November Accomplished

I wanted to rename November Nope the second I published it. I don’t know why I always have a pessimistic view of the month before it has even started. I think I need an attitude adjustment! For starters, I finished the books I set out to read for the month:

Fiction:

  • The Sporting Club by Thomas McGuane.
  • The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak.

Nonfiction:

  • Four Corners by Kira Salak.
  • Israel is Real by Rich Cohen.
  • Silverland by Dervla Murphy.

Series continuations:

  • Master of Hestviken: the Snake Pit by Sigrid Undset.
  • Echo Burning by Lee Child.

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • Teaching Empathy by Suzanna Henshon, PhD.

Teaching Empathy

Henshon, Suzanne E. Teaching Empathy: Strategies for building Emotional Intelligence in Today’s Students. Texas: Prufrock Press, 2019.

Reason read: As apart of the Early Review program for LibraryThing.

The thought I kept returning to over and over again while reading Henshon’s book, Teaching Empathy, is everything she says seems like it should be common sense. I’ve come to the conclusion she gives deceptively simple advice in a very short book (less than 150 pages). Yes, we should be aware of the differences in our society. We should be taking that awareness and creating action that makes a strong and lasting impact. We know this and yet instead, we live in a society which places blame on outsiders. We are given permission to hate any and everyone we cannot understand. Our current administration encourages us to act intolerant and is completely dismissive of our ignorance. Henshon’s book is deceptively simple because in our heart of hearts we know we should be practicing empathy as well as teaching it to our children. Her book is timely, but is it too late?

Here’s what I wish I could have seen in Henshon’s book. I get hung up on how interchangeable some words can be. It seems as though people use sympathy and empathy to mean the same thing. Kindness and thoughtfulness. Concern and caring. All of these things are signs of emotional intelligence but have different meanings attached to them. What they mean to Henshon on a personal and intellectual level would have been next level.

Author fact: Henshon has written numerous books.


Miss Timmins’ School for Girls

Currimbhoy, Nayana. Miss Timmins’ School for Girls: a Novel. New York: Harper, 2011.

Disclaimer: When I first saw this was a Harper publication I balked. Not because I personally have a problem with the “26 e-book renewal” drama, but rather because, as a librarian, I should be standing with my fellow librarians and sharing in their boycott efforts. I’m not because this isn’t an e-book, I didn’t borrow it, and as far as I know, it won’t self destruct after 26 reads. But, I digress. Onto the review:

Miss Timmins’ School for Girls is intense! It’s a complicated romance ensnared with a murder (suicide?) scandal. Churu a new teacher at Miss Timmins’ School. Outwardly, she tries to fit in with the other missionaries. She wears her clothes properly and has civilized tea. After dark Charu finds drugs and friendship with a troubled, misfit teacher named Moira Prince. When Moira is murdered the school community is a whirlwind of chaos. After some time witnesses put Charu with Moira right before her death. Did she do it? When a shocking love affair is revealed the story becomes more complicated. When a birth mother is revealed the story takes another twist. It keeps twisting until the very end.

In all honesty, every time I put Miss Timmins’ School for Girls down I found it difficult to pick it back up. The story dragged on and on. In places I felt certain scenes weren’t necessary and I questioned why they were included. None of the scenes were overkill, they just added more to the story that really wasn’t necessary. Charu’s own personal conflict with her mother could have been a book in and of itself. Her relationships with Merch and Prince could have been another book. Combining this with the murder at Miss Timmins’ School for Girls made the book tedious.


36 Children

36 childrenKohl, Herbert. 36 Children. New York: New American Library, 1967.

I read this one in two days. Not only is it a short book, but it’s a simple read; a good read. As I read it I wondered if anyone ever tried to make a movie of it. Everyone loves those “based on a true story” dramas and this one has all the tantalizing details. Kohl is white and young and thinks outside the box when teaching (think Dead Poets Society). His students are angry black teenagers from wrong side of the tracks (if you can call poverty stricken East Harlem the “wrong side”). Kohl reaches them through creativity, sensitivity and an unwillingness to conform. There’s even romance involved since it was at this time Kohl meets his future wife. It takes him time to earn the students’s trust but…by the time he does his bonus is friendship. The kids respond to him; soon the teaching and learning works both ways between students and teacher. One of my favorite parts was when the kids put together a newspaper and distribute it school-wide. When they receive criticism (narrow minded, of course) they continue to produce the paper. They just don’t distribute it to the powers that be.
Another unique detail of 36 Children that I adored is Kohl’s inclusion of his students’s letters and stories (complete with illustrations). He gives them vitality and personality by including more than his view of them. It’s as if to say “you don’t think these kids are talented? Don’t take my word for it. Read for yourself, then!” There is imagination and intelligence…and potential in every word.
It’s not a fairytale story. It doesn’t have the happily-ever-after ending. Kohl learns that one year with the students isn’t enough. The “System” is bigger than he bargains for and it can easily undo all the good (= trust) he has established. In some cases that’s exactly what happens. It’s win-some, lose-some.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called, “Teachers and Teaching Tales” (p 231).