Schlachthof-Fünf & Trusting your own Intuition

Or, in English, Slaughterhouse Five, one of Kurt Vonnegut's most widely read novels. I just finished it (having decided to read it because 1- I haven't read ANY Vonnegut, and 2-It's pretty standard on high school course reading lists) and am still letting the dust settle in my brain.

Vonnegut invokes abundant mental imagery through use of precise word choice and almost inane detailing. I found it to be darkly and ironically humorous and while quotable, repetative to the point of making a reader searching for meaning feel like a dog chasing its tail. While not that long, the absurdity of the scenes and the abrupt setting changes can make it a difficult read.
The jury's still out on this one, but I would read more Vonnegut... he's kind of obnoxious in the "who is this guy? who writes like this?" unique sort of way that catches your attention. Sometimes a break from the ordinary is most welcome when it challenges our own interpretive abilities.

Favorite quotes include: "All this responsibility at such an early age made her a bitchy flibbertigibbet" and "At that time, they were teaching that there was absolutely no difference between anybody. They may be teaching that still."

Now I'm on to a book recommended to me by my friend Laura, called The Gift of Fear: and Other Survival Signals that Protect Us From Violence. Amazing! I'm not done with it yet, but I am learning something that seems new and basic but is really our own intuition. I highly recommend it to all women and will be sending it to a few friends... the topic of violence against women is handled with calm detail yet Gavin de Becker (author) is not at all condescending. It retains its interest level because it could actually save my (or your) life. My library has several copies and I hope yours does, too. Yay for INTERESTING nonfiction!

Why do students self-segregate in high school?

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? Both a question and a book by Beverly Daniel Tatum, this addressed the developments in racial identity that occur during adolescence. My friend Kate recommended this to me a few years ago and as a teacher it's one of those questions that sometimes comes up; as a white person (I don't like the capitalized version. It's somehow offensive to me.), I have limited insight (regardless of effort, some things I'll just never fully comprehend) into the self-segregating tendencies of teenagers. Tatum, who is Black, speaks to the developing racial identities of adolescents and posits that no matter how supportive the environment is, racism exists in the world and as a result, kids need a similar peer group to relate to. Not that it has to be their only group.

Tatum also believes that in a society where we define racism as "a system of advantage based on race," only whites can be racist. While everyone is capable of racial prejudice, white people are the only ones who "systematically benefit from racism." Which, I guess, makes sense. I don't know if I've invented ideas out of guilt, like reverse discrimination at some institutions or the idea that a sympathetic white friend can be just as good as a same-race friend, but I do recognize that there are still underlying messages in our daily lives, workplaces, and in media that are highly prejudiced.

Finally, she asserts that there are three options for whites: active racism, passive racism (laughing at jokes, letting discriminatory practices go without protest, avoiding difficult racial issues), and actively anti-racist. I'm really enjoying this book and while I like to put myself in that last category, I hate the feeling that I'll just NEVER "get it" because I'm white. This book makes me feel like an outsider, which I guess I am, and which I guess is how many people of color feel regularly. But hey! I don't like that. I am a person of color, in my actual skin tone, in my personality, and in my beliefs. I feel like calling everyone else people of color is exclusionary in a sense.