Thursday, July 16, 2015

You Can't Go Home

Go Set a WatchmanGo Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Since Atlanta, she had looked out the dining-car window with a delight almost physical.

Here we are, right back in the heart of the Deep South, looking at this world through Scout, or rather Jean Louise's, earnest and searching eyes. And after a fifty year wait, we too look out with a delight almost physical.  Whether or not you think the book matches the force and sheer cultural presence of To Kill a Mockingbird (it doesn't nor could it) in no way erodes the exquisite taste of historical perspective that Go Set a Watchman delivers. 

Not simply a story about family, specifically the idolization that daughters can have for their fathers (oh, the heroic Atticus) and the effect that has on their own developing consciences, but it is also a razor-sharp study of place (Maycomb, Alabama), of a time (mid-20th century), of race (white and black), of class (love who you will but marry your own kind) and of politics (Jeffersonian Democrats, the NAACP, the Klan and birth of citizen's councils in response to desegregation, the tension between our federal government and states' rights - there's a lot).  The language Lee employs to talk about race and race relations is raw and jarring without being obtuse: it is spoken of in the language and cadence of the times. Taken out of context, some passages are disturbing, and expose the ingrained racism and prejudices of Maycomb's citizenry, circa 1950s.  God forbid that the ignoramus take them - separated from the book - to use as fuel for bigotry and hatred. 

Coming to grips with her personal history may come across as unexamined and naive from Jean Louise's point of view, but not from Atticus.  For Atticus represents a bygone era of the South and, in Go Set a Watchman, we get a fuller view of our idolized hero. The man we always viewed as a man of dignity, of such gentle restraint, of such righteous conviction of right and wrong - the ultimate man of the law and constitution -  is revealed to be just like the rest of us, unfailingly human (and two decades after Mockingbird, aging with fragile health), but even more devastating to his legion of fans,  he is exposed as a racist and former member of the Ku Klux Klan (even if his involvement was to see "who was under the hoods"). His failings and Scout's struggle to accept them and all they represent gives us intimate insight into the human condition.  We can only take care of our own conscience, no one else can do that for us: not faith, not family, not the government. Thus, Scout's struggle with this  uncomfortable - actually unbearable - truth becomes our struggle too. It's enough to make us sick to our stomachs. 

Alas, you can't go home again. For better or for worse: we bring to our lives our own misguided and distorted fantasies and fallacies. But, with the perspective that space and time afford, we can also get a clearer look at what has been right in front of us the whole time.  And it ain't always pretty.  In time, we all have grow up, even our precocious Scout.  

For more insights, see NPR's 'Go Set a Watchman a Revelation on Race, not a Disappointment'  and the New York Times book review.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Moretown School: Forever in my Heart

My heart is full of love and gratitude for my Moretown School colleagues, my students, and my families.  I will carry you in my heart, for always.  I write this farewell with love, gratitude, and affection for the eight years I was proud to serve our community as your teacher-librarian. But, long before I was hired in 2007, I dropped off my Josie to the Moretown School preschool for the very first time on September 12, 2001, when even in the heart of the Green Mountains there was so much uncertainty, fear, and grief, a day after that unimaginable day. The feeling of safety and care that enveloped us as we were welcomed into Susan Phillip's classroom imprinted itself into my skin.  A few years later, I couldn't believe that I was given the opportunity to work alongside the fine educators at Moretown School. I jumped right in.

Thank you for making it a pleasure to come to work everyday, for working together on challenges, laughing at lots of appropriate (and inappropriate) things, smiling through the long days, and celebrating our successes and most importantly, the successes of our wonderful Moretown students.  We were in this together - and adversities (She Who Shall Not Be Named, the great flood of Tropical Storm Irene, SBAC oh me oh my, and oh the incessant tattling) not only made us stronger, but made me love and appreciate you even more.  I will miss our time together with all of my heart. 'Tis truly a special, special place.

"You must do something to make the world a more beautiful place." 
Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

"When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind."
Wonder by R.J.Palacio

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."
The Cat in the Hat by Dr.Seuss

"Never hurry and never worry!" - Charlotte to Wilber. 
Charlotte's Web by E.B.White 

"Don't try to comprehend with your mind. Your minds are very limited. Use your intuition." 
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle.

Must be something in the water: Moretown has awesome kids!

Farewell cake to Michael Close, Kathy Mackey, and me. 
Made with love by Becky Auger. 

Did someone say buttercream frosting?

My beautiful basket given to me by my
colleagues.  Scrapbook made by our very own artist, Lisa Harvey.

With pottery by Loretta DiMario: my favorite potter!

And coffee from our sister school in Uganda.
Support them if you can: they do good work!

The best principal in the universe.  Duane, buddy:
You are the best!

I will miss you, too.

Mini books from the preschoolers. 
They open up!

Some of my favorite 5th and 6th graders.

"I hope you have a good time without us."

I love you, too.