This school year has been off to a solid start. I’ve had the chance to learn more in the first two months than I have pretty much any other year.
But to be completely honest, there is one class that truly that has reignited my interest in reading. That class, of course, has been English.
I won’t go into detail in the level of English class I’m taking, but the fact remains that the discussions, the writing, the books, everything have been on a whole new level of understanding what it means to understand literature. And it’s made me more eager than ever to pick up our books we’re reading this year.
Speaking of books, this year’s selection has been nothing short of inspiring. We started the year with Pride and Prejudice. As a lame person who never got the chance to really look into Jane Austen, I was blown away with the prose control and tone set out throughout the novel. I didn’t know till then nor read any other novel that was able to capture human emotions that were so real that they’d still be relatable today. Yes, it was difficult at times to read, and I won’t deny that I’ve read some pages three or four times to understand the true message. But, it was the story itself that kept pulling myself back into trying to get even better at understanding what I am reading.
After we wrapped up P+P, we read The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. This novel, told from five different perspectives, frustrated me at first. I didn’t recognize the importance of the excessive (in my opinion) description that I felt didn’t really allow me to get at the root of each character’s motivations. But, as the novel continued, you began to discover the significance in this style choice by Carson McCullers. The fact a 23-year-old was able to write such a powerful book made me even more hopeful, albeit still in shock, that over time, one’s prose could become as poignant as hers, even at such a young age.
And now, we’re reading what is setting up to possibly become one of my favorite novels ever, probably top two: Beloved. I don’t even still have a grasp on maybe a third of what this novel is getting at, but for some reason, it connects me to a history so powerful I cannot ever ignore it. This is the very first novel I’ve read in high school as required reading by a black writer with black protagonists and focused on their own growth as humans. Obviously, being black, I’m definitely frustrated and upset at the fact there hasn’t been a novel yet we’ve read with these qualities until now. However, of any possible novel, I am so thankful that I get to read it in a class, amongst peers, discussing it together, because if I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t pick up on all of the subtle things Morrison does as a writer. This novel truly tackles humanity and what we do under extreme trauma and stress. I just love it so much and I cannot wait to see how it wraps up!
I’d like to mention that none of this understanding would have been even remotely possible without the discussions that my classmates and I had throughout the classes and in group chats. There are always moments where someone has the epiphany that guides everyone towards a more comprehensive understanding of our work. But in that class, in particular, it is the help of our teacher that truly guides our thinking. He throws in random comments that make everyone almost simultaneously say, “OHHHHHH!!!” or “WAIT!” The people in that class make it not only the most interesting class I’ve ever been a part of but a class that pushes everyone towards succeeding. It’s almost like my experience at Columbia, only we just talk about books instead of political theory.
Some people at school like to joke that only crazy people decide to go our route and take this English class. But in all honesty, no matter how difficult this experience has been, it’s a weird feeling to somehow enjoy all of this challenge. This journey, this endeavor into learning about some of the greatest works in history is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in school. To think I almost chose film over this… Well… I’m glad I made this choice. I’m going to keep on hitting a wall reading or struggling to find the MOWW of a novel, but at least I love it. That’s what matters most.
Being Noah Tesfaye #53: Rediscovering the Joy of Reading
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