Sunday, January 25, 2009

Looking for a Good Read?

There are many perks to being a middle school Language Arts teacher.  Namely, the opportunity to continue to read young adult literature without shame or guilt.  

Yes, I read the Twilight series.  
Yes, I claimed it was because I had to "keep up" with the current YA lit craze.
Yes, I'm a little in love with Edward.

Let's face it, YA literature is a lot of fun to read.  They are quick reads designed to first get kids interested in reading and then to introduce them to different ideas in the world.  Interest first, ideas next.  They aren't typically the books you pick up to show how sophisticated your reading life is (not a lot of YA books comparable to War and Peace out there), or ones that you only read to give yourself a brain-break (oh, how I love you Janet Evanovich during the dreaded third quarter of the school year).  A lot of Young Adult literature is somewhere in the middle of those two reading extremes.  You have to love a book that gives you a heavy dose of entertainment with a nice little moral/lesson/societal idea to consider, neatly hidden inside the covers.

And that brings us to my most recent YA read.

Now, we aren't talking biblical gospel here.  There is no religious slander or heresy in the pages of Janet Tashjian's wonderful book.  Rather, the story focuses on a teenage boy, known as Josh but who has a secret alter-ego named Larry.  Josh/Larry has only two goals, to win the heart of Beth and to change the world.  He plans to do both by bringing to light the tragedy of American consumerism.  The book has secret identities, unrequited love, and a call for social activism and awareness.  Entertainment and message...brilliant.

One of my favorite parts of the book was detailing Josh's individual action against consumerism:

"I only own seventy-five possessions.  Counting all clothes, underwear, school supplies, recreational equipment, software, key to the family house--seventy-five.  

My list of guidelines:  If I got a new CD, I either traded for it or had to sell an old one.  Same with books and videos (thank God for libraries).  I rented skis when I went to the mountains, borrowed basketballs, downloaded free software and music online.  A notebook counts as one, even though it has seventy sheets of paper.  A pair of socks counts as one, as do shoes...I've been like this since the eighth grade, when I read about some Native Americans not wanting to leave too many 'footprints' on the earth when they left.  I took it literally.  Every single thing I bought was a major, MAJOR decision.  I asked myself if I could live up to the responsibility of owning it, maintaining it, housing it.  In other words, DO I HAVE TO OWN THIS NEW ITEM SO BADLY THAT IT'S WORTH REMOVING SOMETHING ELSE WITH MEANING FROM MY LIST OF SEVENTY-FIVE SACRED POSSESSIONS?" (page 45-46).

I read that passage to Dave and it got us thinking.  If we could whittle down all of our possessions to only 75 items, what would they be?  More importantly, would we really need any more than those items?

Something interesting to think about it (which, really, isn't that what reading should make us do?) 

What would be the 75 most important things for you to own?  What would you be willing to live without?