Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Reading like a writer. And like a reader. And like a teacher in The Secret Life of Bees.

Two things. First, I mentioned this weekend that I reread The Secret Life of Bees to bring my reading self back to life. Sigh. Second, my teaching life has been incredibly energizing this year. I'm obsessed with my 8th grade Reading and Writing team...we've been diving into the craft of teaching and have all been writing in order to study the process of real writers. It has been inspiring and motivating. So it's no surprise that this post is about the Secret Life of Bees and inspired by school. I'm a dork. I can't help it.

My students' homework assignment today was to write an entry in their notebook about their current reading life. To model, I talked about how I had to abandon a book and read an old favorite to get back to my reading "zone" (a term that only middle school English Language Arts use. Sorry. Ever gotten lost in a book? That's the zone! Ha.). I told my students that my "purposeful paragraphs" were going to be the background information about my recent reading state and how The Secret Life of Bees inspired me as a reader, and as a writer. And, to further attest to my needing help, I decided to do the homework, too. On my blog. So.

As a reader. First, this book is a treat to read. Sue Monk Kidd's descriptions name emotions that previously had been unnameable to me: "I didn't know what to think, but what I felt was so magnetic and so big it ached like the moon had entered my chest and filled it up." This is also a book about women who share a sisterhood--and there is just something about having amazing girl friends that resonates when the Daughters of Mary come together in this story. I love the strength that they offer to one another and the tender wisdom and patience they offer to the motherless Lily. And, Lily and August are lovers of literature and words. Writers and readers are cut from the same branch--because they know that the people who read their books are the kinds of people who love books (see The Book Thief, House on Mango Street, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn...). "Really, it's good for all of us to hear it again," she said. "Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can't remember who we are or why we're here." Man. There aren't words (I don't know what to think, but what I feel is magnetic...aye.)

As a writer. My writing took a backseat for most of the summer, which was quite tragic. But as the fall usually does, inspiration creeps in and I once again have that feeling where I need to have a creative outlet for all that's going on in my head. What I have been thinking the most about lately is how to capture complex emotion. Lily Owens is so well written...it is almost like therapy reading this book. She begins as just a girl, curious and broken. I can picture in my head the prewriting that Kidd must have done to develop her so poetically and realistically. I want to create rich characters. Right now. I also love how throughout Lily's "coming of age" that August Boatwright is just steady and solid and wise. She is not the kind of annoyingly perfect kind of woman, but one who is seasoned and has spent some serious time reflecting. Lily and August's relationship is so so beautiful to me.

As a teacher. Coming of age stories never get old to me. And I don't think this is mutually exclusive with being a teacher of children who grow up in front of me. But. I cannot wait to talk with some of my students about this book...about how Lily responds to her life and how she changes. The metaphors are so rich and life giving. I'm excited to hear how girls respond to this, because again, I don't know what to think, but what I feel is magnetic.

(and no, I don't think I can see the movie, as much as I love Alicia Keys. I just don't want any of the pictures in my mind to change. Sigh.)

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