A Happy Tisha B’Av?

Monday night and Tuesday, the Jewish community commemorated the 9th of Av, the date associated with the destruction of both Temples, as well as other traumatic events suffered by the our people. Late Monday night, I made an appearance on Jew In The City, Allison Josephs’s outstanding blog about Judaism in the modern world. My post, “A Tisha B’Av of Joy?” described the way my family “celebrated” the 9th of Av last year. You can find my guest post here, if you haven’t read it already. Comments and sharing are appreciated, as always!

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Red Rock Canyon, Nevada

I haven’t gotten much writing done on my “major” projects this summer, but I’ve gotten lots of reading done (like, up to 7 books a week) and have been spending a lot of time with the family. Some of my favorite moments so far this summer: seeing my nonagenarian grandmother; showing the beauty of Red Rock Canyon, Nevada, to my husband; Continue reading

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Even turtles have to poke their heads out sometimes

What makes Jewish literature Jewish?

In theory, I’m on vacation, make that staycation, with my kids and not posting. However, in the last week, two authors I respect both posted on a topic I’ve contemplated before: what is Jewish literature? Their ideas were both useful and inspirational. It’s worth reading the posts. You can read Libi Astaire’s post here and Erika Dreifus’s here.

On a related note, after a short hiatus, Tablet has started posting fiction again. I’m wondering if the complaints about whether their previous stories were examples of Jewish literature had an effect — both the recent pieces have been translations of Israeli authors.

What I’m doing for my summer vacation

You might have noticed that I haven’t posted much lately. I’ve got all my kids home with me this summer, and instead of writing blog posts, I’ve been busy staycation-ing with the Kooky Klempners.

I’ve squeezed in a quite bit of writing this summer, but not on this blog.

To help other family camping/mommy camping/staycationing families in the L.A. area, I created a website last summer. This year, I made a lot of improvements over there, as well as posting regularly about various adventures I’ve had with my family. You can check the site out here. I’m quite proud of this project: I’ve helped lots of families, and I think it came out pretty spiffy for a website done on the cheap.

You can expect fewer posts until the kids return to school in the fall. Try to contain your disappointment. 😉

What will your children be reading this summer?

I just read an interesting opinion piece in the New York Times by Claire Needell Hollander, a middle school teacher. Her article explains that while young, inexperienced readers should go ahead and read whatever they want during the summer, so long as they read, maturing readers of 10 years old and up will benefit more from selective reading. Ms. Hollander’s preferred books build “verbal knowledge (an increase in word recognition) and world knowledge (an increase in understanding about the world around them).”

Ms. Hollander believes that middle- and high-schoolers should not self-select their summer reading. She believes that some students do well with the traditional recommended reading list (heavy on literary novels recognized as “classics”), but she prefers to narrow the students’ selection by genre to ensure they are getting the literary diet that will enhance their academic health. Her top picks? High-quality but developmentally appropriate non-fiction. Most revolve on serious moral issues–child soldiers, the bombing of Hiroshima, and the like.

I believe Ms. Hollander when she says that studies have shown that students who read “high quality” material over the summer do better than those who completely self-select. My problem is that this is too short-sighted a goal. We don’t just want successful students who pass tests, we want to make life-long learners who will turn to books for information as well as pleasure through adulthood. 

So, yeah, a kid who (her comparison) reads The Hunger Games might in the short term learn less words and information that the kid who reads The Red Badge of Courage. But if the kid who reads The Hunger Games enjoys it and develops a real pleasure in reading, they might read more as a 30 or 40 year old than the kid who read The Red Badge of Courage and gritted his teeth through the whole thing (not because it’s a bad book, but because it was not to his taste). There was a wonderful post on the Nerdy Book Club recently by Sasha Reinhardt about how her low-brow love of The Babysitters’ Club series helped develop her lifelong devotion to books.  

And while studies have supported (as mentioned in previous blog posts) that non-fiction appeals to many children who normally don’t identify themselves as book-lovers, the serious tone of the books Ms Hollander lists will turn-off many children. The graphic novels Kampung Boy and American-Born Chinese may not appeal to her, but they certainly introduce serious subjects, geographic detail, and lots of new vocabulary in a format that might appeal to reluctant readers more than Francesco D’Adamo and Ann Leonori’s Iqbal  or John Hersey’s Hiroshima.

 

Summer reading

Boy and girl reading.
image from ClipArt ETC

I’m not a Pinterest fan, but here’s a wonderful post by a fellow blogger at the Nerdy Book Club that gives super projects to make summer reading fun in your family. 

Summertime is the perfect time to develop a love of reading in your kids. Kids can select their own reading material based on their own interests rather than what their teachers think they should be reading. They can also read at their own pace without meeting a deadline. If your family (or your child’s camp bunk) goes on an interesting outing, they can select books that dovetail nicely with the subject matter.

Many libraries have summer book clubs that your kids can join. Just go see the children’s librarian for details at your neighborhood branch.

Almost (but only almost!)


(photo by Ian Britton)

Well, my goal for the summer was to finish my first solo effort at a novel and…I didn’t quite finish.

Ugh.

I’m probably just 3,000 words shy of a complete first draft. After ditching my original draft of “Part 3,” I had a good think and outlined a new path for the rest of the book. However, I’m having problems bringing myself to sit down and finish.

What’s my excuse? Instead of spending quality time with my keyboard, I’ve been spending quality time with humans (my husband and kids, now back in school), and I’ve been actively looking for more freelance work.  I finished a writing project last week and submitted something else. It’s not like I’ve been wasting time doing nothing. On the other hand, I have wasted a lot of time blogging, reading weird science news (justifying it as research), and listening to music that’s too noisy for effectively focusing on a computer screen.

It’s time for a completely non-professional attempt at psychoanalyzing myself. I definitely need to figure out why I don’t just sit down for a couple nights and crank out the rest so I can get over it.

1) I used to write for fun. It was relaxing, and even escapist. I still love writing. I’m still very enthusiastic about this project. However, writing has been reclassified in my brain over the last 9 months as a professional exercise and not a hobby. It’s actually work.

2) I think I’m a little freaked out about finishing the first draft because I know it will be…a first draft. Like, not perfect. Like, potentially terrible. I guess I have to just accept that it will start out that way, but trust that it’ll eventually improve.