Saturday, February 28, 2009

Oh Steve Kluger, how much emptier my life would be without you

So in celebration of my forthcoming birthday, my amazing mother bought me something absurd like 11 items off my media wishlist (plus she ordered them all used AND from independent booksellers through Alibris, so I can't even pretend to have socially responsible moral outrage about it. Which I wouldn't anyways, but I feel like a good daughter would try to seize whatever flimsy excuse she could to prevent her mother from spoiling her. I have no such qualms). This means that for the past week there've been 1-2 new books in my mailbox every time I come home, which is a little bit the best thing ever.

On the downside, I've literally run out of room for cookbooks. This is not an exaggeration. (We live in a house with exactly one drawer, remember?) Please prevent me from buying any more cookbooks ever again until we move.*

On the upside, the sheer randomness with which these books have been appearing on my doorstep has been absolutely breathtaking. Sandwiched between such works of art as Jamaica Kincaid's At the Bottom of the River and Dorothy Roberts' Killing the Black Body and Ronald Takaki's Strangers from a Different Shore have been such gems as today's arrival: Changing Pitches. That's right, Rebecca - Steve Kluger's gay baseball novel! It's out-of-print, impossible to find, and not supposed to be particularly good. But R&R&I have a longstanding loyalty to Mr. Kluger on the strength of Last Days of Summer, and I also appreciate him for the hugely enjoyable if mostly forgettable Almost Like Being In Love. I saw this bad boy at a used bookstore once upon a time and knew I had to read it someday. I mean THIS is what it says on the back:

Washington Senators star Scotty MacKay is a left-handed pitcher whose fastball isn't what it used to be. His team is in last place. His girlfriend just got an acting job as a pitcher of Kool-Aid on a TV commercial. And if that isn't enough, he's just been teamed with a catcher he detests: Jason Cornell. Jason is twenty-eight, has lots of teeth, and poses for underwear ads. He's blond and has blue eyes. Scotty's favorite color is blue... By August, Scotty's got a major league problem on his hands.

Tell me they did not just use the phrase "major league problem."

Seriously, with a description this bad it's GOT to be amazing. And the catch is that Steve Kluger is actually quite a good writer - I mean, I sat through all 200-odd pages of Patricia Nell Warren's crappy so-called classic The Front Runner, I fully admit to having embarrassingly low standards for my gay novels. But when I get one that's actually a good read, it just makes me appreciate it all the more.

Oh! And the best part is the COVER! Oh my god, so bad! No wonder the poor Book Rack in Springfield, IL couldn't get this one off the shelves fast enough. Let's see... is it this hilariously suggestive image?

Nope... hmmm... how about THIS confusingly similar yet somehow even more suggestive one?

Nope. If it's so bad it's not even on Google Images, then it MUST be:

That's right... the kind of book that you would be embarrassed for even your husband to see you reading, if he hadn't already asked to read it after you've finished.

*This is the part where Rebecca politely doesn't tell you about the email I sent her yesterday about how I plan on getting myself a copy of Vegan Soul Kitchen. In the interest of full disclosure, I haven't actually bought it yet. But let's be honest, it's only a matter of time. If I'm truly weak, I'll probably pre-order it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Blogging, now with extra cuteness

Blogreaders, you've lucked out! I'm trading in book ramblings for cute kid stories! After giving notice to the store, getting all my documentation amassed to Oakland Unified's standards (they needed to see my HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA, people!), I've been waiting and hoping I'd have a new job before going on vacation again. I finally had my first official day as the instructional assistant for the second grade at Lincoln Elementary! It may not be pushing me into a new tax bracket, but it's so very easy and rewarding! Who knew you could work with kids full time and still retain your sanity?

Rebecca's First Day

My alarm went off at 6:30. At 7:45 I caught the #11 bus downtown. I'm at school from approximately 8:15-3.

Quite the warm welcome - there was a little blurb in the school bulletin and ALL of the staff went out of their way to introduce themselves. The 2nd grade teachers are just so grateful to have some help. And by the end of the day I already had streams of kids calling out "Hi, Miss Rebecca!" all over campus.
The school is about 90% Chinese, the staff is about 80% Chinese. You hear a lot of Chinese (presumably both Mandarin and Cantonese and a variety of dialects, not that my ears can tell) in the hallways and breakroom. There is always Chinese birthday cake. (In the 2nd grade there are also a smattering of other Asian students, about 3 or 4 black/African kids, and exactly one white girl who called me "sister!")

My day rushed by - this job is such a balm for my ADD. I'm never doing the same thing for even an hour at a time. I have about 7 45-minute chunks. I switch between the 5 classrooms (about 20 kids per class, 100 2nd graders in all.) and basically do whatever the teacher points me at. Usually there are a few kids in each class that I will regularly pull out to work with. The 2nd grades are all in portables, though there is a new building under construction for next year, so it's a little challenging to find another quiet space to work in - we hole up in the cafeteria or outside if it's nice out. This is probably TMI, but in answer to all of you who've been asking what exactly it is that I DO...
Class 1 - I actually stayed in the classroom, helping kids do their OCR (what they called DOL back in my day, it's that first activity of the day wherein kids correct sentences and do a couple other basic grammar questions) and daily math (counting money and telling time.) The last time I observed this class the kids were showing off their mealworms.
Class 2 - Pulled out 2 english learners to work on their fluency reading. Basically, they (very enthusiastically) took turns reading me stories. What a hard job I have, to be read to by cute children!
Class 3 - Pulled out 4 english learners and helped them answer questions in their workbook. (Dinosaurs, contractions, rhyming.)
Class 4 - They were doing an assessment so I got situated to the copying system, collated and stapled an upcoming science project.
Class 5 - Pulled out two newcomers. This was the only mild challenge today - one of the girls has only been here a couple of months, and unlike every other group they didn't seem to have a system going. Apparently they've been working on colors so we had some fun identifying and writing those for a while. Then I went back to the class and helped with math (and watched them do goofy imitations of the vision screening they'd had today) til the final bell.
Normally I'll also have 2 groups of English learners culled from all the classes - one for newcomers/basic English and one focused on writing.

