January was a time to set the stage for the new year, a fresh start at the semester, and to delve into my favorite genres to teach: drama and poetry! I loved guiding my kids through difficult texts–and I always love a good excuse to say Don John the Bastard or gush about Lady Macbeth!
Day 54: “Burning the Old Year” by Naomi Shihab Nye
What It’s About: This is a poem about burning the minutiae of the previous year and holding on to the few things that last.
Day 55: Macbeth
What It’s About: My favorite Shakespeare play! I’ve already summarized it, I believe, so here’s an explanation of this line: Lady Macbeth is coaching Macbeth to commit evil acts by looking sweet, but being venomous. Gah. Love that woman.
Day 56: You Can’t Take It With You
What It’s About: This is a depression-era play that is a basic meet-the-parents dilemma with a rich, conservative family and a tax-evading family of misfits. Think “The Birdcage,” but for the Depression. The lesson? You can’t take “it” (money, fame, glory) with you, so you might as well enjoy the little things and avoid taxes. A good story for those struggling with money.
Day 57: Much Ado About Nothing
What It’s About: Don John the Bastard’s first speech. I love thinking of Keanu Reeves performing this in the Kenneth Branagh version — he is such an emo Don John!
Day 58: Twelfth Night
What It’s About: One of the big themes in Twelfth Night is a question: how much do we really know the people we fall in love with? In this excerpt, Olivia hints at her love for Cesario (Viola disguised as a man), and Viola hints back that Olivia is barking up the wrong tree.
Day 59: “The Danger of a Single Story” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
What It’s About: OK, this isn’t a book or a poem, but Adichie is a writer so I’m counting it as literary. In this TED talk, she speaks of a “single story”–when people go by the one-sided narrative that they have been fed about a people, instead of understanding their complexity as human beings.
Day 60: The Kite Runner
What It’s About: This poignant novel tells the story of Afghanistan through the friendship of two boys. I can’t say too much without spoiling it. It will make you cry.
Coming up in February: World literature and more poetry! Hopefully. If I don’t get so stressed by my to-do list that I neglect my book talk goals.