Review—A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

First off, I am such a fan of Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia Grey series (as well as a fan of her sharp tongue and general awesomeness on Twitter), that I offered my firstborn in return for very nearly begged for a copy of this ARC. I was beyond thrilled when I was finally granted access via NetGalley.

Of course I read it straightaway, and I was not disappointed.

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Why I Teach (The Response)

So on Monday I posted my teaching “vision statement” as a way of sharing more of what I’m like as a teacher. That is, after all, my “first” career, with editing and book blogging being my secondary ones.

In an attempt to build community and allow the kids to know even more about us, my co-teacher and I allowed them to ask questions of us. They were allowed to do so anonymously, and then we chose some to answer in front of the class. I compiled their questions into a list (because that’s the organized type of person I am), and I’m posting them here. Why? Well, because their questions constitute yet another reason why I teach, especially the one in bold. Hope you enjoy!

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Why Do I Teach?

I’ve answered this question a lot, and the way it’s phrased varies depending on who’s doing the asking. Family members and friends usually preface their question by saying, “I don’t know how you do it.” Students ask, and it’s often framed as “Miss, why do you teach US?”

This year, I’m co-teaching with my best friend (who posted her teaching vision statement on her blog last year), and part of our community building is to share our vision statements with our shared class.

Admittedly, I balked at first. I figure students will learn soon enough why I’m here and what my hope is for them. Plus, I am not the touchy-feely sort of teacher (or person, really), as will become evident when you read my statement. Also, whenever I hear “vision statement,” my brain goes two ways. I think of a vision quest, which is awesome; but then I also think of nasty educorporations that want to vision statement their way into schools and take them over. So the connotation of the “vision statement” phrase is an interesting and conflicted one for me.

At any rate, I wrote one to share with my students. And since sometimes I do post about teaching on here, I figured it was the perfect time to share with the world in general why I teach. So, without any further ado, here is why I teach.

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Review—We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Being a parent is never easy, nor is learning how to be a parent after avoiding it for fifteen years. This is the lesson Letty Espinosa has to learn after her mother, Maria Elena, leaves her to go to her husband, who has returned to Mexico after living in San Francisco for Letty’s whole life. Her son, Alex, must also learn to allow his mother to love him in this compelling novel from Vanessa Diffenbaugh.

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Review—’89 Walls by Katie Pierson

When I received the email from Bostick Communications announcing the publication of Katie Pierson’s new YA novel, I was excited. It was described as a novel that mirrored our time in 2015, when we still “argue[d] bitterly over the parameters of legalized abortion,” with a “sex-positive” message for young girls.

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Review—The Kindness by Polly Samson

When I received The Kindness in the mail, I wasn’t immediately drawn to it based on the cover or synopsis. I’ll admit that it took me reading Samson’s bio (included with the ARC) and learning that she is married to David Gilmour of Pink Floyd before I thought, “Ok, let’s see what you’ve got.”

The Kindness by Polly Samson

The Kindness by Polly Samson

Then, of course, by the end of the first section, I was hooked.

Samson weaves the story of Julia and Julian through the four sections of The Kindness, and she does so by way of lyrical prose. The line that first struck me was about Julian falling in love with Julia:

He couldn’t stop thinking about her. He remembered the leap of his heart the moment he saw her, all sorts of less poetic places leapt too. Kidneys, stomach, gall bladder, bowel. The shape of his love was littered with organs.”

For me, the last line of that quote depicted the visceral feeling that love can sometimes be—both in a positive and negative way. As the story progressed, I learned that Julian indeed felt everything that way: the shape of his love, joy—and grief and despair—were littered with organs.

The story itself is of Julia, Julian, and their daughter Mira. First we learn what it cost Julia and Julian to be together, and then what it cost them to be apart. Throughout the story (which is told in four sections and spans over twenty years), Samson lays bare the reality of marriage and family life—the defining moments, yet also the small ones that make up the everyday. She weaves flashback into present artfully, touching on the concept that what has made us who we are is never far away, and her use of imagery was, at times, stunning. I felt as though she meted out the details of the story in a perfectly measured way, revealing just enough to keep me turning the page, before ultimately delivering a blow that illuminated the irony of the novel’s title.

The Kindness is Samson’s second novel. Her first book, Perfect Lives, a collection of short stories, was published in 2011.