Wednesday is actually a minimum day (they get out at 1:15) - normally I will be using this time to hold an extra tutoring session. Today I met with the teachers and got a basic curriculum for working with newcomers (mostly conversation - hi, my name is - and vocab sets - clothes, parts of the house) and firmed up my schedule. THEN the principal asked me to attend the school-wide training on pair/groupwork structures, which was surprisingly helpful!

Tomorrow I'm going with the 2nd grade teachers to a full-day writing workshop.

Are you tired yet? Well, I was back on the bus at 3:30 and fit in quality dog time and a long nap before dinner.

OK, I promised cuteness. The best names of the day?
An African english learner, a big fan of adventure stories, his given name is... General.
The two Chinese newcomers from the last class, girls with adorable haircuts and enthusiasm for naming colors, turned out to be named... Yin Yin and Yong Yin.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Reflections on this morning

1) Sometimes when I go to college internship fairs and set up my table in between people in suits and shiny blouses from News 8 Austin and National Instruments and I have to paw through our suitcase of tabling supplies for something besides promotional condoms that I can put out to catch people's attention, it makes me giggle.

2) Every now and then when I'm sick of the radio I pull out one of Briana's old mix tapes from high school to listen to in the car. And it's a good thing I do, otherwise I'd forget all about songs like this one. (Updated to add: Sweet, I found the solo acoustic version that's on my tape! Sorry for the crappy Rhapsody link but I couldn't find it on YouTube.)

3) I'm pretty sure I've begun to say "jinerally" instead of "generally." It can only be a matter of time before "fixin to" and "dit'n't" start to appear with equal regularity.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Compleat and Chronological Record of Books

As read by Rebecita in the year of our blog 3 (AD 2008).

The Stats...
54 books
4 rereads
8.5 audiobooks
22 YA
Most read authors, at 3 books each - Michael Chabon and Jeanne DuPrau

The Humble List...

1. Dicey's Song (reread)
Cynthia Voigt

2. Ender's Game (reread)
Orson Scott Card

3. Haroun and the Sea of Stories (reread)
Salman Rushdie

4. Water for Elephants
Sara Gruen

5. Teacher Man
Frank McCourt

6. In Defense of Food
Michael Pollan

7. White Like Me
Tim Wise

8. What You Owe Me
Bebe Moore Campbell

9. The Language of Baklava
Diana Abu-Jaber

10. The Persian Pickle Club
Sandra Dallas

11. The View From Saturday
E. L. Konigsburg

12. Bound For Glory
Woody Guthrie

13. The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963
Christopher Paul Curtis

14. The Silent Boy (audio)
Lois Lowry

15. A Walk Down the Aisle
Kate Cohen

16. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
Michael Chabon

17. Choose Your Own Adventures: Trouble on Planet Earth

18. Plainsong
Kent Haruf

19. Millions (audio)
Frank Cottrell Boyce

20. A Certain Slant of Light
Laura Whitcomb

21. Gracie and the Emperor
Errol Broome

22. Pacific Crossing
Gary Soto

23. Esperanza Rising
Pam Muñoz Ryan

24. One Thousand White Women
Jim Fergus

25. Fair Weather
Richard Peck

26. Define "Normal"
Julie Anne Peters

27. Probe
Margaret Wander Bonanno (except not really)

28. Dwellers in the Crucible
Margaret Wander Bonanno

29. Gilead
Marilynne Robinson

30. Bud, Not Buddy (audio)
Christopher Paul Curtis

31. The City of Ember (audio)
Jeanne DuPrau

32. The Vulcan Academy Murders
Jean Lorrah

33. The History of Love
Nicole Krauss

34. The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio
Terry Ryan

35. A Long Way From Chicago (audio)
Richard Peck

36. The People of Sparks
Jeanne DuPrau

37. A Year Down Yonder
Richard Peck

38. The Prophet of Yonwood
Jeanne DuPrau

39. Seventh Son
Orson Scott Card

40. Tipping the Velvet
Sarah Waters

41. Prince Caspian (reread)
C.S. Lewis

42. Artemis Fowl (audio)
Eoin Colfer

43. Snow Crash (1/2 audio)
Neal Stephenson

44. Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident (audio)
Eoin Colfer

45. The Plot Against America
Philip Roth

46. The Boy I Loved Before
Jenny Colgan

47. The Bialy Eaters
Mimi Sheraton

48. Home
Marilynne Robinson

49. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Philip K. Dick

50. Longitude
Dava Sobel

51. The Yiddish Policemen's Union
Michael Chabon

52. Summerland
Michael Chabon

53. Roots
Alex Haley

54. Lolita
Vladimir Nabokov