The BHS Reading Challenge is off to a great start. Students, teachers, guidance counselors, administrators, librarians, parents, and alumni have chosen to make reading diverse texts a priority.
Our participants had a lot to say about what they read for the November Reading Challenge: Read a Book Written by a Person of Color. We’ve included some of their reflections here. If you’re looking for book recommendations, we have you covered.
Brad Bond (BHS parent): The book Things Fall Apart describes the imposition of rational legalistic governmental order on a native people. I believe this speaks to the current political unease with the amount of government in people’s lives. DECEMBER BOOK: Man’s Fate by Andre Malraux about an uprising in China during the late 20’s.
Renee Dacey (World Languages Department Chair): Trevor Noah’s book Born a Crime was fantastic. I highly recommend it to adults and young adults because of the perspectives and life experiences that Mr. Noah shares chapter by chapter as a child, teenager, and young adult growing up in South Africa. Without a doubt, this book is a page turner that one cannot put down! The part of the book that was most significant to me was his view on why parents name their children after historical heroes or villains. For example, one of his childhood friends was named Hitler. At first, the reader ponders, why would a parent name his or her son, Hitler? Immediately, Mr. Noah gives a profound reason why his friend was named after such a person. Why? Well, I will not share that reason…you just have to read the book to find out! DECEMBER BOOK: Sold by Patricia McCormick
Amanda McCombs (BHS Senior): The book I chose for the November challenge was When Dimple Met Rishi by Indian-American author Sandhya Menon. This contemporary romance book follows the protagonists Dimple and Rishi, whose parents set them up in an arranged marriage and they meet at a web developing summer program. I appreciated how Dimple is an empowered and independent female who rejects her mother’s traditional beauty values and is one of the only girls at the web developing program. Rishi is more sensitive, proud of his Indian culture, and talented at drawing comics. One of my favorite aspects of the novel was the inclusion of Indian culture, language, food, etc., which in my opinion is an underrepresented ethnicity in young adult literature. Although the novel could be very cheesy and predictable at times and the writing was not outstanding, I still enjoyed it and breezed through it. DECEMBER BOOK: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh
Katie Whitcomb (Math Department Chair): I loved Homegoing. I loved learning about life in both Africa and the US through the eyes of Yaa Gyasi’s vibrant characters. The book really keeps you on your toes, moving quickly between characters and generations. It could be confusing at times, but there is a family tree at the beginning of the book that helped me to navigate. Despite feeling a bit disoriented, every time it switched characters, I was quickly hooked and invested in this new person’s life and perspective and experiences. It was a great read! DECEMBER BOOK: The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heillig
Abigail Abbott, BHS World Language Teacher: I really felt that Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime was an homage to his mother. She appears to be an extraordinary woman – brave, independent, and resilient. Throughout his life Noah sees her choosing to follow her own conscience. For instance, she decides to have him despite it being illegal to give birth to a mixed race child. She approaches the complexities and hardships of navigating South African apartheid with an appealing blend of irreverence and ingenuity. I would love to be able to face the challenge in my life with the same amount of strength and grace that Trevor Noah’s mother demonstrates. I recommend this book to BHS students. DECEMBER BOOK: The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan
Callie Graham, BHS Teacher Librarian:
Hearts are not made
Or any material that could
Crack Into Pieces
Hearts don’t break.
They just stop working.
An old watch from another time and no parts to fix it. (Yoon 303)
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon: I am in love with the poetic power of this book and its equally awe-inspiring protagonists. Daniel, a Korean American who questions his future career path as a doctor and contemplates the life of the poet, sets out to convince Natasha, an undocumented Jamaican trying to find legal recourse to stay in the United States, that they are destined to be together. Through their heartfelt interactions, The Sun is Also a Star tackles the universal issues of love, identity, family, life, and fate. In doing so, it examines the ways in which we connect with one another. This coming-of-age tale is a must read. I definitely recommend this book to BHS students. DECEMBER BOOK: Sold by Patricia McCormick
Vivian Wong, BHS Senior: My favorite thing about The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas was its relevance right now. I felt like I learned a lot about important issues in this country while also being captivated by the fictional story. I also loved the unique perspective this book gave. Not many of the books I read are in the point of view of a black character and I thought the insight into the black community and black culture was so interesting. This book was heartbreaking because the tragic event in this book has happened so many times in real life, but it also ended on a hopeful note. My favorite quote from the book was “Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.” It’s true that you have no control over how things will turn out, but you should never give up on the things you care about. December Book:
I recommend this book to other BHS students. I think it has the potential to inform people about an important subject they may not fully understand. Not only that, it is also a great coming of age story and impossible to put down. DECEMBER BOOK: Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie
AnnMarie Bilotta, BHS Math Teacher: I read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I really liked the simplicity of the book, and I was surprised by how much it evoked feelings from back in high school. I had so many dreams then that I think I just pushed aside on the path to getting my career. This book really made me reflect on if I still had the same dreams as before and what I can do to reach them. I think as adults we lose sight of dreams sometimes, or forget to make new dreams/goals. My favorite quote is “When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” When you approach scenarios with love, you make each situation better. Whether in relationships or just daily life, when you strive to be the best version of yourself you inspire others to do the same. You hold yourself accountable for your happiness and understand that you are the one who determines how your life will go. I also really enjoyed that Paulo Coelho modeled the philosophy from his book in his own life. My book had a foreward that explained how long it took for his book to be noticed and how he truly never gave up on it. There is something unique and special about that to me. I would recommend this book to BHS student. It is an easy read that all grade levels should enjoy, and the message to trust your path and never give up on your dreams is always a good one. DECEMBER BOOK: Sold by Patricia McCormick
Patrick Larkin, BPS Assistant Superintendent: I read Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. I found the book very eye-opening as Noah shared his experiences growing up “colored” in South Africa during apartheid. The one thing that continues to stick with me is the amazing strength of Trevor’s mother and her vision of a better life for Trevor. The quote from the book that really highlights this is “We tell people to follow their dreams, but you can only dream of what you can imagine, and, depending on where you come from, your imagination can be quite limited.”
One of the things that struck me most from the book was a few of the stories that looked to be sinister on the surface, but when they were put in context they were actually quite normal. Two examples that come to mind are the friend named Hitler and the story of the black cat being killed on the soccer field. These stories just reinforced that it is important not to make snap judgements, especially when the actions are those from a different culture/background. DECEMBER BOOK: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Sanjana Manghnani, BHS Senior: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid was SO good. I enjoyed every part of it. I especially loved that the fantasy parts of the book were so realistic; if someone told me there was a door to another country, after reading this book, I’d almost believe them. Some of my favorite quotes from this book were, “To flee forever is beyond the capacity of most: at some point even a hunted animal will stop, exhausted, and await its fate, if only for a while” (165) and “We are all migrants through time” (209). I especially like the first quote because it reminds me of the fact that sometimes we all need to stop running in life, and just take a break. The second quote I like because it groups humans as one. This book made me feel everything from scared, to happy, to almost crying. Everyone should read Exit West. DECEMBER BOOK: The Wrath and The Dawn by Renée Ahdieh
TO REGISTER FOR THE DECEMBER CHALLENGE AND READ A BOOK WITH A NON-WESTERN SETTING, PLEASE EMAIL MRS. JANOVITZ (firstname.lastname@example.org).