Saturday, June 29, 2019

Many Voices, Many Rooms: Week 3

Highlight of the Week

The highlight this week is a podcast called "The Nod," dedicated to "telling the stories of Black life that don't get told anywhere else." Hosted by Brittany Luse and Eric Eddings, this podcast is sometimes funny, sometimes challenging, and always entertaining and educational. Some of my favorite episodes are: "One-On-One," in which a young woman tells the story of how she reinvents her relationship with her dad after she stops playing basketball; "Rapper's Dismay" tells the story of a fifteen year old boy who uses argumentative writing to shine a light on redlining and oppression in his community (during my student teaching I used this episode with my students and they were rapt); and any episode featuring the game "Six Degrees of Black Separation." Maybe the most stirring episode I listened to was, "I am a White Woman," a review of the movie "White Chicks." Uncomfortable and important, I still think about this episode A LOT.

Other Highlights

The Netflix reboot of "Tales of the City" - Like many people I read - and loved - the original books, so I was a bit worried about this "return to Barbary Lane" twenty-five years later, but I think it is a fitting tribute to these beloved characters and the final episode had me in tears, which is always a good sign.

"The Geography Club" by Brent Hartinger - A YA novel about a high school boy who begins the process of coming out when he meets a popular jock in a gay chat room. A great novel to keep in your classroom or on your family bookshelf, it handles the issue of being gay in high school with both honesty and care. The first in a series, this book has also been made into a movie.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Many Voices, Many Rooms: Week 2

Image result for octavia butler parable of the sower "creative commons"

Highlight of the Week

My number one highlight this week is, without a doubt, "The Parable of the Sower" by Octavia Butler. An African American Sci-Fi writer, Butler wrote this freakishly prescient book (The New Yorker describes it as, "Octavia Butler’s Prescient Vision of a Zealot Elected to 'Make AmericaGreat Again'") in 1993, but reading it feels like looking into our near future a few years before it happens. If you are a secondary ELA teacher, this is the perfect book to replace "1984", "The Handmaid's Tale," or any dystopian novel you normally teach. Featuring a young African American female hero you can't help but fall in love with and root for, this is one of the best books I have read in years.

Other Highlights

Always Be My Maybe - A heart-warming romcom starring Ali Wong and Randall Park, this movie earned a solid 91% on Rotten Tomatoes and was the perfect way to spend a vacation evening with my sister having a girly movie night. James Saito, who plays Randall Park's dad, is one of my favorite actors (he was great as the tell-it-like-it-is acupuncturist in "Eli Stone"), and is utterly charming as always. To read a first-hand account about why movies like this are so important, click here.  

NANCY podcast episode from December 31, 2018, "A Gaggle Resolution" - Self-described as "Stories and conversations about the queer experience today," Nancy is a charming and informative podcast hosted by best friends Kathy Tu and Tobin Low. My favorite episode chronicles Kathy and Tobin's "friend-tervention" with a guy named Joe who has long dreamed of having a "gaggle" of queer friends, but has had a hard time finding a group of friends to call his own. Kathy and Tobin are personable and vulnerable on the show and their read of the credits at the end is the most entertaining of any podcast I have listened to. (Snap Judgement's are a close second.)

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Many Voices, Many Rooms: Week 1

This week I worked on decolonizing the stack of books beside my bed, my Netflix queue, and my podcast feed. Here is what I have been reading, watching, and listening to this week: 

 Highlight of the Week

Image result for creative commons "on my block"
My reading, watching, listening highlight this week is the Netflix show “On My Block,” described on IMDB as,"A coming-of-age story about four bright, street-savvy friends navigating their way through high school in the gritty inner city of South Central Los Angeles.” This show features four excellent young actors and has a lot of heart. It’s not without its problems: the character called “Jasmine” plays into a lot of stereotypes about Latinas in the inner city and [spoiler alert] the fact that Jamal actually finds the Roller World money borders on the fantastical, but for me the importance of the show is summed up in one line from Cesar, “They don’t think we’re real. They think we’re a costume.” I believe that all evil that happens between humans starts with a dehumanizing of “the other” and I agree with Margaret J. Wheatley who said, “You can’t hate someone whose story you know." Just one reason why reading, watching, and listening widely is important. 

Other Highlights

"The Kiss Quotient" by Helen Hoang - a quirky (and sometimes racy) romance featuring a heroine with Asperger’s syndrome and a handsome escort named Michael Pham. I read it on a plane and was both openly crying and blushing in my seat. (With thanks to CD for sending it to me!)

The Snap Judgment podcast episode entitled “The Boy on the Beach” - a storytelling podcast, this week "the Snap" featured “the story behind the influential photo of the Syrian boy who drowned while attempting to reach Europe." Heartbreaking and important, a reminder that the photos we see in the media are not the whole story. A single line keeps reverberating in my mind, "I know those clothes, I know those clothes."

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Many Voices, Many Rooms: A Multicultural Summer Reading, Watching, Listening Challenge

I recently finished a graduate program in teaching (which is why you haven’t heard from me on the blog in awhile...) and will be graduating on June 16th with a Master in Teaching degree from Seattle University. One of the topics we covered was the desperate need in this country for a more inclusive, multicultural curriculum. As a white person, the need for representation in the curriculum was something I hadn’t had to think about before because my stories  - or at least the stories of my white male ancestors - were represented in the curriculum, but in order to engage students (ALL students), they need to see themselves in the curriculum, they need to hear their stories and the stories of their ancestors.

How do we do that? 

One of the things I have really been looking forward to about finishing this program (besides working with kids in schools) is the opportunity to read for pleasure again. I really miss picking up a good book and diving into another person’s world. As I perused my “to be read” stack, however, I noticed that most of the authors were white. As are most of the hosts on the podcasts I listen to. As are most of the stars on the television shows I have queued up to watch. And I realized that this needs to change. If I am going to be a good teacher to ALL my students, I need to broaden my own horizons and stop filling my life with “a single story.”

The Challenge

The focus of the Many Voices, Many Rooms Summer Reading Challenge is on widening my reading, watching and listening horizons to include a more diverse collection of voices. Here are the rules: 1) The challenge lasts from June 1 to September 1 (I started this last week); 2) During this time I will read books, watch movies and television shows, and listen to podcasts that center minority voices; 3) I will post an update once a week and share some of my favorites on my blog.

I am a week in so far and already have some great things to share. Check back next week for my first list of weekly favorites!