“Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife, Shuyu”.
That is the opening line of the book “Waiting”, which I encountered in the local library. I had not heard of the author nor had I heard of the book, but with an opening line like that, I was hooked.
The book is clever and unexpected.
For one thing, I wondered how long the author, Jin, could keep up the main storyline of the book without becoming tiresome – it’s no spoiler to say that the hero is an army doctor, there is a nurse at the military hospital and a wife back in Goose Village.
Jin held my interest for all of the 308 pages.
The book was even more unexpected in the sense of how much background information about rural China (both historical and cultural) and social commentary Jin conveys in an indirect and subtle manner. There are no direct horror stories of “The Cultural Revolution”, nor does the quiet military doctor actively participate in any of the enterprising initiatives that open up later. But as the story unfolds, a clear picture of what it is like to live in an extremely controlled society, one in which you never seem to be truly alone, emerges as well.
Another example of a THANK YOU, LIBRARY” book – books that I find there when I stop looking for books I’ve heard about.
There is something intimidating about looking at very long lists of vocabulary items, each list spanning several pages of words written in three columns. There is this feeling of being lost in a wood where the trees are made of words.
Fortunately, technology makes it so much easier to deal with such word lists. I found myself introducing the “control F” function on the computer to several teachers over the last two weeks. Holding down those two keys open a “dialogue box” that allows you to type in a word. If the word appears in the list, you will be magically transported to the right place. If those letters appear in other words as well, those places will also be shown, but the little number on the side of the “box” shows you the number of words available. There are arrows to move between the words.
It particularly came in handy while I was thinking about the character of Sophie, George’s sister in the story “A Summer’s Reading” by Malamud. She’s a very minor character in the story but I thought that adding her point of view could give me a useful way to review the story, practice vocabulary from the word list in context and the higher order thinking skill known as “distinguishing different perspectives” all in one go. It’s quite easy to imagine some things Sophie might have thought in reference to her brother.
I wrote sentences on index cards. Each sentence uses a vocabulary item from the list (a word or a chunk) and a few use two words. The words are highlighted in orange. I used 28 items from the Quizlet list. Each index card presents a statement one of the characters in the story may have thought or said. These are not sentences from the story itself!
My class of Deaf and hard of hearing students and I read each card together and then discussed who might have said/thought such a thing. It was really great to see how they explained to each other which parts of the sentences gave them the information they needed to decide from whose perspective it was written. The students were very involved in the activity without officially turning it into a game. The students could be asked to read the sentences out loud “in character”, but I haven’t tried that yet. Frankly, I was very pleased with the students’ reactions!
Here are examples of sentences from Sophie’s point of view. The activity also includes George’s and Mr. Cattanzara’s possible statements. For the full list of sentences, click on the title of the attached word document below (you can download it). I hope you find the activity helpful too!
“He won’t come out of his room. I don’t know how he can breathe in there! It is very hot.”
“I don’t understand. He says he is reading books but I don’t see any evidence around the house. Is he telling the truth?”
“Working in a cafeteria in the Bronx means that I’m not home during the day”.
“I wish he would get a job! it would enable us to stop living in poverty!”
“Our mother’s absence really made a difference in our lives. I have to live at home and take care of my father and brother”.
Or as George may have said, sadly:
“Getting some money from my sister is my only source of income“.