becomes a part of my own past and even yours as you read them. When you meet someone new, think about what you share with each other. You may start with something like "I love to read", but even that current activity or feeling has been profoundly influenced by your past. Down to our very DNA, we are all products of things that have come before us.

Tegan Oglietti's past plays a large role in the situation she is faced with when being reanimated after being cryogenically frozen for a hundred years. When she wakes, Tegan finds herself totally alone in the world, all her friends and family long dead. On a bright sunny day, Tegan had set out with her friends to attend a political protest, something they had done before. On a high from finally connecting with a young man she had been pining over, Tegan blissfully travelled to the city center, entered in the crowd of people, and found herself the unfortunate victim of a sniper aiming to assassinate the Prime Minister.

The Australian military took advantage of Tegan's status as an organ donor and kept all viable parts of her in a secret laboratory where they were working to find a way to literally bring soldiers back from the dead. It took them decades, but once the procedure was perfected, Tegan was awoken to a world of troubles. Keeping her beliefs from the past, she hooked up with some new friends and strived to show the true reasons behind her reawakening to the public and lift the veil of lies the various feuding groups had proliferated amongst the masses.

When We Wake is yet another dystopian future novel written for young adults. I have blogged about such books in the past and while loving them, now find myself wondering what is it about this genre that makes it so popular among authors and teen readers? Maybe it all relates back to the quote. The past is something that students must study year in and year out. They are constantly managed by people who are products of the past and that must certainly be tiring for teenagers, especially those at the age where they think they know more than those pesky old folks. These novels are typically focused on the future as a thing young adults have control over. Like it or not, they are the future ;) I happen to be of the liking mind. Maybe that's because I am an educator or maybe it is because I like to believe in the amazing possibilities that our increasingly complex collective knowledge brings for us. But I can also see these books in another light. Perhaps they are not about empowering young readers, but more about warning them. Be careful what you wish for and all that.

I am currently a member of what I affectionately call "My Old Lady Bookclub". I refer to it like that in the most respectful sense because I love talking to these women and getting their perspective on things. Their past experiences often give them a completely different reading experience and I always leave the meetings with new thoughts to ponder. Then, of course, there is the fact that bookclubs are not too popular among people my own age. Still, all these YA books that I tend to read make me more excited about talking to teens about what they read as well. I am starting at a new school that is opening up next year and I hope that a bookclub is something the students decide to establish. This way I can get some answers to all my burning questions. What do they think about these types of books? I can't wait to find out!