Tag Archives: reading

READING: The Girl Who Fell from the Sky

10 Jan

Reading: The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow

Why you should be reading: Theme (Identity)

I’ve been ruminating on the topic of race a lot lately. I know its a touchy subject because once people get to talking about, it’s almost certain that someone is bound to get offended or be embarrassed or any multitude of emotions, even if all of the people in the room are of the same race, let alone if there are people of two or more races in one room. Boy. I think we’ve all been in that situation, whether friends have gathered and the conversation veered in that direction or a classroom discussion, generated by by a reading, or a movie.

I’ve recently (last week!) transferred to a university far more diverse than the one I used to attend, where I was one of just a few black people. Now, I see many more black people, white people, Asian students, people of Arabic and Indian descent—every single day. But I only know what it’s like to be one race, and the struggles and challenges presented by that. I have no idea what’s like to be bi- or multiracial, but that’s exactly the life depicted in Heidi W. Durrow’s The Girl Who Fell from the Sky.

Durrow tells the story of Rachel, the child of one black parent (a military G.I.) and one white parent (a Danish woman). Tragically, at a very young age, Rachel is the only living person in her immediate family, and she’s forced to move into a mostly black neighborhood and live with her strict grandmother. Suddenly, Rachel, who’s never really be forced to see herself as one race, is living in a world that wants her to choose—white or black.

As the story progresses, the reader is also treated to the general ups and downs a young girl might face. Rachel has to deal with fitting in at school, puberty, boys, and doing all of the self-evaluation every young person goes through.

Durrow paints her world with such painstaking depth and truth, that in moments of the novel, I honestly felt as though she could have been writing moments from my life, from the couch of my living room, jotting down the words of my aunts and uncles.

All of this is mixed in with a little mystery, and the reader is kept in the dark about some of the events surrounding Rachel, which keeps the story chugging along as the reader is left to question, how, when and why?

Rachel is such an accessible character, because even though her racial identity is such a huge struggle for her, it’s just one facet of the other ways she chooses to identify herself. The great thing about this novel is that it doesn’t deny the effect our race and it’s history has on us. But it does beg the question: Is that all we are? Does that really have to be the only way to define us?

I think that many of us would say, “No, of course not,” but it happens each and every day, from people of all races. The Girl Who Fell from the Sky challenges that, and shows us, through Rachel how to break out and away from that mindset.

So, what topics, big or small have you been thinking about lately? Have you read The Girl Who Fell from the Sky? Or maybe you’ve heard Heidi W. Durrow speak? Let me know, leave a comment below!

(Photo Credit)


READING: The Dive From Clausen’s Pier

27 Dec

Reading: The Dive From Clausen’s Pier by Ann Packer

Why you should read it: Theme

(Photo Credit)

I’m a very avid reader, though I do suffer from the go-go-go mentality of the rest of nation/world, meaning I don’t take as much time as I should to enjoy the things I like, such as reading. However, now that I’m older and looking toward a career that is centered around writing, I’m taking time to go back and look at old favorites and figure out what it was about them that made me so attracted to writing in the first place.

I read Packer’s The Dive From Clausen’s Pier when I was a senior in high school, so not so very long ago. I’ve probably read it four or five times since then, and it’s time to revisit it again. The book is about Carrie, a young woman who recently graduated college. She’s been with her boyfriend, Mike, since they were high school students. As the novel begins, Carrie laments about how stuck she feels. She’s been with the same man, had the same friends and been in Madison, Wisconsin for years. What’s worse is she and Mike are engaged, but she’s not sure she even loves him anymore.

She, Mike and their friends go to Clausen’s Pier Memorial Day weekend. Mike dives off the pier and suffers a terrible neck and spine injury, and becomes quadriplegic. For a while Mike and Carrie pretend they don’t know their relationship has come to an end. Carrie struggles to stay by Mike’s side, not because of his injury, but because what was between them has faded. Carrie throws herself into anything else: her sewing, her work, her mother, as long as it keeps her away from Mike.

After running into a friend from high school, Simon, who now lives in New York City, Carrie gets in her car, and heads for New York too, without a warning word for anyone—including Mike. Carrie’s fresh start awards her with new friends, new places—and a whole new life. Including a mysterious and enigmatic lover, Kilroy.

Carrie dances between Kilroy and Mike, New York and Madison, and tries to find herself along the way. Her guilt keeps telling her to go back, but her freedoms and her love for the city keep telling her to stay. I won’t say here what Carrie ultimately does, but Packer weaves a wonderful tale to get her there.

I think this is an appropriate time to think about this book, or at least is for me. With a new year beginning soon, and another behind us, this is always the time people start thinking about how they’d like to change (coughNew-Year’s-Resolutionscough), and that’s what The Dive from Clausen’s Pier is, thematically. It’s all about change, and Packer writes perfectly about all that encompasses change—how it’s terrifying and exhilarating and thrilling all at once.

I often think of this book and Carrie’s journey along with this quote by William James: “To change one’s life: Start immediately. Do it flamboyantly. No exceptions.” What’s great about The Dive From Clausen’s Pier is that Carrie does just that. I’m not saying that she’s right. And I’m not saying that she’s wrong. I’m just saying that Packer paints a picture of someone choosing their own life, and she does it deftly.

cliff’s notes…video?

22 Oct

Even if you are a lit nerd, or you just plain like to read, or you though it was your duty to actually read every novel possible for your AP test, I’m sure that at some point or another in high school (or even college), you’ve turned to your trusty pal Cliff and his notes. Though I was a good and mostly honest student, it can be hard to finish those six chapters you’ve been putting off when you’ve got homework for other classes, friends, practices, extracurricular activities, hobbies, and chores. (And sometimes, I was just lazy.)

So, more than once,  I went clicking to Cliff’s Notes online, where I could be quickly brought up to speed (CoughJane EyreCough). Maybe I’m a little late, but today, I made the discovery of Cliff’s Notes videos! So far, the videos just cover some of Shakespeare’s classics, which is probably a big relief for a lot of students out there.  As I watched though, the pros and cons of the Cliff’s videos concept made themselves obvious.

There’s plenty good about the videos, which are animated, very easy to follow and funny. They actually do encompass all of the material, and even do manage to sneak in some of the more important original quotes. They even highlight themes, motifs and characters.

There are some bad elements too, like the advertising. Since the video’s are free, of course there has to be someone way to pay for them, and for anyone who enjoys free online services, ads have just become part of the norm. However, while watching the Othello video, there was an animated guy who popped in, and took a moment to advertise for the upcoming movie about Shakespeare, Anonymous. While these was integrated into the video, it was still distracting and took me out of the story they’d spent a few minutes crafting.

But my biggest issue is with the actual concept. Is this even lazier than reading Cliff’s Notes? Now we’re not even asking students to read a brief webpage–instead, they get to watch an animated short, and be in the know about the play?

When reading Cliff’s Notes, there’s already no magic left in the play. You’re just getting the basics so you can pass your quiz (or, given Shakespeare, just comprehend what’s going on). But at least the Cliff’s Notes can really highlight all of the magical quotes, the grand monologues, and all of the words and phrases the world never knew before this guy wrote his plays. There are moments in his plays that a little cartoon can’t capture.


Basically, though I have some reservations about these videos, they’re not really any worse that the regular Cliff’s Notes. They’re cool, witty and short. I’d say, use them like you would the regular Cliff’s Notes: They’ll get you an understanding, but they won’t get you an A.


What do you think? Cool, or lazy or both? Leave comment so we can discuss!