Monday, April 18, 2011

The First Book

My daughter pointed out something I'd already realized--that in order to make this course of independent study equivalent to a master's degree, I'm going to have to do the thinking and the writing to go along with the reading. Otherwise, I'd just be reading a bunch of books, and how is that different from normal?

Besides, after reading the first book on my reading list, I found I wanted and needed to integrate what I've read, and I do that best through writing.

Saturday afternoon, less than one day after "enrolling" in this course, I found myself at the library, looking for books to occupy me for the next three weeks, that being the loan period. I headed over to the classics section and grabbed a bunch of fiction that looked interesting. Wandered through the non-fiction sections, pulling stuff that looked like it might fit with my course of study, or that held wisdom I'd like to accumulate.

Went home, and pretty much at random picked Sapphire's novel Push as my first read.

There's nothing terribly original in Push. I've read The Color Purple and The Outsiders, and I know about Freedom Writers. I keep up with the news.

Despite the lack of originality in the overall concept, Push deserves every single bit of praise that's been heaped on it. Because Precious, from the first page to the last, is a real, living person to the reader. Over the last few days, I've had to keep reminding myself that Push is fiction, not a real story about a real person.

Except I know that when I say that to myself, I'm telling at least a partial untruth.

There really are kids who are sexually abused, beaten, neglected, enslaved. By their parents, more often than not.

There really are kids who sit in class day after day saying nothing, learning nothing. The teachers don't help because they've got 30 other kids, most of them noisy, to draw their attention away from the quiet one. And they don't get enough help, and nurses and psychologists and teacher-librarieans are the first positions cut by budget fanatics who want to save money. No matter that somewhere down the line, we will end up paying a whole lot more...

Doctors don't report suspected abuse, because spending time investigating and writing reports and testifying in court takes time away from treating patients, and often it's unpaid time at that.

Social workers have heavy caseloads, programs are full to overflowing, and self-improvement isn't a worthy life goal in a society where money does all the talking. The only goal is to reduce the caseloads as fast as possible, and that means slotting the victim into some sort of workfare, rather than helping them realize their full potential.

And there are very few countries on earth (are there any, really?) where kid's voices are taken seriously, and where kids have the same rights as adults.

I fouund a decent study guide for Push. I'm going to take some time today and tomorrow to answer and enlarge on a few of the quesions in it. I'll post my ruminations on Wednesday.

In the meantime, I'd encourage you to read the book if you haven't already, and join me in the discussion.

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