Oh, look, it's We Recommend, in which you send us your seemingly intractable problems in finding what to read, and we easily solve them with our superpowers. More or less. Interested in having a book recommended for you or a kid you know? Send the person's interests, loves, hates, and any other relevant information to thediamondinthewindow (at) gmail (dot) com, and we will do our best. And just to let you know: the best recommendations are in the comments. Always.
This one will make you laugh, it will make you cry, it will send your mind reeling back to 8th grade, upon which you will collapse to the floor in a sobbing heap. (Maybe that's just me?) Anyway, most of all, it will make you think about what it means to be human. No, wait! It won't do that at all. It will make you think about what these lucky 8th graders should read. See this plaintive cry from an 8th grade teacher:
We have been reading Fahrenheit 451 and Lord of the Flies for as long as I can remember. We also do a book linked to WWII, so we've read Night, Book Thief, and our newest addition, Maus, this year. But Fahrenheit 451 and Lord of the Flies are the old standbys. And now I'm officially done reading Lord of the Flies. If you've noticed a theme here, all of our books are written by white men and they're all about white men, particularly violent men. I loved Book Thief for its amazing female protagonist, but it took us about half the year to read the book because of it's length. Here's what I'm looking for: a great book with a female character who leads and is strong, and the book has some room for exploration as literature. It is more than just a plot, it's got places where we can dig in and questions to ask as readers. If I can be really demanding, I'd love to have a girl of color or minorities represented. It can also be a play or short stories, or really anything other than a story about boys killing each other. I'm not picky here. Our seventh graders are reading To Kill a Mockingbird and House on Mango Street, so those are out.
Wow. When I read this to my associates and colleagues, Chestnut said, "It's true! They have to read Lord of the Flies in 8th grade at our school and everyone hates it! They all talk about it!"
Which leaves us with an interesting and excellent problem on our hands: what should these kids read?
In Diana's 8th grade class they read Speak, which indeed has a strong, female main character, but it's a lot about the aftermath of a rape, which seems to me (and her school) like an eminently reasoable thing for 8th graders to read about, but some will disagree. Though it's true, too, that there isn't a lot of minority representation. We thought about Jane Eyre (such a good book!), but it is long. Chestnut mentioned the books of Tamora Pierce, though we're not certain about the literariness of them. I thought, too, about Bone, which is pretty good, but not great. It's the first-person story of a young asian woman in LA (I think?). But I don't know—it's not great, and they should read something great. If stories are good, maybe Jumpha Lahiri? But the stories are very much adult-centered. Which might not be ideal. We thought of The Bluest Eye, but she's not exactly a leadership type character. Yikes. So we came up with this.
Downsides: the main character is actually a (sort of) white man (everyone's color changes later, it's complicated), but (upsides) he is joined by another major female character, who starts out as a black woman. It's a great book, it really is, and I think 8th graders would love it, and would find a lot to talk about in it.
But honestly, I am more excited for seeing everyone else's recommendations, because it seems to me like there is a whole world of options. So what do you guys think, what should replace Piggy? Put them in the comments!