Saturday, June 11, 2011

unliterary me

I'm taking a class next week, on how to lead an AP (Advanced Placement) class. As if trying to get high school students to graduate AT ALL wasn't difficult enough, soon they will be required to have some college credit before they graduate high school. One way to do that is through an AP class, which can be in English, Math, Science, History or even foreign languages. The class I'm taking is - of course - focused on AP literature.

To prepare for the class, we are reading a book called Obasan, by Joy Kogawa. I found it in the library, which is pretty fortunate, because I didn't find it in the bookstore. The copy I have hasn't been read much lately. Its a library binding and it won't lie open so you have to hold it open to read it. A pain.

The book is a recounting of the treatment of Japanese-Canadians by Canada during World War 2. It is well written, and I am getting through it pretty quickly. Time was, that having a book to read for a class assignment was my favorite. I enjoyed the reading, and the literary-ness of them. Now, it just seems... pretentious. The author has couched the story in a frame, and there is "mystery" about what has happened to one of the main character's parents. Both are means of obfuscation. It seems unnecessary. I'm over needing to "get" a book. I surprise myself with these perceptions, and I wonder if that is because I've become more critically able to assess the writing, or because I know that I truly enjoy more accessible literature more, and there isn't anything wrong with that.

While there is a chance I could have come upon this book on my own, and chosen to read it, I probably wouldn't have. That doesn't change that I will read it and appreciate the story. Do I think it is great literature? No. It seems too self-aware and intentional. Too carefully crafted - and not well enough crafted - at the same time. It is not a book I would choose to assign to even an AP class at Gadsden High School. It's neither topical enough nor current enough to cross enough cultural and referential lines to be meaningful to them (or at least enough of them). Still, I will be interested to see what the instructor brings to the table regarding the book.

Will the instructor be as "literary" and "pretentious" as his book choice?

1 comment:

Fran said...

I remember taking the AP teaching courses, up in Albuquerque, as I recall. I got some interesting stuff and a whole pile of jargon.

Honestly, the only thing I really remember from them was getting word that a student of mine had died, and that kinda changed my whole perspective on the thing.

Do report back on what the instruction about the book was. Often many presenters are filled with self-importance, and it's annoying as all get-out even when they do make a valid point. But once in a while, you find a gem. I hope this is that time!