The previous book I read, The Purple Hibiscus, was mesmerizing and I was totally lost in the tale as told by a girl as she grew up. I just wanted to keep reading.
The writing here is excellent too but in this book the author seems to want to tell us more than the tale of two young people growing up. It’s as if she has an agenda of things to make us understand. It is not enough to present what it was like to grow up well-educated in Nigeria but to be unable to complete higher education (or do something with that education), how it feels to immigrate to the US or UK and to return to Lagos, which would be the story of these two young people.
Adiche also goes to great length to describe the peers at school, the co workers abroad, the immigrants who made it vs those who didn’t and the family members, presenting their point of view on every matter as well. As if there is a need to present every possible aspect of every subject.
In addition, Adiche emphasizes in great detail a perspective I haven’t really encountered before, one of the African new immigrant’s musings on race in comparison to African Americans who have been in the US for generations. There are some very thought-provoking passages.
It’s all very interesting but it is a long book and sometimes I felt that it was trying to encompass too much and I was sort of wishing it would move a little faster.
As a teacher of English as a foreign language I spend a great deal of energy convincing students to try to use the language, that making mistakes is actually fine and can be a great learning experience. You learn by doing and when you “do” you make mistake. Take a look at how Scott Thornbury stresses the importance of feedback on errors in his blog post “P is for Problematizing”.
As a Special Education teacher I spend a great deal of energy convincing students to continue making the effort to learn English, even though it is challenging for them when they are Deaf or hard of hearing, have additional learning disabilities and more. Since I teach high-school I often meet students who have had years of discouraging experiences in the classroom. They need to feel that the classroom is a safe place, they won’t be ridiculed for making errors and that there will be many opportunities to try again.
The following inspirational video has been floating around my social media feed. At first glance it seems fine – who could argue with a positive message like “Always rise above the criticism and stay strong”?
But the more I thought about it the more I realized you could call the little video a “fire hazard” , particularly if you teach teenagers. Dealing with errors is an incendiary subject at this age – how teens perceive their peers opinions’ of them is crucial.
The teenagers who need motivational messages the most, the ones who are most vulnerable, will never make it to the inspirational message at the end of the video. We will lose them at the part about being laughed at for making one single error, the part about how one mistake cancels out all the other good things you do in the eyes of the world.
Yes, I know that’s not the point of the video. But I also know my students. Some will only see it as strengthening the “lets throw in the towel attitude”. Why bother making the effort to study? Why risk the consequences of making errors? Why not play it safe?
Videos can be a powerful motivational tool. But they must be chosen with care.
By the way, there’s an error in the video. One doesn’t say ” a wrong mistake”.
I’m usually quite sure what exactly I like and don’t like about a book. All very clear.
Except for this book. I liked it but I really can’t put my finger on why I did.
On the back cover there is a review-comment from The Daily Mail “Funny, moving and very very true…a brilliant brilliant book”.
I don’t think the book is funny – I don’t find such a dysfunctional family funny. I am strongly suspect of the “true” aspect of it but willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. Though the mother’s character is a bit much…
Yet there is something about this book. I don’t know if “brilliant” is the right word but each chapter sucks you into a scene completely. When you are released and turn to the next chapter you find yourself not where or when you expected to be, yet it all makes sense.
As someone whose own blog is all about connecting words and visual input, along with book reviews thrown in for good measure (or my own pleasure, to be precise), the decision to subscribe to Grant Snider’s “Incidental Comics” blog was a no brainer.
I was rewarded almost right away. There, in my inbox, was the perfect explanation of why I blog. Actually, an explanation of why I need to blog! In a strip called “Cogito Ergo Sum”, the last four panels sum it up beautifully ( I can’t embed it here, click on the title to see the complete original, in context with the drawings):
” I think, therefore I read.
I read, therefore I rethink.
I rethink, therefore I write.
I write, therefore I am.”
By Grant Snider
Is that why you blog?
P.S Did you notice the word “dental” hiding in the word “incidental”? Snider is an orthodontist, there could be a connection…
P.P.S – Looks like there is a lot of useful material for class, too.
Teaching English as a FOREIGN language to Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students