I’m not reading a girl book

“I’m not reading a girl book.”

He said it to me looking me dead in the face, holding the book up with his hand, and nodding his head in the direction of the offending novel.

“Give me something else. I’m not reading this.”

My student’s don’t defy me. Ever. I try hard to make sure they like what we are doing, and in return they do it. The end. I take pride in the fact that my students enjoy my class.  The best card I ever received was from a 15 year old boy. “Dear Ms. Norman, You make English not suck.” A higher compliment I could not imagine. By the time the last book of the semester rolls around the kids expect to like whatever it is I give them. They almost always do. But not that day.

 

I handed out one of the best selling novels of all time, and the response I immediately got from this normally compliant boy was simple.

 

“I’m not reading a girl book.”

 

Notice he didn’t say another girl book. We hadn’t read any all semester. In fact, we had read what are traditionally considered “boy books.” Of Mice and Men, Lord of the Flies, Tuesdays with Morrie, all have no major female characters, all are written by men. I had taught nearly an entire semester of books by and about people this boy could identify with.

 

Some of the other boys in my class joined the protest. When they saw my jaw set they changed their tactic. “Come on, Ms. Norman, Don’t you want to give us a book we enjoy? Make an exception, let us read something else.”

 

They did not succeed in persuading me. We are currently 140 pages into Rebecca. Mostly, the kids like it. The book is a little creepy, and you can’t quite figure out whether it is about murder or ghosts, what isn’t to like? But there are about three boys who are simply refusing to read it, failing all their response writings. They have a point to prove.

 

I want to tell you all the things I told them. I want to give you my feminist rant, perfected by seven years in the classroom, but that isn’t the deeper story here. That isn’t why this story shakes me, two weeks later. It shakes me because I am sure,  in the hardest parts of my heart, I am the belligerent student.

 

I don’t do that. I’m not reading that. I will not consider that opinion. No. I do not have to hear that out,because it is not for me.

 

There are entire blogs, twitter accounts, groups of people, whole swaths of the world that I just shrug off. Those people have nothing for me. I could not possibly gain anything by reading their story.

 

That, is a girl book.

 

I don’t want to live my life with my head on my desk. I don’t want to miss out on a brilliant mystery, simply because I have a point to prove. It seems I still have a lot to learn.

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11 thoughts on “I’m not reading a girl book

  1. In my humble opinion you should require them to read the work out loud in class. Or even get a copy of the adapted screenplay and allow them to read lines. In school students don’t always get a choice on the material. That comes after they go through the ropes. And they aren’t in simple opposition to a girl’s “story” but are dismissing the female gender altogether by tuning out “girl books”. This attitude will limit them and their futures and they will fail to understand what being fully human is, if they remain stubborn. I don’t even like the novel Rebecca, but I defend your curriculum. Frankenstein was written by a woman. Tell them that.

  2. ooo. Yees. Girl, this post tripped me up. I totally thought i knew where you were going – it was going to be a feminist polemic that I could comfortably rally along to – and then you hit me. “You are that man”. You were totally Nathan to me this morning. Thanks, prophet-girl.

  3. Abby,
    Great post. I fight hard in my soul at times to not have this attitude. To dismiss that which I think I don’t like or to dismiss something because I don’t like the person is a trap I try to avoid. To dismiss all that is not in my image makes for an ugly soul. Sometimes I think my fear drives this attitude; fear that I might like that which I think I hate or fear that I might have to change the way I think or dismantle a long held opinion. We avoid growth in our soul if we hold tightly to this attitude.

  4. Love it! It is so easy to look at other people and see what is wrong with their stubborn point of view and so easy to forget about our own stubborn grip on our opinions and point of view. Here’s to reading things that make us uncomfortable and listening to a point of view we are sure to disagree with… because so often we learn the most from the things we most resisted. Thanks for a great post

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