May 30, 2006

Reading for teaching

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:44 pm by mrsmauck

I’m reading this highly educational, but only marginally engrossing epic about slaves during the Civil War. It’s truly an eye-opening look at slavery–the main character is the illegitimate daughter of the plantation master and his “slave wench” who is mistaken for an identical twin of the master’s legitimate daughter as a child. Her auntie takes her to “bush meetings” as a little girl. There, she learns that her people are waiting for a Moses to come and rescue them from their bondage. Even so, she never believes freedom could be a reality, even when she marries a free black man. When I started reading, I got all these lightning bolts of inspiration for teaching this: I hopped onto my favorite scavenger hunt website, Wikipedia, and found articles on liberation theology and African-American spirituals, and even found some sound bites and info from the Jubilee singers on the PBS website. But I must confess, the book is starting to drag a bit. What I would think should be the primary relationship-the love story between our main character and her free black man-comes off as perfunctory and almost unimportant in their lives. And as important as the themes are, I just don’t know if high school students could stay engaged for all 500-some-odd pages. The characters are interesting, but none spring from the page, living and breathing. Walker switches points of view so often that we never can get inside one character’s head very well. I keep thinking back to Gabo’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, where the characters were all so lively and interesting, that despite the revolving storylines, you were immediately enthralled with the new character. Totally different kind of epic, I know, but an epic all the same.

So I’m trying to decide if I should labor on through Jubilee, doggedly attaching my Post-Its where the historic and literary moments of significance arise, or if I should stop, knowing as I do that I probably won’t assign this as required reading… For my own satisfaction, I will most likely finish it and file it away in my yet-to-be-compiled card catalog of possible required reading.



  1. Laura said,

    There is always free reading, and this book might speak to someone. Maybe you don’t have to keep up the post-its, but I suggest you wade through it so you can recommend it. Besides, not all of us are Gabo fans either (I confess, I can deal with some of his short stories, but Cien años de soledad was not my cup of tea.)

  2. Onyx said,

    I am sorry you are not enjoying what is one of my favorite books. It came out before Roots and is based on ancestors of the author. I’ve always thought of it as the flip side to Gone With the Wind.

  3. Kim said,

    Thanks for the encouragement, girls. I think I need to lapse back into my old habit of reading a couple novels at once: one meaningless, but enjoyable one, and another important, a little more tough to read one (along with my nonfiction teacher books!). I definitely see Jubilee as the flipside of Gone with the Wind. It’d be pretty cool to show some clips of the movie and compare the divergent perspectives!

  4. Kim said,

    Laura, I am SUCH a fan of magical realism! I’ve got to choose which magical realist book I’m going to teach…perhaps a shorter work by Gabo.

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