10 Books That Influenced Me...

I follow an agent's blog who linked to a New York Times article where the author answered a question posted on another guy's blog about the ten most influential books. Fun game. I want to play!

1. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Okay, it was the movie first, but it made me think of my life as a story and how I would tell that story. It also made me think my life was boring and who would want to read about a girl who has NOTHING happen to her?

2. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The first book to make me think differently about matters of consequence.

3. Catcher in the Rye and Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger. First-person pov can make me want to spend the weekend with some smart-mouthed teenager from New York and not be such a phony.

4. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. Vignettes are a beautiful, nontraditional way to tell a story.

5. Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers and Blu's Hanging by Lois Ann Yamanaka. A truly Asian American story, not about the immigration experience, or about life in China/Japan/Vietnam, it's about being Asian in America.

6. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. This taught me that just because it's part of the traditional canon, I don't have to avoid it and that I'd been ignoring great stories by ignoring the canon.

7. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. Nonfiction can still be about scene, characters, story and exquisite writing.

8. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. A short story collection that shifts and shoves the boundary between fiction and reality in order it tell the truth of a collective war experience.

9. Maus I and II by Art Speigelman. My favorite graphic novel/memoir ever. It made me want to draw my story.

10. Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje. Write memoir as beautifully as you write fiction.

Care to share your list or the most influential one or two books on you as a person, a reader, a writer?


To Test-Prep or Not to Test-Prep?

It happens around this time every school year. Testing looms just after spring break and instead of thinking about the experience my students have in my classroom, instead of caring about their love of reading and writing or what they hope for in the future, I start worrying about how well they will bubble. I get fed all of this test-prep garbage and because, "Noriko, accountability is important," I've swallowed it all.

This year I don't want to. I want to go old school. I want to trust that if I've taught my students how to think, if I've done my job and given my students reading and thinking strategies they should do just fine. Am I morally obligated to do our school's test prep program that feeds into an accountability system that year after year discredits our school system, my teaching and my students' learning? Or am I morally obligated not to do the test prep?

Will one year of Ms. Nakada make a difference? If my students do not review the process of elimination, proper bubbling technique and test-release questions this year, will it make a difference to students who know school as a testing factory? I'm not sure it matters in either direction, but would I be failing my students if they got the year off?