Books · Uncategorized

24 Book Challenge: A Classic

The following is a book review by The Ameri Brit Mom. This is book #12 from The Ameri Brit Mom 24 Book Challenge in 2016. This post expresses the genuine opinion and experiences of The Ameri Brit Mom and is in no way endorsed by authors, publishers, or outside influences.

Title: Of Mice and Men

Author: John Steinbeck

Publisher: Penguin Books

Copyright Date: 1937

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This classic is one I could write on for days. There are so many lessons, symbols, ironies, and historical meanings behind this short book. As a teacher, I’ve enjoyed teaching this novel for the first time as it has opened up avenues of discussion and research that have not been present in my curriculum in the past. I’m sure in part because it is a bit vulgar at times, this book has captured the attention of my ninth grade students and tugged at their heart strings. In a world where getting teens to engage with literature is increasingly difficult this book has done that very thing. At the conclusion of our reading my students wanted to spend days talking about the lessons and implications. Even my reluctant readers drew connections to characters and instances of this book. Hands down this has been my favorite classic to teach (which is saying something because I used to teach my favorite book, To Kill a Mockingbird.)

In the book’s outset George Milton and Lennie Small are traveling along the Salinas River en route to a new job just outside of Soledad, California. The migrant workers own little as was par for the course in that time period. Their most valued possession was each other. Misfortune and a series of confrontations led George and Lennie to a life on the run. In a world that is plagued with debt, depression, and lonliness, however, these two men have the gift of companionship.

Throughout the course of the novel George and Lennie begin working on a new ranch and meet other workers in similar positions. George is the most intelligent member of the pair. He is small and feisty, but can talk his way out of most trouble that he encounters. Lennie is a large man who lacks intellect and has a fascination with soft things. Together these men compensate for one another’s weaknesses and form a bond that was uncommon for men of their occupation.

In the end the strength of their friendship is tested and one could argue that heroism plays a role in the conclusion.

So much could be said of the moral and historical implications of this novella. Steinbeck has spoken to the heart of relationships and the longing each one of us has to protect those dearest to us. It is no wonder to me why this book has become a required read in many high schools across the nation. It is a book that one must simply experience. To meet Lennie and George and be introduced to the kind of relationship they have formed is to witness the bounds of true brotherly love.

The Ameri Brit Mom

Books · Uncategorized

24 Book Challenge: A Book From a Banned Books List

The following is a book review by The Ameri Brit Mom. This is book #5 from The Ameri Brit Mom 24 Book Challenge in 2016. This post expresses the genuine opinion and experiences of The Ameri Brit Mom and is in no way endorsed by authors, publishers, or outside influences.

Title: A Separate Peace

Author: John Knowles

Publisher: Scribner

Copyright Date: 1959

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“My brief burst of animosity, lasting only a second, a part of a second, something which came before I could recognize it and was gone before I knew it had possessed me, what was that in the midst of this holocaust?” (Knowles 188)

Living in America during World War II was particularly trying for seventeen year-old boys. On the edge of the draft yet still covered in innocence boys are being thrust from their studies to a front a world away. As a senior at The Devon School, a prep school in New England, Gene watches as the war begins to affect those closest to him.

Gene is a quiet and introverted boy. He befriends Phineas, an athletic and popular pupil while at school. While he cares deeply for his new friend, Gene finds himself tangled in envy and anger which cause him to act irrationally one day as the two boys are diving in a creek near campus. In that moment Gene learns the weight of his decisions and the dangers of allowing his emotions to control him.

As much as Gene fought to stay out of the war he finds that the war is brought to him. Unable to escape war’s grasp Gene learns to cope with consequences. Through the process of learning about decisions and their outcomes Gene bridges into adulthood.

This book was banned and challenged on multiple counts in the 80s and early 90s for its “unsuitable language.” However, when one examines the subject matter (seventeen year-old boys) it should come to no surprise that the occasional curse word appears within the pages of this book. Nothing over-the-top or flagrant stood out to me as I read this book, granted, when this book was written it was a different world. Artists were censored much more than they are today. But even through that scope and lens I found it very difficult to pinpoint any offensive language or scenes from this novel.

Many people also cite the negative picture painted about America’s involvement in World War II as grounds for banning this book. Again, I think the author was fairly realistic in his portrayal of the natural emotions that many men encounter when they come face-to-face war; much of which involves fear.

Overall I liked this book. I’m a bit of a history buff, and so I can understand that those who are not as interested in war and politics may find certain parts of this book to be boring. However, there are large portions of this text that do not relate to the war facing Gene and his friends, but rather focus on the realities of coming of age-a major theme of the novel.

Occasionally Knowles throws in a bit of illustrious language (which many readers either love or hate) like the following sentence:

“It proceeded along the lower end of the playing field, and under the pale night glow the playing fields swept away from me in slight frosty undulations which bespoke meanings upon meanings, levels of reality I had never suspected before, a kind of thronging and epic grandeur which my superficial eyes and cluttered mind had been blind to before.” (Knowles 186)

Whew…what a sentence!

So my advice: tread with caution! If you enjoy a good historical read and don’t mind a bit of heavy description then you will love this book. I found myself loving it at times and then there were days (which bled into weeks) where I just had to walk away from this book because the plot had slowed down so much. It’s been a long time coming (I think I started reading this book mid-March), but I have finally finished this literary classic and I am glad to have had the pleasure to read about the journey of Gene, Phineas, Leper, and Brinker as they encountered World War II from the home front.

The Ameri Brit Mom