As many of you know, I am a professor of literature and writing. Last week the fall term began with exciting new developments: I am teaching a new course, called Gender in Popular Arab Fiction. I love literature, both reading and writing it, but often am teaching first year composition. The opportunity of developing a writing about reading course is the best of all worlds.
After hearing the course’s title, many mentioned wanting to sit in on the course – which meets at 8:30 a.m. but few (other than those registered) attend. So here’s your chance! This semester we are reading short stories from Beirut 39, as well as Girls of Riyadh, and Finding Nouf. Read along with us. Feel free to test out the elements of literary analysis as well.
If you’ve ever wondered how to analyze fiction, here’s your crash course. Grab any one of these books, write a 100 word post following these directions, and I’ll give you some feedback (if you want it). The most important thing about reading – have fun. Write about an aspect of the text that engages you – or explain why it didn’t.
The premise of this strategy stresses you, as the reader, as central to interpreting a work. There’s no fixed meaning of a story – no right or wrong answer. Rather we create our own meaning, filtering the text through our life experiences, feelings, and backgrounds.
In order to write about your response as a reader to a text, try following these “close reading” tips on how to examine the text of the story.
Close Reading Ins/Outs
- Pay close attention to the language and structure of the story.
- Consider the relationship between the parts of the story that stand out to you (symbol, theme, figurative language, etc.) and the meaning of the whole story.
- Discuss specific details and patterns in order to make a generalization about an overall issue, idea, message, or effect.
- Look for patterns in the text (or across texts)—repetitions, contradictions, or similarities.
- Ask questions about the patterns you’ve noticed—especially how and why. PROVIDE ANSWERS.
Providing answers is the part where we the reader demonstrate our understanding or position on the text.
I’m not someone who thinks Facebook is my personal diary. Even in the days of AIM, my status message didn’t tell you if I was in the shower. Despite my restraint (often brought on by my husband)
I can still be affected by the way Internet and a user’s ability to destroy your reputation.
Because how people perceive online (as in real life) isn’t entirely in your control. I was taught this sharp reminder this week on the site Goodreads, a website for book lovers. I’ve been on Goodreads for about a year, since starting my exploration of the indie publishing world. All six of my ebooks are up on the site; you can see covers, reviews, YouTube trailers, and my bio, website, on my author page.
Imagine my dismay when I saw my latest release, Love Comes Later, had a one star next to it. One, out of five. As in, the entire three years I put into this book made it less than average for a reader. Now authors are constantly cautioned about bad reviews, how to handle them, not to harass bloggers. Fair enough. I wasn’t going to go howler monkey on the person, I wanted to know more.
When I clicked, another reader had the same question.
She said: I’m looking forward to reading it. So, it was just ok? Do you think it would make a good book club selection?
Here’s the kicker, the person hadn’t even read it.
Turns out a glitch in the system tagged it with a one star. The original tagger wrote: i didn’t read it yet; probably just added to my list with wrong designation. i’m reading 11/22/63 now.
What followed was me politely asking the person to rectify this error. An error that can sink a new book like mine.
This is where we ended up: your book is either good or isn’t and readers will read or not.
I’m not going into the ironies of someone on a book review site stating that reviews have no bearing on how readers select books. Hopefully that point is clear enough. The book is about to do a blog tour and soon will have many other posts on this page, good and maybe some equally bad.
What I am reminding myself, and those of you on this wild bronco called the Internet, is the importance of being nice.
I’m a writer so often people ask me why kids don’t read anymore. Kids are like everyone else: If they find books that are interesting, they won’t be able to put them down.
Don’t believe me? Here’s evidence from the Maktaba Children’s Library project. This spring we hosted three months of reading circles. See little ones enjoying the oldest form of technology we have: a good story.
PS – like all good habits, reading is a love that is passed from one role model to another
But it came up with the red squiggly line underneath it which means spell check thinks it’s misspelled.
So I clicked on the red squiggly and this is what spellcheck offered me:
Would have been in Jane Eyre to describe that orphanage where her friend died from TB.
I can’t find it and the dictionary thinks I mean ‘astute’ which I do not.
Did I make this word up?
astute: shrewly discerning, acute, wiley – someone who quickly picks up what is going on from minimal information
aesthete: one who makes overmuch of the ‘sense of the beautiful’ generally someone who is not a part of the real world of emotions and dirt
apathy: indifferenct to what appeals to feelings – dont care about anything
aloof: removed in distance or feeling from, reserved stand offish, not involved
I waited, knowing I would be vindicated by my now urbanite mentor.
’ve invented a word, and not only that, a word so obscure that even my most favorite literature teacher in the world hasn’t heard of it. I despaired and felt foolish. Perhaps the forum leader on NaNoWriMo was right to edit me. Perhaps I was a dolt, searching for a word that didn’t exist, stubbornly bothering people who had better things to do – like write with words that everyone knows, for example.
My husband has recently started going back to school to complete a bachelor’s degree that fell by the wayside when he was offered full time employment as an undergrad.
In the middle of SUITE FRANCAISE by Irene Nemirovsky there it was: