About Me

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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

FlightFlight by Sherman Alexie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am reading liking Sherman Alexie books. In Flight, a young Indian boy who goes by the name "Zits" because of his bad skin finds himself bouncing from foster homes to halfway houses to jails in an downward spiral of destructive, self-loathing behavior.

Zits lands in one more jail where he meets young white boy who calls himself "Justice". Justice breaks Zits out of a halfway house Zits has been taken to after his release from jail. There Justice teaches Zits to kill and convinces him to go to a bank and begin to shoot everyone there.

Zits does this killing several people until he is killed by a security guard. But that is only the beginning because Zits finds himself on a journey through time, space, and alternate lives. Zits has to live many different lives: an FBI agent, an Indian child at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, an adulterous husband and his own father. Each time Zits learns something about himself and about the human condition.

In some ways this book reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five and the book's protagonist, Billy Pilgrim. Alexie's use of magical realism makes the story more than a study of the plight of Native Americans. This story is about the plight of being human.

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Sunday, June 09, 2013

Jeff Shaara creates a very good Civil War novel

Gods and GeneralsGods and Generals by Jeff Shaara
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jeff Shaara uses the formula used so successfully in Killer Angels, an historical novel about the Civil War battle of Gettysburg, in Gods and Generals which covers the battles of Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. Each chapter focuses on one of the major figures in these conflicts including Lee, Jackson, Winfield Scott Hancock, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, and others.

I appreciated Shaara's in-depth research which matches that of his father's book. The characters are complex and nuanced. The reading never bogs down. The descriptions and actions are as good as any created by Gore Vidal and Stephen Crane on the same topics.

One more thing. The book is better than the movie.

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