Blog Post part 1
For my second IR book this semester I chose The Help by Kathryn Stockett. This book has been recommended to me many times so I decided to check it out.
I’m very happy to say that I wasn’t disappointed! It comes from the perspective of three women: Skeeter, Minny, and Aibileen. I enjoyed reading the chapters from different perspectives, as each of the different characters had their own distinct voice. They all lead their own separate lives, but are connected to each other by their involvement in the creation of a book of interviews about the hired help in Mississippi. Because of the multiple different stories and perspectives in this book, the plot is very interesting and never really slows down too much.
Being set in early 1960s Mississippi, there are still a lot of racial tensions and prejudice. The book is largely focused on this and how it affects the main characters. Miss Skeeter is a white woman who aspires to be a journalist. She wants to write a piece (as mentioned before) about what life is like for the African American help. Aibileen, and later Minny, who are both African American women who work for white families, agree to let her interview them. This is when the three characters’ stories start to get more linked as they all get fully involved in the writing of the book.
This book is a bit like To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. The settings are similar, and characters in both books have to deal with racial injustices and violence towards African Americans. The book To Kill a Mockingbird is actually mentioned quite a few times in The Help.
Overall, I am looking forward to reading the second half of this book and finding out what is going to happen to the book of interviews and the characters.
Night by Elie Wiesel Part 1
For my first independent reading book of this semester I chose Night by Elie Wiesel. This is a memoir of Elie Wiesel’s experience in Nazi concentration camps in 1944 to 1945.
There is a preface and a foreword at the beginning of the book. Reading these is quite necessary for this book as they give you what themes to pay attention to that run through the book and what ideas to think about when reading it. Themes of humanity, prejudice, change, hate, and faith.
The theme of faith goes all throughout the first half of the book. Elie Wiesel goes through a dramatic change as he starts out deeply religious, but finds himself losing faith in his God as he witnesses the horrors of Auschwitz. You can also see the juxtaposition between the older prisoners and Elie Wiesel and his father when they first arrived. And then, given the faster pace of the book, you can see how they changed to be like them.
One thing that keeps Elie Wiesel going is having his father with him. He is his only family left with him after he is separated from his mother and sister. They support each other through the dark times, showing that there can be love even amongst evil.
You don’t read this book just for the events, the actions of the characters. This book goes by quickly. It’s not very long and one thing happens after another with little delays. There is not as much elaboration in this book as in most others I’ve read. But it leaves a much deeper meaning behind.
The preface also has the message that me must not let something like the Holocaust to ever happen again. It shows why books like Night are necessary if we are to prevent more atrocities like it in the future, saying that “…we cannot indefinitely avoid depressing subject matter, particularly if it is true, and in the subsequent quarter century the world has had to hear a story it would have preferred not to hear…”
I wasn’t sure what kind of book My grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry was going be. And even almost halfway through the book I wasn’t so sure.
It’s a about a 7-year-old named Elsa who is sent by her grandmother to deliver a bunch of different letters saying sorry to people she has wronged in some way. There is also a interesting, though sometimes rather confusing, component of fantasy to this book. Before she died, Elsa’s grandmother would take her somehow to the magical Land of Almost-Awake. At the start of the book I was quite sure that this Land was just a figment of Elsa’s imagination caused by all of her Grandmother’s fairy tales. However, as the book went on characters from the Land of Almost-Awake started dropping into the real world. For example, Elsa realizes that the dog (somehow living by itself in a closed flat surviving seemingly solely on chocolate) that lives by her is actually a wurse, which is a mythical creature from The Land of Almost-Awake. Perhaps, I thought, the wurse was just a dog that Elsa just believed to be a mythical creature. But then in came another character named Wolfheart; a mighty warrior who defended Miamas (a part of the Land of Almost-Awake). Here I decided that perhaps this was, in fact, a fantasy story. I was hoping that the next half of the book would clear that up a bit.
This book largely centers on the theme of being different. Elsa’s grandmother was extremely eccentric and Elsa herself was mature beyond her age. This caused her to be constantly bullied at her school. Her only way to escape from the difficulties of being different from everyone else is her grandmother. When she dies, Elsa doesn’t seem to know what to feel. He is of course incredibly heartbroken, but also begins to feel very angry at her mother, who she claims doesn’t care as much about Elsa’s grandmother (her mother) dying. Later Elsa’s relationship with her mother greatly improves as she learns about her mother’s childhood, however Elsa becomes furious with her grandmother for dying (and various other things).
Elsa is also shown struggling to deal with her parent’s divorce and her resentment for her likeable stepdad, George. She feels frustrated because she can’t find any reason to dislike him other than the fact that he is in her eyes trying to take the place of her father. She also feels excluded from her father’s life and new family as she is only allowed to see them once every two weeks or so. I hope that she and her stepdad and father are able to come to understand each other better by the end of the book.
I’m wondering how the author is going to wrap up the whole book in the next half because it seems to me like the story is only just starting.
“Half-Brother” by Kenneth Oppel is a fictional novel about a boy, Ben, who has to adjust to living with a baby chimpanzee, Zan, that his dad was going to be teaching sign language. Although Ben is standoffish at first, he soon grows to love and accept Zan as a part of the family. Ben realizes that chimps and humans are not as different as he had previously thought and develops a deep connection with Zan. Unfortunately, his dad does not feel the same way, and only sees Zan as an experiment, something to be studied. Something, not someone. Later, when Ben’s dad realizes that the sign language experiment wasn’t going as well as he had hoped it would, he decides to send Zan to a research institution, not fully realizing how much pain he was causing Ben, who had to stand by and watch Zan, who he had come to think of as his little brother, being given away in the hands of a complete stranger. Things later take a turn for the worse after Ben’s family realizes that the person who bought Zan was planning on selling him to a biomedical research facility for animal testing. Knowing what kind of life Zan would live if he became an animal test subject, Ben was desperate to save him and would have to overcome all odds in order to do so.
This book also deals with the conflicts of going to a new school and coming of age. Over the course of the book the reader is able to see Ben grow as an individual as he realizes what is most important to him. Another conflict that this book deals with is the conflict that Ben has with his father. Ben was not on very good terms with his dad at the start of the book, and his relationship with him gets even worse over time as it becomes apparent how different Ben and his father are. However, near the end of the book, Ben’s father realizes how much Zan means to Ben and they learn to work together in order to save Zan.
Though this book seemed a little bit slow at the beginning, it picked up the pace near the middle of the story and got more and more exciting as it progressed. I would recommend this book to both middle and high school students.