Five Things About... The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

Want an introduction into existentialism and absurdism for your students? Here you go. 

There are so many great creative activities that can go along with this novella. Students can write prequels (what was going on with Gregor pre-transformation?), pastiches, or alternate endings. I usually give the kids the option to use imagery details from the text to create their own replica of what they interpret Gregor to look like, or a writing task. 

The text is a great way to introduce the motifs of weather and food/eating. I use chapters from How to Read Literature Like a Professor on each in a jigsaw activity that requires the students to teach each other their motif and apply it to the text.

This book lends itself to some really great conversations on materialism and capitalism, both of which I feel like my students are really opinionated about this year (and rightfully so!).

The students really get into their theories on what really happened to Gregor- is it tuberculosis? Something psychological? Kafka’s portrayal of himself? An actual bug? Anything goes… as long as there’s plenty of textual support!

My Bookish To-Do List

1. Catch up with symbol-a-book embroidery hoop- I am a smidge behind... And by a "smidge" I mean six months

2. Meet my Goodreads 2021 goal- I think this is the most caught up I've ever been! The holidays might ruin that, though, at least this month. 

3. Finally compare Crime and Punishment to my son's Grime and Punishment, of the Dogman variety. This will require happily rereading one and begrudgingly borrowing the other from a seven-year-old. I'm also considering doing this with Lord of the Fleas and Lord of the Flies. I don't know why I care, but I really feel like as an English teacher this is necessary

4. Find a reading with strict protocols after Sawyer is fully vaxxed and I have my booster. I haven't been to one in ages and I cannot wait for my triumphant return to the LA literary scene (ha- that sounds so snobby)

5. Go walk around my favorite socal bookstore, Vrooman's, in Pasadena. This might happen over the weekend!

6. Rearrange my bookshelves- it's an annual thing.

7. Find all the books I loved but only have that one book by the author and see if I want more

8. Start preparing to teach Persepolis, my first graphic novel in the classroom. I feel like there's some technical things about the frames and art and whatnot I should better learn

9. Make my birthday/Christmas list for my husband- tis the season! 

10. Buy a new bookshelf for Sawyer's room and reorganize 

Five Things About... Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno- Garcia

First of all, full disclosure: this is not my typical genre (horror/gothic). I read it for book club, and while it wasn’t my favorite, we had a great discussion. We wanted something seasonal for Halloween, in our defense!

One thing I did appreciate was the ability of the author to create a descriptive setting that captivates the reader from the beginning. Her imagery and attention to detail were impressive. 

The characters, including Noemi, the protagonist, lacked any real depth. I didn’t feel invested in anyone and many of the characters with potential to be dynamic fell pretty flat. 

Without giving much a way, I found the twist pretty ridiculous. Sorry! I did appreciate the botanical element, but it was all too much. 

I found the pacing off- the beginning two-thirds crawled, while the ending packed in way too much. I had a really hard time wanting to read in the beginning, which made the story drag on even more

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

I honestly don't remember a time where I've been so behind and busy in my life. This is probably an exaggeration, but when I look at my to-do lists (yes, plural), my calendar, and the circles under my eyes it definitely looks that way. Mostly, it's all be been good! 

Some highlights from the past few weeks:
- Halloween! We did the whole trick-or-treat thing again and Sawyer got to dress up at school, too
- I taught an embroidery enrichment workshop at my school this morning for 40 students and it was a blast. The prep was pretty labor-intensive, but the kids were eager and it was great to be around them in a new way 
- Sawyer and I have found a new hiking spot in Orange County that is awesome- lots of well-maintained trails, various levels of intensity, great scenery, and less than an hours away
- I finished a 60ish page photo book for my grandpa's 90th birthday next weekend. It was quite the progress- we have a very large family and tracking down pictures from everyone was quite the task
- Sawyer got his covid vaccine last weekend! He took it like a champ and we got milkshakes afterwards. We will of course be repeating this in a few more weeks
- I bough the Home Alone LEGO set- I couldn't resist
- Last weekend we hit up the farmer's market, got fancy donuts, and bought some Christmas decorations with a friend- it was the perfect reminder of how much better this holiday season is than last year

Some upcoming things to look forward to:
- A friend and I are going to a season pass Christmas event at Knott's Berry Farm next week. Sawyer is usually my Knott's buddy, but it's late on a school night, so I'm leaving him home with his dad
- My mom comes down next weekend! My grandpa is turning 90 and we are having a very small lunch for him
- I think my husband and I might actually get to go out to dinner alone, since grandma will be here to babysit! Once Sawyer is fully vaccinated I'll feel better about having a babysitter come hang out with him (and I have several in mind! Yay!)
- Sawyer gets to go to his first birthday party tomorrow since the pandemic started. It's outside and with kids from his class, so it feels fine
- Next weekend marks my triumphant return to LA museums! 
- It's almost Thanksgiving break!

Other things...
- I am reading several different books- a Sedaris, a Didion, Gary Shtenygart's new one, and then also I am rereading Persepolis in preparation to teach it starting next week
- I really, really want to see the House of Gucci movies but don't want to go to the theater. I need to investigate where to stream it
- My son got an Outstanding Writer award at his semester assembly. I am so proud of him! We weren't allowed to go, which was actually a lot easier for my schedule, but I was thankful his teacher sent pictures

New book mail:
- The Promise Damon Galgut
- Five Days in Winter Lily King
- Between the Lines by Uli Beutter Cohen
- The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel Siegel 
- How to Stop Losing Your Shit with Your Kids  by Carla Naumburg
- Raising Good Humans Hunter Clarke-Fields