“Some books you read. Some books you enjoy. But some books just swallow you up, heart and soul.”
I love this quote from Joanne Harris. I love her book, Chocolat, and truth be told, I really love the movie adaptation’s casting of Johnny Depp as Roux… for aesthetic reasons. Seems there’s a lot of love up in here.
Speaking of book love. It’s a rare and wonderful treat to see a student experience this type of consumption through reading, but it’s delicious when it happens in my own life as well.
My heart has been most recently consumed by Gloria Steinem’s new memoir My Life on the Road and this week it became a text I was sharing with everyone.
Now, don’t hurt me, but I’m a bit too young to have really appreciated Gloria Steinem’s political prowess, revolutionary movement for equality, and inspirational professional ascension to feminist icon firsthand. I had, however, heard the name and when I heard an interview with Steinem on NPR, I was immediately hooked by her candor.
Steinem was on All Things Considered, discussing the inspiration for her new book, and I caught the interview on my way home from work.
Safety alert: I used the Amazon app on my phone to purchase the book while at a stoplight. Unwise, but enthusiastic. Book love makes you crazy.
Steinem’s explanation of her text as part analysis of family dynamics, part travel journal, part personal exploration of leadership, and honest look at how we all live, had me intrigued. The fluency of her voice had me convinced that her prose would float off the page as beautifully as her words were floating through my car radio. Her stories had me laughing and almost crying just in the course of a six or seven minute interview.
In short, I knew this would be a captivating book.
What I wasn’t prepared for was just how relatable, inspirational, and downright touching this memoir is.
And thus began my very public consumption of and by this text. In the course of a week, I have:
- Book Talked this book to all my classes. I explained the above reading story to my kids and shared a passage with them where she talks about being a reader and writer. Perfect for my readers and writers! “Writing, which is solitary, is fine company for organizing, which is communal” (40).
- Shared several pages with my 9th grade colleagues working on character development in their classes. Steinem goes into rich detail about her father and the struggles her family endured at the whims of his wandering spirit. She then talks pointedly about how her own travel (detailed later in the book and familiar to those that know and devoured Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert) was most likely inspired by her youth, even though she wanted nothing more as child then stability. Students could relate to those first few instances in life where we start to see our parents in our behaviors. (I’m personally turning into my father).
- Used that same section on character as a mentor text with my sophomores to discuss narrative purpose. Steinem’s anecdotes about her father in this section are reminiscent of The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, but at the same time made several of my students laugh out loud when we were reading. The author’s voice here shows poignancy through her choice of heartwarming and heartbreaking stories about her youth. We analyzed each of the anecdotes that Steinem shares in this section by having students break up into groups and evaluate how the author might have intended to use that anecdote in her self-proclaimed purpose to show how she had long been embarrassed by her father.
- Utilized a specific quote with my AP students for a quick write. We are currently studying education and focusing on an essential question of “To what extent do our schools serve the goals of a true education?” I projected Steinem’s quote of “When humans are ranked instead of linked, everyone loses”(44) on the board and asked students to quick write on their reactions to this in light of our unit essential question.
I have also raved about this book to my husband, colleagues, friends, and three-year-old daughter, to whom I’ve suggested that she must travel, embrace her power as a woman, and learn from everyone she can. She asked if we could play Candy Land. I may have a ways to go with that one.
But at the end of the day (and week, yay!), this is a book that tells the story of what it means to explore the world and find a home wherever you are and does so with a voice that will make you want to read, share, and repeat. As a bonus, it details the life of a budding writer. For students to read and digest the struggles, joys, and challenges involved speaks deeply to what we ask them to explore in our classrooms each day.
What texts have consumed you recently? How are you sharing them with your classes? Please comment below!
Steinem, Gloria. My Life on the Road. Random House, 2015.